Advice to cookbook authors

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Joined Mar 29, 2002
What advice do you have for aspiring and published cookbook authors?

What do you like to see in recipe writing?

Any books? I've heard good things about Recipes into Type, but my libraries haven't carried it.

FWIW, I come from a software technical writing background and am attempting to write an outdoors cookbook so getting an editor's view is exciting. And helpful I hope.

Joined Feb 10, 2006
I think the best advice I can give to aspiring cookbook authors is to begin by writing for magazines or newspapers so that you have writing samples to show around. Next, decide on a subject for your book and find a literary agent. You don't need to have a title for your book or a written proposal, but you do need a few good ideas to talk about. In my opinion, a literary agent is essential. My husband, who is a former publisher of William Morrow (and many cookbooks) agrees. Your agent will take a percentage of your earnings but you will get more than your money's worth.

If you want to write a cookbook, you must know how to write a recipe! Use other cookbooks as your guide, choosing a successful book that is similar in style to the one you plan to write. Recipes Into Type is a helpful book, but you can learn how to write a recipe by being an observant reader. Remember that the ingredients must be listed in the order that they are used. It's a basic rule that can betray an amateur on the first page. Keep anecdotes and details in headnotes, footnotes and sidebars. Avoid the temptation to explain in the recipe WHY something is done. Remember that the names of recipes should explain what they are, so (as a general rule, anyway) no names like "Maggie's Surprise." Yes, there are exceptions, but "Hoppin' John" and "Hushpuppies" are traditional dishes that are known by those names.

Just the thought of an outdoor cookbook makes me hungry. I love outdoor cooking. I have gone camping all my life. Once, in a pinch, I even tested a recipe at a campsite (fried plantains topped with seasoned chopped raw salmon and creme fraiche), phoning in the revisions.
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