Today I had the pleasure of speaking with dietitian and cookbook writing coach, Maggie Green, all about how food and nutrition experts can actually get paid to write cookbooks. That’s right. You don’t have to spend any of your own money to get published if you know what you’re doing.
During this episode, Maggie and I walk you through the entire traditional publishing process from finding an agent, writing a proposal, getting paid an advance, creating and editing the cookbook and promoting it to the world. You’ll learn exactly what publishers are looking for when offering cookbook deals and what you can do to help yourself stand out.
So if the thought of publishing a cookbook has ever crossed your mind, this episode is going to be super enlightening. I hope you enjoy.
More About Maggie
Registered dietitian, cookbook author, and cookbook writing coach, Maggie Green is the owner of the Green Apron Company.
In addition to writing her own cookbooks, Maggie helps other food & nutrition experts get paid to write cookbooks so that they don’t have to spend their own money to get published inside her program Get Paid to Get Published.
Free Cookbook Writing Training
Connect With Maggie
LinkedIn: Maggie Green, RDN, LD
Facebook Group: The Confident Cookbook Writer
Erica Julson: Wow. This has been such a crazy last three weeks. I don’t even know where to begin, but the biggest news first, we had our baby! Baby Logan arrived early on August 19th. Via an urgent same day C-section after we discovered that I had high blood pressure at my 38 week checkup. And then basically we had a few hours to go home, pack our bags, and then we were off to the hospital to have the baby that night.
And to be honest. It was a little crazy of an experience. My C-section was basically the antithesis of how I always envisioned my childbirth to go. And it ended up being pretty traumatic and horrible, and the same with the recovery process, but we ended up with a healthy, happy baby. And that is what matters most.
But the last three weeks have been really, really, really difficult physically and emotionally. Uh, so unfortunately about a week after the delivery, I had a crazy bad headache and nausea that wouldn’t go away after a nap. And I just felt totally awful and off. So I decided to take my blood pressure.
Um, because, you know, I had blood pressure issues to start with, and I knew that there was a risk that you could still have blood pressure issues after the birth as well. So I took my blood pressure with my home cuff and shockingly, it was like 160 something over like 111 or something like that, which is a huge red flag for something called postpartum preeclampsia.
Which is where you have really high blood pressure after you have the baby to the point where, your organs start to malfunction and protein spills into your urine, and you can have kidney and liver damage. And be at a higher risk of strokes and blood clots and something called HELLP syndrome that can be fatal if not caught and treated quickly.
Um, and seizures as well. So, off to urgent care we went. I did call the nurse line and they were like, um, yes, please come in. So then I went to urgent care. Then they transferred me to the ER, because my blood pressure was so high. And then I won’t go into all the details, but my ER experience was borderline negligent. I was not treated properly.
I also found out that I had a unknown urinary tract infection from the catheter. So they sent me home with some antibiotics and like the lowest dose blood pressure medication. And they were like, just come back if your blood pressure goes high again. Well, surprise, surprise. A few days later, I just felt really off again.
I knew something wasn’t right. I went back to the ER. This time, my blood pressure was in the one seventies over the one twenties. At that point, protein was go spilling into my urine. My liver enzymes were on the rise. And I officially had what’s called postpartum preeclampsia. Which is pretty rare. Most people, if they get preeclampsia, they get it during the pregnancy.
And then the act of labor and delivering the baby and the placenta cures it basically, and then your blood pressure goes back to normal. But postpartum preeclampsia, you get all of these symptoms and the high blood pressure after the baby’s born, even though, you know, normally the act of delivery fixes it.
So it’s pretty, pretty rare. And it can happen anywhere in the six weeks after you have the baby. So. Just for anyone listening. I hope that at least this brings awareness to this condition. Because if you don’t know about it and you don’t know to check your blood pressure or why you might be feeling off, especially if this is your first baby.
And you don’t know what you’re supposed to feel like. You know, you could be at risk for some pretty serious complications. If you don’t go and get checked out. So at that point, once I had gone back to the ER a second time, they admitted me to the hospital immediately for treatment. And I had to get a magnesium sulfate IV drip for 24 hours, which makes you feel like total poop, FYI, uh, and that prevents seizures.
And then I had to stay there for a few days at the hospital alone, unfortunately, because of COVID there are no visitors allowed. Which meant I could not see my eight day old baby or my husband for a few days until they had adjusted my meds to the point where my blood pressure was somewhat controlled.
And honestly, I was absolutely devastated. I’m sure as you can imagine, you want to be with your new baby and you’re like really emotional and hormonal anyway. And just the whole thing was just awful. And I’ve been, you know, trying to exclusively breastfeed and establish my supply, obviously. And I felt like all that had gone out the window.
My husband had already been doing most of the baby duties because of my C-section. It’s so difficult to, you know, get up and down out of bed and pick up the baby. And all that even going to the bathroom by yourself is like very difficult. So, you know, he then had to take care of the baby a hundred percent of the time all through the night.
Without me and it was just really, really, really hard. So I spent a lot of time crying and pumping and waiting for my body to cooperate so I could go home to my new family. After a couple of days, I was finally cleared to go home. At that point, I was on like four times the dose of the medication they originally started me on. So I’m still having to take that at home and monitor my blood pressures and make sure it stays under control.
And then hopefully if all goes well, I’ll be able to wean off that medication in the next, maybe a month or so. As my blood pressure normalizes and my hormones normalize, but you know, there’s also, I think like 50% of people who get preeclampsia, especially if you have genetic predisposition for high blood pressure, just have high blood pressure afterwards. So that’s also a possibility too, and it does run in my family. So I’m like, yay.
But anyway, over the last few weeks, a newborn, ER visits, hospital admissions, learning how to be a new mom, not sleeping. All of that is what we’ve had going on here.
So that’s why the podcast didn’t get put out. So fair warning. I am on a bit of a maternity leave right now. So all I’m trying to do at the moment while I learn how to be a mom is focus on answering the questions that come in from my SEO course students and getting out podcast episodes when I can. So yes, I’ll still be releasing new episodes, but the release dates might be a bit more sporadic until I kind of fall into a groove.
