Today’s episode of Mediavine On Air takes us from screen to page.
Our guest for this episode is Jeffrey Eisner, creator of Pressure Luck Cooking, an easy-to-follow Instant Pot recipe video blog. He’s published two cookbooks and been featured on Good Morning America, Rachael Ray and the Food Network.
During this chat, Jeffrey shares the details about going from dreaming about a book to publishing one, giving us some helpful tips along the way.
Let’s turn it over to Jeffrey!
[MUSIC] JENNY GUY: Hey! Hello, everybody. Welcome. Welcome to the fourth episode in Mediavine’s fourth Summer of Live.
But what’s the Summer of Live? I’m so glad you asked.
In a nutshell, it’s where we go live once a week for the whole summer, featuring expert guests on anything and everything that will help content creators build sustainable businesses.
I’m with you as always, as your host, Jenny Guy. Thank you so much for joining us. And a special welcome to first-time Media viewers. Hello. And welcome.
As a nod to today’s wonderful guest, and topic, please say hi in the comments. And tell us about a cookbook that you cannot live without. Drop that in the comments. Tell us a cookbook that you cannot live without. And we will see what you guys have.
I’ll tell you, though, we are sticking with our June theme of growth. However, today’s topic is somewhat nontraditional. It is a rare month that goes by without us saying “diversify your revenue streams” at least once. And today our topic goes even deeper than we typically do with diversification, with earnings. We are talking about publishing a book.
And we already know that content creators are passionate experts in their field, making you guys ideal candidates to write within your niches. But how do you go from dreaming about a book to done and published? My guest today is here to help.
Jeffrey Eisner is the creator of Pressure Luck Cooking, a leading acclaimed and easy-to-follow Instant Pot recipe video blog. Featured on the Food Network, Good Morning America, and Rachael Ray, he creates his famously flavorful recipes at home in Queens, New York.
His first cookbook, The Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook, which was released at the height of the COVID pandemic, became an instantly lauded international bestseller within a week of its release, hitting numerous charts, including USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Toronto Star. He was the bestselling debut cookbook author of 2020.
In April of 2021, he released his second cookbook, the much anticipated The Lighter Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook, which became the number one paperback book on USA Today and Publisher Weekly’s bestseller lists. It features a slew of more health-conscious recipes, tailored to those on keto, paleo, gluten-free, and diabetic-friendly lifestyles.
This is amazing! I’m so glad that you’re here. I’m living through your wallpaper. Jeffrey, welcome.
JEFFREY EISNER: Thank you so much, Jenny. I feel like I’m talking to a celebrity, because I watch you all the time. And you are fabulous. So it’s an honor to be here with you.
JENNY GUY: You are beyond fabulous. As I said, the wallpaper is famous. I’m so excited to hear everything. I want to ask you what Rachael Ray is like, but we’ll save that for later.
I’m going to pull up your presentation so that you can share. And let’s just get going.
JEFFREY EISNER: OK, let’s do it. OK.
Now, as I just said, I watch a lot of these series. And a lot of the time, we get invaluable advice on how to keep ourselves relevant, how to continue to earn, how to do best practices being a blogger, and how we can succeed at life with that. But again, as Jenny said, today is really a little bit of a tangent, to go off. Because a lot of us in the blogging stratosphere are recipe creators, or food creators. And also I think a lot of us have that aspiration to possibly become a cookbook author. Because why not?
If you’re writing recipes, who doesn’t want to be published in a cookbook? What a wonderful gift that is, if the opportunity presents itself. So I’m going to tell you a little bit about my journey and how I got there. And hopefully, if somebody else has a similar aspiration, this can maybe help you out.
All right. So the number one rule, to me, that I’ve learned, about writing a book is, don’t write it for the money. OK. Just don’t write a book for the money. Because you know what? There’s no guarantees it’s going to make that much money. All right? That’s what I say, 100%. You don’t know if you’re ever going to make anything past the advance you might earn. And I’ll talk more about advances in a second. But again, don’t write it for the money. Write it for yourself. That’s the key thing. All right?
And then, write it because you really, really want to. Critical. Because when you do do that, that’s when the best and most honest work will come from within.
If you’re writing a book simply with the thought of possibly making money, your head is more in the game of just making money off of something that might not even end up doing that in the first place. You have to do it because it has to come from the heart. It has to be a passion and a fire within you to really do it. Because guess what, guys? It’s an enormous, enormous undertaking and amount of work. But it’s also one of the largest achievements and accomplishments you will ever, ever know in your life. All right.
So there are two ways to publish. The first way would be self-publishing. And the other way would be through a publishing house. Since I ended up doing this with a publishing house, we’re going to focus on this avenue. Although there’s nothing wrong with doing self-publishing. There are definitely pros and cons to each. With self-publishing, you basically are everything. Right? Because you don’t have a publisher that has to pay to do any of this stuff to put out the book.
But that being said, you don’t have a publisher to do anything for you. They’re not going to be putting the books in stores for you. They’re not really going to be doing any of the marketing. It’s all on you. And you have to get all those orders out. You probably have to ship them out yourself or you have to pay a third party place to get it out.
The benefit of working with a publishing house, especially a legitimate one, which we’ll get into in a moment, is that they really do handle all that work for you. The responsibility of you is to just basically write the book and deliver it to them. And then they take on the rest of it. They make sure it’s printed. They handle all those things. They have the designer involved. All that.
You will lose a little bit of creative control as well with a publishing house versus self. But at the end of the day you’re going to have a team of professional proofreaders, copy editors, things that are pretty invaluable if you want to write a really good, legitimate book. Not to mention they have a lot of connections to get your book in the right places. All right.
