This simply refreshing sangrìa recipe is full of floral flavors from white nectarines, fresh ginger, wildflower honey, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and dry prosecco. Substitute white or yellow peaches or nectarines to your heart’s content.
I’ve had this secret eating away at me for months and I’m so excited to finally get to share it here. I’m writing and photographing a cookbook. My first one. Hopefully it won’t be the last. It’s all about baking with alternative grains and flours, with every recipe hinging on a seasonal fruit or vegetable. It’s tentatively titled Alternative Baker: Reinventing Dessert with Gluten-Free Grains and Flours. Each of the 80+ recipes, 95% of which are brand-new, gets its own full-color image, shot by yours truly, and the book will feature the lovely stylings of Page Street Publishing, the same publisher that brought to light Easy Gourmet, Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking, Baking by Hand, and Lookbook Cookbook, as well as many other fabulous titles. The manuscript is due this October and the photos a month later. The release date is tentatively set for next April and the book will be available for pre-order next week.
From Book Deal to Bupkes (And Back Again)
Many of you will remember that I was offered a book deal a little over a year ago that turned out to be a no-go, and I wanted to talk a bit about what happened in the interim and how this one came to fruition.
Last spring, I wrote this post. I got a ton of amazing feedback. Most of it supported my decision, but a few comments were from people who worked in publishing saying, “Uh, that was actually a pretty good offer, yo.” That was hard to hear, but I still felt at peace with my decision to continue exploring my options. I worked on finishing my proposal and reached out to a few different agents, most of whom couldn’t take me on.
I had read an interview on Dianne Jacob’s site with literary agent Danielle Svetcov and was planning to reach out to her, when a friend of a friend offered to introduce us. It turns out Danielle is, like, THE cookbook agent in the Bay Area, but luckily I didn’t know that at the time when we spoke a year ago. All I knew was that she had authored her own humorous cookbook and that I liked her immediately.
“I needed to get out of the office so I’m going to walk in the woods while we talk, is that ok?” she said when I picked up the phone. We talked for the better part of an hour, which was amazing as other agents were available for nothing more than a brief email. She told me about another client of hers whose book she felt had sold too early in the game, before the author had a big enough following to let them command more control over the book’s aesthetics. “If we try to sell your book now, we’re going to get a lot of rejections and it won’t be fun.” She essentially told me to keep working on my blog and call her in a year for a state-of-career call. She was encouraging, but it’s hard to hear “not yet.”
Saved by Sandwiches
Devastation mixed with relief as I hung up. I cried. I went back to working full-time on my blog. I made these sandwiches, landed in the ER, and my traffic doubled. I still don’t get it.
I don’t know if it was the sandwiches, but late that fall, Page Street reached out about a book. Danielle said to loop her in if any publishers called so I did, and we had a conference call with the head publisher, William Kiester. Will comes from a background in journalism and the way he spoke was the polar opposite of the way the last publisher had addressed me. Instead of telling me what book he wanted me to write, he spent half an hour gently questioning me about what I like to cook. Page Street’s mission is to let authors write about their passions – that seems like a no-brainer, but many publishers let the marketing peeps dictate the content of their books these days. I got the feeling that this publisher would be on my team, advocating for my success and supporting my creative vision. When we hung up, Danielle let me know that she was impressed, too.
The Nitty Gritty
Page Street asked me to submit a synopsis about the book concept we’d discussed, then a handful of recipes and sample images, and they eventually made us an offer. The numbers were roughly double what the previous offer had been; it would still be just enough to cover expenses when all was said and done, but it was better. Danielle pointed out that it can be advantageous to take a lowish advance for your first book as it’s easier to “earn out” (through sales) and begin earning royalties – all of which marks a book as successful in the eyes of most publishers. Only 3 in 10 books succeed in that sense. If your first book isn’t “successful” by these standards, it can be difficult to wrangle another book deal. With a too-high advance, you can be doomed to fail right out of the gate because it will be nigh impossible to earn-out.
Page Street also separated the photography fee from the book advance which is important for two reasons.
1) If the photo fees are rolled into the advance, the book has to earn out that sum as well.
2) The separate photo deal made me feel like a professional photographer; it was a sign of respect. I could write AND I could shoot, and the publisher had acknowledged that. The other publisher had rolled the fees into one advance, claiming it made no difference (which wasn’t true); this had given me yet another reason to mistrust the other publisher and ultimately decline the offer.
