Wednesday, October 20, 2010

News Updates; Cooking Demos; and Meet and Greets

I've been in Oregon and then working on my other blog, an article about the cuisine of Argentina for Vegetarian Journal, and a column about making soup. Then there are the two interviews I need to organize, one for a blog post and another for an article.

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
2. knives
3. cutting board
4. pot scrubber
5. measuring spoons/cups
6. spoon for stirring
7. spatula/tongs
8. peeler/microplane zester
9. strainer
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. . . .

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Look Around; Write a Column; Promote Your Platform

I perused my email this morning and I noticed an invitation for a seminar presented by Kevin Smokler CEO of I decided to look for Kevin on FaceBook and immediately sent a friend request after I read his great book marketing blog.

I got caught up reading his compelling marketing advice and I even checked his guest blogs on other blogs like this one where I was struck by this sentence:

"That authors must promote, often on their own, is now an accepted reality."

I sighed. I finally get how much publishers don't do. Previously I was seriously delusional thinking not me, my publisher is different. I wish I'd started with a stronger independent marketing plan, but drawing up plans are is not my strong suit. Authors be warned: be careful what you optimistically read into emails etc, then if you realize you perhaps expected too much from your publisher, get over and get on with fitting marketing into your life. If you have to mail your own books for reviews, do it.

And check out Kevin's blog --of course he's promoting his own businesses and PressFinder but maybe that will also interest you as a promotional vehicle for your book.

Also, if you're wondering what else to do right now, look around, and check out magazines and newsletters that pertain to your book. Maybe you can dream up a column that would be perfect for the publication. Check out specialty organizations, garden clubs, book stores--any place that might support a regular colum. A column can help satisfy your passion for writing and promote your book at the same time. Consider a column free advertising for your book and instead of paying for the ad, you get paid. It doesn't get much better than that.

One day as I was looking through my book to see what articles I could spin off, I realized I had a number of ideas that would make a fun monthly column. I called my column Take 5 because the information could easily be broken up into topics and the article wouldn't take that long to write. I proposed my column to Marlene's Market and Deli's Sound Outlook editor Lori Lively.

I mentioned this new column in an earlier blog post, but it wasn't until my friend Kathy Gehrt pointed out it was great advertising every month, that I realized what a great idea writing a column is for an author. Molly Wizenberg, author and blogger of Orangette fame has a column in Bon Appetit; Mathew Amster-Burton, author and Roots and Grubs blogger writes a column for Culinate; and Amy Pennington, author and gardener writes a column for Edible Seattle.

So consider promoting your platform and your book promotion will follow. Build your name recognition like a house, brick by brick, and any place you get your book mentioned every month is certainly worth considering.