So yes, goodbye self. We’re going to be doing this with a publishing house. OK.
So let’s say you want to write a book. The first thing that it’s very important to ask yourself is, what makes you so special to get a book deal? Why should you get the deal? Obviously, you probably have a good amount of traffic coming to your website. There are people who are following you and are obviously relying on you. If you’re in Mediavine, as one of the Mediavine publishers, you clearly have an audience. So that’s something to immediately think about.
What will set you apart from the rest of the other competition out there? I happen to focus on Instant Pot cooking. Instant Pot cooking, it’s just taken over the kitchens by storm. It’s revolutionized the way people cook. It is the hottest thing right now, without being the hottest thing in the kitchen, because it doesn’t create heat. That’s why I think people love cooking in an Instant Pot. It’s also incredibly easy to use. So that being said, if you look up an Instant Pot cookbook right now, you’re going to see hundreds of them. Hundreds at this point. Because everyone’s realized, well, this thing is very popular. Everyone wants recipes for them. So how do you set yourself apart from the rest of that?
For me, my approach to cooking is step-by-step. And I’m very much a visual aid-type person. And I thought that I wanted to carry that over into my cookbooks.
Now, am I the first one to ever do step-by-step photos for every single recipe in my book? No. If you check out the Pioneer Woman, she has that in some of her books as well. However, I was the very first to ever have done it in the Instant Pot space. And now it sounds really great on paper, by the way, that idea, right? Because it’s like, let’s do all these color photos, with step-by-step photos for every recipe. And then you realize, but I have to actually do this, and photograph that. That means literally photographing every single recipe in the entire book.
And sometimes you get a cookbook, and they’re great cookbooks. But every four recipes, you’ll find the hero shot of what it should look like. And sometimes it’s overly styled– don’t get me wrong, they look gorgeous– but I might be intimidated: I can’t make that. I don’t have those little hibiscus flowers to put next to my chicken. You know what I mean? Things like that.
So I wanted the book to be very much an approachable look, like anybody can do it, not overly produced, yet at the same time keep all those things in terms of a step-by-step process. I thought that was unique and something that was very different, and would set it apart from the rest.
So at that point you want to basically write a proposal. And you want to put all these things in your proposal. A proposal is typically going to say what the book is going to focus on. And it’s going to say what type of recipes you’re going to put in there. Usually you put like a recipe roster. Just write it out. You’re not committed to that at that point. You can always change. And it will. And you also want to put like three or four sample recipes in there. So whoever you’re showcasing this to– probably a literary agent or a publishing house– can get a sense of what you have to offer.
You also probably want to put in there, obviously, your amount of followers– if that will help you– because it will. And I’ll get back to that in a second. But when you’re seeking literary agent representation, you definitely want a proposal that’s going to catch them. They get lots of these things. They get lots. And what is going to make yours stand out? Do something that’s a little bit more unique than the rest. Maybe even at the beginning of it, put a little video in, embed a video of yourself saying hello. How many people would do that, right? Something like that. Catch their eye.
Now, if you are a relatively large influencer– and I don’t even know where I stand. Sometimes I just ignore it at this point. I am not crazy high. I have, cumulatively, between all my platforms, just over a million followers. And that’s great. I’m very happy with that. That’s wonderful. But there are people who have way, way, way more than that. And chances are, if you are that high, you’re going to have a publishing house probably seeking you out. If you’re like Binging with Babish, or something, they’re going to come to you, or something like that. They want you, because they want to capitalize off of you.
I was very fortunate, because one of the publishing houses did reach out to me. And I will get to that in a second, and we can move on. OK.
The five big publishing houses, I just want to talk about that real quickly. It’s important, because you might get lots of different offers from other publishing houses that might be some really small ones you’ve never heard of before. And I’m not going to knock them, per se, but you have to do your research. Because it’s very tempting, if somebody is coming for you with an offer, which I got about five of them prior to when I actually got my big one that I took, and I’ll get back to that in a minute. But basically, the five that are the most key five publishing houses are Hachette Book Group, which is what I’m with. I’m with Voracious, which is an imprint of Little Brown.
In a lot of cookbooks, you’ll see Race Point Publishing probably. Sally’s Baking Addiction, I think she’s published by them.
You have HarperCollins, which is a huge conglomerate. They also cover William Morrow Cookbooks. And you’ll see Joanna Gaines’ book with them, as well as Ree Drummond’s, Pioneer Woman’s, books with them. William Morrow, kind of like the celebrity-type situation. You’ve got to be pretty big for William Morrow to come. Then you have Rux Martin and HMH. Lots of HMH books are Instant Pot books, by the way. I’ve seen lots of them published by HMH.
You have Macmillan, which I feel is more of a textbook-type of publishing house. But you’ll see Bluebird, which are some legitimate cookbooks, for sure. And then of course you have Penguin Random House. You have Knopf Doubleday. And then you have Clarkson Potter, which Ina Garten and Martha Stewart are represented with them, as well as a lot of other big bloggers are Clarkson Potter-represented. And you have 10 Speed Press, as well. And then you have Simon & Schuster, which has some books from Adams Media.
So those are the top five publishing houses. It’s always important, if you’re getting an email from somebody, or a publisher, if you’re reaching out to them, do a little check into that. See who owns them. Because it’s easy to fall under all these little imprints within one giant conglomerate that it is. All right. So there we go. Those are the top five.
