What is the cookbook writing process?

Joined Oct 31, 2012
 After searching the threads, I haven't found the answer to this question. 

I am currently trying to put together a cook book. I have photos, text and pictures but I am uncertain what the best layout and style and focus should be.

     Specifically things like; Do I group photos with recipes or photos all in one section or perhaps text, photo and recipes. Which texts are better than others, which photos are best, what am I leaving out that should be included and including that should be left out? Is the text adequate, boring or pointless? Etc. etc. etc. 

Cookbooks I look at always have a section devoted to thanking those involved in creating the book, implying that they were involved from the start. 

But publishers seem to want the query letter to include a mostly completed manuscript. Creating and completing the manuscript is what I think I need a team of professionals for. As I said, I have the raw materials, I'm just stuck at putting it all together. 

     Am I supposed to write the book by myself and then have a publisher rewrite it? 

Fwiw, I have seen self published books and I know I can go that route but they all look self published, not professionally done. 
Joined Jul 28, 2001
I believe there are some free apps here.


Don't know if they're worth looking at.

I helped someone with a book a year or so ago. She went through Dorence Pub.? It must have been affordable because she

was on a limited budget. She did end up with a nice cookbook. It was a book of dating meals and recipes. Meals you make for people

you're dating, from the first meal to the engagement ring dinner. She said she does well selling online.

That's all I got.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
It's all kind of circular for an author hunting for the first publication. Publishers prefer to work on contract as do authors so they're not writing what they cant' sell.  Looking at a list of cookbook publishers, they want a short, usually one page proposal. If they're interested, they'll probably want to see a manuscript sample of a chapter or two. 

First, define your topic. It's probably not just cooking unless you're writing a general cookery book. And I can't recommend you start there unless you can keep the book SHORT. it's too hard of a sell unless you're well established or recognized as an authority. And there's lots of them out there already. Save that for your third or fourth book. You need to focus, prune and find an underserved segment that's still large enough to sell to profitably. Because that makes your book easier to sell and more appealing to the publisher.This is your pitch, or hook. a first time author's success is mostly about the pitch. The manuscript just clinches the deal. 

Most will want your sample file in an e-format of some sort. Word document or at least that format, maybe PDF if you are intent on pictures in the submission. You pictures better WOW if you want them in your submission. You'll want it to print out well, but you don't need to stress over layout and formatting too much. Submissions really haven't changed a lot since the typewriter days.
   Use a 1″ margin on all sides
 Use a title page, set up the same as the title page in your package (see page 159).
 Don’t number the title page. Begin numbering with the first page of the text of the book, usually the introduction, prologue, or chapter one.
 Use a header on each page, including your name, the title of your novel in all caps, and the page number.
 Start each new chapter on its own page, one-third of the way down the page.
 The chapter number and chapter title should be in all caps, separated by two hyphens: CHAPTER 1—THE BODY.
 Begin the body of the chapter four to six lines below the chapter title.
 Indent fives spaces for each new paragraph. 
 Double-space the entire text.
 Use a standard font, 12-point type. Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier is fine.
 Use 20-lb. bond paper.
Now there's content there on printed format, but just make sure your electronic file conforms to that as you won't do a printed copy for a while most likely for editing feedback. Really, that's plain simple instructions and you don't have to worry about formatting or pretty. What you have to be able to show is that you can organize, write and present well within that structure. 

They won't rewrite your book for you. You'll do that with the editing feedback if they want to proceed to a full manuscript. You just have to make sure your sample chapters are excellent so you get to the full manuscript point. 

Most cookbooks have a simple formula:

Chapter XX

Intro content about the chapter topic, 1-10 paragraphs usually, rarely longer. Maybe a few technique notes that are common for the chapter. 

Recipe name

intro about why the recipe is important, significant, good, history or what not



Special notes

Repeat from the Recipe name again and again until your chapter is full. 

That's really all there is to most cookbooks. If you want to expand from that and wax more heavily on theory and technique, your pitch will be harder most likely and easier to pitch to the publisher in a later book. 
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Joined Oct 31, 2012
Panini-I've written down Dorrance as a potential publ. Thank you. 

Phatch. Thank you for all that information. I will be putting it to good use in the coming weeks. I guess no matter what, I'll have to go further than I had hoped before talking to a publisher. But now I'll be better prepared. I think I was getting a mental block over the process. 

As usual, hard work gets it done. 

If I make any substantial progress, I'll post an update to this thread

Thanks again guys. 
Joined Apr 4, 2012
Dorrance is a "publishing services company," not a traditional book publisher. You pay them for some editorial support, book packaging services, and to print then distribute your book. Typically, each "service" they provide will be paid for separately by you. There is no "submission" process, because they make their money by you paying them for the costs of production and distribution. They are not terribly concerned with whether you will make that investment back through sales. You will need to do the marketing and you would not see your book sold by a sales force into bookstores. You will also need to store your printed books somewhere. 

A traditional publisher might accept an unsolicitied book proposal and maybe give it some attention--once they've read through everything else in their slush pile-- and, if they think it has sales potential, will contact you about about the next steps. They don't want to see finished books. They don't even want a finished manuscript unless they have already looked at and expressed interest in a proposal.  If they are interested, an editor--one who specializes in in cookbooks--will open discussions with you to explore your idea further and perhaps discuss a contract. You would not pay for editorial services, production, distribution or marketing expenses.They would pay for all of that. Of course, they will only go to that expense if they feel your idea is one for a book they can sell. 

It is usually easier to get your book proposal into the hands of an appropriate editor at a traditional publishing house if you have an agent. Each publisher has its own book proposal submission guidelines. You might want to go to your local library and look at the 2016 Writer's Market to get some idea about how to formulate query letters and to get an idea of which publishers will even look at cookbook proposals. There is also information about working with an agent in its pages.

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