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Publish And Sell Your Own Cookbook

Learn how to develop, publish, market and sell a recipe book of your home recipes if you’re willing to invest time and effort.

| March/April 1984

  • 086-064-01
    The author and self-publisher of a vegetarian cookbook shares a step-by-step success story.

  • 086-064-01

If you can gather up some lip-smackin'-good recipes and write them down in clear, understandable language—and if you're willing to invest some time and money to make more money—then chances are you can successfully publish and sell your own cookbook. Believe me, I know: I've sold thousands of copies of my self-produced menu manual, Good Food/Good Folks. And I started with little more than a notion to earn (somehow) my own living my own way.

A Marketable Idea 

Even though I enjoy writing about meatless cooking, I never would have published my compendium without reasonable confidence that it would sell. But upon considering the high (and rising!) cost of meat, I thought it likely that there'd be a whole passel of budget-conscious folks out there willing to pay a measly $2.50 each for a fresh batch of vegetables-only recipes. And I figured that many prospective buyers could be reached rather easily through local retailers . . . and by advertising in magazines that have vegetarian followings.

In other words, once you've come up with what you think is a good idea for a cookbook (it could be anything from Banana Bakery to 101 Ways to Cook With Yogurt), try your best to objectively weigh that concept's marketability. Ask your friends what they think of the idea. And if you can, get the opinions of people in the business: I never pass up an opportunity to discuss a prospective title with bookstore owners and managers.

Home Recipes

I scrounged the material for my cookbook from a variety of sources: my family . . . friends . . . and a good many MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers, who very kindly sent me their favorite recipes. Then I chose what seemed to be the most mouth-watering (and easiest-to-make) dishes—breads, soups, main dishes, and desserts—and prepared each one, in order to test the directions for clarity and accuracy. Once the "receipts" had been given the Haedrich stamp of approval, I set about carefully typing them. A neatly prepared manuscript is worth its weight in gold . . . it'll save you money, avoid delays, and help prevent typographical errors.

Typesetting And Alternatives

Having your copy typeset has advantages: It can be done quickly, and the text looks attractive and thus helps to sell books. But unless you're lucky enough to have unlimited funds or a relative in the business, you'll probably want to use a less expensive technique (it never hurts to check around, though . . . you might find a small outfit willing to offer you a bargain price).

One option is to type each page on an ordinary typewriter or—better yet—an IBM Executive or Selectric. But perhaps the best of all possible shoestring techniques is hand lettering . . . if, that is, you can provide the required artistic flair and patient attention to detail. I can think of several best-selling cookbooks that are attractively hand-lettered (and, in fact, probably are popular largely because of their rustic format).

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