Book Update, Part I: The Book Deal

Book Update

Since I officially announced a few weeks ago that there was a C&Z book in the works, I have received quite a few emails asking me for more details. I would hate to spoil the surprise, but I can share a few facts: it will be a book with stories and recipes, a book that you can cook from but also read, curled up on the couch with a mug of tea (or cocoa, as you prefer). I’ve always been much more attracted to cookbooks in which the author’s voice resonates clearly and warmly, giving you a sense of who he/she is, where he/she is coming from, and what gets him/her into the kitchen to play. I believe that this is what most readers love about food blogs, and this is the spirit in which I am writing my book. My publisher is Broadway Books, a division of Random House, the manuscript is due in five months, and the book can be expected to hit the bookshelves in the spring of 2007.

This is the first book I write (not the first book I attempt to write though: like many kids with spectacles and imagination, I wrote many a first chapter for a variety of abandoned novels, mostly speculative fiction or the now very trendy autofiction [self-fiction], including one written with my childhood friend Emilie — a very fun way to make bad things happen to the kids you don’t like at school), and as a first-time book writer, I am literally making it up as I go, exploring and trying to find my way around, following my instincts and discovering the unique set of challenges and rewards that happen to be hiding under this rock I picked up.

The process of writing a book (and getting it published) is a mysterious and fascinating one. It has many folds and crevices, and the journey is no doubt very different from one writer to the next, but I thought I would share the landscapes I am riding through, the stops and stations and buffet cars, to offer my humble experience and let you catch a glimpse backstage. I am personally ever-hungry for accounts of other author’s creative process, so whether you are just curious or have an aspiration to write yourself, I hope this will answer some of your questions.

But first things first: how did the book deal land on my doorstep?

It probably won’t come as a scoop to anyone that this very blog you are reading was vastly instrumental. Creating and maintaining C&Z showed me that food writing was something I loved, something I was serious about, and something I was ready to work hard at in order to make it an actual job thing — you know, the kind that pays the bills and the shoes. This realization came early on, after just a few months of blogging, but back then it sounded completely wild and unrealistic, just a dream I could pet and play with in the privacy of my own mind.

But as time went by, and to my utter surprise I might add, I started receiving more and more encouragement from readers, people neither I nor my mother had paid, who told me I should really keep it up, and that they could totally see me writing a book. A book? The idea started to stretch tiny wings, flapping them tentatively to see if there was anything to it. I researched the matter a little, and got some inspiring advice and support from a few people, and one friend in particular, who recommended a good book about book proposals.

Some time later, on a blue morning in the spring of 2004, I was contacted by an editor in NYC who enjoyed my work and wanted to know if I had any inclination to write a book. Why, yes!, I replied. We emailed back and forth about the ideas I had, he gave me a few precious pointers, and I got to work on a proposal. After a few weeks I had a first draft completed, which I wasn’t extatic about, but it was a start. My editor-friend then said I needed to be represented by a literary agent (this is how it works in the US, not so much in France) and he offered to put me in touch with two that he could recommend.

I talked to them, they were both very kind and enthusiastic about the project, but I needed just one you see, and I chose the agent who had the most relevant experience and with whom I felt the most comfortable (I was just lucky it was the same person). I explained to her I wasn’t happy with my draft proposal, received some helpful advice, and got back to work, starting again from scratch. It took me almost a year to write that second version, my agent cheerleading me along the way (more helpful than one would realize). It felt like a really long time, but I also had a life, a blog and a dayjob that required my attention, and I found that I needed all these months, agonizing as they were, to let the bad ideas sink to the bottom while the good ones floated up to the surface, where I could skim them carefully, laying them out to dry and reveal their potential.

Two lessons I learned in the process were that 1) I needed to try and write the kind of book that I myself would want to read, not the one that I thought people would expect me to write and 2) I didn’t have to cram everything I ever wanted to write into that first book: simple is best, focus is needed, and some of my ideas could simply be kept safely in a pretty box, waiting to be included in a future book.

