The number one question that I am asked, and strangely enough the number one internet search that leads to my website, is “How do I get my cake published in a magazine?” I will do my best to answer that for you, but first, let me ask you this. Why do you want your work published in a magazine? Stop for a second and really give that some thought because your answers to my question will determine my answers to your question.
So… why do you want to be published? What is the goal? What do you think will happen for you and your business? Is it fame, fortune and the adulation of the masses- because that will not happen. Do you think you are one of the best and want everyone else to know that too- you may or may not be and they may or may not notice. Do you have a solid product, style or brand and want to expand your client base- yes! You can do this! Do you want to “level up” your skills- you can do this, too! Do you want the feather in your cap and on your resume for clients to see- Yes to this as well! Here are the things that do not happen when you are published in a magazine. You do not become famous, you do not get paid, you do not exponentially increase the number of cake orders flowing in to your business. Here is what you do get. You get to work hard, dream big, feel acknowledged, gather some exposure, build client trust that you can deliver their dream cake, and have another notch on your belt/resume. My point is to be realistic in your expectations. In retrospect I was so naive that I expected tremendous outward change in my circumstances and when that did not happen I experienced some let down. I did, however, grow as a person, an artist and in confidence. It feels really nice, always. Now that we have our expectations grounded and know we need to do the work let’s move on to answering some other questions.
How? How do you actually get published? For me it happened as a fluke. The first time I happened to comment on a facebook post which asked a question about what sorts of things people liked to make for dessert in the summer. After I commented I received a PM asking if I would be interested in submitting those recipes for possible inclusion in the magazine. Of course I would! I ended up having a lovely little article and photo published, along with my recipe, in Taste of the South Magazine. This was before I began decorating cakes. I was over the moon doing the interview and ecstatic when they sent me copies of the magazine. The article is framed and hangs in my bedroom and is one of my cherished objects to this day. As soon as I began decorating cakes I posted my awful cell phone photos of my awful newbie cakes everywhere. Every. Where. I was SO excited by this new passion and even though I knew my cakes were zilch zero nada in comparison to anyone else I still spread my little cell phone pics happily all over the cake world like a little ugly plague. Less than a year after beginning in decorating I received another email. Would I like to make a cake to possibly be featured in their magazine? You can read more about that cake HERE. Less than a year in and I had a magazine cover. Unreal. This brings us to the second part of the question of how. I told you these two stories for a reason. What they have in common is that I was noticed. How? By being present. By interacting. That was step 1. My name was seen before my recipes or my work. Now you can just look up magazines and find online the contact info or submission info and send your work in but I did not know that. Besides it does kind of feel better to be noticed and asked although I have done it both ways. At this stage of my life if I admire a magazine or blog and wish to be part of it and they set out a call for photos I am fine taking that first step myself. I admire their name and want my name tied to theirs. It is as simple as that. Make yourself present. Get your work out there. Share it, show it, own it, be proud of it. It is as easy as that, right? Wait…..
NO it is NOT. Did I mention I was sharing crappy cell phone photos of work that was full of flaws? Here is what my two stories also have in common. I did not take the photos. Now we have another question to answer.
What? What do magazines want? Pick up any reputable magazine and look inside. Go to any reputable blog and browse through. They are full of gorgeous things presented in gorgeous ways. Publication should represent the best of a topic of interest. Be it interior design, cake, cars, cooking etc. Inside the pages should be “the ideal”. Magazines require very specific photographic parameters in order to even be considered for inclusion. Your cell phone is not going to cut it. (Although I could tell you some funny stories about times when it actually did for me- but that is not the rule). Photography is an entirely different realm of expertise. You may luck out and get published with less than stellar photos (or not luck out if you happen to be embarrassed when you see your work represented as anything short of amazing) but chances are it will not happen without the double whammy of an appealing product and a superior image of that product. The photo can make or break your chances. What do you do? You have options. I have traded services for photography. I have been given quotes for what I could pay for photography. Some folks are lucky to be friendly with a photographer where the arrangement is pro bono with both parties aiming for publication being the payment. If you are like me and sometimes have limited resources as far as time goes to get out and network, make friends etc you can take the more difficult but ultimately very rewarding road of learning photography. I love it when my favorite photographers snap images of my cakes. Love it. They are far more talented at what they do for a living than I am at what they do for a living. That is my ideal way to work but it just cannot happen most of the time and I could not afford to pay them what they are worth every time I needed a cake photograph- which is pretty much weekly. For me it is more practical to learn to meet my own needs. It helps that I actually love taking photos and always have. Decide which of these ways works best for you. Favors, hiring, bribing with cupcakes, or “learning to fish” on your own. Remember- magazines only rarely (never in my case) pay you so cost is all out of your pocket. Look at the magazines that you want to one day be part of. What is the style? What do the covers look like usually? What about inside? You can usually tell what a magazine prefers by looking through a few issues. The very basics are well lit, very clear, balanced, plenty of room around the cake- and I do not mean your dirty kitchen with dishes piled in the background. (Remember if you get chosen to be on the cover they need to add words all over the page so they need space). Neutral backgrounds. (Which I personally wish was not the case because that is not my taste). No crazy patterns back there. Best to keep it clean and simple. The best source for backdrops for photography- the ones I prefer- are HERE. Clean, simple, well lit, clear and flawless will be the majority rule in getting published. If you decide to learn photography I suggest a few things. Search out local photographers. The ones where their images grab you. The images you are most drawn to. Some photographers will offer classes and I strongly suggest that if you can swing it that you take a basic class. How to set your camera’s manual settings, composition etc. There are also online tutorials on this subject like the great one found here on karascouturecakes. Invest in a good camera. My favorite camera is the SONY Alpha NEX 7. There are many cameras in all price ranges so do your research before making that commitment. Lastly, find a reliable editing software. There are many free apps out there. I do not use those. If you find one that you like be sure it can export photos at 300 dpi/ppi or above. Personally I only use Lightroom. Most pros use Lightroom and Photoshop but Photoshop is too complicated for my needs. If you have the funds to invest in only one editing software I strongly recommend Lightroom. Learning to photograph your own cakes can seem daunting but the reward is well worth it giving you complete artistic control over the presentation of your work, flexibility in scheduling your mini “photo shoots”, and building your portfolio into the best it can be. It is the next best thing to finding a professional photographer that you admire, trust and respect.
There is no simple answer to your question of “How do I get my cake published in a magazine”. It involves first thinking about and answering several other questions. As with anything worth doing it tends to take time, effort and perseverance even above your talent as a cake artist. If you are not included the first time do not give up. Believe in yourself and your skills. Be true to your artistic vision. Represent yourself as a professional, with kindness, flexibility and a balance of confidence and humility. Get yourself out in the cake community and share, interact, build positive relationships! Publication will not likely rocket you to fame and fortune but the rewards can be deeply personal and enriching. You will make new friends along the way, improve your skills, learn new things, accomplish goals and have a few extra doors open to your dreams. After all, this is what life is all about! Focus on the goals but never forget to stop and cherish how you get there!