About Rachel Randolph

Rachel Randolph is co-author of the book and blog We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook with her mom Becky Johnson. She lives near Dallas with her husband Jared and their toddler. Shocking their meat-lovin’ families, the couple decided to give up meat, dairy, and eggs in 2010. Rachel’s passion for cooking ignited as she set out to make vegan food taste delicious. She and Becky share a food blog (www.welaughwecrywecook.com), where vegans and omnivores are both welcome at the table, and laughter and love are the key ingredients to every dish.

Get a Piece of the Food Craze Pie—It’s Not Just for Foodies

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Food is everywhere. Take a quick scroll down your Facebook feed. Open up Instagram. Take a peak at your Pinterest boards. Everyone is sharing recipes and pictures of their dinner.

My mom and I have a food blog, where we post recipes and food-related stories. That’s what we wrote about in our mother/daughter food memoir, so it was obvious for us to blog about food. But did you know you don’t have to write about food in your books to get in on the food buzz? Everyone eats, so regardless of what you write about, you have that connection to readers. Hey, we both eat. What do you know? Maybe we have something else in common. That’s why first dates and client meetings and mixers are almost always food-centered. It’s guaranteed common ground. Even if you hate the food, you have something to talk about, right?

If you enjoy cooking, a great way to add new interesting shareable content to your blog is to post an occasional recipe. It’s also nice to get all your favorite recipes in one spot online so you can pull them up at the grocery store or on vacation, or easily share them with your family and friends. Next time someone asks you for your pasta salad recipe, the one you bring to every church picnic, you can let them know it’s on your blog. You can even hand them your business card with your blog site on it. If you’re shy-by-nature like I am, it’s an easy, subtle way to share about your books. The card gives them a place to go for the recipe, but also tells them you are an author and speaker. It might just be the events coordinator at your church clamoring for your recipe, and now she has your speaker card and a personal connection to you. See how that works?

Original recipes and pictures make great unique content. But don’t worry if your famous pasta salad isn’t your own recipe….unless of course, you’ve been claiming it as your own all these years. If you made a recipe that is not your own, but you really want to share it on your blog, you have a few options:

  • Write a post about the recipe, including your own pictures and descriptions of the cooking process, then provide a link to the actual recipe. Food bloggers love this and will often share your post on their networks and you don’t need their permission.
  • If you really want to post a full recipe on your site or if it’s from a cookbook, you can ask the author for permission. Keep in mind you’ll still need to take your own pictures unless the author specifically gives you permission to use her’s.
  • Make a modified version of the recipe. The Food Blogger Alliance industry standards say this:
    • If you’re modifying someone else’s recipe, it should be called “adapted from“.
    • If you change a recipe substantially, you may be able to call it your own. But if it’s somewhat similar to a publisher recipe, you should say it’s “inspired by“, which means that you used someone else’s recipe for inspiration, but changed it substantially.
    • If you change three ingredients, you can in most instances call the recipe yours.

As bloggers, it’s all about connecting and building a network of like-minded virtual friends. Copyrights on recipes are difficult to claim, but I like to err on the side of attribution. If I took inspiration from a blogger, I at least acknowledge that they had the original idea and I include a link to their version, even if it became something quite different. When adapting a recipe, be sure to write the directions in your own words. They are technically the only part of a recipe that may be covered by copyright laws.

I rarely post a recipe that I merely modified. It just feels wrong to take someone else’s creative content. In that case, I might link to the blogger’s original recipe and say, “I made So-and-So’s recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and boy, were they delicious. I used almond milk for the dairy milk and used cinnamon instead of nutmeg.” I’m still giving my readers value, a yummy adaptable recipe, and networking with another blogger at the same time. Win. Win.

Food is meant to be shared. Just keep these guidelines in mind. Then cook, share, repeat.

Keeping Track of Contacts, Media History, and Speaking Engagements (Sample Forms Included)

Many of us creative types wish to not be bothered with anything but our craft, especially when a deadline is approaching. But as your electric company has probably conveyed to you, creative types aren’t exempt from pesky little tasks like paying bills, and the IRS doesn’t excuse us from keeping up with our receipts and paperwork either. Much the same, our publishers need their right-brained authors to tap into that left hemisphere on occasion.

Last week, my co-author/mom and I worked on our publisher’s Advanced Sales and Marketing Information (ASMI), which included compiling a list of influencers that should receive a copy of the book. Our book deadline is still three months away and it won’t be on the shelves for another year. As a newbie author I didn’t know to plan for this project and my experienced co-author was surprised at how early it was being requested. It seems we authors have driven our publishers to request the information earlier and earlier.

If you’ve thought ahead and kept good records, the gathering of information will not be a big deal. Then, you can focus on the fun part of the ASMI, the description of your book, the key takeaways, the reason you’re writing it and so on. If you haven’t kept good records, though, you will likely spend days tracking down addresses and contacts, finding the best full service moving rates at http://www.fullservicemovers.biz/ and racking your brain to remember the name of the church where you spoke in the Fall of 2005 and what the call letters are for that radio station in Milwaukee that interviewed you last spring.

Don’t be surprised when you are frantically trying to meet your deadline and your publisher says, “Oh, by the way, we need the following in three weeks.”

