Behind the Bar The Business of the Bar

5 Useful Tips for Nailing Your Cocktail Book Pitch

(photo composite: Laura Sant)

So you want to write a cocktail book? Well, who doesn’t these days? It is, after all, the natural thought process for any bartender with a fat stack of drink recipes stashed away in their collection of Angostura-stained Moleskines.

Writing a cocktail book is an immense achievement. But getting someone to publish it can be a daunting task. For my own book, “Clean + Dirty Drinking,” published this year by Chronicle Books, I was lucky enough to score a generous bid on my first day of auction. (How it basically works is your proposal is sent out to several book editors and they each place their prospective offers in a bidding war for your idea.) Getting there took several months of planning and head-scratching rewrites. And mind you, I had no guide to consult along the way to help things go smoothly.

You, on the other hand, have no such excuse. These are five tips for nailing your cocktail book pitch.

1. Start Small

Before you jump full-steam into a book, first take a stab at writing articles for food and drink publications. Penning an entire book is an arduous process that can take years. Starting with something small will help you figure out if you have enough to say and fine-tune your voice. And besides getting your name out there, it will also help you decide whether you have the stomach to take on a large manuscript. If you find that the words don’t stop pouring out of you, then proceed to ...

2. Get an Agent

Securing a reputable literary agent that will work with you on putting your proposal together is the key. They know the ins and outs and have contacts in the industry that you would never have access to by yourself. Plus, a good one will slap you around as mine oh-so-politely did with a wakeup call when you’re being basic or preposterous. How do you find an agent? You need a spark of talent to attract anyone’s attention, but do some online research and ask around.

3. Find an Angle

Just because you make pretty drinks does not mean you deserve a book deal. It might sound like a no-brainer, but if you’re aiming to attract a publisher, you have to have something interesting to say. With the amount of books that get published yearly, it’s important to have a singular vision or a fresh angle on a familiar theme. The story that supports all those gorgeous cocktail photos needs to be compelling. Think about what subjects have not been covered already, and go from there. The literary market does not need another basic classic cocktail tome.

4. Share Your Mood

It’s a cliché, but yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And having a few good ones to accompany your book pitch can make all the difference. To facilitate communication of your concept, use a designer’s favorite tool: a mood board. This helps prospective agents and editors understand how you want your book to be perceived. The images may stray from your vision when the book reaches the design stage, but hopefully you’ll all be on the same page and united in the mission of making something beautiful together.

5. Never Give Up

You’re going to need to have a patience heart. If your first, second or subsequent attempts at pitching a book fail, don’t be deterred. Keep at it. Often, a publishing house is looking to fill a quota, and your concept might be sound, but the timing is wrong. I was lucky enough to be just what my publishers were looking for at that moment in time: a working female bartender with a somewhat altruistic concept. Also, I recommend growing a thick skin. There’s nothing as painful as having your precious idea pulled apart only to be ultimately rejected. And whiskey always helps!