• Steps to Write a Cookbook: Research the Competition


    Welcome to Part 6 of my ongoing series Steps to Write a Cookbook. If this is your first visit to 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

    Now it’s time to study other cookbooks. If you plan to write a family cookbook this step isn’t required. Otherwise, if you plan to publish your book via either the traditional- or self-publishing route, there are two reasons to study other cookbooks:

    1. 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 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.

    2. 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 move forward with your project.

    Advice about finding sales figures
    I emailed four acquisitions editors to ask about obtaining sales figures for published cookbooks. They all acknowledged that sales data is hard to obtain outside of Nielsen BookScan. As a result, they don’t expect to see exact sales figures, but Amazon and other research can give clues about the popularity of a cookbook.

    How much time to spend on research
    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 online search.

    Bookstore research
    Visit stores where cookbooks are sold such as chain or independent bookstores, specialty retailers (such as Pottery Barn, Anthropologie, Williams-Sonoma, and Sur La Table), or big box stores such as Sams Club and Costco. Study at least five cookbooks (preferably published in the past few years) that are in the same category as the book you want to write. Examples of categories are diet and health, regional cuisine, vegetarian cooking, baking, cooking for children, global cuisine, all-purpose cookbooks, etc. Collect data about each book such as the author, publisher, agent (typically found in the acknowledgments), copyright date, concept, and audience. Ask a bookseller or store employee: What cookbooks in the category are restocked on a regular basis? What is trending in cookbook sales at their store? Make notes about specific book design features as well that you like or don’t like. Make notes about design features you want to include in your cookbook.

    Library research
    Most libraries have extensive cookbook sections that include recently published cookbooks, as well as regional, self-published, and out-of-print cookbooks. Take time to ask a librarian about cookbooks that circulate well and titles that have multiple copies in circulation. Ask too if they have access to any additional statistics or rankings for cookbooks that you can access through the library. Collect data as for bookstore research such as author, publisher, agent, date of publication, concept, and audience. Make notes about any design features that interest you as well.

    Online research can be done at a variety of websites:

    Amazon is the place to a review cookbooks online. Every acquisitions editor that I talked with uses Amazon to look at competitive cookbook titles. Amazon categorizes books in an organized fashion, so pay attention to their categories and rankings within a category. Gather data as for bookstore research, but include Amazon sales ranking, book category, number of reviews, and ideas for competitive titles located in the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature. An additional benefit of Amazon is the sales of self-published titles that might be popular and your competition in the online space, but are not sold in bookstores, specialty retailers, or big box stores.

    “Google” the cookbooks that you have determined to be competitive titles. Makes note about the book, the author’s platform, or any other experts that may show up when you search. Consider how your audience uses the online space to obtain information related to your concept outside of buying a cookbook. For example, if your cookbook idea is about using a slow-cooker to make desserts, and you find an online expert for this topic, make a note of him or her. Learn more about their platform. Even their popularity validates your idea in the absence of a published cookbook. Search for print or digital magazines, newsletters, databases, events, or conferences that might pertain to your concept as well. What experts are involved in writing and speaking? Have they written cookbooks you might want to consider as competition?

    Search Goodreads for your competitive titles. Read the customer reviews to obtain information such as customer perceived strengths and weakness of the book. Look at cookbook categories for most read, giveaways, most popular this week, and new releases.

    Publishers Marketplace
    Consider a subscription to Publishers Marketplace to fully access the website. It’s useful to perform keyword searches that lead you to bestselling cookbooks, as well as recent cookbook deals, publishers, editors, and agents, and titles that are under contract.

    Research of competitive titles is an important step for writing a cookbook. Your ability to create this list of titles shows your grasp of your concept, your audience, and the category where your book will fit in the context of previously published cookbooks. Research can be enjoyable, but don’t stall or spend too much time. Download the worksheet below to help you focus and move through this step in an organized fashion.






    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? 

  • Steps to Write a Cookbook: Check Your Commitment


    “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.

    Cookbook projects are multi-step processes. Each project has a unique set of nuances and challenges. My goal for this blog post is to acknowledge the challenges and help you evaluate your commitment to seeing the project through to completion.

