The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

NYB Bakebook Chronicles

Elagins's picture

NYB Bakebook Chronicles

Baker Ben suggested that since the testing is over and we had such a great group come together, that I continue to blog about the actual process we'll be going through to actually get the book into print.  I think it's a great idea, so, with thanks to Ben, here goes:

July and August were simply insane.  I was putting out a couple of dozen recipes each month, keeping track of all the testing and feedback and trying to get all of the other stuff written.  It was madness, to the point where everything else on my to-do lists (several) simply had to be pushed aside so that I could get the manuscript done by the 9/1 deadline.  

Norm and I were on the phone at least weekly -- usually more often than that -- going over recipes, fine points and all of the background stuff that needed to be included in the book we wanted to write.  If I tell you all that I got very little sleep over the last couple of weeks, it wouldn't be an exaggeration.

Those last 2-3 weeks are a blur now, writing, researching, fine-tuning, making sure all of the measurements and conversions were right, all of the steps and procedures consistent and all of the narrative smooth and where it was supposed to be.  

9/1 came around and I had about 99% done ... everything except for the Acknowledgements, Picture Credits (since we hadn't yet made final picture choices), and a couple of last-minute recipe tweaks.  Nonetheless, I assembled what we had -- about 280 pages, including somewhere around 130 recipes -- and emailed it off to our publisher and our agent.  

So of course the publisher said, "Well, no rush.  Just put everything together, print it all out, burn the files into a CD and send it off to me when you can."  When I met with him back East the beginning of July, he didn't seem like he was terribly concerned about deadlines, but I like to honor my commitments.  

So Norm and I went back at it, doing illustrations of the challah braiding, strudel dough stretching, and a couple of other recipes, including the rye flour honey cake (lekach) and revised plum cake (flomenkuchen). I figured I'd take a couple of weeks to make sure we got it all in shape. So naturally, less than a week later, I get an email from Edward (the publisher) asking, "When will we get the package?" Shift into high gear, put the final touches on it.

At that point, my laptop died.  I mean really died: motherboard, display, keypad, who knows what else?  Of course, I'd been backing up to spare hard drives, pen drives and whatever, so I had three or four backups and didn't lose a thing.  Switched to an old Dell that we had lying around ... slow as honey on a cold day ... got the manuscript all put together and start printing .... now at 260 pages, after some cuts and consolidations.  

Print, print, print.  At page 243, my printer dies <sigh>, so I load the finished file into a pen drive, take it downstairs and finish on my wife's printer.  That's Monday morning a week ago (9/12).  Then I discover that the old Dell's CD drive can only read; it doesn't burn.  Back downstairs to burn the CD on Syl's puter.  Pack it all up into a FedEx box and drive it down to the local Kinko's/FedEx office. 

A week earlier, I had asked our agent, Stephany, about typical production schedules and she said, "Be patient.  It usually takes a publisher 9-12 months to get a book into print." Nine months to a year ... feels like an eternity.

At that point, I had such mixed feelings ... so much intense work, suddenly ground to a halt, all this energy with no place to go and exhaustion suddenly setting in.  For two days, I could barely think.  But at the same time, I felt the same way I did when I took my kids to their first day of kindergarten:  proud, full of anticipation, a little bit afraid that they wouldn't do well and also sad that in an instant I was no longer as needed as I'd been the day before.  Norm and I spent a lot of time on the phone, talking about the closure of that part of the process, which he said was less real for him, since he wasn't involved in any of the writing.  

It was strange, the sense of loss finishing the book created -- first the dissolution of our tester group, which had brought together well over 100 people and created a very intimate bond of shared experience, and then the departure of my youngest child (the book). 

I waited until today (9/23) to phone Edward to find out how things were going with the book and whether he could give me more information on the production schedule, other next steps and how much more work would be needed.  Instead I got Brad, the head editor, a very kindly man who clearly loves books.  "It looks very good," he said.  "We just need to get it to copy editing and then we'll have a better idea of what else needs to be done, but I don't think it will be very much."

Then I asked the question I really wanted answered:  "Any idea of the publication date?"

"We want to get it out before summer ... probably in the March-April timeframe.  We want this book to look terrific, so we're choosing our designer carefully."

March-April! Six or seven months!  Wow!  .... Other things to think about now ... promotion and finishing up all the remaining tweaks and revisions (there are still a few), getting all of the photo permissions in place ... 

We've entered a new level of reality.

Stan Ginsberg

(to be continued)


Floydm's picture

That's great, Stan!

(The part about the pre-summer release, I mean, obviously not the parts about the technology failures.)

Kudos to you and Norm and all the testers who helped you guys out.  I can't wait to see it.


OldWoodenSpoon's picture

I'll second that Stan (and Norm too).  I would have loved to participate in the testing, but every summer of mine is a bit like yours was this year.  There was just no way. I would like to know if you can answer one critical question though:

How do I pre-order my copy?!??  I missed the testing.  I don't want to miss the debut!


