So you want to follow your dreams and write a cookbook of your own? But you are wondering how, why, when, and what? Read all about my journey of writing two cookbooks and the pros and cons that come along with this adventure. Grab a tea or coffee and come along and enjoy this extra long post all about my two cookbooks.
Firstly I would like to say I do NOT consider myself a writer of any sort. I am a professional chef and food blogger. I never went to school for writing, although I should, I never had the love to do that. I give major credit to people who are professional writers, editors, and formatters.
Where should we begin? Oh yes, the most important thing to consider first is the IDEA.
- Idea/ Concept:
What is the concept of your book? Do you have one? I think the most important role as a new author especially is providing great content! Okay, let’s say your cookbook is on “Greek cuisine” great but what makes your book unique. I have much experience now in publishing 2 Greek cookbooks, and I will tell you I am still learning! I own more than likely over 75 Greek cookbooks some of which are stowed away in my garage but many dates back to the 1980’s up to the present time. I went through every single Greek book I own and scanned them for their very own individuality. Some I found amazing, while others I found quite boring. No disrespect to the authors, but as the years go by we learn and learn, and we adjust to the next years coming. Maybe some of these authors didn’t have the advanced technology that we have these days, so I have to give them all credit. So going back to the idea you have. Is your idea “modern Greek cooking” or is it maybe “Keto Greek Recipes” or Mediterranean Cuisine with a Twist” whatever it maybe make sure you are not “copying a title” that is already published out there! Do your online homework and see who may be your competition, and see what isn’t out there in the book world yet.
Make it unique, make it you! No matter what your title is, just make sure it stands out! Originally I wanted my book to be, “A Drop of Ladi, a Pinch of Kanella, and My Greek Soul. Unfortunately, this was too long of a title, and I cut out “A Pinch of Kanella. I did carry the “Pinch of Kanella” in a different part of my book, so that is an option if your title is too long. The other option is to carry that title over to your next book. Again, I can not stress this enough, PLEASE MAKE YOUR TITLE UNIQUE.
2. Be Precise and Organized:
This is probably the hardest part for me during both cookbooks because I have no idea at the time what order I wanted my recipes to go in. I want to say I worked in a backward way because I was all over the place with my first cookbook “Back To My Roots“. I was a new author in 2015 and I thought sure this is simple and so easy. My dream is to write a cookbook of my yiayia’s recipes and my own together in one. How hard can that be right? Oh little did I know it is damn hard. The reason I was able to publish these books was for the pure fact I have the LOVE AND PASSION to make it happen. I pushed myself hours on end to get it done.
The first thing is to make sure you have people who believe in you and your concept. If you do not have a supportive circle, it is quite hard. I had the best people to support me. At the time it was my family, and Nestor, as well as many foodies and dear friends from around the world who helped me make this dream happen. I questioned myself and the ideas many times, and a friend of mine who happened to edit both books said, Krystina you got this! I had my food blog going for about 3 years already while writing the first book, so it was easier for me to bring the recipes I had from my blog over to the book.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help!
Do not be afraid to ask fellow authors for advice and tips on how to write a book. I think this is very important, and you are also helping yourself become a better author by doing this. **I am writing this very post for people who want to write a cookbook and have reached out to me via email for advice.
Going back to the organization. This is KEY people. You must gather your recipes in a format that they are organized and easy to find on your computer. I used “word” and “google drive” to keep everything in files.
Be Organized with Recipes
Is your book going by season, or is it going by a certain dietary need example “gluten-free” recipes?
How many pages will your cookbook be? Keep in mind the cost of making a cookbook can be very expensive so don’t go overboard with your book unless you have unlimited funds to print your book. My first cookbook was only 88 pages, while the second is at 350 pages so both are completely different in costs, especially depending on hardcover, color pages, and glossy or matte. A good way to figure out the print cost of your book is by using the Ingramspark calculator. https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/ShippingCalculator
Be Organized with Food Photos
We will talk about this later on, but I think beautiful photos play a huge role in any book especially a cookbook! Think the reader can only be impressed with their eyes, they can not physically touch your food so they are excited by your unique recipe and a beautiful photo only makes your recipe say TRY ME!
Test your recipes over and over again to make sure they are perfect! If it is someone else recipe, please test! You may have your favorite uncle Sam’s recipe, but you have to test it to make sure it is accurate. You have to think that your book should be read by any audience around the world, so make the recipes simple and easy to follow. If they are too complicated then your beginner cook may not be able to read it, and you may want to think that your audience is targeted towards the intermediate cooks.