Page Street is a fairly small, new publisher, but they are distributed by one of the “Big Five” publishers, Macmillan, meaning that the book should get the same distribution (exposure in stores) that a book from a larger publisher would. When I asked Danielle if we should wait for a bigger publisher, she explained that with a big publisher a new author like myself would simply get less one-on-one attention and have less control over the book. This seemed like an ideal first book experience.
Why I Really Said Yes to a Book Deal
Over the past year, I’ve learned that the manner in which I’m treated in a working relationship is equally (if not more) important than cold hard numbers. During my interactions with the first publisher who made me an offer over a year ago, I was a bundle of nerves. I couldn’t put my finger on what bothered me; I felt anxious before every interaction, confused and insecure afterward. Something about his manner just rubbed me the wrong way; we just didn’t click. His nasty side came out when my consultant and I began questioning his contract, and his words turned contemptuous. Writing a book was hard enough, I didn’t want to fight against the very person who should be cheering me on the most! How would I have the energy to do the actual work? I was relieved when the low royalty rate gave me a tangible reason to decline; I just didn’t want to work with this person.
Meanwhile, every interaction I’ve had with the team at Page Street has been a downright joy. William is a kind, supportive presence. My editor Marissa is warm, patient and positive, willing to answer the most minute questions and receptive to my (sometimes) obsessive attention to detail. The designer, Meg, has been completely respectful of all of my feedback and ideas, and a cheerleader when I ask for feedback on styling and composition. And my agent Danielle is a wealth of knowledge who I’m very grateful to have guiding me through this experience. In all, this team makes me feel valued, and that enables me to do my best work.
A Bookload of Work
So I’ve been working on this book since January and let me tell you, it’s a lot! It’s like having 2 full-time jobs (I think – I’ve never even had 1 real full-time job…). Each week I develop, shoot and write 3-4 recipes. Since most recipes take 3 or 4 tries to get right (8 is my record so far for some finicky though insanely tasty cookies), each week is a blur of shopping, baking, shooting, washing dishes (or more frequently, begging Jay to), photo editing, writing, sending recipes out for testing, and lots of exercise to counteract the effects of all the butter. We are drowning in desserts; definitely a first world problem, but still. I actually had a dream the other night that I was trying to do a cleanse but every restaurant I went to tried to make me eat butter.
But deep down, past the busyness and schedules and spreadsheets and too much sugar and SO MANY DISHES, I’m all tingly with anticipation. Come next April, I’ll be holding a copy of my very own book filled up with 80+ gems of recipes, each well-tested and flanked by a pretty picture (and hopefully you will too!). I promise to keep you posted through the rest of the process and share as much as I can. Thank you for following along on this journey!
To celebrate all this hullabaloo, I got some flowers and made us some sangrìa full of all my favorite things and inspired by this gorgeous recipe from Feasting at Home. There’s fresh ginger for a bit of zip, St. Germain elderflower liqueur for a punch of flavor, white nectarines whose red skins give the drink a rosy hue, lemon juice and honey for balance, and prosecco, sparkling water and ice to refresh. This thirst-quenching libation boasts a full-bodied floral taste that is downright intoxicating. Serve it over lots of ice, and be sure to nom those slices of booze-soaked nectarines; they’re the best part.
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White Nectarine Prosecco Sangrìa with Ginger + Elderflower
Inspired by Feasting at Home’s Peach and Elderflower Sangría
Feel free to use white or yellow peaches or nectarines here. Since fruit and wines vary in sweetness, add more lemon or honey to your taste. Do add the prosecco and sparkling water shortly before serving to retain the bubbles.
Makes 6-8 servings
2 tablespoons mild honey
1/3 cup (35 g) finely chopped fresh ginger
2 medium-sized white nectarines or peaches, chopped
2 medium-sized white nectarines or peaches, sliced
1/4 cup strained lemon juice
1 (750 ml) bottle prosecco or other dry white sparkling wine such as cava, chilled
1 cup St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, chilled
1-2 cups sparkling water, chilled
In a large measuring pitcher, muddle together the honey and chopped ginger until the juices run out of the ginger, 1 minute. Muddle in the chopped nectarines and lemon juice until well crushed. (Alternatively, pulse the mixture in a food processor or with an immersion blender to speed up this process.) Stir in half of the prosecco. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and into a large punch bowl or pitcher, pressing on the fruit pulp to extract all the good stuff. Discard the pulp.Add the rest of the prosecco, the St. Germain and the sliced nectarines to the sangría. Taste, adding more lemon juice if you feel the drink it needs it. Add ice and sparkling water to the pitcher, and serve within the hour while the drink is bubbly, ladling it into cups with bits of the fruit.