I've been in the cookery writing business for nine years now. At the age of 13 I was busy formulating a first book proposal that was designed to inspire kids and young people to get into the kitchen to cook for themselves. I loved doing it myself and I saw there was a huge gap in the market. I put the idea to Walker books (an independent children's book publishers) who responded immediately.
After a couple of nerve wracking meetings they agreed to take me on, and Cooking Up a Storm was the best-selling result. Six books later, just under a million copies sold (many in translation), I find myself aged 22 just leaving Edinburgh University with a politics degree and a determination to continue working in this delicious but crowded and challenging business.
My new website www.samstern.co.uk has just launched. It's packed full of gorgeous recipes from my range of books, along with regular blogs and practical help. It's designed to continue to drive and develop my business from a social and media point of view; I want to really engage with the people who are out there cooking my recipes. In the meantime, my latest book Sam Stern's Cookery Course - for Students in the Kitchen (re-titled from Virgin to Veteran) will be re-launched under this new title by Quadrille Publishing on 1 August. This book represents a move into the more general cookery book market and is a bigger personal challenge. Everyone wants to work in food these days which makes my job much harder.
When you've produced as much work as I have from a young age, success itself can create problems. For example, you can find yourself inundated with offers and requests that may look attractive and/or worthwhile at first glance - be they media, sponsorship, or campaign-related or something else entirely. I've learned that it's a real skill to be able to work out which ones are genuine, which are likely to bear fruit, which will ultimately help you and your business and those that are worthwhile pursuing. Don't be afraid to say 'no' if you feel it's the right thing to do. If you've got the right team around you, you should be able to get their opinion too. Having good people to support you - like a web design team, editor, literary agent and/or manager - should limit the scope for making mistakes and help you make the right decisions.
In practical terms, having a diary (old-style or digital) to keep track of everything you've got going on is essential. Without it, I'd have struggled to remember all my writing, promotional and academic commitments, let alone plans to meet up with mates. Make sure people know how to get hold of you, too, so that you don't miss out on any opportunities. Embrace any chances you might get to travel with work and expand into international markets; the US promotional tour I did was amazing, and I've got a few more trips to look forward to this year. And don't forget to take a long-term view; I'm still making decisions all the time about what direction to take. A cookery school in Yorkshire? A TV show? New books with new concepts? Watch this space.
Ultimately, go with your business instincts and work with your passions if you can. You have to believe in yourself and your product. Don't compromise. And remember that your youth itself can be an advantage. Now here's a recipe designed to celebrate the business success coming your way - Salted Caramel Millionaire Shortbread. Enjoy.
Follow Sam Stern on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sam_stern