• 5 Questions to Ask Before Writing A Cookbook

    Five Cookbook Writing Questions

    Writing cookbooks has been a rewarding experience for me both personally and professionally, and the fact that I’ve repeated the process more than once is a testimony to the fact that I believe in the process. I also know that good things happen when you write a cookbook. Examples from my experience are enhanced creditably, expanded professional opportunities to speak and teach, and heightened self-awareness related to time and energy management and procrastination,  not to mention the benefit my readers receive from using my cookbooks. That in and of itself is almost reason enough!

    While writing cookbooks is rewarding, such a project isn’t for the faint of heart and in most cases requires a team of dedicated professionals. The pre-publication involves you as the author and perhaps a book coach, agent, acquisitions editor, recipe tester(s), and maybe even a ghost writer. The publishing of the book requires a copy editor, designer, photographer, indexer, printer, distributor, marketer, and sales person.

    As the author, you decide which publishing method best aligns with your goals – either become an independent publisher and hire the professionals to do all phases of the publishing yourself or work with a publisher who handles most of the publication tasks on your behalf.

    Let’s assume you have the skills, passion, and knowledge required to write about a topic and you have your cookbook concept clearly defined. You still may wonder if you have what it takes to write a cookbook and what else you many need to consider.

    Here are five questions you can ask yourself before you decide to write your own cookbook. If you have a handle on these items, then the work that follow during the pre-publication and publication phases will be easier to manage. This helps to ensure the best possible outcome of writing you own cookbook and getting it published.

    1. Who am I writing my cookbook for?

    Be sure you specifically know who you are writing your book for. Here are three common cookbook audiences:

    Family and friends – I suspect that if you want to write a cookbook, you’re an experienced cook or baker, and as a result have recipes to share. Your family loves your home-cooked meals, and your friends think you’re the go-to person to bring a signature casserole or cake to a party or get-together. They all want you to share your recipes, and you know this because they’re always asking you for your recipes.

    You may be wondering if these reasons are compelling enough reasons to write a cookbook? Yes, it’s a good enough reason. Your audience is on the small side, but they are important. Your recipes and style of cooking for friends and family need to be preserved. Plus, if they’ve asked for recipes, they will enjoy recreating the dishes you make when they cook for their friends, move to their apartment, head off to college, start their family, etc., a cookbook written for them will fill that need.

    Clients or customers – If you have a nutrition-focused business, and you help your clients with weight loss, disease management, or wellness, I suspect that food preparation might be part of what you teach them. You also know their challenges when it comes to food, cooking, and nutrition. You know what motivates them to cook, and you know their barriers to cooking. Your cookbook can help them live a healthier lifestyle and provides a preset way to connect with them in the office.

    If you own a restaurant or catering business, your customers will enjoy a book with your recipes as a souvenir of their visit, or to remember their special occasion.You can imagine your clients and customers buying your cookbook from you, your website, or an online retailer.

    Certain groups of cooks or bakers – For this audience description, let’s say that you have mastered the art of making homemade candy with a process that simplifies the process on rainy, humid days and you feel excited and motivated to share it with home bakers, crafters, DIYers, and those who make candy for holiday gifts. You think a cookbook would be a good way to reach your audience, so you set your sights on getting your book published by a traditional publisher. You envision your book for sale at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and other locations.

    To help identify the audience for this group for your particular concept, write down details about the knowledge or cooking experience you want to share with them. Describe the cooks or bakers you most want to connect with. Define their age, gender, income level, and cooking experience. Keep them in mind when writing your cookbook or cookbook proposal.

    2. Who are my competitors?

    If you plan to write a family and friends cookbook this step may not be necessary, but if you intend to publish your book via either the traditional- or self-publishing route, there are two reasons to study other cookbooks:

    Competitive title research
 – You need to research competing cookbooks to show how your book will fit into the current publishing landscape. The purpose of studying competitive books is to generate a list of cookbooks that are similar in their audience, concept, and category to the book you want to write. This list is then shared with potential agents and editors so they can visualize where your book fits in the context of other published cookbooks. It’s important to realize that the goal of the research isn’t to prove that your concept is unique and that you don’t have any competition. In fact, the opposite is true. You want to point out your competition to validate your idea and then add why it’s time for you to write a similar book for this audience and what you plan to add to the conversation regarding your perceived cookbook concept.

    Inspiration and design research - 
The study of published cookbooks can be a source of inspiration as well. While looking at other cookbooks pay attention to what delights you – cover design, paper, fonts, interior colors, photography, recipe or text layout, trim size, or other features. Parts of other books that attract (or repel) you are clues about the type of book you may want to write.

    A word of caution, don’t let the study of other cookbooks deter you from writing your cookbook. Sometimes it feels overwhelming to see so many cookbooks already published. When we see these books, we may feel doubt that we can see a cookbook project through to publication. The best remedy for this feeling is to acknowledge that there are hundreds of cookbooks published each year, but the exact book you want to write hasn’t been written yet because you haven’t written it. Your message can only be communicated in a way that you can write it. Use the study of published cookbooks to motivate you and not deter you. Work hard and commit to moving forward with your project.
 A common mistake during this phase is to get too caught up in research. Research makes us look busy, but the reality is that excessive research slows down progress on writing your proposal or book manuscript. Even though research is necessary, it’s important not to spend excessive amounts of time on this step. I recommend scheduling approximately three 2-hour blocks of time on your calendar over the course of two weeks. During each 2-hour block of time visit either a local bookstore, library, or perform an online search.

