Writing a Cookbook Proposal - 5 Tips for Success

Writing a Cookbook Proposal - 5 Tips for Success

Every cookbook needs to have a specific audience defined. Be it men, women, school-age children, older adults, newly retired executives, experienced cooks, newlyweds, home chefs, or bakers, your cookbook needs to speak to a specific audience. When you keep this audience in mind, your message will be on-target and the audience won’t believe how much they can learn from you and how much you can help them. So what about when you write your cookbook proposal? Who do you write that for?

When you write your cookbook proposal, the target audience is not the same audience as your cookbook. Your proposal audience is an agent and/or an editor at a publishing house. Your job in a cookbook proposal is to speak to that agent and/or editor and WOW them with your cookbook idea. Your proposal not only packages, but delivers, your cookbook concept in a neat, clear, concise, and hopefully unforgettable, document. Think of your proposal as a tool to educate someone about your book idea. If they read the proposal they’ll know everything they need to know about you and your awesome cookbook idea. So, how can you do this?

Here are 5 tips for success with your cookbook proposal.

1. When you write your proposal always keep agents and editors in mind. Answer any question you think they would have about you, your topic, your platform, and your book idea. You are selling your book idea to them. You want them to lay awake at night and think of your cookbook idea and how you are the best person to write about this idea.

2. The proposal must showcase your best writing skills. This is done through how you write the proposal and how you express yourself in you book’s introduction, sample chapter, and in the several tested recipes you provide. Make your proposal an enjoyable read. Through your writing, and the way you express yourself in the proposal, the agent and/or editor must get an example of your ability to write clearly. Convince them of your ability to deliver your cookbook concept through your narrative and recipes.

3. When formatting your proposal check to see if your agent and/or the publishing house where you plan to submit offers style guidelines to format the proposal. If they have guidelines be sure to  follow them to a “T”. If guidelines are not available, format the proposal in 12-point, double-spaced, Times New Roman font, or another widely acceptable font- style. Include a footer with page numbers and 1-inch margins. Skip elaborate design and stylized fonts unless you have a compelling reason to do so. Avoid  “fluffing” up a proposal with fancy binding or random food images unless you want to include sample photography. Keep the proposal simple and keep it focused.

4. Make sure your proposal is clear, to the point, well-formatted, and free of spelling and grammatical errors.  If writing and grammar is not your skill, partner with a collaborator, but disclose the collaboration to the agent/editor so they don’t get the impression you did the work solo. And, if you work with a collaborator to help write the proposal, you might also want to consider working with a collaborator on the actual book manuscript because the same challenges about writing will crop up again with creating your book manuscript.

5. Read the proposal carefully before submission. When I take the time to read it out loud, I hear the mistakes.  Schedule time to ask a trusted colleague or friend to read and edit the proposal too. The proposal is the first impression you give to an agent and/or editor so you want the document to be as good as it can be or even better!

Do you want to write a cookbook, but would like to work with a cookbook coach who can answer questions and be sure your’re on the right path? If so, take time to schedule  a complimentary 30-minute Cookbook Clarity Assessment today. In this assessment you can talk more about your cookbook dream and learn about the cookbook coaching mastermind groups and the 6-week cookbook publishing coaching package.

  1. Hello, thank you for your post, it’s very helpful. Just one question, somewhat silly, but shoud cookbok proposals be written in 1st or 3rd person?


    1. Hi Claire – thanks for your question. I would pick first person to describe your book to an agent if your perspective and story is a large part of the cookbook concept. It would be appropriate to say “I” in this case when introducing the agent or editor to your cookbook concept rather than “she” or “he”. Your agent or acquisitions editor wants to know why you are a good fit for writing a book on this topic, so first person seems ok.

      When you write the description of your cookbook in the proposal (and I say to image what you would read about your cookbook on the flap copy of a cookbook cover) then you wouldn’t necessarily say “I” for this part. If the cookbook description includes references to the user, here it would be in 3rd person. I hope this helps.

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