Self-publish a cookbook in Australia

There are over 200,000 books listed on Amazon. It is a great opportunity to self-publish your book on online. Self-published authors can market their books on Amazon by utilizing several key features provided by the platform.

1. What is a good cookbook structure?

A good cookbook should be easy to navigate and provide clear and concise information to the reader. Navigation is important – recipes can be ordered by meal type.

The artwork of the book also needs to make it easy to move from one section to the other – this can be achieved by colour coding or some other graphic device – a good cookbook designer will have a menu (no pun intended) of ideas.

Here are some key elements of a good cookbook structure:

  1. Table of contents: A clear and easy-to-use table of contents should list all the chapters and sections of the book.
  2. Introduction: An introduction should give an overview of the book’s focus, the author’s background, and what readers can expect to learn from the book. Often cooks are looking at solving a problem so the book might have a qucik, easy or cheap food theme and these sorts of solutions are a great way to introduce the recipes.
  3. Recipes: This is the  primary focus of the book and the recipes should be organised by categories like appetizers, entrees, and desserts.
  4. Step-by-step instructions: A cookbook should have clear and detailed instructions for each recipe. It’s important to include ingredient lists, cooking times, and serving suggestions.
  5. Photos:  High-quality photos of each recipe helps readers visualise the finished dish. Recipes without images is like a pilot flying a plane by radar at night – you might get there but the journey is a little boring. Cooks will use sight to get the meal right. If the phot looks golden but they start to see brown in the pan then its time to remove from the heat
  6. Tips and tricks: Additional information and tips on ingredients, techniques, and equipment to help readers improve their cooking skills can be useful. A technique to peel garlic like wetting and crushing might make the recipe less of a chore and improve the overall user experience.
  7. Glossary: A glossary of terms and techniques and ingredients that may be unfamiliar to readers is a great inclusion. Jargon or obscure name can be frustrating to a cook especially if they are part way through the recipe. The whole exercise can come to a dead-end.
  8. Index: An index allows readers to easily find specific recipes or ingredients. If they have chicken or fried rice in the refrigerator, a good index will ensure they keep coming back to the cookbook for a meal solution.
  9. Acknowledgements: Here the author can thank the people who helped in the book creation -those who offer tacit or active support. It’s a nice touch adding warmth to the cookbook..
  10. Contact information: Ensure there is information on how readers can contact the author or publisher with feedback or questions. You might be able to use this information to mail updates or advertise a new book.

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2. Accuracy in self-published cookbook recipes is paramount.

For self-published cookbooks, it is important to ensure accuracy in the recipes to provide readers with a positive experience and to build trust in your book publishing brand. In many cases our cookbook authors are more than book publishers but run restaurants or cooking schools which means their reputations are on the line!

An author of ours once erroneously used a measure of 1,200g instead of 12g. To say the cooked dish tasted terrible is an understatement.

Here are some tips for ensuring accuracy in recipes for self-published cookbooks:

  1. Test the recipes multiple times: Test each recipe multiple times to ensure that the instructions are clear and that the dish turns out as intended.
  2. Get feedback: Ask others to test the recipes and provide feedback on any issues they encountered.
  3. Use standardised measurements: Use standard measurements such as cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons to ensure consistency and ease of understanding for readers.
  4. Check for errors: Proofread the recipes multiple times and have someone else check them as well to catch any errors.
  5. Include notes and tips: Include notes and tips for readers on how to adjust the recipe for different dietary restrictions or preferences.
  6. Be transparent: If you’ve made any changes or substitutions to a recipe, be transparent about it in the book so readers can replicate it correctly.
  7. Be clear about the oven temperature: include the oven temperature and the time to cook for a recipe in order to avoid any mistakes.

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3. Cooking has become as much about lifestyle as the food

A popular cookbook format is the lifestyle cookbook. This is where stories place the recipes in a cultural or real-life context adding great interest to readers. A common technique is to explain how the author became aware of the recipe.

Nonna was 85 but to me, a 12 year old, she was nearing 108. She’d take me into her chaotic side garden searching for the ripest tomatoes – often they seemed to be cooking on the vine in the hot sun. Back in the kitchen she’d place small slits in their skin and infuse them with rough sea salt and sprinkle a bit of pepper on the outside andfinally add a dash of olive oil. We had so many happy days in the kitchen together. She often said its, ‘Just like we did in Tunis.’

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4. Specialisation sells self-published cookbooks

kampong boy cookbook cover sashi cheliah self-publishedThere are many thousands of cookbooks on the market. So it will help you to have an edge – a differentiator or something unique. Often self-published cookbook authors have tried the traditional publishing route but the publishing company thinks it’s too niche. Don’t worry, you can turn this into a publishing winner. Remember your book may be niche and it may be specialised, but selling your book online might appeal to thousands scattered worldwide.

Specialisation can be your hidden advantage. And it doesn’t have to be the food. It might be a preparation technique, cost of meals or even the colour of the food! I’m waiting for someone to write “Red, White, and Green. The family’s guide to the colourful food of Christmas” – it might just get traction in the market – a marketing niche.

The list below, by example, may help you come up with just that special approach.

