Issues with Cookbooks

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book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I’ve written a cookbook. I do not have any pictures of my recipes, but would like to have them in the final book. Do I need to hire a photographer or does the publisher provide assistance with that?

A: If a publisher buys the manuscript and wants the recipes illustrated, it will take all responsibility for finding and paying a professional who specializes in food photography, an art in itself.

Q: How should I go about formatting a manuscript for a cookbook? Are there any samples available I could look at?

A: I’m not sure if you plan to self-publish or seek a publisher. If you plan to self-publish and you want to lay out the book yourself, pull out one of your favorite cookbooks and follow its formula.

If you plan to sell to a publisher, the format would probably be similar to any other book-length manuscript. The difference is that the ingredients list can be single spaced in Courier, 12-point type, but for editing purposes, the preparation information and other narrative should be double-spaced, Courier, 12-point type, with margins of at least an inch on all sides. Some publishers accept manuscripts in Times New Roman, too. Check with your potential publisher, if unsure.

Q: I am publishing my third book, and this one is more intense than the others. This is a coffee table book with ninety-eight or more pages. I need to purchase a few stock photos, which are costly. I want to shop for an agent who will either represent my new publishing business and me or give it to one of the larger publishing houses. I’m wondering if I need to have a “finished” galley (exact photos and owned, in place) or just put copies of not-yet-licensed photos in the galley to be shown to an agent. If one sees the merit in my work, I would then purchase the photos or have the publishing company take it on.

My number-two question is this: where online or do you know of a travel editor and a food editor? My search online has been time consuming.

A: First, I don’t know if any literary agent would represent your publishing business. Literary agents usually represent manuscripts, rather than companies. Few agents handle books that are already self-published, because few publishers want self-published books unless the author can provide proof of sales of at least 3,000 copies already. That’s a tough figure to hit; most self-published books sell fewer than one hundred copies.

Next, coffee table books usually use original artwork, not stock photos, so I’m not sure what the product is that you have to sell.

Third, publishers usually provide the artwork, unless the author is also a photographer or artist, so you don’t have to own any art to sell your manuscript; the publisher will usually get it for you if interested in your manuscript.

I’m not sure what you mean by a food editor or a travel editor. Do you mean an acquisitions editor with a publishing house that publishes travel books and cookbooks, or a manuscript editor who will edit the manuscript for punctuation, grammar, and style? If an acquisitions editor, go to www.writersmarket.com. There’s a slight fee, but it’s worth it for the ease of use and quantity of material. If you mean a manuscript editor, I’m one, and there are hundreds more. Simply use a search engine and look for “book manuscript editor” or “manuscript editor” or, if your book needs editing for concept, clarity, and/or organization, search under “book doctor.” If you want to check my services, credentials, and prices, go to www.zebraeditor.com.

Q: I’m writing my first cookbook. I would like to know if you have any ideas on how to beat the competition and get my book to sell.

A: My number-one idea is to be certain the writing is pristine. Because the short e-mail that asked this question had several errors, I have to assume that errors in the cookbook manuscript have also been overlooked. Before trying to sell the manuscript to a publisher or self-publishing it, be sure the manuscript is edited by a professional book editor.

My second strong suggestion is to ensure the book fills a niche, fits a market that is not being served, or solves a problem for cooks. Also look at the cookbooks that are selling and make sure your book is not too much like any of the books that are currently available.

As for other ideas on how to beat the competition and sell a book, the answers are far too complex to answer in an e-mail, but several good books are available on how to write, sell, self-publish, and promote a book.


Note to my readers: You asked for it, and BookLogix did it. Write In Style is now available not only in paperback but also as an e-book through most booksellers.


Bobbie Christmas, author of Write In Style: Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, book editor, and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com.

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