Dianne Jacob dishes on everything from food blogs to making it as a writer
Dianne Jacob is the food writer all other food writers turn to for help.
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It seems like women are not taken as seriously in our business, and I'd like to change that. Even though most food writers are women, men outnumber them by a long shot at the top.Skip to next paragraph
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Q: Has food writing changed any more than other forms of writing over the years? Does any book on writing that was published when WWFF first came out need a new edition?
A: You know what's changed the most? Restaurant reviewing. It's because traditionally, reviewing has concentrated on high-end dining, and eating out has become less less formal and more frequent. It doesn't help that Yelp, Chowhound, blogs and other Internet citizen reviewer sites have made everyone an expert. Plus, many food bloggers get invited to private "soft openings" of upscale restaurants, where they dine for free and publish accounts – not reviews – immediately, scooping food magazines and newspapers. This infuriates the heck out of traditional print reviewers, who have lovely jobs with expense accounts. There aren't many of them left.
The other thing that's changed is that if you want to blog about cooking, you need to become an excellent photographer, not just a good writer. Readers want to see the food. They have high standards because they're accustomed to beauty shots in magazines. Drummond is famous for using dozens of shots in a single post.
To your second question, there was so much more to say after five years. In addition to 17,000+ words on food blogging, I updated the chapter on freelance writing (harder than ever) and enlarged the section on self-published books (easier than ever). I added more details on cookbook writing and production, because I co-wrote one ("Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas") with a chef after the first edition came out in 2005. I wanted tell readers more about what to expect.
In a few more years, I hope to write a third edition to explain writing apps for mobile devices. That was just starting when I turned in this version.
Q: In your chapter on being a successful freelance writer, you say that "you might have to write for free when you're starting out." Did you agonize over giving that advice?
A: Oh gosh yes. I would like beginning writers to get paid. But that's not how the system works these days for smaller publications, and they are the easiest ones to get into. I don't advise doing it for long, however. I tell people to do an excellent job, get a clip and make it clear they'll ask for money the next time. If the editor says no, try another publication.
Working for free has become a huge issue for food bloggers. Every day someone asks them to write about a product in exchange for keeping it, write a recipe to feature a product, or contribute a recipe to a website for no pay. And for every food blogger who's trying to get paid, there are 10 more who are thrilled to write for free, because they're blogging as a hobby. It's a big dilemma.