julia child mastering the art of cookbooks

I recently came across one of Julia Child’s cookbooks. And so later on, I rewatched Julie and Julia, the 2009 movie with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. If you like Meryl Streep and enjoy cooking and eating, you should watch it too! If you haven’t already.
This movie shows how passion and especially the passion for food and cooking can save you. And, it can also teach you a thing or two on how you can find success in the cookbook industry. It will take a lot of patience, hard work, time and…money.
Well, if you’re a food blogger or just want to wrap all your culinary recipes in one cookbook, here are a few tips and tricks on how to make a cookbook from scratch without being a professional:

  1. What’s your secret recipe? Find a niche.
  2. Test. Throw away and then test some more recipes.
  3. Food photography
  4. Find yourself an agent. Or not?!
  5. Frosting. Or how to publish your own cookbook.
  6. Advertise-mint: how to sell your cookbook

Writing a cookbook is just like developing a new recipe. Mix the right ingredients with a pinch of storytelling and you might set yourself for success. As with anything, developing a good recipe will involve a lot of trial and error, but hey, it took Julia Child 8 years to write a cookbook and 2 more to get published, so you better equip yourself with pounds of patience.

Let’s start with the first step:

  1. What’s your secret recipe? Find a niche!

Julie and julia movie

What is it that you really like to do?
-EAT! – Julie and Julia movie, 2009

Well, if you really like to eat and cook, you’re off to a good start. However, there is much more to writing a good cookbook than that.
If you don’t have a clear strategy on how you’d like your cookbook to include or look like, here are a few ingredients to this recipe:

Think of a new point of view. Or, include some storytelling. Good stories always sell, right?

Perhaps you can present your recipes as stories. You can write stories for kids as playful recipes.
Or, think of it as a city guide. Here’s an idea: take your favorite restaurant dishes and season them differently to make them your own.
Make it more personal by doing a family cookbook. Use a perfect blend of food and the story of your family.

family cookbook

Original cookbooks ideas: 

If we’re talking about Julia Child’s cookbooks, she was a visionary of her time when she published Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She found a niche in translating French cuisine to the average American.

After World War II, Americans were highly interested in French cuisine but all French cookbooks were directly translated from French and mostly designed for a middle-class French audience that had access to French techniques and ingredients. So, Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle wrote a book that emphasized accurate instructions and measurements, and most importantly, made sure it included easy to get ingredients at the grocery store.

julia child mastering the art of french cooking

A Table in Venice by Skye McAlpine.

What makes this (yet another cookbook) interesting is the fact that, although millions of tourists pass through Venice each year, they don’t get to fully experience what truly Venetian dishes taste like.
Skye McAlpine, the author of the successful blog From My Dining Table, offers an offers an insider’s perspective on Venetian home cooking, beautifully illustrated with delicious photographs.

a table in venice cookbook

Look out for trends

Always look out for the next big thing. The next big idea. A few years ago, avocado was all the hype, it seems like 2018 is the year of all things green: green smoothies, matcha, paleo, vegan. Healthy food and a clean way of living are very in at the moment.

healthy way of living - mastering the art of cookbooks

But, the most important factor here is what you’re really passionate about. I mean, if you love hamburgers and want to talk about perfecting that burger recipe, go for it! But think about how you can differentiate yourself on the market. Do some research in that niche.

  1. Test. Throw away. And then test some more recipes.

We already established: writing and publishing your cookbook will be a daunting process. If you watched Julie and Julia you probably remember how Julie was terrified of the thought that she’ll have to bone a duck at the end of her 365 days experiment of cooking all the recipes from Julia Child’s cookbook. But still, she did it!

I think this is a metaphor that best describes the daunting process of writing a cookbook. Well, it took Julia Child 8 years of her life, endless hours of testing that perfect hollandaise sauce recipe and still Julia Child’s cookbook saw the light of day after 2 more years.

Julia Child quote

In today’s fast-moving book market, that can’t be possible. You’ll probably have one year to come up with an idea and write everything, after finding yourself an agent and a publisher that will want to work and publish your cookbook.

Learn the craft!

“Learn how to cook –try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” – Julia Child.

Another useful tip when it comes to inventing new recipes, do more than just one test! Just because you got it right the first time, doesn’t mean it wasn’t out of beginner’s luck. Be careful with measurements.

Consistency is key! For example, you can use cups or grams, but don’t confuse the reader by using cups in one recipe and grams in others. Or when it comes to using butter and unsalted butter. Be consistent!
Same goes when writing the entire recipe. Start with an engaging title, go on with equipment and/ or ingredients. Use a logical step by step, easy to read method and a time estimate. Season with some serving suggestions and good photography. Voila!

Cookbook recipe example

  1. Food Photography

I’d say, this is a vital step when you make your own cookbook. It’s of utmost importance to present your dishes in the most delicious way.
Some food photography tips and tricks:

  • Don’t use stock photos. I understand, you might be on a budget and good food photography costs money, but you can shoot your own images even using a smartphone.
    It’s all about good lighting and plating.

cookbook tip food photography

  • Use different backgrounds. For example, when presenting brunch recipes, take your dishes outside and have a picnic. Do a flat lay using some props alongside food. How about some wildflowers and a nice bottle of wine or a cheeseboard. It will look delish!
  • It’s all about seasoning!
  1. Finding an agent. Or not

The boring, but one of the most important aspects of this process is finding yourself an agent or reaching out to publishers. Although having an agent is not mandatory, it could be quite helpful, as you probably don’t know much about all the boring, legal aspects of publishing your own book.
If you’re willing to do your own research and reach out to publishers directly, even better!
But don’t be discouraged, they might not reply to your emails right away. So, be persuasive and don’t quit.
If your book proposal gets rejected by one publisher, it doesn’t mean it’s not good. It could be because they might have something similar in their portfolio already or it’s not of their interest. But there are plenty of other publishers to reach out to.

However, if you’d like to get an agent to represent you, here are a few ideas:

Go to your favorite bookstore and take a look at some of the cookbooks in your section. All books should have a thank you section where authors include their agent’s name.
Again, doing your research pays off. Reach out to those agents.
Social media can help as well. Since everyone’s on Twitter and Facebook these days, you will probably find a handful of agents there. Send’em a message or two. Be persuasive!

  1. Frosting. Or publishing your own cookbook

In the end, it all comes down to selling your book. So, let’s talk all things marketing:
You need a delicious cover to grab the attention. If you already have a publisher, they will most likely guide you towards one direction or another. If not, you can easily do it yourself. Contract a freelancer or choose from a multitude of online apps that have book cover templates easily editable and make it your own. And you don’t even need any photoshop skills or a big budget.

Cookbook cover template

cookbook cover template

Edit this template by simply clicking the image above. 

Keep in mind that you’ll also have to do some press. Or work on your social media presence. Be ready to do book signings and TV shows. Your blog should be a big part of your marketing strategy, as well.

  1. Advertise-mint: how to sell your cookbook

Ok, so after writing, rewriting, testing and retesting, it’s now time for your cookbook to see the light of shelves.
If you’ve managed to find yourself an agent and a publisher, things should be easy for you now. If you’re only publishing for your blog readers or this is a personal project you want to share with your family, there are plenty of options where you can host, share and sell your cookbook, such as Flipsnack. Becoming the next Julia Child is just one recipe away!

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Feeling hungry yet? Of course, there is more to the recipe of writing a good cookbook than this guide, but if you want to start experimenting and writing your own recipes in one place, it should be enough to get you started. Bon appetit!

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