And if you hang out in my free Facebook group, the unconventional R D community. You may have also noticed that I’ve turned on post-approval for the group. So I can more easily moderate during this time as well. So that means, instead of all posts immediately publishing in the main group feed, they’re placed into a queue where I can approve or decline them. So I pop in a few times each day and approve the posts that are relevant and appropriate for the group’s business slash entrepreneurial focus. And that’s been working great. And if there’s any questions about the types of content that are appropriate for the group, you can always reference the group rules.
All right. So back to the topic at hand, this week’s podcast episode. Today I had the pleasure of speaking with dietitian and cookbook writing coach, Maggie Green, all about how food and nutrition experts can actually get paid to write cookbooks. That’s right. You don’t have to spend any of your own money to get published if you know what you’re doing.
During this episode, Maggie and I walk you through the entire traditional publishing process from finding an agent, writing a proposal, getting paid an advance, creating and editing the cookbook and promoting it to the world. You’ll learn exactly what publishers are looking for when offering cookbook deals and what you can do to help yourself stand out.
So if the thought of publishing a cookbook has ever crossed your mind, this episode is going to be super enlightening. I hope you enjoy.
Hi, Maggie. I am so thrilled to have you on the podcast today. I know you had me as a guest on your podcast months ago, so I’m so excited to have you on here and talk all things cookbooks.
Maggie Green: Yes. I’m very excited to be here. And when I think about what I do, and I think about the name of your podcast, I think it’s it’s perfect fit because it’s, I think the work I do is unusual, although it fits very well with a lot of people’s goals in dietetics.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I don’t think I’ve had a whole episode on cookbook writing yet.
So I know there will be a lot of interest in this topic. So looking at your overall career journey, you’ve done so many really unique and exciting things. I was like creeping around all your, your bio’s online. I was like what? You worked with Joy of Cooking?
Like that’s so cool.
Maggie Green: I did.
Erica Julson: Can you tell us more about that, like your background?
Maggie Green: Sure. I’d be happy to. So my career probably started pretty traditionally, I would say in dietetics, I had a clinical job in Baltimore, Maryland. I worked in WIC nutrition in Saginaw, Michigan. I worked in nutrition support for the surgical unit in a hospital in Midland, Michigan. And then I was the food service director for a large nursing home retirement home in Northern Kentucky in Fort Thomas.
In terms of like traditional things that dietitians sometimes do. I kind of feel like I got a really good like foundation of that, but through all of that, what I realized Erica was that 95% of the people that I was serving in the work I was doing got their food and nutrition through a kitchen somewhere.
It wasn’t necessarily, I love the nutrition support part. I really enjoyed the technical aspects of that job. And I got certified actually in nutrition support, but I was more interested in the food preparation part. And I grew up in a family where my mom cooked a lot. She made a priority.
We had a big family, 10 people in our family and she prepared a meal every night. If they were going out , we still had something like sloppy Joes or something we would eat. But my mom never really taught me how to cook. Yeah, anything I learned, I just kind of like developed this interest on my own.
My mom’s meal preparation was all about necessity and not necessarily enjoyment as much and not about teaching her children to cook for sure. If we learned anything, it was just through absorption, like I said, so I decided I wanted to go to culinary school. So we had taken a job transfer.
We were going back to live in Kentucky, Northern Kentucky, outside of Cincinnati. We were coming back here and I kind of had a point in my career where we hadn’t had children yet. And I just thought this was something that I really wanted to do. And so I applied to go to culinary school. I got in because I had my BS in dietetics.
There were a lot of classes I didn’t have to take, but all the labs I had to take, I renewed my certification in sanitation. I took a food and wine, like a beverage management class, maybe an HR class and graduated from culinary school. So this was at the time when dietitians were just then starting to like combine dietetics education with culinary education because, you know, for so long.
And I think if you still talk to some dietitians there was always kind of a disconnect. Like there’s a food service dietitians and there’s the clinical dietitians and never the two shall meet. Right? And I, from a personal perspective, just never really felt like that was true because the people we served in any hospital, were going to go home and they were going to have to go to their kitchen and figure out what the heck are we going to do?
If we have a new restriction or we’re trying to learn to cook in a new way. And I was really then interested, like I said, in the culinary part. So I did that. And when I when I graduated from culinary school, I was still working as a food service director. I eventually quit that job, started my own business called the green apron company.
And that was the name of my business. It still is the name of my business. And under this umbrella of the green apron, I have done quite a few different things. And I started originally as a personal chef cooking privately for people in their homes, but also as a dietitian that could make some recommendations and changes in particular when it came to sodium, that was always the one that I felt very capable and knowledgeable about.
If somebody needed to have a low, very low sodium diet, I could cook fresh meals for them. And I did that a lot at the same time. I also taught cooking classes locally, and I wrote for a local newspaper. And I say these things because I encourage anyone that is looking to do something different or maybe different opportunities to get yourself out there in your local community.
And I think with COVID hopefully like kind of changing a little bit, we can do things in our communities more, but there’s online. Things are important too. And connecting with people online. Just for example, I met you through a Facebook group. I also think our communities are really important to get, to be known locally.
So writing for this local paper, getting published locally, teaching classes locally just really established who I was and what I knew in my local area and in the greater Cincinnati area, cooking for people and teaching about cooking and talking about food and telling stories and things like that.
So I had an opportunity to volunteer at a fundraiser for chefs collaborative. And because I didn’t have a restaurant, I just was cooking privately for people in their homes. I said, just pair me with somebody. I think that I’d love to help with this fundraiser, but because I don’t have my own commercial kitchen, I’m just happy to go help somebody else.
And so I envisioned I would be going to a restaurant like maybe helping behind the scenes, transporting the food to the event, serving the food. I was really willing to do whatever, but I got the email that I was going to be paired with Ethan Becker, who was the co-author of the joy of cooking. He lived in Cincinnati and his mother Marion Rombauer Becker also lived in Cincinnati when she was married to John.
