Cookbook writing advice from the experts

Matt Lee, Ted Lee, David Lebovitz

What does it take to write a cookbook? Obviously it involves much more than simply compiling recipes. Cookbook writers Matt and Ted Lee, authors of The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, share ten things they have learned from the process. Veteran author and food writer David Lebovitz also offers advice on how to write a cookbook.

Both the Lee brothers and Lebovitz advise aspiring authors to find an agent. Finding one who meshes with your style is imperative. The Lees say that “[b]eyond an agent’s expertise (he or she should have some great clients already and know the field of cookbook editors), you should trust your gut on this one: Can you imagine being in a 10- or 20-year business relationship with this person?” Lebovitz echoes that advice, and also notes that “most editors and publishers give top priority to proposals submitted by an agent. One editor told me she gets twenty proposals a day and doesn’t have the time to even look at most of them let alone respond. The best way to find an agent is to look at cookbooks that you like, check the acknowledgments, and take note of the agent.”

Making sure your recipes work is also vitally important. “Broken recipes that make it to print get rapped in the press for not being cookable, and they don’t benefit from positive word-of-mouth among the first people cooking from it. A book like that is rotten at the core and ain’t gonna stay on shelves for long,” say the Lee brothers.

Another good piece of advice: don’t be in a hurry. It can take years to get your book on the shelves. Beyond the writing itself, there are processes of testing, editing and printing to consider. Lebovitz notes that after the writing is finished, “it can take another year to edit, re-test recipes, design and photograph the book. Finally, another year passes before the book is on the shelves.”

Post a comment

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!