“Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.”

—Larry L. King, WD

Amy Riolo is a talented chef, food historian, and culinary anthropologist. As long as she could remember, Amy possessed a unique curiosity about food origins. Through the years, her interest matured to a full-blown passion for exploring cuisines from various cultures around the world.

As an explorer and linguist, she has traveled, worked, and lived in numerous European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern countries. Through her books, lectures, and culinary tours she brings cultures to life through their cuisine – with a touch of majesty.

In total, Amy has authored seven award-winning cookbooks and is a regular contributor to popular culinary publications. It’s safe to say she’s a bit of an expert on the topic of writing.

We caught up with Amy to capture her lessons and advice for the upcoming issue of Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine. For now, below is a snapshot of the lessons she shared with us in her full interview.

1. It’s Not as Easy as it Appears

There’s a common belief that anyone who can cook or bake automatically possesses the necessary talent to write and publish a cookbook. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Being able to cook or bake is just a slice of a very large pie.

As Amy says:

“People believe that it is easy and that anyone can do it. Cookbook writing is an art all of its own. You have to know a lot about food, a lot about writing, a lot about “translating” recipes for the public, and a lot about actual recipe writing.”

“There are many technical procedures that need to be followed depending upon the preferred format of your publisher. Recipes need to be tested multiple times to ensure accuracy by the writer and independent testers.”

2. Choose Your Genre Carefully

You’ve heard it before, success in life or business comes from finding and pursuing your passions. Selecting a genre for a cookbook is no different. The process of writing can be described as a “labor of love” by many writers, therefore, having a genre you’re passionate about, or at least extremely interested in, gives you the motivation to push through the rough patches.

As Amy says:

“I would say to make sure that this genre is “your life” – not something that you want to do from 9-5, but something that you want to be constantly experiencing and interpreting. Cooking and writing professionally, when done with passion, is a lifestyle. Regardless of whether or not you are “on the clock,” caring about the way you and others eat should be a top priority.”

3. Build Your Platform

Publishing companies are increasingly attracted to aspiring authors who possess an audience of sorts. Why? It’s a relatively good predictor of success. If you don’t have an audience or at least some type of digital footprint, it’s time to begin laying the groundwork to build one.

As Amy says:

“For new authors, it is extremely important to have a strong author platform and write about a topic that is very popular. I was new, and writing about a niche topic. In order to get my work published, I had to grow my platform at an incredibly fast rate, and prove to the world that my topic was of relevance. Definitely not the most direct path, but I learned a lot and stayed true to myself in the process.”

4. Proposals Are Like Business Plans

According to Michael Hyatt, a powerhouse author, the real secret to securing a book contract is knowing how to write a powerful, compelling book proposal that leaves agents begging to represent you—and publisher’s eager to sign you.

As Amy says:

“Proposals are like the business plan of your cookbook. Your proposal must be well written and professionally edited. It should tell an overview of the book idea, detailed information on your demographic/target audience, a competitive analysis of the competition, your author platform, and how you intend to market (sell and promote) the book. It should also contain a complete table of contents, sample chapter, and sample recipes.”

5. Fall in Love with Editing

I know from personal experience, editing is relatively difficult. It takes time, critical thinking, and you can easily overlook mistakes. However, it’s a necessary evil in the world of writing.

As Amy says:

“Also, get comfortable with editing and style sheets. My mentor insisted I did these, and they help a great deal. People often say that if you want to be a writer you must love editing. It is true. I used to hate that, but now I appreciate the fact that it will help get my book as close to perfect as possible.”

6. Create & Follow Style Sheets

Style sheets reflect the tone, standards, and practices for writing. They guide on things like spelling, punctuation, and capitalization preferences. Most importantly, they ensure consistency.

As Amy says:

“A style sheet is necessary to make sure that you always use the same terminology – spelling or capitalization of a foreign word, etc. If you write Parmigiano-Reggiano in one recipe, for example, it shouldn’t be Parmesan or Parmigiano in another. Having said that, there are always mistakes. I tell my mentees “Even the Bible has mistakes.” Just take the right precautions and do what you can to make it as great as possible.”

7. Develop a Marketing Strategy

Much like anything in business or entrepreneurship, having a comprehensive marketing strategy is key. Just because you write a book or create a product, doesn’t mean people will instantly flock to hand over their hard earned cash. It’s crucial to build and execute some sort of plan.

As Amy says:

“In looking back, one of the mistakes I made, in the beginning, was not having a strategy. I assumed the publisher would do it. My first publisher went out of business, so I learned quickly that I couldn’t rely on them. Now I create my own strategy, refine it with the help of my PR agent, and then approach the marketing department at my publisher’s office for support.”

 “I create an editorial calendar for all of my social marketing platforms so that I have unique, targeted posts which can help promote my books and brand. I create cooking videos on YouTube and download podcasts from my lectures. I also blog regularly and have a monthly newsletter that goes out to my readers.”

8. Accept Rejection Will Happen & Be Persistent

It’s a harsh reality, but your book will not resonate with everyone. The earlier you accept this fact, the easier it becomes to press on when you’re rejected by literary agents, publishing companies, or customers. For Amy, her book was rejected 50 times – yes that’s five zero! Yet, with sheer persistence she pressed on and found success.

As Amy says:

“I got 50 rejections for my first book Nile Style: Egyptian Cuisine and Culture – which ended up being published 2nd, won the World Gourmand Award in Paris, was published in a second edition, and featured at the National Book Festival. I was extremely tenacious because I believed in what I was writing. I simply would not give up.” 

“The most important thing is to believe in what you are doing and do it from the heart. Timing is everything – you may not be appreciated at first (as with all of my rejections in the beginning), but eventually your book will fall into the right hands.”

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Find out the most important part of having an idea, why you should double or triple expectations, a vital step before you create a product or service, how to build lasting trust with your customers, and more!

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