    Commitment to your cookbook project is an essential ingredient for successful completion of  all phases of the book – your book proposal, manuscript, and ultimate publication and book promotion.  In the end, your willingness to commit to these all phases defines the success of your book.  Below are several steps that can help you to commit and take action on your cookbook project.

    Determine your path in the publishing landscape. As I discussed in a recent blog post on routes to publication, there are various options for publishing your cookbook. If you are not clear on your route to publication I encourage you to stop and take time to make this decision. Once you decide on your path, take time to learn and follow that path. Committment to your options on the path will help you ignore the shiny parts of other choices.

    Dream big, but work small with patience. It’s ok to keep your end goal in mind and imagine how it will feel to share a copy of your book with your audience, family, or friends. But, once you imagine the excitement, thrill, or exhilaration, you have to be patient with the process. This is when it’s important to return to your next step in the process and do the work of the next stage well. With patience and deliberate actions, your cookbook will get written and published as you desire.

    Enhance focus and concentration. Focus and concentration are harder than ever in our virtual- and social-media driven lives. I receive numerous texts, phone calls, emails, Twitter notifications, and package deliveries in the course of my typical work day. The outside world wants in even when I have the need to focus or concentrate. It’s up to me to commit to creating time and a place where I can focus and concentrate. 

    Create a space and place to write. Everyone has a different place where they like to write. What’s most important is to commit to a physical space and place to write where you are the most focused and productive. In that place, keep supplies handy and work diligently. My writing space is a clutter-free desk. At my side, I keep my iPhone (for the timer), my computer, a notebook, a pen, a candle, and reference books. The reference books are important to me so that I’m not tempted to go online to “research”. For me, “research” equals a rabbit hole and I get distracted with online research and am definitely not writing. Also during my writing time, I prefer quiet. I turn off music, notifications, and other distractions. When I show up in commit to working here, my work gets done.

    Develop a writing routine. My writing routine anchors my progress on projects and this routine trumps mindset and topic for me. My commitment to a routine makes my productivity soar. If my routine is thrown off for some reason, my productivity suffers. My personal best time for writing time is between 8:00 – 10:30 am. It is during this time that I feel refreshed and energized and can set aside time to focus and write. I set my timer for 50 minutes and work. Then I take a 10-minute break and if time allows I may write for 50 more minutes. At the very least I know if my routine allows 50 minutes, 5 times/week, I can accomplish about 4 hours of writing time. For me my routines eliminate worry. Once my writing time has expired, I move on to other work I have to do related to my business and my clients. Some writing routines are based on writing a specific number of words each day, or a particular page count. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you measure your writing time, what’s most important is that you commit to a routine.

    Define interruptions vs. emergencies. Interruptions are common, and it’s important to commit to managing interruptions whether you write in an office environment, a coffee shop, or at home. You set the tone for when and how others interrupt your writing time. Ideally, I structure my writing time so that I can write during the quiet hours of my day. For me, that is in the early morning. For you, quiet time may be in the evening after everyone is in bed or after other coworkers or employees have gone home for the day. If others are around when I write I usually wear headphones or earbuds to signal not to interrupt unless there is an emergency.

    Adjust your mindset. It’s not uncommon to feel like giving up during the course of a book project. At these times enhance your commitment with positive messages such as: You can do this matter what. You do have enough time. You have enough talent. Your audience is waiting for your book. Your cookbook will help your audience. Your audience is excited to learn more about your topic. You don’t need permission to move forward. Repeat as necessary. Another mindset adjustment to remain committed to the project is to think thoughts that lead to energy-producing emotions such as I am productive, optimistic, energetic, focused, composed, and disciplined. Avoid thoughts that lead to energy-draining emotions such as I am confused, unsure, stumped, or overwhelmed. Positive emotions and energy are your friends. Tap into them.

    Identify your obstacles. There are obstacles to writing a cookbook. Examples include day jobs, home lives, community involvement, children, and travel demands that keep us too busy. In addition, there are inner voices that leave us 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”, try to set a goal to wake up one hour earlier several mornings a week to work on your project or to set aside weekend mornings and double up on your writing time. Schedule doable goals, stick to your plan, and your obstacles become stepping stones instead of blocking the path.

