How to Create a Successful Cookbook in 6 Steps - Restaurant INFORMER (2024)

Is a cookbook in your future? Here are 6 steps to ensure your efforts are a success.
By: Ellen Weaver Hartman, APR, Fellow PRSA

How to Create a Successful Cookbook in 6 Steps - Restaurant INFORMER (1)

Forsome, a cookbook is a marketing tool or an homage to their heritage, while for others it’s simply at the top of their bucket list. Like a good recipe, writing a successful cookbook is harder than it looks, and it takes many ingredients to make it work.

A popular cookbook can take a chef and his or her restaurant to a new level of success and validation, while a poorly executed one can be as disappointing as a flat soufflé. Knowing what you want to get out of the cookbook and why you’re writing one before you even craft the first recipe is crucial to its success.

1. What is Your Motivation?
Like a good recipe, an excellent cookbook looks effortless, but it takes many ingredients to turn a few eggs into a soufflé. The first step, according to Melissa Libby, president of Atlanta-based PR firm Melissa Libby & Associates, which specializes in the hospitality industry, is to figure out your motivation. Libby herself has written two successful cookbooks.

“The most important first question to ask yourself is why? Why do I want to write a cookbook? If the answer is ‘to get rich,’ then do not move forward. While there are a few people who make a living writing cookbooks, they are the exceptions.”

Some good reasons to write a cookbook may include: a way to market your other food-related business(es), positioning your chef as a culinary innovator, creating a legacy for your restaurant, or identifying a serious need in the cookbook space for the type of book you have in mind. “Even ‘I just always wanted to write a cookbook’ is acceptable as long as you realize all the time and money that will go into it,” she says. “Cookbooks can take anywhere from 12-24 months from start to finish.”

Also be sure you know who your target audience is, whether that’s people who dine in your restaurant, home cooks who are interested in trying out your cuisine, or even people who are completely new to cooking.

2. Build Off a Theme.
First off, your cookbook needs a theme. Think of it as the structure or skeleton of the book that everything else will build off of. How do you want to organize the information? Do you want to present it by courses, ingredients (proteins, fruit-based), time to cook, seasons, etc.?

3. Develop Recipes.
Next, gather the recipes, but beware, again, that it’s not that easy. Each recipe must be written down (and a pinch of this or a few shakes of that doesn’t work) and tested, preferably by a professional recipe tester. You must test them over and over, too. Keep in mind who your audience is – what is their skill level? Do they have access to hard-to-find ingredients? What’s their budget? How much time do they have to cook your recipes in the kitchen? You may have to adjust some of your restaurant recipes to not just scale down the yield, but also how it’s made or what ingredients are used. You can include recipes of varying skill levels or the length of time it takes to prepare, as long as you consider your audience and tailor the book and its recipes to them.

Keep in mind that the average size of a cookbook is about 75 to 200 pages. On average, a typical cookbook will have around 150 recipes, but that varies as well, from small cookbooks with just 15 recipes to more than 300.

4.Gather Your Team.
You cannot write a cookbook alone. You’ll need a professional photographer, food stylists and acopy writerto ensure your book is the best version it can be. Lean on these professionals. Photographing food is an art, so hire a professional who specializes in food photography. It’s not the same skill as photographing landscapes or portraits.

You’ll need to make sure the chapters and recipe names are catchy, so a copywriter might help. They’ll also help ensure the tone you want to convey is carried throughout the text.

“And don’t forget the food stylist! Food prepared for a restaurant diner is very different than food prepared for a cookbook photo,” says Libby. “Then there are props and themes to consider. A professional stylist and photographer are imperative.”

5.Get Published.
Once your book is ready, how do you get it published? The two main avenues are self-publishing and a traditional publishing house. Large publishing houses typically don’t accept pitches from individuals, so you’ll need to hire an agent who will help not only approach them for you, but negotiate on your behalf. Still, it can be difficult to get their attention in this crowded market unless you already have an established platform and are a well-known name. Smaller, local publishers, however, sometimes will work with authors directly, even though an agent is still preferred. Either way, it’s ideal to have a book proposal outlining your concept, audience and budget to help sell your concept to them.

