Agents and publishers love well-written cookbook proposals. They want to read proposals that are unforgettable and read about aspiring authors who have excitement and passion for a topic. This is attractive!
The nuts and bolts of a cookbook proposal are pretty standard. Think of a cookbook proposal as a business plan for your cookbook. It identifies your cookbook concept as well as your ideas for marketing and sales of your cookbook. You may be lucky enough to have a publisher approach you about writing your first cookbook, you may choose to self-publish your cookbook, or you may send your proposal to agents and/or publishing house, but in any case you’ll need a plan for your cookbook before you start writing it. In most cases, a cookbook proposal is the tool to use. In the end the proposal communicates to everyone involved in your cookbook project your vision for your cookbook.
Writing a solid cookbook proposal takes time and energy.
Cathy Barrow spent one year writing her proposal. With her research, she turned her ideas into a proposal that gained her a cookbook contract. Her book was published in November 2014 and Cathy won an IACP award at the recent 2015 IACP conference.
Heidi Swanson, from food blog 101 Cookbooks, has a four to five year cycle for writing new cookbooks. She likes to take time for her ideas to gel. In addition, she started to write part of her manuscript for the book before she writes her proposal. Her third cookbook, Near & Far, will be published in 2015.
Some other cookbook authors write their proposals in a few months, once they have started building their platform and connecting with potential buyers of their book.
Brian Yarvin follows the instructions in the book Writer’s Market to write his proposals. According to Brian, Writer’s Market lists “many legit, paying cookbook publishers and gives clear instructions for how to write a good proposal. I have sold every cookbook proposal I’ve circulated using the method spelled out there. (Although an agent helped me get better deals in some cases.)”
No matter how long you take to write your proposal, here are key components to include:
Cookbook Concept: There’s no reason to write a cookbook unless you feel that you have something different to say or are writing on a different topic or have a unique approach. Your concept should be a natural fit for you. If you’re struggling to define your concept, or struggling to pitch your idea, the concept probably needs to be refined. Once you get the flow, your idea will delight you and you can speak in your own voice and experience and be authentic.
Target Audience: It’s important to have your audience defined. Be specific. Who are you writing this book for? It is fine to write a cookbook to fulfill a personal dream, but in the end if you want to sell the book (after you write it) you need to have an audience for your book. Describe the audience in detail. Are they male or female? How old are they? Do they buy artisan or store-bought value brands of ingredients? How experienced of a cook or baker are they? What kind of recipes will they like?
Marketing and Sales Plan: This is the second part of your job after you write your book. First, you write the book. Then, you sell the book. What can you bring to the table for potential? Do you have a blog audience or social media connections who want to buy your book? Are you willing to do speaking engagements or cooking demonstrations? Publishers want to know what you can do to add to sales.
Table of Contents: The table of contents provides an outline of your book and gives an overview of the project in outline form. I like to suggest annotating the TOC. Annotation adds brief descriptions of the chapters so that the agent/editor won’t have to guess what you plan to do with a section of information.
One Sample Chapter with Recipes and Photography If Applicable: Don’t write the entire cookbook manuscript. Focus on writing one chapter and writing it well. Include teach text, supporting information, and sample recipes. Make sure the recipes are tested and formatted correctly. Don’t be surprised if the editor cooks one of the recipes to try it out and get a feel for the flavor of your book. If you have ideas for photography, or if you do your own photography, include some photos here too so that the agent/publisher gets a feel for your vision for the design element of your cookbook concept.
Author Bio: This is where you define what you bring to the table for your book. Describe you, your experience, and anything that connects you to your audience and your concept. Toot your horn. Be memorable.
If you want to read other blog posts about cookbook proposals visit these links below:
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?”.