The proposal was finally ready in the spring of 2005 — at some point you can just feel it is ripe, it’s when you really can’t stand to read it over for the umpteenth time and it needs to get out of your sight, the sooner the better. My agent sent it to a few publishers that she thought were good fits. More nerve-wracking time went by, waiting to hear back, drinking copious amounts of tea, breathing deeply and trying to pretend nothing life-altering was going on, oh no, not at all. Eventually, Broadway Books made the best offer, and we happily accepted it.

I knew it would take yet more time to negociate the finer points of the contracts, but I took a leap of faith and — somewhat floored by my own boldness — quit my job at the beginning of the summer before the contracts were officially signed, which they were in late September. (I do recommend this course of action, it maximizes the number of occasions for a flute of Champagne.)

Weeks of giddy euphoria ensued as I began working on the book for real. A different part of the process started then, one I will write about on a future installment of this Book Update series.

  • http://foodbeam.blogspot.com fanny

    Hi Clotilde, i’m so happy for you, i can’t wait your book to be in stores.
    I hope that one day, i’ll publish my book too.
    Congratulations.
    Love
    xoxo
    fanny

  • Sharon

    Hi Clotilde – Congratulations! I’ve been reading your blog since the beginning and trying many of your recipes along the way. I can’t wait to read the book when it comes out. If it’s anything like your blog, people will just love it.

  • Monica

    ooooh! Where do I stand in line for an autographed copy? I’ve even brought snacks to share with the others while we anxiously await the release date. :-)
    Congratulations and many more Champagne toasts to you!

  • http://papillesetpupilles.blogspot.com/ papilles et pupilles

    Very interesting ! Congratulations

  • josie

    congratulations! i am looking forward to your book, clotilde.

  • sarah

    bonjour clotilde ! i’ve been reading chocolate&zucchini almost everyday for quite a long time now, but never left any comment or dared to join you for c&z birthday (yeah, i know, it’s stupid) – and, well, congratulations. broadway books seems to be a very good publisher (nice books on their site !), and i’m sure your book will be as perfect as we all imagine it. travaille bien et bon courage !

  • Tania

    I can only imagine how excited you must be to be writing a book about food, of all wonderful things! (Could there be a better subject on which to do “research”?) I began my own food blog just this month, mainly to see how serious I am about food writing, too. You’re an inspiration. Best of luck, and I look forward to getting my flour-dusted hands on a copy of your book.

  • Neil

    Clotilde, it will be such an adventure for all us to follow you into your new one. I look forward to your notes of progress as the book begins.

  • http://www.chatiryworld.co.uk/blog Katherine

    Sounds like a wonderful book, love your blog, you deserve the book deal!

  • http://orangette.blogspot.com Molly

    Thank you, Clotilde, for so generously sharing your journey with us. Congratulations, and here’s to many more occasions for drinking Champagne!

  • http://glutenfreegirl.com shauna

    Congratulations, my dear. It is all so richly deserved–the Champagne is just a physical symbol for the joy we all feel for you. Not only have you delighted us with your stories and recipes, but you really did shape the food blog as we know it. I know that your lovely site was one of the deepest inspirations for my site. And I hope that, in a similar fashion, your book will open the door for many of us as well. I so dearly hope that someday I can follow in your footsteps, telling my stories and helping to make gluten-free living easier for everyone who reads.

    Brava, my dear.

  • http://www.pipfugl.dk Anja

    Well done Clotilde, I’m so happy for you! Looking forward to seeing the book when it comes out – and to hearing more about the process. All the best!

  • http://rawandthecooked.blogspot.com mmf!

    thanks for sharing your writing (and institutional, book-proposing) process with us. I look forward to more entries like this, in addition to the lovely food ones. It’s generous of you — and useful and interesting to read.

  • http://giniann.blogspot.com Gini

    Wow ! Amazing and totally inspiring.

  • http://www.thefoodpalate.com saffron

    Such a facinating read already. Thank you for sharing! Here is for all the success to come for your new book – so much to pay those bills and buy the choes and sweet treats ;)

  • http://www.foodmusings.typepad.com Catherine

    Clotilde — félicitations! I wonder how you can remain so upbeat during what is surely (or at least for most writers) a long, difficult journey full of lows (mental self-flagellation) and highs (the triumph of a perfect paragraph). Bon courage as you continue to write.

