Saturday, August 13, 2022

What I Learned About Creating a Cookbook by Jenn McKinlay

WHAT WAS I THINKING???

If I had a nickel for every time I asked myself this over the past few months, I'd be able to solve the national coin shortage.


Check it out! The print ARC just arrived!!! 

No doubt you've seen me post about this endeavor somewhere (probably here) and heard the high pitched freak out in my voice at least a little. 

Now, I'm not new to self-publishing. I got the rights back to some books and actually put one up a million years ago. I also decided to try self-publishing some romcom novellas this year (which has been easy peasy lemon squeezy) but I had never published a non-fiction work in my life, traditionally or otherwise. Despite the title, putting this book together was no fairy tale...except for the people who worked with me to make it one. 

So, here's what I learned, specific to this cookbook.

1. Hire a professional baker/food photographer. I was fortunate that the assistant Christie Conlee who I hired long before the cookbook was okayed by the powers that be (meaning I was allowed to do this on my own) is actually a home baker and has mad photography skills. Thus, she is also the co-author of the book as she baked, tweaked, and then photographed every recipe in the books. Seriously, I call her my magical unicorn and I'm not even kidding. (BTW, this was her response when I asked her to get on Tik Tok - LOL!).




2. Hire a cover artist who "gets" you. I was fortunate enough to have a cover artist for the romcom novellas, Lyndsey, from Llewellen Designs who is a dream to work with and whose cover (as you can see above) matches the vibe of the cupcake bakery mysteries to perfection. She also nailed my brand on the novellas. She's currently working on It Happened One Christmas Eve and I can't wait to see it!

3. Expect it to take a million times longer than you think it will. To get this sucker loaded on IngramSpark (the publisher I chose) I had to learn how to craft a word document that included pictures - LOTS of pictures - and then convert it to a pdf, embed the font (what?), make the trim sizes work for a 6 X 9 pbk book with all of those pictures, do some rewriting, tweaking, cutting, inserting, yada yada yada. Expect delays and rough language, I'm just sayin'!

4. Know when to walk away. Ebook platforms are not friendly for cookbooks (pesky photos) and every one of them is different. I really hope readers choose to go hardcover on this because after almost throwing my computer into our swimming pool over formatting issues, let's just say the hardcover is better :) Doubling back, let me repeat, know when to walk away. LOL.



5. Let go of perfectionism. IT WILL NEVER BE PERFECT. Much like those delightful readers let you know when there's a single typo in a 75,000 word book that has been through seven edits by five pairs of eyes, anticipate that there will always be an error in your manuscript somewhere. Accept it. Embrace it. Consider it the WTF wrinkle on the face of your work.



So, how about you, Reds and Readers? What task did you take on that was more daunting than you anticipated? How did it turn out? (Looking for some positivity here - LOL)!



56 comments:

  1. There are days when everything seems more daunting than I’ve anticipated it will be . . . but somehow or other things always seem to come out okay. I’m sure “Fairy Tale Cupcakes” will be a pure delight . . . .

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  2. Daunting? My computer will not charge. I have been conversing with people from India all night.

    At this point I ould eat half a dozen cupcakes out of frustration-- and I really dislike cupcakes.

    Oh, wait, you meant daunting as a writer. Oh. Yeah. I researched and wrote a book on the Constitution in 3 months flat, fifty years after I last took a course in Con Law, because that's what the contract called for. Piece of (cup) cake compared to dealing with Dell.

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    1. I've been on that phone call. You have my sympathies.

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  3. In 2006 I built a 24x32 two-story barn from a kit whose ads promised it was perfect for beginners, without experience. The instruction manual was laconic and unhelpful. When I called the company, I was told, "People don't read instructions." (I always read instructions.) When I expressed frustration with the cryptic directions, a man's voice queried impatiently, "Have you ever built anything bigger than a breadbox?" I pointed out their ads were pitched to beginners without experience. "We didn't mean without ANY experience." Needless to say, I learned A LOT about construction. It was stressful.

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    1. I always read instructions, too. Although it is mostly "try to" read them because they are not even written so a human can understand them. On the other hand, I bought a simple rubber plug for my bathtub. It was in a bubble on a piece of cardboard. In big letters I was told to carefully read instructions before using. The instructions told me to "insert the plug into the drain opening." But so many people I know, throwing out the instructions is the first thing they do. My son had trouble with an appliance. What does the manual say, I asked him. I got a blank look.

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    2. Psst, I think by "people" they refer to men who refuse to read the directions, and who are more likely to be putting together such a project. Not always, but more often. I don't mean this in a sexist way, but more a broad observation from 70 years.