    Writers who are committed to their cookbook project make consistent progress and get their books published. They manage distractions and negative emotions. They are consistent and build their platforms and write their book proposals or manuscripts. Evaluate your commitment with this worksheet.






    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? 

  • Steps to Write a Cookbook: Build Your Author Platform

    steps-to-write-a-cookbook-part-4-2Welcome to part 4 of my ongoing series Steps to Write a Cookbook. If you’re new to this series, I encourage you to go back to part 1 and work your way through the series. In each blog post I’ve provided a worksheet or checklist to help you identify:

    WHO – who is your audience

    WHY – why you want to write a cookbook

    WHAT – what is your cookbook concept

    HOW – how you plan to publish your cookbook your cookbook

    In part 4 we are going to talk about your author platform as a key part of writing your cookbook. Your author platform serves to help your audience get to known you better. It’s how they see you, hear you, and get to trust you. 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 essential. You need to have a way to get in touch with these women, 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/or nutrition.

    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 are able to 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. In addition, if you desire to have your cookbook published with the help of an agent and/or traditional publisher know that they will find you as a potential author more attractive if they know you have a platform.

    Below are some specific ideas for you to consider as you build or expand your platform. The first five tasks I would consider to be of the highest priority for an aspiring cookbook author. I also recommend that you consider building the first four tasks before querying an agent/and or editor with your cookbook concept. Tasks five and six provide additional ideas for how to let your audience get to know you better. It’s not essential to do everything on this list. You can reach your goals as a cookbook author with only a few of these in place. What’s important is to do something, and to be consistent. Your audience does want to, and they need to, hear from you. As a result, they will get to know you better, and hopefully like you and trust you all because of the work you’ve put in to building your author platform.

    1. Create a hub or home on the web. Build a website or blog with a unique domain name that belongs to you. (Or hire someone to build it for you. You’ll save a lot of time and they are the expert in this area.) Some aspiring authors use their name for a URL, and some use their brand or company name, but regardless of what you choose, it’s important to have your own home on the web. Think of it this way – if a social media site or platform goes down, or crashes, you want your audience to still be able to get in touch with you outside of the social media site or space that crashed or went out of business. Your website or blog doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated, but it should reflect the work you do and be kept up to date with new and fresh content.

    2. Create an email address related to your domain name. A domain-connected email address lends credibility and professionalism to your work. Once you select your domain name, you can set up an email connected to your URL through your hosting company.

    3. Collect email addresses from your audience. One of the best ways to keep in touch with your audience is via email. Collect the email addresses of those who visit your website and then send unique content on a regular basis to their email address. To collect email addresses, chose an provider that offers email service and address collection, such as Mail Chimp or Emma. While you get started, some providers offer free packages. Have your web person add a place on your website to collect email addresses. (Ensure your audience that you don’t spam or share their email address with anyone.) To entice your audience to sign up, offer something for free in exchange for their email address. Examples of freebies are a newsletter, checklist, video, short email course, or workbook that relate to your audience’s most pressing problem or challenge. For example, on Greenapron.com  I offer a free subscription to the newsletter Fork, Pen, & Spoon. On Cookbook Camp.com I offer a checklist to assess if you’re ready to write a cookbook. 

    4. Join social media sites where your audience hangs out. Connect with your audience on social media. Go to them where they are already spending time. Be interactive, share information, and be a source of expertise. Keep your online profile names consistent with your brand by selecting account names that use your name, your company name, or the name of your brand. Social media sites that are popular in the food and nutrition space are:


    5. Create a simple press kit as a promotional tool. A press kit should include a bio, headshot, writing samples, contact information. Make the press kit available as a PDF download from your website, or use links to Dropbox for higher resolution images and files. Whenever anyone wants to know more about you for a speaking engagement or other opportunity, you can direct them to your press kit.

