Guest blog: Social media and the cookbook

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We keep hearing that old-fashioned book tours are a thing of the past, but when I watch Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois in action, I don’t feel quite as bad about that.

Technically, the cookbook authors are best known for hybridizing two popular ideas: Making quick batches of “no-knead” bread, and making bread dough that would keep for days in the fridge. But ever since their first book was released last year, “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day,” I’ve registered most strongly how they stay in constant contact with readers.

On their blog, they post recipes and videos, and answer reader questions nonstop. Why did the dough turn out too wet in the sandwich bread, inquired one fan who was stuck on a recipe. Can duck eggs be substituted for chicken eggs, asked another. Can a particular recipe be doubled, asked a third, and on and on. The same is true on Twitter, where the pair, using separate accounts, engage in friendly daily conversation, promote their recipes, and answer questions.

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It can’t compare to the old-fashioned world of sitting in the same room as a visting author, hearing them talk, asking questions. But in that world, at best, we get a moment to ask a single question or present a book to be signed. Electronic back-and-forths, done in this way, net a larger amount of direct contact, and even long-lasting relationships.

For the authors, “If you don’t have a TV show, this is democracy in the world of marketing,” said Hertzberg. “The beauty of Twitter or Facebook is, the only people who get your message are people who have publicly said they want it. It’s the opposite of spam and junk mail.”

For Francois, it’s also become a form of socializing. “I work alone. I’m in the house by myself. It’s fantastic to have this community of other cooks and food enthusiasts that you’re in touch with all the time. I find it really inspiring, I get a lot of ideas and a lot of back and forth with other chefs.”

It’s such a part of what they do, in fact, that they included a Twitter address in their new book, “Healthy Bread In Five Minutes A Day.” When I spoke with them on the phone last week – ironically, as they were embarking on an old-fashioned book tour – I told them they made quite a leap of faith that the social tool and the address they printed will be intact for years to come.

“I think it was a calculated risk,” Hertzberg said.

And if not, said Francois, “it’ll be a stamp of the time we wrote the book.”

Rebekah Denn writes at eatallaboutit.com.

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