THE COOKBOOK PART TWO
I am no expert on cookbook deals and I can only provide insight on my experience, what worked for my sister and I and what I read and learned from the experts (Dianne Jacobs and Professors at Cherry Bombe University) -which was an original idea and a professional book proposal.
First, the idea and some bad news. The cookbook market is saturated, and new books are not only competing against each other but classics, like Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Mastering the Art of French Cooking by the angel, Julia Child, which still sell thousands of copies a year. So, if you do not already have a following or large fan base guaranteed to buy your cookbook, like Chrissy Tiegan does, you need to have a clear reason for being. You get no points for being a capable, but unknown, cook or baker but you get a lot of points for filling a white space in the market.
The good news is that people are still buying cookbooks. I take this directly from our proposal, as written by my market manager sister and business partner: the print cookbook market has seen 11% steady growth since 2007 with an 8% increase in 2017 compared to the prior year. The desire of consumers for visual books they can both collect and easily reference while actively cooking appears to have protected the print cookbook from the impact that digital has had on other print media (Friedman, Nielsen, Rochlin, Swanson).
Second the proposal. Again, bad news. Publishing houses receive hundreds of book proposals and the proposals from unrepresented authors (US!) typically get pushed to the bottom half of the pile. We figured if we wanted our proposal to even be looked at we needed two things:
A catchy title
An original, and timely concept that we could pitch in one sentence
So what is a book proposal? It’s basically a business plan for your book. A book proposal should have the following (Jacobs):
Concept Summary- your elevator pitch! Explain and sell your book in one paragraph. It needs to be good, because there is about three to four pages left of your proposal the publisher can get out of reading if it’s not.
Book Overview- an outline of everything the publisher needs to know about the book-the point, format, length, audience, art, etc. We described our book as quirky, witty, confident, so our overview was written in a quirk, witty, confident voice.
Target Market and Audience- tell your publishers exactly who is going to buy the book, exactly where they are going to buy it and exactly why they are going to buy it. Bonus points if you can tell them when!
Promotion Plan- an outline of how you are going to get that target audience to buy it and be specific. If there is a network you can leverage to help sell your book or if there retailers that are optimal markets for your book-explain it. Show you are smart and willing to hustle.
About the Author- explain not only who you are and what you accomplished, but also why you are the only person qualified to write this exact type of book. You know how that Jennifer Grey was literally the perfect casting for Baby in Dirty Dancing. And no matter how many remakes they try to make, it’ll never work because there is just not another Jennifer Grey? That’s how the publisher should feel about you and your book. To put it lightly.
Competition- compare yourself to other books, why you are different but also highlight how you are the same and how that book is proof your book will sell and probably sell better. This is a hard one (that’s why Grace did this part). To make it simple I’ll use colors. Say your book is yellow. Find another book that is also yellow and sells really well because it is yellow. Then prove that your book is a brighter, more vibrant yellow that is much more on trend.
Table of Contents- yes, you’ll feel like you’ve outlined your book 5 times already. Do it one more time, but this time make it bulleted. If you are writing a cookbook, outline your chapters and recipes.
Sample Chapters and Recipes- Okay, so I said before you don’t have to write your book before you send a proposal, but you do need to write a few recipes. And this is the time to prove yourself. I have no idea if publishers make any recipes from the proposals they send, but just assume they do. Don’t blow it on a soufflé that flops. This is also a great place to provide illustrations or photographs if you have them available.