    3. How do I want to have my cookbook published?

    This answer is important, so you know the path that you are on and the next steps. Here are some common methods to get a cookbook published that you can choose from:

    *Organize recipes with an app or recipe software and print my cookbook at home or in cooperation with a quick-print shop

    *Operate as an independent publisher and self-publish a PDF of recipes, an eBook, or print book

    *Pay a publishing company to help publish the book as a print book and eBook

    *Secure a publisher (without an agent) to handle all aspect of publishing my book

    *Retain an agent to help find a traditional publisher who will publish my book

    The method of publication you select may be different than another cookbook author. Rather than comparison with what others are doing, I recommend you focus your energy on your reasons why you want to write a cookbook and then choose the route to the publication that best matches your goals.

    4. How does my audience know me and hear me? What is my presence in the marketplace based on?

    Your author platform serves to help your audience get to know you better and establishes an ongoing presence in the marketplace. It’s how they see you, hear you, and begin to develop a relation of trust with you.

    Your platform forms the foundation of most of the promotional work you will do for your brand, business, and cookbook. Through the various parts of your platform, you can stay in touch with your audience and build a relationship with those who are interested in what you have to say. Every aspiring cookbook author, including those who want to self-publish their cookbook, needs to have a way to connect with their audience. Also, if you desire to have your cookbook published with the help of an agent and traditional publisher the fact that you already have an established platform makes ou more attractive as a prospective author.

    One reason to define your audience early in the process of writing a cookbook is to help you determine if building a platform is necessary. For example, if your audience is your family or college-aged kids, a platform isn’t essential. But, if your audience is middle-aged professional women who suffer from heartburn, then your platform is necessary. You need to have a way to get in touch with these women. You need to be present to them somehow, and they need to be able to find you, hear you, and see you as an expert in the treatment of heartburn through food and nutrition.

    5. Am I fully committed to this project?

    “Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. [S]He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if [s]he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.” 
— Lawrence Clark Powell, author.

    Commitment is defined as the attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something. Commitment to your book project is an essential ingredient for successful completion of your book proposal, manuscript, and ultimate publication and book promotion. In the end, your willingness to commit to whatever it takes to finish your book defines the success of your book.

    Commitment involves focus, concentration, the creation of a space and place to write, and development of a routine for writing. It’s also important to adjust your mindset and avoid the mid-project slump when you may feel like giving up. It’s at this time in particular that you need to remind yourself why you are embarking on this project and to focus on energy-producing emotions such as optimism, discipline, productivity, and energy.

    There are obstacles to writing a cookbook. Examples include day jobs, home lives, community involvement, children, and travel demands that keep occupy our time. Other obstacles include the realization that there are agents who won’t represent you and your idea and editors that don’t want to publish your work. But at the same time don’t let this overshadow the fact that there are agents who DO want to represent you and editors who DO want to publish your work. Another obstacle is your inner voice and thoughts that leave you feeling confused, unsure, and overwhelmed. Obstacles are present with any goal. Your job is to commit to the goal and work to overcome the obstacles. For example, when you identify the obstacle, “I can’t write this book because I’m too busy with my day job”, change it to an action such as, “I will wake up one hour earlier four mornings a week to work on my project”, or “I will set aside weekend mornings and double up on my writing time”. Schedule doable goals, stick to your plan, and your obstacles become stepping stones instead of blocking the path.

    Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, float your idea in a cookbook proposal, and search for the perfect people to help you with your project. It’s only through the risk of asking and possible rejection that you will find the perfect publishing arrangement for your book idea. And it’s only through commitment to your project that any of the work required with be completed.

    Taking time to study your answers to these five questions lays the groundwork necessary before you move forward with the next steps in the cookbook writing process. Any time you invest in identifying your audience, defining your competition, choosing your route to publication, building your platform, checking your commitment will pay dividends when the project starts moving forward, and your dream of writing a cookbook is closer to becoming a reality.

    Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Hungry For A Cookbook Mastermind Group forming soon, learn more here.

  • Mastermind Groups

    Mastermind GroupsWhen I graduated from chef school, one of the first books I read was Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I can remember the night I visited the local bookstore, most probably to look at the cookbook section, but found myself in the Business and Money section of the bookstore reading this book. I still have the book (with the date of purchase recorded on the inside first page) and I read parts of the book regularly.

    Written in 1960, this book is considered an influential book for the achievement of personal goals, financial independence, and a spirit-filled life. In the book, such concepts as self-direction, organized planning, auto-suggestion, imagination, faith, persistence, and mastermind association are reviewed in detail and have helped countless individuals realize the power they have to create their future.

    In his discussion of “the power of the Master Mind,” Hill says, “economic advantage may be created by any person who surrounds himself with the advice, counsel, and personal cooperation of a group of people who are willing to lend wholehearted aid, in a spirit of perfect harmony.” Hill believed in the power of association with others. “When a group of individual brains is coordinated, and function in harmony, the increased energy created through that alliance becomes available to every individual brain in that group.”

    So what’s the take-home message for those of us who have projects, careers, businesses, and families? The message is that if we band together in a spirit of harmony, with a common purpose, we too can use our experiences, intelligence, and knowledge to benefit one another. It’s in this spirit of cooperation that I have become more interested in mastermind groups.

    Mastermind Groups are a win-win for everyone involved. If you feel stuck, alone in your work, or unable to move forward with a project, then joining a Mastermind Group may be perfect for you.

