This past spring, I embarked on a 3-week book tour for my first cookbook, Vegetarian Vietnam. In each city, I gave talks in bookstores and did radio and TV interviews, but my most rewarding events were those done at cooking schools.
Organizing and teaching a cooking class is a time-consuming form of promotion, but it provides authors in-person engagement with new and old readers and immediate feedback and praise for your recipes. Plus, it often subsidizes part of the cost of your book tour. Some schools paid per class, some paid per student, and all covered travel and lodging expenses.
When I collaborated with newly-opened schools unfamiliar to hosting visiting chefs/ authors, I taught the class as long as each student received a copy of my book (included in the price of the class) and I was not out of pocket. (This generally meant reimbursement of in-city transportation).
Collaborating on an event should be win-win-win for the author, the school, and the class participants. Here are some lessons learned from my experience:
FOR TOURING AUTHORS:
Contact cooking schools about 6 months before your desired touring dates. Cooking schools plan well in advance.
Search schools’ websites to see how you should adjust your class, recipes or style, based on their formats and customer base.
Reach out to new cooking schools. They’re full of optimistic energy and eager to host visiting chefs/authors to build up a roster of interesting events for their growing client list.
Established cooking schools regularly and quickly sell out due to a devoted clientele. Offer a second date for those on the waitlist.
Keep an electronic folder with your bio, a head shot, your cookbook cover image, class descriptions, and recipes. You’ll need to share this info with school administrators.
Go with the flow. When you arrive, the ingredients may not be exactly as instructed, or things may not be as organized as you’d like. See about getting the right ingredients and then turn any differences in ingredients into teachable moments.
FOR COOKING SCHOOLS:
Provide a general info sheet to visiting teachers on what you can offer (payment for the class; reimbursement for travel costs and/or accommodation), what you expect, what you need, and by what dates. It will save you energy and time for future visiting authors.
Include the instructor’s book with the cost of the class. Us authors love these ‘guaranteed sales!’ You can purchase books at a discount directly from the publisher or author.
Take a chance on new authors. If you’re unsure ask for a reference or two from other schools where the author has taught.