Measurements play a huge roll in your cookbook. Will your recipes be in European, or American measurements. I have a chart in both my cookbooks that explain to the reader how to follow my American measurements. Another good tip is simply sharing a recipe that is simple to follow. One of the most annoying things in a cookbook is a missing ingredient or a step that doesn’t fully explain the method. Please make sure you can understand your recipe first before you put it in a book.
Once you mastered the recipes now you can decide if you want to include a nutritional panel to each recipe, as well as a dietary chart. Example “g.f., vegan, vegetarian, and so on. I did not do the nutritional panel with my books as that would have taken up a lot of time. It is really up to you what idea and what audience you want to target. That leads me to my next important list.
3. Target/ Audience:
This is very important especially if you are self-publishing, which is what I did with book cookbooks. So you have your title, idea, recipes and now you want to work on who you will sell your book to. What is your target audience? Let’s say this cookbook is based on Greek cuisine, so now where are you located? Do you want your readers to be based solely on your region or do you want to branch out? This is VERY important because self-publishing is quite challenging and this means you need to work hard to push your book sales and sell your concept to the world. What makes you different? Why do you feel a reader should buy your book and not Stavroula’s Kouzina cookbook?
Make sure you understand your target goals and then branch out from there. For me I sell my cookbooks globally online through various platforms; Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and others. We will go into detail about the sales part soon.
4. Food Photography:
I mentioned this earlier but seriously guys this is HUGE. I feel like when I open a book the one thing that catches my eye is beautiful photos, especially food photos. Have you noticed that like 75 % of Instagram photos are of food? Yes, that is because food makes us happy! Keep in mind if you can not take your food photos, then reach out to someone who may stir you in the right direction to find a food photographer. I would recommend spending at least a few days just looking at different styles of food photos and trying to find your niche. I am lucky because I have my boyfriend who is a professional photographer helping me.
This helped me through the entire process of both books immensely and every day we decided to shoot photos after I made 300 + recipes. This was a long process and leads me to my next tip.
5. Time Management/ Be Patient:
The Acropolis wasn’t made in a day rather 50 years!
I am not saying that your book will take 50 years, but it will more than likely take 1-3 years depending on how focused you are.
When writing a cookbook please understand your book won’t be ready in a matter of 30 days unless you are a superhuman. lol Do not be sloppy my friends, rather be thorough and do things the right way with patience. This was challenging for me because I wanted the first book done fast! I did it in a matter of a few months, but if I did it again, I would do it in such a different process.
Writing a book is DEF a learning process for me and I am sure for many. I will repeat this. It is not easy to write a book, in this case, a cookbook! I found myself going blank many times on a recipe, and I would close the computer and come back to it when I had my creative juices flowing again. I probably had writer’s block many nights, and that is fine. I am sure every author gets this feeling, and it happens when your energy is focused somewhere else. This leads me to my next tip.
6. Relax/ Namaste:
Write where you are most relaxed! If this is in your favorite part of the house, or a coffee shop, or outside your patio then write there. The worst thing is to have loud banging in your ear, or any loud noise when you are writing. Funny enough when I write any blog posts or my last two cookbooks I listened to “David Garett” or “Yianni” or “Greek music” to help me focus. I invested in really good earbuds with noise canceling on them.
I remember shutting my Facebook page down for a few weeks to get my books done. My friends understood me at the time which was nice. I couldn’t focus so I had to be strict with myself and say “adios” to social media during this time. Do what will make you happy, and help you write your book. A good tip is to have relaxing music, a great quiet environment, and a relaxing tea.
7. The Final Countdown:
Your book is getting close to being done. You have your recipes, your categories, photos, pages, and so on. Now you need to find a good group of people to help you with editing and formatting.
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! So I trust 1 person with my editing and that is my dearest friend Athina Pantazatou in Athens. She probably wanted to kill me a few times during the first book and the second, but I do not blame her. I was a pain in the ** and I kept her extra busy. Find the perfect editor to work by your side. Now Athina lives in Greece so imagine how hard it was for us to go back and forth from California to Greece with files. Make sure you find the best app to use to send files over. Whether it be dropbox, drive, or whatever make sure you both have space on your computers. After you found your editor, the next important step is the formatter. It was funny how I found my formatter, who was referred to me. I probably drove her insane as well, and thank you, Michelle, for doing a great job! Michelle has lots of experience under her belt but I was her first cookbook. So that was very exciting for her, and for me too! Michelle did my cover design as well and I will discuss that in a moment.
