Writing a cookbook

Joined Aug 23, 2007
Hi - I am writing a cookbook and wondered if anyone has done this before? Any tips ideas? I have written an introduction as to store cupboard essentials etc. I would appreciate any help or accounts of past experiences etc. Thank you
Joined Aug 27, 2007
On the consumer end, I would like measurements in teaspoons/cups and pounds/ounces since I'm American. If I have to do conversions, takes me a lot longer and I don't usually bother, I just guess at quantity or get another cook book.
Joined Aug 23, 2007
I am in the UK so will be doing everything in lbs and ozs. Am hoping to have a conversion table for UK/USA/AUS. I know what you mean though because sometimes I cannot be bothered to convert US to UK - I just sling in rough quantities - does work for me though!!
Joined Feb 26, 2007
Ben - I'm not a professional in any sense of the word when it comes to cooking, but know what I like in a cook book. Have enough of them! and the collection keeps growing.

Some of my favorites have dual listing of imperial/metric measures in the ingredients list. Also colour pictures of some of the more unusual dishes, ones that people may have trouble picturing/ may not have seen before. And a good index at the back is essential. I prefer it when they have dual listings, say under the general catergory, e.g. chicken, beef, salads, and then under the actual recipe name alphabetically. Otherwise you get fed up lookiing for the name of the recipe thru the whole index and it gets frustrating.

And a list of oven temperatures - although most experienced cooks will know what mod hot oven etc means, and many other books have listed them before, its always handy to have it as a reference in the book you are reading, to save time referring to another book. A list of common cooking terms helps, doesn't need to be extensive, just some of the basics to help the learners out there.

One thing I find lacking in most cookbooks is dishes for breakfast - its all lunches, dinners and deserts. And then if they do, its mostly based on eggs eggs more eggs. Not everyone likes/can have eggs.

Well, enough from me. Good luck with it!!!


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
If you want to sell it commercially through a publisher, you'll be better off getting an agent who can sell your IDEA to a publisher for you. Don't write what you don't have to as that's just wasted effort. If they buy it, that's when you write it and do so under contract.

On the other hand, "The Joy of Cooking" got started as a cookbook that was self-published. That's a rare way to succeed though.

Joined Aug 27, 2007
Well let's not underestimate BombayBen, she seems determined despite the odds, so might be able to pull it off.
Joined Aug 23, 2007
oh and thanks for that - I am going to plough on with the book. I have been writing it for about a year now and even if it doesn't get published I can gift it to my 17 year old son = Ben who is off to University next fall
Joined Apr 17, 2006
I have a sister in publishing who says cookbooks and how-to books are the most lucrative areas in book publishing. But if you can't find a publisher, you can do it yourself through one of the companies that print the spiral bound cookbooks for fundraisers. You would have to put up some capital to do this. Those types of books are inexpensive to purchase and so sell well because of that. You could sell them in your restaurant, through independent book sellers, and at gift shops. Good luck.
Joined Aug 23, 2007
thanks for the tip grey - I guess that is probably the way I will go.

Thanks for that AndyG:bounce:
Joined May 12, 2007
I have found a company that is called Author Inc. They have a website WWW.chefspalate.com. They sell recipe software that I have and it is pretty good. Just with my own desk top printer and their base software I can print no frills recipe books (no extra text and no graphics) like what the people who charge for what is called comb binding (this is what most of those fundraiser cookbooks look like) which is technically different from spiral binding. If I had a comb binder I could do that at home too, it is so not rocket science. My husband is in academics and his university has a comb binder so if I wanted to go that route it would be fairly easy. Or you can print it at home and take it to a place like Kinko’s to be comb bound.

Their basic software starts at $39 for the download ten dollars more if you want them to mail you the CD. I like it so far but have only had it for a month or so and am still planning a marathon data entry party to put all my recipes in the program. And they offer a free 30 day trial of the software.

The cool part about this company is that they also sell publishing software that interfaces with the recipe software. The publishing software allows you to build the actual book i.e. import text, graphics etc., it even does cover designs. The recipe program has an alphabetical index that is generated automatically but has a keyword option for a super-duper index if you upgrade to the publishing software to aid in automatically generating a detail index in the publishing program. (Was that clear or did I confuse even myself?)

A lot of nifty info about the publishing software is not on the website. I had a problem with the down load (my spam blockers kept me from getting the e-mail giving me the proper link) and when I sent them a “help me” e-mail the owner called me and spent a good deal of time explaining what both programs do and the printing services that they offer.

Yes they offer printing services and it is really a good price. Years ago I looked into having my husband’s doctoral dissertation re-printed so that each of his nine children, parents, etc. could have a copy (doesn’t everyone want a comprehensive study of Nietzschean Pedagogy on their bookshelf) and the smallest amount of money I had to invest would have been $2000. I would have had 100 (minimum order for the company) copies of the book, but I only needed around a dozen. Half of that $2000 was the various fees the other half was the $10 per book printing fee.

This company will print 1 or 1000 copies and all a very reasonable price. They do hard and soft back perfect binding, spiral and comb. Yes color will cost you an arm and a leg compared to black and white, and paper choice is limited to white and off-white of the 20 pound paper they use.