And she was the daughter of Irma Rombauer who wrote the joy of cooking in 1931. So as we know, joy is one of the best well-known American cookbooks. It goes back to self published edition in 1931 written by Irma Rombauer. She was 55 at the time. And her husband had committed suicide and she wanted a way to keep herself busy.
She found salvation in work. She said. And so she wrote the first joy. So I got paired with Ethan. So I go to his house. We were going to make us mushroom soup from the 1931 edition of joy using these beautiful oyster mushrooms that were grown in the greater Cincinnati area. And when I got there to cook there were a lot of dishes in the sink and I think I told you I had came from a big family.
So when you walk into a kitchen and there’s a lot of dishes in the sink, you start to clean up. Right. I just did what came naturally. I said well, we can’t really cook until I cleaned up. Plus Ethan wasn’t exactly ready. So I just started like washing some of the dishes, putting them in the dishwasher, getting things ready.
We made the soup. We had a great evening. I met his wife. He met my husband and the next day I got a phone call asking me if I would like to work with them and with Ethan to develop recipes for the upcoming addition of joy, which would have been the 2006 edition. So when you get a call like that, you think to yourself, okay, well, if I don’t take this, are they going to call somebody else?
Or if I don’t take this, what kind of opportunity am I missing? And if I don’t take this, would I really be letting myself down and like, would this opportunity ever come around again? And that’s how I usually evaluated my opportunities. And so this was something I could not say no to. It’s not a job you can apply for.
It’s something that happens. So I think it’s important for people who are doing unconventional things or for people who are watching people do unconventional things to remember that sometimes it comes through opportunities that we have just by putting ourselves out there and volunteering for things and getting to know people.
And when the opportunity appears, recognize it as an opportunity and either saying yes or no. So I said yes, and it ended up very part-time. I did work with Ethan for probably 18 months on this recipe development for the book. And as it got closer and closer to the time that the editorial work for the 2006 edition of joy was really ramping up, my skills in organization, my skills in tracking things, my skills in recipe reading and editing started to shine.
And I was asked to be the lead liaison editor for the joy of cooking trust with our editor in New York. The imprint is Scribner and I became the main liaison for the trust, which is the family with the office in New York and you know, meetings, we would travel together.
We’d go to New York, we’d go to the editorial meetings. And if you read the joy of cooking the 2006 edition and you read the introduction and Ethan talks about someone named Maggie that helped with that book. That happens to be me. So I continued to work with them after that they developed the app for the iPad and iPhone that was in 2012 and then Ethan started to back away and his son, John started to take over. Him and his wife, Megan.
I worked with them for many years, probably through 2018. And then they just released together the most recent addition of joy, which was 2019. And I tell that story because that was kind of the point at which Maggie as the dietitian culinary expert transitioned into Maggie as someone who is entrenched in the cookbook publishing world, starting with, again, one of the best cookbooks in the American space and well-known even worldwide.
And just this whole concept of traditional cookbook publishing. I went on to work with other cookbook authors, edited books for Scribner, did editing for just projects that they needed review on. I was reading manuscripts for university of Kentucky press and Also writing chapters for people who wanted to write cookbooks, other dietitians, but they didn’t want to do the recipe part.
So the recipe writing and the cooking and the testing and the development just became a strength of mine. And that’s how my career in cookbooks really got started. And then through various other opportunities, I got asked if I had ever wanted to write a cookbook on my own. And I said, sure. So I wrote my first cookbook in 2011 and have gone on to have published four different cookbooks. So about the cuisine of Kentucky.
Two about pantry cooking. One about plant-based pantry cooking. All the way from 2011 to 2018. So in the midst of that, I started to think there has to be other people that maybe are interested in writing a cookbook. I knew about people who were book coaches, and I thought, I think I want to be someone that can support others in their dreams.
Of also getting published. And so I started programs and classes, even back before we had zoom, teaching people about cookbook writing and the publishing process for cookbooks.
Erica Julson: And what a beautiful marriage of dietetics and cookbook writing as well. You tap into that unique community that not everyone probably would think of.
So yeah, so most of the people listening to this podcast probably are dietitians or students or interns. So for that group of people what do you think the benefits are of publishing a cookbook?
Maggie Green: Yeah, I think, and I’ve been thinking about this recently more in comparison to like, why you might want to do it instead of an online course or why you might want to do this instead of a program.
And why even a published print cookbook instead of an ebook or something like that. Right. I think just overall, any of those things are an asset in our businesses. If you have a business, you know, it’s another form of an income stream. I currently have four cookbooks that are still in print, so those are all still income streams for me.
And I happened to just receive last week, a royalty check from one of the, I think it was the second Kentucky cookbook that I wrote and I ordered books from my wholesaler just last week. And I’m going out to finally do an in-person event this weekend. I’m taking all four of my books. It’s at a local farmer’s market.
It’s an event called homegrown authors and they promote Kentucky authors. So I get to take all of my books. So this is an asset in my business and it’s intellectual property that I developed and that I can use any time that I go out and speak to people. And I can take the topics, any number of ways.
If I want to talk about pantry cooking, I’ve got two that do that. If I want to talk about regional American cuisine, I can dip into my Kentucky books. If I want to talk about photography and how that works in cookbooks, I can show the books that have photos. So these assets are created one time and then I get to use them over and over and over again.
So I think that’s one of the biggest advantages and it’s print. I can take it with me. It’s tangible. People can buy it. And people love cookbooks. I think the statistic is like 30 to 35% of American women. And maybe even that statistic might be able to be extended to parts of Canada, the UK, Australia collect cookbooks.
So even if they’re not big cooks, they collect them. I also think it extends my reach. And any cookbook author. It extends your reach, your message about food, nutrition, cooking. Having fun in the kitchen, whatever it is, can be taken from your perspective into the kitchen of people that you don’t even know and may never even meet.
And can, you can teach them through your book. You can reach them through your book in a way that you can’t do with an ebook or a course, an online course. So I think it’s a lot like scaling your cooking or nutrition message in a print way. I also believe that print cookbooks fit in kitchens still. Until we can digitize cooking and eating, we still are using tangible ingredients in the kitchen, everything from sharp knives to heat, to stoves, to utensils equipment and food ingredients.