Now, it’s important to know in this situation, guys, because you might want to act on the first offer that comes your way. Because it’s super exciting to write a book and get one, especially if you put all that time into the proposal, and you found yourself a literary agent. Or if you didn’t even do those steps yet, and people are coming to you, be patient. You have to trust your gut. Don’t ever settle on a publisher that doesn’t have clout. OK.
I had a few places that reached out to me. I did my research, as we all do now. Google stalk them. See what they’re up to, what they’ve done. If they don’t really have anything that looks like they can offer you anything significant, or might be able to get your books out there– and ask them the tough questions. Ask them, what do you envision for the photo shoot? What do you envision for the advance? And all that stuff.
And if they seem like, ummm, we’ll talk about that a little later, forget about it. Walk away. Because I’ll tell you something. If you write a book, and you put all that hard work and time into it, and it bombs, you’re not going to get another book. No one’s going to want to come after you again. Because you’ve proven at this point you didn’t sell a book in the first place. So why should a large publishing house come and work with you at this point, right? You need to really be very strategic and patient here.
And that’s the hardest thing for me to do. Because I’m a Long Islander, who lived in the city all his life, who is waiting in line to get his salad at the salad bar place. And I’m like, can you just please pick what you want in the salad so I can get back to my office. So you have to be patient. All right.
Always also, and very key, hold true to that vision in the proposal that you had. OK. If you want a book to be done your way, make sure that you truly hold down to the vision that you have. OK. You have nothing to lose; you have everything to gain.
So let’s move on to how the process begins. We started with our first step, which was basically writing the proposal out and having representation. Great. Let’s say you’ve gotten those things at this point. Terrific.
Now, let’s talk about your advance. You’re going to be doing the budget negotiations about 10 to 24 months before the book comes out. I know it’s a very broad range, but it depends. When I did my book, they literally came to me in June, we signed, and my book was out the following April. I was on the fast track, and I was a first-time author. It was insane. And it was scary, because I had no idea what I was doing. As most of us don’t really know what we’re doing in life anyway. We just fake it until we make it, right? That’s what you have to do. An opportunity comes. You say “yes.” And then you sweat it out and have a glass of wine and you figure it out.
So the advance, when you have a book. If you have a decent following, and even if this is your first book, never settle for less than about $25,000 to $50,000 for your first advance. That sounds like a lot of money, and it is a lot of money. But let’s not forget, out of that advance, if you have an agent, which you likely will, 15% of it’s going to them. This money is going to be taxed too, obviously. Don’t forget that. And you are typically responsible, the author, out of all this money, to have to pay for your photography for the book, and pay for your ingredients, and the recipe testing. So at the end of the day, it’s all about putting your budget hat on, being a little bit of a CPA, and figuring out, how much of this money am I actually worth. And how much of it am I willing to give away to other people.
Now, you can of course gamble and say, well, this book’s going to do really, really well. I know it’s going to do really well. I’ll end up making a lot more money when it sells, past what my advance is, and I earn my royalties. But you don’t know that. There’s no telling. There’s absolutely no telling whatsoever how well it’ll sell. So you have to be smart about the money.
Some people are already their own photographer. They’ll do it themselves. Like, I already take pictures of my own food. I could do this myself. And I don’t need to hire a photographer. And if that’s how you feel, wonderful. I am lucky if I can take a picture with my iPhone and it looks like food that I want to eat. So I knew that I wasn’t going to be the photographer for my book. Not to mention the thought of having to cook everything and then photograph it. Absolutely not for me.
Plus, my book was very unique, in the sense where it was– this is the book, by the way. The first book, it was 100 recipes. And every single recipe has literally step-by-step shots, and then a final shot of every single thing in it. So the thought of having to prep something and then photograph it and then clean it up, yes, you’ll make extra money doing it. But at the end of it, you might have more gray hairs than I do right now. And I’ll tell you, these definitely came while I was shooting my books.
So it’s very important about all that money, all that advance stuff, and to understand that, when that is presented to you, talk to your agent about it. Talk to yourself about it. There are some rare circumstances when you’re a first-time author, they might say, well, we’ll pay for your photography team, we’ll handle all that. And your advance, as a result, might be lower, though, because they’re technically taking money. So they’re basically saying, here’s an amount of money for you. It’s yours. No matter what happens, no matter how well or bad the book does, you’re guaranteed this money. But out of that money, you need to give us your photos for your book, if it’s a cookbook. You need to make these recipes and do the whole process. OK. So that’s important, very important, to remember those things.
Now we can move on to the third step, which is writing the manuscript. All right, great. You have a book deal. Now you have to write it. And it’s a little bit scary. So the advance, by the way, let me talk about it. You typically get paid in fourths or thirds. The first is when you sign. Great, you get a third or fourth of it at that point. You get the next payment, they call it delivery and acceptance, once you’ve sent them the final manuscript and all the photos that go along with it. Third, will be the publication day. And sometimes, when there’s a fourth, they’ll give it to you a year after the publication day. So it’s an interesting concept, how it works. And it all depends on the publishing house.
So the manuscripts. When you’ve signed and you’ve got everything going, you’ll be dealing with somebody called your editor at the publishing house and their assistant, known as the associate editor. Basically, it’s very key to set your delivery dates with these, because you have to be organized when you’re writing a book. You really do. There’s no dilly-dallying. Create a schedule. Stick to it. Deadlines are very important with books.
First of all, you don’t want to make a bad impression on a huge publishing house when they’re giving you a great opportunity. And you want to just make sure that you’re all on the same page, so to speak. So set dates. Say, OK, I’m going to give you my manuscript by this date, and please give it back to me by this date. This gets all that out of the way. It’s very important.
