Making A Cookbook

Making A Cookbook

I wrote a post a while back about writing a cookbook proposal. It explained how I typically approach the first stages of a cookbook project. I thought I'd follow that up with a post primarily (but not entirely) focused on some of the details that have taken place in the time since - between signing a contract and sending the book to the printer. I should mention, it has been incredible hearing from so many of you - each at a different stage in your own projects. Whether it's my own book, or a book someone else is working on, I find the process fascinating. The more you talk to different cookbook authors, the more you realize just how unique the process is to each individual.

Making A Cookbook

- Above - This is actually one of the first things I did for Near & Far to try to get a handle on flow, structure, and how some of the images, recipes, and content might work together. I would take standard sheets of paper, fold them into (looks like) eighths, and then sketch/block out spreads and content blocks. I think I like this sort of thing in the early stages because it is small scale, flat mapped, and doing the sketches actually forces me to look at the images and the content in a way I might not otherwise. On past books I've talked about how I use a big binder throughout the entire book process to pace things out, keep track of recipe development, testing, and revisions. There are similar considerations on the photography front, so the binder helps there as well. When you continuously page past an image you aren't happy with, it's easy to get motivated to reshoot.

I should also mention here, that just because I arrange all my content in a binder very specifically as part of my process, I don't get hung up on that specific order of things once I turn everything in to Ten Speed. I work with Toni Tajima on the overall design of my books, and while I show Toni my binders and bulletin boards, and all of it, I don't at all dictate placement or anything of that sort. It's much more a ongoing conversation between me, my editor (Julie Bennett), and Toni, over time. Part of the process I love most is submitting the manuscript and photography, and then seeing how each of them approach it. They have the fresh eyes at that point in the process, and there's really no reason for me to do anything aside from let them do what they're good at. If I've done a good job of establishing the tone of the overall project from the start, this part should be smooth - which points back to the importance of establishing exactly what you want to attempt with a thoughtful, solid proposal.

Making A CookbookMaking A Cookbook

- Above - This is what my binder looked like at the end of the whole process. It got a bit out of control, and I probably should have split it between two binders. The close-up of the images with pink tape is a printed index of all the color images I was submitting. If an image was ready - high resolution, saved to the hard drive I'd submit - it would get a piece of tape. Above that is the production schedule for Near & Far.

Making A Cookbook

- Above - In Marrakech. Attempting some sort of "author shot"...my expression is the realization that a speeding motorbike had just rounded the corner.

Making A Cookbook

- Above - A collection of images for possible inclusion in the Ten Speed Fall 2015 catalog.

Making A Cookbook

- Above - This is the back cover of Near & Far, and it is a reflection of a part of the process that I'm most thankful for. I think I speak for a lot of authors when I say it is initially difficult to start putting a new book out there. You've lived with it for a long stretch, and part of the process, after the manuscript is completed and the design is established, is circulating early copies of it. The earliest copies (either in PDF or galley format) go out to a short list of people who you hope might spend some time with your book, feel good about it, and write some kind words. This is one of the hardest "asks" for me. I know how busy everyone is, and I can't help but feel like I'm adding to the workload of some of the writers I admire most. Thank you Samin, thank you Elissa, and thank you Deborah - deepest gratitude and appreciation.

Making A Cookbook

- Above - I found this scrap in my Near & Far folder the other day. I tended to write out the chapter openers longhand rather than typing them on my laptop. I actually do this on occasion with posts for 101 Cookbooks. It feels good. To be writing into a notebook or piece of paper rather than a keyboard and screen. I'm probably stating the obvious, but it helps me focus, no digital distractions.

Making A Cookbook

- Below - A few of you were curious about the styling and shooting of the book. I've been asked about the cameras I use, and whether I work with a team. Do you divide the shoots into intensive shoots, or chip away at it?

There are shots from at least five different cameras in this book. I shot a mix of film and digital. If I was shooting film, most of it was 6x7 or Polaroid/Fuji 3.25 x4.25 and 4x5. I used an old Polaroid Land Camera, a Speed Graphic, a Fuji folder 6x7 (great travel camera), and a Sony Nex 3 (this is the one I use now / this lens too) with an adapter so it could take my old Leica lenses (making it a great, compact travel camera). As far as the food shots go, I tend to shoot gradually over a long time period of time, on my own. That said, some of my favorite days working on this book were when I had help from two of my favorite people to cook with - Tina Dang and Emelie Griffin. We'd choose a handful of recipes to prepare, or work on, from the manuscript. We'd shoot along the way, and then enjoy a beautiful lunch together. Ironically, I don't have a shot of all three of us in the kitchen, but I do have one of us after a few drinks one night in a crazy bathroom (below).

Making A Cookbook

- Below - If you see a shot of me in the book (or elsewhere), it was likely taken by Wayne :).

Making A Cookbook
Making A Cookbook

Right now the files are all at the printer, and we have finalized the design, color, and texture of the cover. You can see the examples of versions of the cases below. We get samples and compare different versions to try to get the right feel, look, etc.