So a print cookbook works there. We’ve got our hands in everything when we’re cooking anyway, why not have a book there? And if you really want to get your message out and share it and it’s related to cooking specifically with the food or nutrition message title.
I think a print cookbook is an excellent reason to do it.
Erica Julson: And why are you a proponent of traditionally published versus self-published? How does that all work?
Maggie Green: Right. Okay, so let’s define publishing, first of all, what that means. The publishing of the book is not just the printing of the book.
The publishing of the book is the editing of the book, the design work that goes into the book, the page layout, the formatting, the photography, and then the printing of the book. And in traditional publishing houses, it also includes distribution of the book and marketing and sales of the book. Teams of people at publishers that do that.
So if you think about that as the publishing process, the author is responsible for everything leading up to that, which is the preparation of a manuscript that is turned over to the publishing house to be edited, designed to print, distributed and sold. And I didn’t want to do the editing, the design, the photography, and the printing on my own, because I had other work I was doing in my business and I did not want to self publish.
And I didn’t want to pay someone to custom publish my book for me, which is sometimes what self publishing is called. When, like, let’s say you’re a custom publisher. I say, Erica, I’m going to give you $10,000 and you just tell him to handle everything for me. I’m going to pay you to edit, design, and print my book.
And there are a lot of custom publishers that do that. And I think in some situations it works great. Like let’s say you’re a winery, you’re an established restaurant. I just went to a bakery in Miami, Florida last week, they had a beautiful cookbook there. It probably was a custom publishing job, but they have a physical location and it’s a sought after physical location and people come there and visit and want to buy a cookbook as a memory of where they are.
So it’s kind of like, they have a built-in audience with that store. But I didn’t want to publish on my own. I didn’t want to pay someone to publish the book for me. I wanted to work with a publisher that took care of all the publishing and paid me royalties off the sale of the book, if that makes sense.
Erica Julson: And of course, I think that sounds great. And probably most people would be like, heck yeah, give me a cookbook deal.
Maggie Green: Yeah. Right. Exactly.
Erica Julson: But there are so many more steps involved in how to get one.
Maggie Green: Yeah. And I think self-publishing, doesn’t produce beautiful books. It very well can. One of the main objections to writing a cookbook is, I don’t want to invest the time and I don’t want to invest the money.
Well, that’s fine. And if you’re going to not wanna invest time and money, then you certainly shouldn’t self-publish because you’re not only investing time to be the writer of the book, but you’re investing time to be the publisher of the book. And you’re not only investing money. And food, which you’d have to do anyway to write the book, but you’re investing your own money in the publishing part of the book. You’ll hire the editor, you hire the designer, you hire the photographer, you get the book printed, you pay for all of that when you self publish.
So really it’s almost like you’re starting your own small publishing company. And then you sell the book. I wanted the team of people to help me. I was willing to not make as much money off the book as they did. And maybe we can talk a little bit about what that money and worth actually was for books.
We’ll talk about that in a minute, but I think everybody just kind of has to evaluate it on their own because I know that there’s a lot of dietitians that have written cookbooks and self published and done great. And they would probably would make the same argument for self publishing that I make for traditional.
But I think you really just have to be valuable. And you hear this a lot and it’s kind of maybe overused, but it’s really true. Why do you want to write a cookbook. If money only, and I’m talking dollars, money is your goal. And that’s the only thing you care about is how much you’re going to make off of every book.
Like, am I going to make $10 a book, or am I going to make $5 a book and money wins? I think you’re going to want to self-publish. I think. I’m not positive about that because it depends on how much you spend to get it published. But for me, I knew I didn’t want to self-publish and I knew I wanted to write a cookbook, and I knew that these publishers did nice books and all I had to do is create the idea and prepare the manuscript and they would do everything else. And then I jumped in when it’s time to go sell them. And that’s really the fun part as far as I’m concerned. Because food photography has never been my thing. I dabbled with food blogging. I was horrible, not at the writing part, but I did not like the photography.
And I just wanted other people that I thought were better experts at it than me to help me with it.
Erica Julson: Yeah. Yeah. I love that advice about understanding why you’re doing it because that’s always the answer to figure out the best method.
Maggie Green: Of course it is. There’s no problem with chasing the dollars.
I’m not saying that that’s wrong, but if that’s really truly, if it boils down to just, you know, how much am I making off each book in each scenario, then you need to be able to compare those equally and find out, you know, how much I’m going to have to invest to self publish, and then how much I’m going to earn off of every book.
And then also the time investment that you make in being the publisher. Cause people often forget that part.
Erica Julson: And probably like how much of a role you want the cookbook to be in your overall business. So whether it’s a small thing or a big part of your business.
Maggie Green: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.
Erica Julson: I don’t know if you have any experience in this, but I’ve heard people mention like print on demand type of stuff. That’s more like self-publishing, yeah?
Maggie Green: So it would be in the self publishing space. What print on demand means is, and it probably happens a lot with Amazon. If you order a book from them, Amazon is not sitting there with lots of self-published books, like stacked on shelves in a warehouse. And then I order a cookbook and they go get it off the shelf and send it to me.
That might be the case for some of them, but a lot of them are just printed when they’re ordered. And what that means is that they don’t have to maintain the inventory. And there was not any loss of books like sitting there that don’t sell. And as the author in a print on demand situation, it’s usually self published, you can still order 20 copies if you need to go out to an event.
And that’s actually an advantage because you don’t have to maintain the inventory either. Typically the more books you order though, the better wholesale price you get. It’s true even for the books that I just ordered for this event that I did, but that’s what print on demand means. It’s literally printed when it’s ordered.
Erica Julson: I don’t know if this is correct, but my perception is like, oh, if it’s a traditionally published book, it seems like it would somehow be like higher quality, even like the binding, the cover versus some stuff that I’ve ordered through Amazon that I know are self-published. Not even necessarily cookbooks, just books. . It’s a little lower quality feeling.