The average cookbook sells between 5,000 and 8,000 copies. If you are funding the cookbook yourself, you may need to pay anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 for the project. Print-on-demand is the least expensive. Sites such as Amazon’s, and Ingram’s offer basics like cookbook templates and stock images as well as upgraded services, which include design, editing, marketing and distribution. offers a slightly more customized product. Customers can choose from a variety of paper qualities and submit their own layouts. also gives you a step-by-step approach to selling on Amazon, the world’s largest retailer.

“There are many different ways to approach cookbook publishing and many great webinars and consultants who can help you,” says Libby. “When I published my first book, I used a local publisher with a hybrid model of sharing the expenses and revenues. The second one was published independently. [Client] Kevin Gillespie’s cookbooks were through the more traditional agent than publisher route.”

Unless you are already established, you will be funding the book largely by yourself as well as having major input on how it will be distributed and marketed. Especially for first-time authors, it is better to get up to speed on these issues than solely relying on the advice of others.

How to Create a Successful Cookbook in 6 Steps - Restaurant INFORMER (2)

Congratulations! Your book is published. Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Cookbooks can help raise the credibility of your restaurant or you as a chef. They can help your restaurant gain attention and press, bringing more people through your doors.

“Publishing two cookbooks has always given me a marketing benefit in my restaurant PR business,” Libby says. “There is credibility in being a published author.”

For restaurant chefs, it certainly is a marketing tool and can be sold in the restaurant, at bookstores and online. If it’s successful, it can lead to national recognition and potentially book tours.

Marketing can take a lot of effort, and you may want to consider hiring a public relations professional to assist you so you can get the most out of your book. A public relations firm can help organize and book those media tours (all online of course these days). They can also help coordinate press interviews and reviews to promote your cookbook as well as assist with a social media campaign surrounding your book. Word-of-mouth is also a great sales tool.

7.Donate Book Proceeds.
Publishing a cookbook can help your business, but consider donating a portion or all of the funds to a nonprofit that you partner with. Libby did just that, donating $10,000 from her first cookbook to Open Hand. For her second cookbook,Atlanta Cooks at Home, which features recipes from the city’s top chefs, she asked the chefs themselves to pick the organizations to donate proceeds to so it benefited many. “I donated money from both of my cookbooks and believe that is a good model,” she says. “The organization can help you market it, and the potential buyers feel good about the purchase.” Plus, not only areyou are supportingthe causes you believe in, but you just may find a new audience through your partnership.

Whatever avenue you take to publish a cookbook, success comes from doing the hard work up front, including the research to understand the cookbook marketplace and your audience. The quality of your recipes and photography will play a huge part in whether your book sells well or not, and marketing and PR efforts are crucial to creating awareness for your cookbook. But most of all, if you have the drive to write a cookbook, you can bet success will find you. So go for it!

How to Create a Successful Cookbook in 6 Steps - Restaurant INFORMER (3)Ellen Weaver Hartman, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the CEO of Hartman Public Relations, a full-service public relations and crisis management agency specializing in the foodservice industry. Hartman has experience working for global food and beverage companies in QSR, full service, fast casual, convenience stores and airport concessionaires. An industry leader for more than 30 years, Hartman served as vice president for communications and diversity at AFC Enterprises. She has helped restaurant clients through a variety of crisis situations including contagious diseases (COVID-19, Norovirus, Hepatitis A), violence in the workplace, sexual and racial discrimination, cybercrimes, criminal activities in the company and environmental disasters.She is active in the Women’s Foodservice Forum, Les Dames d’Escoffier International and serves on the board of the Georgia State University School of Hospitality. She earned her APR accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America and is a member of PRSA’s Fellow program for senior accomplished professionals.

How to Create a Successful Cookbook in 6 Steps - Restaurant INFORMER (2024)


How to make a successful cookbook? ›

These are the key steps to take when writing a cookbook.
  1. Choose Your Concept. As mentioned above, owning your concept is a vital stage of the process. ...
  2. Plan Your Structure. ...
  3. Create A Proposal. ...
  4. Write Your Recipes. ...
  5. Test Your Recipes. ...
  6. Edit The Text. ...
  7. Finalise The Design. ...
  8. Proofread And Index.