How long will it take you to write your manuscript? It varies. Some people, it could take two years. Some could take six weeks. I wrote my first book– they came to me in June of 2019– they came to me in March– the deal was finalized in June. I had a trip to Alaska booked. And I told my partner Richard, well, this is the last time you’re going to see me sane for a while. And as soon as we came back from seeing humpback whales, I became one myself. Because I had to constantly eat food and test things and write things up. I holed myself up in a room for about six to eight weeks, and I just cranked this thing out.
We agreed upon, in the book, that it would be 50% existing recipes from my blog and about 50% fresh, exclusive to the book. Which makes sense. Because you’re bringing people to the book to give them some of their favorites, that are the most popular recipes on your website, which are easy to gauge. And then you’re giving them things exclusive to the book, so it gives them more reason to want to buy the book.
And basically, at that point, it becomes routine. All of us know this as recipe creators: you know how to write a recipe in your sleep at some point. So it’s not the hardest thing in the world to do. I would write about five to six a day. And it would take me about eight hours, and lots of craziness.
So you get that out of the way. You feel great about it. Always set your goals. Say you’re going to do a chapter a week, or something. Get it to your publisher. And then I would say get that to your publisher, the first draft of everything, no later than one month prior to your shoot, if possible. I’m sorry. I take that back. Get that to them about two months before your shoot. Then tell them, I need this back in about a month or so. And then they’ll give it to you. And then you’ll handle their edits. And then send that back to them in about a month. So you have about a month of breathing time before the shoot.
And then you can go through everything you’ve sent them. You can print out your manuscript. And then you could start to basically prepare for what is the hardest and most challenging part of this entire process, if you’re a cookbook author: the photo shoot.
Now, the photo shoot is going to happen about six months before publication day, as far as I’ve learned it. My situation was more unique. And let’s go back to that advance and how much you’re making for your advance. Out of what I was doing, I could only afford one photographer and one stylist. And that was three of us. And to save on costs more, I decided to do it in my apartment versus renting a studio. Luckily it was central enough that everybody could get there. We figured it out. We worked out a process.
But the way this works is, and I cannot suggest this enough. If you’ve never done this before especially and if you’re going to do it a little more homegrown like I did, where I didn’t actually have my publisher find me my photography team and I just found one myself, because I had a friend who was, but they will typically, if you’re with a publishing house and you don’t know where to start, they will give you resources. That also was a benefit. Audition them.
My photographer was an acquaintance of mine. I knew he was a photographer, and I knew he did amazing work, but I’d never seen food photos. So I reached out to him one day. And I was like, have you ever shot any food before? He goes, I do lots of still life, but not food. And literally, within 10 minutes, he sent me five pictures of his dinner. I’m like, OK, I love you already. You’re amazing. You’re proactive. And I feel like I can trust you. So I’m like, would you mind coming over and maybe we could do a test run. And then I can talk to my publisher, and they’ll approve, blah, blah, blah.
So he came over. We set everything up. We did like three recipes in one day. And we realized, OK, this is going to be grueling and difficult, but we can do this. And we can probably do more than three. So we immediately established a process in that moment. And then, from there, I was able to realize that we have something that’s going to be not only one of the most challenging things we’re going to be doing, but at the same time we have now a system in place where we know how to be efficient.
From there, you want to have plenty of plates and props. Go to IKEA, by the way. It’s the cheapest. It’s so cheap. And they have a great variety of stuff. I was in heaven when I walked in there. I’m like, you have this, you have that. But also, if you are a food blogger, Instant Brands, I work with them. They are owned by Corelle. And they have lots of plates. So say, would you mind sending me some plates? Nothing’s going to hurt, you know what I mean? It never hurts to ask. How upset would they be if they see one of their plates in your book? And then, in the acknowledgments, you say, thank you very much for sending me some of your plates. It’s great. It’s a win-win situation.
Be organized, like I said. It’s so important, when you’re doing a photo shoot for a book, create a schedule. In my case, which again is rare, we did it over four weeks. We did five to seven recipes a day. So about 25 recipes a week. Over four weeks, 100 recipes. That would mean that I had to basically set up categories for each day, knowing exactly what we’d be shooting. There’s very little room for error. And to make sure that I was also able to create grocery lists off of those schedules. Because at that point, you have to go food shopping for 25 recipes, on a Sunday. Which is what I did. In New York City, by the way. Talk about a good time. No car, to be doing this, really.
Yes, you want to go, and you want to make sure. What I did was I set up every Sunday. I would go to the market, do my thing. Clean up my fridge from the weekend before. And then just load it up to the brim. I don’t even know still how I did it, but I did it. With one refrigerator, and storing everything in there, stuffing it. And if I can do this, by the way, anybody can do this at this point. So we do that.
AnyList, by the way, is the best app ever for shopping. Because you could bring a friend with you, and you can just mark off in real time. And it will just cross off what was taken. So an amazing app for that, by the way.
At the end of each day of the shoot, have your photographer send dailies, which by the way just means the shots taken that day, to your editor or publisher so they can just start going through them. In this situation, again, it was 100 step-by-step recipes. So every recipe, in addition to the final shot, had step-by-step photos of each. At the end, we had about 30,000 photos that were taken in this book. I felt so bad for him on many levels. But we lived and we learned. And then, when he came back for the second book, he realized, I don’t have to take as many step-by-step photos at this point. Plus, some can be honestly used in multiple recipes. Like if it’s a shot of the lid on the pot, guess what, let’s duplicate it. Or if it’s onions that you’re just– yes, he realized these things. And you live and learn any process. Like I said, fake it till you make it.
