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Q&A with sommelier, TV presenter & recipe book author Raul Diaz

Q&A with sommelier, TV presenter & recipe book author Raul Diaz

By Claudia Besant |

whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books

What motivated you to write a recipe book that puts wine at the forefront?

From my experience as a sommelier for a long time, I’ve always worked and collaborated with chefs so when I started thinking about this book, I had a lot of experience from a restaurant environment. But I also gained a lot of experience growing up, from when I was a young kid, because I had a very strong presence in the kitchen with my family, particularly with my grandmothers and one of my aunties, who I dedicated my book to. So I thought, let’s bring all of that experience together and make something that is very easy to read, attractive and a tool, more than a book for the shelf. That was my intention, to create something of use rather than just a good-looking book.

From writing, to design, recipe testing and photoshoots, there is a lot involved when it comes to creating a high-quality food & drink book. What do you recall about the experience of developing your book and imagining the perfect food and wine pairings?

I’m not a writer, English is not my first language. Luckily I speak three languages so it was fine, but writing is a different level of complexity, it isn’t the same as talking. And this isn’t writing a little review, or a section of my website, this is a completely different level, so it was definitely a challenge. But while I was doing it, I was getting more and more excited for the book. All in all it was a great experience to write. 

Then there was the actual making of the book, so imagining it, looking at the cover, colours and design, looking at so many details I didn’t know about, but I was very pleased to be in a position to make the final call on everything and that’s why whitefox were such a great publishing partner for me, because they supported me all the way. Ultimately, I was always the one making the final decision based on lots of feedback and suggestions from the whitefox team. The book is entirely my creation, so that makes me very proud. With a lot of help from whitefox of course, but I decided the font, the colours, the content – everything.

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How has having your own cookbook enabled you to share with your fans and students at Wine Training School your passion for food and wine? And do you believe that selling directly from your website has been effective?

I started getting lots of feedback from students saying, ‘why don’t you do something? Why don’t you create something that is purely yours that maybe involves a bit of food.’ I’m really grateful to my students and clients who pushed me in that direction. The response has been great and I’m really happy to have channels of distribution which allow me to sell my book worldwide. 

The website is working really well, it’s great that people can get the book directly from us. The fact that restrictions have now lifted too, and events are coming back, means I can now include the book in every event I’m doing. It took a long time but now I can sell forty copies in one go and get the full price because I don’t even need to factor in delivery. I knew it was going to be like this, a bit slow, so I just had to wait a bit to see that result.

Publishing a book can be challenging at the best of times, but you launched your book straight into the start of an unforeseen pandemic. What was your experience of this and how did you overcome the challenges?

We originally planned to launch in normal times, but of course COVID hit so we had to postpone for a few months and then there was a launch party at the Corinthia Hotel, it was going to be a massive party, but obviously that never happened. I decided I wanted to continue, I talked with the whitefox team and decided to push it. I felt it just had to go out. November seemed like a good time for me to start the process, though I knew it was going to be slow, but a lot of people supported the project at the beginning and were very keen with the PR, a lot of channels taking an interest in the book, which really made me happy because I took the risk to publish during this time. It was difficult but overall a lot of people liked the book during lockdown, ordered and used it.

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Nevertheless, you received some great coverage and reviews of your brilliant cookbook. What has been a personal highlight for you?

The Telegraph piece was probably the best for me. There were full pages dedicated to the book and a mention on the front page in a very traditional and influential newspaper. To see your name, the pictures, and everything was amazing. I’m also a foreigner, I have citizenship after eleven years of living here but I’m not a local, so to be in such an influential newspaper means something, it means a lot.

What would your advice be to aspiring authors looking to self-publish a book in the food & drink genre?

First, you need to have a realistic perspective and plan. This is exactly what I did and that’s why even if I hadn’t had the problem of COVID, even if I hadn’t had several challenges, I had my plan. For me, the book was always going to be a tool. Something that I would suggest to others is to really ask yourself – are you going to be a bestseller? No, in my case. Do you want to use this as a tool? For me, the answer was yes. As a tool for events, as a tool to engage with customers, as a tool for clients, and now I’m doing consultancy work again many of my clients are very interested in the book, interested in some sort of agreement, which is exactly what I wanted. Being a bestseller is not really relevant in my case.

So, before you jump into self-publishing a book, it’s very important to know exactly what you want from it and how you’re going to see it in the future because if you’re spending this amount of money, you can’t improvise. Don’t launch a book to boost your ego, don’t do that, unless you have a lot of money and don’t care well then that’s fine, but if you’re a normal person like me, don’t self-publish because you want to feel better. You need to have a very clear plan, which can obviously vary, but within reason.

Do you have any exciting future plans surrounding your Wine Training School, or perhaps even a new book in the works?

I don’t think a new book is feasible at the moment because I really want to expand the English version as much as I can. My next project, if it happens in the next couple of years, would be the Spanish edition, launching in Chile to Italy and Latin America. But before even considering that, I’d want a second edition of the English edition. That’s definitely my goal.

I also recently launched a series of wine videos on my website, a sort of wine library that includes three hour videos which my students, clients and readers can access through a special six-month membership. It’s super exciting and a lot of work; I wrote all the scripts and we shot it at the end of August. It’s a big project so hopefully people will enjoy the videos at home to study or refresh some content for exams, or for people who have Wines & Recipes and want to learn a bit more without committing to the Wine Training School, so it’s a great alternative option for them.

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