Have you always wanted to publish your own cookbook? Got delicious recipes you want to share with the world? Want to share long-standing recipes with foodies who will love them?
Publishing a cookbook has never been easier. Gone are the days when the only way to get a book published was to approach a traditional publisher.
Thanks to the popular self-publishing platforms like Amazon KDP and Apple Books, even first-time authors can upload a manuscript and publish their own cookbook online in a matter of days.
Self publishing cookbooks can be a profitable enterprise especially if you have many heirloom recipes passed down from generation to generation.
In this article, we’ll walk through the steps involved in creating a self-published cookbook. We’ll also offer guidance on maximizing your book’s potential and reach throughout the self-publishing process.
Why self publish a cookbook?
Self-publishing a cookbook is a great way to make passive income from your passion. Food is always a popular niche, which means that there is always someone interested in the ideas and recipes you have to offer.
However, the niche’s popularity also makes it a saturated market, so if you embark on a self-publishing journey, it’s wise to put in your best efforts.
Self-publishing is a popular publishing approach for new and seasoned authors because it puts full creative control in the hands of the author, unlike the traditional publishing route in which creative control is in part handed over to the publishing company.
Though creative control means freedom, it also means responsibility. It’s entirely up to you to make your book the best it can be, to offer the reader an experience they can’t get from another book.
Your responsibilities involve including beautiful photographs, an engaging format, and marketing the book post-publishing. These are key aspects of self-publishing, and we’ll explore them in more detail below.
Self publishing cookbooks in 7 steps
The following is a step-by-step cookbook publishing guide. Most cookbooks are created with this process, like most other self-published books.
1. Outline the book
Whether you’re writing a cookbook, a children’s picture book, or a full-length novel, it always helps to have an outline.
Include all the recipes you wish to have as part of your outline. If you’re already a food blogger, peruse your content and see if you can adapt, alter, or repurpose your own recipes.
2. Write supporting content
On average cookbook contains between 100 to 300 recipes. If that seems like a lot to you, don’t fret.
You can write a book of ten, twenty, or a hundred recipes if the rest of the book has an appeal, such as your journey as a chef or the history of each recipe.
Perhaps the appeal is a simple, delicious family cookbook for a budget or a series of recipes using a particular ingredient.
Popular cookbook content is the author’s personal thoughts and experiences. Consider the following questions and include your answer in a section or throughout your book to offer the reader a more personal and engaging experience.
- Why did you start cooking?
- Why do you enjoy this particular cooking niche?
- Information and value of using specific ingredients
- General ingredients to keep around
- The history of a special recipe
3. Edit your manuscript
When it comes to self-publishing, you don’t have the support of a traditional publisher to help you edit and proofread your book. As such, you’ll need to cover this aspect of your book’s creation by yourself.
Editing and proofreading can be tricky and time-consuming if you’re not already skilled at it. As such, it’s worth investing in a professional freelancer to edit your book.
Many people opt for self-publishing as a low-cost approach to publishing their work, but it’s wise to invest in quality. As mentioned earlier, the market is saturated, so you must stand out among your competitors.
Seek an editor well-versed in food writing.
4. Select high-quality photographs
The photos you include in your cookbook represent your overall brand, so it’s important to take or select high-quality, appealing photos.
Remember that food photography is one of the most popular types of photography, and the photos you include represent the recipe and the lifestyle associated with it.
Not all cookbooks include photographs, but best-selling cookbooks do.
Like editing and proofreading, it’s wise to hire a professional photographer to assist you. You can take the photos yourself but if you cannot take professional-looking and well-edited images, collaborating with a professional is a wise choice.
5. Format and design the book
Formatting and design are among the most important elements of publishing a cookbook when it comes to generating sales. A poorly formatted cookbook is unpleasant to use and will deter readers from recommending it to a friend.
Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the oldest and most effective marketing strategies, so you want to give your readers something they’ll want to share with others.
Design is also crucial because it’s a reader’s first contact with your book. Color, images, titles, and taglines make all the difference when it comes to purchasing a book.
Before a potential purchaser even reads your book’s description, they’ll make a judgment based on the book’s design.
Formatting includes indexing and recipe consistency.
One of the most important considerations when writing a cookbook that readers will love is its ease of use. Complicated, run-on sentences may help convey deep meaning but don’t suffice when someone wonders at which point they should deglaze the pan or sauté the mushrooms.
Your manuscript is edited and proofread, photos selected, and the book designed and formatted. The next step is actually publishing the book.
You must decide if you want to self publish your book in print or online.
Printed cookbooks are popular because you can keep them in the kitchen next to your cooking station.
Digital copies are also popular but can make navigating the cooking process more complicated given the screen’s sensitivity and your hands’ cleanliness (or lack thereof).
Print or e-book?
If you choose to print your book, this is where the highest costs come in. Hardbacks are aesthetically pleasing but expensive – paperbacks are cheaper.
Given that a typical cookbook costs around 50 to 150 to print, consider how many you expect (or want) to sell. What’s your budget?
Ebooks are incredibly popular these days, and publishing one has never been easier. Online self-publishing platforms make it easy for first-time authors to get their work out there and drive sales in a short amount of time (typically 24 to 72 hours).
Ebook self-publishing is typically a low-cost endeavor when compared to print. Costs still involve professional editors and photographers, but compared to the cost of printing all the required copies of your book, you’ll save a lot.
Amazon’s KDP and other self-publishing platforms offer a print-on-demand (POD) service.
Print-in-demand means you don’t need to print and store hundreds or thousands of copies of your book. Instead, the book is only printed when a customer specifically asks for it.
7. Marketing your cookbook
How do you make your self published cookbook stand out among its competitors?
There are millions of cookbooks out there, and prices are competitive, so you want to offer the reader an experience they won’t get from another book.
When it comes to marketing, you don’t have the luxury of support from a traditional publisher, so the marketing responsibility falls on you.
Identify what makes your entire cookbook unique and highlight that in its description. To get started, read descriptions and tagines of other cookbooks you like and assess what makes them so appealing.
If you decide to publish your cookbook project on Amazon, you can enroll in KDP Select, which places your book in a 90-day exclusivity period.
You can’t publish it anywhere during the exclusivity period, but Amazon will offer your book for free for readers to download.
If you’re wondering how a free 90 days will help market your book and return your investment, understand that popular free downloadable books on Amazon that get good reviews enter the bestsellers list and significantly increase your chances of sales after those 90 days.
‘No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.’– Laurie Colwin
Publishing your very first cookbook can seem like a daunting task, but don’t worry. The first time you do anything is bound to bring up doubt, but becoming a cookbook author has never been easier.
You already have your delicious recipes, passion for what you do, and exciting stories and histories around your food. Now all you need to do is follow the steps to self publish we’ve outlined above.
A final tip? Pay extra attention to your food photos. As mentioned earlier, food photography is competitive, and the best cookbooks out there don’t forego quality photographs.
Hire a professional food photographer, or if you have a camera and some basic skills, invest time into learning about food photography.
It may take more time to finalize your entire cookbook if you take the photos yourself, but you may find your own style in doing so. That personal touch can make all the difference for you, your project satisfaction, and your readers.