Book Update, Part VI: What Happens Next?

Book Update

Last time I mentioned my book was two months ago, when I wrote to say I had completed and delivered the manuscript. But what happens once the bird leaves the nest? The process is no doubt different from one publisher to the next and from one book to the next, but what I can offer is a glimpse into what the past few weeks have held for me.

First of all, a bit of waiting for the editor to share an overall impression. In my case, the wait was short, and the overall impression — deep sigh of relief — positive. A couple of weeks later, I received a printed version of the manuscript with my editor’s notes and corrections. I wasn’t too worried about grammar or spelling mistakes, having submitted it to three different and equally trusted readers, but there were a few things here and there. There were suggestions of cuts, too, since the manuscript was running quite long. Total word count isn’t very relevant for a cookbook — the lists of ingredients throw it off — and I knew what the target page count was, but this differs from the word processor page count, when you factor in the final layout of the book and the photography, boxed paragraphs, chapter headers, etc.

Cuts are painful, and I don’t mean just the paper cuts that you get on your fingers from handling the printed manuscript, although these are worth mentioning too. I was just reading Stephen King’s excellent memoir/essay On Writing, and he introduced me to the famous “Kill your darlings” advice. Whoever wrote it first (the quote is variously attributed to Faulkner, Hemingway, and Quiller-Couch) certainly hit the nail on the head, and it does make it a little easier to handle the word processor chainsaw if you can imagine yourself as a character in a horror flick. Or, for those really hard-to-kill darlings, if you think of it not so much as murdering them, but as wrapping them up in tissue paper and storing them in a wooden chest for future use.

But pruning and streamlining are very good things for any piece of writing, and although I don’t think I would have much enjoyed his company at a dinner party, William Strunk Jr. also comes to the rescue with his “Omit needless words” advice — as you can see, I’ve been reading my share of books on the writer’s craft.

What also makes the process easier is that these back-and-forth exchanges take a bit of time, and if you’ve been lucky enough to take a vacation in between, it is easier to take a step back and look at your writing from a (somewhat) fresher perspective — something you are quite unable to do when you are still so engrossed in it you find yourself waking up at night and reciting entire passages in your mind.

Once we reached a consensus on the manuscript, it was sent to the production people, who will take care of the book design, and to the copyeditor, who will check that all my commas are in the right places and that all my words have the correct amount of letters in the right order — I should get sample pages and the copyeditor’s notes in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, there are those little things that start to make the book feel oddly real: the question of sales and publicity, of cover design (a thorny one, that), or of how many blads and bound galleys I would like to order (these are two types of sales/advance review material: a blad is a four-page presentation of the book, a bound galley is the whole book, inexpensively printed).

And before we part, I would like to reveal a little something about the book: the recipes will have wine pairing suggestions, created by my friend Lenn of Lenndevours. A couple of months before the manuscript was due, it suddenly dawned on me that the book wouldn’t be quite complete without a wine component. As I’ve mentioned before, I love wine, I am fascinated by its many dimensions, and I try to learn as much as I can, but I am still a long way from feeling comfortable enough to give wine-buying advice.

There was also the question of location to consider: the book will first come out in North America, and the bottles I have access to through my favorite caviste aren’t necessarily available abroad. This is why I turned to someone who has much more wine expertise than I do, and a good knowledge of the American market. (If and when the book is sold in other countries, we may have to revise the pairings.) I am grateful to Lenn for accepting my offer and coming up with such exciting tasting notes, which I wrote up and wove into the manuscript, learning a good deal in the process. The collaboration couldn’t have gone more smoothly — Lenn is extremely easy to work with, and remained so even when I changed recipes on him at the last minute — and I am particularly pleased to have another blogger on board with me.

Previous installments of the Book Update series:
Part I: The Book Deal
Part II: The Recipes
Part III: Recipe Testing
Part IV: Food Photography
Part V: Done!

  • I’m very excited to hear the news, Clotilde. The more you talk about it, the more I want it – I’ll have to order a copy as soon as it comes out :)

  • gingerpale

    Yes,it must be so hard to decide which picture/what to put on the cover!

  • Thank you for your insights from the other side of a manuscript. I”m an editor who spends her days cutting – currently I edit websites, but I did edit books for quite a few years. Website editing is far different from book editing in that I often have to adopt a “slash and burn” policy! That said, sometimes I think editors only look at the words and don”t spend enough time thinking about the writer who created those words, who really owns those words. A good reminder for me this morning as I start my work week!

    I can’t wait to buy your book!

  • ahh Clotilde, this all sounds so wonderful and exciting! Can”t wait till it’s published!
    I know your blog for about a year now. I just love C&Z; it was the very first foodblog I read and because of you I really wanted to be a part of this world. Now I even started my own blog… :) hope you’ll check it sometimes and much luck with everything!