What are the 7 questions of a cookbook reviewer? ›

Here's my questions–who knows, maybe they'll help you the next time you're having brain freeze in the Cookbooks section.
  • Question 1: Is it useful? ...
  • Question 2: Is it thoughtful? ...
  • Question 3: Is it new? ...
  • Question 4: Does it tell a story? ...
  • Question 5: Is it well-designed? ...
  • Question 6: Is it focused?
Nov 14, 2011

What 6 types of information are found in a well written cookbook? ›

  • Recipe. A set of directions for making a food or beverage.
  • List of Ingredients. Given in exact amounts and they are listed in the order that they are used.
  • Yield. ...
  • Cooking Methods, Temperature, and Time. ...
  • Container Size and Types. ...
  • Step-By-Step Directions. ...
  • Nutrition Analysis.

What makes a great cookbook? ›

Good Cookbooks Evoke Memories

First, the cookbook reader remembers their own experiences with the spices or ingredients as they are added to a dish. And then the cookbook content presents a new perspective so those shared emotions and memories can create a new connection with the recipes in the cookbook.

How many recipes should be in a cookbook? ›

On average, a typical cookbook will have around 150 recipes, but that varies as well, from small cookbooks with just 15 recipes to more than 300.

What should be in first page of a cookbook? ›

The only required front matter is really a simple title page and a copyright page. We give descriptions of the various pieces and provide basic examples below, but we highly recommend pulling a few of your favorite cookbooks off the shelf and looking at how they handle the front matter.

What makes a cookbook sell? ›

In fact, 80% of cookbook sales are the result of word-of-mouth. Recipe contributors are built-in buyers, purchasing an average of 3 cookbooks each. Many others, including family, friends, and organization members, will also be eager to own several copies. For even greater success, use our FREE sales tools.

What do I need to know before writing a cookbook? ›

8 Tips For Writing a Cookbook
  1. Table of Contents: How Will You Break Up Your Recipe Groups? Meal types, such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack. ...
  2. Cook Your Recipes. ...
  3. Check You Haven't Missed an Ingredient. ...
  4. Put the Ingredients in Order. ...
  5. Choose a Language. ...
  6. Standardise Your Measurements. ...
  7. Pick Great Photos. ...
  8. Add Extras.
Jun 5, 2018

How do you layout a cookbook? ›

When it comes to plotting your book, we recommend using one page (great for when a recipe doesn't have a photo) or a full spread per recipe (your recipe on one side and photo on the other). As you mentally plot your format, start dropping in placeholders or text notes into the spreads to guide your creation.

How to write a cookbook introduction? ›

Your story doesn't have to be long, but it needs to be relatable and people should be able to resonate with it. So, try to make the self-introduction brief, and make this page more about how your recipes can cater to the needs of your audience and improve their lives.

What does a cookbook proposal look like? ›

In its most basic form, a proposal should have an Overview, a Marketing section where the author talks about their platform and ability to promote their work, a Table of Contents with most, if not all of the recipes listed, and a section of Sample Recipes with fully-written headnotes (the story that intros the recipe).

What is the structure of a cook book? ›

Possibly the most common way to divide a cookbook is into meals (appetizers, breakfast, lunch, dinner) but cookbooks can also be divided by season, raw ingredients (vegetables, fish, beef), cooking techniques, or some other narrative structure.

How to organize a cook book? ›

You should organize cookbooks in a way that makes sense to you. But experts recommend grouping cookbooks by cuisine (such as Indian, Italian, or Mexican), with separate sections for books on specific topics, such as grilling, seafood, or poultry.

Do cookbooks make money? ›

Both large and small groups can make huge profits with cookbook fundraisers. Cookbooks easily sell for 2–4 times their cost, allowing you to earn $500 to $50,000 or more! We're so sure you'll make money that we back it with our No-Risk Guarantee.

How much does the average cookbook author make? ›

Short answer: If you're a non-celebrity, usually between $10,000 – $50,000. That's assuming that your book doesn't sell past your advance.

How much does it cost to publish a cookbook? ›

What is the average cost of self-publishing a cookbook? In general, it can cost between $1,000 to $20,000 to self-publish a book. This price varies depending on the additional editing, book cover design, and formatting services you choose.

How do I make a cookbook and sell it? ›

The entire process is roughly outlined below:
  1. Come up with a cookbook idea.
  2. Find a literary agent to represent you and your idea.
  3. Write your idea into a cookbook proposal.
  4. Shop the proposal around to different publishers.
  5. Have an auction.
  6. Review options and accept a bid.
  7. Write the book.
Oct 14, 2019

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