    6. Explore these alternative methods your platform as a way to connect with potential cookbook buyers:

    *Private practice in nutrition or food coaching
    *Restaurant or catering business
    *Material written for print or online newspapers, magazine, or website
    *Public speaking opportunities
    *Promote your area of expertise as a guest on radio shows or podcasts
    *Start your own podcast
    *Create a cooking show for television or video on your website
    *Create a vlog on Vimeo or YouTube
    **Teach classes, seminars, webinars, or online courses

    How are you doing with building your platform? Download this checklist and make a plan to develop or build your platform. Your work will go a long way for future book sales, promotions, and reader engagement. In addition, a future agent and/or publisher will be pleased with the work you’ve done to get in touch, and stay in touch, with your audience.






    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? 

  • Cookbook and Food Writing Links Vol. 3

    Cookbook and Food Writing LinksCookbook Writing

    Many readers of my weekly newsletter, Fork, Pen, & Spoon, ask what are the specific steps to write a cookbook? In response to their question, I’ve written blog posts that include worksheets to guide you on the steps to start your cookbook project. Here is a summary of the topics covered so far:

    · WHO is you cookbook audience
    · WHY are you writing a cookbook
    · WHAT is your cookbook concept
    · HOW to you want to publish your cookbook

    Take some time to link to the blog posts, download the worksheets, and identify your who, why, what, and how before we move to step #4.

    Food Photography

    Dark and moody describes the style of many images used in cookbooks, on food blogs, and in Instagram posts. Want to photograph dark and moody?


    Whether you’re writing a blog post, newsletter, poem, or book, it takes courage to share what you write with others because they decide if they like what you write or not. Many fear this judgement and never write the blog posts, newsletter, poems, or books their audience needs to read. If you struggle with writing because you fear vulnerability, you may enjoy this article from Purpose Fairy that takes a look at courage and vulnerability.

    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?

  • Steps to Write a Cookbook: Routes to Publication

    Steps to Write a Cookbook Part 3

    In part #1 of this blog series we focused on WHY you want to write a cookbook as well as your WHO – your target audience.

    In part #2, we discussed WHAT – your cookbook concept or main topic. An ideal cookbook concept joins your audience’s needs and desires with your skills, expertise, and knowledge. If you can match what you know, and feel excited to write about, with the needs, desires, or problems of your audience, then you’re well on your way to identifying a cookbook concept. The next step is to ask yourself:

    In this part #3 of this ongoing series Steps to Write A Cookbook we will identify your HOW.

    HOW do you want to have your cookbook published? Here are some common answers:

    • Organize recipes with an app or recipe software and print at home or using a quick-print shop
    • Operate as an independent publisher and self-publish an ebook or print-on-demand book
    • Pay a publishing company to help publish
    • Secure a publisher without an agent
    • Retain an agent to help find a traditional publisher

    These examples are all ways to get a cookbook published. 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 publication that best matches your goals.

    NOTE: If you plan to sell cookbooks to the general public it’s important to build an author platform. Your audience needs to get to hear you, read your work, and get to know you. Once they know you, they are in a better position to buy your book when it’s published. Also, publishers choose to publish writers who are in touch with their target audience through their platform. Read more about platforms here.

    Routes to Cookbook Publication

    Software or online recipe tools
    If you identified your family or a civic group as your WHO and perhaps the goal to raise money or to share recipes with your college-age children as your WHY, your cookbook concept is pretty straight-forward. Your book will contain a set of recipes and maybe some stories, genealogy, history, or photos.  For this type of cookbook, there are online tools and other software to compile your recipes. Costs for each service varies, but because the software streamlines the process it may be worth the price. Outside of online tools, word processing software, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, works well to create your book’s interior pages. For a more upscale design consider software such as Adobe Design.

    If you want to use an online tool or software to compile recipes for family, your next step is to choose the software or online tool that best suits your needs. Refer to this summary of 5 Tools and Software for Writing a Family or Fundraiser Cookbook.