  • Clotilde…thank YOU for the opportunity to work with you. It was a lot of fun and educational for me as well.

    C&Z readers…trust me, I’ve seen the recipes in this book. You are definitely going to love it.

  • ‘wrapping them in tissue paper and putting them in a wooden trunk for later’…I love this Clotilde. And since I write fiction, I kill my little darlings..often and with surprising regularity but I do keep them in a ‘darling’ file. The ms of Murder on Ile Saint-Louis came back bloody with my editors red pencilled comments and edits…so I know what you’re feeling. But I trust my editor to take out the ‘needless words’ which make it cleaner, clearer and way better. Thanks for sharing your process and I can’t wait for your book to come out.

  • Sounds like are you nurturing one fine book! Hope to be able to see it on the shelves in Canada.

    If there does end up being a Canadian edition of your cookbook, I’d love to assist in discovering some truly great Canadian pairings for your recipes. Stuff like Late Harvest wines and icewines, local sparkling wines and Vidal varietals, as well as other cool-climate concoctions that we Canadians do so well. Cheers to that and French cooking! (Which actually is kind of what I do most nights…)

  • NYC123

    I am surprised to see that you aren’t releasing your book in your own native country first. I would assume that since you write in French you have more desire toqwards your American audience than your native French. Aren’t you well known in France?

  • I am a huge fan and someone who has worked as both an editor and a writer. I say: Mazel tov, and I can’t wait until your book is available for pre-ordering. (Oh, and by the way, that darn picture of string beans makes me hungry every time I look at it, tee hee.)

  • While you’re reading about writing, I recommend On Writing Well, which I just finished. The author has a warm and humorous tone, and uses lots of great examples to illustrate his points. I felt my writing improve after reading it, so here’s one happy customer at least :)

  • adrian

    So, when are we celebrating with a cocktail at the Hemingway?

  • Margreet

    cheers girly, hope to be able to read the lot soon! Am still enjoying your writing, as usual ; )

  • do you get to have a lot of input on the cover design? i’ve always thought it was a terrifying idea to write a book and have to accept what others give you, which i’ve heard can happen in some cases.

  • Monica

    Hi Clotilde,
    I was Googling Chez Catherine restaurant recently which lead me to your blog and the information I needed so, thank you! Also, congratulations on your cookbook which I am looking forward to finding at my local bookstore. Husband and I will be in Paris for about 10 days starting 9/15 and reading your blog is making me want to be there sooo much I can barely stand it.

  • Interesting to following your book journey, Clotilde. And, you’ve once again sent me scouring for another book for my library. I still have my Strunk & White from college (it’s very worn) and just discovered the new edition is paired with the Stephen King book at Amazon. Thank you, dear girl!

  • This is good news, and your choice of reading is excellent. I second Derrick’s suggestion of Zinsser’s On Writing Well. :)

  • I cannot wait to read your book!

  • Joan

    Clotilde Darling..what’s this ‘if and when’ business…:-) It all sounds terribly exciting. Imagining the cover!

  • Oh my god, this is exciting. I know it’s still some time before it gets released. Just know that I will be one of the first to click the “preorder” button, once I know where I can click one.

  • Clotilde,

    I look forward to a wonderful book tour from you. Rest assured I will be supporting your work quite frequently once released! Your notes on the book-writing process have been awesome. Here’s wishing you much success — and a quick follow-up — once your first book hits the market!

  • I can’t wait for your book to come out here in the States! Congratulations and thanks for the update on where things are.

  • LPC

    Can’t wait to see the book!

  • Thanks for the update! I hope I am able to read your book before my next trip to Paris. Meanwhile, I’ll be in your archives. . .

  • Great news! The book is on my wish list. Will you have a reader contest for your book cover? Would love to see what your options are.

  • Deb

    Hi Clotilde,

    Great news!

    I know what it’s like on both sides of the table, having been an editor as well as a writer. Now, I’m a freelance writer as well as a candymaker and consultant.

    It’s painful when magazines take a hatchet to my much-labored over language, but I don’t get the final say. I know everyone needs an editor, even an editor, but it still doesn’t take away the sting.

    I’m very happy for you. It was easy to see where you were headed when your work started appearing on NPR. It’s been exciting to watch, and I wish you much continued success.


  • Elizabeth

    When you kill something you create, you give birth to something new. After putting the leaner version of your text to bed, in the morning you may wake up surprised to find it suits you even more, and pretty soon, you don’t even remember the precious things you could not bear to cut. So often we confuse the things we write with ourselves, not fully grasping the fact that the molecular structure of the page in our hands is not our own. If our words are critiqued, it’s not because our reader doesn’t think we’re the cat’s pajamas. Unlike Hemingway’s typewriter, a computer makes it is easier to revise in every stage of the process of writing. One’s darlings can be sent off on a lovely vacation, saved in a different file; it’s less brutal that way.