Make sure you and your formatter speak over the phone to be on the same page. I think it is extremely important especially if your formatter lives far away and he/she will do this remote. You must explain your design, your cover concept, colors, fonts, everything! I did this same process with everyone I worked with. Well mostly everyone who played a huge part in my cookbooks. Editor, formatter, and an artist who designed my second cookbook cover art. I either video called them or emailed numerous times. It is key to be on the same page with your baby which is your book. Make sure you discuss pricing and have SIGNED contracts with each person you work with on your book. This leads me to tip #8.
8. Featuring People/ Copyright/ Credits:
This is such an important step! Please read this carefully as I explain many things you should do with your book here.
Firstly anyone who makes a cookbook will either shoot almost every single photo for their book or they will resort to stock photos from various sources.
Sometimes your very own photos may be low quality, or maybe it just doesn’t work for your book. This means you would need to find another photo to replace the beautiful photo you wanted to use. This happens guys, and don’t be ashamed to use a stock photo or even a friend’s photo. Now if you are going to use a stock photo, make sure you are allowed to use this photo. Some sites Adobe stock or even Unsplash sites may have photos you can use but YOU must read the rules and guidelines to copyrights.
A very sensitive subject and a very important one! Any time you write a book you must cite any sources you use. This may be a quote, or a name, or a photo you use. You must get permission to use photos/ names/ recipes especially if they are not yours. If you are featuring someone in your book, get a signed contract of exactly what you will include that way both parties are on the same page!! For example, you feature a person’s recipe and photo. Make sure you have this person sign a contract stating “yes he or she can use my photo in XYZ book” and make sure you have a copy for both people. It may sound tedious to do this process, oh but it covers you and your booty. The last thing you want is world war 2 with your beautiful book and someone who can’t stand the photo you included. It just brings down your dreams, and you want to avoid all the problems.
Now even if this is your best friend or a cousin you are including, you still want to get a signed contract! Now speaking of contracts and featuring people, here is something else I learned. In both cookbooks, I featured people because I love to share passionate foodies. I feel we can learn from each person, and sharing their passions makes me happy. Now with saying that, you MUST have a contract and guideline with this person. Example: You may feature them for free, but in exchange, they must share your cookbook on their social media. If you do not have this communication, then maybe this featured person assumes they do not need to share your book. I wouldn’t understand why he/she may not want to share it especially if they are in this beautiful book, but hey that is on them. So BE ON THE SAME PAGE! If you feature people make sure to dot your “I’s” and cross your “T’s”. Do you follow me? I made sure to send each feature a promotional flyer and information on the book and obviously, not all shared on social media but again you must have rules when featuring people. Rules are key especially when you work hard to make this happen, and you must be smart about who you include in your cookbook!
Now going back to copyrights do make sure you cite the credit in your cookbook per page # or your index. It is up to you how you want to do that, but do not forget the credits! Very important to have this information in your book.
9. Are We There Yet:
Now you are probably asking yourself why did I triple check this recipe numerous times? Go with your gut on each recipe and make sure your cookbook is perfect! I must have read each page 10 times if not more to make sure I caught all the typos and things. I can not tell you how crucial it is for you to check all errors before you decide to move forward and hit the print proof copy! I used Ingramspark this time since Createspace moved and went over to KDP. (Another story for another day kind of thing.)
I ended up having to pay for a few proof copies since we had some hiccups. I believe Ingramspark charges 25.00 to change the proof. So we did that a few times which wasn’t fun to add the fees to the final book costs, but I much prefer it being perfect than not!
Depending on the print source you use, it will be different from costs and things. I loved Createspace as they are easy to use and I went with them back in 2016. Unfortunately, things changed so I went to Ingram spark. The pros with Ingramspark is the number of retailers they work with to distribute books. But the major major con is how long they take to ship! I have had a tough time with them in the USA, but their other European sources are amazing and fast. It is up to you who you will use and I suggest to compare various print companies before you decide on one.
10. Marketing/ Book Signing/:
Wow, you made it this far!! Well done, and I am happy for you. Now it is time for the world to see your work.
Marketing is easy for me because I come from a background of entrepreneurs and I know how to push myself, especially on social media. I used to work as a brand ambassador many years ago, and I learned how to market brands. It also helps that I have my own business “Kouzounas Kitchen”, as well as my parents, own “Friends of the Earth Lavender” business.
If you have a niche for marketing it helps. If not that is okay. Nowadays we have various companies that can help you market your books. If you feel lost you can ask fellow authors for help. The best way is to post on social media and ask for help. It never hurts to ask for HELP people, especially to the fellow authors out there. I want to thank my friends Effie and Ekaterina for guiding me throughout my writing process. It helps to have some dear author friends to guide me the right way.
I included some of my friend’s books here!!!
Check out my books featured on Ekaterina’s Youtube channel! HERE
I hope you found this post informative and useful!! -Chef Krystina