    Self (or independent) publishing
    As an independent publisher, you form a publishing company and coordinate all aspects of your cookbook publication. You are in total control of the schedule and the way the book is put together. You hire experts such as the photographer, editor, designer, indexer, printer, and book distributor. You obtain an ISBN number for book sales. You pay the freelancers for their work, as well as for the cost to print the book. As an independent publisher, you earn and keep all profits from book sales.

    If you decide to self-publish your cookbook, your next step is to identify the format for your book publication  – eBook, print-on-demand, or simple pdf file. From there the book is written, edited, designed, and printed or converted into an eBook or pdf all under the umbrella of your own publishing company. 

    Assisted self-publishing
    Also called subsidy or hybrid publishing, this form of publishing you pay a company to produce your book. The upfront payment makes this feel like a self-publishing project, but because the company helps hire the experts to help create and print your book, it has a traditional publishing feel as well. Some subsidy publishers vet their authors with a submission process, which maintains the quality of books the publisher produces.  The services provided vary from publisher to publisher. It’s important to identify the service you want help with (such as editing, book design, or printing) and then compare companies to see which one best fits your goals. Once your book is published, you receive royalties from the book sales to help offset the fees you paid to the publisher. In terms of comparison, you generally earn less than a self-published book, but generally more than you would with a traditionally published book.

    If you decide to find a subsidy publisher your next step is to research and select a company that will help produce the type of cookbook you envision and that offers the services you need help with. After you decide, enter into their submission process, if necessary, and when accepted pay them to help you publish your cookbook. 

    Traditional publishing (without an agent)
    In this route to publication, you search for a cookbook publisher who accepts a cookbook proposal “unsolicited” or without representation from an agent. You negotiate your own contract or hire an attorney to help you negotiate the deal. Then you write the manuscript according to the publisher’s schedule. Once the manuscript is submitted, they coordinate the work to edit, photograph, design, index, print, market, distribute, and publicize your book, or hire the experts to do these tasks. In return for their publishing your book, you give them control of the publishing schedule and share a large part of the profit from sales of the book. In exchange, the publisher pays you in an advance of royalties and/or royalties from book sales.

    If you decide on this path, your next step is to write a cookbook proposal for your cookbook concept.  Then you research publishers who accept unsolicited proposals and submit your proposal to the publishing company’s acquisition editor according to their submission guidelines. If the publisher accepts your proposal, you negotiate your contract with the publishing house. Once your contract is signed, you write your cookbook manuscript and submit it to the publisher according to their publishing schedule. From there they will turn your manuscript into a book and help you with book distribution, sales, marketing, and publicity.

    Agent-assisted traditional publishing
    In this form of traditional publication, you first retain an agent. The agent then becomes your connection to book publishers and your ally in the publishing world. Your agent shops your cookbook idea to publishers with the goal of selling it to an editor at a publishing house. When an acquisitions editor at the publishing company likes your idea, they negotiate a contract with your agent for you to write your book. Agents are not paid upfront by authors for their negotiations. Instead, they receive a percentage (typically 15%) of all the money you make from advances and/or royalties. So, for example, for every $100 you earn from your book’s advances or royalties, the agent is paid $15, and you keep the remaining $85. The advantage of an agent is they remain committed to the project and help you communicate and negotiate with the publisher. Agents can also negotiate a larger book contract with a publisher and this translates into more profit for you and your agent. Once a contract is signed, the publisher sets the schedule. Then you write the manuscript according to the publisher’s plan. After the manuscript is submitted, the publisher coordinates the work to edit, photograph, design, index, print, market, distribute, and publicize your book, or hire the experts to do these tasks. In return for their publishing services, you give them control of the publishing schedule and profit from sales of the book. In exchange, they pay you in the form of an advance and/or as royalties off book sales.

    If you decide on this traditional and agent-assisted route to publication, your next step is to start the process to retain an agent to represent you. Be prepared to submit a cookbook proposal to an agent if requested.  You can find an agent through personal introductions from other cookbook authors, by attending writing conferences, or by utilizing books such as Guide to Literary AgentsA personal introduction generally carries the most weight, but other methods of finding an agent can be successful.

    HOW should you publish your cookbook? This is a question only you can answer. To the various routes to cookbook publication, download this worksheet and score your answer.

