How to write & publish a cookbook in one year
We are excited to launch our new content series, Spark, highlighting entrepreneurs who are working on their hustle. In our first edition of Spark, Katzie Guy-Hamilton talks about how to write a book as well as the power of making connections to move ahead.
Have you ever thought about writing a book? What would you write about? Where would you find an agent…or better yet, a publisher? How would you get your book into stores? Well, that’s where Katzie seems to have nailed it all. In just over a year, she has gone from Head Pastry Chef soul-searching in Costa Rica to being just months away from releasing her upcoming debut cookbook ‘Clean Enough.’ In this very first edition of Spark, we uncover where she got the idea to write a book, how she did it so quickly, and her tips for getting started on your own.
Name, website, social.
Katzie Guy-Hamilton, http://www.katzieguyhamilton.com, @katzieguyhamilton
In 2 sentences or less, what are you working on?
I just finished a year-long project of brainstorming, drafting, writing, editing, and getting my very first book published, entitled, ‘Clean Enough.’ It’s been a crazy year!
Congrats! Tell us what ‘Clean Enough’ is all about?
Clean Enough is a realistic and sustainable approach to living, with the ultimate goal of awareness, or food freedom. What I mean by that is being released from the traps of diets, trends, and fear that are often associated with “bad” foods. My philosophy focuses on empowering people to discover whole foods (single ingredients) while saving room for life’s pleasures such as gorgeous best of class desserts.
This is really exciting. So, how did you get started in food and clean eating?
I am a trained Pastry Chef! I started in fine dining at Spago in Beverly Hills, Wolfgang Puck’s famed restaurant under the eye of my mentor Sherry Yard, a trailblazing pastry chef. I navigated my way through sweets and moved to Max Brenner, a hotspot in NYC, working my way up to Head Pastry Chef.
Along the way, I was becoming more and more interested in healthy eating, especially after being surrounded by sugar 24/7! I decided to earn my Health Coaching certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which became a turning point for how I approached food personally and how I wanted to share it with others. I developed a passion for feeding people really good food, and I don’t just mean things that taste great, but foods that heal and have benefits outside of just our immediate pleasure sensors.
It’s incredible you’ve been able to put all your experience together into one project. What do you think was your “Spark” or the moment you figured out you wanted to write a book?
I had just left Max Brenner and was completely burned out from the restaurant lifestyle, so I decided to take a trip to Nosara, Costa Rica. During the trip, I did nothing but hang out, drink coconuts, and brainstorm what my next career move could look like. Helping people understand balanced eating and lifestyle outside of the traditional diet was my passion, but had no idea how to turn that into a business. It was then that the vision of ‘Clean Eats’ materialized and the book really began to pour out of me.
Writing a book is a massive undertaking, how did you even start? What were your first few steps that got you to a point of traction?
Relax. I need to be inspired but also in situations that allow for calmness and relaxation. Finding spaces to work that helped me facilitate creativity and put all my thoughts on paper.
Ask for help. Without asking for help I would 100% not be where I am right now. I found my literary agent by asking strangers for help. I never knew the power of asking until going through this writing process.
Persistence. Every word, recipe, perspective…you need to be open to change but aware of what is being changed, refined, reworked. Staying on top of the work, when it is being pitched and what the feedback is, is essential to getting the work where it needs to be.
Are you still working full-time at another company or is this new project your focus? If you’re still working, how do you balance both?
I am the Director of Food and Beverage of Equinox Fitness, a luxury lifestyle brand. Trying to balance both uncertainties with my book as well as a very high-pressure role at a corporate company is extremely taxing at times. It’s a constant work in progress and some of my best lessons so far are to be willing to receive feedback, have someone push you to build a strategy, take naps, and turn off.
Key phrases I’ve learned as an entrepreneur: “I need help to do X”, “No, Thank you”, and “No”.
How did you find a literary agent?
I was invited to a dinner party via a women’s networking group created by Denise Morrisson, the former CEO of Campbell’s. At the end of the dinner, everyone had a chance to make an ask of the other women in the room. My ask was: “I started writing a book. I want to write a book but I have no idea what I am doing. Any advice or leads, call me.” A woman at the dinner had recently met someone at a publishing house and asked for my work to pass along. A few days later I got feedback that the beginnings of what would become ‘Clean Enough’ was actually on to something.
Through that connection, my current publicist, Sarah Smith, got my project and she loved it. She understood it, which is what mattered to me the most.
What’s the process like when you’re trying to get a book deal?
Sarah first helped me refine ‘Clean Enough’ to be more of a standard proposal and then she began shopping it around. I got rejected…A LOT. The first 13 rejections were humbling. I soon went from an “I can do this” high to a self-doubting low.
One day I woke up and I had an email from my now editor, Jennifer Kurdyla. She had left her publishing house, was at a new place, and wanted to talk. Before I knew it, we were working together. That has been one of the happiest day throughout this journey so far.
What are you hoping to achieve in the next 6 months?
The next 6 months are almost entirely focused on PR. That means hosting more dinners, ramping up social media, digital exposure across media companies, features on television shows…it’s going to be full on. But I’m more than excited to use these platforms to speak about ‘Clean Enough’ and finding food freedom.
What has been your largest success moment so far?
I found out about two weeks ago that Costco will be selling my book. This is a tremendous milestone and I am so excited to share ‘Clean Enough’ with such a wide demographic.
Have you had a teaching moment yet that was discouraging but also motivating to get better?
So many! I was told, “Yeah, you have a book, and it looks good, but you don’t have a clear path with where you’re heading. You haven’t built a brand yet.” This was hard to hear and very frustrating after putting in so much work. But it was also very true. In this day and age of social media, book publishers expect you to cultivate your own audience, and there is no magic bullet to building a brand. You must…build, and it takes a lot of time. I’ve learned a ton as a team of one. It takes a lot of time to reach success.
What would you recommend to someone who dreams of writing their own book?
Some key things to keep in mind: You don’t need to write an entire book to get a book deal. Sometimes people go with a few sentences. Find someone that will fight for you and your work. Make sure you give yourself enough time. If you are considering writing a cookbook, I do not suggest self-publishing. You want a book advance as cookbooks are expensive to create. If you self-publish another work, make sure you still work with an editor, not only for grammar but to push you to refine yourself and your stories.
What are 3 things you absolutely love? I love knowing what lifestyle elements keep entrepreneurs grounded.
The Class by Taryn Toomey. Everyone knows I love a good jumping jack and scream. If you can’t find me, I am probably getting my feet massaged by Al at Four Seasons. Nosara Costa Rica, specifically the Harmony Hotel. I’ll meet you by the palm tree.
Don’t give up. Grit is like salt and pepper, sprinkled through everything. Writing is an incredible outlet and I want to see more people continuing to put real pieces of art out into the world. Want any more advice? Email me! I will respond and I want you to feel supported.