So, you want to know how to make money selling your own cookbooks? I’ll walk you through the entire process step by step, from designing your cover, to uploading your manuscript, to selling your product. You’ll be surprised by just how easy the process really is!
I’ll even give you tips on how I would market a cookbook in today’s climate: how to brand yourself, design a logo and which platforms to sell!
The good news is, you don’t have to be a trained chef or baker to make money selling cookbooks anymore. Absolutely anybody with a love for cooking can turn this into a profitable side hustle. It doesn’t matter where you live, or what your background is, you just need to know how to make good food and properly market yourself!
6 Steps To Selling Your Cookbook Online
Step One: Decide on a concept and start writing down your recipes!
Step Two: Choose a print on demand service.
Step Three: Design your cookbook.
Step Four: Upload your cookbook & order a proof copy.
Step Five: Approve your cookbook for sale & start selling.
Step Six: Market yourself!
What Is Print On Demand Publishing?
Print on demand publishing is a service where the product (in this case, a cookbook) is only printed once an order has been placed.
This means you don’t need to keep any physical stock of your cookbooks (unless you want to), nor do you need to meet any minimum order requirements.
Most print on demand services will even ship the goods directly to your customer.
Best Print On Demand Service To Use
The two biggest players in the print on demand space are Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and Ingram Spark. Each have their own sets of pros and cons (you can read more about it on oldmedia.com if you’re interested),but for the sake of keeping things simple: we recommend using Kindle Direct Publishing for cookbooks.
While both produce beautiful products, KDP has better distribution options, which will ultimately help you better market your book down the track. They’re also an amazon subsidiary, meaning it’s easy to get your book posted on amazon and the kindle store (if you upload a digital copy).
If you change your mind down the track, it’s not hard to switch over to Ingram Spark later. You would however need to create a new edition and barcode for your cookbook!
What To Include In Your Cookbook
In addition to your recipe’s ingredients and instructions, you should also be including the following information in your cookbook:
- Preparation Time
- Cook Time
How to Calculate Calories In Your Recipe
The best way to calculate the calories in your recipes is to run them through a specialised calculator. This will take all the guesswork out of the process. We found Verywellfit’s nutrition analyzer to be helpful, but you can also use an app such as MyFitnessPal if you prefer!
How To Design A Cookbook For POD Services
Important: Before you start formatting your cookbook or cover, you will need to decide on a print size and ensure you format your document according to KDP’s specifications!
Create A Cover Using Canva
Canva is my absolute favourite graphic design tool- I use it for ALL of my web and print products nowadays.
The best part about Canva is it’s incredibly easy to use! Their drag and drop functionality is second to none, meaning you don’t need a background in design to create beautiful projects!
You can do A LOT with the free version of Canva too, there’s really no need to upgrade to a pro subscription (especially if you plan on using your own images).
If you ARE interested in the paid version however, Canva offer a free 30 day pro trial to new users. You just have to remember to cancel your subscription before it renews!
Format Your Content/Manuscript In Microsoft Word
We’ve found the best way to format the content if your cookbook for KDP is with Microsoft Word. This is because Amazon do not currently accept PDF uploads for manuscripts, only DOC (.doc), DOCX (.docx), HTML (.html), and RTF (.rtf) files. This significantly limits which software you can use to format your book. As Canva, and most Adobe programs, will not allow you to export these file types yet. This is why we’ve found Microsoft Word (Or Pages if you’re a mac user) to be most the most reliable.
To make formatting your cookbook easier, you can actually download templates directly from KDP which will help you set up the bleed and page size properly!
How To Self Publish Your Cookbook
Once you’ve designed your cookbook, it’s time to upload it to Amazon. You can do this by creating a new Amazon account, or by logging into an existing one and visiting THIS page.
To begin, you will need to fill out basic details about your book, such as the title, the category and a short description of the content. Check out how other competitors are describing their cookbooks on amazon. What kind of keywords are they using etc.
In order to be competitive, you’ll need to write a BETTER description for your cookbook than what’s already on the martket. You’ll also need to do some keyword research!
On the next page, you’ll need to choose a trim size (and bleed) from the following options:
More information on trim, bleed size and how to format your cookbook in for KDP can be found here.
Next, you’ll need to upload your manuscript and book cover to Amazon. You’ll also need to provide your book’s ISPN if you have one (Otherwise, Amazon can assign you one for free).
Once your book has been uploaded, make sure to check it over in the live editor. You’ll be surprised by how many formatting errors you’ll catch at the last minute!
Lastly, don’t forget to order yourself a proof copy! You’ll want to check things such as the spine spacing, and cover finish in person!
There aren’t any upfront costs associated with selling cookbooks through amazon, unless you have paid upfront for a canva subscription or professional food photography. If you’re willing to do this work yourself, without an additional subscriptions, you can start a cookbook business for free.
How Much Money Can You Make Selling Cookbooks Online?
If you were to sell a 100 page paperback (black and white interior) cook book for $11USD on amazon.com, you would make approximately $4.45USD per book. It’s important to mention that this price will vary significantly depending on the list price and size/type of cookbook you sell.
Paperback (black and white interior) cookbooks will turn over the best profit, however won’t look as professional as hardcover, premium colour cookbooks. To make a similar profit selling this kind of book, you would a list it for approximately $30USD- which is a much harder sell than $11!