      There seem to be a lot more women taking on such construction efforts these days than when I was a kid, if TikTok and YouTube videos are anything to go by. I'm so impressed at some of the ambitious projects I see completed by women in those videos.

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    3. What an endeavor! Two stories??? The instructions weren't from IKEA, were they?

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  4. As with admilkmaid's experience, Hugh and I laid our own kitchen floor. It was fake flooring, that was supposed to "snap in" with ease. It was a huge pain, with the tongue part of the tongue-and-groove snapping OFF with ease. It ended up looking great and has been durable and pretty for nine years now. But two days on our hands and knees wasn't pretty...

    As for writing, quitting my day job to write full time (also nine years ago) was quite a leap, daunting and scary and uncertain. It's still hard, but I'm so glad I didn't walk away and find a job at Trader Joe's or something, and so far it's working out pretty well. ;^)

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    1. And I should have started with Congratulations! I'm sure the cookbook is going to be a big hit.

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    2. Thank you, Edith! Very exciting despite my complaining.

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  5. I salute you and your perseverance, Jenn. Formatting anything on the computer and then realizing it's all moved around when you transfer it...well, let's just say, "Yay You!" I will buy the paper version, thanks. Baking, using a recipe on my Kindle or phone or computer...no.



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    1. Excellent choice. Yeah, an e-cookbook is a high risk item :)

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  6. JENN: Kudos to you and Christie for collaborating on this cookbook!
    I feel your pain about creating and formatting ebooks. I spent many frustrating hours creating/editing large technical reports with plenty of inserted graphics at Environment Canada.

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    1. Inserted graphics - you just gave me an eye twitch.

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  7. Cookbooks are tough: testing cooks, formatting the recipes, cover design, photos/illustrations. I've been involved with two cookbook projects and it's an incredible amount of work. Congratulations on publication! I have a few hardcore cupcake bakers in my family anxious to try some new recipes.

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    1. I had no idea. I will now pay exorbitant amounts of money for cookbooks and not whine.

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  8. Jenn: That sounds really daunting! Congratulations on getting it done. It always feels so good to finish. I too am trying to give up perfectionism. It really isn't helpful.

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    1. Perfectionism is like a maze you can never get out of - best to just break through the wall :)

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  9. Congratulations, Jenn! The cover is so pretty and enticing! (Says the woman who just ate two sugar cookies with frosting for breakfast). I hear ya on throwing the computer in the pool--I had to edit a book once in a pdf format--just no, please! But I wasn't allowed to edit in Word because the manuscript was already formatted.

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  10. Hank Phillippi RyanAugust 13, 2022 at 9:50 AM

    Oh hooray hooray hooray! This is so incredibly exciting! I am off to buy these for myself and all my friends and people who don’t know yet that they will soon be my friend! and truly, you and the brilliant Christie have now accomplished something amazing, I wonder if you will ever do it again :-). Someday , volume two? Hurray!!!!

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    1. LOL - two years until we do volume 2 the second eight volumes in what will be a sixteen volume series. I'll need just that long to recover :) Thank you for the lovely support!

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  11. Fiction is bad enough, with all the quotes and he said and she chuckled. But a cookbook, with recipe formatting and color photos, yikes. All that precision, and making sure you don't mix up the Tsp and the tsp, nor get any of the fractions wrong. Hair-tearing.

    So congratulations on getting the cupcake book out the door, Jenn. I look forward to seeing it.

    I can't believe formatting is still an issue with Word. How can this not have been simplified by now? When I was preparing my first (nonfiction) book to be self-published the very extensive, meticulously collected index was completely FUBAR'd in the final refresh because of edits, and it went to the printer that way. 1,100 copies, the first batch, all with indexes that bore absolutely no relationship to the rest of the 300+ pages. It meant I couldn't sell it to the catalog companies as originally planned because of the necessity of adding a 24-page index addendum inside each book.

    You can bet I darn sure knew it was correct for the next two, much larger printings. Nightmare.

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    1. I am having convulsions on your behalf, Karen. Oy.

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    2. Jenn, I'm almost recovered. It was only 1994, after all. LOL

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  12. Congratulations on the cookbook. I will own a paper copy.

    I get the formatting thing. Something I wouldn't have done if I'd only known? Grad school. Dissertations are work but the royal PITA was getting the manuscript by the dragons holding the page and style template. One mistake and the whole thing came back to you, deadline looming and jobs depending. This was before .pdf. Probably easier now.

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    1. I'd be on a diet of anti-acid pills.

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    2. My mother did a master's degree in English MANY pre-computer years ago. When she was typing her dissertation she developed hives from the stress. Each page had to line up exactly with all the others and there could be no corrections. What that had to do with her learning I do not know.

