What a literary agent looks for in a cookbook

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Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in cookbook publishing? Food writer and former editor Dianne Jacob sure knows. She knows the industry inside and out and shares her knowledge through her blog Will Write for Food. Dianne recently interviewed literary agent Lori Galvin, who formerly worked on the team that produced over 70 cookbooks for America’s Test Kitchen. Lori  has also edited cookbooks for Houghton Mifflin, cooked in restaurant kitchens, and managed a bed-and-breakfast. Now she is a literary agent for Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. She spoke with Dianne about what she looks for in a cookbook pitch.

You may think that you have to have a television show or a blog with hundreds of thousands of followers in order to score a cookbook publishing deal. While these are helpful, other criteria can come into play, like whether the book fits a particular niche. Social media following is important, but big numbers are only part of the story. Having impressive growth with lower numbers of followers can work, too. 

According to Lori, the biggest mistake that people make when they approach her with an idea for a book is that they don’t fully explain it. “It creates more work for me to ask for more information if all they say is ‘I want to write a book about olive oil,'” she says. Rather, you should develop a short but thorough pitch that provides the story behind your book. You should explain why it’s different from others in the genre and why you think there’s a market for it.

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