How to Self Publish a Cookbook for Free [2023 Publishing Tips]
Last updated: March 15, 2023
If you have a passion for cooking and a desire to share your recipes with the world, self-publishing a cookbook could be the perfect avenue for you. However, the world of publishing can be daunting, and many aspiring authors don’t know where to start.
In this blog post, we will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to self-publish a cookbook, from developing your concept and creating your recipes to designing your book and marketing it to potential readers. By the end of this post, you’ll have all the tools you need to bring your culinary vision to life and share it with the world.
Benefits of Self Publishing a Cookbook
Self-publishing your own cookbook can offer several benefits, including:
Budget Control: eBook vs Print Book
When you’re self-publishing your cookbook, you get to choose whether you want to sell your book in an eBook format or get it into print (or both!). This way you can fully control the budget required to monetize your amazing recipes. Selling eBooks will require the least amount of money as you won’t need to pay for any physical inventory. There are also platforms like Payhip that can let you sell your eBooks from your own website for free.
If your audience loves a printed copy of your cookbook, you can also engage with print-on-demand services to save you from having to pay for any inventory or shipping costs upfront.
Creative Control & Flexibility
When you self-publish a cookbook, you have complete creative control over every aspect of the book, from the content and layout to the cover design and marketing strategy.
Self-publishing also gives you the flexibility to make changes to your book at any time, from updating recipes to changing the cover design. See these cookbook cover ideas for more inspiration when publishing your cookbook.
Higher Profit Margin
Traditional publishers typically offer lower royalty rates to authors, usually around 10-15% of the book’s sale price. With self-publishing, you can earn higher royalties, often up to 70-95% of the sale price.
Faster Time to Market
Traditional publishing can take months or even years to get your book on shelves, whereas self-publishing allows you to get your book to market much faster, often within a few weeks or months.
How to Self-Publish a Cookbook for Free
Here’s a quick link to all the steps involved in how you can self publish a cookbook:
- Develop your concept
- Gather recipes
- Write an outline
- Write and test your recipes
- Polish, edit, and proofread
- Decide whether you want to publish as an ebook or a printed book (or both)
- Format your cookbook
- Design a cover
- Create a website or online store
- Publish your cookbook
- Promote, promote, promote!
Step 1. Develop your concept
Developing a strong concept is a critical step in the process of self-publishing your own cookbook. It sets the tone for your book and guides your recipe selection, writing style, and overall design. Here are some steps you can take to develop your cookbook concept:
- Define your target audience: Knowing your target audience is key to developing a successful cookbook concept. Consider factors such as age, gender, geographic location, and cooking skill level when defining your audience. This will help you tailor your recipes and writing style to their needs and preferences.
- Identify your unique selling point: What sets your cookbook apart from others? Perhaps you specialize in a specific type of cuisine, or you have a unique approach to cooking. Identify your unique selling point and use it to guide your concept.
- Choose your cooking style: Your cooking style will also help shape your cookbook concept. Do you prefer quick and easy meals, or do you enjoy experimenting with complex recipes? Are your recipes health-focused or indulgent? Choose a cooking style that aligns with your target audience and unique selling point.
- Decide on the format: The format of your cookbook will also be influenced by your concept. Will it be a traditional cookbook with only recipes, or will you include personal stories, cooking tips, or nutritional information? Will you focus on one specific meal, such as breakfast or dinner, or will you cover a wide range of recipes?
- Research the competition: Before finalizing your concept, research similar cookbooks in the market to ensure your idea is unique and will stand out. Analyze their strengths and weaknesses and use this information to refine your concept. Remember that you must never copy or plagiarize other recipe creators.
All the steps above will result in a particular niche that you’ll be targeting. Here are some examples of cookbook concepts to get your creative juices flowing:
- Target audience: Busy parents, Unique selling point: Quick and easy meals, Cooking style: Family-friendly recipes that can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.
- Target audience: Fitness enthusiasts, Unique selling point: High-protein recipes, Cooking style: Healthy recipes that focus on lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh vegetables.
- Target audience: College students, Unique selling point: Budget-friendly meals, Cooking style: Simple, affordable recipes that can be prepared in a dorm room or small kitchen.
Step 2. Gather recipes
Taking your cookbook concept into consideration, start determining which recipes will appeal most to your target audience.
For example,here are some recipe examples that might appeal to busy parents who are looking for quick and easy meals that can be cooked in 30 minutes or less:
- One-Pot Pasta. This recipe involves cooking everything in one pot, which means less cleanup and less time spent in the kitchen. The ingredients can be customized based on what the family likes, and it can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.
- Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas: This recipe involves marinating chicken breasts in a homemade fajita seasoning, slicing them, and baking them on a sheet pan with sliced bell peppers and onions. The whole meal can be served with tortillas, rice, or salad.
- Instant Pot Beef Stew: This recipe involves using an Instant Pot to cook chunks of beef with vegetables and a savory broth. The stew can be prepared in 30 minutes or less and served with crusty bread or over mashed potatoes.
Afterward, you can further refine your recipe selection by opting for those that are the most unique. Creative twists on classic dishes will help your cookbooks stand out from the competition.
Step 3. Write an outline
Decide on the order in which you want to present your recipes. You can organize them by meal course, cuisine type, cooking method, or any other relevant category.
You may also want to think about including other relevant content such as:
- Shopping list, pantry essentials list, or equipment guide
- Personal stories. This section can offer personal stories or anecdotes related to cooking or specific recipes in your cookbook, adding a personal touch and connecting with your readers on a deeper level.
- Cooking tips and techniques. This section can provide helpful tips and techniques for cooking, such as how to properly chop vegetables, how to select and prepare certain ingredients, or how to master basic cooking methods.
Step 4. Write and test your recipes
Here are the most important things to include in each of your recipes:
- Ingredients: List all of the ingredients you will need to make the dish, along with their quantities. It’s important to list the ingredients in the order in which they are used in the recipe.
- Preparation: Describe the preparation steps, including how to prepare each ingredient and how to combine them. Be sure to include any specific techniques or cooking methods required.
- Cook time and temperature: Provide the cooking time and temperature required to cook the dish.
- Serving size: Indicate how many servings the recipe makes.
- Special notes: Include any additional notes that are important for the reader to know, such as tips for substitutions or modifications.
- Take photos. Take high resolution photos of your cooking process and your finished dish to give the reader an idea of what the recipe should look like. Having more photos is better than less as you can pick and choose which ones to include in your cookbook later on.
When writing your recipe, be sure to use clear and concise language. Avoid using overly complicated language or technical terms that may be difficult for the reader to understand. Use simple and direct instructions, breaking down each step into manageable and easy-to-follow directions.
Additionally, it’s important to test your recipes multiple times to ensure accuracy and consistency. This will help to ensure that the recipe turns out well every time it’s made. You may also want to consider hiring a professional recipe tester.
Consider reading recipe author Melissa Marris who shared her 7 most useful tips on how to write a cookbook.
Step 5. Polish, edit, and proofread
Editing and proofreading your cookbook is an important part of ensuring that your cookbook is ready for publication. Here are some tips on how you can polish, edit and proofread your cookbook:
- Write recipe titles and introduction. For each recipe, write a brief introduction that includes the recipe’s name, any interesting background information, and a summary of what the recipe is about.
- Check formatting: Ensure that the formatting of your cookbook is consistent throughout. This includes things like font size and style, heading styles, and image placement. This also includes smaller details such as how you’d present fractions in your recipes, the chronological order of how your ingredients are presented, units of measurement for your ingredients, etc.
- Review recipes: Review each recipe in detail, checking for accuracy, clarity, and completeness. Ensure that all ingredients and steps are listed in the correct order, and that each step is clearly described.
- Read through the entire book: Read through your entire cookbook from beginning to end, taking note of any errors, typos, or inconsistencies in the recipes or formatting.
- Edit for grammar and style: Edit the text for grammar and style, ensuring that your writing is clear, concise, and easy to read. Use a consistent writing style and tone throughout the book.
- Get feedback: Ask friends, family, or trusted colleagues to review your cookbook and provide feedback. This can help identify any issues you may have missed and give you an outside perspective on your work.
- (Optional) Hire a professional editor: Consider hiring a professional editor or proofreader to review your cookbook for any remaining errors or inconsistencies. Amongst many benefits, an editor can ensure that your book is consistent in terms of formatting, style, and tone. This can help to create a more professional and cohesive final product.
Step 6. Decide whether you want to publish as an ebook or a printed book (or both)
Taking into account your target audience’s preference, your budget, and other factors (e.g. environmental impact, distribution process, etc), it’s time to decide whether you want to sell cookbooks as eBooks or as printed books or both.
Publishing an eBook
Advantages of publishing as an eBook:
- Less expensive to produce
- Can be easily distributed online as a digital download
- Can reach a wider audience without the need for physical distribution
- Convenient for readers as they can be downloaded and read on a variety of devices e.g. tablets, smartphones, e-readers
- More environmentally friendly
Disadvantages of publishing as an eBook:
- Ebooks are dependent on technology to be accessed and read, which can be a disadvantage for readers who prefer physical books or who do not have access to a device
- Some readers may prefer physical books over ebooks, and may not be interested in purchasing or reading an ebook version of your cookbook
Tips on publishing your as an eBook
If you’re publishing an eBook, you will need to turn your cookbook draft into a format that can be sold as a digital download. The most popular formats include PDF, .epub, and .mobi.
You will also need to sign up on platforms like Payhip that allow you to automatically send your eBook to your customers as soon as they complete their purchases. This will save you from having to manually send your eBook to your customers one by one. P.S. Payhip is completely free!
