As the author of 3 cookbooks and 4 e-books, Jessica Fisher is no stranger to hard work. In our interview with her, you'll learn how to create a publish a cookbook, along with how much time, work, and planning is involved in the process! Whether you're a food blogger or not, Jessica also shares valuable advice on time management, producing content, and parenting. Press play on the podcast player below to hear from this seasoned blogger, author, cook, and mom.
On the Podcast
00:57 – From Freelance Writer to Successful Blogger
03:43 – Jessica's Low Point
04:46 – Why Growing a Platform is the Path to Publishing
07:24 – Content Creation & Planning
09:23 – Two Blog Posts a Day? How Jessica Finds the Time
10:40 – The Many Steps to Writing a Cookbook
13:55 – Cookbook Photos – What You Should Know
14:55 – Why You Need an Agent
16:43 – A Family of Cooks
21:22 – Jessica's Favorite Resources for Running her Biz
22:01 – Business Advice from Overseas
23:46 – How to Stay in Shape as a Food Blogger
26:09 – They're Watching….
From Freelance Writer to Successful Blogger
On a whim 9 years ago, Jessica submitted an article to a local parenting publication. Through that publisher, she discovered Parenting Publications of America – an organization comprised of small, local magazines that you might find in places like your doctor's office.
Jessica began writing more frequently, and a year later, she and her husband decided to tackle their debt and address their spending habits. At this point, Jessica amped up her writing career and began scouring the internet for writer jobs. The year was 2007, and blogging was still in its early days.
At the time, Jessica happened to live in the same town as Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom.com They met for coffee, and Jessica learned more about how to make an income from blogging.
Jessica's Low Point
Early on in her blogging career, Jessica dreamed of writing a freezer cookbook. She used the advice of Erin Chase, the 5 Dollar Dinner Mom, and the book, Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write by Elizabeth Lyon
Before she had an agent, an editor agreed to take a look at Jessica's Cookbook proposal. He ripped it to shreds. Jessica cites this as the most disappointing moment of her writing career. She just sobbed and could hardly talk about the experience.
A few weeks later, she finally had the courage to tell Erin the 5 Dollar Dinner Mom, about her experience. Erin told her to get up and try again. She referred her to a great agent, and together, they cleaned up her proposal, changed a few words, changed the title, and her book sold to a publisher within a few weeks!
(We're so glad Jessica dusted herself off and tried again! Sarah uses Jessica's Freezer Cookbook on a regular basis – it's a staple in her home that saves her tons of time and allows her to feed her kids nutritious meals that they love to eat.)
Why Growing a Platform is the Path to Publishing
Jessica strongly believes that having her own blog was a large factor in getting a book deal. She started blogging in 2008, signed her book contract in 2010, and her first book came out in 2012.
We've seen this happen much more often today – a popular food blogger comes out with a published cookbook. It's much easier to secure a publishing deal when an author already has a platform to market their books and loyal fans who will be eager to buy those books.
Jessica compares this phenomenon to the example of her husband who used to be a full-time musician. The bands that got record deals were the ones selling out the clubs week after week. They had a proven, loyal fan base, and the record company knew their job would be made easier as a result.
Content Creation & Planning
Jessica writes at least two blog posts every day. How does she sustain this level of content creation?
She admits that when she first started LifeasMom, Jessica posted 3 times per day! The ideas always came. She has a continual storehouse of ideas in her head, and confesses that her brain doesn't often shut off! She has pages and pages, and stacks of notebooks filled with her notes on topics that she thinks would be helpful to her readers.
One thing that makes it easier for Jessica to come up with topics? She writes about home, family, and food, and that also happens to be her every-day life. Ideas and inspiration are always prevalent, as she's reminded of new topics all day long.
With 2 posts per day, how does Jessica organize and plan for all of that content?
Jessica uses Google Calendar to plan out her posts, and she shares the calendar with her sister, who helps her with the back-end of running her blogs. With Google Calendar – it's easy to move and shift “appointments” or blog posts, essentially, when things change. She doesn't have to cross things out, delete them, or re-write them.
Two Blog Posts a Day? How Jessica Finds the Time
Even though Jessica's children are older (ages 6 years through 17 years old) she finds that they need her just as much, if not more, as they grow up. Not to mention, Jessica is a homeschooling mom to 6 kids!
She wakes up very early in order to have time to work on her blogs. In the beginning days of blogging, Jessica would stay up until 1 AM and also get up early, but now she finds that she functions best by choosing one, but not both methods of stealing time. She tries to go to bed early and wake up early.
The Many Steps to Writing a Cookbook
Jessica starts with a pen and paper in the kitchen. She takes notes as she cooks, then listens to her family's feedback and suggestions. (We love that her family serves as 7 fabulous taste-tasters!)
Because everything is on paper for several months before transferring recipes to the computer, Jessica is often worried about her house burning down in the night! On occasion, she's locked up her drafts in a fireproof safe when they travel, or she'll put everything by the front door when she simply has too much content to lose!
After the recipes are honed, Jessica transfers everything to the computer. Next, the editorial director at the publishing house reads through the book.
After that, a line editor looks at content, style, and consistency throughout the recipes. An example of style differences would be can sizes, what type of sesame oil, do we call them onions or green scallions? There are so many small details that have to be addressed to make the book feel universal and reader-friendly. The line editor works with Jessica on 2-3 revisions.
Next, it's the copy editor's turn. They get into the nitty gritty details of the book. Once again, Jessica goes through 2-3 revisions with them.
A design editor then lays the book out. For example, if a recipe is too long for a page, a few sentences will need to be cut. If the head notes are too long, they need to be revised. The design editor also matches photos with each recipe.
The entire book is then proofed twice, then it goes to the printer.
“Then,” Jessica says, “you wait…. and it comes out in stores.” Jessica spends about a year of her life on each cookbook that she's authored.
Cookbook Photos – What You Should Know
One little-known fact about cookbooks is that the author may have to chip in for the cost of photos. (We had no idea!) Traditionally, cookbook authors don't take their own photos, but instead, they pay half of the cost of hiring a professional photographer.
In today's market, many food bloggers turned cookbook authors are quite skilled at food photography, so it's more common for them to take their own pictures.
In Jessica's case, the photos for her first two cookbooks were taken by a professional photographer, but she took the pictures for Good Cheap Eats along with the next cookbook that's coming out.
Why You Need an Agent
Jessica shared that having an agent has been key to her publishing success, and as a do-it-yourselfer by nature, she doesn't say that lightly. It was difficult for her to hire a professional, knowing that she's have to share a portion of the profits. Below are the ways that an agent can be invaluable:
- They have connections you don't have, such as an audience of editors that will readily read the proposals they send.
- They can negotiate terms that you might not know about. Essentially, they'll ensure that you get a fair book deal.
- They can ensure that your voice is being heard – that your vision for the book doesn't get lost.
- They have the connections, plain and simple, to help you get your book published in the first place.
How did Jessica land her agent? She was able to use the referral of a friend, Erin Chase, the 5 Dollar Dinner Mom.
(Have we mentioned that making friends and building connections is so key to your success in the blogging and online space?)
A Family of Cooks
When asked what she's most proud of as a successful blogger and author, Jessica shared an incredible story of her family heritage. Her grandmother was an avid baker and won many awards at local fairs. She was in the kitchen from a young age with her Grandma John, who grew up on a farm in Minnesota.
When Grandma John came to visit them in California, Jessica's mom would give her free reign of the kitchen. Jessica learned so much from her grandmother. Although she passed away 14 years ago, Jessica thinks she'd be pretty excited about the success she has had with her blog and cookbooks.
Jessica continues to pass on the family tradition of cooking with her own children. “It's safe to say that every single one of them loves to cook!” she says. Her 8 year-old, in particular loves to watch Youtube videos to learn new skills in the kitchen.
It's an absolute blessing that her children are willing and ready to learn more things in the kitchen. Jessica knows that she needs to take advantage of this season, because it may not last. She wants to teach her kids way more than Youtube videos do!
Jessica's Favorite Resources for Running her Biz
Jessica is a lover of all things Google. She uses Google Drive, Analytics, Gmail, Calendar, and of course, the search engine. She uses each of these tools all day, every day.
Her one lament? She misses GoogleReader!
Business Advice from Overseas
As a former teacher and stay-at-home mom, Jessica didn't receive any formal education on business or have traditional work experience in the business world. For this reason, she really loves Women, Work, and the Art of Savoir Faire by Mireille Guiliano. Mireille was the VP of American Relations for a Champagne Brand in France. She shares great tips about business, along with business etiquette such as how to dress for a business dinner, or what to do as the hostess of a business dinner.
How to Stay in Shape as a Food Blogger
Sarah and I were both curious about how to stay in shape when one's job consists of spending lots of time cooking in the kitchen! Jessica always looks fit and healthy.
She doesn't have a hard and fast rule for staying fit, but she did admit to losing 6 pounds when her family spent the month in France last October. She had croissants every morning and as much wine and cheese as she liked.
Another book by Mireille Guiliano, French Women Don't Get Fat, has served as a guide in some ways. The French are very thoughtful and deliberate with their food. They think of every angle in terms of how the foods and drinks will combine. Jessica also makes an effort to include variety with each meal, including many flavors and textures. That variety can help to make you feel more satiated. As Mireille says, the first 3 bites of any meal are the best ones anyways, so you can limit yourself to 3 bites of everything if there is a great variety, and then you won't have to stuff yourself to feel satiated.
Jessica shared a beautiful moment about how teaching her children to make healthy choices is making a difference. When we least expect it, our kids show us that they're watching, and they're learning from our example.
Stay in Touch with Jessica!
Sarah's favorite cookbook of Jessica's: Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead Freezer Cookbook (This is our affiliate link, because Sarah highly recommends this book for busy moms who still want to feed their families nutritious, wholesome food.)
Are you a food blogger or foodie looking to start a blog or brand? We'd love to hear from you! What were your takeaways from Jessica's episode?
~ Beth Anne