Maggie Green: Offset printing done at a traditional print publisher where they do a print run. I’m guessing for most of my books, they probably printed 5,000 copies of the book, the first print run. They print them all at the same time.
They’re boxed up set. The distributor does maintain inventory of my books. I can call in or order them if I need to. But offset printers typically do a really nice job with books. A lot of print on demand is what’s called digital printing and some of it is, and not all of it, but some of it’s just like a high quality copy machine.
And offset printing is not like that. It’s a whole different process with the colors and the way the photography is done and the way the print and is laid on the paper. It’s just the process is a little bit more nuanced than digital printing for some print on demand projects. Like I said, not true for all of them, but for some of them.
Especially with photos. So just, I think the crux of this conversation is just to know that publishing does not just mean printing. Publishing is the process through which a manuscript is turned into a book and sold to the customer.
Erica Julson: Could you give us just from literally step one. If someone wanted to get a cookbook traditionally published, what are the higher level steps?
Maggie Green: If you have a business, you probably already have some presence, online presence, offline presence, something like that. If you don’t have that , and maybe you’re working for someone else and you want to, you still need to create something that in the publishing world is called an author platform.
It’s really just building visibility in the marketplace. Visibility for you as an author. I want you to imagine that you have submitted your idea to a publisher and they’ve received it from you. And they’re going to go out and see what they can find out about Erica or about Maggie to see if she, or he’s the kind of person that they would want writing a book for them.
And they’ll start looking for you on social media or in your community or on YouTube, wherever people might hang out that teach food, cooking, nutrition type things. So that’s what a platform is. And it’s really always evolving and growing. My platform is still changing. Even as I continue in my career, I’m not currently writing any books, but anything that I do to help gain visibility, carve-out being a thought leader in an area you know, marketing myself, talking about the work that I do, being on this podcast.
That’s all part of building an author platform. So that’s really the foundation. Then you come up with the concept. People might have an idea for a book. Lots of ideas for books. I’m of the belief, though, nothing’s really new in food, cooking or nutrition. It’s just different people making different twists on ideas.
But your book has to somehow stand out, be a little bit different, maybe a different approach, different way of looking at things, a different twist for what you are doing. So if you look at the top 100 cookbooks on Amazon today, say I’m sure you’d see instant pot books, you’d see keto books and see celebrity cookbooks with their picture on the front.
I don’t really think anybody’s talking about anything that’s like extremely new. They just put their own twist on it. Right. So that’s called the concept and then you need to write a proposal. If you’re pitching a publisher, the best news I have for everybody is you don’t have to write your full manuscript right away.
You need a book proposal. And a book proposal is like a business plan for a book, but it’s all focused on the book and then the target market for the book and how you, as the future author will help sell the book. And what your current readership status might be through the platform that you have, and then you pitch it to a publisher or an agent.
If you want an agent to help you, that’s certainly something you could do. Agents help you get in touch with publishers that don’t accept proposals directly from authors. And a lot of people have agents, probably, maybe some dietitians that are listening to this have agents. I never had an agent. I don’t know if it was my work with joy.
I’m not really sure, but I was always able to like come up with concepts and talk to publishers without having to have someone do the talking for me. Now that said, if I wanted to pitch a cookbook to random house, or if I wanted to pitch a cookbook to Simon and Schuster, I maybe would have to have an agent, but yeah, there are still some people that I know in the publishing industry that maybe could help me get my proposal read, but under normal conditions, you have to have an agent to get you in the door.
Then you sign a contract, just like anything else. You sign a book contract, and then once you sign the contract, that’s when your little clock starts ticking. So to speak for creating the manuscript for the cookbook, the manuscript is the full interior of the cookbook. Everything from the introduction to the conclusion, it does not include the index.
The index is usually created separately after the pages are actually laid out and designed once the manuscript is submitted to the publisher. And I would say. Most of the time you get an average of nine to 12 months, sometimes six months I’ve even seen some publishers push people to get manuscripts done in 90 days.
I think that’s very fast timeframe. I’m not sure I would necessarily be interested in working under the gun like that. But if you feel you can do it, it’s really up to you to negotiate the terms of the contract that they say they want it in six months and you really need nine.
You can always ask for them nine and you may get it, or you may not get it, but that’s what the contracts where it’s kind of negotiate those terms. They’ll tell you you know, you’ll kind of have a feel for how many recipes need to be in it when you need to turn it in what you do in the meantime, if you have questions and then they talk about the payments for but, but we’ll talk about that in a minute.
Like how the royalties and stuff work out. Then the manuscript is edited. Still in Microsoft, like in word format, it’s not designed yet. It’s just being edited hopefully by someone that knows how to edit cookbooks. I think that’s important that even if you’re self publishing, hire an editor that has done cookbook and recipe work, once it’s fully edited, it goes into design.
Usually a book designer is involved. They typically use design programs like InDesign and they flow the manuscript into InDesign, set in the photographs that have been taken. And then you get to see it again and edit it again. Once it’s actually in designed format there’s a proofreading stage to kind of compare the manuscript to the design pages.
This is the place that you make any final changes. Hopefully there are small changes at this point. If any. You make sure fractions can be read. You make sure that there’s a headnote for every recipe. They check to see if the recipe, you know, if it flows on to three pages that might be too much, they might ask an author to like shorten it up a little bit.
So it’s just on two pages. So some things that you really can’t see until you get it laid out. And then once the final proof of the design pages are approved, it goes to the printer. And this is when we have a little bit of time to like take a breather, the books in production, we can start kind of making plans for when the books are going to come in.
But the events I might be lined up to do, how I’m going to promote this book online and offline. And you have a marketing department that will be helping you with that. They’re not doing the work for you, but you can work in partnership with them. And usually for books, when they first come out, there is a set amount of time that the marketing and sales department publisher is assigned to work with you. And it’s not going to be for the life of the book. My books, like I said, are still in print, but they’re not front list books anymore. And I don’t get a lot of individual attention from the marketing and sales department any longer either. Everything’s up to me.