A list of names, professional titles, and addresses of 50 influential people who can be counted on to help promote your book.

As someone who has done this legwork for self-published authors, I can say that you really want to take advantage of this offer. It’s a lot of work and expensive to package and mail 50 or more books. Your publisher is offering, but you need the connections and their contact information. In the day of email and Facebook, unless you run a business, it’s rare to exchange physical addresses. I suggest, as you meet potential influencers, to tell them you are writing a book and would love their address so you can have a copy sent to them when it comes out (you don’t have to have a contract to use this line). When you get an address, quickly add it to your online contact database and tag the person as a potential influencer. Excel is an excellent and easy place to track contacts. Here’s a sample contact form you’re welcome to use.

A simple excel spreadsheet can help authors keep track of friends, family, potential endorsers, and media all in one place. Download a copy in the link below.

Download a Sample Contact Spreadsheet

A list of prominent people from whom we should request an endorsement.

If you are lucky or have put in the time to network with other authors or experts in your field, you might know a few prominent people who would gladly write an endorsement for you. Even if you don’t know a person, if they would be a perfect endorser for your book and you can get their address, include them. You may be surprised who will say yes. One of my self-publishing clients requested an endorsement from Olivia-Newton John on her book Alphatudes: the Alphabet of Gratitude. Instead of an endorsement, Olivia ended up offering a free download of her song “Grace and Gratitude” with the purchase of the book. Start a contact record for any potential endorser now or when you are researching competition for your proposal. Those “competitors” may be perfect people to ask.

A list of media you think should receive a copy of the book.

Your publisher will have a set of media contacts that they already plan to send your book to, but you can’t rely on them to know every local or topic-specific outlet. The great news is they will ask you for your input on this, since you know your topic best. As you come across media outlets (blogs, magazines, newspapers, television shows) that would be perfect for your book, put their mailing information in your database.

A list of your previous media and speaking history.

For some, this may be a short and easy list. My writing and speaking career is just getting started, so I I’ve had very few media and speaking appearances, and even still, I almost forgot some of the details I needed.

My mom, on the other hand, has been writing and speaking for almost two decades. Try remembering 20 years of speaking engagements and interviews for 40+ books. My suggestion is to keep one ongoing spreadsheet for speeches and one for media. Every time you finish an interview or publish an article, write down all the details. The name of your contact person, the host’s name, the topic, the date, etc. Put contact information in your contact database, though, not on these forms, so you only have to keep one record updated. Here are sample Speech and Media History forms you are free to use.

Keeping track of all your speeches in one place will not only make it easier to fill out your ASMI, but will also give you a quick sortable  history when you need a reference for a certain speaking topic or want to pitch something fresh to a previous client. Download a copy below to start keeping track of your speeches.

Download a Sample Speech History Form

As excited as you might be for your first few interviews, you’d be surprised how quickly you’ll forget which magazine interviewed you on what topic or which tv producer you worked with. Keep it all in one place with an easy spreadsheet. Download a copy below.

Download a Sample Media History Form

How do you keep track of your contacts, media, and speaking engagements? Any other tips or suggestions?

Market to the Front of Your Own Parade

It’s my first post here at the WordServe Water Cooler, and I’ve been racking my brain trying to find something unique and helpful to share with a group of experienced and prolific writers like yourselves. For the last several years, I’ve hidden behind authors, quietly helping them with publicity, blog tours, and social media. After taking a year “off” to birth and raise a baby and to start my writing career, I find myself having to actually implement all of the marketing advice I’ve offered to others. I now have to build my own writing platform. Even with my experience, it’s scary and overwhelming.

So many other people are more competent than I am when it comes to writing, marketing, social media, cooking, healthy living, parenting…and the list goes on. When I start to think of all the ways I’m under-qualified to write and market a book about food, family, and faith, I’m tempted to become crippled with fear.

This morning, I was reading a book to my 10-month old son and these words jumped out of the page at me.

Climb any mountain…climb up to the sky!

Make a big splash! Go out on a limb!

Hold your head high and don’t be afraid to march to the front of your own parade.

I love the picture of the little boy proudly making a splash and leading his parade in Nancy Tillman’s sweet book, “Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You.”

March to the front of your own parade.

I don’t have to march to the front of your parade or The Pioneer Woman’s parade, or Seth Godin’s parade. My book, my career, my parade.

And better yet, I can hold my head high and be proud of what I do have to offer, the areas I do excel in, and the gifts God wants me to share. I don’t have to measure up to anyone else. I’m uniquely me!

Instead of thinking of it as building our platform, we could just pretend we’re marketing to the front of our own parade. Doesn’t that sound more fun and less intimidating?

Imagine a parade about you and your books, where the collection of floats tells a story. Each float celebrating a part of who you are, what you believe in, what your expertise is, what your passions are, what your books are about, what you are like.

If each of your blog posts, tweets, Facebook statuses, and online bios is a float, does your current collection of floats look like the parade you imagined for yourself? Do you think people are inviting their friends to come watch your parade? Are they jumping in and marching along with you? Is fear of failing, judgement, or not measuring up keeping you from proudly stomping around and letting yourself be seen and heard?

Hold yourself high, and don’t be afraid to march to the front of your own parade. – Nancy Tillman, Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You