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Ever Thought of Writing a Cookbook? Here’s a Recipe…

Cookbook

Anyone who likes to collect, edit or build recipes has probably thought about publishing their own cookbook. (Yeah, I’m talking to you.) I know I’ve thought about it a lot. I’ve got ten big binders of recipes I’ve collected, each of them at least two inches thick (some three). And there are a lot more electronic bits. I give out CD copies of my recipes to people who ask, all the time.

I just never knew how to get a Real Book done.

Oh, I once wrote and self-published a book (not a cookbook), now two decades ago. It was an interesting experiment, and I learned a lot. (That’s code for it didn’t sell and I lost my shirt.) Self-publishing is always a route, of course. And I’m sure things have gotten easier these days, especially with publish-on-demand. I just don’t want to get that into the details at that level next time. At least not without a chance to get broader exposure for my work.

Fortunately, there are some good guides out there for helping you publish. Just about anything you’d want to publish, in fact. Including cookbooks.

I worked my way through Gloria Chadwick’s “Recipe for a Cookbook” recently. Gloria’s a Texan (hangs out in my old hometown, in fact) and so I naturally had to take a look. Naturally. And she’s done quite a bit of writing and publishing of books. More volumes of other stuff than cookbooks, actually, but quite a few cookbooks.

Gloria’s volume is a meta-cookbook; that is, it teaches you about cookbook building from start to finish, using a frame of reference that is a cookbook too! Chapters include “Appetizers & Beverages” (how to get started), “Soups & Salads” (content and marketing planning), “Vegetables & Side Dishes” (how to make your offering different and appealing), “Main Dishes” (the central content), “Breads & Rolls” (proofing, completing, pre-pub marketing), “Desserts” (launch party and release), “Cookies & Candy” (getting your book into distribution channels), and “This & That” (marketing, marketing, marketing, with a little promotion).

What all did I like about this book? First, Gloria doesn’t concentrate on only one way to get your book done. She gives advice for everybody from the writer who wants a small, niche publication with very small print runs to those with, shall we say, grander visions. She spends a lot of time on the marketing side, which is (frankly) where cookbook writers (dare I say essentially all writers?) fall down on their projects. She gives templates for query letters, even. There’s over 100 ideas for promoting your book after you have it, for instance.

I especially like the fact that Gloria doesn’t hide any of the things that can stop you in your tracks. Costs are talked about. Challenges. The work it takes to be successful isn’t glossed over. However, there’s a lot of language in the book that coaches a writer through the tough stuff, and gives early warning of possible issues so you can avoid demoralizing surprises.

In short, it’s a very practical approach. Which is what we “amateurs” really need if we want to get from idea to successful publication.

What didn’t I like about Recipe for a Cookbook? As with self-published volumes, the production values aren’t tops. Some typography issues, no color (except for the cover), and what appears to be a bigger issue: The publisher’s name. I did a search for “Copper Canyon Books” and found a website for Copper Canyon Cookbooks. However, Copper Canyon Press also comes up on the search. They’ve been around quite a while, and they only publish poetry. I’m not sure if this is deliberate deception or happenstance. In any case, it’s confusing.

In the end, Gloria’s premise is simple: self-publishing is the way to go. Gloria takes pains to point out that some self-published cookbooks have sold 100,000 copies over time. Yes, that’s true. But what about larger impact volumes? What if you think your idea is ready for prime time? What if you think you could actually use an agent and go for broke? Not so much there. Some, but not a lot.

Okay, so there’s not many of us who feel we want to go that far up the cookbook tree. If you’re in that group, then this book’s not going to help much. If you want to self-publish, though, I think you have to have this book. Especially if you want to get into standard distribution channels. Cookbooks are one of the few types where the major channels are open to the small print run volume, unlike mysteries or thrillers, for example. The concrete and specific options shown in Recipe for a Cookbook are worth the price of admission, if you’re serious about getting your book done and marketed.

So don’t be afraid to get started on that cookbook today! Or just as soon as you get Gloria Chadwick’s guide…

Enjoy the (Publish Your Cookbook) Heat!

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