But I have this event coming up that I mentioned that I emailed one of my publishers and asked about some books, got on board and they just said, just let us know what’s going on and we’re happy to help promote it, but they really focus on the front list books, if that makes sense, like the ones that are just coming out most recently.
So that’s kind of the steps, but the platform part and the readership part is always evolving for people that want to write books. We’re always thinking about our presence. We’re always thinking about where we are, what we’re doing and how we can reach more readers and help them discover the, the great books that we’re writing..
Erica Julson: Let’s say someone’s listening and they have a smaller audience, is that going to be a hindrance for getting a cookbook published? Is there like a certain benchmark they should aim for?
Maggie Green: They’re real people ask about it numbers all the time, and I’ve even had agents on my podcast and it’s always hard for them to give a number because those kinds of things change.
I think that agents and publishers are pretty good though, at telling if you A), like, what’s the energy they’re getting off the proposal, how willing are people going to be to go out and, you know, help promote and sell the book? Do they have, do they have a following? Do they have an email list? Do they have and it’s not even just the following, but it’s more like you can kind of tell people have a relationship with their audience.
I guess they’re looking for that. Because the truth of the matter is, is that even if someone has, let’s say 20,000 followers on Instagram, They, one of the agents told me that it’s really actually a very low percentage of those followers on Instagram that would probably really buy a cookbook from that person because they might not even be following them for anything related to, you know, directly related to the book.
Let me give you an example. I, it, under the green apron company umbrella and the work that I was doing even before I wrote books, could have been related to something that was totally unrelated to one of the books that I was writing. So people might be following me for that work, but not for the specific topic of my cookbook, if that makes sense.
Erica Julson: So, okay. Let’s pretend that somebody does have a pretty clear niche and an engaged audience of a decent size. And they’re thinking about getting into this…. So do they write the proposal and then try to get an agent?
Maggie Green: Yeah. So if, if someone is listening and they’re in that camp, you can do one of two things. You can write the proposal and submit it to an agent, or you can write a proposal and submit it to a publisher that accepts it’s called unsolicited proposals. And you can find out this information either on the website of the publisher, or you can find it out on the website of the agent, or you can find it out at a resource called writer’s market.
It’s a book or an online source where you can read about publishers and see if they take proposals directly from from the writer themselves. I think the other thing is, is that it is possible that if you create a stir that you might have people reach out to you. That’s happened to me. I know it’s happened to someone that’s coming on my podcast in September to be interviewed just based on her Instagram feed and what she was doing and how it’s so focused and so narrow.
And if you go to her feed, you’re just like mesmerized with what she’s doing. And she was very good at that. And a publisher looked at it and I think the first thing that happened is she got written about in the wall street journal, believe it or not. And then after that kind of thing happens, you know, she had a publisher reached out.
So yeah, the sky is really the limit, but yes, you can take your proposal or your concept, turn it into proposal and pitch it directly to publishers without an agent. If you want to, it’d probably be more mid-size or smaller cookbook publishers, but be sure they publish cookbooks.. And be sure you like the kind of cookbook they publish, because if you go into a bookstore and you spend some time with cookbooks, there’s some that are going to be books that you like.
And some that you don’t like the way they feel, the way they look. And you can tell who the publisher was by just looking at the, you know, the, on the spine of the cookbook at the bottom, reading the acknowledgement page, you can get a lot of information by just looking at a cookbook. So if people don’t know who cookbook publishers are, my first suggestion is go spend some time with some print cookbooks, even the library section, it’s one of the highest circulating sections in libraries.
So spend some time with them and find some books you like and see if they take a proposal directly from an author, or if you need to have an agent.
Erica Julson: And if you need an agent…
Maggie Green: Yeah, often in the acknowledgements they’ll put it. And if so, let’s say I wrote a book and I acknowledged my agent, which I didn’t have, but let’s just say her name is Erica. I thank Erica for her work, she works at such and such agency. If I was reading the acknowledgements, you can just go online and look that agency up. You can find out who they represent and you can find out how you can pitch them, that agent. Everything’s on the website,
Erica Julson: And I bet in the dietetics community, if you’re pretty engaged, you might know somebody who’s maybe gotten a cookbook published. I bet you could do some networking there too.
Maggie Green: Yeah, that’s huge. I mean, like if someone said to me, like, who are your publishers? Who are your editors? Would you be willing to, you know, maybe put in a word for me? If I knew someone had an agent and I was going to approach an agent and I had a relationship with that person, maybe let’s say it was you. I’d say, Hey, Erica, I’m really thinking about pitching random house.
I’d love to maybe you know, talk to your agent a little bit, just to get a feel for what might be going on. And if you and I have a relationship, then that’s how a lot of times, you know, names and places get shared too, is just from other people. So sure. Talk to other dietitians. If they’ve written cookbooks, find out who their publisher was.
You can tell again, by just looking at the book, you don’t even have to really reach out to the dietitian. But if you want to, if you know other dietitians and you want to talk more about the books that they’ve written, I think that in general, most people are pretty open to talking about it. And if they’re not just, don’t take it personally and just know that you can find the information you need from somebody.
Erica Julson: Well, let’s move into that topic about how cookbook authors get paid, because I think that is a big question.
Maggie Green: Right? So cookbook authors get paid by traditional publishers through something called royalties and royalties are a percentage of the net sale price of the book, not the gross sale price.
So let me see if I can explain this. So let’s suppose a book list for $30 in a bookstore, the net sale price that the publisher does not sell it to the bookstore for $30. They sell it to the bookstore for probably a 40% discount, maybe a 50% discount. Let’s just say 50% to make it easy. So that’s $15. The publisher gets paid $15 from Barnes and noble for a copy of this book.
That’s the net price of the book because see, the bookstore wants to make money off the book too. Right? So. They take the $15 and they calculate the percentage of the net sale of the book. So it might be, I don’t know, 15% of net sales, but if my book is in Barnes and noble, or if it’s in Costco or if it’s in listed on Amazon, they also produce an e-book.
