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My Takeaways from the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference

Last weekend, I spent several days in the company of some amazing food-focused folks at the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference here in New York City.  This is the second year I’ve attended this conference, and I took away lots of great information and insights from the various panels and workshops.  This was also my first opportunity to speak at a conference, where I shared some of my experiences of having had content lifted from this website and how I’ve addressed that issue.


  1. “Platform” seemed to be a key catchphrase this year.  How and in what ways do you communicate your recipes and thoughts?  Is in it paper format?  Do you have a blog?  Do you need an app?  How engaged are you on social media streams?

  2. Cookbooks are being examined on many other fronts in addition to the printed words on the page or the recipes contained within.  They can also reflect issues of race, class, and income in addition to religion, culture, ethnicity, and nationality.  Even the act of giving and gifting cookbooks can have a meaning about how you wish the recipient to use them or experience them.

  3. While there is lots of free recipe content available via the internet, cookbooks are still one of the strongest selling segments of the book-buying market.

  4. When taking food photos, don’t copy someone else’s style or the latest fad.  You need to have a personal vision (well, in addition to the right equipment) and execute on it.

  5. Copyright and plagarism are very thorny issues.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act offers some protection and means of redress if this happens to you, but there are also grey areas.

  6. “I have something to offer” – This is something to keep in mind when putting together your cookbook and/or your blog if you are serious about making it happen.

  7. WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing) is very important.  It is all about “surprise and delight.”  Make it fun, interesting, and leaving people wanting more.

  8. You have to be a part of the conversation, no matter what medium you use (Twitter, Facebook, Google+).  You also have to be accessible, authentic, and accountable.

  9. For those who have been writing a while, go back to why you started.  This will help you determine your identity.  Also, figure out what emotion you are looking to create in a person coming to your site or reading your book.

This is far from a complete list of all the terrific information and valuable insights that conference attendees heard during the conference.  Several of the panels were videotaped and additional ones were recorded for audio replay.  You can check them out on the Roger Smith Cookbook Conference website.  You can also pull up the real-time conversations about the conference at the Twitter id #cookbookconf.

Buon appetito!

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