Former Wall Street Journal fashion journalist Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan was toying with the idea of writing a food memoir when she was laid off in 2009. She promptly landed a book deal and spent the next year traveling to Singapore to research what became the just-out A Tiger in the Kitchen. Tiger—which chronicles how Tan learned to cook her family's traditional recipes—has garnered positive reviews; she's now working on her second book. Here are the most important things she's learned about using a book to build a personal brand.
What was it like going from fashion reporting to writing a book about food?
I often joke that it was a little jarring going from a world that's about avoiding eating to one that's all about eating! The two worlds have common threads though—they're both filled with very creative people who are passionate about what they do. And I found that to be true both on the runways of Milan but also in my aunties' kitchens in Singapore.
How did you learn to market yourself as a completely different brand?
Setting up a blog is a great way to brand yourself as a writer, especially if you're exploring a new form of writing than what you've been known for. Twitter and Facebook were also great ways for me to explain what I was doing to the world as I was working on the book. I've gotten to know so many readers via Twitter—and it's a fantastic way to let readers get to know you. By tweeting about food as well as fashion, I helped people who had known me for years primarily as a fashion writer see me as more than just that.
How is the blog helping you now?
The blog and the book were always very interconnected so it was easy to manage them both—I would blog about recipes I was learning, for example, without giving away the actual recipes or the meat of the stories that would go into the book, telling interested readers that they would just have to buy A Tiger in the Kitchen when it came out!
But I am working on the proposal for my second book. It isn't so much about food—I plan to keep the blog up so I can still have one foot in that world. But that's all I can say right now or my agent will smack me.