#1 in a Series of Posts About the Decisions You Need to Make If You Want to Publish A Cookbook.
By Matt and Ted, Sergeants at Cookbook Boot Camp in Charleston, SC
Quick story: In 2003, we sold our first cookbook to W.W. Norton & Company based on a 40-page proposal. When news about the deal got around in our hometown, a chef-friend approached us saying he wanted to publish a cookbook, too, and asked us if we would introduce him to our agent. We were delighted to help him out, and our agent was thrilled to be introduced to a potential client, so they met in New York a couple times, and hit it off. Fast-forward to 2015 —almost thirteen years later! — and that chef has yet to deliver the proposal for his cookbook to our agent.
What happened? Well, in the intervening years, that chef wasn’t exactly sitting on his hands. He won significant national chef awards; he opened a second, larger restaurant that is wildly successful; he got married and had a baby. But if we asked him if he wished his cookbook had been published in time to capitalize on all the success he’s had, we’re 100% certain we know the answer!
In short, that chef simply didn’t make — and act upon — the first of several key decisions you need to make when you set out to publish a cookbook: Am I going to write the book myself? Or am I going to hire a collaborator to do the writing? The sooner you get honest with yourself about whether you’re 1) a good enough writer and whether you 2) have the time to spare, the sooner you will be on your way to publishing. You could be the best writer among chefs, but if you’re too busy to make time for it, your book will never see the light of day.
In Cookbook Boot Camp, we take chefs through writing and mental exercises aimed at getting them to decide whether to write the book themselves or to work with a co-writer and – once they’ve made that decision — to furnish them with our best-practices for working efficiently and productively, either alone or with a collaborator (and: how to find a collaborator?!). There’s no right or wrong answer here; chefs have written award-winning cookbooks on their own, and chefs with collaborators (David Chang, April Bloomfield, Eric Ripert to name a few) have written stellar cookbooks. The only wrong move here — if you really want to write a cookbook — is to avoid making this decision at all. If you don’t, the cookbook simply won’t happen!
For more information on or to register for Cookbook Boot Camp, go to Cookbookbootcamp.com.