  • The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa Hartwig.
  • The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in ‘Healthy’ Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain by Steven R. Gundry.
  • The Keto Diet: The Complete Guide to a High-Fat Diet by Leanne Vogel.
  • The Mediterranean Diet: A Beginner’s Guide to the Mediterranean Diet by Rachel Rappaport.
  • The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook: 500 Delicious and Easy Instant Pot Recipes for Your Whole Family by Emma Katie.
  • The Ultimate Air Fryer Cookbook: More Than 400 Healthy and Delicious Recipes for Your Air Fryer by Linda Larsen.
  • The Minimalist Kitchen: 100 Wholesome Recipes, Essential Tools, and Efficient Techniquesby Melissa Coleman.
  • The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook: Wholesome, Indulgent Plant-Based Recipes by Nisha Vora.
  • The Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook: Delicious and Easy Gluten-Free Recipes for Your Instant Pot by Jane Bonacci.
  • The No-Waste Kitchen: Creative Recipes for Using Every Part of the Plant by Dana Gunders.

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5. How to get professional images for your self-published cookbook on the cheap.

Self published cookbook by author and chef Trevor GodenziGood photography is paramount to a cookbook. It is always ideal to enlist a professional photographer to assist, but you can also try to do the photography yourself!
Here are some keys to success:

  1. Use natural light whenever possible.
  2. Use a tripod to keep your camera steady.
  3. Use a shallow depth of field to make the food stand out.
  4. Experiment with different angles and compositions.
  5. Use props to add context and interest to the photo.
  6. Edit your photos to enhance color and contrast.
  7. Pay attention to the background, it should not be too distracting.
  8. Be mindful of food styling. Make sure food looks as delicious as possible.
  9. Take multiple shots of the same dish from different angles and lighting.
  10. Take your time. The more time you spend on a photo the more likely it is to be successful.

And of course… do you have a good camera? This will up your chance of success.

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6. How to brief a food photographer

If your budget allows, using a professional food photographer is your best way to ensure great images. Remember, the photography in your book can be a make-or-break issue. No prospective book purchaser will buy a cookbook if the photos are sub-par.

Having said that just by employing a professional, this does not give a 100% guarantee of success. It’s is also about the quality of your briefing.

Briefing a food photographer is all about you providing them clarity about what you want and need. This is not easy so you’ll need to be on your game. You really can’t provide too much information, the more information you give them the better! This will avoid you receiving images that you are not happy with (and will be obliged to pay for). The end result will only be as good as the brief you give to the photographer.

Here are a few tips that you will find valuable:

  • Clearly communicate your vision for the shoot: Let the photographer know what type of images you’re looking for, such as close-ups, overhead shots, or lifestyle shots.
  • Specify if the images are to be portrait orientation, landscape orientation or square. If your cookbook designer is doing a landscape oriented book and all the images are portrait shape this will create design challenges.
  • Provide a detailed brief on the dishes: Include information on the ingredients, preparation, and presentation of the dishes.
  • Specify the desired style: Let the photographer know if you prefer a minimalist or a more stylized approach.
  • Provide examples: Give the photographer examples of images that you like to help guide the shoot.
  • Discuss the location: Let the photographer know where the shoot will take place, and if there are any specific requirements for the location.
  • Discuss the time frame: Provide the photographer with a deadline for when you need the images and make sure they have enough time to complete the shoot.
  • Discuss the usage rights: Let the photographer know how the images will be used and what rights you will have to the images.
  • Be open to feedback: The photographer may have their own ideas and suggestions for the shoot, so be open to their input and feedback.

If you miss any of these points, one thing to watch out for is if the photographer asks questions about the project themselves. For example, I’d expect a photographer to ask about the shape or orientation of the book. A real professional will ask if there have been any draft page layouts or mock-ups completed by the book designer – its not necessary but it is a question that will show publishing insight.

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7. How to sell your self-published cookbook

Selling cookbooks can be a challenging task, but there are several strategies that can help increase sales. Below are some quick tips on selling your self-published cookbook.

  1. Utilise social media: Use social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to promote your cookbook and interact with potential customers.
  2. Host a book launch: Host a book launch event to showcase your book and give readers a chance to meet you in person.
  3. Offer a free sample: Offer a free sample of one of the recipes from your cookbook to entice potential buyers (this could be done at a book launch).
  4. Partner with local businesses: Partner with local businesses such as restaurants, cooking schools, and gourmet food shops to promote your book.
  5. Use email marketing: Build an email list and send out regular updates and promotions for your cookbook to your subscribers.
  6. Attend cooking events: Attend cooking events and festivals to promote your book and connect with potential customers.
  7. Reach out to food bloggers: Reach out to food bloggers and ask them to review your cookbook and feature it on their website or social media platforms.
  8. Sell online: Make your cookbook available on popular online retailers such as Amazon and create a website to sell your book directly.
  9. Consider digital format: Consider making your cookbook available in a digital format, such as an eBook, to reach a wider audience.
  10. Be creative: Come up with creative ways to promote your cookbook, such as hosting a cooking competition or creating a cooking video tutorial.

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The Little Book of Big Publishing tips goes into the essentials of self-publishing a book, outlining the business and financial side of publishing, legal issues, design, editing, sales and marketing. There's even a section on how to identify a vanity-publishing scam.