How I Wrote My Book: GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, a behind the scenes look at the story of how my book came to be and the various stages of writing the book.
Let’s get right into it. Here’s the story of how my book came to be.
How I Wrote My Book: GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN
I can tell you the exact moment I decided to write GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN. It was during February 2021 after ABC TV’s Gardening Australia filmed my Botanical Beverages segment on growing a cocktail garden. After spending an entire day talking about my cocktail garden, I had a light bulb moment to write a book. I had taken up edible gardening two years earlier and was already developing cocktails and botanical drinks using my garden produce and publishing some of the recipes on Cocktails & Bars. I had kept some recipes close to my heart and saved them in a document where I also brainstormed ideas, added flavour pairings and challenged myself to get creative with edibles. That document reminded me of Sherlock’s mind palace.
Phase 1 – Turning a Vision into a Book
Being on national television talking about my two passions, cocktails and edible gardening was the catalyst to turn what started as a hobby (edible gardening) into a more serious venture. After the episode aired on 21 May 2021 and after the humbling reactions and feedback I received, I sat down to write an outline of the book, a couple of sample introductory chapters and author bio. I then selected 50 botanicals that would make up the main part of the book.
I found this planning task very easy to do. In a previous life, I was a Project Manager and I’m highly organised by nature so this was in fact a breeze. This crucial step set the structure of the book, gave me clarity about the content, the style and helped me visualise the end result. My mind palace was coming together. Throughout the writing process, I often returned to the outline which ended up on a spreadsheet and served as a checklist for all the tasks I needed to complete.
I decided that the book needed to have three parts. As it is part grow guides and part cocktails and my target audience is gardeners and cocktail enthusiasts, it was important to provide the useful basics that would help a novice as well as serve as a refresher to more experienced readers. That became Part 1. The main part, Part 2 consists of 50 chapters with the botanicals presented in alphabetical order with each chapter is built around the colour-coded GROW IT EAT IT DRINK IT ethos of The Gourmantic Garden website. Phase 3 was to consist of useful and practical appendices. I then created a template for each section and I was ready to start.
“One minute you’re in the garden playing with dirt, and the next, you’re at your laptop writing a book.”
Phase 2 – Writing the Book
I didn’t write the book in order. I started working on Part 1, the basics of gardening and cocktails then wrote the preface. I have always found factual writing to be easier than writing about myself which is what the Preface chapters are all about. I put that nagging voice aside and thought about what the reader would want to know. Target achieved.
I then skipped to Part 3, the Appendices, and spent way too many weeks than I care to count writing about the organic control of garden pests and diseases. I tried different formats and writing styles before I decided on the final approach. I can tell you there is no way to make a section about pests sound or look sexy!
I chose A to Z format because life’s too short to contemplate whether tomatoes fit under fruit or vegetable, or if carrots grow in summer or winter.
Then came the best part. Part 2 is what I was most excited about writing. I set to write 50 chapters on growing the botanicals, with tips and varieties to try, a flavour and food and spirit pairing sub section then get creative with a cocktail recipe. I chose A to Z format because life’s too short to contemplate whether tomatoes fit under fruit or vegetable, or if carrots grow in summer or winter.
Phase 3 of How I Wrote My Book – Cocktail Recipe Development
I’m no stranger to writing and publishing cocktail recipes of various complexities. I have done so for several years on my website Cocktails & Bars. Writing them for the book was no different aside from a different layout and the introductory section.
The challenging (and rewarding) part was channelling the creativity into delicious drinks. The cocktails needed to hero the botanical, be different in style from the tall and refreshing to the spirit-forward, include a variety of spirits from gin and tequila to pisco and rye whiskey.
This phase involved a lot of brainstorming, developing, shaking, stirring, tasting, going back to the drawing board and starting again. That, and a fridge taken over by shrubs, oxymels, syrups and infusions and a freezer full of ice of various sizes and shapes!
Phase 4 of How I Wrote My Book – Cocktail Photography
This was the more frustrating stage. During the recipe development and taste-testing, I took a quick photo of each drink with my phone. I then had to translate that snap into a beautiful full page colour cocktail photo for the book. I wanted all the drinks to be photographed in The Gourmantic Garden throughout the seasons but there was another challenge. The cocktail photos had to look very different, not be photographed in the same location and using the same glassware. And when you have a tiny garden, it’s no easy feat. I’ll share more about the trials and tribulations of photographing garden cocktails for my book in another post.
Phase 5 – Book Cover and Design
The next phase consisted of designing the cover, selecting the right colours, fonts then creating mock ups. The design underwent two iterations before I decided on the final one. It was finally beginning to look like a book. I thought I was nearly there until I decided that Part 1 needed some imagery so I turned to illustrations to break up the text.
Originally, the book was going to be called GROW IT EAT IT DRINK IT but as I have plans to publish more digital books, it became the umbrella under which the books are published.
Phase 6 – Setting Up The Gourmantic Garden Shop
Setting up The Gourmantic Garden Shop was totally new to me and this phase of e-commerce took way too much time to research. I had to learn about different platforms, payment gateways and configure the back end of the website. It was onerous and boring so I won’t go into the details. When I got there in the end, I was ready for a drink!
The last two years of my life in 266 x A4 pages.
Phase 7 of How I Wrote My Book– Editing and More Editing
With the first draft finished, I felt a tiny glimmer of achievement. I say tiny because there was still a lot of work ahead: editing, proofing, updating, followed by more editing, proofing, updating, followed by… you get the idea. I did the proofing online then I printed a hard copy of the book. The manuscript underwent a few iterations by Kevin and I and another loop of edits. At that stage of writing a book, you feel as if you never want to see it again! When I held the printed pages in my hand, it felt surreal like an out of body experience. “The last two years of my life in 266 x A4 pages,” I said to Kevin.
Phase 8 – Marketing & Beyond
This long distance marathon was coming close to the finish line but not quite. I needed a marketing plan, a social media plan and a go-live plan. That’s when my Project Management skills were very useful. I decided on the launch date. I chose the 26th June 2023 as it is the 14th anniversary of the Gourmantic brand when I first launched gourmantic.com. What better way to bring to fruition an idea that germinated over two years ago.
If you’ve written a book and gone down the self-publishing route, I commend you for the dedication, time and devotion that go into it. Once it’s shared with readers, the feeling is hard to put into words. Your baby is in someone else’s hands.
I hope you enjoyed reading behind the scenes on how I wrote my book. Next… How I Photographed My Book.
GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN is the first digital book in the GROW IT EAT IT DRINK IT books and is available as a digital download in pdf format HERE. Thank you for supporting an independent author.