7 Things You’ll Need to Write A Cookbook

Before going through the entire process of getting a cookbook published, I had no idea what was I was getting myself into. I know many of my readers are fellow bloggers and home cooks, so I thought I’d share a brief overview of how my book deal came about, along with some behind-the-scenes looks at the work involved to put it all together.

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If you’re interested in someday writing a cookbook of your own, here are 7 things you might want to know before getting started:

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1. You’ll need an agent. An agent is one of the most crucial first steps for getting a book deal. They can help you narrow down a concept for your book and will also help you polish your proposal so it’s perfect for pitching to publishing houses. I was lucky in the fact that I was approached by my agent and we clicked right away– so I didn’t have to do the initial search myself. (If you do have to find an agent yourself, one way to make sure an agent is legitimate is that they shouldn’t require any money upfront– they only make money when you make money.)proposal cover for cookbook

2. You’ll need a solid book proposal. Your proposal is a detailed overview of the book you want to write. It usually includes a complete table of contents, one or two sample chapters, and in the case of a cookbook, it also includes several completed sample recipes. (And sample photos, if you want to be the photographer, too.) A proposal also includes ideas for marketing, press, your social media following, and anything else that might set you apart from other authors in your field. A simple Word document is all you need for a book proposal, but I took it a step further and designed mine in Photoshop to give it more of a designed-look. (Although now it looks very dated to me– and it was only made two years ago!)

book proposal3. You’ll need to be really comfortable talking about your concept. My agent submitted my book proposal to a number of publishing houses on my behalf, but the next step is having a phone interview with potential editors. I think I talked to three or four editors in detail about my book idea, which helped them decide if, and how, they would pitch it to their respective publishing houses. Even if I felt like I connected on the phone with an editor, it didn’t mean they would definitely make me an offer– a book has to work into their publishing schedule needs and it also has to not compete with their other current authors and upcoming books.

(The publisher also has to be a good fit for YOU. The most important aspect for me when choosing a publisher was that I wanted a beautiful book filled with full-color photos. Ten Speed Press is known for making gorgeous cookbooks, so I knew they were the perfect home for me!)

4. You’ll need a lot of determination. If you’re lucky enough to get a book deal, you’re kind of on your own for a while. You’ll need to be very self-motivated to meet your deadline! For some reason, I imagined my agent and editor holding my hand through the process to make sure I stayed on task, but once we verbally agreed on a deal, writing the manuscript was entirely on my shoulders. Of course, my team was always there if I needed it, but I think the next time I showed anything to my agent or editor was when I turned in the final manuscript six months later!

taking pictures for the cookbook

5. You’ll need plenty of free time. This was something I didn’t have much of, but when you want something badly enough, you make it work. At the time of my book deal, I had a 3-week-old newborn, along with a full-time design job, and my blog to maintain. So, I did much of my book writing and recipe testing between 10pm and 2 am, when my baby was asleep and I knew I’d be uninterrupted. It was exhausting, but worth it!

6. You’ll need a decent social media following. If you want a publisher to invest in your book idea, it’s a good idea to be involved in various social media platforms. You don’t need to master them all (Facebook and Instagram are my favorites), but a publisher will want to make sure you have some sort of fan base before committing to your book. At the time I got my book deal, I had about 26,000 fans on Facebook (and now it’s up to 163,000 fans– wow!).

printed pages of cookbook

7. You’ll need plenty of patience. Having your book published can take a lot of time, so take a deep breath and enjoy the process. I got my book offer in September 2013, I turned in the finished manuscript in April 2014, and the book will be officially released in June 2015. That’s a LOT of waiting!

everyday detox cookbook

However, it’s all worth it once you see all of your hard work in print. I’m so happy with how this cookbook turned out, and my husband laughs at me for how often I use it in my own kitchen. (You’d think I’d at least have the recipes memorized by now, right?)

I’m happy to answer any other questions you may have about the cookbook process, so feel free to ask them in the comments below! 

 

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Comments

Regina

Loved this post and loved getting a peak into the process of your cook book. Well done!

Alexa Hampton

Congratulations on finishing your book! Thanks for giving us a peak behind the scenes. Can’t wait to read the final product!

Adelle

Thanks for the behind the scenes look at what it takes to get a book published!! I am so excited about your cookbook and already pre-ordered!! I just started my own nutrition training in January. 🙂

Heidi

I don’t know how you do it all! Because you do it all so well! Besides raising a child, writing a cookbook, having a full time job and maintaining a blog, you ALWAYS answer to emails and comments. Thank you and good luck to you with the release of your cookbook next month!

Emily

Thanks for sharing this post! Your cookbook looks absolutely beautiful. Congratulations!

