my cookbook, I've received some questions about how it came to be and what it was like to self-publish. I decided to share my response (and then some) to one such inquirer here in case others of you are interested in how it has worked for me. If you have further questions, leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them!
Hello! To answer some of your questions, yes, I did self-publish my
cookbook. I didn't want the hassle of sending it out to publishers (and
wasn't too keen on being shot down or being told I needed to change
half of it or sitting around, waiting for responses). I wanted to be in control of the process, content, and price (keeping it reasonable) and wanted to keep it simple.
The entire process took me about 9 months once all the recipes were written and ready to be compiled. I went weeks and even months without having time to work on it and then went through periods where it was front and center in my mind every free minute. It was a lot. of. work.
One of the major issues I struggled with was finding out what constituted my own recipe, one that I could publish in my own cookbook (and sell). From various knowing sources, the clear response was that if you change any of the ingredients (or amount of ingredient) or the method, the recipe is yours and you need not site where the original recipe came from. This didn't sit quite well with me. Even though I was assured that many publishers of cookbooks follow this rule, I wanted to do it differently. So, even though I altered and adapted many aspects of almost every recipe, I did go back and attempt to hunt down any and all sources so I could say "adapted from _________" behind each recipe. Or, flat out say whose recipe it is when they came from family members. The only problem with doing it this way is that some have asked me (while they flip through the cookbook in front of me), "Have you tried this recipe?" Have I tried it??! Well, yes. In fact, I've changed it, made it dozens of times and in my opinion made it better. So, doing it this way you risk people thinking you just compiled a bunch of other peoples' recipes. Such is life. So, if you decide to write your own cookbook, this is one area that deserves some thought.
Once all the recipes were updated and compiled in sections, it went very smoothly because I hired a wonderful graphic
designer (a friend of a friend and fellow mom and cook). She took my content and put it into a
design software program. She formatted the pages, gave me choices for
the font and took my photographs and designed the cover (front and back) for me. I also
hired an editor (a great friend) to read through it and help write the
copyright page, etc. This was money I needed to have up front and I
won't lie- it was nerve-racking putting our money out there (even when I felt good about where it was going) not knowing
for sure if I would make it back (I'm almost there!).
So, after I gave final approval, the designer emailed the whole thing to
a local printer who printed it for me. I did go in ahead of time and
chose the paper and cover quality. Hiring professionals is an expense but I wanted the cookbook to be of good quality and pleasing to the eye- I wanted folks to get their money's worth!
Once it was formatted and the recipes were assigned pages, the next (giant) task was to write the index. First, I needed to determine which ingredients (and what amount of said ingredient) or categories would warrant entry in the index. Then, I needed to go through and highlight those ingredients. Jamey deserves a lot of credit for helping with this. He developed a spreadsheet and then entered recipe titles in different ingredient and category categories and then alphabetized the lists. I then, with a proof copy of the cookbook (without an index yet), went through and assigned the recipes in the index their page numbers. This was a big project and came toward the very end of the process, so it seemed that much more tiring but exciting at the same time. A good index is so helpful.
Initially I was going to go
with an on-line self-publisher (Lulu), but I was leery of the
reviews I read about on-line publishers and didn't like having the price driven up by their cut. What I did like
about them was that they were going to handle all the shipping and
customer service end of things which I was concerned I didn't have time
to deal with. Then, my editor friend (who has an etsy shop and does
mailing for her own business) offered to ship them for me. I couldn't turn down her offer. So, I
am able to pay her a bit from each cookbook, print locally and keep the
cost in the range I feel best about. It's been working really well and I love supporting a local business and friend instead of a large on-line company.
one thing I will throw out there is that having an established blog
with readers helped a lot in getting the word out and making those
initial sales. Things have slowed down a bit since Christmas, but my
goal isn't to make gobs of money. I wanted all my favorite recipes in
one place and wanted to share them with others. I kept my expectations
low and realistic and this has lead to me (still!) being so pleasantly
surprised when I sell each and every cookbook :-).
I hope this answered your questions. Best of luck to you on your publishing journey!!