Making A Cookbook

As far as what is next, one of the aspects of the book making process that has been a bit of a mystery to me is the printing, binding, and assembly of the physical object. The book itself. But, I think that is about to change. I'm going to make a quick trip to Hong Kong, and then on to the printer, to see part of the process with my own eyes. Looking forward to sharing that part of the process with you in the coming weeks. -h

Near & Far Series:
- A New Cookbook
- Writing a Cookbook Proposal
- Making a Cookbook

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Comments

  • Wonder read Heidi! Thanks so much for sharing! I'm really looking forward to getting a copy - I love your other two books and your blog x

    Liberty Browne
  • Thank you, Heidi, for opening a window into your creative process! So very interesting. I am at the moment finishing the manuscript of my first book on edible gardening (due 30th June) and one of the things that you write resonats with me especially: writing in longhand. More and more I find that in order to concentrate fully, it is best for me to write on paper. The routine I had to establish for myself to get the work done is starting every day with writing at least two pages in longhand before I switch on the computer. So far it works great. I am very much looking forward to your beautiful book! Will their be more peaks?

    Vera
  • Hi Heidi, Thanks so much for all the posts regarding cookbook making and your new book looks amazing. I follow your blog, have all your books, and appreciate your way of sharing life with your beautiful photos and recipes. I do have one more question about the cookbook making that's not quite answered. I've published a Chinese cookbook 2 years ago in Asia ( I am from Taiwan originally) and am working on my 2nd one while living in the States. I 'd like to have my book translated (it's in the process) and published in English but have no clue how to go about the business. It is obviously a totally different game when it comes to publishing books in the States. Do you have any suggestion where I should start? Here's the link to see my Chinese cookbook (with :http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010667566 Your input will be deeply appreciated. Pei

    Pei
  • Yours was the very first food blog I followed and it remains my all time favorite. Can't wait to hold your cookbook in my hands! It's a rare day that I sit down to a meal without the essence of you at my table. Thank you for sharing your process.

    Sue Ann Gleason
  • Beautiful, as always, Heidi. Thank you for sharing your process.

    kristen
  • Thank you for sharing your process Heidi - I just learned so much! Your book is exquisite and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Kudos!!

    Alanna
  • Thank you for sharing this Heidi! I love seeing how your new cook book has come together and an insight into your creative process. You are such a big inspiration to me and look forward to finding out when your book will be released in the UK. H x

    Hermione @hermionewood
  • Beautiful!! I ordered your book today. Can't wait for it to arrive...

    DIANE M
  • I love getting to peer into the process of other creatives! Thank you so much for sharing these behind the scenes glances into your work flow. I love the idea of a binder. I'm working on a book right now that doesn't have any visual components, but I still find it helpful to have a huge sketchbook as my book journal so I can jot things down long hand and draw out narrative arcs and such. I also have pages for each chapter and put new ideas on post-it notes. This gives me the option of moving them around, and it's also helpful in the writing - I'll try to tackle one post-it every morning. Thanks again for this post! xo

    Phoebe @ Feed Me Phoebe
  • Pink tape will always remind me of you. As I plod away on my own unwieldy documents this morning, this post gave me both relief and inspiration. Off to sketching, off of the keyboard! As always, your enthusiasm to share the 'how' of what you do is much appreciated and savored. x

    HS: You know I'm looking forward to seeing what will, no doubt, be amazing. Thanks for the nice note lovely Adele. xoxo

    Adele
  • You have such a creative process, thank you for making the effort to share it with us in detail. Otherwise it's easy to underestimate the work it takes to create a masterpiece like this. And I hear you on longhand writing and getting away from digital distractions!

    Katie @ Whole Nourishment
  • I admire you, Heidi. Thanks for giving us a peek into your process.

    Shaheen
  • I can't wait to hold this glorious book in my hands--This was a wonderful post; speaking as both editor and author, I love your process! x

    Elissa | PoorMansFeast
  • Cooking, writing, and recipes have always been my first loves. It's been a long path, but now that I'm here I am so glad to find so much inspiration from others. You are inspiring, knowledgable, and just plain interesting. Thanks for the cookbook and the posts. If there's every anything I can teach you, please don't hesitate to ask. Many thanks.

    Stacey @There's A Cook In My Kitchen
  • I would happily read a cookbook that was just your drawings and handwriting. So charming!

    JessB
  • It's so fascinating to see your process - I've really enjoyed these posts! I'm excited to hear about your Hong Kong, safe travels :)

    Jeanine
  • I had no idea of the complications of writing a cookbook! Very intriguing. Love the shot of you in Marrahech. Would love to see that part of the world (and go on the Orient Express through Turkey!! dream dream dream). Anyhow, it fun to read your account about how this cookbook comes about. Not something I could do, but it's interesting to read about what inspires other people in life =)

    Laura ~ Raise Your Garden
  • Thanks Heidi for again sharing part of the process of bringing your books to fruition - it really is such an interesting insight into the whole project. Really looking forward to seeing that book on the shelves later in the year!

    HS: Thank you lovely Kate! It looks like it will be published simultaneously in the UK & Australia - still waiting on the details, but will give you the heads up. xo

    KateP
  • This post made my day, I loved getting a glimpse into your working process. I have all your cookbooks, and I can't wait to flip through the pages of Near&Far. You're such a source of inspiration for me. The food, the writing, the photography, I'm such a big fan of your work.

    HS: Thank you Mike! xo

    Mike
  • Heidi, you blow me away. Your artistry, thoughtfulness, attention to detail; it's rare and quite stunning. Thanks for sharing your process and the behind the scenes details. It's a treat to see how one of your books comes together and I am all the more excited to get my hands on a copy come the fall. Eagerly awaiting your next post on the making of the actual bound book.

    Robyn @realfoodwholelife
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