Using the above calculations, here’s how much money you could make selling your cookbooks through amazon:
|Number Of Books Sold
You can use amazon’s printing cost and royalty calculator to find out how much your own cookbook would cost to print & publish!
Where To Sell Your Cookbook
In the beginning, amazon is the best place to sell your cookbook- as you don’t have to keep physical stock/inventory of your book, nor do you need to handle the postage and shipping youself.
If you publish your book through KDP as recommended above, your book should automatically be listed for sale on amazon. This will save you a lot of time and hassle setting up your own shopify site, and daily trips to the post office!
KDP allows you to order bulk copies of your cookbook to sell in person, or through your own website. These are called Author Copies, and can be ordered through your Amazon Bookshelf. You will only be charged the price of printing for these copies, allowing you to on-sell them for a profit.
How To Market Your Cookbook
No matter how much time and effort you put into designing your cookbook, without a good marketing strategy in place it’s unlikely to sell. After all, you’ll be competing against hundreds (if not thousands) of other authors and titles on Amazon!
Pick A Niche/Theme
What’s special about you/your cookbook? What sets you apart from every other budding chef/author out there?
When writing a cookbook, it’s important to niche down. Write in a category with minimal competition, and create a better quality product than what’s already out there.
For instance, if you’re thinking about writing a cookbook about air-fryer recipes, consider writing one about air-fryer recipes on a budget or air-fryer recipes for coeliacs. You want to niche down far enough that there’s less competition on Amazon, but not so far down that there’s no market for your book at all!
If you’re not entirely sure what we mean, here are some more examples (we’ve bolded the sub-niches for you):
- Easy Lebanese recipes
- 101 No-Reheat Lunchbox recipes
- Greek Cuisine You Can Serve in Less Than 30 Minutes
- Low FODMAP Meals With Less Than 10 Ingredients
- Vegan Indian Recipes
Once you have your cookbook listed on amazon, it’s time to think about how you want to brand YOURSELF. Do you want to sell your cookbooks under only your own name, or do you want to start a company selling multiple different kinds of cookbooks. Are you only going to sell a certain kind of niche cookbook (such as Indian recipes, quick recipes, recipes for weight-loss etc), or do you intend to branch out?
All of these questions are going to be important to your brand moving forward, so it’s important to consider them now.
Design A Logo
Once you’ve decided what kind of brand you’d like to start, you should take some time to sit down and design a logo. If you want to use your logo in your cookbook, you should do this step first.
If you want to market yourself as a chef, you should probably create a logo that references your name. Some examples of this (using my own name) are:
If you intend on writing cookbooks focusing on a specific kind of food/cuisine however, you might want to centre your design around that. Here are some examples of logos that I think illustrate this perfectly:
All of the above logos were designed using Canva- the same tool we recommend for building your cookbook cover.
If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out how chef Gordon Ramsay uses a consistent bold text throughout his website to create a brand logo, or how Nigella Lawson uses a feminine colour scheme and her initials!
Related Reading: How To Design A Logo In Canva
Start Your Own Website
Speaking of websites, they’re a fantastic way to market your cookbook!
Starting a food blog is a great way to generate interest in your cookbook. I suggest offering a handful of free recipes to pique peoples interest, before trying to sell them on your book. It’s a great way to build trust, and a loyal fanbase of followers!
Google Ads/Amazon Ads
If you want to drive traffic to your amazon product, or personal website, a good way to do so is by running ads. Google ads work best for directing traffic for your website, while Amazon Ads will drive traffic to your product page.
If you plan on using either, you should make sure to keep a very close eye on your profit margin. Ad campaigns can very quickly add up and eat into your royalties. So, proceed with caution!
Local Markets & Events
One of the best ways to market yourself to your local community is to set up a stall at a market (craft markets, farmers markets and small business events all work equally well).
A good way to garner interest in your cookbook at these kinds of events is to offer free tastings of some of your recipes. Let your cooking speak for itself! Bonus points if you can find a way to cook you meals onsite- the smell alone will gather a crowd!
Once you’ve got a few people interested, it’s time to pitch them your book. Tell them about your best recipes, and why they absolutely NEED to try them. Tell them about who the book is for, and why it matters to you. Sell yourself and your abilities!
How To Scale Your Cookbook Business
Scaling your cooking business is a cinch, there are plenty of ways you can grow your services and your brand. Some of our favourites are:
- Start a cooking Youtube Channel/Tiktok
- Start a food blog & run google ads.
- Turn your physical cookbooks into downloadable PDF’s/Kindle ebooks
- Sell cookware such as oven mitts, and aprons with your logo on them
- Offer in-person cooking lessons
If you’re interested in other side hustles for chefs/cooks, you can find more here.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Do Cookbooks Sell Well?
Yes, absolutely! Not only do people like to collect cookbooks that compliment their palate, they also make fantastic gifts. If you can write a cookbook that caters to a specific market, you should have no problem moving them!
Do I Need To Be A Chef To Write A Cookbook?
No, you just need to have a good idea (and know how to cook). There are plenty of cookbooks on the market written by mom and pop chef’s, or self proclaimed kitchen aficionados.