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    3. Libby: Nothing to do with the learning inside and all about learning that the publisher didn't care what was inside. Only that it fit the parameters.

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  13. It looks so appealing, Jenn! We’ll done. Rhys

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  14. Once again I am in awe... putting this together was a major feat. Reminds me of way back when I was working in high tech and we had to CODE the formatting, then compile and try to figure out where we'd left out (or put in) an errant space or failed to close a bracket or or or... Not fulfilling work. Self publishing feels like a bridge too far...

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    1. Coding...ugh. I took a coding class and realized I'd likely end up being a drinker. LOL.

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  15. Big congratulations, Jenn! I am so impressed that you didn't toss out the idea and just eat a batch of cupcakes instead. I look forward to getting the hardback copy. I can't even imagine trying to bake something from my kindle, although being able to enlarge the text is nice. My granddaughter follows a recipe from her phone. I've no idea how she does it. I have to print them out and then I have a copy I can make notes on.

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    1. I've tried to use my phone and then the screen goes dark and I have sticky fingers. Argh.

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  16. Congratulations, Jenn, and I hope FAIRY TALE CUPCAKES is an instant best seller (in hardcover!)

    I've thought about self-pubbing some shorter pieces or a novella. Your experience is pretty much how I figured it would go, except with less success and more swear words, as I don't have a magical unicorn. I salute your perseverance, but expect no less from a woman who redid her own kitchen cabinets.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Julia. Novels/essays are so easy to self-pub, seriously, I'll help you :)

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  17. Jenn, you are beyond fabulous. I am in awe of this project! (And will be buying the paper copy!!)
    As for daunting tasks... Books. Every single one has been harder and taken longer than I ever think at the beginning!

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    1. I hear you. I think the deeper you go into a series the more complicated it gets.

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  18. Awesome! Cover is great, book looks well, tasty. Count me in - I have not yet mastered the art of the cupcake so I'm looking forward to learning with GREAT recipes.

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  19. Jenn! I clicked on "Buy Now" and it didn't go anywhere...can you fix??

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    1. The link is there (Amazon) but it takes it a second (curse you, Blogger)!

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    2. It was BN but I switched Amazon (faster) sorry BN :(

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  20. JENN: Great post! I WANT TO BUY THE HARDCOVER OF YOUR NEW COOKBOOK! I could write a book about the tasks that I took on that were really daunting.

    Unfortunately, I have a tendency to take on tasks that I THINK I CAN DO when I cannot. For example, I decided to work on a presidential campaign (he lost or did he?) and oh boy! Most of it was talking on the phone and as a Deaf person, I could not do that! I was very creative and thought of jobs that I could do on the campaign. What I learned was that having a SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER was essential to my work! I did not understand that when I started. Eventually I learned how important it was to have a competent Translator.

    Not sure if this answers your question.

    Happy Saturday,
    Diana

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    1. I think that was my lesson here, too, Diana. Having people who could facilitate what I wanted was definitely key.

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  22. Jenn, your cupcake book is beautiful! I think this book is definitely one to have in hardback. The cover is gorgeous and the inside (thanks for showing us that) matches. Glad you had such talented, reliable people working with you. I don't know how in the world you do all you do. Congratulations on another wonderful success!

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    1. Thank you, Kathy. Very kind of you to say. I cry a lot - lol - mostly tears of laughter but still...

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  23. I once copy-edited a cookbook. There was a lot of, "Are you sure you want THAT MUCH baking powder" in my e-mails to the author. (And of course, this was on a short deadline.) I am finally off the phone with Dell. Ostensibly, a technician will call me Monday morning. I am considering getting drunk, and I don't drink. I am also considering crying (and I DO cry). Calmer now, I meant to say congratulations on the cookbook. I once put together my college class's 25th reunion book-- a run of perhaps 100 copies. That is why I will NEVER self publish anything. My hat is off to you!

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    1. Seriously, I have such a new estimation (which was already pretty high) of copy editors.

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  24. Back in the dark ages of my undergrad degree I had a History thesis to write/type, in order to graduate. This was done on a portable Smith Corona bought with "green stamps"(anyone remember them?). Special red margined paper, pre white out time, and went through three typewriter ribbons. Finished the "final" copy, had my mother proof read . . . I had spelled "and"..... "adn" throughout the entire 25 pages. Dissolved into a weeping mess(wasn't old enough to drink). Luckily my mother rescued me, as she was a terrific typist and re-did the whole thing perfectly and in less time. She had offered to type the original, but being a "stupid" 20 year old, I figured I could do it myself(LOL). From then on, anytime anyone says "can I help you with that," It is a big YES from me!!

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    1. YES! One of life's greatest lessons. When people offer to help (assuming they know what they're doing) let them. LOL.

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