Today I’m really excited to welcome to the blog my talented friend and author, Martina Munzittu. I asked Martina if she’d be happy to answer some questions about her latest release, a cookery book with a difference: Tiramisu Recipes From Italian Friends and Family. What’s really interesting about this interview is how Martina managed to produce a non-fiction book with the same beautiful standards as any traditionally published cook book. Read on to find out more …
STOP PRESS: The Kindle edition of Martina’s book is on special offer this weekend only at $0.99/£0.77! The usual price is $4.99/£2.99 so grab yourself a bargain then come back to find out more :)
- Martina, I think the idea for an authentic Italian cookbook like this – with recipes inspired by your friends and family – is brilliant, but it’s also perhaps an unusual project for an indie author to undertake alone. Can you tell us a little about where the idea came from, and why you decided to self-publish rather than pitching it to a traditional publisher?
I had been thinking for a long time about writing a cookery book, but somehow the time never seemed quite right. I love cooking and I particularly like baking and preparing desserts. Several months ago I was making tiramisu for some friends who were coming to dinner. Over the years I had changed the traditional recipe and added a layer of chocolate mousse to it. I love espresso coffee, but I’m not fond of coffee in my desserts, so I had replaced the coffee with Martini. While I was melting the chocolate in the saucepan, I started to think of the many times I tried tiramisu as a guest in the homes of my friends and relatives in Italy. How a simple, wonderful dessert could taste quite different depending on the person who made it. But not only that, I remembered the varieties of tiramisu I had had. The fruity tiramisus during the summer, children’s ones at birthday parties, alcoholic treats at weddings. And that’s where the idea for the book came from. I was going to ask my family and friends not only to give me their tiramisu recipes, but also to send in the photos of their desserts once they made it.
As far as pitching the book to a traditional publisher, to be honest, the thought never even entered my head. I just went ahead and self-published it.
- When I got the pdf proofs to do the index for this book I was amazed at how professionally it had been laid out. Did you use a professional typesetter, and what other professional services did you employ on this title?
My biggest challenge with this book was to ‘marry’ the images with the text in a uniform and elegant way. I tried doing it with Word, but it wasn’t working. I realized that I needed the help of a professional and I found a lovely lady, Janet Tallon, who is a talented designer. I had an idea of what I wanted the book to look like, so I gave her the brief, provided the text and photos, and she produced something that exceeded my expectations.
The other challenge was to create the ebook. Ebooks with images are not that easy to do, especially when you have 70 photos. They need to work in every device, not just the kindle readers. Not to mention the fact that Amazon charges the author $0.15/£0.10 for each MB of data if you go for the 70% royalty option, and images tend to be heavy. I didn’t want my ebook to be too heavy/costly. So I had to hire another expert, as I was not capable of formatting the ebook so that it would work in any ereader and be ‘light’ at the same time. Serena Zonca was the lady who helped me format the ebook, and she did a fantastic job.
- If the pdfs were good, the physical book itself was another huge surprise! As I said above, I’m really impressed with the quality of the final product, but I know you had some issues initially with the printing. Can you talk us through that and how you resolved it?
I published the book with Lightning Source and they had two options for printing in colour. Standard and Premium. At first I went for Standard, because I wanted my book to be reasonably priced, but when I received the proof copy, I wasn’t happy with the quality of the paper: it was too thin and flimsy, I could just imagine any cook holding the book in their hand getting cross as the pages might tear. So I decided to upgrade to Premium Colour. Unfortunately, this pushed the price up of the paperback from £7.99 to £12.99. This is something that concerns me a lot as a self-published author, as I see many traditionally published authors (often celebrity chefs) who have fantastic cookery books out there, which sell for less. And I can’t compete with those prices (let alone with those names!)
- The photos in the book are lovely, and everyone knows food photography is very difficult. How did you get such great pics?
The pictures were a huge challenge, both for me and my friends who were sending them to me via email. Some photos I was receiving were out of focus, at times the lightning wasn’t right. Some just didn’t do justice to the desserts so I had to ask those people to make the tiramisu again and re-send the photos and I felt really bad about that. I had to do my own tiramisus a few times, in order to get the pictures right. There was a lot of trial and error, and you can see that the style of photography varies considerably, depending on who made that particular dessert. In the end we got there, thanks also to the help of Janet, who managed to get the best out of each photo.
- Which part of the process did you enjoy the most? (Okay, I’m guessing it was cooking and eating loads of tiramisu!)
You got that right, Jo! However, after you make tiramisu twice a week for several months, you kind of have enough of it… My husband though, always seemed to appreciate it, he liked the variety of the desserts. For me it was different, maybe because I was actually making them, measuring the ingredients, testing the recipes, writing about it; after a while I decided I didn’t want to eat another tiramisu for at least a month. It only lasted one month… I’m back on it now.
- What’s next for you as an indie author-publisher?
I’m working on two other cookery books. One will be about pasta sauces and one about risottos. They will follow the same format as the tiramisu book, a collection of recipes from Italian friends and family.
- Finally, what advice would you give any readers who are thinking of self-publishing a non-fiction title, particularly one that needs to look as beautiful as this?
This is my first non-fiction book, so I still consider myself as newbie. In my limited experience so far, I would probably say that many rules of writing fiction still apply: your research shows, so whether you’re writing about cooking or any subject, it’s important to get your facts straight. The style needs to be engaging and warm, which is easier to do when you’re dealing with chocolate desserts, rather than a DIY manual, but as writers we’re expected to be creative. Now, if you’re book has many pictures and you don’t have the skills to put it together yourself, I definitely recommend finding a professional who can help you, both for the design of the paperback and the ebook. You can spend hours and hours trying to do it yourself and still end up with something that doesn’t look good enough, while it’s best to use your time doing what you do best: writing a good book.
Martina Munzittu was born and raised in Italy (Sardinia); she now lives in Cambridgeshire, UK, with her husband and young daughter. She writes contemporary romance and chick-lit books. Her debut novel A Deal with a Stranger is a romantic/mystery set in Sardinia; Incompatible Twins and The Broken Heart Refuge are set in London.
Like many Italians, Martina has a passion for food and this comes across in her books, where the protagonists of her stories are often obsessed with cooking and eating. Martina’s latest books are dedicated to this passion.