    What is a mastermind group?

    A Mastermind Group is a group of individuals who meet on a regular basis to challenge each other to set goals, brainstorm ideas and support each other in a spirit of compassion, respect, and honesty. Mastermind Groups help participants grow because the other participants are supportive, but can also help to clarify goals through being a devil’s advocate to one another.

    Each Mastermind Group meeting has an agenda, but participation by each group member is key, for the group cannot function without participants who are committed to attend the meetings, set goals, and help others set their goals as they grow alongside each other. Brainstorming and a spirit of community and cooperation are key to the success of a Mastermind Group.

    Anyone can join a Mastermind Group. Typically there are 5 to 8 people in a Mastermind Group. The members have a shared interest, similar skill or success level, and have a desire to make the next months of their life extraordinary. The want to be in a supportive group that helps them reach or exceed their goals. They are ready to let their desire to reach their goals overcome any fear of change or goal setting that they may have.

    Mastermind Groups are organized by an individual who is responsible to gather the group, set up the meeting space, set the agenda for the meetings, and ensure that the meetings run smoothly. Because of the group nature of a Mastermind Group, commitment from each member is crucial. Highly motivated participants who are willing to ask, and give, help and support, and who commit to showing up for meetings make the group successful.

    Mastermind Groups meet at least once a month, but sometimes more frequently such as weekly or every other week. The agenda is the same at each meeting, and every group member has a chance to share their goals and their progress on their goals and gain access to the brainstorming power of the group. Groups meet either in person, on the phone, or in a virtual conference room either through Google Hangouts, Zoom, Facebook groups, or Skype.

    There are many benefits of a Mastermind Group such as:

    *Emotional support through brainstorming to lead you to answers to your questions, solutions to your problems, or ideas for moving forward with a project or goal

    *Social contact and shared experiences add to your knowledge base and enhances your experience

    *Confidence that your decisions are vetted and decisions are in alignment with your goals

    *Accountability to get your goals accomplished and that you can make progress on your goals

    *Connection as you network and gain valuable support from colleagues

    *Sense of belonging through shared work and knowing there are others who support your goals

    *Positive mental energy through meeting with others and working towards your goals

    You can see that a Mastermind Group can be a powerful tool for moving forward in your goals related projects, business, or personal life. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time I join a Mastermind Group.

    Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”



  • Manage Your Energy to Manage Your Time

    Managing Energy Managing TimeProductivity always remains top of mind for me. Due to weekly commitments, and a desire for flexibility to spend time with family, the time I devote to work each day is finite. In order to maximize productivity during this time I created a series of daily, weekly, and monthly routines to help stay on track with repetitive tasks related to self-care, business management, and home management. These routines free up my mind and focus because I know that repetitive tasks such as bookkeeping, laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning all get done at their their scheduled time. For example, I complete business book keeping each Tuesday. I send invoices, pay bills, and look at my income and expense statement every Tuesday. This habit to do financial work at a scheduled time frees my mind of concerns about bills, payments, and invoices on the other days of the week when I’m working on other projects and tasks.

    Another one of my routines is my morning routine. It lasts about 3 hours every weekday morning from 5-8 am.  During this time I read, get cleaned up for the day, eat breakfast with my teens, clean up the kitchen, make my bed, and listen to either a podcast or an Audible book while I’m washing my face and doing other parts of my “beauty routine”. Recently I finished listening to the Audible book 6 Months to 6 Figures by Peter Voogd. This book was recommended by Hal Elrod in his podcast The Miracle Morning and book by the same name.

    In his book, Voogd discusses productivity and time management as one of the keys to a successful quest to earn more income. In his discussion, he makes a clear point that time is finite. It comes, and it goes. This is something we have all heard before.  We all have the same amount of time in a day, week, or month, and there isn’t any way through time management to create or add more time to our days. To maximize our productivity, though, and take full advantage of the time we have what we can manage is our energy. With a higher level of energy and alertness, we are better prepared to focus and take advantage of the time we have.

    This concept while not new did resonate with me. I’ve always known I could control my energy level. But, for some strange reason the way that Voogd explained energy control in relationship to productivity opened my eyes in three ways.

    1. Energy management is my responsibility. No one can manage my energy for me. It’s all within my control. Just like managing a chronic disease, energy management is up to me.

    2. Energy management is directly connected to my habits. In all cases the habits I have created for sleep, food, drink, spirituality, finances, thoughts, social media, email, exercise, grooming, home care, family time, and friendships are my decision. I have control over these habits. I can choose if I have control over the habit or it has control over me.

    3. Energy management means managing habits so they enhance my energy and not deplete it. What energizes each us is different, but the key is to know what habits produce energy for you and what habits drain your energy. For example, if drinking two glasses of red wine in the evening interferes with your sleep and the lack of sleep makes you feel groggy the next morning, then it might be best to revisit the habit and look at ways that you can drink wine and not reduce your energy levels in the morning.  Another example is if spending time with a certain friend or family member energizes you and gives you a positive perspective, then create habits to get together more often with that person.

    As we head into a new year, it’s beneficial to pay more attention to our habits. Decide if a habit is enhancing or depleting your energy. Determine if your current energy level allows you to be as productive as you can be, or do you feel like taking a nap during the middle of your work day due to low energy. My goal is to use habits to create energy so that I can maximize productivity with my business and cookbook projects. By maximizing productivity during my work time, I can spend the other parts of my day and weekends in pursuit of hobbies and activities I enjoy.

    Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”

  • Food Trends 2017

    Food Trends 2017It’s time for my annual Food Trends update, this time of course focusing on predictions and trends for 2017 in food, nutrition, restaurants, and ingredients.

    I find the focus on regional American cuisines and plant-based eating refreshing as well as the return to home cooked meals for Generation Z. This is a lot to digest, but included are some nice links to PDFs from Sterling-Rice Group, Baum + Whiteman, and the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot Culinary Forecast for 2017, as well as a list from Global Food Forums, that they keep updated as new lists and trend reports are published.

    Global Food Forums: 2017 Food Trends
    Top trend lists in food, beverage, and nutritional product trends for 2017

    National Restaurant Association: What’s Hot 2017 Culinary Forecast

    Sterling-Rice Groups: 10 Cutting Edge Culinary Trends for 2017

    NPD: Predictions for 2017 and Beyond

    Washington Post: Plant proteins, healthy fats and more 2017 food trends

    Tasting Table: Our predictions for the most delicious food and drink tends of the year

    Eater: Every Single Food Trend That’s Been Predicted for 2017

    Kim Severson: The Dark (and Often Dubious Art of Forecasting Food Trends)

    Linked-in David Craig: 2017 Food Trends Roundup

    Oldways: Five Food Trends to Make 2017 The Best Year Ever

    QSR: 12 Fast Food Trends for 2017

    International Food Information Council Foundation: Functional foods, sustainability, protein, CRISPR, What’s Healthy

    Baum + Whiteman International Food + Restaurant Consultants:
    13 Hottest Food & Beverage Trends in Restaurant & Hotel Dining for 2017

    Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”

  • The Power of Showing Up


    One thing I’m going to try this year is to use the phrase show up to define my actions. With projects that need my focused attention, as well as activities in other parts of my life and business that are important, I think there will be great benefit from the daily reminder to show up in everything I plan to do. For example, If I promise I’ll call someone, schedule lunch or coffee, send an email, finish a project, attend a function or party, or sign a contract, it’s important for the sake of personal integrity and business relationships that I do what I say I’m going to do.

    Accountability and dependability have always been important to me, and I work hard to be accountable and dependable with others. At the core of who I am, I don’t like to others down. The sad reality, though, is that I often let myself down. I think about doing something for myself, or dream of a personal goal, and I might not follow through, or if I do, it’s not with the best of what I can give. So I wonder if I can’t count on myself, who can I count on?

    I see this challenge too when I work with individuals who want to write a cookbook. When they get into the work of writing recipes or a proposal, they don’t show up for themselves. They end up working on other projects and meet other deadlines for everyone else, but they fail to commit to their own project and dream. Even after discussions about time management, planning, and using a calendar to schedule time to take action, they use the scheduled time to work on their project. In short, they didn’t show up.

    This idea of showing up for ourselves can have more than one meaning, and both were discussed at length in a podcast I recently listened to. In the The Life CoachSchool podcast with Brooke Castillo, Brooke stresses the importance of showing up for ourselves in two main areas: how we present ourselves, especially when we work alone part of the day, as well as how we plan and schedule our goals and show up to get the work done to accomplish our goals. Below is the link to these two podcasts.

    I plan to get 2017 off to a good start and set my goals for the year. I then plan to schedule what I need to do and show up to do the work.  In doing this, I hope to accomplish all that I set out to do in 2017 not only for my clients but also for myself. 

    Podcast #84 Showing Up discusses the importance of caring for ourselves and presenting our best self every day. Don’t listen to this if you’re in the “work in your pajamas”camp.

    Podcast #126 The Power of Planning discusses the importance of planning and the elimination of indecision in our actions to show up and do everything we plan and say we’re going to do.

    Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”

  • Cookbook and Food Writing Links Vol. 5

    Cookbook and Food Writing LinksFOOD TRENDS

    One of my favorite resources for food trends is Allecipes’ Measuring Cup Consumer Trend Report. This report provides information from the Allrecipes group of home cooks such as how they shop, cook, and eat. Using intense databases and online information gathering, Allrecipes has the unique ability to gather information related to the online activity of their users. Here’s a link to their September 2016 report on Back to Kitchen trends.

    Also, don’t forget to follow my Food Trends Pinterest board and watch FPS for my annual Food Trends roundup in January 2017.


    I hope you enjoyed last week’s Fall Cookbook Roundup. If you missed it, you could read the blog post here.

    Last week I signed two new cookbook contracts, so I’m getting ready to write cookbook #3 and #4!  I love new projects, and the process of writing a cookbook is one of my strengths. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but for me, it’s easier for me to put together a cookbook manuscript than it is to maintain a food blog. The advantage of a cookbook project is that I get to do what I’m good at (develop, write, and test recipes) and let others help me with the rest (such as photography, design, and production). In addition, a cookbook project is finite, and there is a financial reward. I feel the excitement to get started on the research for the cookbooks.

    With the signing of the contracts fresh in my mind, I thought I’d share a blog post and tool that relate to contracts and manuscripts.

    First, here is a blog post with 6 Tips to Negotiate a Traditional Cookbook Contract. This blog post is NOT professional legal advice because I am not an attorney or an agent. So, if you’re unsure about the way this relates to your specific situation, then I advise you to seek professional legal advice.

    Just like my last cookbook, I plan to use Scrivener as a tool to write the manuscripts. My favorite feature is the way the data is managed in smaller files until it’s compiled, along with the addition of metadata to sort the work I need to do. Here’s a nice video on the basics of Scrivener in case it might be of interest to you when you write a manuscript.

    Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”

  • Fall Cookbook Roundup


    fall-cookbook-roundupIt’s time for my semi-annual cookbook roundup. Fall and the Christmas/holiday season traditionally creates a busy time for cooks as well as cookbook sales and publication. My roundup this fall includes links to recently published articles about cookbooks from the perspective of food safety, gift-giving lists, the Frankfurt Book Fair, and the platform and success of Ina Garten.

    Let’s start with an article that presents cookbooks as a biohazard because of harmful bacteria clinging to their pages.

    And next are 11 best new cookbooks 2016 from the Independent in the UK. Topics for these cookbooks include seaweed, food of Palestine, a new family classics book from Jamie Oliver, foods of Pakistan, Miso cookbook, Cardamom Trail baking book by GBB Show semi-finalist Chetna Makan, food from the Amalfi Coast, Simple food by Diana Henry, Scandinavian comfort food, and Japanese cooking at home.

    This list of cookbooks that add a dash of science to holiday meals includes books that explore the idea of science not just in a restaurant kitchen, but in the home kitchen.

    This is a hefty report from the LA Times fall cookbook roundup and let me draw your attention to their look at the current state of the cookbook industry. This report takes a look at how cookbook sales responded to the digital and ebook response to recipes. In the end, sales have proven that cookbook users want physical books “with recipes that work, are explained well, and that they can follow.” Amen.

    And a follow-up from the Frankfort Book Fair that reiterates that the cookbook sector of the market has been unaffected by a drop in sales unlike other sectors. Cookbooks can evoke emotion and are more visual which helps to explain why hardcover cookbooks still sell well.

    Here’s a list of cookbooks [that] make tasteful gifts for foodies.

    Ina Garten has written 10 cookbooks. Here’s a look at how she does it and what makes her books successful.

    And finally, from the NYTThe Best Cookbooks of Fall 2016.

    And if after all this, you still dream of writing a cookbook of your own, be sure to check out my blog for my Steps to Write a Cookbook Series.

    Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”

  • Cookbook and Food Writing Links Vol. 4

    Cookbook and Food Writing LinksBOOK MARKETING

    My 2nd cookbook, Tasting Kentucky: Favorite Recipes from the Bluegrass State continues to keep me busy. Most marketing efforts for this book are up to me. Every week I schedule time to contact new sales and signing leads and to follow-up on activities from the previous weeks.

    One of my go-to resources for topics related to writing, publishing, and marketing is Joanna Penn, of The Creative Penn. You can read here her thoughts on marketing or if you’re interested buy her book, How to Market a Book where she discusses marketing principles, prerequisites for success, short-term marketing concepts, author platforms,and book launches.


    November is #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). While this newsletter is about writing cookbooks, there are similarities between writing novels and cookbooks. As part of a #NaNoWriMo promotion, I became aware of this complimentary copy of The Ultimate Guide to Writing Advice


    It takes time to build an author platform. It also takes time to write a cookbook proposal or manuscript. In this blog post, Chad R. Allen answers the question How Do I Write My Book and Build a Platform at the Same Time?

    If you have questions about what an author platform is and how to build one, read my blog post and download the Build Your Author Platform worksheet.


    We’re nearing the end of the calendar year and food trends for 2017 are starting to emerge. Reading about these trends is something I always enjoy. In the article written for Foodservice Equipment and Supplies, six trends are identified that “may move from cutting edge to mainstream.”

    Follow my Food Trends board on Pinterest.

    Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”

  • Steps to Write a Cookbook: Find An Agent or Publisher

    steps-to-write-a-cookbook-part-8If you have decided not to self-publish your cookbook, the route from your cookbook proposal to a finished book will either move through an agent or a publisher.

    If you’re writing your cookbook for family and friends, or if you want to pay a vanity or subsidy publisher to publisher your book, you won’t need to find an agent. For this reason, take time now to evaluate how you want to get your cookbook publisher so you can follow the correct steps. Read this blog post Routes to Publication for tips and discussion on various ways to get a cookbook published.

    After writing a cookbook proposal, which we discussed here, your next step is to query agents or publishers. Query means a question, but in the publishing world, it actually has more than one meaning. In this case, it means to ask someone or to inquire about the acceptability of a cookbook concept or other book idea. The purpose of a query is to determine if an agent wants to represent you and/or if a publisher wants to publish your cookbook. (The other type of query refers to a term used when editing a book manuscript.)

    In this blog post, we will discuss querying agents and publishers, as well as other methods to attract attention from an agent or publisher.

    The purpose of finding an agent is so that they can be your ally in the publishing world.  If you feel uncomfortable navigating a book contract alone, or if you want to go after a larger publisher and get the best deal possible, you may want to use an agent.

    If you want to find an agent, you need to research cookbook agents and then to retain an agent you need to send them your cookbook proposal or concept summarized in query letter according to their submission guidelines. These can be found on their website and submissions are done either via email, snail mail, or an online form on their website. Some cookbook agents also publish an outline of a cookbook proposal on their website. If they expect you to follow their outline, organize your proposal according to their guidelines as well.

    Once you find an agent and sign a contract they will make sure your proposal is in top notch shape to submit to publishers. Agents often know what different editors are looking for, so they can help submit to the best publisher for your concept.

    Agents are paid a percentage of your advance and royalties so they are motivated to find the most lucrative deal for your cookbook. The standard rate for agents if 15%.

    Here are some suggested ways to find a cookbook agents:

    1. Refer to print or online edition of A Guide To Literary Agents. They even maintain a list of cookbook literary agents.

    2. Use Query Tracker to find literary agents. With this site you can also organize and track your queries. You do have to create an account, but the service is free to use for basic use.

    3. If you compiled a list of agents in your cookbook research, look up the agent using the the links above.

    4. Visit agent’s website to learn more about their agency and about the types of authors they represent. Read their submission guidelines and follow them as defined.

    4. Search agents, deals, publishers on Publishers Marketplace.It requires a subscription, but it’s worth the fee if you want to use a site that many editors and agents have access to. In addition, their site is just linked away from Publishers Lunch, a daily newsletter for the publishing industry that you might enjoy subscribing to as well.

    5. Network with cookbook authors at book fairs, cooking classes, or conferences. Talk to them about their book and ask if they are represented by an agent. Don’t be afraid to ask for their agent’s name as well or if they didn’t have an agent, how they were offered a cookbook contract. If you know the cookbook author well enough, ask them to connect you to their agent. Agents sometimes give preference to referrals, so a personal recommendation can go a long way.

    6. Attend food bloggers or culinary conference to meet agents if they are presenting or offering  speed pitch sessions.

    7. Volunteer at food or wine events where cookbook authors have signings or where people in book- or food-related jobs gather. Get to know others and connect with like-minded people. You never know what sort of connection you might make when you get out and give away your time.

    8. Join an organization where cookbook authors, food writers, or other culinary-focused individuals meet. The best example is the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Other industry specific groups are James Beard, Association of Food Journalists, and Les Dames Escoffier. Membership requirements are specific and do vary so check their website.

    9. Connect with cookbook authors and agents on social media. Engage them in conversation and share ideas about food, cooking, and your expertise in a knowledgeable and professional way.

    If you want to find a traditional publisher, without the representation of an agent, you need to search for a cookbook publisher who accepts “unsolicited” cookbook proposals. Here are few ways to research publishers who accept unsolicited cookbook proposals:

    1. Refer to the list of cookbooks you made while doing cookbook research. Look up each publisher in print- or online- edition of  Writers Market to see if they accept unsolicited proposals. If they do, visit the publisher’s website and look at their most recent online catalog to see what type of cookbooks they publish. Select publishers who produce books that appeal to you and who haven’t already published a cookbook on the topic you want to write about. For example, if a publisher just published a book 101 Ways to Cook Kale, then your book about kale probably won’t be extended a contract by that publisher because it’s too repetitive of a topic.

    2. Send your “unsolicited” (unagented) cookbook proposal directly to the acquisitions editor without going through an agent. (If they only take agented/solicited proposals, you must have an agent submit your proposal to the publisher. Use the steps above under Find An Agent.) Follow submission guidelines found in Writer’s Market, or on the publisher’s website. Submit a query letter and cookbook proposal directly to the editor with his/her name. Don’t send a query letter without a personal name.

    5. Network with cookbook authors at book fairs, cooking classes, or conferences. Talk to them about their book and ask if they’re publisher accepts unsolicited proposals. Don’t be afraid to ask for their editors name as well. If  you know the cookbook author well enough, ask them to connect you to their editor. Editors often accept personal recommendations from authors they’ve worked with and a personal recommendation goes a long way.

    6. Strive to connect acquisitions editors by attending conferences, food events, book fairs, and any other activity where people who love food and cooking gather.

    Some aspiring cookbook authors take a less direct approach to finding a publisher and instead of direct contact with agents or publishers they focus on getting noticed as they build their platform and develop a relationship with their audience.

    This method of finding a publisher has been known to work, but doesn’t happen overnight. And sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. A crowd of people currently blog, write, and speak about food, cooking, health, and nutrition. That said, don’t rule out the “Getting Noticed” option. You need to build a platform anyway, so why not get started. With persistence and savvy ways of self-promotion, you can build an audience and get them excited about your food or cooking message. And, at the same time, you just might attract the attention of an agent or an editor who loves that you already have a built-in audience for your message.

    Before I wrote my first cookbook, I taught cooking classes, wrote for a local newspaper, became active on Facebook and Twitter, and volunteered for local food/culinary events and committees. It was in doing these activities that I met an acquisitions editor, and she asked me about writing a cookbook. And it was because of my first cookbook, that I landed a contract for my second cookbook. You never know what doors can open through hard work to build up a platform in your area of expertise. This won’t happen with a sit-back-and-blog-and-wait attitude, though. You’ll have to add time and energy to connect with your audience and with other people who write and publish cookbooks.
    Over the past few years, there have been competitions run by cookbook agents and TV shows/celebrities to unearth the next great cookbook author. Below are a few examples of such contests.

    1. Twitter contest held by The Lisa Ekus Group: Independent Publisher – THE Voice of the Independent Publishing Industry

    2. A contest on the Rachael Ray show for 5-ingredient family meals: ‘The Great American Cookbook Competition’- The Finale – Rachael Ray Show

    Writing a cookbook may be a dream of yours, but the writing of the book only benefits your audience when your book is published. Do your research, build your platform, write your proposal, and you too can find a credible publisher for your cookbook – either through an agent or by going directly to the publisher yourself.

    Download the worksheet below for a summary of the tips to find an agent or publisher.






    Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”. 


