When you think about the sheer number of things involved in putting a cookbook together, it really can seem overwhelming.
But don’t panic.
We’ve got just what you need all laid out below with our 10-step plan on cookbook self-publishing.
We’ll talk you through settling on your book idea, writing your book, coming up with a design, and more.
Before you know it, you’ll have run through our steps, and you’ll soon be well on the way to publishing your cookbook.
- Things to Consider Before Self-Publishing a Cookbook
- How to Self-Publish a Cookbook in 10 Steps
- How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Cookbook?
Things to Consider Before Self-Publishing a Cookbook
Before publishing a cookbook, you’ll need to make some decisions:
Why do you want to publish a cookbook?
It’s perfectly valid to create your own cookbook, even if it’s just for the satisfaction of holding your own book in your hand. It’s also valid to publish a cookbook because you want to make money from it.
Decide before you start because this will impact how you create your book and how much money you want to invest in it.
What does success mean to you?
Is it having a fun launch party and selling a few copies to family and friends? Do you have a monetary goal in mind? Would you love to be a guest on your favorite cooking show with your book in hand?
What do you really want? Know that, and you’re better positioned to make a solid plan for reaching your goals.
How much time do you have for this project?
We’re all busy, aren’t we? There are times when there just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day. If you have a lot on your plate, then do you really have the time to spend on all the aspects of publishing your cookbook?
How to Self-Publish a Cookbook in 10 Steps
Here’s where we get to the good stuff with our step-by-step guide to self-publishing your own cookbook.
A little advice before you get started: it can be tempting to rush through the steps, but take your time. Work through each one and ensure you’ve done everything you need to do at that stage.
You’ll set yourself up for the greatest success if you don’t skip out on any of the steps.
Also, one more piece of advice we just know you’ve seen before: Always read the full recipe (or all the steps in this case) before you start.
1. Research your book ideas.
You no doubt have so many ideas for cookbooks that you’re more likely to have trouble picking which one to write first. But it’s important to research before diving in, especially if you want to make money from this.
Firstly, if you already have an audience, you need to understand them well and know what type of cookbook your audience will want to buy right now.
If you don’t have an audience yet, don’t worry, you can still do this, but you will still need to do some research.
The easiest way to start your research is to ask your audience. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply put up a poll on your blog and social media and see what people have to say.
Using software such as SurveyMonkey, you could also run a short survey with a small prize draw to encourage entries.
Next, look at your social and website analytics to see your most popular posts. You may find that the answer to what to create leaps out at you from doing this exercise.
If not, thoroughly research on Google to see how many people are searching for recipes in your possible niches.
One other piece of (paid) software that could help is Publisher Rocket, which can help you see what people are searching for on Amazon and how many people are looking for cookbooks with your keywords.
2. Finalize your book topic.
Gather all your research together, and you should now have enough information to make an informed decision.
This is particularly important if you want to make money with your cookbook. It might seem counter-intuitive, but an empty niche with no competition and no keyword searches isn’t your best bet.
You’re looking for that sweet spot between what you want to create and a niche with plenty of keyword searches. You need enough people already searching for that cookbook topic to make it a viable choice.
3. Research your content.
The next step is to size up the competition. Look at the cookbooks on your topic that are already out there. If you want to buy some of them to look at, you can do that if you have the budget.
Or you can use the Amazon Look Inside feature on ebook copies to see the first ten percent of each book without spending any money. A trip to your local bookstore to browse can help too.
You can see how other books are laid out and look at design ideas. You can see what you like and what you think doesn’t work.
This stage should have you looking critically at other books on the market to see how your cookbook can stand out from the rest and what you can do better.
By all means, get inspiration from this. Here’s what to look for:
- Find layout and color choices that you like.
- Look at the titles and back cover copy, or blurb, of the top five bestsellers to see what’s working. Your title and blurb are important parts of selling your book, so they need to be well-written and enticing.
- Check out the covers of the bestselling books in your category. These are the ones to beat. Your cover should be of high quality and look like it belongs.
- Look at what other authors have included in their cookbooks. Many people include stories of how they got inspired to create their books, how they started cooking, other background information, details of equipment needed, cooking tips, and more. Start to think about what you want to include.
- Look at the standard book size, number of pages, page length, and trim size of the most popular books. You might find that you should adhere to a standard size and length.
- Check out the prices of the bestselling books. This is vital, as you don’t want to price yourself so high that nobody buys or so low that your book looks too cheap in comparison.
Get any ideas and inspiration together at this stage, and you’ll make a better and more informed outline for your book.
4. Create your book outline.
Now things can start to come together. Create an outline using the information you’ve gathered above to help you make good decisions.
You’ll be more familiar now with how other cookbooks in your niche are laid out and how the information is presented.
Create an outline that allows your recipe book to flow in a logical order and present your information and ideas at their best.
5. Promote your book early.
When you’re caught up in the middle of writing your book, it can be easy to forget that you want people to buy it when it comes out.
Don’t get caught out. You don’t want to announce your new cookbook when it’s published and find that few people buy it.
Instead, start building interest and excitement now. It’s best to start between three and six months before your book comes out if you can.
- Think about what you can post on social media, your blog, and in your newsletter to tease your new cookbook. You could share one or two recipes from it and snippets of some of the stories. You could have people’s mouths watering with descriptions of some of the dishes without telling them how to make them – they’ll have to buy the book for that.
- Set up a schedule and post consistently to keep people’s attention. But make sure that not every post consists solely of “buy my book, buy my book.” People will get bored and switch off if you do that. Instead, aim to entertain. You can talk about how your book is coming along, any interesting research you’ve discovered, a day in the life of writing a cookbook, and so much more.
