How To Write A Cookbook, For Aspiring Authors

Nearly 3,000 cookbooks are published in the United States each year resulting in nearly 18 million sales!

If you’d like to get some of those tasty sales figures, you’ll need to write your cookbook first and we’ve got this simple guide to help you out.

It’s not as hard as you might think to write a cookbook and the end results can be delicious!

Ten Steps To Write A Cookbook

Firstly, it’s important that you’re familiar with how to write a nonfiction book of any kind as that process is very much an industry standard.

Assuming that you are, then these are the ten most important steps when writing a cookbook when compared to other works of nonfiction. 

Come Up With The Idea

You need a great idea for your cookbook, an idea that makes people sit up and go “wow! I want to read that.”

How To Write A Cookbook

Many cookbook authors spend years preparing the idea for a book and then mastering the skills needed to create the dishes they want to include. 

Check out our 10 favorite cookbook authors and look at how many ideas they had to generate in their lifetimes. 

You Need A Niche

Your idea also needs to slot into a niche, think our 10 best breakfast cookbooks, for example. 

If your idea involves meals in the mornings, then breakfasts are your niche, but you need to ensure that your idea stands out in that niche too. 

If you look at that best breakfast cookbooks list, you’ll see that a lot of ideas have already been done. 

Get An Agent

OK, you don’t have to have an agent but if you have a dream of being published by a major publisher, it’s really going to help. 


A good agent gets your manuscript and ideas seen when they might otherwise be lost in a publisher’s slush pile. 

Find your agent by checking out the credits in cookbooks you love that are a similar style to your own. 

Write A Proposal

The biggest part of getting published is writing a proposal. 

Many authors spend nearly as long on the proposal as they do on the book!

You need to include sample content, a table of contents (TOC), list of recipes, soome sample recipes, and most of all a marketing plan. 

If you’re stuck on this, hire a writing coach to walk you through it – it’s not easy. 

Sell That Book 

There are endless books on any topic, our favorite Thai cookbooks, for example, barely scratch the surface of all the books on Thai cookery. 

Your book needs to stand out from the crowd, you need to be able to identify what makes your book unique and as importantly, what would make people pay money for it.

Cookbooks aren’t cheap, if you want somebody to pay $30 for yours, you have to sell that book to them. 


Once your proposal is out there, it will take time to come back to you and it may take a year or more to get sold.

After that? Well, you may need to relax some more because it can take up to 2 years to publish a book and during that process there will be plenty of periods of no activity. 

So, don’t burn yourself out waiting. 

Getting Paid And Paying For Your Cookbook

If you’ve found a publisher, you’ll get an advance. 

Unfortunately, your advance is not money for you to live on.

First, you pay your agent (about 15% is standard), then the IRS (about 30%) and then you’re going to need to pay for all the expenses associated with your book.


Ingredients, print cartridges, cameras, flashes, etc. none of them are free.

So, that $25,000 advance? 

It’s about $12,000 once you’ve paid the agent and the IRS and much less still once you’ve covered your expenses. 

Get Blogging 

You have to blog if you want to write a cookbook, it allows you to hone your craft and try out some of your recipe ideas too.

Most of all, it helps demonstrate that there is an audience for your cookbook. 

Consider Self-Publishing

If you don’t get a publisher, you can always self-publish. 

This doesn’t mean vanity publishing, it means using Amazon’s KDP or Lulu or Createspace, etc. to publish your book for sale.

You might even consider using Kickstarter to raise some funds for the expenses associated with your self-publishing project. 

Get The Photography Under Control

And don’t forget the photography, a cookbook without photos is dead in the water. 

Food Photography

If you’re not taking the pictures, this can get really expensive fast, as a professional photographer that takes images good enough to publish can charge as much as $500 an image!

It’s best to learn to take your own photos, if you can. 

Final Thoughts On How To Write A Cookbook

Writing a cookbook is more complicated than writing other types of nonfiction and it’s often not that profitable, either. 

However, the process isn’t impossible and thousands of cookbooks are published every year, why not let your cookbook join them?