In May 2014 after months of development Naturally Sassy finally went live. The passion project I’d been working on for months was out there, for everyone to see. How would it do? Would anybody see it? Would they come back? I remember feeling a huge amount of pressure as I waited for feedback. As is the nature of social media, I didn’t have to wait long. Within days the recipes were being made by people all over the world, and I felt a real purpose past the electronic walls of the blog.
It was at this early stage of Naturally Sassy that the idea of a book dawned on me, it felt like a natural progression. (I write the last sentence with raised eyebrows and a giggle, thinking back on the incredibly ambitious 16 year old who thought so.) The first step, so I had heard, was to find a literary agent who would also believe in me as a cookery author. I composed an email citing my achievements, embellished with gloriously, beautiful, fantastic descriptive words so they wouldn’t realise there were only a few, and my idea for the contents of a Naturally Sassy Book. Naturally I decided to send it out to London’s top literary agents and agencies that represented the best cookery talent in the world. The websites of aforementioned literary agents did communicate the vast amount of applications they receive on a daily basis, but as I sent off my last I do remember having a gut instinct that it would be fruitful. I again go back to this idea of naive optimism, I had never worked for a business or planned to run one myself, I didn’t see pitfalls I only saw the positives. I saw what I could offer, instead of what I lacked… which is very obvious, and is of course, experience!
Within the week I received a response, a meeting request from one of the literary agents. At this point I had done a few cookery demonstrations and one panel talk.. but I had never had a meeting of that importance scheduled. The realisation that this was a pivotal moment, turned my optimism into full blow anxiety, all I could think about was, “what if he asks my age?” It felt like the elephant in the room. I was embarrassed, and felt that my age may define what he thought of my proposal, and I didn’t believe it should.
We met at a Soho Juice bar, and chatted about my take on wellness, my experiences as a dancer and why I felt so compelled to write a book. I felt like I had met a true collaborator, someone who could really help me bring my idea to life and believed in it. He didn’t ask my age, and I left the juice bar with a huge sense of relief.
I sat on the bus on my way back to my Sister’s, where I was living at the time. I called my parents and quickly exclaimed that I had a book deal… speaking far too soon, as of course, having a literary agent is not quite having a book deal! I was eager to get the proposal out to publishers, but the process was far longer than my patience. I wanted to share my work, but he kept me back, he pushed me to work harder, define what I really wanted to create, he made me nail it.
Before sending it out to publishers after a while working together I got an email that simply said – “How old are you? We’ll need to add it to the letter so the publishers know where to place you.” After all the time that had passed I was rather taken aback, and quickly thought through all the ways I could avoid answering his question. In fact, I’m pretty sure I did avoid his question, which probably gave it away! I replied, at last, and something in me shifted, I felt liberated and found a confidence in it. It wasn’t something I could change, so why make it something that hinders me, I had to turn it into my selling point – and it turned out, he agreed.
In August of 2014 my Cookbook deal went out to 15 publishing houses, and a whole new experience began. Overall the response was positive, with a side of 100 questions on my experience and qualifications. I stood my ground in every conversation, hammered home the essence of the book and it’s unique place in the market. After weeks back and forth over email we had final meetings booked in with publishing houses. Before the meeting day took place I had my heart set on one of the publishers, Ebury Press a division of Penguin-Random House. I visualised a positive outcome, and come the meeting day that is how I transpired. I felt a real connection with my soon-to-be publisher and her team, they understood how important it was for me to make this book – to share my craft, my recipes, the things that inspired me. I had a few non-negotiables going in, such as having pictures for every recipe (which is a request that’s not normally granted), and having the book be soft back to make it more accessible and affordable for a younger audience. They, as I did, believed in the book and it was the easiest decision to choose to let it’s home be with them.
I wrote a blog post that year about how to get a cookbook deal, if you’re interested in reading it click here: How To Write A Cookbook
As is the way with any deal, it took some time to sign and seal – which gave me the space to start my next project, Naturally Sassy Food, a (long, painful, exciting, crazy, mid numbing, ridiculous story for another time!).