This is part of my Makin' Bacon podcast, you can check out all the episodes or subscribe on your favorite podcast player.
Putting out a cookbook can be this long, lonely process where everything is on your shoulders and you have to make sure it all comes together. It can be really hard, but it doesn't have to be that way. I'm going to share with you what I do when I want to put out a great cookbook that I'm really proud of but doesn't just fall on my shoulders.
The video of the interview is also available on the Makin' Bacon YouTube Channel.
Today I wanted to talk to you about a process I just recently went through: creating a collaborative cookbook.
Most cookbooks are singular type of adventures you go on by yourself. You come up with all these recipes, format them, put the book together, and then start trying to market and sell it.
It can be really rewarding, but it can also be a very frustrating kind of lonely experience, especially in the middle of trying to put everything together.
Luckily, I have my parents. We are a small family owned company, so my parents helped me with it. I'm never truly alone, but it is still a long and arduous process putting out a cookbook for yourself.
One of the ways you can get around this kind of loneliness is to create a collaborative cookbook.
It's a great option if you want to work with other people and not go through this process on your own. It also helps with the marketing aspects, building your professional network and offloading a lot of the work that you would have to do on your own. It is something that I've done a few times and I highly recommend it.
If you want to put out a cookbook, but you just don't think you have enough content or enough name to do it, then this gives you an option to work with other people. This situation can round out your offering, provide something really valuable, and make a lot of people in your niche excited about working with you.
The cookbook that I did was the Champions of Sous Vide cookbook, and it was put out with the International Sous Vide Association of which I'm the president. We got together with a lot of the contributors and committee members from the association, in addition to people who contributed at the ISVA Conference. Each person put in between 1 and 5 different recipes.
We packaged it together into an almost 200-page cookbook with 70 different recipes in it, and recently published it at the end of 2019. We sold about 170 copies between pre-sale and the launch date. It has been exciting to see the good response from it.
One of the best things we got out of this project was working with all these amazing chefs and home cooks who I respect. In addition to helping to grow my network, I appreciated getting to know each of them a little bit better. That's one of the benefits of working on a collaborative cookbook. You're not doing it by yourself, and even if the outcome of the cookbook financially isn't what you're hoping for, you're going to be building important relationships, which is very, very valuable for future projects.
There are two main approaches to creating a collaborative cookbook.
The first is that you can be almost a project manager. You can put in some of your own recipes, then you reach out to a bunch of different bloggers or chefs who work in your niche or the niche your book's going to be based on.
You can ask them for a handful of recipes that they would be willing to contribute, including photography, if they have it. Then you package it all together, make sure it's formatted in a consistent way, and then you can release it.
The benefit of this method is that you have total control over everything. It's really your book and you get all the benefit from putting it out there and from networking with all of these people.
Normally you also get to keep all the profit. You don't break it up into individual components for the smaller contributors. The result is you can have more financial impact from it.
The other contributors are also going to help market it for you. It is really good to spread out those marketing duties but remember they don't have anything financially to gain from it so they might not market it quite as hard as you would like them to. This seems to be the case in most endeavors.
The other way to approach it is to find 2 to 4 other people and form a partnership to put out a book. They should all be people who are in your same niche or the niche that you're going to put the book out for.
Each one of you would contribute pretty much the same amount of recipes or content, and then one or more of you would format it, make sure everything's laid out properly, put it together in a package and then sell it. And in this case, you'd end up splitting the revenue among the people contributing.
It could be an equal partnership, or if 2 people have a lot of recipes and 2 people are newer and not contributing as much, you could do a 40% / 40% split, and then 10% / 10% for the people that aren't contributing nearly as much. There are a lot of options.
One of the biggest benefits of this method is that you have other people who have a financial benefit from marketing it for you. It will help by getting the word out there a lot more easily than if you're just doing it on your own.
But with this type of collaboration, you do have to make sure you're working equally and know you're going to have trade-offs. You will not have ultimate control over the end product like you would if you were the only one putting this together. That can be a good thing, but it can also be frustrating. It can take some of the load off of you, especially on design decisions, but if you feel strongly about the way things should be, you have other people you now have to convince, versus just having full control to do exactly what you want.
The first is to decide on the book that you want to put out. Figure out the topic, determine the type of content you want, and then go find people who can provide that type of content. They can be bloggers, chefs, or just friends and family. However, the more professional they are, the easier it is to get marketing help, and the higher quality of content they're going to provide you.
The other way to approach it is to first come up with the people who you want to work with and then create a book that's going to work around the things they can offer you. This is basically what we did with the Champions of Sous Vide book.
We knew the book would be on sous vide, but outside of that, we didn't feel strongly. But we knew specific people we wanted to work with, or at least about half of them. So, we reached out to them, saw what type of content they were giving us, then we crafted the book based around what we were receiving.
Either method works very well. It just depends if there are specific people who you want to work with, make sure you are crafting the book in a way that they can contribute and they're going to be excited about the project as well.
I know it sounds great that all you must do to put out a cookbook is talk to a bunch of people, get their recipes, throw it in a book and sell it. Right? It may be a lot easier than coming up with 50 to 100 recipes on your own, but unfortunately, wrangling all these different busy people who are not as committed to this project as you are, is going to be a lot of work. I just wanted to brace you for that.
It's not hard work. It's not "sitting down and coming up with a lot of recipes" type of work, but it is sending follow-up emails and then more follow-up emails and then deadlines, and then post deadlines and then post, post, post deadlines, making sure everyone is giving you what you need.
Then you will need to massage all the recipes, determine that each one is good with no ingredients or directions left out, make sure they fit the same format with at least a similar-ish tone, and then you're going to put it together.
After all that work, you're going to have some push-back because the design is not what somebody wants, even though they only have one recipe in the book. It's not just the kind of process where you send out 1 or 2 emails, you get back all the content and you're done.
There's going to be a lot of back and forth throughout the whole process, regardless of how you're collaborating on it. So just beware of the back and forth ... but it does save you a lot of time on the recipe format.
And as I said, there's lots of different benefits, especially on the marketing and on your personal networking front. You can get help with the marketing. You can expand your own professional network, which is going to recoup benefits down the road for you, and it's going to offset a lot of the pressure that's going to fall on your shoulders if you're doing this yourself.
So now, you know how you can put out a great cookbook with working with a lot of people in your network.
Interested in reading more about publishing a cookbook? Here's a few more articles: