186: How to Become a Published Author with Lindsey Smith

Welcome to episode 186 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Alexa interviews Lindsey Smith, aka. The Food Mood Girl, about the traditional publishing process.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Joanie Simon about using flash photography and recovering from addiction. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

How to Become a Published Author

You have an awesome book idea, but you have no idea what to do with it. If this sounds like you, then this episode is for you!

Lindsey Smith is a publishing pro; she has gone through the self-publishing process in addition to working with a traditional publishing house. This episode, however, is focused on the latter–getting an agent, going through a publisher, and writing a book proposal. She also talks about how she started her own press and developed a conference for aspiring authors.

The publishing process may seem a bit daunting, but you’ll learn a ton of helpful tips in this interview like how to set your pitch apart, how your pitches will change based on the type of book you’re writing, and how you can fine-tune your book idea and proposal. Enjoy!

In this episode, Lindsey shares:

  • How she started publishing her content
  • What a press is
  • The differences between an agent and a publisher
  • How a nonfiction pitch differs from a fiction pitch
  • How to set your pitch apart from others
  • How she fine-tuned her book idea
  • What you can do once you have a book idea
  • Important parts of a book proposal
  • Why it’s important to understand that you’re ahead of your reader
  • How having a brand can help with the traditional publishing process

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Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode, I chat about a helpful site speed test from Google and then I interview Lindsey Smith aka The Food Mood Girl, all about the traditional publishing process. Hey, hey, wonderful listener! You are listening to The Food Blogger Pro Podcast and welcome. We are so thrilled that you’re here. Today’s episode is sponsored by our friends, our sister site, WP Tasty. WP Tasty sells WordPress plugins for you aka food bloggers. They have a recipe plugin, a Pininterest optimization plugin and a keyword autolinking plugin that can help you run your blog more efficiently and more confidently. To learn more, you can head on over to wptasty.com.

Alexa Peduzzi: For today’s tasty tip, that’s the helpful actionable tip that we have for you in each episode of the podcast. I’d like to chat about Think with Google. It sounds way more intense than it actually is, but it’s an incredibly helpful tool for website owners. Not only does it give you access to insights and tools, it also gives you an easy way to test your site speed. It’s a simple tool to use, so you just go to testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com and you can submit your URL to be tested. Now, why is this important? Well, right on the test page, it says, “Most sites lose half their visitors while loading.” Site speed is a huge user experience factor and your site speed can be suffering in quite a few different ways.

Alexa Peduzzi: This testing tool also sends you an individualized report where you can actually get your loading time, estimated visitor loss and ways you can improve your site speed. For instance, I tested my Food Blog through this tool and it says that my home page has a loading time of eight seconds which is actually considered to be fair. Even so, it’s estimated that I have 28% estimated visitor loss due to site speed alone. As for ways that I can increase my site speed, Google has a few suggestions including but definitely not limited to compressing my images. This is a great easy-to-use tool to get personalized site speed reports and the URL again is testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com.

Alexa Peduzzi: Now, the episode. Right off the bat, you’ll notice that this episode is a bit different than all of other episodes because I am actually interviewing our interviewee today and that is Lindsey Smith aka The Food Mood Girl. Lindsey is a fellow Pittsburgher and I met her a few years ago at a blogger meet up. I recently attended Lindsey’s book publishing conference and I learned so much about the fascinating world of book publishing. I told Bjork that we needed to have Lindsey on the podcast and he suggested that I actually interview her about what I learned about the traditional book publishing process and that’s exactly what happened.

Alexa Peduzzi: Lindsey has been publishing for years and she has gone the traditional route and the self-publishing route, but this episode is focused on the traditional publishing process and she talks about fine tuning your book idea, the important parts of book proposals and what you can do if you have a really awesome book idea right now. It’s a great interview and I’m excited and admittedly a tiny bit nervous about my interviewing skills for you to check it out. Without any further ado, Lindsey, welcome to the podcast.

Lindsey Smith: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah, I’m so excited that we got to do this and just a little bit of background for anyone who’s listening, you know that if you’re around the Food Blogger Pro podcast for any extended period of time, you know that I don’t typically do the interviews, but today, I’m really excited to interview my friend and fellow Pittsburgher, Lindsey, about what she’s up to and kind of the traditional publishing process, so thank you again for joining us today.

Lindsey Smith: Yeah, I’m excited.

Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah, to start out, why don’t you go into a bit of your story and how you got interested in the publishing process?

Lindsey Smith: Sure. I became a published author for the first time when I was in fourth grade, believe it or not.

Alexa Peduzzi: That’s amazing!