Elagins's picture

trust me, you (and all of TFL) will know about it! <big grin>

Trishinomaha's picture

I can't wait to see the finished book. As the testers posted various recipes that I hadn't gotten to test I kept thinking about how many delicious recipes will be in this book. It was one of the most fun, best experiences I've ever had and really pushed me to try things I ordinarily wouldn't have - sometimes with great results which really surprised me =). I am anxious to see the published version. I wish Norm and Stan the best of luck - what a labor of love went into this publication! BTW - Love the title of the book you decided on. It's perfect!


dosidough's picture

I wasn't able to sign on as a tester, but Norm's original post of the onions rolls years back was a real confidence leap for me. I've always followed every thing he posts here with great respect for his knowledge and experience. So I followed the testers posts and drooled over the photos of their results. I considered myself in line for the publication from the get-go. Glad to hear the very tenative time line. In fact the book came up in a conversation this morning with a co-worker who bakes. She's in line as well. Thanks to both you and Norm for all your stuggles and work.

Queued up in Chicago...


JamieK's picture

Dallas is ready for some books!!!

EvaB's picture

waiting for the end of school, and all that time to play! This is a must have book! I loved the pictures of the tested recipes posted by the testers and can't wait to try out many of them. Probably will need a new wardrobe by the end of the book, but so will my whole family as I intend to bake my way through this book, and they shall be the guinia pigs, which I am sure they won't mind too much!

BakerBen's picture


Thanks for following through on sharing the continueing process of wrting and publishing a baker's book for sure - I am sure hearing how things are going with the book - and how you and Norm are doing too - will make everyone's wait a bit easier.  Being a tester was one of the best things I have done and meeting so many nice and good bakers was a really great kick in the pants for me - I learned a lot over the summer with one of the biggest being that I enjoy baking many many things now than just bread.  Also, my friends and neighbors like non-bread baked items a lot too.

Good luck and keep us all posted.


Trishinomaha's picture

Ben - I read your post and it was such a good thought that I had to jump in and agree. Since I've started baking regularly it's almost always been bread except for birthday cakes, Christmas cookies, etc.  My co-workers really enjoyed some of the sweets that I tested this summer so I will almost surely expand my baking experiences to other than bread. Especially after this book comes out.


BakerBen's picture


Same here on looking forward to seeing the final book version of the cookbook - I never new all that went into producing one and especially the time that it takes.  I am looking forward to Stan and Norm sharing this with us along the way - "the process" as Stan calls it and rightly so.  I am sure it will be an educational process too.


Elagins's picture

the hard part is the waiting .... waiting for people to get back to us, waiting for the copyediting to get finished (it's starting this week), waiting for design and production to start, waiting to hear from a prospective publicist about whether our book represents a conflict with a book she's already promoting.  waiting .... waiting ... this is worse than the writing!!!

one bright spot: our recipe for Krakow (twisted) bagels made the Wall Street Journal Online.  you can find it, along with a very interesting article, at:

Stan Ginsberg

Trishinomaha's picture

I just read the article and posted it to my Facebook page. To see a recipe in print credited to your new book just makes it so real! I can't wait for the book to come out and I'll try this recipe for sure.

Proud of you guys for sticking it out!!


Elagins's picture

hopefully, many others will share your enthusiasm!


dmsnyder's picture

I'm also eager to get my hands on the book and know several of my tasters will want one ... Well, there are going to be getting one from me, want it or not!


EvaB's picture

Wow, and will be looking forward to trying the recipe when I get the time! I was in the midst of sending a congrats message yesterday when my power went out! ARG!!!!

However its back, and I do congratulate you all, the authors, the testers, the tasters, and the book production staff,and the newspaper for having the sense to use your recipe!


Elagins's picture

It's been a while -- over a month -- since my last posting, and this is perhaps the hardest part, the waiting while all the preliminaries are handled. 

I heard back from our publisher a few weeks ago that he really didn't like our original title, The New York Bakers Jewish Bakery Book, and so Norm and I (and others) put our heads together to come up with a dozen or so candidates, which we sent around to all of our testers for ranking and evaluation.  So here are the results:

BAGELS, BIALYS, BABKA AND MORE: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking  19

Inside the Jewish Bakery 9

The New York Bakers Jewish Bakery Book 7

BAGELS, BIALYS, BABKA AND MORE: Jewish Baking in Europe & America  7

The Jewish Baker  6

The Jewish Bakery  4

THE JEWISH BAKERY: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking  4

The New York Bakers Jewish Bakery Cook Book  3

The Jewish Bakery Book 2

Jewish Baking in Europe and America  1

THE NEW YORK BAKERS JEWISH BAKERY BOOK: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking  1

BAGELS, BIALYS AND MORE: Recipes from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking  1

Even though we had a clear winner, though, we decided to combine the top two because we thought the top vote-getter was both too cryptic and too limiting, so the winner is (drum roll ... )

INSIDE THE JEWISH BAKERY: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking

We also now have a firm publication date of Spring (March-April) 2011, which is both exciting, but also a little daunting, since that means we need to get moving on all the promotion planning right away -- media, signings, a tour (hopefully), book fairs, etc etc.  So I've been talking to publicists and our publisher, trying to work out a plan that we can all live with and which will give us as much exposure as possible.