The deal is the publishing software (around $150) allows you to do the work of the editor. You build your book (the program is not limited to cookbooks) from scratch, then no set up fee for printing and once you electronically submit your book to them to go to the printer you can at any time after that order as many or as little additional copies of your book.

They (for a fee of $99 ) will even set you up with an ISBN number and a scanable bar code, a listing in the Library of Congress and list you with major book dealers. Even one in the UK. So if you feel like you want to mass market you can.

It is total do it yourself self-publishing. I looked into a lot of other Print on Demand places and none of the others seemed as good. They were making money off of charging set up fees and putting your book into the program that the printing presses use, but they did most or all of the technical work for you. I’m a control freak and actually like the idea that it will be done absolutely the way I want it, even if that means doing it all myself.

I plan on purchasing the publishing software when I am done with the data entry on the recipe software. I write an Erma Brombeck meets Martha Stewart column for a small newspaper with a readership of about 12,000 (I said small). The readers have been asking me to reprint recipes and articles (like the one in which my kids lit a diaper on fire and I used my bare hand to put it out instead of smothering the fire with the pillow because the pillow cases were new) for a year or more in book form so I have a built in market, and I can easily recoup even the software cost. The owner of Author Inc. told me he has a client that uses both programs and is selling a good number of a specific cookbook for around $30 that cost her $4.85 to print. So the upside of doing it all yourself is that you make way more money per book yourself, but you are your own PR agent and distribution agent, all of it.

I’m sure it could also be a too good to be true situation. I know that it still won’t be easy or totally without some up from cost. But this company seems to offer the smallest up front cost and the widest ranges of options, but only because you do ALL of the work.

For those who want to publish a cookbook for money: even though cookbook publishing is lucrative for the publishing houses there are also 8 jillion people with an idea for a cookbook trying to get published. If you just want to do something really nice for friends, family and or a small niche market this might be just the thing.

I’ll let you know how it goes for me.
Joined Aug 27, 2007
Lol ok, noted.

Hey izbnso, generous post, took time to type, nice that you did that.
Joined Sep 9, 2007
From one writer to another, I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor. The unfortunate part for me is I work so many long hours, it really is hard. I think you have a good start with cupboard materials and tools. My cookbook is on hold as I write my novel, a murder mystery, hmmm nice diversion......and no, it's not about a chef who chops up her lover and feeds him to patrons. LOL

I would decide first on your target audience which will make a huge difference. At that point you might decide not to include soups, appetizers....etc....

The one I'm writing is geared toward the cash strapped........seems I've told ya a bit about me.....he he.......I believe when we are delveing into the abyss of something new, it is best to start from your heart and your roots, it always makes the most believable, heartfelt reading.

Good luck!

BTW: when people try to tell you, "if you're not Emeril, it will never sell." and they will, just remember, when we believe in ourselves and move forward we don't always succeed at first, but constant persistance and belief in ourselves opens otherwise closed doors. I once read this great saying, "People who don't fufill their dreams, won't encourage yours."
Joined Sep 20, 2007
Hi there!

Good luck with the cookbook!

There was a time when no one knew who Emeril was. Everyone has to start somewhere!

Good luck!

Joined Jul 28, 2001
I would suggest that you dedicate the book to someone like myself. This will draw in the US crowd.:D
I thought I had one written untill I was hired by a friend to test some of her recipes for a book. It took forever to second guess what senerio the reader is in while putting a formula together. You would be shocked at how many formulas in print just don't work.
My book is still a bunch of formulas stapled together. I might have to give it a kind of Fear and Loathing type twist to get it off the ground.
Joined Jan 23, 2005

I'm a cookbook/magazine junkie. They are everywhere, and it is hard to convince my kids that when I die the Complete works of Bon Appetit will have value. LOL

But there are so many bad recipes out there. It took me a few years to realize that. And it's now worse with the internet sites; absolute awful, don't work recipes, copied from site to other sites.

It is interesting to see someone's reaction when they say "My Christmas Cookies never look like the ones in the magazines." And I say, "Well, there are a lot of bad cookies recipes out there." It never occurs to them that it's may not be them, but it maybe the recipe.

Years ago, I started only buying books that were restaurant collections. My recipe success rate, improved greatly. I did find that I had to watch a little close for mistakes in quantity adjustments and sometimes the explanation on technique would be assumed in the instructions, but over all, I received a formula for something that worked.

I think for most of us, it gets boring and tideous writing the instructions simply and clearly, in a simple step by step, idiot proof manner.
Joined Aug 18, 2007
Not that it matters:crazy:
Good luck with the writing. I'm writing a food related novel, Writing class thinks i'm funny and printable. Joining a class i've found is beneficial as far as feedback is concerned...I know its a recipe book you're writing, but the way you format it is crucial isnt it??? Class is cheap at the local college (Ipay £52 for 12 weeks), 2 hours a week and loads of tips & contacts Anyway lots of luck, Whats your theme anyway??
Joined Aug 23, 2007
Bug hut - I am a she!! - Bombay Ben's is the name of my Indian and Gluten Free cafe!! (Ben is the name of my son) - I will get around to sending you recipes for tahini yoghurt and paneer and sweetcorn samosas - bit slammed at the moment!! Couple of catering jobs on hand at the moment:lol::lol:

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