If it’s in Walmart, if it’s in anthropology, there are a lot of places that publishers can place books that I could never even think about getting them into as a self-published author. And that leads to more discoverability and more sales. So I think the potential might be higher for published books, because I think self-published authors, the biggest challenge is placement of the book in physical stores where people can discover it.
Cause if you’ve ever seen the cookbook table at Costco, it’s like, you know, or books, just tons of books laying in there. And so my second Kentucky cookbook got placed in Costco, regionally, and it’s just really neat to think that my book was there. It’s a beautiful book about Kentucky cooking and I’m sure some people bought it just because they saw it.
They didn’t even know me. They didn’t even know the publisher, but there was this book that they could buy about Kentucky food. And so that’s how the sale price and the royalty is calculated. So there’s also a term called an advance. When you sign a contract, you most often get paid an advance, that’s an advance of royalties.
They might give you several thousand dollars in advance. That means that they are probably pretty sure that you’re going to be able to sell at least enough books, hopefully, that’s going to earn out, which means that as your books sell over here on this side, you know, they’re selling, selling, selling.
They’re going to get up to the amount that they gave you in advance. So if they give you $5,000, $10,000, that’s an advance of the royalty. And you have to earn out, which means sell that number of books, whatever percent of net sales it is so that you start to earn $5,001 or five, $10,001. Otherwise you’re still working against your advance.
But the reason the advance is nice is because it helps give you some cash flow for buying food, for testing recipes. And then if you have to pay for any of the photography, you could use that. But most of the time for my books, I preferred to have the publisher negotiate with the photographer separately, and they may be held some of the advanced back to use that money for the photographer, which was fun.
But then I just got a dollar amount, and then they paid the photographer. They’re on their own out of the advance maybe or out of some money that came from the book. Cause really books are just like math problems for publishers. You know, how much the author’s going to get what’s the discount going to be.
And then they have to of course pay the editor, the designer or the printer. So the money actually is kind of chopped up a lot, I think in book sales. But I want you to remember that because I’m a cookbook author. I think I have a better life. I think my work is more valuable. I think my knowledge base has expanded and I have definitely had more opportunities to earn money in a lot of other ways because I am a cook.
Erica Julson: Yeah. I’ve heard people say just for books in general, that having a book is a really great way to get speaking opportunities in particular .
Maggie Green: Right. You get invited to book fairs. And if you go to book fairs, you get invited to speak on panels and tons of opportunities like that.
My life is completely different than it would have been had I not written books. And I do think it’s a better life. I think it’s a very enjoyable life. I get a lot of joy from what I do. And I think that spills over into the work that I do. And I know that the knowledge I’ve gained and again, the opportunities I’ve had.
So I think, again, your why has to kind of be looked at, if I looked at how much money I made per book as a percentage of net sales, versus how much I might make as a self-published author, the numbers are probably going to be different. But again, I can’t get my books in Costco, Walmart. Anthropology on my own.
It’s hard for self published authors to do that. There is an example, I did work with the dietitian in the program that I have, who had a very established, very specific niche, private practice. And she wanted a cookbook for her people in her private practice. You see how that’s different than like someone like me who doesn’t have a private practice and someone who maybe had a bakery and they used the custom publisher.
When you have a really built in niche audience, self publishing works because you have the people right there under your own roof to buy the books that you’re selling. So I think that’s something that you really might want to consider. If you do have a private practice.
Erica Julson: That’s a really great tip for dietitians in general. And do you think as you go on and you publish that first cookbook traditionally and it does well, do you have a little extra leverage if you want to publish another one?
Maggie Green: I think first of all, I think finishing a proposal just in and of itself is kind of like a litmus test for your capacity to write the manuscript.
But then let’s say you complete the manuscript and it gets turned into a book. I mean, that’s pretty amazing. You took an idea, you fleshed it out, you did all the recipes, you found a publisher. Now we have a book. So yeah, I think, I think that helps you. I know my first book definitely helped me get my second book contract and it’s not just the fact that I did it and that I got a call because I had done the first one, but the publishing industry is actually kind of small.
And people move around in publishing houses in particular, they might move from the marketing department here over to the sales department at another publisher. And if you’re an author that has established a good relationship with the people in a publishing company, and if they move somewhere else, you can have a relationship with them wherever they go.
And I have that instance actually going on right now. My first cookbook, someone worked in marketing and sales. She was the head of the publishing company for my third and fourth book. And now she’s even in another publishing company. I think she might be the head of that publishing company now also.
So she knows me, I know her, we have a relationship and I kind of have an idea for maybe a fifth book. And I, I know that if I wanted to publish it, the kind of place that she’s at now would be the perfect place for it. I think you also have to remember, not every topic works at every publishing house. My Kentucky cookbooks that I wrote don’t necessarily work at random house, because it’s not like the right distribution network for the kind of regional work that I did for those first two books.
A smaller publisher, that’s more regionally based in and around the state of Kentucky was the best for that because they knew all the little nooks and crannies and state parks and gift shops and book fairs and events and radio stations and all the things that were here regionally to promote that book, that random house maybe would have known some of it, but not quite an in depth way that this publisher did.
So I encourage people to think about their book, even from a regional perspective. I think that regional topics land a little bit of niche or narrow work to your book. And shouldn’t be ignored because people that live in your region that are even battling health problems eat the way they eat in that area of the country.
And not like everybody from California to New York state. So those are kind of fun topics to do. I worked with a woman who’s writing a vegan cookbook about a particular region of the United States, not a state, but a region. And she got picked up by a publisher and is I think her book’s coming out early next year.
So it’s fun to narrow down the idea, give it a unique twist. You know, make it exciting. If you have a lived experience of something you believe in, you want that to come through in your proposal.
Erica Julson: What would you say are your top tips for a food or nutrition professional to stand out and kind of increase their chances of getting a publishing deal. And then I want to transition and talk a little bit more about, you know, what you teach and offer in your program.
Maggie Green: Yeah. So I think for dietitians, definitely lean on your expertise about food or nutrition, whatever it is, be willing to be a leader in the space. We need leaders. We need people who are willing to speak up and speak out and pick, pick a road and, you know, go down that road. And what do they call it?