So that’s important. It’s about organization. Always make sure during the photo shoot, above all else, that you just have structure. That you know you’re going to be in a room with the same people, try to keep tensions low. Sometimes creativity can butt heads between the person who wrote the recipes, the person shooting them, and the person styling them. It’s always about, you are the boss, so this is your book, and just keeping a level of harmony in there. And luckily I had a wonderful team. And of course, we’re human, yes. Every few moments there was a little bit of a kitchen shear. You can cut the air with a kitchen shear. But we got through it, and we did spectacular work that I’m super proud of.
So, organization, photo shoot, keep your sanity.
Now, after that, when you’re done, when you have basically gone through every recipe and you’re shooting it– again, my situation’s a little more unique. Not everyone’s doing a cookbook shoot with 100 recipes and step-by-step photos. Although, I will tell you, they do sell well. You’ve worked hard for that. And believe me, I feel like it paid off, thankfully. What you want to do now is relax after that. Just collapse and spend a few days. Take a vacation. You deserve it.
You’re going to get your editing back now, your manuscript back, from your copy editor. So you sent it to your regular editor. And now it’s coming back from the copy editor, who has gone through what you’ve sent them before and is going to put all those grammatical touches on there, cookbook lingo, things you might not really be familiar with, changing some words. Like one time another word they used, “mix it until it’s emulsified.” And so I’m like, I don’t use the word “emulsified” in my writing. We’re going to nix that. You write the word “stet,” S-T-E-T, in the comments when you’re rejecting their changes. And sometimes it feels really good to reject the change. I’m not going to lie. It felt great.
But at the end of the day, they are the experts. They know best. Their interest is to make you look great, of course. And I have a wonderful publisher. I’m very fortunate. By the way, if you’re looking to do a book, Voracious is fabulous, of the Hachette Book Group. And you will basically, from there, do all those things. You’re going to be going through your manuscript a lot. And you’re going to be taking all the tweaks you made while you did your photo shoot and implementing them. So let’s say you’re making something, and you’re like, oh, you know what, this should have had an extra teaspoon of garlic powder in it.
You’re going to be doing all that here. So be meticulous. Any notes you take during that photo shoot, make sure they’re on nice legible paper whenever you’re doing it. I had a three-ring binder printout of my manuscript as I went through and did the photo shoot. I marked it off. Maybe one day it’ll end up in the Smithsonian. Who knows. Probably not. But just take good care of these things. And then implement this here. Send it back off to your copy editor. And then it’s going to be a few more rounds of back-and-forth. The proofreader will go through it. And you’re going to be combing through it like a hawk, to the point where you’re going to become numb reading your own book so many times, just as your editors will be, I’m sure. It’s definitely a situation where you have to take a moment and step back from it and grieve.
The sixth step. OK. So we’re about one to six months before publication day. We’re on publication day. And we’re after it. Because the marketing never stops, once you write a book. So as soon as the book is announced– in my situation, it was announced about seven months before it came out. And that was a while, I thought. And it was actually by surprise. I didn’t realize it was going to be that early. Somebody found it, one of my followers. They’re like, you’re already writing a book? And I’m like, we didn’t announce that yet. And, lo and behold, it was on Amazon. Sometimes it just goes on to Amazon. And my publisher was even surprised. They didn’t realize it would go up that early. But when it’s out there, it’s out there.
So I made the announcement. Tell everybody about this. And the thing that’s important about this, guys, to know is that the publishing houses, no matter how large it is, they’re going to rely on you to be the key marketer here. That is why they probably reached out to you to do a cookbook in the first place: because you have a following. They want you to do a whole lot of that work to get it out there. Otherwise, why are they taking a chance on somebody who doesn’t have the television show? It’s all about you doing it. And they know that you’re going to, for the most part. And of course you’re going to. You just spent all this time doing something, and you want everyone to know about it.
So be clever about it. Don’t necessarily shove it down people’s throats, per se. But just let them know, you’ve asked me for a cookbook. I’ve given you a cookbook. I’m so excited to share my cookbook with you. Just be your genuine self, and explain how excited you are for what you just did. And I think people will really take part in that with you. Because they love your recipes, if they’re following you, right? They want your book. They’re going to want to try your book. I mean some people are going to say, I don’t do cookbooks. I love you, but I don’t do cookbooks. And you get over it real quick. But whatever. What can you do?
You’re not going to ever please anybody, by the way. You never will, ever. So just always know that, too.
Basically, put it on your social, send it out in a newsletter if you have it. If you have a connection, use it. It’s important to know this, too: publishing houses, like I said, they’re going to rely on you the most. They do have publicity departments. They have marketing departments. But don’t always rely on them, that they’re going to get that gig on Rachael Ray, or they’re going to get you on to GMA. They might certainly pitch you onto these shows, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to get you on there. Use connections. If you have any connections, use them. It’s not going to hurt. When has it ever hurt? That’s what life is built on, networking, a lot of it.
Use connections. See if anybody knows anybody, that they can maybe get you into something and, here’s my book. It doesn’t hurt to ever ask. You don’t ask, you don’t get.
In my situation, luckily, I had already been on Rachael Ray before that, and GMA. So when we ended up talking to Rachael Ray’s people again, they were very excited about it. So I was lucky. It’s about having those relationships with these producers and knowing you’re a good guest. So I’ve now been on her show, what is it, I think four times? So this was a huge blessing that I was able to get that out there. Keep your relationships going. But don’t always rely on your publisher to do all this for you. Because they’re probably not going to be able to do all of it. They have a lot of other authors as well.