  • http://www.elipe.blogspot.com emi

    Congratulations Clotilde!
    I’m very excited for you and can’t wait to read it.

    ~e

  • PJ

    Congratulations. I have been reading C&Z for about 2 months and am hooked! My French friend, who is a professor at the university in my city, sent your site to me. Since I just started, I log on your site everyday going through the archives. You have been doing a great job. I truly enjoy it and can’t wait to read your book.

  • http://wordstoeatby.blogspot.com/ debbie

    Oh, Clotilde, I’m so thrilled that it’s Broadway! I worked there for a while, and it’s a really great group of people, very smart, very good at what they do. Best of luck to you!

  • Patsy

    Clotilde:

    Broadway Books is a great venue. I review many cookbooks and can see how this is a felicitous match.

    Writing a book is almost the same involvement as having a baby,and there is nothing like the experience of holding your volume in your hands, smelling the ink, feeling the pages. I know.

    Do hope my connection with your publisher will lead to my interviewing you when you head for California for your press tour!

    Meanwhile, protect your personal style and let everything happen organically as you start on your adventure.

  • robin

    Clotilde,

    I so much enjoy your *voice* and I look forward to curling up with your book!

  • Sarah

    Can’t wait for the book! Hope it has lots of photos of the recipies. I do enjoy cooking recipies with accompanying photos much better.

  • http://www.happenstance.net happenstance

    congrats Clotilde. I am happy for you and it sounds as if you are off to a great start. I am a book designer and layout artist and have been working in publishing all my adult life. If ever you have questions about any of the process here on out, I would be happy to answer.

    Good luck and I can’t wait to see the book!

  • http://80breakfasts.blogspot.com/ joey

    Congratulations Clotilde! You are really an inspiration to many of us out here…whether it is to venture into the kitchen or to follow our dreams to become a writer. This is very well-deserved. I am so excited for your book to come out…I’ll be lining up outside the bookstore! :)

  • http://www.shewhoeats.blogspot.com chika

    Hi Clotilde,

    I’ve always thought this is meant to be… now so I know! Not only you’re talented, you’re also hard-working and well-focused. I’m among many that can’t wait for your first book to come out, oh we all will of course, only because we have to ;) Best luck with your new profession!

  • Elisabeth

    Bravo, Clotilde, j´admire ton courage.

  • Jay

    Congratulations! I’m looking forward to your first edition. I hope you can sign it — I’m a fan of C&Z and you of course.
    *cheers*

  • http://bluepoppy.omworks.com bluepoppy

    This is all so exciting and so right! You are a marvelous writer and foodie sans pareil. I’ll be buying multiple copies for sure.

  • artistretreat

    I Got to check out alot of your insider’s tip last month.They are all fun. The heat wave in Paris last month was great for wandering around. I guess you have less time for wandering, nowadays. Do you have a say in the art department. Your style of writing is so unique, Your book should have funny, charming illustrations. Let me know if you want to see some cute sketches.

  • http://www.favoritechoses.com helene / favorite choses

    Talking about foodbooks that are not mere recipes books, I still remind of the scalopine of the father’s author Stefania giannotti in her book lovely called La vie al dente, and also the way she prepares her yearly stock of fresh tomato sauce… a very good example of a mix food+life+(may be)fiction (see end of the post here http://favoritechoses.typepad.com/favorite_choses/2005/11/vita_sackvillew.html in french).
    Congrats for the blog ans the book !!

  • Andrea

    Thank you for taking us along on your journey Clotilde! I hop it will take you back to NYC sooner rather then later so you can arrange another get-together with your NY fans!

    Bon Chance

    Andrea

  • http://wednesdaychef.typepad.com Luisa

    I agree with the comments above that Broadway seems like a perfect match – and from the inside-publishing-perspective it sounds like you’ve had a great experience so far with kind editors and attentive agents. Nobody deserves it more! Look forward to reading more about how the book progresses.

  • http://www.beyondsalmon.com Helen

    Hi Clotilde,

    Congratulations on the book! Thanks for giving us an update. I was really curious how it was going ;) You are a wonderful food writer, and I am so glad you found your calling.