Publishing a Printed Book
If you’re wanting to sell physical copies of your cookbook, one of the least expensive ways to do this is to engage with print on demand (POD) services. POD services will print and deliver your books directly to your customers without you having to invest in inventory or shipping costs upfront. There are many POD services available, including Lulu and IngramSpark. Research each service to determine which one is best for your needs. Note that you will need to format your book according to the POD service’s specifications. This typically involves creating a PDF file that meets certain size and layout requirements.
IMPORTANT TIP: It is possible to sell your cookbook as both an ebook and a printed book. Publishing in both formats can help you reach a wider audience and appeal to readers who prefer one format over the other.
You may need to create separate files for each version, as the formatting requirements for ebooks and printed books are different. You will also need to set different prices for each version, as the costs of production and distribution are different.
Step 7. Format your cookbook
The easiest way to get your cookbook to a professional format is to purchase (or obtain one for free) cookbook templates and then put your content into those templates.
It’s highly recommended that you use Adobe InDesign for your cookbook design if you’re fairly tech-savvy. If you do not have the resources to use or learn Adobe InDesign, you can use Microsoft Word, Google Doc, or Canva. Canva provides free recipe card templates that you can utilize as a starting point (some of them may require Canva Pro account access).
You’ll have a lot of margin for error when you’re publishing your cookbook as an eBook as you can revise it over and over again. However, if you’re planning to sell them as printed books, you will need to make sure that you use the right margins and bleed settings when you’re sending your orders to the print-on-demand printers.
Step 8. Design a cover
Now that you’ve put all that hard work into your cookbook, it’s time to design a mouth-watering book cover that will entice your future readers.
You can use Canva’s cookbook templates as a starting point to design your own, or you can hire a professional graphic designer to design a cover for you. Remember to always check your local laws around copyrights as you do not want to get in trouble with copyright infringement when it comes to book cover designs.
Step 9. Create a website or online store to sell your cookbook
Sign up on Payhip.com to create your own website or online shop for free. Payhip is well-known for having a beginner-friendly and intuitive user interface. Additionally, the platform offers guided video tutorials to ensure your success in setting up your cookbook business.
We recommend using Payhip as it is a completely free website building platform that comes with tons of notable features for authors including:
- Generous free plan: Payhip’s forever-free plan gives you unlimited access to the entire platform’s features. You will only pay a 5% fee for every order up to a maximum of $99/month (i.e. you won’t be paying anything if you don’t get any book sales – great for beginner authors)
- Free website themes + simple drag and drop website builder
- Free hosting and free domain (you can also connect a custom domain)
- Ability to sell various product types such as physical products (e.g. books and other merchandise e.g. bookmarks, tshirts, etc), digital downloads (e.g. ebooks, audiobooks), online courses, coaching services, and memberships
- Automatic handling of UK & EU VAT so you can sell internationally with peace of mind
- Integration with BookFunnel and Zapier
- Instant and secure payout via Paypal and Stripe
- Marketing tools such as discount code, affiliate marketing, referral system, cross-sell, upsell, and more
Once you’ve signed up, set up your payout information so you can get paid as soon as orders start to roll into your store.
Step 10. Publish your cookbooks
Upload your books, ebooks, and anything else you want to sell. There should be a short description of the product, a price, and your product photos. For cookbooks, you should upload your cookbook cover.
Publish your cookbooks when you’re done so everyone can start buying them!
Join over 130,000 sellers who have launched their online businesses with Payhip
Step 11. Promote, promote, promote!
Here are some effective ways to promote your cookbooks (with little-to-no budget):
- Leverage social media: Use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote your cookbooks. Share photos of your recipes, behind-the-scenes images, and updates on book signings or events.
- Create a website or blog: Create a website or blog to promote your cookbooks and build an online following. Share recipes, cooking tips, and behind-the-scenes insights.
- Partner with influencers: Reach out to food bloggers, recipe creators, and other influencers in your niche to promote your cookbook. Offer them a free copy of your book in exchange for a review or social media post.
- Host online events: Host virtual book signings, cooking demos, and other events to promote your cookbook and connect with readers. Partner with local bookstores or cooking supply stores to host these events.
- Utilize email marketing: Build an email list of subscribers interested in cooking and food, and use it to promote your cookbook. Send out newsletters, recipes, and updates on events and promotions.
- Offer giveaways and discounts: Offer giveaways or discounts on your cookbook to generate buzz and incentivize purchases. You can also offer free bonus materials, such as a recipe e-book or cooking tips.
Final Thoughts – Self-Publishing Your Books
There you have it! With this guide in hand—and an appetite for publishing—you are now fully equipped to write, design and distribute your own unique self-published cookbook. Start preparing yourself as both an author and a publisher as you put together a recipe book that embodies all that makes you special as a chef.
If you’re keen on learning other ways to monetize your cooking expertise, you may be interested in checking out our how to sell recipes guide.
When you’re ready to publish a cookbook, sign up for a free account on Payhip to start your dream cookbook business within less than 5 minutes.
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