Of course, the tit-for-tat situation with other bloggers: hey, would you mind promoting my book? I’ll promote your book. That doesn’t hurt either. I know a lot of bloggers. Some of us aren’t the friendliest with each other. It’s a competition. There’s a lot of world out there. That’s how it is. But at the end of the day, it’s also about helping each other. We’re in the same world. We’re in the same business. And you want to support each other, all right. So it’s a good way to get your book out there as well.
Now let’s talk about the money aspect. Because yes, it is nice to write a book. And it is nice to make a living off of the book, or earn money, I should say, off of the book. Yes, you’re going to get what you got in that advance no matter what. If the book sells one copy, you’re getting all that advance. It’s all yours. If the book sells a million copies, you’re getting that advance. And then the royalties that will follow it. When you start earning royalties is after you’ve earned out your advance. So in other words, let’s say your advance is $50,000. And the book has sold enough copies, where you have earned that 50,000, which, if you’re writing a paperback, which these books are, is 7 and 1/2% typically per copy. So once I’ve earned $50,000 worth, then I’m going to start earning on every single book 7 and 1/2% that’s sold after that. OK. And that’s for paperbacks.
Hardcovers are more, usually about 10% to 12 and 1/2%. And that sounds appealing. You know what? I was a little disappointed when I found out my book was going to be paperback. Because I just thought like, I want a hardcover book. It’s like, oh, it’s hard, it’s nicer. But guess what? Paperbacks are a lower price point, which is more affordable for people to buy. And that’s important. A lot of people want things that they feel like, I can buy two of these. I can get one for a friend.
So when you think about it, yes, you’re earning a few and 1/2% less, and you might not have that hardcover book you really, really wanted. But you might be ending up making more as a result, and selling more copies because it’s more affordable and more accessible to some people. So there’s that. And by the way, let’s say the book is retail, which this is, at $19.99, my book. No matter what this is sold at, if it’s sold online at $10.68, I’m still getting that 7 and 1/2% off of $19.99, no matter what it is. That’s how it works. What is that, like $1.50, or something like that, I make per copy.
But after that, 15% of that will go to my agent. Instant Pot gets a certain amount, because that’s how things work. And that’s how you do it with partnerships. And then it’s taxed, of course. So think about it, that’s how it will make money. There’s no way to predict how this will ever go. All you can do is just hold true to your vision. Say to people, this is my life’s work. This is something that I love and what I’ve done. And honestly, at the end of the day, if it doesn’t sell, you still wrote a book. How many people can say that they’ve done that? How many people can?
Again, to go back to the very beginning of this entire thing: write it for you, not to make money.
And from there, let’s talk about best sellers lists. They are really nice to have, but they are by no means a measure of greatness at all. Again, like I just said, you’ll see in this top thing: you’ve written a book. That should really be enough. It really should. Your mom or your dad, and your dog, they’re going to be very proud of you. And you should be super proud of yourself.
Now, let’s talk about really quickly the New York Times best seller list, because I was super interested about it. I was like, what is this? How do I get on that list? It’s not really a best sellers’ list. It’s not. It has really nothing to do with sales. The list, basically, it’s infamous. Do some searching on it and you’ll see. It’s a proprietary formula they use. And it’s really just like, here’s our best picks list, versus what books have sold the best. They pull from all these different little things. There’s no way of knowing what will make it onto a list or what won’t make it onto a list.
And I know for a fact that it’s like that. Because when my last book came out, it was the number one cookbook. It was the number one paperback. And yet, in their How-To, Advice & Miscellaneous column, which cookbooks would fall under, a book that under-performed my book was on the list, and my book was not on the list. And wonderful to that book. Congratulations. It’s fair to those who make the list, but it’s not really the fairest thing to those who don’t. And that’s how it works. Don’t harp on it.
JENNY GUY: Jeffrey, I’m just going to jump in and say something.
JEFFREY EISNER: Please do.
JENNY GUY: Bloggers are familiar with this. Because it sounds like Google.
JEFFREY EISNER: Yes.
JENNY GUY: We know a fraction of how the algorithm works, but we don’t necessarily know all the pieces. So we can control what we can control.
JEFFREY EISNER: Right. And at the end of the day, it’s what they want to do. It’s their company. It’s their business. They don’t have to explain to us how– well, tough! You didn’t make it. And you know what? That’s fine. I didn’t make it. I don’t care. Maybe a little. But still, if you’re feeling extra proud– you should feel great if you hit USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Amazon best seller list. Those are wonderful to have, too. But at the end of the day, even if you make none of those lists, don’t worry about it. It’s not about that.
When I wrote these books, I can tell you here and now, I never sought out to make any of these lists. I didn’t care. I just wanted to write a book that my followers would be proud of owning. That’s all I cared about, above everything else. Because this book is representative of you and your taste and your food and your life’s work, technically, in a way. And that’s what it’s all about.
So it’s nice to have these lists, sure. It’s wonderful. But by no means whatsoever is it a measure of greatness. So I know it’s a lot to digest in a short period of time. But I just wanted to be able to share my little story with you. And I know that Jenny, I think after this, will also share a more detailed deck than the one we just showed, with more information on it. And I’m always here for any questions that anybody might have as well.
JENNY GUY: Thank you so much, Jeffrey. So many different aspects of everything you shared. It’s a lot. And there’s quite a few that I want to drill down in.