  • Steps to Write a Cookbook: Write a Cookbook Proposal

    copy-of-steps-to-write-a-cookbook-part-7-1Welcome to Part 7 of my blog series Steps to Write a Cookbook. If this is the first blog post you’ve read in this series, I encourage you to go back and review the previous blog posts in the series:


    Identify your goals for publication

    Define your cookbook concept

    Evaluate routes to publication

    Build your author platform

    Check your commitment

    Research the competition

    This is the place where aspiring authors get ansty to write their cookbook manuscript. The good news is that the entire book manuscript isn’t necessary at this point. What you need to focus on next is writing a cookbook proposal.

    What is a cookbook proposal?
    A cookbook proposal is a business plan for your cookbook. In a proposal, you summarize your cookbook concept and sell yourself as the author of the cookbook. You may be lucky enough to have a publisher approach you about writing your cookbook, you may choose to self-publish your cookbook, or you may send your proposal to agents and/or a publishing house, but in any case, it’s recommended to focus now on writing a proposal. How long it takes to write a proposal depends on your motivation, your platform development, and how many recipes you have ready to include. I’ve seen aspiring author focus and write a proposal in 90 days, but a lot will depend on your ability to concentrate and prioritize the work to write the proposal.

    Why write a proposal?
    It’s worth the time and effort to write a cookbook proposal. A cookbook proposal provides you with:

    1. A plan that organizes your concept, competition, content, audience, and marketing/promotion ideas. A proposal communicates in detail your vision for your cookbook. When shared with agents and editors you can find out if they are willing to invest time and money on the publication of your idea. It is possible to query an agent, and some editors, by only sharing your cookbook concept, but be prepared for them to request a proposal if they want to see more. In some cases, agents like  to only see a  cookbook summary submitted and then they help shape the proposal before submission to a publisher.

    2. A snapshot of your writing style and voice, as well as a taste of your cookbook through a sample of your best recipes. Well written text and delicious recipes make a strong case for you as the author of this book. If you can write a proposal, chances are you can write a cookbook.

    3. A litmus test for your commitment to writing a cookbook. Any aspiring author who can follow-through on writing a proposal shows commitment to their cookbook project.

    4. A tool that forces you to think not only about your book, but what you bring to the table for marketing and sales of the book. Here you define your platform and how it can help sell the book. idea.

    What to include in a proposal
    Agents and publishers devour well-written cookbook proposals. They want to read proposals that are unforgettable and learn about aspiring authors who have excitement and passion for a topic. The nuts and bolts of a cookbook proposal are pretty standard. Below is an outline and description of key components to include in a cookbook proposal. The page counts are estimates only, but you can see from the estimates that a proposal’s page count can be from 30 to 40 pages. The final length of the proposal depends on the length of the sample chapter.

    Cover Page: (1 page)
    Sometimes called the title page, this is the cover sheet for your proposal. It includes the working title for your cookbook, a subtitle if applicable, and your contact information. Create an appealing book title. Include social media information. If you submit the proposal as a PDF it’s nice to generate live links to make it easy for the agent and/or publisher to click through to your social media sites. Insert a shortened such as a bit.ly link and add a full URL as displayed here (https://bitly.com) to assist agents or editors who may only have a printed version of the proposal to visit the URLs provided.

    Table of Contents: (1 page)
    This is the table of contents for the cookbook proposal. It’s helpful to format in Microsoft Word (or other word-processing software) using the Outline View. With this feature, you can toggle the heading to update page numbers as the content expands or changes.

    Cookbook Summary: (a short paragraph)
    Also called your the hook or unique selling point think of this summary as the sound bite for your cookbook. This paragraph describes your book’s focus and the launching point from where you cookbook proposal will start. To create this summary, first explain in just a few sentences your cookbook concept, what you want to teach, and who you are trying to reach (your audience). Reduce the summary down to a few sentences. This can be hard to do, but the ability to do so demonstrates sharp focus for your concept.

    My first published cookbook was The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook. The short cookbook summary was: The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook is a seasonal cooking journey through a Kentucky year. With twelve chapters, from January through December, The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook guides home cooks through a year of delicious recipes that use Kentucky ingredients and follow Kentucky traditions to create family and celebration meals.

    Cookbook Concept Overview: (2 to 3 pages)
    This section provides agents and editors with their first glimpse of your writing ability and style. Make this section compelling and put your best foot forward. Hook the agent or editor and keep them reading with a well-written cookbook concept overview. It’s been said that if this section is not well put together, an agent or editor may not read any further. That’s a hard reality, so do your best to make this section shine.

    The cookbook concept overview provides a more in-depth discussion of your cookbook concept and answers the question – why you need to write this book? You job as the author is to summarize your concept: how you thought of the idea, why your cookbook needs to be written, why the time is now, why you need to write the book, and how you plan to execute the idea. If your audience requests that you write this book, or you know they would benefit from this book, communicate this request or need here. Add links to any viral or relevant social media, blog post, or comments on a blog that sparked the idea.

    Target Market: (1 to 2 pages)
    This section defines who will buy your book and how will it benefit them. Use this section to discuss your audience in detail including who they are, why they will buy the book, and how it will benefit them. Add statistics about where your target market shops, what they read, websites they visit, blogs they enjoy, and how your idea takes advantage of a recent trend, if applicable.

