A writer often has to choose whether to write paid-for articles or do a live marketing event which brings in money, but not much and not right now. In other words, it doesn't pay for the tomatoes. That's one reason writing a column is a great idea for authors. I wrote about that in my last post.
Last week, I drove to Portland, had lunch with my publishers, and did a cooking demo at Portland farmers' market. It amazes me how different each cooking demo is and a chef/author really has to weigh the pros and cons before doing one, especially in areas that don't have established kitchens like farmers' markets. One of the downsides is you must always bring some kind of cooking equipment, and unless you're skilled at doing this on a regular basis, you could miss something really important.
Cooking Demo Book Tours
Checking out the venue site ahead of time and meeting the demo coordinator is always a good plan, but sometimes that isn't possible. And othertimes it seems that no matter how much you prepare, there's always something that comes up and bites you. At the Portland farmers' market, I realized I should have brought my own disposable gloves and I should have asked about clean-up. But I did bring my own towels, and these were in such short supply my assistant asked if I brought any.
Another thing I didn't think to ask about was clean-up. Where to do it at the Portland market was a puzzle. Just a bucket below the hand washing station. When I began rinsing the dishes, food fell into this bucket and I wondered where the water was dumped afterwards. I finallyt gave up, took most of my dishes home without washing them. (Drove them home to Washington after they sat in my car for a day and developed an unappetizing crust. Washing crusty dishes is exactly the thing you don't want to do after driving so 200 plus miles for an event.)
The growing list of "should-have-brought" "should have asked" inspired me to write a few helpful lists for chef/authors on book tours doing farmers' markets and other events.
6 questions to ask before a cooking event
1. Are there burners available? How many? What kind?
2. Is there an electrical outlet for a food processor or blender?
3. What kind of equipment is available? Pots, pans etc.
4. Will I have an assistant? What will the assistant do? Prep? Clean-up?
5. Do you provide individual serving dishes? Napkins? Paper towels?
6. Where can I wash my dishes?
10 essential items for any cooking demo
1. disposable gloves
2. cloth/paper towels
3. cutting board
4. pot scrubber
5. measuring spoons/cups
6. spoon for stirring
8. peeler/microplane zester
10. Serving dishes
Also it's good to ask about health code requirements, and when in doubt, pick easy dishes, so if things go wrong, they won't go horribly wrong.
Meet and Greets
Unlike cooking demos and author readings, the "Meet and Greet" is an easy fun event where you contact a store, pick a date and set up a table with your books. It's an easy fun event where you greet customers, tell stories about your book and sign copies for the folks to come out to see you. You meet lots of interesting people and it can be great fun.
One of my best "Meet and Greets" was at Edmonds Bookshop where owneer Mary Kay Sneeringer made carrot hummus from my book and so many friends and people, some I hadn't seen in years, stopped by. I also brought some biscotti to share, also made from one of the recipes in my book.
I had a great "Meet and Greet" event at GrassRoots bookstore in Corvallis, where I met people who had enjoyed local CSAs from one of the farms profiled in my book and others who were interested in hearing more farm stories.
I love the "Meet and Greet" events on busy afternoons. And if you are uncertain how many people may show up for an author reading, why not propose a "Meet and Greet" event? One thing that my friend Kathy Gehrt is really good at is the "Meet and Greets." She places a bowl of lavender-spiked chocolate on her table to compliment her book Discover Cooking with Lavender. Chocolate always lures people over to your table. Sweets or cards with tip sheets are fun giveaways for meet and greets. Or, for special occasions, offer a drawing for a book giveaway.
I'm gearing up for the holidays next. . . .