Cookbook Proposals: Writing Your Cookbook’s Summary

Cookbook Proposals: Writing Your Cookbook’s Summary

Writing a cookbook proposal is an important step before writing a cookbook manuscript. One of the first meaty parts of your cookbook proposal is your cookbook summary. This section must hook and engage the agent and/or editor with clearly written information about your cookbook. For today’s blog post I’ll review the two parts of the cookbook summary.

1. A 25-word cookbook summary

Some people in the business call this statement the 25-word cookbook summary. (OK, it can be 30 words, but it needs to be short.) Maybe you’ve heard of an elevator speech or elevator pitch? Your cookbook summary is similar. Your cookbook needs an elevator pitch.

The summary defines your cookbook and its value to your audience. It contains the succinct and clear answer to the question you will inevitably be asked, “What’s your cookbook about?” And, as for the word “elevator”, imagine that this summary must be verbalized in the time you would have in an elevator with the agent or editor who wants to know what your cookbook is about.

This short summary and its tiny collection of words serves to help pitch your book to agents and/or publishers. It could form the core of press releases and might even serve as a dust-jacket blurb or sound-bite for your book. It will make your cookbook stand apart from all the others, but only if it’s done well. It can be customized ever so slightly when necessary, depending on who’s going to read it.

The 25-word Cookbook Summary needs to convey:

What the book is about (including genre and/or target reader demographic)?

Who will relate to your book, buy it, and want to read it?

Why an agent must represent you and your book and/or publisher must publish the book?

That’s a lot packed into 25 words, but this is an important task. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect the first time you write it. Chances are it will become more clear and powerful as you work on other parts of this proposal, so refer back to this summary after you write your proposal to tweak and hone the words.

Just to give an example, the 25-word summary for my cookbook is:

A seasonal cooking journey that guides home cooks through a year in a Kentucky kitchen, highlighting the best of the Bluegrass with local dishes for all to enjoy.

2. A 250- to 300-word cookbook concept introduction

This gives the agent and/or publisher a more in-depth overview of why you want to write the book and why it should be published. In this section you describe the benefits of your cookbook and its appeal to your audience. This overview communicates in a clear and compelling way what the cookbook is about and who the market is for your book. Be sure to shed light on important things right up front. For example, if a large segment of your target audience has been demanding this book, this is where you tell the agent and/or publisher about that. Give some facts and figures. If you have a food blog and a specific blog post sparked an unusually large number of comments and that sparked the idea for this book, mention that here too. Maybe even link to the blog post in the introduction. This provides appeal for the concept and for you as the author.

Think of this 250- to 300-word overview as the information you would read on the back cover or dust jacket of a cookbook. Make it exciting, informative, and something someone would want to read. It should be so juicy in fact that it makes someone want to buy and cook from your cookbook.

Just to give an example, this is the 250- to 300-word cookbook concept introduction for my cookbook:

Written by native Kentuckian Maggie Green, The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook features more than 200 recipes using fresh Kentucky ingredients. Centered in the kitchen, this book guides aspiring and experienced cooks through a Kentucky year, using the variety of foods Kentucky has to offer.

Maggie welcomes readers with her modern and accessible approach, incorporating seasonally available Kentucky produce in her recipes (and substituting frozen or canned food when necessary). She complements her year of recipes with tidbits about her own experiences with food, including regional food traditions she learned growing up in Lexington, attending the University of Kentucky, and now raising a family in Northern Kentucky. The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook acknowledges the importance of Kentucky’s year-round culinary and agricultural traditions while showing how Southern culture continues to shape modern food choices and cooking methods.

Maggie makes cooking fresh, homemade meals not only inviting, but doable. She addresses the concerns of contemporary cooks with regards to time, health, and the environment, and appeals to modern tastes using up-to-date, clearly written recipes and cooking techniques. The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook contains a year’s worth of recipes and menus for everyday meals, holidays, and special occasions– all written with customary Kentucky flair.

For traditional Kentucky cooks, this book offers fresh twists on old favorites such as lima bean and corn salad, fresh blackberry cake, and Kentucky cornbread strata. Many recipes use traditional Kentucky ingredients in a contemporary fashion.

For the lost generation of Kentuckians who want to learn some favorite Kentucky recipes, this book offers basic recipes every Kentuckian must know such as Buttermilk Cornbread, White Cheddar Pimento Cheese Sandwiches, and the ever-popular Burgoo.

For homogeneous eaters, or those who feel like they cook the same thing all the time, this book offers new ideas, recipes, and menus for family suppers, holiday meals, and traditional Kentucky celebrations such as Oktoberfest, fish frys, and the Kentucky Derby.

For kitchen-novices, this book offers a fresh way to cook with the seasons and explores the purchasing of locally-produced and -grown food, as well as a complete Kentucky pantry list, equipment and cooking method discussion, and Kentucky seasonal produce chart.

For seasoned Kentucky cooks, this book is a treasure of over 200 traditional and contemporary recipes that everyone will love.

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?”

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