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ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated

Ready, Set, Cook! How To Publish Your Cookbook

Do you have several signature recipes that your friends and family beg for? Is your dish the one everyone raves about at family gatherings and holiday celebrations? If so, and if cooking is your passion, publishing a cookbook is the next logical step—particularly if you have a knack for writing, as well.

But where do you begin?

You begin by focusing on the best way to share your creativity and knowledge with other cooks who want to wow their families just like you do. Once you have that focus and are ready to start writing, here are the steps to follow if your dream is to publish a cookbook:

Decide on the category and what you'll offer your readers

If you happen to be a celebrity chef ready to publish a cookbook, this part is easy: chefs who have gained popularity, whether regionally or nationally, have a ready-made audience likely biting at the bit for a cookbook.

Cookbooks written well-known chefs have a built-in market
Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

However, if your notoriety is somewhere beneath celebrity chef status, you'll need to take the time to really nail down the category and niche appeal you can add to the market. Without taking the time to do this, you'll risk creating a cookbook that doesn't have much appeal to an audience (either because the market is oversaturated or you are not offering anything unique as a writer).

The best market research you can do while preparing to write and publish a cookbook is on Amazon's categories list. Under the general category "Cookbooks, Food & Wine" you'll find the following sub-categories:

  • Asian Cooking
  • Baking
  • Beverages & Wine
  • Canning & Preserving
  • Celebrities & TV Shows
  • Comfort Food
  • Cooking Education & Reference
  • Cooking Methods
  • Cooking by Ingredient
  • Desserts
  • Entertaining & Holidays
  • Italian Cooking
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Main Courses & Side Dishes
  • Outdoor Cooking
  • Professional Cooking
  • Quick & Easy
  • Regional & International
  • Special Diet
  • U.S. Cooking
  • Vegetarian & Vegan

This list is a great way to narrow down what you'd like to do in creating a cookbook that is unique, engaging, and informative. Browse through the categories and glance at the summaries of the different types of cookbooks that are published. Pay attention to the rank in sales each book has achieved on Amazon, and if you're undecided between several potential categories—make life easier for yourself and choose the one that shows the highest sales rating.

If you're hoping to publish your cookbook through traditional publishers, here are a few questions they'll want you to answer in your pitch:

  • How does this cookbook fill a gap in the market?
  • How are you uniquely qualified to write it?
  • Do you offer any valuable insights that are not widely known?

By the end of this process, you should have enough information to continue to the next phase of writing a best-selling cookbook: Create a one-paragraph elevator pitch.

Create your one-paragraph elevator pitch

In sales and marketing, the "elevator pitch" is a 30-second description of what you're selling. Since most elevator rides last 20 to 30 seconds, an elevator pitch needs to capture your audience's attention with minimal words. Basically—be concise, be passionate, and make them want to know more.

For example, let's say I want to publish a cookbook that contains canning and preserving recipes my grandmothers passed down to me. A great elevator pitch would be something like this:

Preserving the Past is a cookbook for people who love recipes passed down through generations. It contains 50 canning and preserving recipes, ranging from apple butter to hot pepper relish to marinara sauce. Heart-healthy and diabetic friendly alternatives are included, and each recipe is followed by my recollections of working in the kitchen to prepare these recipes with my aunts and grandmothers.

Readers love recipes passed down through generations
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

Now for the fun part—recipes

Most cooks know the format of a recipe: Ingredients list and preparation instructions. However, the details that are included can mean the difference between a recipe that is easy to follow and one that frustrates readers.

This is one reason why cooking tradition passed down through generations is so easy to remember. If you watched your grandmother make a dish over and over—even helped her make it, at points—you likely have the steps burned into your memory. Seeing the process makes it much easier to understand compared to only reading about the process.

