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International Food Bloggers Conference Recipe Writing

Starting off the IFBC sessions with Amy Sherman, Dianne Jacob and Kristine Kidd was a smart move.  These ladies were prepared, excited to share what they knew, and not afraid to disagree (kindly and graciously of course!).  Here are my notes from the session.

Session One The Art of Recipe Writing

Amy: Who is the intended audience?  Think about who you’re writing the recipe for.  Why are you sharing the recipe?  There needs to be a reason you’re sharing it.  Also how are you sharing it?
Dianne: You need to look at the words you use and make sure that your audience knows what those words mean.
Kristine: As you write a recipe think of a person you know who’s at the same place of understanding as your audience.  Write it for them.

Amy:  Dianne and Kristine talk to us about Style
Kristine: Sometimes removing articles like “the” can make a recipe look shorter and more inviting.
Amy:  How do people develop a voice?
Dianne: It’s your personality, how you sound on the page.  It’s hard to know your own voice so I ask other people what my voice is.  I want to be encouraging on my blog so I need to make sure that’s my voice in every post I write.
Amy:  Your blog is the place for YOUR voice, in other publications you might have to write in the publication’s voice.

Amy: Make sure to give more than one indicator (Sautee onions for 10 minutes or until golden brown)
Dianne: Ruth Reichl actually said two indicators is no longer enough!
Kristine:  Use the word “about” like about 10 minutes.  People new to cooking will take it out at exactly 10 minutes if that’s what it says
Amy: Give more than one measurement (four scallions chopped, about 1/4 cup)
Christine: But for savory cooking you don’t need to be as exact.  I want people to learn they can use half an onion or a full onion

Amy: I get confused when people say salt and pepper to taste.  The whole recipe is to taste!
Dianne: An argument on my blog all the time is saying salt and pepper to taste can be a cop out because you don’t know how much salt to tell people to use.  Not everyone knows how to salt to taste.
Christine:  At the same time some people just have different tolerances for the taste of salt so saying to taste can accout for that.

Amy: Use a digital scale to measure, get a $20 one!  For recipe elements in the title be straightforward, tempting, descriptive, whimsical, fun.  Don’t say Aunt Edna’s whatever in the title, that’s not what they’re searching for! For headnotes, David Lebovitz has great ones with jokes or stories that are so much fun.  Ingredients in the order used, everyone does that right?
Dianne:  No, I’m editing two bloggers’ cookbooks and they definitely don’t put ingredients in the order used so double check you do that!
Kristine:  Also remember that your ingredient list is used as a shopping list and people buy one medium onion, not half a cup.

Dianne:  Okay for the steps, who hates semi-colons?  (Cheers)  I hate them because they can usually just be a period, semi colons seem pretentious. By the way a great resource is NutritionData.com from Self/Conde Nast

Amy:  Saying the cooking/preparation time can be dangerous because how long it takes you may not be the same for everyone.
Recipe Writer’s Handbook
Will Write for Food
The Food Substitutions Bible
Food Lovers Companion
Food Magazines & Online – Epicurious, Delish, MyRecipes
For inspiration, UK & Australian food mags – Delicious, Olive, BBC Food, Donna Hay
Recipes Into Type (can get it from Jessica’s Biscuit)

Finding Clients
Amy: Maintain an online portfolio of recipes – blog, website, have a business card, re-write your bio and say you’re a recipe developer (there’s no credential, you’re not putting Dr on there!)
Join professional organizations – IACP, local professional groups, online communities
Pricing – DO NOT give recipes away for free!!!!  Set a minimum fee – determine and charge the “going rate” in your field or region.  When you give a recipe away for free you undercut professionals making a living doing this, and undercut your possibilities of making a living writing recipes.
Negotiate, most clients will have at least 10-20% more than what they will initially offer you.  People are hiring you for your recipe, not because you’re cheap!
Dianne: The standard thing to say when you get your first payment pitch is, “that seems a little low”
Kristine:  At Bon Appetit we do a low beginning fee but bump it up the more we work with them.  Average was $250 for a recipe and reimburse expenses with receipts
Charge for expenses, a flat fee is better than being reimbursed for expenses

Dianne: Great advantage of blogging is that you will immediately have people telling you if your recipe doesn’t work.
Kristine:  Make sure someone else tests your recipe before submitting it to a publication.  If you send us a recipe that doesn’t work, we’re not going to want to test any other recipes from you.

Hope all you recipe writers or future recipe writers found that helpful!  Check out more IFBC posts below:

Bacon Jam Burger Picnic at IFBC

Kathleen Flinn Writing Exercise IFBC 2010

Morgan Spurlock at the International Food Blogger Conference

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