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.
If you’re interested in someday writing a cookbook of your own, here are 7 things you might want to know before getting started:
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.)
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!)
3. 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!
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!).
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!
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!