Lindsey Smith: I had my poems featured in an anthology, and earlier on, I think got the bug because within the year of being published in the book, I negotiated a consistent poetry column in the local newspaper. I was constantly pitching my work out to different newspaper and any kind of press that I could get, so I got the bug early on. That was like fourth and fifth grade. Then when I was in eighth grade, I made a vision board in one of my classes, and on it, I put that I wanted to publish a book. Fast forward to after college, I went to school for PR. I decided to go back to school for nutrition and I knew that I wanted to write a book and I knew that I wanted to share my stories.

Lindsey Smith: At that time, I looked at it. When I work with people, I always ask people, “What’s your beyond-the-book goal? What do you really envision for yourself what you want because that really plays a huge role in the publishing process and which route you choose to go?” At that time, my goal was to speak more, to get press, to get my message out there and so I thought self-publishing was the way to go. I self-published my first book in 2012, and then since then, I’ve done everything from self-publishing to small press publishing to traditional publishing to owning my own press. You could say that the little girl in fourth grade kind of knew what she wanted to do.

Alexa Peduzzi: That’s awesome and just super inspirational. I think that we all have these childhood goals and sometimes we get there in and sometimes we don’t, sometimes they change, but it’s really cool that you stayed consistent and really just flourished in that goal. That’s really, really amazing. You mentioned that you now have a press and can you talk about what that is and what you’re doing now at your press?

Lindsey Smith: Sure. I started a press with my friend, Amanda, who we’ve been working for years in publishing. How it kind of came about though is in 2014 I created a program where I taught people how to write and publish books. I focused on the self-publishing model. I helped over 3,000 students through that and I ended up living that behind in like 2016 because personally I got a traditional book deal and was very interested in that and that process. I wanted to learn all that I could when it came to that.

Lindsey Smith: Within that time period within 2014 to 2016, my friend, Amanda, and I had been talking and we’ve been working together because she’s an editor and she was helping me with certain projects that I was working on that I was helping others with because I was also doing some coaching and helping people really get their books together. She was a huge help in that process and we had had the opportunity to work together over those years and I always said like I wanted to create a publishing company that offered something different for people and that put out interesting books that maybe aren’t being represented by traditional publishers.

Lindsey Smith: That was in that time period and then we developed a conference together called Pitch Publish Promote and we focused on helping people get their works published and teaching them and then they can come to the conference and pitch to agents and publishers. We’ve been doing that for three years and slowly building the publishing house kind of secretly. That let us to really going. We’ve been doing it for several years, been testing certain books in certain ways. Some actually, we’ve ghostwritten and published to like see if we could do certain things.

Lindsey Smith: We’ve been kind of secretive about it, but 2019, we’re going out strong with the titles that we’re putting out. Since we’re small, we only do a few a year, pretty much like two every season, so like six titles a year, but we really want to compete with the bigger houses.

Alexa Peduzzi: Definitely and Pitch Publish Promote, it was actually a couple of weeks ago here in Pittsburgh and you mentioned it on your Instagram stories and I was like, “Well, this is awesome!” Like publishing is such an interesting topic, I don’t know much it and like it’s you that’s putting it on, so I attended and that’s kind of where we got the idea for this podcast interview, but I learned so much. Is that typically how like publishing conferences are set up, kind of you have some workshops at the beginning and then you have some pitching at the end?

Lindsey Smith: They’re all a little different. Amanda and I spent years going to these publishing conferences and kind of seeing what we liked, what we didn’t like. One of the things that we’re really interested and especially doing for 2019 is we really want to be known for experience-based publishing, so we don’t want to just publish a book and see you later. We want to create experiences that go along with our books, so one of our books was turned into a screenplay that did a production in June. We’re starting to do card decks instead of just books and we just did a workshop in a salt cave.

Alexa Peduzzi: That was so cool! I saw that on Instagram too.

Lindsey Smith: We’re really trying to do interesting things and I think that’s one of the things that we are trying to bring to the conference and that’s a little bit different and that will be even more noticeable in the coming years as we’ve been growing is really trying to also create experiences for people and create something that people remember. I think most of the publishing conferences that I’ve been to, it’s like the bottom floor of the basement. It’s just like, “This is the information. This is why you’re here,” but we’re trying make it a little more fun and have some interesting things.

Lindsey Smith: One thing that is unique about ours is we have agents and publishers and you get to book time with them to about your book and your work. A lot of places will just do speed pitching where you just like an agent is meeting 200 people in a matter of an hour or two hours. This, you actually get like 10 minutes to sit down, go over your work. That’s how it differentiates a little bit. The other thing is we’ve talked about doing different tracks for self-publishing and traditional. Our conference does a little bit more from a traditional angle because we have agents and publishers.

