Writing a cookbook should not be a mysterious process. Writing a cookbook is not a project available only to celebrities and TV stars. If you have a passion for baking, nutrition, special diets, or cooking, and you have an audience who needs something you know about, then you can write a cookbook.
Over the past 8 years, I have written four cookbooks and have coached, and interviewed, numerous published cookbook authors. I’d like to take the opportunity here to dispel a few myths about writing a cookbook that may encourage you to get started writing your own cookbook so that you can share your expertise and get your message out into the world! You can have an impact with a book of your own.
I need to have a successful food blog before I write a cookbook.
While a food blog might help with the promotion of a cookbook or it may provide the path for you to connect with an agent or your audience, you do not have to have a food blog before you write a cookbook. I have written four cookbooks. I don’t have a food blog. I dabbled with a food blog many years ago, but it didn’t take long before I realized I had no interest in food photography. Also, I am interested more in cooking, writing recipes for future projects, and building my coaching business than I am in taking the time to learn how to photograph food. There are other cookbook authors who also don’t have a food blog. What I will say, however, is that you need a platform, and a website where your audience can find you and where you can collect email addresses to connect with them. If you are a nutrition consultant, dietitian, cooking or baking teacher, food or nutrition writer, you have a connection with an audience even without a food blog. Agents and publishers like robust platforms, but this is not always specifically built through a food blog.
I cannot write a book because someone has already written about my topic or concept.
Let’s put this myth to rest. Take a trip to a local bookstore or the Food, Cooking, and Wine section on Amazon.com and look at how many Italian cookbooks or cookie books or Paleo diet books are published and in print. Even if your topic has been written about before, there is room for you and your unique spin on the subject. That is the difference between your book and everyone else’s book – YOU! -and your unique approach to the topic. Insert yourself in any topic you write about and provide for your audience what they want and need in a way only you can. No one has written that book before.
I have to follow the traditional path to publication.
There are several routes to the publication of a cookbook. Large, commercial publishers look for authors with extensive, robust platforms that can drive big sales. Think Joanna Gaines. That’s a huge, robust platform. Now, not all traditionally published cookbook authors have that size of a platform, but you get the idea. If you’ve built a following, or platform, with demand for your book (ie; potential sales) then a larger publisher with nationwide distribution may be for you. However, I’d argue that small, regional publishers are worthy of your cookbook proposal as well. Smaller publishers create beautiful cookbooks generally on more regionally focused topics that are popular as well as focus on micro-cuisines that are trending as evidenced by the rise in interest in books about Appalachian cuisine, specific cities, and seasonal cooking. Mid-range and regional publishers eat up these topics. They also have wider distribution in smaller retail spots and non-traditional venues for cookbook sales. One of the best ways to get a feel for a publisher is to spend some time in a cookbook store or the cookbook section of a large bookstore. Browse the cookbooks and find out who publishes books that you like – the topic, the design, and the “feel” of the book. You can also browse the online book catalogs of publishers to get a feel for the cookbooks they are publishing this fall or spring.
I do not know enough to write a cookbook.
Alright, it’s time to stop with this thought. You do know enough, or you do know something otherwise I suspect you wouldn’t be reading this blog post. The best thing about working with food, nutrition, or being a home cook, chef, or baker, is that you always have something to learn. The day any of us thinks we have to know everything before we start our project is the day we get stuck and stalled in our writing. If you have an audience you can help, then give yourself permission to carve our your expertise and get started on your own cookbook project. I can say without a doubt that I learned the most about writing cookbooks, and about the topics for my books, while in the midst of writing and researching for the cookbooks I’ve written. I did not know it all before I started or when I wrote my proposals. I still don’t know it all. But, I didn’t let that lack of “know it all” knowledge get in the way of my dream of writing a cookbook. If every first-time cookbook author let their fears stand in the way, then we would have never seen a written book from many authors we know and love. Moreover, yes, there is always someone out there who knows more than you, but that is still not a good reason to get started, write your proposal, and research the topic for your cookbook.
I need to know how to photograph food and design my own book pages before I write a cookbook.
Nope. Your skill set is food, cooking, nutrition or baking. Maybe you like food photography, and chances are you are you may have an interest in good design, but extensive knowledge of either of these skill sets is a pre-requisite to writing a cookbook. I know I am too impatient to take food photography, and I am not a graphic designer. However, I have a message about food and cooking that I want to share, and I listen to what my audience wants in a cookbook. This is what’s most important. You do not need to know how to do every aspect of book publication to get started. Focus and excel at what you know best and communicate this to your publisher. Then, after you have a contract and write your manuscript, they’ll assemble a team to put your cookbook together.
Once you dispel these myths, you may wonder now why you need to write a cookbook? Register for my upcoming webinar and find out 5 Reasons Why You Need to Write A Cookbook?