I'm learning a lot about the business of being an author, too.  It's not at all about, "Write it and they will buy," but about continual media and marketing -- getting the book out in front of the public and keeping it there -- getting recipes and quotes into magazinea and newspapers, getting TV exposure, doing speaking gigs.  One very successful author who shall remain nameless because I detest his/ her point of view, put it very succinctly:  "I'd speak at a gas station if I have a book out." I've been following Joan Nathan on Twitter and it's been interesting to tag along to all of her book fairs and appearances over the last several weeks, in advance of the release of ner latest book, which came out last week. Both exhausting and ehxilarating.

Other nice thing has been that we've begun to attract attention from other cookbook authors and bread mavens.  Marcy Goldman, Marlena Spieler and Dan Lepard all follow @NYBakers on Twitter, and it's been very interesting to learn how to express myself in baking haiku, along with finding a huge number of gems there (including Floyd's @cornycornguy).

So now it's all in the hands of Camino Books -- the copy editing, design, promotion plans (of which Norm and I will naturally take an active role, once the roadmap is set), and tweaking the book itself.

More later.

Stan Ginsberg

Elagins's picture

It's been a good while since I last chronicled our adventures and misadventures in the world of publishing, and a lot has happened in the interim. 

Many of you know that our publisher wasn't entirely happy with our original title -- The New York Bakers Jewish Bakery Book -- and so after putting out several suggestions for informal feedback, we finally settled on Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking. Looking back at it, Norm and I both agree (as does the publisher) that this title is much more indicative of the contents of the book and leaves a lot more room for Norm's stories and reminiscences of how it was back in the day.

It's also amazing how content inflation works:  originally, our contract called for a 70,000 word book, which translates into about 250 pages.  In September, when the manuscript was due, it came to about 90,000 words, but the publisher didn't make an issue of it.  With additions -- more Norm stories and a whole section on Passover baking -- and revisions, we suddenly found that we had 100,000 words -- about 350 pages -- and the publisher freaked.

Someone once asked Ernest Hemingway to name toe most important quality of great writing, and he answered, "a willingness to murder your children." And so I murdered about 28,000 of my kids and got the book down to around 72,500 words -- which probably isn't a bad thing, since the discipline of self-editing made me think about what was really essential -- the must-includes versus the nice to includes.  So basically, most of the background info in ingredients, techniques and equipment went bye-bye, along with redundant recipes and those that people can find elsewhere.

I expect that a lot of the cut material will end up on the NYB website at some point.  Norm suggested that we try to sell it as Volume 2 -- The Lost Chapters. We'll see ....

Also, it looks at this point like the pub date will be more like July than the March-April timeframe Camino Books was thinking about before ... understandable, given the complexities of editing, design, marketing, etc etc.

And speaking of marketing, one of the things we're also learning is that being an author is different from being a writer. Writers write and get paid for it; authors become public personas and have to go out and do signings, shows, media, etc etc. More than that, if you're an unknown at a small publishing house, you have to pay for it yourself.  Fortunately, we found this terrific publicist who not only has done a bunch of cookbook work, but whose father owned a Jewish bakery in West LA in the 50s and 60s.  So not only did we get a great professional; we also got a member of the family, so to speak ... and we even got a great photo of her dad rolling bagels that's gonna appear in the book.

So that's what's been going on ... except for one more great thing.

We had to re-shoot a bunch of the photos, including rainbow slices and French cookies, and Norm was having some health issues (all resolved now), so it was up to me to do the baking. Unfortunately, I couldn't find glace cherries, needed for the French cookies, in quantities less than 30#, so I went to a local bakery and asked if I could buy some.  The woman at the counter went in the back and came back out, telling me there was no problem with that.  The baker himself followed, with 1/2 a pound of the cherries and told me "no charge."

I thanked him, introduced myself and told him what I was doing and we talked shop for a bit, then his wife came out. "Ooooh, rainbow slices, I love them. He made me a tray for my birthday!" Jerry, the baker, smiled. "A lot of work," he said. So cherries in hand, I went home and baked.  You can see the results here:

After the cookies were finished and photographed, I took a plate over to the bakery and got huge smiles and thank you's from both Jerry and his wife -- talk about positive reinforcement: I floated on air for days!

So okay, that's where we stand coming into Valentine's Day weekend.  Stay tuned!

Stan Ginsberg