Lindsey Smith: Because I do come from self-publishing, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with self-publishing and I am a fan of it and so I try to also make that known as well. Even if traditional publishing isn’t necessarily best for you or may not be right for you right now, self-publishing should not be taboo.

Alexa Peduzzi: Exactly. Yeah. It seems like it’s just such a different process and we’ll get into that a little bit later in this interview, but just so you know as you’re listening to this, this interview is actually part of a two-part series. Lindsey’s interview today is actually going to focus on more traditional publishing and then we’re going to have another interview next week from Chelsea and that’s going to focus more on self-publishing, but you did mention that you had agents and publishers at your conference and I feel like we have talked about this a bit before on the podcast, but I still feel like it’s a bit confusing. Like, what’s the actual difference between the two? How does one’s role play with the other one?

Lindsey Smith: Yeah, that’s a great question. In traditional publishing, well here’s the thing, there’s publishers that are your standard top five, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House. Those publishers, the agents are the gatekeepers because if you figure if people just cold pitch those publishers all day long, we would not be able to publish the quality of books that they do. What happens is they utilize agents which are basically self-employed freelancers to research and go over all of the different pitches that they are getting and really weed them out to then be able to go to a publishing house, the editors at publishing houses and take those pitches to them because they took the time to weed through all of those.

Lindsey Smith: Now there’s also publishers that accept unsolicited queries from authors. I know like Chronicle Books for example is a pretty big publisher. You’ve seen their work pretty much in every bookstore, novelty gift shop or anything like that, anthropology, things like that. Their books are everywhere, but they do also seek unsolicited pitches via their email, I think on their website. There are publishers that do that. Then there are small publishers like my publishing press that we accept pitches as well from individuals. We follow similar standards that you would need to send to an agent.

Lindsey Smith: We are particular about that because for anyone pitching, the quality of what you send, either an agent or a publisher, like following directions I can’t stress that enough is the biggest thing. I mean honestly like 97% of the reason why pitches don’t go through or queries don’t go through is because people don’t follow simple directions and honestly that says a lot about working with you, if you’re not able to follow the directions. That’s what agents are weeding out to then pitch to publishers, but like I said, publishers can also accept pitches, some of them do, a lot of them don’t.

Lindsey Smith: In person conferences like ours for example, my editor from Macmillan was there and that’s the only time that you would get access to her to pitch unsolicited.

Alexa Peduzzi: Got it. That’s really interesting, so typically it’s the agent who kind of connects the author and the publisher?

Lindsey Smith: Yes, yeah.

Alexa Peduzzi: Got it. That’s super interesting. Like you said, your publisher was there and her name was Laura and you published Eat Your Feelings with Laura, so do you want to talk a bit about that book?

Lindsey Smith: Sure. Yeah, I did pretty much the same thing. In 2015, I got the idea actually for a different book, similar concept, just different all around and Chronicle was my ideal publisher for the original book that I had. It was called Hunger Management and it was about being hangry and I started going to conferences because while I knew that I could pitch a traditional query letter via email, for me I just felt like I do better at in-person things. I wanted to meet these people that I would be connecting with. I wanted to hear them, get the feedback. I wanted that in-person experience and I wanted to be able to learn from them as well if they had any insights or they thought things needed to be changed.

Lindsey Smith: I spent several months going around to different conferences, pitching my book and I actually got representations, offers from around eight different agents for that proposal. I spent a lot of time working on that proposal. I think people, one thing is for nonfiction specifically you are pitching a book proposal. You’re actually not writing the book. You’re talking about an overview of the book, your platform, your bio, sample chapters and the outline and also little descriptions of what will be included in each chapter.

Lindsey Smith: You don’t actually write the book because for nonfiction, it could change or they could say, “Well, we like your platform, but we think that you know this is an industry trend right now. Could you write something about this?” That will be tweaked specifically for nonfiction. I spent a lot of time on my proposal, really trying to make it the best that it could be. I actually hired someone specifically and was a former agent and this person was able to really help me solidify and gave me really great insights, and when I pitched and sent my proposal, honestly all the agents said it was the best proposal they ever saw because I really did my research, I did my homework.

Lindsey Smith: I think that’s what help it apart because I didn’t have huge social medial numbers like a lot of people think that you need to have, but I had a solid idea, a good foundation and I did the work and it showed and so I had eight offers and then I ultimately chose the person that I thought I would work best with and that I thought got the project and I’m really glad that he did. His name is Eric. I don’t know if I should announce this, but he’s actually going to be at Pitch Publish Promote 2019.

Alexa Peduzzi: Nice! That’s exciting!

