The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bakebook Chronicles - Continued

Elagins's picture

Bakebook Chronicles - Continued

Actually, I posted this elsewhere, but am not sure how many have seen it, so I'm reposting under its own heading.

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



OldWoodenSpoon's picture

re-posted this.  I had not seen the earlier posting.  Love the pictures there, especially the Challah braid and the Rainbow Slices.  Thanks for keeping us up to date as you have the time.  It almost sounds like the publishing part of the story was cut right out of "Julie and Julia". :)  Glad to hear, also, that Norm is doing well now.


dmsnyder's picture

Hmmmm .... I'm betting on a holiday season release. ;-)

Please convey my best wishes for good health to Norm.


Elagins's picture

... i'm not quite as much of a pessimist as you, especially since the publisher is well aware that fall is a very big book-selling season.  besides, he's planning on taking it to BookExpo America, which happens in May in NYC ... so he's gotta have something to show.  anyway, let's all keep our fingers crossed!

louie brown's picture
louie brown

to follow this project, but as a third generation Jewish boy in New York City, I'm pretty well familiar with the goods. I'm very much looking forward to the book. Congratulations and best of luck.

hanseata's picture

to axe so many "children". I do hope that these orphaned chapters find a home at TFL. It must be a very exiting time for you and Norm.

Good luck,


mimifix's picture

I'm excited for both of you. And for us, since we'll have such a comprehensive cookbook. I grew up in NYC during those golden years when we had a "bakery on every corner." Please post when the book is available - and post on both threads, please!


clazar123's picture

I feel like one of the kids in the back seat,jumping up and down-excited. Can I order an advance copy? Please?