    Competition: (2 to 3 pages)
    In this section provide a list of about five cookbooks published in the past few years that are competition for your cookbook. The goal of making this list is to show how your idea fits in the current publishing landscape. Include for each book on the list it’s title, author, publisher, agent, copyright date, concept, and audience. Add a few sentences about how your book will be different. Use your descriptions to display confidence about your idea and present the competition in a positive fashion. If you feel the market is untapped for your idea, and that your idea is unique, rather than say, “No one has ever written a book like this”, use this section to show the publisher that they can have access to a new market through your cookbook.

    Promotion plan: (2 to 3 pages)
    After you write a book, your next job is to sell the book. In this part of the proposal, you tell the agent and editor how you can help sell the book by providing ideas for sales and marketing. Describe your connections to your audience through your platform such as a blog, videos, writing outlets, social media, and media and community connections. Include ideas for promotion for local cookware shops, restaurants, specialty retail shops, bookstores, and speaking engagements. Discuss how you can help schedule events, direct or bulk book purchases, and signings. Think of locations where your book can be sold outside of tradition retail bookstores such as women’s boutiques, pet stores, hardware stores, wineries, breweries, distilleries, and other specific retail establishments.

    Author background: (1 to 2 pages)
    In this section, you tell the agent or editor who you are and why you are the best person to write this book. Describe your author platform in detail. Include educational experience, books you’ve written (with sales figures if possible), media experience, special skills, and other information that sells you as the author of this book. You want the agent or editor to think that you’re the perfect person to write the book. Don’t be modest or reserved here. Support your case as the expert, writer, and promoter of this cookbook.

    Table of Contents: (1 page)
    The first page of this section is the “snapshot” table of contents for your cookbook. The table of contents lists in order the chapters for the book. Most non-fiction books, including cookbooks, contain 10 to 12 chapters. Include on the list every chapter including the introduction, acknowledgments, foreword (if you plan to do this section and name the person you might want to write the foreword), chapter titles, index, and any other chapters you plan to include such as a glossary. Make the chapters flow in a logical order. To plan the order of my chapters I use index cards, Post-It Notes, or the corkboard feature of the software program Scrivener to map out chapter names and place them in their desired order. After you complete the outline, type it on one page as an overview.

    Annotated table of contents with chapter summaries: (2 to 3 pages)
    After the overview, use several pages to write an expanded or annotated table of contents. This includes the chapter outline as described with the addition of a description of each chapter. This description offers several paragraphs to describe what the chapter is about and how it will help the audience. Include any call-out features such as boxed text, lists, or other graphic features in the description if you plan to use them. Within each description, include a list of recipes on that chapter.

    Sample Chapter with Recipes (several pages)
    You are the perfect person to write this cookbook and the sample chapter is where you demonstrate this ability. The sample chapter includes text, supporting information such as a call-out or boxed text, and approximately 10 complete recipes. The recipes need to be tested and formatted using your preferred recipe style. (If you’re unsure of your recipe style, I plan to cover this topic in the next blog post.) Editors and agents do prepare recipes from proposals, so the recipes need to well written and tested. Some agents and editors prefer that the sample recipes cover the breadth of a concept, rather than all ten recipes being from one chapter. For example, if your cookbook concept is about preparing plant-based finger foods for toddlers, and the chapters include soups, entrees, and side dishes, you can include sample recipes from each chapter. chapter.

    Cookbook design features: (1 page)
    Use the information you collected when you completed your bookstore, library, and online research. If you have a vision for the photography of your cookbook, include sample photos so that the agent/publisher is aware of this desire.

    Attachments to proposal: (as needed)
    Attach to the proposal links to article or relevant information you didn’t include in the proposal such as videos, blog posts, or writing samples.

    Tips for success when writing a proposal
    *When you write your proposal, always keep agents and editors in mind. Anticipate and answer questions they would have about you as the author and your topic, platform, or book idea. You are selling your book idea to them. You want to capture their imagination with you as the author of an unforgettable concept.

    *The proposal must showcase your best writing skills in all sections. Write the proposal, so it’s enjoyable to read. The agent and/or editor can discover your ability to write and deliver your cookbook concept through organized and well-written text and recipes.

    *When formatting your proposal check to see if the agent and/or the publishing house requires specific style guidelines to format the proposal. If they do follow them carefully. If guidelines are not available, format the proposal in 12-point, double-spaced, easily readable font. Include a footer with page numbers and 1-inch margins. Avoid  “fluffing” up a proposal with fancy binding or random food images unless you want to showcase photography or illustrations for the book.

    *If writing is not your skill, partner with a collaborator on the proposal, but disclose the collaboration because it’s important not to mislead an agent and/or editor to think you wrote the proposal on your own. If you do decide to work with a collaborator on the proposal, you may want to consider working with the collaborator on the actual book manuscript as well. In this case, the proposal sell both the author and the collaborator.

    *Read the proposal carefully before submission. Make sure it is clear, organized, and free of spelling and grammatical errors. Share the proposal with a trusted colleague or friend so they can read the proposal too. This is the first impression you will give to an agent and/or editor, so it’s worth the time and effort.

    *Check their guidelines and submit the proposal as defined by the agent or editor. Most agents and editors accept electronic submissions while some prefer hard copies sent via snail mail. If submitted via snail mail, print the proposal on white paper, bind with a large rubber band, and include a SASE if you want the proposal returned.

    Below is a checklist you can download that includes an outline of a cookbook proposal. Use it as you work through the process of writing your cookbook proposal.






    Cookbook author, editor, and Culinary Dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors during the pre-publication phase of writing a cookbook. If you want to write a cookbook, and wonder if you’re ready, download her 11-point checklist Am I Ready to Write a Cookbook? 


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