Lindsey Smith: Yeah and he’s going to be there all weekend too and we’re going to do some really fun things with him. Then from there, I actually met and pitched to Laura as well at the conference that I went to. I met Laura and my agent, Eric, at the same time. I also had a unique lens because I got to meet an editor that Eric was going to pitch and she liked it too. My book deal happened pretty fast, so that, I signed with Eric in June of 2016 and I had a book deal in August.

Alexa Peduzzi: That’s amazing!

Lindsey Smith: Yeah. I think one of the things too that was interesting is I pitched and this is why also with nonfiction, you can get excited about your idea and it’s great and like, I was super amped about my idea and I obviously like people … Agents loved it. Anytime I’d talk to people about it, they’d love it. Once Eric submitted it to Macmillan, they come back to me and said, “Hey, we really love the idea, but we’d love Lindsey as a brand more and we don’t feel like this book is doing her justice. We want something we’re all encompassing,” and so –

Alexa Peduzzi: Do you mind if we take a quite second right and talk a bit about your brand because I don’t think we mentioned that at the beginning and I think that’s important to like understanding how solid this story is? Do you want to talk about like you being The Food Mood Girl?

Lindsey Smith: Yeah, my first book in 2012, it was called Junk Foods and Junk Moods and it was then that I branded myself as The Food Mood Girl. I wanted to have a brand that when people heard it, they knew what it was, they knew what I was dealing with. I wanted to focus on food and mood and mood and food and go back and forth in between the two and because my personal story was that I suffered from anxiety as a kid and I was hospitalized and I started going to a wellness center when I was like 13 years old and it changed my life. I had been into these things and wanted to share this perspective with people on mental health and food and mood. In 2012, that’s when I launched that. That was the start of my foundation. Social media, I love it, but it’s also really not my thing.

Alexa Peduzzi: Amen.

Lindsey Smith: Yeah, I do more in-person things. I do more connecting. People are always like, “You have so many connections and publicity.” Like, I love doing PR. I do PR for myself and so I just have a lot of connections and those connections I think are ultimately what the agent and the publisher saw because at the time I think I had like 1,500 Instagram followers during the proposal, but I had been on 15 TV shows across the country.

Alexa Peduzzi: And you just did one yesterday, right?

Lindsey Smith: Yeah. I think those types of things too are the foundation that they saw and they saw that I stayed consistent with something for almost 10 years, like the food and mood angle and all of my work was created around that. Whenever we pitched the book for Hunger Management one, that’s when they said, “You know, we love, but you as a brand, you have so much. You’re more encompassing. You’ve done all of these amazing things and you do all the speaking and you’ve been on all of these segments and you’ve written all these articles, like that’s what we want to focus on. We want something that’s more encompassing to your brand overall.” They came back to me actually and were like, “Hey, can you get together another proposal in like a day?”

Alexa Peduzzi: “Yeah, sure. Of course.”

Lindsey Smith: I’m like, “Oh, my god!” I came up with Eat Your Feelings in like 24 hours.

Alexa Peduzzi: That’s amazing!

Lindsey Smith: I had to do like a whole new book proposal, but it was funny because I actually had agreed of Hunger Management because I was so excited about it, like I had spent a year like writing or I had spent year, yeah, almost a year like from the idea, to writing my proposal, to pitching it and people being excited about it, to then one day being like, “Well, that’s not happening.”

Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah, exactly. Well, you like even formed your pitch all around it. You said that you showed up with like hangry bag and like you were just all in on this idea, so it’s a really interesting that an awesome idea that people like might not be the idea you end up going with.

Lindsey Smith: Yeah. I think it’s important to note that because I think and now sitting on the other side of it where we’re looking for projects as a publishing company and like looking for authors to bring on from sitting from that other side, I see how it happens because you could think an idea is the greatest idea and everyone could like it, but the there’s parts of the process where you have to sift through it and see, “Does this make sense? Does this fit with what I said at the very beginning? Does this fit your beyond-the-book goals?” Like, the Hunger Management thing, it would have been funny and it would have been what I like that I like wanted to walk into Urban Outfitters and see that there.

Lindsey Smith: I didn’t care if people knew that that was me or not. It was a funny book. I like to write with humor and I thought it was an opportunity for me to do that. However, from a shelf-like perspective, Macmillan was looking at it as a long-term investment. This is something that extends beyond-that-year gift, like funny “ha ha” thing that you give someone. This is actually something that can have a longer shelf-life on the book shelf and through events and could be a continuous success as opposed to something that could sell thousands of copies within that gift genre, but it may not go past. It may have an expiration date essentially.