Like stand in your lane, if you want to teach children or adolescents or eating disorders, or, I mean, there’s the, sky’s the limit. Everybody eats, just pick something, but kinda narrow it down. So that people can get an idea of what you’re really all about. And maybe the book you want to write is related to what you do in your work, maybe it’s not, but you are going to want to have a concept that is relatively narrowed down.
And then I encourage you to think about regions. I encourage you to think about cuisines from other countries. If you have that expertise and you want to share it it’s a very popular topic now. I think more than anything else, the events of the past few years have opened our eyes to the necessity for exploring food and nutrition topics written from the perspective of different cultures, people of different color, people of different backgrounds, people of different languages. So I’m lean on everything that you know. And just like me.
I mean, I grew up in Kentucky. I knew the food of Kentucky. It’s what I loved. And I wanted to write a seasonal cookbook about it. And that’s exactly what I did. So don’t be afraid to really be who you are and Have fun with it live, what you want to write about. If it’s healing, maybe you’ve been healed by something, or maybe you help people heal.
Maybe you help people just learn. But I think having fun following your delight letting things be enjoyable is really the secret sauce. If it’s filled with resistance, resentment, and insecurity, it’s not going to go very far. My favorite word lately is delight. If something is delightful for you in the kitchen, explore it a little bit.
You also can pick a single ingredient and write about that. I mean, have you seen, or a single food, like cookbooks about cookies, like supposedly like always sell.
Cookbooks about Italian food or. Indian food or pizza.
Erica Julson: I have a cookbook on tagine cooking.
Maggie Green: A hundred percent. Yeah. Appliance and also pay attention to food stories and cooking stories that you experience in your everyday life and interactions that you have with people around food and cooking that are memorable stories. Maybe they evoke a little bit of emotion. We want to make our agents and publishers feel something.
We want them to remember us. And we can do that often through telling a really good story.
Erica Julson: So can you tell us more about what you offer dietitians and other food professionals in terms of helping them get published?
Maggie Green: Sure, I offer a program. It’s a 12 month group coaching program. I help food, nutrition experts get paid to write cookbooks.
So that’s the traditional publishing model model, without having to spend their own money to get published. So I have worked with people who have self published, but I really have a desire to help food, nutrition professionals, culinary professionals, experts get into the traditional publishing space if that’s what they want.
So it’s a 12 month group coaching program called get paid to get published and we work together. And I have a framework that I developed that is taught and presented, and then we have live coaching and I have quiet writing hours and co-writing sessions because if we’re not writing, we’re not writing a cookbook.
And sometimes just carving out that space to think, cause we cookbooks are really based on thoughts that we create. And giving yourself time to think and giving ourself time to write. And so we offer those quiet writing times also in the program, which is really kind of different for a group coaching program, but it’s very beneficial.
I actually do work while I’m presenting this to people because I need to have time to slow down and think as well. So that’s what I do. And it’s a rolling admission program. People can come in anytime, but as a 12 month commitment, because I think that if you’re going to write a cookbook, you’re going to need 12 months to make sure your platform is being established and built.
Your concept is being created and you can work on your proposal and pitching publishers. And inside the program, I have a cookbook, author and agent list that all my students have access to. It’s hyperlinked and kept updated. So that, that kind of takes away this whole fear of like trying to Google for cookbook publishers.
And so it kind of like, here’s the list? Who are we going to target based on the concept of your book. And I really helped them find the perfect publisher in their mind for their concept, because that’s when everybody starts to get really excited that they can start to actually see a publisher that would work for the topic that they have.
Erica Julson: And in terms of going back to all the different steps that you laid out, can someone join this program, even if they’re at like square zero and they’re not a hundred percent sure of their idea?
Maggie Green: Yeah. I worked with people that weren’t dietitians, but other people who might write a cookbook and that’s what they came to me for.
And one of them has gone on to open a cooking school here in Cincinnati. Another one has gone on to establish herself as a low sodium expert through a business that she created and the cookbooks are all still part of what they want to do. But the funny thing is, is once they give themselves permission to really explore this part of themselves called cooking or food or nutrition it’s amazing the kinds of things that happen.
So them being in my program, there’s a lot of things that have happened as a result of it. I’ve worked with people from Germany, other countries, current student in Trinidad and Tobago, a Puerto Rican student that is really trying to decide whether to write her book in Spanish or English. So a lot of people with a lot of really interesting and unique topics about cooking and you can come in with the business and we can get busy on concept creation and proposal writing, or you can come in with an idea and we can start to work on building your platform.
Erica Julson: That’s great. So where should people go specifically to learn more?
Maggie Green: So, if they’re interested, I do have a masterclass that you can watch. It talks all about what I teach and how we can work together. It’s at www dot cookbook writers academy.com/free cookbook writers, academy.com/free.
Erica Julson: And I will put the link to that in the show notes for this episode.
If people are on the go and they can’t write it down, they can head to the unconventional R d.com and just find this episode. And there’ll be a link there . And then in terms of social platforms, if they want to follow you, what platform do you spend the most time on?
Maggie Green: Yeah, so I’m on Instagram, I’m at green apron and on Facebook I have a free Facebook group called the confident cookbook writer.
So even if you just think you might want to explore this it’s a place to come and kinda dabble around a little bit. You can ask questions, you can see some promotions that I do in there. I do some posts about book writing and it’s the confident cookbook writer, or again on Instagram at green apron.
Erica Julson: Great. And of course for the people listening who are cookbook nerds, you also have your podcast.
Maggie Green: I do. My podcast is called cookbook love podcast. It’s produced every Thursday. I’m headed into my fourth year of podcasting and it celebrates cookbook, readers, buyers, writers, collectors, and clubs.
Erica Julson: Well, thanks again for being here. I hope some people reach out to you who are interested in the cookbook space because you are a wonderful resource for the dietitian community..
Maggie Green: Thank you so much for having me on the podcast. I wish you nothing but the best with all the work you’re doing. And I think bringing to light all the unique things that dietitians can do through the food and nutrition.
Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.