And if anyone in the audience has a question for Jeffrey, please drop it in the comments, and I will ask him.
I think I would love to start with the proposal, and get a little more granular about that. Do you have any top tips for writing a proposal that’s going to stand out?
JEFFREY EISNER: Yes. You know, it’s funny. My publisher came to me before I had to write a proposal. But then, when I got an agent, she’s like, we still need to write one. Because I need a case for getting you a certain amount of money to write this book.
JENNY GUY: Right.
JEFFREY EISNER: So the important thing about the proposal is this is your moment to sell yourself. This is literally your pitch. OK. You need to write down why this book is going to do well, why you are worthy, basically, of writing a book, and what’s going to set it apart from the other books out there. How many cookbooks are there? There are more cookbooks than there are blades of grass outside on my lawn. So you have to be very, very, very particular how you’re going to do this.
Everyone who’s out there watching this, or anyone who’s a Mediavine publisher, you’re creative. You are a creative person. You would not be part of a Mediavine if you were not. So really put on that thinking cap. Treat this proposal as one of the most important documents that you’ll ever write. Don’t overthink it. But spend some time on it. Step away from it. Come back. Read it again. Step away. And then showcase some of your best recipes in there. Because you want to put about three recipes or four recipes at the end to give them a sampling of what these will be like.
JENNY GUY: Very helpful. And I don’t know if anyone else has, we call them, on the marketing team, shower thoughts. I find that my best thoughts come when I’m in the shower, in the morning, shampooing or doing whatever. They just come into my head, about something that I’ve been ruminating on for the last couple of days, weeks, whatever. They just pop in. I’m like, my shower thought is here! It is a lightning bolt, and now I know. So give yourself time to have shower thoughts.
JEFFREY EISNER: Exactly.
JENNY GUY: You also mentioned why you were talking about organization. Yes, my marketing associate, Brandon, just said, there is no where to write them down when you’re in the shower. Unless you’re behind on your cleaning and maybe you can like…
JEFFREY EISNER: Exactly.
JENNY GUY: Yes. Go for it. No one will judge you.
So you mentioned organization. Because I have to say, I don’t know if anyone else is blown away by everything you said: all of the recipes, shooting in a Queens apartment, one refrigerator, having all the people, trying to keep track of your edits. Do you have any tips on organizing that process? Were there any specific tools that you used to help you?
JEFFREY EISNER: Yes. I mean it’s all about an Excel grid or Google Sheets– is that what we call them?
JENNY GUY: Yes, Google Sheets.
JEFFREY EISNER: Yes. So I would do that with my recipes. I would basically type in there what ingredient I would need, like an onion or whatever, specifically each week. And I would then go through every recipe and type in and add it to the grid. And it would add up: this is how many onions I need this week to pull from. It’s not easy when you’re shopping for 25 recipes a week.
JENNY GUY: No.
JEFFREY EISNER: It’s a lot. And so it is key to use some sort of organizational tool. I’m kind of weird with my organization. Like I said, I use spreadsheets. Sometimes I’m Miss Simple. I just literally open an email draft, and I just reference that, and go back into that. Everyone has their own process. But just keep yourself organized, above all else. Know that there’s really no time to mess around here. Be professional. This is going to be a trying process. There’s no question about it. It’s not easy, in the slightest bit. And just know that when you’re done with this, it’s going to have all been worth it, for sure. But you’re only going to feel that way if you really set it up for success.
JENNY GUY: I love hearing that. I mean, if it were easy, everyone would do it.
JEFFREY EISNER: Yes, absolutely.
JENNY GUY: I just got a comment that said, there’s such a thing as a shower writing tablet. What? Oh, my God! I need it.
JEFFREY EISNER: Jenny, I think you’re onto something, and I think that you need to get on that.
JENNY GUY: I definitely need one.
OK. So you’ve had some amazing success on very prominent television programs. Could you tell us how those came about, and offer any tips that you have to people. Because there’s no denying that that is a great way to get yourself out there and increase your audience base.
JEFFREY EISNER: It is. And honestly, I have no publicist. I used to work in PR, but I wasn’t a publicist. But how I gained my audience was I’m a video personality. I went on to YouTube. I started kind of there with YouTube videos. So basically people would say, you’re made for the camera. So I was always doing those things.
Now, the Instant Pot community is one of the most popular Facebook groups. It’s like over 3 million people in it at this point. And especially a few years ago, when Instant Pot was really kind of new and becoming enormous, you would have producers from television shows jumping into these rooms. Like, hey, I’m with GMA, and does anybody know a great blogger? And then immediately, all of a sudden, on my phone, I’m getting all these texts: you need Jeffrey Eisner, Jeffrey Eisner. I’m like, OK. And then, within two seconds, my Facebook inbox: Hi, I’m a producer at GMA. And I’m like, everyone’s recommending.
JENNY GUY: Wow!
JEFFREY EISNER: It’s the power of social media, how that works. And these producers are smart. They found the group. They just simply asked the question there. And that’s it. All the work was done for them. They found somebody. So I got lucky, in that sense.
Rachael Ray, a similar situation, I believe. They found me, yes, online. And then, with Rachael, it started with me just doing a meatloaf. And I shot it in my own home and then sent it to them, the footage, and they edited it. And she just introduced it, and then that was it. Then they have me back a year later. And then I was in studio with her. And it went very well. We had great chemistry together. And then, thankfully, from there, had two more appearances with her, the last one being a Zoom, when she was in her home in Upstate New York and I was in my kitchen here.
JENNY GUY: Oh, nice.