Nancy

I have preordered it on Amazon.ca quite a while ago…can’t wait to get it!

Kimberly/TheLittlePlantation

Wow! with a 3-week-old. That IS determinaion.
Great tips. I’m not there yet, but one day….:)

Christina

I love your book!!!! As a long time follower, I’m so proud of your accomplishment, truly an inspiration!! Received my copy yesterday and made Mexican “rice” and the strawberry basil smoothie, both ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!! And I’m already prepped for more! The pictures are beautiful and I can tell each recipe has been thoughtfully tested. Thank you so much for your addition to my kitchen!

    Megan Gilmore

    Oh, that makes me SO happy to hear! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed those recipes so far. If you have the time, would you mind leaving an honest review of the book on Amazon? It would really help me out! <3

      Christina

      Yes I left a review yesterday! My sister and mother also bought your book and we are all enjoying it, I’m sure they will leave reviews as wel. Thanks again for providing free receives all these years and now it’s great to be able to show you our appreciation by buying your book!!

        Christina

        Oops, recipes *

Melissa

Hi – this is a great post and thanks for jotting down these ideas for us to read. What I want to know is what kind of lighting are you using in the photograph in your post? I am struggling with trying to find a lighting option to use at night time!
Thanks once again!

    Megan Gilmore

    Hi Melissa! I’m actually not happy with the lights in that photo– I ordered them from Amazon, but they’re really harsh and require a lot of color balance correcting in the final photos. I’ll let you know if I find a better solution for indoor lighting… right now I’ve just resorted to shooting my recipe photos on the weekend when I have free time during daylight hours!

Kat

Thank you so much for this info! I was wondering when you first started, how long it took to build a following, and if you had any tips on how you came to have such a large one? I mean apart from posting yummy food? Thank you! You have really inspired me!

    Megan Gilmore

    I started this blog in 2009, and I’d say it took about 2 years for me to feel like I had a good following. I think it takes a lot of time, and lot of practice, and some luck! I plan on sharing more blogging tips in the future, because I appreciate all the tips I’ve learned from other bloggers throughout the years.

Maja

Thanks so much for this post and the one on how to start your blog! Just got your book and I love it!

    Megan Gilmore

    Thanks so much for your support!

Kristen

Congrats! Love all your recipes and the book is absolutely gorgeous. Do you have a post on simple photography set up tips?

    Megan Gilmore

    I’ll write a post about that soon! 🙂

Linda

Could you provide any insight on what to budget in terms of writing a cookbook? Advances notwithstanding, any sense of the out-of-pocket expenses during the time before the manuscript was completed? Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

Stephanie

Wow! I was approached by a publisher for a cookbook but I have a full-time office job right now. I didn’t think I could do it since I wouldn’t have any natural daylight to photograph the recipes. How did you do it? Also, did you have people testing your recipes to make sure they came out just right?

    Megan Gilmore

    Congrats on the offer! I use studio lighting with daylight bulbs so I can take photographs at night. I use two of these lights for my setup: http://amzn.to/2E0KHnP And yes, I have lots of volunteer recipe testers that I send the recipes to after I test them myself.

Crystal

Greetings Megan! My name is Crystal, I’m a mother of four. For years now my family has been telling me that I need to write a cookbook. I have been toying with the idea for some years now. I just want to thank you for this site, it helped give me an idea of the process. My question is, what was your process in writing? All of my recipes are in my head and I don’t measure much.

    Megan Gilmore

    I usually have my recipes in my head, too, but you definitely have to write down what you do for a cookbook! I tweak my recipes 10-20 times before putting them in a book, so I use the “notes” application on my computer to track my progress. I have a new page for each recipe, and then I write down “round 1” round 2, etc, so I know what I’ve already tried and have a full archive of my experiments. Then I get volunteer testers to make the recipes in their own homes to make sure the recipes work for them, too!

Amy sung

What a great post of your journey! Wondering do you have concerns of posting your recipes free for download will affect sales of the book? Or do you think it helps with sales?

    Megan Gilmore

    I think it helps with sales. People want to know that you write GOOD recipes before committing to buying something from you. Plus, I sharing lots of value with my followers so they’ll want to stick around.

      Amy Sung

      Great point. I have been downloading many recipes from the web and find a lot of them just don’t work, too complicated, or did not cover the nuances or key tips in getting the dishes come out right. Love your blog and everything in it.

paula

Hi! I,m looking to write my own recipe book, and wondered how you created your following prior to your book proposal?

    Megan Gilmore

    I blogged for about 6 years before writing my book proposal, so it was a lot of time and energy to develop the following. People enjoyed the recipes I gave away for free on my blog, so that made them more likely to want to buy my cookbook, too.

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