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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Writing a cookbook Part 1 How can you get your cookbook published?




I get asked this quite a lot: how can I write a cookbook? And mostly, how can I get it published? I mean, how do I get published if I am not a famous chef or TV personality? I think this is what most people want to know, first!

So I’ll skip the writing bit (for now) and say a few words about publishing a cookbook (or any other book really!).

If you are planning to write just for friends and family this post is not for you: there are many computer and internet programs which allow you to write and design a book, and even to order some copies (at a price...).

The advice here is for those who want to see their work on the shelves of a bookshop, in the libraries, in the kitchens of people they visit for the first time.

Many consider self-publishing, but unless you are not only a great cook, great food stylist and great writer with an original idea, but also an editor, a proof reader, a designer, a photographer, and index expert, know a good printer and, most importantly, a sale person with a good distribution network… well… you may be getting into too much work…. For nothing!

But hey! It has been done, so if you have stamina, time and a little capital to invest, go for it!

The second option is to find a publisher that will help you in exchange of a financial contribution (like buying 2000 copies of your own book). Small publishers have to do this because the costs of production are really high, and get higher if you like to include colour pages (photos).

But think about it: can you sell 2000 copies by yourself? Maybe if you have a restaurant or a delicatessen shop, or hold regular cooking classes, in these cases you can sell a few books, but don’t think that this is easy. Even on the Internet it is hard to sell, there is a lot of competition out there, and too many cookbooks.. Worse if you have a blog: your readers are used to free recipes (and we will get to that in another post).

And are you sure that the publisher you found will print not only the copies that you buy, but also more, to be sold in shops, at least nation-wide? Remember: you are not going to receive royalties unless the books are sold in shops (real or virtual) or to libraries (not that you should hope to receive too many royalties with a single cookbook anyway…).

Some small editors will sincerely try to help you, while other may be just façades which provide vanity publishing services.

A small publisher which is trying to help you will:

Promote your book (but remember, they have other authors a part from you).

Ask you to help them with promotion (with publicity, appearances, food demos).

Trying to sell you book to shops (and not just to you!).

A bigger publisher will do the same, and will have a larger distribution channel and more sale representatives, but also many more books to sell and possibly less time to dedicate to you. A bigger publisher may not ask for you to buy books in advance, but will offer you a good discount if you want to buy them.

Finally, if you want to make sure that you are really getting published because you are worth it, find a publisher that believes in you and your book to the point that it will not put in the contract that you have to buy books (still, most publishers hope that the authors will buy some copies at least!) and, if your proposal is truly excellent, it may also give you an advance on royalties, which is good news!

So, next time I’ll talk about finding this last type of publisher, and about book proposals!

5 comments:

  1. I've been wanting to write my own Indonesian cooking book, to help promoting Indonesian cuisine. But, I guess it's so time-consuming from preparing to publishing. I need 8 hands! Thank you for the tips, Alessandra. Very useful for further future.

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  2. Great post Alessandra, thank you for sharing, I look forward to more!

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  3. Some food for thought - cheers, Alessandra, much obliged :)

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  4. Thank you all for your comments.

    Arfi, it is time consuming but worth it. I don't know if in NZ there is a market for Indonesian food... maybe if you have a Bali angle (Kiwis love Bali!). A more marketable book that you could do is about food and baking for coeliacs, here I think that there would be a market.

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  5. Cara Alessandra,
    questi tuoi post mi saranno molto utili. Sto pensando da tempo di scrivere qualcosa anch'io, uno o più manuali sul mio VisualFood. Ho idee da vendere, è il caso di dirlo. E poi già diverse persone e anche chi frequenta i miei corsi mi chiede se ho qualcosa di mio che possano acquistare... quindi mi studierò per bene tutti i tuoi consigli, di cui ti ringrazio anticipatamente.
    Lasciami dire che il tuo blog è incantevole, so già che ci passerò delle ore. Sono onorata del tuo interesse per il mio giveaway. A prestissimo!
    Rosemary

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