Best/worst part of writing a book


Chris Allingham

Staff member
Hi Jamie,

I suppose that as with any project that someone undertakes in any line of work, writing a book like Weber's Charcoal Grilling has its ups and downs. Some parts may be very enjoyable, while other parts are not so fun--even dreaded.

Can you give us an abbreviated description of how one goes about writing such a book, from concept to recipe development, testing, writing, editing, book design, publication, promotion, etc?

Which parts of the process do you like the most and the least, and why?

This would be interesting to me, because I don't have a clue how long it takes to create a great book like this, nor do I understand all the steps that go into bringing it to market.


The whole process is pretty cool. I really like shaping the concept of each book and developing a range of recipes to suit that concept. I get chances to work with professional recipe developers and testers. They always teach me something new, and during the process it becomes obvious what techniques and advice I need to emphasize when writing the introductory text.

Once the recipes are ready, the photographer and his team of assistants and stylists start shooting. I go to many of the shoots. Sometimes I’ll notice a little detail about how a recipe turned out in the hands of another cook, so I can make last-minute adjustments.

Shooting the cover of the book is always a big deal. We have many, many meetings about which photos to use. We change our minds over and over. I think we made the right choice for “Weber’s Charcoal Grilling.”

Then the designers get to work. I work with them on fitting recipes and laying out the introductory text so it complements the photos we have. Occasionally we have to go back to the photography for some important technique shots.

All along the way I work with a really good editor. She catches all my mistakes and forces me to clarify things that I might have assumed readers already know.

That’s the gist of it. The whole book gets shipped off to a printer in electronic form. This year I watched the printing in Ohio. That’s an art all to itself, fun to watch but it means waking up in the middle of the night to approve what the printer is doing with various pages of the book. Printers run around the clock. When I saw the book come off the line, I almost cried. It was nearly a year from the time we started talking about the book to the day it was printed. A lot of work, but obviously it is a great topic and I feel grateful that I got to spend so much time on it.

Do you have complete control over which recipes appear in the book?

Does Weber suggest recipes or have approval over the recipes or overall book content?

How do you determine how many recipes to put in a book like this?

A few of us here on the BB got the Weber survey for your book asking for input on the book design and the cover photo. From a reader's perspective, it was great to have input. Was it valuable for you, and how did it help you shape content for the book, beside the cover photo (because you chose the one I voted for!).

You dodged the most "juicy" part of my original question...what part of the process was the least fun or most grueling? There has to be something.

Ultimately it is Weber's book, so they can kick out any recipe they don't want, but you know, that's never happened. Fortunately we see grilling and barbecuing eye to eye.

We decide on the number of recipes while we are choosing the concept. That number has a lot to do with what the cover price will be.

Absolutely, the responses from you guys about the cover and design make a big difference. If those of us who are working on the book have different ideas of what should be on the cover, survey results help to make the final call. Thanks for your help!
Jamie and Chris, I would think that being able to get a recipe down on paper, explaining to a cook when the food is done, would be one of the difficult aspects of writing recipes, i.e., how a food should look, and it's texture, when it is done. It would involve shifting back and forth from the right-brain aspects of creating the recipe to the left-brain challenge of writing logical instructions. Thermometers must make the task a little easier, when it comes to meats.