A good cookbook is an assemblage of a well thought-out collection of recipes that reflect themes, such as starters, appetizers, entrées, desserts, baking, etc. Generally you stick to one cooking style rather than being too eclectic, for example, raw, homestyle, old-fashioned, family friendly, easy cooking, fast cooking, dinner party cooking, fresh, seafood focused, etc.
You might also consider the recipes that are always a hit with family and friends and that are fairly fail-proof. These virtues can be touted and will encourage readers to give such recipes a try.
Prepare the recipes. If you have them in a variety of places such as your head, different pieces of paper, various cookbooks etc., it's time to draw together your collection.
Always use your own words when writing up the recipes. While lists of ingredients are not covered by copyright and common ways of performing recipe actions are usually not copyright either, the words used to describe the methods in each step or as a whole are copyright, so you must use your own words where you are relying on your cookbook collection.
Acknowledge where possible. If you know you've used a recipe from a favorite chef for the past few years, consider acknowledging the original source, even though you've long since deviated from the exact same ingredients. It's a common courtesy and helps to maintain the sense of ongoing sharing and pride that is commonplace in the cooking community.
Take photos. If you are adding photos to your cookbook, make up the meals or items and photograph them. Contemporary readers tend to expect more images in cookbooks than was the case in cookbooks of the past. Photos help the reader imagine the end result more concretely and give inspiration to try the dish out.
Take several photos from differing angles to get the best possible final shot of each recipe being photographed.
You don't need a photo for all recipes unless that's the sort of cookbook style you're after; just select the recipes that you'd most like featured as part of the photos.
Make any changes to photos using photo fixing software.
If you can't take photos or don't like doing it while juggling the cooking, find a friend or family member willing to help. Some printing places will do this for you but it adds to the cost, so it's best to do it yourself if you're self-publishing.
Bring the recipes together. Select the order in which you would like to place the recipes in the cookbook. Write an overview and a table of contents to help guide your placement.
Look at existing cookbooks for ideas of the way that recipes are usually ordered. While it's okay to be slightly quirky, remember that readers have fairly set-in-stone ideas of the usual direction of recipe books, which tends to be savory to sweet, starters to mains to dessert, and so forth, depending on what food selections you're bringing together.
Publishing the Cookbook
Proofread. Edit your work several times, and have others read through it as well. Check for accuracy of ingredients, measurements, cooking times, etc. Recipes are not something that leave a lot of room for error. If you have willing cooks among your family or group of friends, consider dividing up different recipes in the book and asking them to road-test the recipes. Twice- or triple-tested recipes are a value-added promise that you can include as part of the marketing pitch for encouraging readers to trust in your cookbook. Promise your helpers a free copy of the final book as a thank-you for their help.
Seek publication. There are great self-publication possibilities, both in online version and in printed versions. Check the prices set the amount of copies you want and be open to the possibility of making an ebook, printing a hard edition or perhaps a combination of both.
If hard printing, consider whether you want color printing, gloss or matte finishes, cover art, etc. as well, so that the total price includes everything.
Alternately, send your cookbook off to publishers to have them handle printing and sales. This will result in numerous rejections but if you have done your job well, it's likely that someone will be interested if you are polite, persistent, available for discussion and give it a good sales pitch. Even more helpful is to pitch the idea before writing it, and getting your publisher up-front.
Seek professional advice if you are looking for a professional publication of your work.
• The cookbook market is saturated and yet, it is still one of the bestselling book markets because people love food and love looking at images of it and imagining themselves making it, even if they never get around to it! To help your cookbook stand out, it helps to be as original as possible while still tapping into what's hot right now. For example, if cake pops are popular, what's a new angle you can bring to them? Perhaps recipes of cake pops shaped like cats or cake pops focused on garden themes would be enough to set your work apart from other cake pop books. Use a blend of your own specialty, what's hot right now and what's original enough to capture attention amid all the other cookbooks clamoring for attention. Enjoy this creative challenge!
• Consider asking family members and friends for contributions to the recipe book. This can be especially useful if you're creating a cookbook for something really special, such as a family reunion or a celebration of a decade of friendship, etc.
• Explain how to cook the ingredients clearly and thoroughly. Diagrams and illustrations may be as helpful as photos in some cases; if you can't draw, try to find someone who is willing to help out.
• Mistakes in grammar and spelling suggest an unprofessional approach to your work, which can also affect people's impression of your cooking (however unrelated). If you are poor in this area, get hold of a good editor to help your work shine.
The "Cook'n Recipe Organizer" is available for download at
To purchase Cristina's cookbook, "Big Bowl of Love," go to
cristinaferrarecooks.com. Debbie's cookbook, "It's All Greek to Me," will be released on April 29, 2014, but is already available for pre-order at
amazon.com. "The Romney Family Table" is available at