Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Secrets to Successful Food Blogging--"Will Write for Food" Host Dianne Jacob Shares Her Tips

In February I kicked off a series of interviews with food bloggers whose work I enjoy and feel you might find interesting and useful, too. Each post shares with you the blogger's secrets to success and practical advice, plus it lets you get to "know" the person behind the blog a bit.  (The getting-to-know part is what I like best.) The initial post here featured Jamie Schler, blogger of the well-known "Life’s a Feast
This month I'm delighted to spotlight my hard-working colleague and writer friend Dianne Jacob, whose blog Will Write for Food: Pithy Snippets about Food Writing is a truly unique resource for food writers or bloggers. I think of Dianne as providing a sort of food writers' help desk and information clearinghouse, in the process beautifully serving the needs of her well-defined and carefully-targeted audience. Her blog posts have been picked up by Publishers’ Weekly, Chow, Eater, BlogHer, and Food52 News

Will Write for Food--Buy It!
As Dianne herself says, you'll find "tons of free, helpful tips, how-tos and interviews," on her blog, as well as lots of input from her many loyal followers. Sometimes she also covers breaking culinary-related news. She encourages peeps to jump in, sound off, and contribute their expertise. Which they do--a lively conversation is always going on.

Dianne is the author of Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More, which won the Cordon D’Or International award for Best Literary Food Reference Book and a Gourmand World Cookbook Award. She is also co-author of the cookbook Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas, with chef Craig Priebe, and regularly edits cookbooks for national publishers. Previously a newspaper, magazine, and publishing company editor-in-chief, Dianne is now a full-time writing coach, author,  freelance editor, and, of course, blogger. 



Why did you start your blog? Has the experience been what you expected?
I wanted to include a big chapter on food blogging in the 2010 revision of  my book Will Write for Food, which first came out five years earlier. I thought I should start a blog to understand how blogging worked...

Boy, did I underestimate how much fun it is! The experience has been much more than I expected. I’ve developed relationships with readers from all over the world. I’ve learned so much from their comments. Plus, the blog has kept my book sales going, helped me sign up coaching clients, and leads to regular speaking gigs. Now I’m 2.5 years in and can’t imagine life without it.

What you think is most notable about your blog. What are the keys to its popularity?
I don’t think there are other blogs aimed exclusively at food writers, so my timing was good. It’s a niche market, but within that niche, the blog does well. It’s popular because I do my best to write about the issues that food writers and bloggers care about. I try not to be the last word. My blog is known for starting a conversation that commenters take up in the most surprising, thoughtful, and intelligent ways. Sometimes they even talk to each other and not to me, which is just fine.

Do you have any secrets to success or advice you could share with other food bloggers?
Many food bloggers don’t post often enough, or they burn out and then post once a month or even less. I have a deadline of Tuesday. I post every week, which gives me enough time to write a draft, let it sit a while, and edit it a few times. I tried posting twice a week the first year, but that was a too much. I always have a running list of possible subjects going, and I try to keep a few drafts around for the times when I’m feeling stuck.

Any interesting insights to share about how you write, come up with ideas, etc.?
Having a schedule is important. Regarding ideas, sometimes news events trigger blog posts, or I meet someone who I think might make a good interview. But most of the time I try to focus on what my target reader would find useful, entertaining, and inspiring.

I try to draft in advance, but am not always successful. I also keep a few drafts around of posts I’ve started, just in case.... Sometimes I am struggling to come up with a topic on Monday, but I always manage. Some bloggers keep a calendar of what to post on every week, but I’m not that organized, even though when I was a magazine editor, I worked on several issues at once.

Rarely, a topic inspires me and the post comes easily. This was the case on a blog post I wrote on comparing ourselves to others, which came from reading another blogger’s post on a broader topic. It became one of my highest-read posts ever.

How does your background or experience influence your blog?
It helps a lot. As a journalism graduate and former newspaper reporter and editor, I respect deadlines. I also know how to write an intriguing title, what constitutes a lead, and how to finish a post concisely. Also, since I’ve spent most of my professional life as an editor, I know how to cut the fat from my writing.

I like to cover ethics. It’s a big issue for food bloggers, who are bombarded with free products and meals. Having cut my teeth in journalism school and newspapers, I have strong opinions about the effect of freebies, and I look for fresh angles on that subject. And I’m not afraid to be controversial sometimes.

What's the greatest satisfaction you get from hosting your blog?
I love it when I launch what turns out to be a good discussion about an issue we’re all trying to understand, like the ethical way to adapt a recipe, or how to find time to write a food-based blog. This is a big issue for hobbyists, most of whom have day jobs, especially if they write, test and photograph food.


Since Dianne loves readers to jump in and comment, please oblige her (and me) by doing so now.  If you enjoy her blog, take a little time to share what you like about it with others reading this post.

If you're just getting started at food blogging, you might also be interested in some basic tips in Culinary Blogging 101. 

Or for more food writing advice, check out my Three Steps to More Compelling Culinary Prose.

Or how about Five Things Never to Say to a Food Editor, in which several editors reveal what really irks them.


12 comments:

Return to Sunday Supper℠ on March 21, 2012 at 5:51 PM said...

Thank you for highlighting Diane in this post. I read both of your blogs regularly and admire you both a great deal.

What I enjoy about Diane's blog is her expert information. She addresses the topics that I want to read about and her insights are always wise and thoughtful.

The other (and maybe even more important) thing is her kindness. You can read it in her writing and when she responds to your comments.

Thank you both for your great posts...they've meant a lot to a newbie blogger.

Nancy Baggett on March 21, 2012 at 8:56 PM said...

Hi,

Thanks so much for commenting-and for your compliments. Yes, Dianne tries to post on topics that will interest and inspire her readers-- and definitely succeeds at it. I'm glad we have been helpful

Anonymous said...

Good info--thanks!

Anonymous said...

Read Diane's blog a lot--it is very helpful.

Nancy Baggett on March 26, 2012 at 10:19 AM said...

Thanks for commenting. Yes, she is an excellent resource.

Holly on April 2, 2012 at 12:30 PM said...

Thanks for introducing me to Diane's blog. I am sure it's just what I need as a new blogger to get great advice. Nancy, I happened to feature your Raisin Bread on my blog today. I've already made french toast and bread pudding with it and can't speak highly enough of your recipe. Thanks!! Here is the post:
http://www.abakershouse.com/2012/04/cinnamon-pinwheel-raisin-bread-from.html
from Holly @ www.abakershouse.com

Jamie on April 9, 2012 at 8:24 AM said...

Nancy, thanks for featuring Dianne. Her book has been a constant reference for me from when I first bought the first edition (I have both) and has helped me bridge the gap between blogger and food writer in so many ways. Her knowledge and advice, whether the book or the blog, have been invaluable! Her blog is not only informative and brings up important topics that I might not otherwise have even thought about but each post is so thought provoking! And the discussion she inspires is also an amazingly rich source of thought and information. As I said, truly an invaluable source for my as both blogger and professional writer. And I am lucky enough to also have her for a friend! (and you too, darling Nancy!)

Nancy Baggett on April 9, 2012 at 10:42 AM said...

Jamie, I absolutely agree--her blog really does serve as a clearinghouse and help desk for food writers and bloggers, and as a sounding board and forum as well. She is a great resource.

I, too, am so glad that we met and I can could you as a friend--another one of the wonderful benefits of the Internet.

sally cameron on April 9, 2012 at 1:40 PM said...

Thanks Nancy, for featuring Dianne. I'm a big fan of hers. My copy of her book is filled with sticky-notes and highlights. I've also used Dianne's coaching services. She has been a huge help to me with my blog and potential projects. Plus she is just a delightful person I now call a friend too. For anyone who is not familiar with her, take advantage of her blog, newsletter and book, and any workshops.

sally cameron on April 9, 2012 at 1:41 PM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sally on April 9, 2012 at 6:30 PM said...

I, too, am a big fan of Dianne's blog. She often poses provocative questions and definitely gets the conversations going! Thanks this great write-up, Nancy!

Nancy Baggett on April 10, 2012 at 8:59 AM said...

Sally, thanks for stopping by--nice to hear from another of Diane's fans. I just went and checked out your blog--also very nice! I'll be visiting again.

 

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