Another point to consider when you are writing out your recipes is that some of your readers might be on a diet plan, and need to know the serving size and nutritional information of the dish. Websites like offer an easy-to-use calculator to determine the nutritional value of the recipe based on the ingredients and serving size. If you include this additional information, you should mention it in your "elevator pitch," since it is a selling point.


Before I discuss tips for writing your recipe ingredients, let's look at current food trends. An article published on Food Navigator notes that there is increasing awareness of the connections between diet, aging, and health. Heart disease, cancer, kidney stones, diabetes—the list of health problems caused by diet is extensive.

Considering that many people are battling these health issues, there is an eager audience for cookbooks promising health-conscious dishes. If you can boast health-conscious dishes that don't sacrifice flavor, you're steps ahead of the competition already.

With this in mind, if there is a way you can adapt your ingredients to healthier alternatives—do it. When you're in the "elevator pitch" stages, you can use trendy buzzwords like "organic" or "healthier alternative" or "gluten free" to get the attention of publishers.

Health-conscious recipes help drive sales
Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Beyond considering health-conscious alternatives, here are a few tips for creating your ingredients list:

  • List the ingredients in the order they will be used.
  • Offer substitutes for ingredients that might be hard to find, or that are mainly found in certain regions.
  • Be specific (for example, specify red, white, or yellow onion).
  • Note the optimal size of the mixing bowl, food processor, or other cookware that is to be used.
  • If ingredients are to be mixed in a certain order, note it and list them in the correct order.

Preparation instructions

Here are some rules to follow when writing your recipe's preparation instructions:

  • Use short sentences and include cooking times, as well as how cooking times could differ at high altitude or in different dishes (for example, glass vs. metal).
  • Explain each step in a logical manner. For example, if the oven needs to be preheated, note that. Or if brining the night before is required, that should be listed first in the preparation instructions.
  • Explain what the correct consistency of the dish should be at each stage of the cooking process (for example, its consistency while mixing vs. its consistency when done).
  • Note which cookware is best for the recipe. If a glass dish is best for cooking, inform your audience of that, along with which size pan or dish should be used.
  • If the recipe contains different components of the dish (for example, a chocolate cake with glazed icing), you need to write the preparation instructions separately.
  • For recipes with multiple components, use logic. If the icing needs to go on the cake once the cake has cooled, then write the preparation instructions for the cake first and the icing next. This insinuates to your reader that they can start the icing component after the cake component is placed in the oven for cooking.

Get amazing photographs

If you've ever seen a photo of a mouthwatering dish and your stomach rumbles in response, then you understand the aesthetics and marketing value of food photography for your cookbook. Recipes that contain photos, especially photos of each stage in the preparation/cooking process are not only more appealing—they make it easier for your readers to know what to expect.

Great photographs make your dishes look more appealing
Photo by Christine Siracusa on Unsplash

Even if you don't consider yourself to be a photographer, there are a few tricks to getting amazing photographs of your prepared dishes:

Use natural lighting

Taking a shot near a window at daylight will give you much better results than shooting at night with artificial lights.

Use depth of field

Depth of field is an expression used in photography to note the distance between foreground objects and background objects. When the background is blurry, the foreground seems closer, and is the focus of the shot. Without depth of field, objects in the background will appear too close to the dish, drawing focus away from it.

Most modern smartphones now offer this feature and most digital cameras allow you to manually adjust the depth of field. If you're not sure how to make that happen, this article is a great resource for guiding you through the camera settings.

Take shots of different stages in the preparation process

Since cooking enthusiasts will be buying your book to prepare the recipes on their own, make sure the steps are simple to follow. One way to do this is to take shots at multiple stages of the preparation process. A photo would be especially useful to your reader if a certain step in the preparation stage could cause confusion.

One final note

While your recipes are important, keep in mind that your story is also part of what attracts audiences. Being personable, open, and entertaining in your introductions and/or interludes between recipes will endear your readers to you as a chef. Since you, as an individual, are unique, making the recipes part of your personal story will produce a cookbook that stands apart from all the others.

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