Publishing a cookbook is one of the pinnacle goals of food bloggers, representing another achievement within their brand portfolio. It’s a great way to grow both the business and audience beyond the reaches of the internet.
If you’re a food blogger who’s been blogging for a while, has amassed dozens of yummy recipes and has gorgeous high-res photography at your fingertips, you might be considering your publishing options.
But just as starting a blog is a time-consuming endeavor that requires hard work and dedication, a cookbook is no easy accomplishment and for many, harder to do.
Grateful Ink general manager, Amy Nichols, explains, “Writing a cookbook is not for every food blogger. It is a large undertaking that needs time, attention-to-detail and, most of all, patience. If you find a mistake or want to switch out an image, you can do that with a blog. With a cookbook, once it’s printed, it’s final.”
But she adds, “Many would say that ‘you’ll know when the time is right’ and there is some validity to that.”
Nichols recommends considering four factors as you begin the publishing process.
What is the reason for the cookbook?
Are you hoping to build and extend your brand? Do you have a new culinary idea you would like to share? Is there consumer demand?
You should have the answer to all of these questions. Publishers and agents will want to know.
What is your reach?
A cookbook won’t sell unless you have a large platform with an engaged audience. If you aren’t there yet, don’t fret. It just means you should spend more time developing your brand before you dive into the book world. By building your platform, you are ensuring your cookbook’s success.
Is there new content that can be earmarked for the cookbook?
“We suggest that a cookbook have at least 100 recipes with 85 percent of them being new and ‘unpublished,'” says Nichols.
Do you have the time to dedicate to producing content that is print-worthy?
“Photography online is different than printed photography,” cautions Nichols, “Your food needs to jump off the page and look so enticing that a consumer wants to recreate it in their kitchens.”
Aside from considering these four factors, there are other important things to note as you approach publishing a cookbook.
“Landing a traditional book deal can be a tedious and laborious process, so having thick skin is important,” explains Nichols. “That aside, many of the big publishers like Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Random House, etc., require representation, so having a reputable agent is key.”
(Not sure how to land an agent or what they do? Check out our explanation here.)
Furthermore, Nichols recommends, “Do a test with your audience, as these are the best potential buyers. Offer up recipes that are ‘exclusive to the forthcoming cookbook’ to get reactions and reviews, or offer free recipe downloads from the forthcoming cookbook for a limited time. Help build a case for why publishing makes sense.”
You should also have your cookbook manuscript buttoned up with a table of contents, recipes defined or outlined, and recipe samples with images.
When submitting to agents and publishers, Nichols says you should send a query letter that states what the cookbook is about, its contents (such as number of recipes, images, tips and sidebars), your platform size and some marketing strategies.
Don’t send the full manuscript, but let publishers and agents know it is available for review upon request. Be ready to answer questions and get feedback
Nichols adds, “At the end of the day, showing traditional publishers and literary agents that there is a big following established and these are people who will probably buy the cookbook is a good position to be in.”