By Matt and Ted, Sergeants at Cookbook Boot Camp in Charleston, SC
Publishing a cookbook is hard from every angle–difficult to conceptualize, tough to break into agents’ and editors’ offices, and near-impossible to sit down and write the manuscript (though crafting a proposal can often be the easiest step you take).
Even when things seem to be going your way, chefs often bring to the table 5 wretched misconceptions that if left unchecked will lead to disaster:
1. I’ll test the recipes in the restaurant kitchen, after or before service.
2. I’ll write it…as soon as I can get a day off.
3. My buddy’s gonna do the photos/ my friend is going to design the book.
4. My publisher’s gonna launch this book to the stratosphere, like they did with [CELEBRITY CHEF’s] book.
5. Dude! Publishing my cookbook is gonna make me rich.
Ok, so first of all, a cookbook for a popular audience has to be tested in a home kitchen if you want to achieve the level of recipe quality that wins cookbook awards, garners infectious word-of-mouth and sells books to all corners of the English-speaking world. Recipes developed and tested in restaurant kitchens betray the easy provisioning and dishwashing, the hot-hot heat and the giant plastic wrap that home cooks–95% of the people who purchase cookbooks–simply DO NOT HAVE.
2. Unless you have taken a leave of absence from the restaurant, a chef is unlikely ever to find the time to write. It has to be a deliberate commitment to MAKE THIS THING. The cookbook process is as certain a time suck as opening a new restaurant, and it’s best approached as such, done elbows-deep, so you can put it behind you. (Or, hire a writer or packager to help you move this forward as you keep an eye on your restaurant.)
3. Do not box yourself in or limit your aspirations by committing to any particular friend-agent, -editor, -designer or -photographer until your proposal has been crafted and shopped around. Free birds get the biggest advances. Most publishers will run in the other direction if they aren’t able to have a direct hand in formulating the look of the book, including choosing a photographer.
4. Publishers are choosy people playing a game of horse-betting, and unless they think you are the next Mario Batali and overspent on your advance, they are unlikely to give you more than an off-the-shelf marketing effort. YOU ARE YOUR OWN BEST MARKETER AND PUBLICIST!
5. Cookbooks can be an essential product in the portfolio of a chef with national stature, complementing the dining experiences you sell, and your personal appearances, while solidifying your influence and credentials in the food world. And they can certainly add to the bottom line, but unless you have a TV show you are unlikely to strike crazy money in cookbooks. You will achieve untold satisfaction however from seeing your food achieve immortality. A well-made cookbook incomparably brings together the look and feel, the tastes, but also the stories and people behind your food vision.
If you are ready to explore cookbook-making with us in a two-day seminar that will educate you about the entire process, go to CookbookBootCamp.com to find out more and to register for one of these exciting and motivating sessions.