• Alison

4 of the top reasons people choose to self-publish their cookbook

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

Whether you are a chef, a restaurant owner or a food blogger, at some point in your career you will probably think about publishing your own cookbook. A cookbook can help your build your brand and can also act as an important revenue stream. However, getting an offer from a traditional publishing house is becoming more and more challenging if you are not a TV chef or celebrity. If you don’t fall into either of these categories (or even if you do), you already have developed a lot of recipe content, and you have a good online or offline following, the self-publishing route can make good sense.

In the end, why do people opt for self-publishing?

You want complete creative control over the output

By the time many people are ready to publish a cookbook, they often have a clear idea of how they want the book to look and feel. While you can be lucky and find a traditional publisher who will support your creative vision, in many cases the final result will be a compromise between your vision, and your publisher’s view of what they can sell (and at what profit). This may mean you end up with a different design, paper stock and format from what you had intended.

You want control over publication date

Traditional publishers will generally want to control the publication date for your cookbook. This will be based on things like the peak cookbook purchasing seasons (mothers/fathers day, Christmas, etc.), plus the publishers’ own schedule. For instance if they already have too many cookbooks (or a competing cookbook) scheduled for a certain time of year, your cookbook may be bumped to the next available selling period.

With self-publishing, you also have the possibility of doing a fast turnaround on your cookbook – you are really only restricted by how quickly you can produce the content.

You have a good platform or following

If you have an established market for your book whether through foot traffic to your restaurant, or followers on your website or social media, going through a traditional publisher makes less sense.

With a book website linked to your social media and a listing on Amazon you can reach a significant audience worldwide. Amazon alone (even without distribution to other online or bricks and mortar bookstores) sells 65% of all books sold online and represents roughly 50% of all print books sold globally.

In the past, a traditional publisher would put a lot of investment into creating a full marketing plan for your book. However, as publishers' margins are getting increasingly squeezed, the author is now expected to bear most of the burden of promotion.

You want to retain the profits

As long as you can fund the initial cost of producing your cookbook, the profits can be very good. Many cookbook authors see their cookbook as another product line for their business in addition to their restaurant or online business.

Traditional publishing deals do not tend to be big money earners from the author’s point of view. With a traditional publisher, you have to “earn out” any advance you receive out of your future royalties, before you start receiving any royalties yourself. And out of that advance you have to pay for things like recipe testing, food styling and photography.

If you choose to self-publish, it is important that you do thorough research (or get advice) on things like cookbook market and trends, including the prices charged for certain formats. You also need to be aware of how and where to distribute your book to get the most out of your investment.

If you would like more information about how to self-publish your cookbook, speak to us.

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