    Routes to Cookbook Publication





    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? 

  • Steps to Write a Cookbook: Define Your Cookbook Concept

    Steps to Write a Cookbook Part 2

    This is part #2 of a series of blog posts to help aspiring cookbook authors walk through the steps to writing a cookbook. In part #1 we discussed the importance of identifying WHO you are writing your book for and WHY you want to write a cookbook. Your WHO and your WHY are unique to you. Every aspiring cookbook author has a different audience and set of goal for their project so it’s important not to skip part #1.

    The next step involves identification of your WHAT – what is the topic of your cookbook? What is your cookbook concept?

    NOTE: If you identified your family or a fundraiser cookbook as your WHO and WHY, it may not be necessary to define your concept in a lot more detail. You know that you plan to write a cookbook to share a set of family or curated/collected recipes. You may decide to add stories, genealogy, history, or photos to the recipes, but your reason to write your cookbook is clear. The next steps for a family or fundraiser cookbook involve the process to collect recipes, organize them into chapters, write a table of contents, and make decisions about how to compile the manuscript, design the book’s interior, and print the manuscript. Refer to this blog post for 5 Tools and Software for Writing a Family or Fundraiser Cookbook.

    Outside of family or fundraiser cookbooks, if you identified your clients, customers, or other cooks and/or bakers as your audience, then the concept for your book needs to be defined in more detail.

    Cookbook Concept Development

    To more fully develop your cookbook concept make time to identify a topic that is in alignment with who you are and what you teach, cook, or bake. Use your brand identity to define the type of cookbook your clients or customers would expect from you. For example, if you are a diabetes expert and nutritionist, your audience probably wouldn’t expect you to write a cookbook about fancy cakes and buttercream frosting.

    Below are a some questions to help you develop your unique cookbook concept in more detail. Before you work through these concept questions, make you you’ve clearly identified your WHO – describe your audience in more detail: their age, gender, income level, and cooking experience. Then ask yourself:

    1. What information do you have that your audience would be excited for you to share with them?
    2. What unique set of cooking or baking skills do you want to share?
    3. What is your area of expertise?
    4. What secrets do you know about baking, cooking, or nutrition that you can share with your audience?
    5. What challenge can you help your audience with?
    6. What questions does your audience ask?
    7. What problems does your audience need you to solve for them?
    8. What is your audience curious about?
    9. What excitement about food, cooking/baking, nutrition, or the kitchen do you share with your audience?

    Mindset Barriers

    Mindset barriers often arise when aspiring cookbook authors start to define their cookbook concept. Here are a few common obstacles that crop up related to cookbook concept development and some suggestions for overcoming the obstacles.

    My goal is to make money, a lot of money. This has to be worth all the effort. How do I choose a topic that sells?

    Pick a topic with “legs”.  Look at food trends, but ultimately select a concept that will be relevant after your book is published. It may take 18 months from idea to publication for a trade or traditionally published cookbook, so select a topic that fits this timeline. Self-publishing your cookbook might not take that long, but you still want the topic to be relevant. Also, pick a topic that your audience engages with and refers to over and over. Think about it: the customer’s relationship with a cookbook isn’t linear like it is with a novel. A well-written cookbook becomes a favorite cookbook and is cooked from over and over again. That should be your goal.

    I have a unique idea, but I’m worried I’ve waited too long and the market is saturated with books similar to the one I want to write.

    Pick a topic where a new voice (your voice) will be a welcome addition to the other books out these on a similar topic. Many topics of cookbooks are always popular, and your topic, with your unique twist, can be attractive and relevant even with other books published on the same topic. How many Italian cooking books or cookie cookbook are out there? There are a lot. And they sell. Don’t let other books with similar concepts stop you. An idea that’s not strictly unique can sell very well. A  book coach, agent or editor will help you shape your idea into a usable, salable cookbook.

    I want to connect with my readers, but how do I figure out what they want?

