Take a leaf: How to write a drinks book

Ben Reed

Ben Reed

19 August 2020

Global cocktail ambassador at Cocktail Credentials, Ben Reed, has written 15 cocktail books and sold over 1 million copies in 25 countries and 14 languages. He shares some tips on what it takes to become a successful published author in the highly competitive cocktail book market

Tip #1: Do the math

Who is it for? Is this a vanity project or do you actually want to sell some books? I’ll have a punt at the stats here: 0.002% of the global population are cocktail bartenders. Of the remaining 50% who drink alcohol, maybe 10% drink cocktails and another 20% aspire to.

Tip #2: Use a wide focus lens, but have an angle

What is it about? Write a book about Sazerac variations and you’ve created a niche problem for yourself. Be more general and boom, say hello to a whole bunch of competitors.

Tip #3: Make your offering coffee-table friendly (or stocking size)

When will people buy it? Christmas. So: less time, more choice, more pressure. Whatever the purchase medium (virtual or physical) it’s unlikely that your DB Zombie on p.56 being totally on spec will clinch it.

A cover and spine that pops on a store shelf, a well-styled interior, a snappy title (that also comes up strong on Google searches) and a well-crafted summary; these are (sadly) what will boost your chances of being picked at Christmas – much like the dog with the shiniest coat.

Tip #4: Make it an ‘open book’

Why will people read yours? For your book to ever be used in a practical sense, keep it accessible with a balance between recognisable cocktails, classics, twists and original creations. Minimise elaborate processes and ensure the ingredients for your drinks are available at Sainso’s or at least next day delivery.

Consider your format, like you would when designing a menu. For example, if it’s a reference book, make it easy to reference (duh) under dim lighting.

Take into account your audience and their knowledge/drinking habits – will your chapters be based on spirit categories, drinks families, tastes, styles or occasions? Will your pictures be photographs or illustrations? Functional or stylised?

Tip #5: Sell your idea then sell yourself

How will I go about getting interest from publishers? Research lifestyle publishers: is there a gap in their portfolio you can plug? Send the commissioning editor a BLAD (book layout & design) for a taste of how your book will look and feel with a brief synopsis and two cocktails. Offer to meet them and do a demo (bring actual alcohol, go on a Friday afternoon, this will go down well).

Make yourself sellable. Have you or your bar appeared in, or won, any competitions or awards? Have you been in any magazines or on cooking shows? Do you have strong socials?

Tip #6: Ask an expert

Who can help? I’m no expert, but I’m told I put together an OK Christmas coffee table book. Feel free to get in touch: ben@cocktailcredentials.com

Facebook: @cocktailcredentials
Insta @cocktail_credentials

Want more inspiration? Check out our Book Club series!

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