meet Kathy Shearer
Shearer Publishing is an independent publisher, based in the Hill Country of Texas. Shearer publishes books on all subjects that involve Texas, from its wild birds to the flowers and herbs that grow throughout the state. Among our favorite books of theirs are the cookbooks. Their most recent cookbooks, Fonda San Miguel and Texas on The Plate are both award winners.
Kathy Shearer heads the company that bears her name. The company's success is due to the rigorous standards that Shearer sets for herself, as well as the respect she has for authors and readers alike. She is careful to every detail of photography, text, even the flap of a book cover, as she wants her books to be used and to remain on the reader's bookshelf for life.
A towering stack of manuscripts, all submissions from hopeful authors, sits next to Shearer's desk. She looks at them and sighs, knowing that they will not all be produced. "Some of these submissions have good ideas. But if you spread yourself thin, quality is sacrificed," she states unequivocally. "Good is not enough," she adds. She repeats this phrase enough that it might be her credo.
"Every book has its own spirit, one that is a reflection of its author. If the publisher finds and supports that spirit, the book will succeed. You can't offer that to an author if you are running a conveyer belt." Shearer understands an author's travails and is willing to work with them. She often accompanies her authors to book signings, an unheard-of support for a publisher to offer.
At best, publishing is a business fueled by the disordered energy of creative people. The writer is subject to his or her own process, a diligent editor must wield a blue pencil with tact. When the additional elements of a cookbook are added, chaos reigns. Cookbooks are daunting to publish.
A cookbook contains those tricky things called recipes. When done properly, a recipe is simple, clear and easy to follow, but to arrive at that one clear recipe requires patience as well as the skill of an alchemist. Recipes go through a process of testing and retesting, often enough times that the author tires of his or her own creation. Diverse people must sample the recipe as the goal is to arrive at a dish with universal appeal.
When that goal is met, the recipe must be written with such precision that the text jumps off the page into the mind of both an experienced and inexperienced cook. The measures must be written with minute accuracy - no pinches or handfuls allowed.
When the writing is finalized, the recipe heads back to the kitchen again, this time to be prepared for photography. Food photography is among the most difficult to do well, and requires not only a knowledge of food, but also a knowledge of what happens to food when it is put under hot lights. The steak may be juicy, but it is brown and dull. It must look as inviting in the photo taken hours later as it does on a plate.
We asked Shearer why she chose such a daunting area. "Cookbooks send out awareness," she stated. "They teach us all how to make our lives better through that simple act of eating which we do every day, three times a day. I have respect for cooks whose constant testing goes unseen by the public.