    This does require research and hopefully a connection with readers before writing your book. What you need to determine is if there is room for your idea with you as the author. Research is necessary but has to be finite, because sometimes excessive research is a sign of fear to get started with the project. Research involves studying cookbooks, food blogs, and DIY sites that present a concept similar to your idea.  Determine how you will differentiate yourself. Once you complete a reasonable amount of research, then stop the research and take action. Select your concept and get started. Pitch the idea to an agent or editor.

    I want my book to sound like me. How do I find a unique theme/voice?

    Pretend you are helping one person – what would you tell them about your topic and why? Write your concept in your own words, using the way you would explain something as your guide. Some writers speak their concept or ideas into a voice recorder and then have the recording transcribed. Then it sounds like them. When a reader reads your work you want them to be able to hear you in the text and words. Your voice and words will be unique, because they come from you.

    Define Your Cookbook Concept Worksheet






    You many also be interested in links to some other blog posts about generating a cookbook concept:

    Is My Cookbook Concept Good Enough?

    Three Ways to Generate a Cookbook Concept


    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? 

  • Steps to Write a Cookbook: Identify Your Goals for Publication

    Steps to Write a Cookbook Part 1

    There are many reasons that someone wants to write a cookbook. Maybe they want to write for their family, or perhaps to showcase their restaurant’s recipes. Maybe they have a nutrition business and their clients need help cooking, or perhaps an organization they volunteer for wants to publish a cookbook to raise money. Regardless of the reason, many aspiring cookbook authors feel overwhelmed by the scope of a cookbook project.

    I know how they feel. I’ve been there before with my own cookbook projects. When I work with aspiring cookbook authors they often ask me what is the first thing they should do to write a cookbook? To help answer this question I plan to create a series of blog posts to walk aspiring cookbook authors step-by-step through the process of writing a cookbook. This will include key decisions you need to make before you get started.

    Before you start with your cookbook project, it’s important to be able to answer clearly two important questions:

    • Who are your writing your cookbook for?
    • Why do you want to write a cookbook?

    Let’s take a look at these issues a bit more in-depth:

    QUESTION 1: Who are you writing your cookbook for?

    By answering this question, you will be better able to identify the best way to get your cookbook published. Once you identify how to publish, the steps to publication are easier to map out. Here are three common groups of people that cookbooks are written for:

    Family and/or 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 needs 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 own apartment, head off to college, start their own 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 what their barriers are 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.

    Specific groups of cooks or bakers
    For the purposes of 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. This is a topic you have experience with and knowledge about, and you’re excited 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, 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.

    After you have identified WHO you are writing your book for, it’s time to determine WHY you want to write a cookbook.

    QUESTION 2: Why do you want to write a cookbook?
    For a long time before I wrote my first cookbook I had the desire to share approachable recipes that used common grocery-store ingredients with a larger audience. I wanted to explore the concept of seasonal cooking with regional variations in my home state’s cuisine and share it with those who lived in my state. I also wanted to find a local publisher who could help me design and distribute the book in my area and regionally. Your answers to WHY you want to write a cookbook won’t be the same as mine. But, just like identifying WHO you want to write your book for, WHY you want to write a cookbook also guides the process of getting your cookbook project started and making decisions about how to get your cookbook published.

    Here are a few examples of WHY you might want to write a cookbook:

    • Teach and influence others about a topic related to cooking or baking
    • Earn a lot of money off the sale of my book
    • Raise funds for an organization or non-profit agency
    • Say “I am author” when someone asks me what I do
    • Share our family’s favorite recipes with my children, grandchildren, or friends
    • Sell my cookbook “at the back of the room” after speaking engagements
    • Expand my nutrition, catering, or food business
    • Promote my restaurant or catering business
    • Sell e-books on my website to generate a stream of income
    • Check “write a cookbook” off my bucket list

    Another WHY for writing a cookbook might be that you possess, and a solution to cooking or baking problem and you have a desire to share the solution. Maybe your audience doesn’t know how to bake with gluten-free baking mixes, or they always fail when they deep-fat fry Twinkies. Write down any challenges your audience might have about the topic that you are experienced with. Your cookbook on this particular topic will help the reader with the problems or challenges you have identified.