Lindsey Smith: It’s important to know that and that too, like your idea, it could be a great idea and people could love it, it could need tweak. I think one of the things that you always have to remain is open and you have to do your research. You have to see what’s out there on the market, what makes yours different, what angle are you bringing to this and really get clear on some of those things.

Alexa Peduzzi: Definitely and I think that is really important and that’s something that I didn’t realize going into the conference. I actually had a chance to talk to Laura. I did a pitch for her and this is the biggest hot mess I’ve ever done, but like I had some ideas and she kind of helped talk me through it and she was like, “Have you ever read this book?” and I was like, “No, I’ve never heard of it.” She was like, “This is similar to what you’re talking about. Why don’t you read that and I think it will help you.” I bought it off at Amazon that day and I’ve been reading it and it’s been great and it has been helping me kind of formulate my ideas a lot better.

Alexa Peduzzi: Just because I know what’s out there, I’m not copying it, but I already know a similar topic has been talked about, so I know how I would want to do it differently.

Lindsey Smith: Yeah and that is really important to note. It’s because it’s not that the ideas are bad or I mean I don’t what the ideas, and after this, we should talk about it because I’m interested, your idea, but it’s one of those things that you really have to do some research on it because if it has been … A lot of things have been before. There are three other books called Eat Your Feelings on the market or four. Like, there are other books with the same exact name. It’s just a matter also of positioning and how it is being brought to the table. There is one Eat Your Feelings book that’s a memoir that has like a recipe at the end of every section.

Lindsey Smith: There’s another one that is self-published and I haven’t bought any of these books, so I’m only going off the descriptions and then there’s another one that’s actually like Eat Your Feelings, “I guess I’m sad, I want grilled cheese, I’m eating like the grossest grilled cheese that you can find.” That’s all fine, but mine is eating for your emotional and mental wellbeing and so I mapped every single recipe chapter into feelings. If you’re sad, stressed, tired, hangry or bored, those are the recipe chapters and within each of those recipe chapters, they’re broken down into craving.

Lindsey Smith: If you’re craving something sweet, salty, crunchy or a drink, then I go even further. That’s very unique. There are no other books that are like that. Even though their similar concepts, it’s about what makes yours stand out, what makes it different and what flare and what personality are you going to bring to it.

Alexa Peduzzi: Definitely and I think with bloggers, kind of bringing it back to blogging, we do this all the time. When I’m shooting a brownie recipe and I need a unique way to style that, I go to Pinterest and I look at all the brownie recipes because there are thousands, if not millions, of brownie recipes on the internet today and I see how everyone else is styling them. Again, it’s not copying. It’s just kind of, like you said, finding the way that you want to do it which I think it’s just an extremely sometimes frustrating process, but it’s also really rewarding once you finally finalize it.

Lindsey Smith: Yeah, exactly.

Alexa Peduzzi: Going back to just having an idea, I’d really like to kind of take this interview in a spot where I have this idea and I don’t know what to do with it. I want to go the traditional publishing route, but maybe you can talk a bit more about, “So I have this idea, where do I go from here?”

Lindsey Smith: I think the biggest thing if you have an idea and you’re excited about it, there are several things that you can do. I highly, highly, highly recommend you can research nonfiction book propose … I’m assuming most people on her are nonfiction.

Alexa Peduzzi: I would assume yeah. That would be like a cookbook or a memoir or something like that.

Lindsey Smith: Yeah, I would get a nonfiction book proposal template and start looking through that to start seeing how you may flush out that idea. I think that really the book proposal is a business plan essentially for the book and most people resist wanting to create this, so they want to kind of not really put the time and energy, but I’m telling you that if you put the time and energy into it, it’s going to help you so much because it helps you flush that idea out. You start like one of the sections is comparison, just like what we’re talking about, book comparisons. You should know what your comparisons are. For Hunger Management, I think mine were … Actually, I’m at my computer. I’m going to pull this up really quick because I think it’s really …

Lindsey Smith: I want to read one to you because I think that it’s really good because I wrote it, but I think this really will help you understand and get the essence of how these ideas start to get flushed out and it’s by things like this. I’m going to read two things even this introduction because I started thinking, “Okay, Hunger Management. What happens when you’re hungry and what is the feeling?” The very first paragraph of my proposal in the overview is this, “Do ever get so hangry and become enraged and nothing can stop you from stuffing down an entire pepperoni pizza? Hell, you don’t care if the pizza crafted by Julia Child or thrown together by a child? You just want it and want it now. What then happens is not you’re not just angry, you’re down right hangry.”