JEFFREY EISNER: So that’s how that worked out. And when I was on the Food Network, I auditioned for that. It had nothing to do with Instant Pot cooking. It was the first ever Hanukkah challenge. It was basically like a Hanukkah Chopped. And I was definitely the most Jewish of the four contestants, even though I’m not religious. I’m totally secular. But I turned the Jew up to like 15.
JENNY GUY: Wow!
JEFFREY EISNER: I was like, I got to get on this show, I was like like, “L’Chaim,” you know, everything. The Long Island accent was thicker than my favorite milkshake.
So sell yourself a little bit. What can I tell you. That’s how I got myself on these shows. And maintain your relationships with these producers. I mean, you want to. You want to be out there. OK, the best advice on this is just be authentic and be yourself, above all else. Turn on the charm and just be yourself.
JENNY GUY: Know yourself, and lean into it.
JEFFREY EISNER: Yes, that’s exactly right.
JENNY GUY: Be the biggest, baddest, most flamboyant version of yourself that you possibly can.
JEFFREY EISNER: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.
JENNY GUY: I love that. It’s perfect for Pride Month, exactly.
JEFFREY EISNER: Yes.
JENNY GUY: Own that.
JEFFREY EISNER: Yes.
JENNY GUY: The other thing I was going to ask about. It sounds like to me the place where you were finding a lot of these connections are in the Facebook groups, but also being super specific about your niche and what you wanted to do. You weren’t saying, I’m cooking everything for all people. You were saying, I’m cooking this specifically, in a small kitchen, with my pressure cooker. This is what I’m doing. And then you put yourself in places where you could be known by people who are into that type of thing.
JEFFREY EISNER: Yes. Yes, exactly. It is very niche. The Instant Pot is certainly a niche thing. But it’s become so popular. I know on Prime Day they sold out of one of their most popular. It was an insanely good deal.
JENNY GUY: I bought one yesterday.
JEFFREY EISNER: Huh! Wow!
JENNY GUY: I’m psyched!
JEFFREY EISNER: Well, after this, send me your info and I’ll get you my books.
JENNY GUY: I’m so excited.
JEFFREY EISNER: I’m happy, too.
So basically it’s an opportunity. And when I first started doing it, there were very few blogging. Now you can’t even count how many are doing Instant Pot. So I guess I got in at the right time. But again, it’s about sticking out and standing apart from the rest.
JENNY GUY: Yes!
JEFFREY EISNER: And it’s coming up with your own shtick. You have videos, Jenny, out there. You’ve seen them. There’s countless videos, where it’s kind of like a Tasty-style video. There’s no narrative to it, except just a montage. Everyone likes bite-size content now, which is great. I get it. We have short attention spans. But my approach has always been to guide you through a recipe, to talk you through it. And I don’t think that that form is dead. And every field is always new again anyway, so.
JENNY GUY: We’re not inviting those hands from the Tasty-style video on to Rachael Ray. That’s not a thing that’s happening.
JEFFREY EISNER: No.
JENNY GUY: We’re inviting the person that’s standing there doing and being there with their face.
JEFFREY EISNER: Yes. And I need to do my nails first, you know.
JENNY GUY: You’ve got to get a manicure, really, if you’re going to do one of those Tasty styles, no question.
This has been so amazing. Before we say goodbye, I would love to hear, and I’ll give you a second to think about that, but what are the most valuable takeaways you’ve experienced throughout this process? Just share with our audience. And I will come right back to you in a second.
Before we do that, everyone, we are going to share Jeffrey’s extended notes with you so that you have them. You can reference them on your own time, when you watch on replay. Share with your friends. Let’s get everybody out there on the best seller list– or not the best seller list– creating content that you’re proud of for your audience to see.
And on the next Summer of Live, which is next Wednesday, June 30th, at 3:00 PM Eastern, we have Melanie Ferguson. We are talking about that topic that all of us have some issues with. We might even have a little PTSD. Facebook for bloggers. Let’s find out how to really harness that platform and do our best with that, with Melanie Ferguson. We’re really excited.
A quick reminder, please subscribe to our YouTube channel, like our Facebook page, so you don’t miss any of our upcoming broadcasts, like with our amazing guest Jeffrey we’ve had today.
Please tell us your lessons that you’ve learned through this process.
JEFFREY EISNER: Really what I learned the most about it is that dreams come true if you want them to. Never in a million years– and I don’t want to cry but I might– never in a million years did I ever think, from five years ago, when I was in a job for 10 years that I literally felt my soul leaving my body every single day, that I would be being able to leave that behind, to become my own boss, if you will, thanks to a company like Mediavine, truly, who enables us to do things like that. And then, from there, to be able to write a book.
The key thing that got me there more than anything else was believing in myself and really having that drive, the determination, and the patience. And if you do have those things truly, and you really want something, and you really want it, and you work hard, and you really get it, it’s going to come. And it’s going to get there for you, in one way or another. And that’s what I’ve learned. If you have the fire and you have the desire, you’re going to get it. That’s what it’s about for me.
JENNY GUY: Well, now that I am also crying and want you to be my life coach, please, please visit. We’re going to share the presentation, but also you can see Jeffrey’s recipes at Pressure Luck Cooking. We’re so glad to have you as a part of the Mediavine family. And I am truly blessed to have you as my guest today. It’s been wonderful.
JEFFREY EISNER: Great.
JENNY GUY: Everybody else, please say a fond thank you to Jeffrey. And we will see you next week.
JEFFREY EISNER: Thank you.
JENNY GUY: Have a great summer, you guys.
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