Last month I got to visit the gorgeous offices of Harvard Common Press not once, but twice, and let me tell you – I’m about ready to move in there.

The second trip was with Boston Brunchers, founded by the multi-talented Renee Hirschberg. Renee works full time, is getting her masters, blogs several times a week, and runs a real life community whisking lucky bloggers to brunch several times a month in the Boston area.

This time she managed to swing a doozy – brunch for 40 at Harvard Common Press, complete with a question and answer session about publishing a cookbook with HCP’s associate publisher and digital media director Adam Salomone, owner Bruce Shaw, and marketing director Nancy Grant Mahoney (who’s name was too long for her Twitter handle, and got cut off – perhaps fortuitously? – to “Mahon”, a delightful cheese).

Writing a cookbook can be a two year process (or more). Here were some of the details in a snapshot:

Finding your Publisher:

  • Use Social Media to make friends with publishers: HCP has published authors they have gotten to know through Twitter!
  • In thinking about your blog and brand, remember what you are passionate about.
  • Engagement level: HCP will address many different aspects when evaluating a potential author. For bloggers, this includes writing, photography, voice, knowledge and interest, traffic, blog comments, twitter and facebook usage.

Process: so you’ve made it! You’ve waded through and have a publisher. What can you expect next?

  • Material Sources: It used to be that you could use 25% of previous blog recipes, now most publishers expect your cookbook to be 100% new material. (More work for you!)
  • Editorial Process: At HCP, editorial director Dan Rosenberg helps authors come up with a work plan, the developmental stage that helps you assess what needs to be in your cookbook.
  • Writing the manuscript: This can take 9-12 months, and realistically if you are a blogger, this means a lot less time eating out, cooking for the blog, and blogging in general.
  • Editors: You’ll likely have a robust back and forth with your editors. You’ll bang your head, panic, go a little crazy. This is good.

Ultimately, you, the editor and the publishers have the same goal in mind – to make your cookbook the best book it can be.

Once published (or almost published): Publishing houses used to have in-house marketing and do everything to pub and market a book. Now, authors can work closely with the publisher to promote the book. Bloggers have a built in market, and HCP works with the author with a wide variety of social media tools including tweet tours, blog tours (where the author may guest post on 10 or more different blogs), and in person tours.

(If you write a book, you can give a talk at Omnivore! Just make sure you ask Celia to provide some wine!)

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One more note, from me. If you want to write a cookbook, but aren’t ready to take the plunge, consider working for a published cookbook author on their next book. You will wash a lot of dishes, learn an enormous amount about the process, and be well–prepared when you eventually decide to write your own.

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Bruce Shaw, owner of Harvard Common Press, on Bloggers: “You are technically our competitors, but you are also our life blood here!”

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And some photos of the office:

A big thank you to the kind folks at Harvard Common Press for letting me snoop around!

Harvard Common Press

HCP Dishes Blog:
HCP Blog Eats (new in the blog world):