    Cheers,
    -Helen

  • http://www.oropeza.net jon o

    One of my favorite theories is that nobody really knows how to do anything, be it build a company, raise a family or write a book. Anybody can copy someone else. What makes an artist is the courage to trust the strength of your sometimes well-grounded, sometimes whimsical, sometimes entirely foolish ideas. You”re a great writer. Don’t look down – Go go go!

  • Helen

    I’ve got to hand it to Americans. They know a good thing when they see it. You’re an inspiration.

  • http://threelayercake.com kristina

    Neale Whitaker just did a book called THE ACCIDENTAL FOODIE which is actually a very interesting format for a cookbook. Reads well. I’m sure yours will be equally as wonderful!

  • http://trembom.blogspot.com valentina

    clotilde, I can only say well done. All the success to you. I will be at the bookshop as soon as the book is out in the UK. You are an inspiration indeed.

  • http://www.mizuntitled.com Lisa B-K

    Oh, congratulations! It couldn’t have happened to a more radiant food writer.

    There’s something about the way you write that makes me want to get into the kitchen with a friend, that makes me want to stay for hours at a farmer’s market, that makes me glow with pride as I look at the leeks I just pulled out of my yard.

    It also makes me want to write about food and eating and nourishment, which I occasionally do, and it makes me want to make the high quality versions of those things available to all, which is now what I do for a living, more or less.

    You have made a difference!

  • http://www.designindigo.com/fullsteamahead.html Kisane

    Congratulations on the upcoming book! I’ve enjoyed your blog for months now and think the book will be a perfect addition to all things C&Z.

    Bravo!

  • http://www.robinoriginals.com Robin

    Congratulations Clotilde, on your book! C’est fantastique! I love your blog, have been reading it since almost the beginning, am a fellow foodie! My favorite bedtime reading is a good cookbook or cooking magazine which conjurs up fantasies of all the cooking, baking, eating & parties I’d like to have time for, if onlythere were more hours in a day! I am lucky to have been introduced to France and fine eating by my parents when I was 12 & 13 and to have spent a chunk of my junior year in college in Paris (il me manque!). I love the “flavor” of your blog- the melange of French, American and other influences. It’s great to hear about your creative process and the inspirations behind the book! I look forward to reading it and hope it will be the beginning of many! BTW-Have you read Ruth Reichl’s books? They are really great memoirs peppered with recipes and stories… I know you’d enjoy them! I hope you do get back to NY soon or even Boston (where I am) sometime so I can meet you. I made Maxence’s Yogurt Cake… it was very good and reminiscent of cakes from childhood. I made it with Phage’s Greek Yogurt from Trader Joe’s… even the 0% fat is thick, creamy & tangy… really fabulous! I love seemingly simple recipes that lend themselves well to experimentation and variation. I look forward to many many more wonderful blog entries from you! Bon chance!

  • http://www.catchusifyoucan.info Judy

    My dearest Clotilde

    I don’t think I can really say anything that hasn’t already been said, but….

    CONGRATULATIONS and GOOD LUCK.

    Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us all – it’s wonderful!

    best wishes from Down Under

  • Brooke

    Clotilde,
    Your blog has gotten me through a particularly rough job over the last year or so. Now I’m much happier in a new job and of course keep coming back to see how things are at C&Z. Fantastic news about jumping in feet first and doing it full time. As many have said, thank you for sharing the process and thoughts and agonies and everything else. Very inspirational, you should be very proud of yourself.
    Brooke

  • may

    good luck!!! you are an inspiration!

  • http://phillipbush.blogstream.com Phillip

    Congratulations, and bravo on this blog which I just discovered after reading your article in Budget Travel, to which I subscribe. Your book sounds like it might be in the vein of Pat Conroy’s recent one on South Carolina cuisine. That’s the best kind of food writing–recipes but also personal stories, the linkage of food to life. Anyway, I’m making use of your recommendations for an upcoming Paris visit this week and look forward to more of the blog and the book.

  • Ken Sloan

    That’s absolutely fantastic news! I’m glad that food blogs are being recognized as literary works :)

  • http://www.icelandweatherreport.com Alda

    Thank you for sharing, Clotilde. So great to get a glimpse backstage. Bravo for you!

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