Lindsey Smith: Then that’s when I go into, “And you’re not alone. According to a survey, this and this and blah, blah, blah,” and I really go into it, but I grab the reader’s attention. For me, I really got it into the mindset of the idea of what does happen when you’re hangry. I’m using this as an example, but whatever your idea is just, “What is that feeling? What are they experiencing? What happens to them? What’s going on for them?” Start to dive a little bit deeper into that because what I find is oftentimes people that write books is we are ahead of where the reader wants to be.

Lindsey Smith: If you’re writing a gluten-free cookbook, your reader, they may be gluten-free and they’re looking into it for some new recipes, but also you’re writing for that person that just got that celiac diagnosis. You’re writing for that person that is thinking about cutting gluten up because their stomach is not feeling so great. You may be using all these different greens, gluten-free greens and be doing all these things, but your reader is like, “I’m just trying to survive.”

Alexa Peduzzi: Right.

Lindsey Smith: It’s important to kind of also when you have that idea is to go into it from what lens where your readers at. For me, even saying something like a pepperoni pizza and it’s because that may not be my thing, but like that’s probably going to be my reader’s thing. These are things like I’m to the point where I mean I still get hangry for sure, but I’m past a lot of these points, so I had to really take myself into how those people are feeling.

Alexa Peduzzi: Right and I think that’s really important. Just because you know what you want to say and you know your experiences, but you don’t know your readers’ experiences and you don’t kind of know where they are in that journey, so kind of taking it back a couple of steps and really focusing on like the big picture will almost help you kind of narrow down your idea.

Lindsey Smith: Yeah, the second thing, I’m looking at the proposal now, is that market analysis. Who is the target for this? I’m going to use gluten-free now. Is it the person that they’ve been gluten-free for 10 years and they’re over all of the options and want something new? Is it the person that’s just starting? Is it a Millennial? Is it a Baby Boomer? Who are these people because that’s really who you’re going to be writing to? My friend right now, he has a book coming out the fall of 2019 I believe and actually they’ve changed the name. I don’t know if I can announce it, but the original title was Grownup Drinks and their cocktail is inspired by the ’90s, so he has like the Fresh Mint of Bel-Air and all of these things.

Alexa Peduzzi: That’s amazing!

Lindsey Smith: It’s really awesome. His market analysis would be ’90s, kids that grew up in the ’90s. Like, what are their ages now? Where are they shopping? Really understanding those things because will not only help you flush out the idea more, but it can also help you understand who’s going to be reading this book. People don’t think about these things. We just think only idea, “I have to make an outline. I have to do this.” All of those things can come once you get really clear on these other initial things.

Alexa Peduzzi: Right. Those will all come together in the book proposal. You mentioned the comparisons. Would that be considered a part of the book proposal and can you talk a bit more about that?

Lindsey Smith: Yeah, that would be the next one. That would be the competitive analysis and that’s where you really look at what books fit the similar style and shelf space that you are looking to fit where you feel this book fits in the marketplace and it’s important to find the similarities, but then also the differences. For example, for the competitive analysis for Hunger Management, I did Thug Kitchen, 50 Shades of Chicken, What The F Should I Make for Dinner and Every Poops 410 Pounds a Year. The funny thing is I purposely chose cookbooks and then a random book that seems like it has nothing to do with it, but here’s why. I’ll just read one of them.

Lindsey Smith: “Thug Kitchen, this book is a New York Times Best Seller. The book offers practical and real health advice and recipes in a lighthearted and humorous way making it not only great for the health conscious but also a wonderful gift book. Unlike this book, Hunger Management will include recipes with under five ingredients making the recipe super easy to prepare and helpful for hangry newbies in the kitchen feel like culinary pros.” There’s an example of it is similar in this way, but here’s how it’s different because you want to show that there’s room on the marketplace for it, but you have a new way of highlighting this.

Lindsey Smith: The Everybody Poops 410 Pounds a Year, this one was my favorite book or my favorite one because I said, “Well, this book certainly contains no recipes. At least we hope not. It does take a taboo subject and makes for a quick and funny read about health and the digestive system. This makes for a gift book or a bathroom read. Similarly, Hunger Management will provide health information in a digestible funny and relatable way. Unlike Everybody Poops 410 Pounds a Year, Hunger Management will provide healthy advice and recipes to help readers overcome their hangry episodes.”

Lindsey Smith: For Hunger Management, I pitched it as WebMD meets BuzzFeed because I wanted to create science information and break it down in a funny which is exactly what this book did. By seeing comps, it helps the agent recognize, “Oh, this is more than a cookbook. This is more than a gift book. This really has the opportunity to be something unique,” and it’s because of the comps that I picked.