- While you’re doing this, build your mailing list. We can’t stress this one enough. You don’t own the social media platforms and have no control over how much your posts are seen or even if the algorithms will still be the same tomorrow as they are. But you do own your mailing list. Write a short, relevant lead magnet, such as a small collection of teaser recipes related to your book’s subject, and use that as a free item to encourage people to subscribe.
With a responsive mailing list of fans who can’t wait for your book, you can launch your cookbook to hundreds, or even more, fans who can’t wait, rather than crickets.
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6. Gather your book content.
Bring together everything you need for your book and slot everything into your outline in order.
You’ll need your recipes, lists of ingredients and equipment, any other copy you want to include, such as your introduction, any before-recipe stories, tips and tricks, and your end matter.
- At the front, you’ll need a copyright page, a table of contents, a page to sign up for your newsletter to find out about the next book, and you might want to include a dedication page and a list of your other books, if relevant.
- At the back of the book, you can include an about the author page, with links to your website, social media, and newsletter sign-up information, along with a list of any other books you have, including any preorders for books that aren’t out yet. You want the back matter to promote and market you and your other books.
Don’t worry if this is your first book and you don’t have any others out yet. The great thing about self-publishing is that you have the control to go back and update your end matter as you bring out new books.
- The final thing you will need is high-quality, high-resolution images of your recipes. These are a must. You want people to imagine themselves digging into your food and practically being able to taste it from your photographs. You can’t skimp on high-quality photographs in a cookbook, whether you opt for black and white or color.
Once you’ve completed your cookbook, you must proofread it and ensure you zap any mistakes.
You can hire an editor to go through your book for flow, ease of reading, and clarity, but if you know your English is good enough, you could get away with hiring a proofreader.
7. Create your design board.
Remember your initial research, looking at colors, design, and layout and examining the current bestsellers in your niche? Bring that all together here and create a design board to help you design your cookbook.
You can do this with a physical corkboard, but Pinterest really does come into its own for design boards. And you can create a secret board for this so no one else can see it before you publish.
Pin anything you can think of to your design board to help you work out how you want your cookbook to look.
You might find some overlap between looking at your design and creating the content for your cookbook, as you need to present your book beautifully, which might affect what content you can include and how much.
You could find that you do this step and step 6 in combination to get the best results with your design.
8. Design your cookbook.
You have various options here, depending on your budget and whether you want to make money from your cookbook.
- You can buy a cookbook template quite cheaply and use that to lay out your book. Or you can use software such as Canva, which has a free version and a relatively inexpensive paid version.
- If you know what you’re doing, we recommend Adobe InDesign, a publishing standard for book layouts, but it comes with a high price tag and a learning curve.
- You can also hire a designer specializing in cookbooks, but of course, they will expect to be paid the going rate for their work.
This decision is up to you, but you do want to produce a beautiful and professional book. People are so used to quality cookbooks now that they won’t be impressed by something that doesn’t reach expected standards.
- Next, you need to decide what formats you want to use for your cookbook. You could print your book as a PDF and sell it as a download on your website. If you do this, you keep more of the money, because all you need is software, such as PayHip or SendOwl, and your book will automatically be delivered to your readers when they buy it.
- You could also create an epub version, a paperback, or a hardback and sell it on Amazon or any other bookstores, such as Barnes and Noble.
If you want to make money, we recommend all of the above. The more formats you have, the more buy buttons you have.
And you’re making the most of your content as you create it once and then sell it in multiple formats.
Pro tip: When printing a cookbook, always compare prices and see where you can get the best deal. Even with print-on-demand publishing, you may still find a huge price difference between Ingram Spark and Amazon KDP.
9. Publish your cookbook.
Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for! You’ve done all the hard work, and you’re about to publish your cookbook.
It’s quite straightforward to follow the publishing directions on Amazon to get your book uploaded and published, and there is plenty of help available on KDP, if you need it.
The most important thing here is to savor the moment when you hit “Publish,”, especially the first time. It’s an incredibly special moment, so take the time to celebrate it.
10. Promote your new cookbook!
Take a look at step five again. We’ve given you quite a few different ideas already to promote your book and start getting sales. In fact, if you’ve followed step five, we hope you already have many sales as soon as your book comes out.
That’s important, as if Amazon can see that a book is doing well out of the gate, their own algorithm will kick in to help you promote it.
One other important thing is to ask people for reviews. Try to send out ARC or Advanced Reader Copies of your cookbook before it’s published so that you have some great reviews already on release day. Getting a high number of reviews is another thing that makes the Amazon algorithm sit up and take notice, so don’t skip this.
After that, it’s a case of rinse, repeat, and write the next book!
How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Cookbook?
As you can no doubt see from our steps above, you really can spend a lot of money on producing a quality cookbook if you have the budget, or you can manage most of the steps for free if you don’t:
- You can pay someone to do niche research for you.
- Some companies will market your book for you.
- You can pay a virtual assistant to take on the tasks you’d rather not do or that save you time.
- You could pay a professional food photographer for your food images.
- You can hire editors and proofreaders to check your book.
- Professional formatters will lay out and design your book for you.
- There are professional cover designers who know the markets and what sells, and we do recommend at least investing in a professional cover because that’s what catches people’s eye (or doesn’t!) on Amazon.
You can literally spend thousands of dollars on producing your cookbook. Or you can spend nothing and do as much of the work as you can yourself. You may even be able to swap with other authors or businesspeople for services that you can’t do yourself.
So, we’ve reached the end of the steps, and now you know what’s involved in creating and publishing your own cookbook. There’s a lot involved in publishing a cookbook, but it really is possible, and you can do it.
Follow our practical cookbook self-publishing steps, and soon you’ll no longer have to imagine holding your very own cookbook in your hands.