...are one of the hottest selling genres of books around -- and you don't have to be a Rhodes scholar to figure out why. People have to eat -- and most of them enjoy eating. Swapping recipes is a time-worn tradition since man discovered fire, so constantly referring to good cookbooks will never go out of style. If you want to write a cookbook, remember that it takes a different style of writing altogether. In our investigations of the many different ways to write, one fact has always fascinated us: that each type of writing has its own disciplines. For example, when writing a cookbook, you won't be able to use the "off the wall" nuttiness of advertising writing or the musings and meanderings of novel writing. Cookbook writing is "technical" writing. Cookbooks are read -- not so much for entertainment -- but for recipes that will actually work -- that is to say recipes that are actually delicious, easy to make and guaranteed foolproof! In fact, a reader will often balk at reading a cookbook if s/he has to wade through page after page of colorful prose.
Cookbooks are becoming so popular, these days, that there are hundreds of them flooding the market everyday. So how do you make your cookbook stand out from the crowd? How do you make your cookbook catch someone's eye -- and their fancy? You can start by being aware of the latest social trends and write your recipe book accordingly. A successful cookbook will not only cater to what people are eating today, but how people are eating. For example, when microwave ovens became popular, hundreds of microwave cookbooks showed up on bookstore shelves everywhere. They were a godsend for busy housewives and bachelors everywhere. A lady by the name of Mable Hoffman attended a trade show where several manufacturers were displaying their new line of Crockpots. She rushed home, did some research and wrote Crockery Cookery in 1975. She's doing quite well now -- thanks to over four million copies being sold! In the nineties, the move toward vegetarian diets spawned an enormous number of cookbooks -- on everything from anchovies to zucchini to tofu. Today, the health-kick is continuing full force. So if you have the recipes for today's appetites, you have the ingredients, so to speak, of a worthwhile and, therefore, a very successful cookbook!
Your cookbook will, of course, depend on the type of cook and "eater" you are. Naturally, you will want to write an informative cookbook, so choose an area where you shine. For example, if you're well travelled and you've collected recipes over the course of your travels, you can write a great cookbook on the dishes of foreign lands. If you're a person who enjoys munching on snacks (but eschews commercial snacks) in favor of homemade snacks, you can write a great cookbook about homemade snacks. For as many different tastes as there are in the world, there are also just as many cookbooks. The key ingredient, so to speak, is to pick one "great sellable idea" and have your recipes revolve around that great idea...rather than write a hodge podge of unrelated recipes.
Of all the different writing disciplines, writing a cookbook is the one that you should avoid trying to do alone. One of the reasons why is because everyone's tastes are different. A recipe that appeals to you might not appeal to everybody -- in fact, it might not appeal to anybody! So, make sure you have plenty of taste testers around (your kids, your neighbours, friends, relatives, co-horts, etc. to guarantee that your recipe is indeed a winner! ) Another reason why you need a partner (or several) is because every recipe must be accurate. The thing that you absolutely don't need is a bunch of people sending you "hate mail" because the pineapple souffle from your cookbook didn't work. You need people to make sure the ingredients are right. You need people to test the recipes in their ovens (because every oven is different). You need people to check, check, check everything. Perhaps this is why cookbooks published by church groups are so successful. People must sense that the recipes are real, honest and "tried and true".
Assuming that you've gathered a number of different recipes over the years, now you can sort through
them, considering how each will dovetail
with your "umbrella" idea. Be choosy. For every recipe you pick, there must be a reason. Also, when picking your recipes, there are two
important points to consider
The first point to consider is: is it original? Does the recipe belong to you? If not, you might have to consider the copyright question. If the recipe
isn't yours, you will have to contact the original author and work out payment and/or credits. You might want to save yourself
the trouble by creating recipes that are truly unique and belong to you.
Is it complete and authentic? When people read your cookbook, they'll want the exact specifications for the recipes. They'll want to rave to their friends that the cookbook was 1) easy to follow and 2) clear and concise. In effect, when it comes to the recipes, you will be less of a creative writer and more of a technical writer. It's important that people are able to follow the directions exactly, and that time after time the recipe is successful. If not, your cookbook will stay on the shelf and collect dust.
Now you can start to create a Table of Contents (a publisher will want to see a Table of Contents to make a decision about publishing your book). Writing a table of contents is a good idea because as you write, the ideas will start to percolate and evolve. Perhaps you will want to add a recipe here or delete a recipe that doesn't fit the overall concept. Try to avoid a simple laundry list of your recipes. Stay true to your theme -- and keep it orderly, for example, perhaps you might subdivide your sections into breakfast, lunch and dinner
Once you've got all your "ducks in a row", you will want to get your book published. There are several ways to do this. You can go to a traditional publishing house, (see Short Stories and Novels) or self-publish your cookbook (see Self-Publishing) or turn your cookbook into an E-book (see E-books)
Yes. There are many chefs and cooks who have
written cookbooks! One very notable Canadian cookbook writer comes to
mind. Jean Pare is the founder of COMPANY'S COMING cookbooks, Canada's most successful line of cookbooks. She is now a self-made millionaire. At one time, she was a cook at a roadside restaurant. After
years of gathering recipes, she decided to self-publish her recipes -- and the ball started rolling from there. The company now has 60 different
COMPANY'S COMING editions sold in Canada, the United States, Mexico and overseas. But this lady loves to cook, she loves recipes
and she stands steadfastly behind every recipe she concocts. Her service is so personal that we wouldn't be surprised that she'll come to your house and cook one of her recipes herself.
Writing for this market can be slightly different than writing for cookbooks.
In the Food
Magazine Market, editors usually look for more than just a recipe. They want a story
too -- a unique story that's interesting and well-written. If you are a world
traveller as well as a gourmet, you've got it made! Editors will flock
to sign you up. Another way to get your name in an editor's contact list is by
having celebrity contacts. Most of us don't hob-nob with filmstars, but if
you're friendly with some well-known people, canvass them for their
favorite dishes -- and
write about it. In the long run, writers who are most enthusiastic about their subject
will always be the winner. No matter what you write about, you must have a passion for
your subject. If your passion is food, go for it!
For more information on writing cookbooks, pick up a copy of Sara Pitzer's How To Write A Cookbook And Get It Published. You can also write to two companies who specialize in printing cookbooks. They are: Cookbooks by Morris Press, P.O. Box 1681, Kearney, NE, 68848 and Circulation Services Inc., P.O.Box 7306, Indian Creek Station, Leawood, KS, 66207.