Cookbooks are deceptive.
It seems so easy: you gather up your favorite original recipes, snap a few photos, and—bam!—suddenly you’re fielding offers for your own Food Network show.
But not so fast!
While it may be easier to create a cookbook than most other genres, it is still very much a labor of love.
But thanks to self-publishing, it has gotten much easier over the last decade.
You no longer need to hunt down an agent, hope you land a publisher, and work with expensive photography studios to produce a top-shelf cookbook.
Now you can create an ebook cookbook on your own terms.
Ebook cookbooks are digital, online-only books that eschew the headaches of printed, hard copy cookbooks. When you make an ebook cookbook, you have complete control over every aspect of your cookbook.
This can be a blessing or a curse.
If you don’t have a process in place to give your ebook cookbook the proper structure and consistency, you’ll end up with a cookbook that’s mediocre at best and disastrous at worst.
And since self-publishing has made things more crowded and competitive than ever, you’ll need to put your best whisk forward.
And we’ll show you how.
In this post we’ll show you how to write an ebook cookbook that your audience will love and celebrate. You’ll learn how to make an ebook cookbook that is a timeless masterpiece using 8 key steps:
The most important thing you can ask yourself when considering how to create an ebook cookbook is: who are you writing for?
This isn’t meant to be a philosophical question or one of deep introspection. You simply need to keep in mind what kind of person your ebook cookbook is meant to serve.
Is it meant to be educational so any beginner can get started with it? Or is it for seasoned cooks looking to take their skills to the next level? Perhaps it’s a merry collection of family favorites for your loved ones?
Knowing your audience helps guide your every decision when you create an ebook cookbook. Here are a few good questions to help define your audience:
The answers to these questions are a small, but critical step in how to make a recipe ebook.
The next question when determining how to write a cookbook ebook is: what is the concept?
You can think of the “concept” as the overall theme of your ebook cookbook. It unites all of your recipes under a common idea.
A concept can focus on a single ingredient, a particular meal, or food from a specific region or culture. A concept could also be based on a method of cooking or a certain season.
To help define your concept when making an ebook cookbook, ask these questions:
After you’ve defined your audience and concept, you’re ready to take your first major step in creating an ebook cookbook.
Using your concept as a guide along with any key recipes, you’ll next need to create a rough outline for your cookbook ebook.
The simplest way to do this is to draft a table of contents. This is your cookbook ebook’s skeleton. Here are some questions consider:
The most common way a cookbook is divided is by type of meal (e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, etc.). But this isn’t the only way and may not be the best way for you and your audience.
For example, if your ebook cookbook’s concept is Quick Meals For Busy Moms, then it might make sense to order recipes by the amount of time each one takes to make.
You could also try dividing your cookbook by other narrative structures like season, primary ingredient (pork, fish, vegetables, etc.), or preparation techniques.
Ultimately, how you choose to divide your cookbook will come down to your preference, your audience, and your concept. Ideally, a reader should be able to quickly find a suitable recipe with a glance at the table of contents.
Before we proceed with how to make a recipe ebook, we strongly suggest you implement a thorough testing phase.
The excitement of self-publishing can tempt you to skip this step, but it can be the difference between a terrible ebook cookbook and one that’s amazing.
In our always-online world of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and more, news of bad recipes and results travel fast. Your readers’ trust is easily lost and bad reputations are quickly gained.
So test your recipes. At least twice. Use proper measurements and thermometers. Pore over your complete recipes for typos and especially small measurement errors. Proof readers may catch grammatical errors, but they won’t know if a “2” is supposed to be a “1”.
You may also find that as you test, your recipe list changes significantly. You might realize some of your “amazing” recipes aren’t as great as you thought, or no longer fit the concept of your ebook cookbook.
The testing phase is also a great time to take care of what comes next in Step 5.
One of the biggest benefits of making an ebook cookbook is the ability to keep the cost of food photography low.
Traditional cookbook photography and styling is really expensive. It can easily cost $400+ per photo. So the costs add up fast.
But, if you’re willing to learn, you can take your own photos. Any modern cell phone has a powerful enough camera to take near-professional-level photos. Here’s a good primer on the topic from professional food photographer Joanie Simon:
If you’d rather not go through the hassle of doing it yourself, you could also hire a photography student who is looking to build their portfolio. That will be much cheaper than hiring a professional, but still result in pictures better than you could take yourself.
To find students, check out any local photography schools/classes or put an ad up on Craigslist.
The next part of learning how to write a cookbook ebook is simply filling in the details. You’re going to give your “skeleton” a body.
It’s an unwritten rule of cookbooks that they must include some content other than just the recipes. This is usually done in the form of introductions for each chapter and recipe.
The recipes themselves are usually straightforward, but the introductions are a way to engage with your readers on a more meaningful level. The best cookbooks are more than just a collection or recipes, they are a representation of the author’s culinary perspective.
Take Julia Child’s timeless cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, for example. Every recipe in this massive tome oozes her personality and love of her craft.
So use your introductions as a chance to reflect your unique voice. Expand upon a recipe’s lore, or provide some interesting tidbit about a particular ingredient. Don’t be afraid to let you personality shine through. Your readers will love you for it!
Whew! You’ve made it through the hardest parts of how to make an ebook cookbook.
Now comes the scariest part: having people read it.
It can be nerve-racking having others read and critique something you’ve invested so much of yourself into, but it’s a necessary step to make it the best it can be.
To start, we recommend giving a rough draft of your ebook cookbook to friends and family to proofread.
That will help you through any obvious issues and problems. But people who are close to you will be unwilling or unable to offer any serious critiques.
For that you may want to hire an independent copy editor. They are professionals who can tear apart your recipes and help you find every little inconsistency.
It may sting a little, but it will be worth it once you have your final draft!
When it comes to designing your ebook cookbook, there are a lot of options for a budding self-publisher.
However, with instructions, tables, and a healthy number of images, ebook cookbook design can be a real challenge for novices.
So, you may want to look into a professional ebook design service to take care of this for you. The last thing you want is for all your hard work to go to waste with an ugly, amateurish design.
And there you have it!
You now know how to create an ebook cookbook that can make an impact and leave people craving for more.
The process is simple, but that doesn’t make it easy. However, with effort and a passion for the process, perhaps your cookbook, too, will someday be mentioned among the greats.