Cookbook Editing

Cookbook Editing

Wednesday, May 21, 1997
Organizer: Jill Fox
Panel: Jill Fox, managing editor, Jane Fonda: Cooking for Healthy Living; Kari Perin, designer; Peggy Fallon, food writer and recipe tester; Aubrey McClellan, indexer; Ken DellaPenta, proofreader.
Notes By Bonnie Britt

Jill Fox built her career shepherding big cookbook projects into print. At the May 21 meeting, she compared the work of a cookbook editor to that of a technical editor. Both demand the same skills--"only the technical editor makes more money."

A founder and former BAEF chair, Fox described the balancing and organizational strategies she tapped to bring in a complicated best-seller on budget and deadline. Jane Fonda: Cooking for Healthy Living was voted "Nonfiction Book Most Likely to Succeed" at the 1996 American Bookseller Association. The menu cookbook is four-color throughout, and color photographs "that look just like the recipes" grace every other page.

Menu cookbooks are more difficult to produce than simple recipe books, and this one was even more intricate since each recipe is analyzed for nutritional content and fat calories. The recipes were written, tested, revised, analyzed, and displayed by an experienced editorial team, four of whom were on hand to contribute their perspectives: Kari Perin, designer; Peggy Fallon, food writer and recipe tester; Aubrey McClellan, indexer; and Ken DellaPenta, proofreader.

In a "write for hire" book, the copyright is held by the publisher, not the author. The publisher hires the writer to do the job and pays for it directly, no royalties later. The case of Jane Fonda: Cooking for Healthy Living is a little more complicated; Weldon Owen was the packager, and the copyright is held by Turner Publishing (the publisher) and Jane Fonda. Fonda contributed the introductory chapter and recipe ideas she gathered from cooks who had worked in the kitchens of her five homes. She set guidelines for low-fat content, required that bison be among the meal plans, and held veto power over appearance and content.

More than forty freelancers worked on the Fonda book, including prop and hair stylists for the cover--"a whole other project," said Fox, who coordinated, scheduled, budgeted, and edited.

She circulated the multiple-page schedules that were key to delivering the book in a razor-thin five months. The team met first on November 17, and on April 17 the book went to press. "Because of [the celebrity] personality and speed and level of intensity we had to maintain, this was an unusual schedule."

A more common deadline is nine months to a year. "Trafficking takes time, weekends exist, and December is two weeks long," she advised. "Food costs money, and every recipe will be made three times minimum. Every approval layer adds time, money, and stress. Plan for contingencies."

As to editing recipes, Fox advises, "Don't take 'sure, it works' for an answer. Cook something. If it's in the ingredient list, make sure it's in the method. And vice versa."

Style sheets are basic to success. After devising (and revising) intricate and fast-paced schedules, Fox made sure food guidelines and general writing and copyediting style sheets reached the right hands.

For optimum creative planning, the designer needs to be involved early. The proofreader wants to be alerted to potential problems, and the indexer wants a month's notice and early warning of delays. Recipe testers need clear directions.

Early on, designer Kari Perin contributed a bright pastel color palette that Fox gave to the photographer and illustrator. Since the Fonda book was destined for international circulation, measurements were converted to metric. Also, all type is black so that printers can change only the black plates in press runs that use translated text.



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