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Getting Published: Pleasures and Pains of Writing Your First Cookbook


Getting Published: Pleasures and Pains of Writing Your First Cookbook

Just last Sunday, I was invited to talk at Food Blogger Connect 2012 in London. I have to say that it was such a great experience and I was glad to meet a lot of wonderful people! I had to dash off pretty early, how I wish I had stayed longer! Oh well, hopefully I will get to attend next year.

My session was at 09:30, to share a very interesting topic: Getting Published – Pleasures and Pains of Writing Your First Cookbook. I have received some great feedback on my presentation which I am very pleased. To be honest, I was pretty nervous. For a few times, my brain just went blank! I really want to thank those who were there for their supports! And I hope you have found my presentation helpful.

A few of you guys did miss it. But, I have good news for you all – those that did attend (to refresh your memory with my notes) and those that didn’t! If you want to know more of my very personal experience (which I didn’t get to elaborate during my presentation as I ran out of time!! You can read this post).

Hope you all will find this piece of information helpful. 😉 I truly welcome your feedback.


A. Introduction: 

A few things that you would want to consider:

1. Agent or Publisher

  • To approach an agent or a publisher may be your first question before you even start drafting your proposal.
  • Consider the pros and cons of both. For example: the advantage: an agent will have vast knowledge and experience in publishing industry. Thus, will help you to find the best publisher and deal. On the other hand, you need to be aware that an agent will charge a certain percentage if he/she lands you a deal on your published title.
  • Get a copy of Writers & Artists Year Book – this is a good starting point to have a list of all the agents and publishers with their contacts.

2. Choose the right agent or publisher

  • Established publishers or agents that have great reputation and experience.
  • Have published or handled similar titles as what you want to propose.

3. Preparation – this is covered in section B

4. Method of submission

  • This is always specified by the publisher or agent. If not, find out the right person to speak to get information i.e. send an email to the right person at the publisher/agent to find out.
  • Either by post of electronically.

B. Important Elements of A Cookbook Proposal:

1. Cover Letter

  • Be concise. Give a summary of what your book is about.
  • Give reasons why it would fill the gap in the market or how it would get people interested.
  • Why you are the ideal person to write it.
  • The cover letter should be no more than 1 page.

2. Synopsis

  • Should be 1 to 2 pages.
  • Describe the concept of the book, what needs it fulfils.
  • It’s always a good idea to read the jacket flap copy of a book that give great synopsis.
  • Do market and competitive research i.e. to prove that audience exists for such book idea.
  • Specify your target market/audience i.e. beginners, home cooks etc.
  • You can also take quote from publications to support your point on certain trends that your book is responding to.

3. Table of Contents/Lists of Recipes

  • Give a sample outline of chapters/sections.
  • Give a few sample recipes for each chapter/section.

4. Sample Recipes

  • About 10-12 sample recipes to represent the concept of the book.
  • Make sure the recipes are well-written, clear and concise.
  • Consider to provide food photos to illustrate the sample dishes.

5. Biography

  • “About the author” is to sell yourself. Who are you? Your qualification?
  • Give a general introduction about yourself.
  • Your personal food history i.e. learnt cooking when you were young; how you got into cooking (family influence.. etc)
  • Mention about your food blog/website if you have one.
  • Features in magazines/newspaper/web.
  • Stands for “Self Addressed Stamped Envelope”.
  • If you want your proposal to be sent back, always include one with sufficient postage. Otherwise, most publishers/agents won’t return it.

Extra notes: Get your proposal proof read by your friends/family members. Be prepared for rejections, it’s part and parcel of this whole process. Take it as a lesson learnt. All successful authors have been through this. So, don’t give up! And most importantly, be patient!

C. Formatting

A few aspects in formatting that you may want to consider:

  • —Good quality of A4 paper
  • —Double-space, boldface subheadings
  • —Easy to read type faces such as Times or Arial
  • —Use paper clips, do not staple
  • —Fresh page for each section
  • —Free of typos and incorrect grammar
  • —Electronic version (Word, PDF, or using desktop publishing software i.e. InDesign, Microsoft Publishing, etc).

D. My first cookbook

As a result of my determination, patience and not giving up! 🙂

E: The Whole Process of Writing My First Cookbook

Based on my experience, I can summarise the processes/steps that I have been through as per the diagram below. This should only be taken as an example as different publishers may work differently i.e. timing and some processes.

However, I think it will give you a general idea what are involved and how long it takes approximately to get a book published. (Please click on the image below to get a full-size digram.)


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