Alexa Peduzzi: Definitely and you know exactly what you mean when you say WebMD meets BuzzFeed, like you can almost picture it in your mind like, “Oh, I can start to understand the kind of content, the kind of writing style, all of that and I can totally tell why that is important,” and something that really stuck out to me on your proposal, you’re kind of speaking like you speak. Is that kind of frowned upon or is that totally okay?

Lindsey Smith: The proposal should be written in the style of the book that you’re writing.

Alexa Peduzzi: Got it.

Lindsey Smith: Mine specifically was more in the way that I speak. I also tried to make it even something like a comparison where I could have easily said, “This book is like it because it’s funny. It makes a bathroom read and it gets the information out there in a funny and digestible way,” instead I said something like, “Well, this book certainly contains no recipes. At least we hope not. I does take a …” Something like that, it also shows the agent and the publisher essentially that I am speaking like that’s who I am and that’s how I’m going to write this book.

Alexa Peduzzi: Right. I think that’s really important for food bloggers especially if you are thinking doing a cookbook that you are creating a brand with your blog, so it’s good to kind of display that brand and to be that brand in every kind of aspect that you promote that brand, and in your book proposal, that is just one of the ways that you can be your brand. Would you agree?

Lindsey Smith: Mmhmm (affirmative). Oh, yeah, 100% and it will really set you apart. I know I’m like really talking about this proposal but I do think it’s very, very important and I think it should be something that should be taken very seriously because if not, your chances of getting seen or … Like, there are million juice books out there, books on juicing and smoothies and they still come out every single year and so it’s not that there’s a crowded marketplace or there are too many of these. It’s within things like the book proposal that makes yours the one that they choose, you know what I mean?

Alexa Peduzzi: Yeah, definitely. That’s really, really fascinating. Once you have your perfect proposal crafted and ready to go, what then will you do with it?

Lindsey Smith: That’s when you would start querying agents. You write a query letter to start pitching them via email. You come to a conference like Pitch Publish Promote to meet them in person, and then once you get their attention, then if they’re interested, they’ll ask for the proposal. That’s whenever you would then send this over. That’s kind of how the process works. Now, there are some publishers like we as a small press like to see a query letter, but I also want to see a proposal because it does tell me the type of author that you’re going to be. If you send me a proposal that’s like three pages long, I’m going to realize that maybe you’re not committed to it.

Lindsey Smith: That’s not to say we do select authors just from meetings and ideas and one of our authors that were launching this spring is someone that I reach out to, because I liked their work and I thought it would make an interesting product and so that happens as well, but for the most part, the agent will request the book proposal and then that’s when you’ll send them that or if it’s a small press … It’s kind of all different. Some agents or small presses will ask for nonfiction. They’ll say, “Send me a query letter and a proposal.”

Lindsey Smith: Some want to see them both. Some want the query letter first and then they’ll let you know if they want more. That’s where it comes down to really researching the guidelines of every individual.

Alexa Peduzzi: Following the directions.

Lindsey Smith: It all comes back to what we learned when we were like 3 years old.

Alexa Peduzzi: Absolutely and that was like one of the number one takeaways that I took from the conference and that’s like it’s so simple and like you said, “We’ve known it since we were wee,” but like it’s so important when you’re competing against hundreds of other authors trying to get the attention of the same person you are.

Lindsey Smith: Being on the receiving end now, I’m like blown away honestly. The fact that people don’t, it still blows me away. I’m like, “Wow! If you just follow directions, you have a really good shot at this.” I mean we probably got several pitches this week alone and none of them came with query letters. They all just said, one was like, “Attached is my proposal,” and then their email signature was like 10 lines long. I’m like, “What is happening? Like your email signature is larger than your actual message that you sent.” I’m just like, “I’m not opening it because I don’t know if this is a spam.”

Lindsey Smith: Honestly, that one just got deleted and it could have been like the best thing I ever read, but I’m just not going to read it.

Alexa Peduzzi: Exactly and your time is limited. I think we all understand that as bloggers who might have full-time jobs, who might have part-time jobs, who might have families, like we’re all balancing a lot and publishing houses are the exact same way.

Lindsey Smith: Think of it like when people, you’ve taken the time, it’s just no different than a blog. You’ve taken time to create a really great blog that you feel proud of and that you’re working towards and then you get an email and someone’s like one of those spammy emails that’s like, “Hey, can you link back on this thing?” or whatever or it’s like, “Hey, can I send you my $5 granola bar in exchange for like all these beautiful photos that you take?” It just doesn’t feel good and so you can imagine that it’s no different than what agents are going through and publishers like they want the great next thing.

Lindsey Smith: They want to see this amazing work, and if they’re getting these, if you’re not following directions, then it just feels yucky, it feels no different than any email that you would get for your blog from someone that’s trying to pitch you something.