  • Natasha Evans-Beauchamp

    My freshman rhetoric professor told us- and I believe she was quoting someone famous I do not remember- that the words on the page should sizzle and reduce like bacon frying in a pan.

  • Griffin

    Dearest Clotilde,

    It is tough, but only if you see every word as important. Also it hurts to have someone else suggest cuts. It feels personal –
    Impossible Monsieur; mon sang se coagule
    En pensant qu’on y peut changer une virgule
    – as Cyrano says.
    But have a look at Raymond Chandler’s novels. His style can be summed up as: short sentences, simple language and no unnecessary words. It taught me a lot about good writing.

    It will sharpen your writing. In any case you are a wonderfully warm writer and lyrical with it. That won’t go with the cuts. Sometimes it’s also a matter of moving the words around so as to make the sentence shorter and sharper.

    I am longing to see this book, not just for the recipes, but because you are a delight to read and that is a treasure beyond words. Your recipes are not just instructions, they have you in them, which is why they are so special.

    Good luck, deesse de la cuisine!

  • Sirena

    Felicidades Clotilde! If your website is any indication of what’s ahead, your book is going to ROCK!
    And as a journalist, I know what it’s like to have your writing scrutinized by an editor – it never feels good! But it’s good for your copy and it’s good for your work – keeps it clean and tight. It’s a good reminder to try not to be married to anything you write – especially with editors looming on the horizon with their nasty red pens :-)
    Mabrook on finishing this phase of your project – cannot wait to buy your book!

  • Marla

    Dear Clotilde & Others,
    Congratulations Clotilde, that you’ve moved on to the next steps toward a finished book. Your post reminded of something sort of off topic, but certainly related.

    I live in Minnesota and while I love elements of American food I also love French food and the style in which the French and Spanish eat. (My sister-in-law is from Spain.) I’m wondering if you or any of your readers can reccommend a book or web site that will teach me how to put together a good menu. What are the elements and considerations involved when you compose a menu for guests? I know that color, texture, and taste are obvious ones, but is there a more formal book that will help me learn better how to put together an excellent meal?

    I appreciate any help you can give. I discovered your blog in my Gourmet magazine and have really enjoyed it! You are a gifted writer.

    Marla Helseth
    Minnetonka, Minnesota – Good ‘ol USA…

  • Clotilde-Just another comment to congratulate you on your cookbook! I really enjoy your writings and intend on catching up rather quickly.

  • Sharon

    Oh Clotilde, I am so proud of you!!! I don’t know you at all, well, only through lurking here all the time, but Griffin said it just perfectly…you are what makes your recipes, your blog and your book-in-the-making so special! I’m proud to be a reader and I can’t wait for devour the book. Congratulations!!!

  • Vintage Wine

    You`ve got a really lovely blog! It`s truly amazing :-)
    Good luck with the book!

  • Congratulations on finishing your manuscript! Stephen King’s book, On Writing is a true treasure and sums up well how hard it is to kill one’s little darlings! Much luck with the next step.

  • Hi Clotilde,
    Congratulations! I look forward to seeing your book – I’ve enjoyed reading about the process of writing a cookbook, and I hope you don’t mind that I have put a link to this category on my blog, as I think some of my visitors will also find it interesting.

  • AmyBee

    I don’t buy books very often due to a great library close by and careful spending but as I browsed a local bookstore’s cookbook section recently, I found myself thinking, “I’ll wait for Clothilde’s.” And I will. I hadn’t realized how often I refer to what I’ve read on your blog or look at food, especially fresh, in a new way. I’ll put your book right next to my HARDBACK of Chez Panisse Vegetables (I have a love-hate relationship with that book, but that’s another story.) Congratulations – it must be truly very exciting.

  • Kristen

    How fun to hear this from the other side! Thanks for so articulately detailing every author’s anxious thoughts. Yours has been an unusual pleasure of a manuscript, and you’ve brought new life to my sometimes-stodgy New York kitchen. Cheers to you, CD!

  • What an insane amount of work but also what an amazing accomplishment once the project is finished. I truly appreciate those who are so filled with passion to be able to and have the desire to turn that passion into a book. Lucky for me our passions our similar. I look forward to reading the book Let us know when it arrives.

  • Clothilde

    J’ai hâte de voir ton livre et de le déposer dans ma cuisine. J’imagine que tu as hâte de le tenir dans tes mains et de le feuilleter.


  • Veron

    Congratulations on this. I will look for it when it gets publish!

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