    Once you identify the WHO and the WHY, the path you need to take to get a cookbook published becomes a little clearer. (I will discuss the paths to publication in future blog posts.)

    To help organize your thoughts about WHO and WHY I invite you to click the yellow box below to download my Goals for Cookbook Publication worksheet.

    Free Worksheet Blog Graphic Cookbook Publication Worksheet

    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? 

  • How Often Should You Blog?

    I’ve often told my coaching clients that I think it’s easier to write a book than it is to blog. Writing a book is finite, while blogging is infinite. Writing a book doesn’t require photography, at least not photography that I take. Writing a book will hopefully require photography, but I get to leave that job to the photographer. That’s not a skill set I’ve mastered yet. And my list of reasons goes on and on. Despite my reasons, a food blog is a good way to:

    · test your writing skills
    · gauge your commitment to a topic
    · build the hub for your platform
    · attract a larger audience
    · gather email addresses so you can stay in touch with your audience

    woman with laptop typingOne question many food bloggers have is how often to write a blog post. Today, I link to this blog post How often should you blog?. In this article, statistics are presented about how often food bloggers are posting content as of June 2016. The most amazing stat I read here was that:

    “5% of bloggers were posting more than 10 posts a week on average. In descending order: I Am Baker, Serious Eats, Skinny Ms, $5Dinners, Six Sisters Stuff, Foodista, Lil’ Luna, Maangchi, Baking Bites and Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking.”

    So, if you have a food blog I thought you might find this post interesting and helpful.

    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? 

  • Routines and Rituals Links

    It’s this time of the year that my work feels different. The pull of sunshine, warm air, and family activities that during the summer can kept me away from my desk, writing, and work have diminished or returned to school. During this time of the year, I return to familiar routines to write this newsletter and blog posts, develop recipes, and schedule cookbook marketing activities. When I read about how other writers and business owners manage their routines, I feel inspired with a peek into their routines. Several years ago, Darren Rowse at Problogger.net wrote the article 14 Bloggers Share Their Daily Blogging Routine.

    To stay on top of my work and writing it’s important to remember the tips they offer that help me keep my routine intact. My goal is to work on creating content every day for my newsletter, blog posts, programs, and cookbook projects.

    · Write during my brain’s best time. This is different for everyone, but many prefer morning.
    · Turn off email and social media while working.
    · Work in 2 to 3 hour blocks of time.
    · Devote each day to a different activity related to business or writing.
    · Schedule blog posts in advance.
    · Create and work from an editorial calendar or plan.
    · Compartmentalize activities so they don’t bleed into family time.

    daily ritualsAlong these same lines, this books is a favorite of mine. Author Mason Currey reviews the daily rituals of 161 creatives while looking at their rituals (and their obstacles) to doing the work they love to do. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

    I also want to share Extraordinary Routines and their Instagram feed and their blog. I love the interviews here as well at tips for creating a routine for your creative work.




    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? 

  • Cookbook and Food Writing Links Vol. 2

    Cookbook and Food Writing LinksWhether you write articles, newsletters, books, or blog posts, it takes discipline to sit down and write. There are so many other things I know I could be doing right now rather than writing this newsletter. The sun shines. The air is cool. My flowers need a drink of water. I’m hungry. I’m tired of sitting. I need some tea. My kitchen floor needs to be swept. And what about that good idea I had for a new project, maybe I will do some research?

    1. If you’re like me, you have a lot going on and perhaps many writing tasks that need to be done on different parts of your work. Here are 5 Steps You Can Take Today to Organize Your Writing Life.

    2. If you ever think of self-publishing your book (meaning you wear every hat in the publishing process) you’ll enjoy this review of  5 Must Read Blogs for Self-Publishing Authors.

    3. It’s not unusual to hear writers complain about writing. Complain about agents. Complain about publishing. This article takes a look at positives of being a published writer from the perspective of Amber Lee Easton, from Mountain Moxie Publishing and Creative Services.

    4. This article is over a year old, but stirred up a great debate recently in a Facebook group I belong to. If you write recipes, you might enjoy this article (from the UK) about recipes using volume VS weight.

    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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