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How to publish a restaurant cookbook

Photograph: Shutterstock


Guests have been asking me for years when I’m going to publish a cookbook of their favorite dishes from my restaurant. How do I get a publisher? Or should I just get it printed myself?

– Restaurant owner


Publishing a cookbook can be effective for you in a variety of ways: providing an additional revenue source through merchandise, being a hook for new press and keeping your operation top of mind in the home, at gift-giving occasions and so on.

There are many ways to go, and no single solution will work for everyone.

The cookbook and e-cookbook market is still strong, despite declines in print publishing and the proliferation of online recipe sites. There are a few advantages to a traditional publisher: They will typically give your book some cache; have budgets for promotion, a polished art program and good editing; and wide marketing and distribution. There are also some drawbacks—namely that any royalty or author payment will be modest. Increasingly, publishers want to see that you have your own platform to sell your book: through your restaurant, media appearances, social media and so on. To get started here, find some cookbooks you admire that you might consider in the same category and see who publishes them. Most publisher websites have an area to submit a proposal. An agent can also help you through the process and is a great investment if you find the right one.

Self-publishing is another good option. Because many people buy their books online, whether in print or electronic, and the technology for design and layout has gotten easier, there are fewer obstacles than ever. The disadvantage of self-publishing is that all the work is on you for recipes, copy, art and editing (though it’s possible to pay for those services as well through some self-publishing sites) and you don’t have the status of a reputable publisher. The advantage is that you don’t need to have a formal proposal accepted, and your piece of the pie can be much larger without the infrastructure of a major publisher. Higher risk, higher reward.

The entire notion of the cookbook, though, may be nearing the end of its run. If your goal is to get your recipes and brand in the hands of your guest, think about an app. iTopRecipes founder Bruno Paris describes his platform as a “high-ROI tool to connect brands, restaurants and clients.” One advantage of an app is you can add to it over time; cookbooks can be a multiyear product to produce and unveil. With an app, you can start smaller and grow it by adding recipes over time.

More on restaurant cookbooks here.

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