What separates good cookbooks from bad ones? Just like everyone’s individual palate, the answer to that is largely a matter of personal taste, but these five hints just may help keep your cookbook from leaving a bad taste in someone’s mouth.
- Include full-color photographs
The number one most important thing you can do for your cookbook is include high-quality, full-color photographs of the food. Rare is the self-publishing author who can afford to spring for a professional photoshoot, but with today’s cameras, some 3-point bounce lighting, and a photo editing program like Photoshop, there’s no reason to limit your 5-star tartare to a 3-star photograph. There are simply too many cookbooks on the market to publish one without images, or in black & white. The old adage says you can’t judge a book by its cover and while that is proven false time and time again, nobody ever said such a thing about a cookbook – where you definitely CAN judge it by its cover. And its cover better look delicious! And so should the inside!
- Include original, unique, and exclusive recipes
No matter how appetizing the pictures look, there has to be a reason for someone to buy your cookbook. Sure, the design might be amazing, and the images breathtaking, but content trumps design every time, and that is especially true for cookbooks. Your target market already knows how to make spaghetti, pot roast, and shrimp cocktail; you have to include recipes they’ve never seen before, or at least feature startling new takes on old standards that will justify their purchase, as well as satisfy their cravings.
- Allow content and design to dance
Speaking of design and content, formatting a cookbook is much like dancing the tango, with the content and the design making magical music together as they flow in unison. Cookbooks require larger print than other books because people don’t “read” cookbooks, they “use” them (typically with wet fingers or flour-caked palms). So, if you have too many recipes to hit your target page count at 14- or 16-point font, don’t decrease the font size to 12 just to make it fit. Remove a recipe. Or, better yet, find a way to reword those three-page recipes into two-page spreads.
- Include finishing flourishes
A good meal is like a good story (or a good cookbook); it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Anybody can print a recipe for baked Alaska from the Internet but only your cookbook contains the amusing anecdote about how making it for the first time led to a food fight with your grandson, which turned into a fond memory told over Thanksgiving Dinner for years to come. Don’t be afraid to sprinkle some saffron into your prose to excite the senses and make the recipes in your cookbook truly your own.
- Obsess over the details
The details of your recipes can make or break your cookbook. This includes the ingredients, as well as the instructions, down to the units of measurements and the cooking equipment. If your audience is comprised mostly of US residents, don’t refer to grams or liters when your cook wants to see teaspoons, tablespoons, or cups, instead. If your recipe calls for a very specific ingredient that is not available at the local grocery store, advise your cooks where to get their hands on it – a farmer’s market, online, a quick trip to China, etc. By the same token, be informative and detailed about the pots, pans, molds, presses, graters, utensils, etc. you’ve used to create your inspiring dishes. The purists will appreciate the opportunity to match your expertise and it gives the lay-cook something other than their prowess to “blame” when their soufflé flops.
To make a soufflé you’ve got to break a few eggs, but nobody warned you publishing a cookbook would be such a headache. It doesn’t have to be! Check out this One-Click Cookbook package over at Outskirts Press.