Alexa Peduzzi: Right, totally and that is just such a great takeaway. I think we’re going to start wrapping up here, but I wanted to ask you, how can having a blog, having a brand kind of help with this whole publishing process? I know we talked about this beforehand, maybe not the publishing process but maybe like the promotional process, how can that help?

Lindsey Smith: I think all of it is really part of your overall platform strategy and so if your blog is something that you can utilize and you can showcase your work and what you’ve done, I think that’s great. I think it’s funny because my publishers on this little card that made for me called me a blogging sensation and I just joke about that all the time because I rarely blog. I just joke about that like everywhere I go. I’m like, “I’m glad you guys think so, but I literally, barely … I think I have three blogs out this year, blog posts,” because for me my platform, people can read my articles and things like that. I do spend more of time pitching articles, pitching media opportunities, in-person things because I thrive that way.

Lindsey Smith: I thrive more off of connections in that regard and so to me it’s not a better value than someone that’s been consistent blogging and has followers. It’s just a different value and your goal with the blog or whatever you’re bringing to the table is to showcase that value. If you’re thinking, “Oh, I don’t have a million followers on Instagram or a blog hit or whatever,” maybe you have really great connections, maybe you work full-time at a company that has 20 locations and they want you to do something for all of their employees at every location.

Lindsey Smith: That is huge. That right there is something to note and it’s noteworthy and it’s important for an agent to know because you have to utilize the resources that you have and don’t compare yourself to other people’s platform. I think all the time that’s one thing that I used to maybe do where I’m like, “Oh, I don’t have Instagram followers. I can’t even do swipe up thing,” and whatever it is, like you compare yourself to that and I’m just like the funny thing is though I live a life that I love, I built a brand that I’m proud of and I’ve done it in a way that feels good to me. This is what I do full time and I’ve done full time for 10 years. I feel great about that fact.

Lindsey Smith: If I had more followers in this or that, like it doesn’t matter because what I was able to showcase to agents was exactly what I have and what I’m proud of, because I think if you go into with that energy as well, agents are going to see that. They’re going to see that you’re excited about the speaking opportunities or that you’re willing to leverage the resources that you do have. You may not have 5,000, 10,000 blog hits a month, 20,000 whatever it is, but you may have 300 awesome readers that are fully engaged, that love you no matter what and then these other opportunities from connections that you have in your town or whatever and that is very, very valuable. I would say, don’t underestimate what you’ve created for yourself with your blog and then the rest of your platform as well.

Alexa Peduzzi: Yes. Oh, my gosh! I love that so much and I think this is actually a perfect place to leave off. Thank you so much, Lindsey, for joining us on the Food Blogger Pro podcast today. I wanted to ask you where people can follow along with what you’re doing and maybe check out the Pitch Publish Promote conference and your books, all of that fun stuff.

Lindsey Smith: Yeah, well, thank you for having me. This was super fun. I love nerding out and talking about this stuff that really excites me. You can check out One Idea Press if you have a book idea, you’re maybe thinking about a small press that you think we may be a great fit, oneideapress.com. You can send us a note, a proposal, follow the directions.

Alexa Peduzzi: Follow the directions.

Lindsey Smith: But I’m happy to connect too. I mean I’m happy to just kind of learn. I like learning about people and what ideas you have as well. You can follow me on Instagram as well. Connect there. My stuff is foodmoodgirl.com and then our publishing conference is pitchpublishpromote.com and we will be announcing the launch. We already have it booked and ready to go, but we’ll be announcing it back in January.

Alexa Peduzzi: Great! Oh, I’m so excited for that. I will be there first in line again. Awesome! Well, thank you so much, Lindsey. This was a blast and I’ll talk to you soon.

Lindsey Smith: All right. Thank you.

Alexa Peduzzi: And that is that. We hope this interview opened your eyes to the awesome world of traditional book publishing and spark some inspiration if you’re working on your own book, but before we wrap up today, it’s time for our Reviewer Of The Week and this one comes from username YumYoga and it says, “Every podcast Bjork does is full of insight and great information I can use right away. Each interview is a wonderful balance of real challengers bloggers face all the time, how to overcome them, humor and practical tips that help me stay motivated and help me improve a little more each day. You and Lindsay are awesome! Keep up the great work!”

Alexa Peduzzi: Thanks so much for the review YumYoga. We always appreciate reviews and they actually help get the podcast in front of other people, so be sure to leave a review for us on iTunes. It also gives you a chance to be featured in an upcoming episode of the podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in and from all of us here at FBP HQ, may you get a great week.

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