You Don't Need an Agent
This head of two prestigious publishing companies says to contact her directly.
Judy Pray is the editorial director of food and drink at Artisan and Workman, two of the biggest and most prestigious cookbook publishers in the US. These publishers are imprints of Hachette Book Group (also the publisher of my book, Will Write for Food).
In this role she acquires cookbooks for both imprints and supervises editors. She oversees “the lists,” meaning all titles. Artisan publishes eight to 10 cookbooks per year, and Workman publishes six to eight books annually.
The big change for Judy is that Hachette purchased Artisan and Workman a year ago. Now they’re part of a Big 5 publisher.
What’s amazing is that Judy says you can contact her yourself, without an agent, by emailing her your full proposal (Hachette contradicts this on its home page.) She’s agreed to give out her email, which appears at the end of the interview.
Here’s what Judy has to say about her job, trends and what she wants in a cookbook and author:
Q. What is the difference between an Artisan cookbook versus a Workman cookbook?
A. Artisan cookbooks are pricier because they are authority and technique driven, while Workman cookbooks are more concept driven.
Q. Which recent cookbooks have you worked on?
A. For fall books, Ghetto Gastro. I’m most excited about that one.
We have the first wine book for Artisan, The World of Natural Wine.
Q. How do you spend most of your time?
A. Finding the talent, and negotiating to acquire the books. I edit eight books per year, and oversee every part of the process to bring the book to market. I try to hone the idea into something unique and sellable.
It’s never dull. Some days are hours of meetings with current authors, prospective authors, agents, editors, and staff. Some days I’ll be editing, or planning a photo shoot with an art director and photographer. I’m very involved in art direction, production and publicity. And I’m always looking for talent, investigating trends, and reading.
Q. Where do you find new talent?
A. Reading all the publications, looking at Instagram, Substack, Tik Tok, listening to podcasts, talking to friends in food world, paying attention to trends.