Although we may dream of having our cookbook picked up by a major publishing house that will help us get to the non-fiction best sellers list, most of us are making cookbooks for limited distribution and will use a subsidy publisher. The most important step you take is choosing the subsidy publisher to handle your project.
When using a subsidy publisher, the author bears the cost of publication. The nightmare of every author pursuing this route is spending many hundreds or even thousands of dollars for cartons of unwanted cookbooks in their garage or, worse yet, spending the money and having nothing to show for it. The best way to avoid such a nightmare is to exercise care in choosing your subsidy publisher.
Some subsidy publishers specialize in producing cookbooks and may offer templates and help specifically designed for cookbook authors; others publish books on all topics. Some subsidy publishers print your books in lots and require you to purchase a certain minimum number of books; others “print on demand” (POD) and only charge you for the books you order. Each kind of publisher may charge initial set up fees or provide a menu of specialized services, each with its own fee.
Some of us are happy with shoes we buy at the discount stores for ten or twelve dollars. Others of us are only comfortable with more expensive shoes with strong arch support. So it is with choosing your publisher. You must first know your needs before you can assess the costs involved. Some POD services like Lulu (www.lulu.com) are very low cost if you do not need many copies or services. Prices climb if you do. Others charge a great deal up front but do provide services like easy access to help, design help, and so on.
The only way to determine what the cost will be for your cookbook is use the individual site’s information to calculate an estimate for your project. Some sites make this easy, others do not. If you are not comfortable with doing this, seek help from a friend or colleague who is. Risking a little embarrassment asking for help at this early stage is better than finding yourself with an unexpected and large bill from the publisher.
Have answers to the following questions before you estimate the cost of your project:
- Can I, without help from the publisher, provide a fully formatted .pdf file of my cookbook or do I wish to use a publisher’s template or other design help?
- Do I need a single, large print run of the cookbook (e.g. for a fundraiser) or only individual copies created on demand?
- About how long with my cookbook be?
- Do I want to include colored pictures?
- What size and binding do I wish to use?
The first two questions are the most important for starting your selection of a cookbook publisher.
“.pdf” stands for “portable document format.” It is a file format developed by Adobe Systems in 1993 that is now open standard and available from multiple vendors. Saving a document from something like a word processing program as a .pdf file makes it possible for it to be read and printed as you intended with your specified paging, fonts, illustrations, and the like. There are both free and for-purchase programs available that will allow you to make .pdf files. In additon, more recent versions of word processing programs include printing or saving as a .pdf as options. If you need the publisher to create the .pdf file for you, there is likely to be a charge.
Both large POD firms and many of the cookbook specialty firms provide templates for you to use in creating your cookbook. Some of these are free to use, some are costly. Templates also vary in flexibility. One pitfall with the use of a provided template is that you may need to wholly re-type your cookbook if you wish to move to another publisher. Another is the risk that use of a template’s options, e.g. for colored illustrations, may greatly increase the cost of your cookbook.
If you are ordering a set number of cookbooks, e.g. 200 copies for a church fundraiser, you may find that a cookbook publishing service with templates and upfront charges is the best deal for you. Higher initial cost may be balanced by lower per book cost. On the other hand, if you are ordering only a very few copies or wish to have your cookbook available for individual orders over time, a print-on-demand house is probably the way to go.
A very clear article explaining the pros and cons of print-0n-demand is on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America site at http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/pod/. Another source of helpful information is “Understanding Publisher Royalties” at http://www.publishondemand.net/article.asp?ArticleID=3. Click on the individual publishers at the bottom of the article to see tables explaining the charges for each of the named publishers. Remember, however, that any information from anyone about a particular publisher may not be up-to-date. Charges and services available change frequently.
Some estimate examples made December 5, 2010:
For a few copies of a 150-page, black & white, 8.5″ x 8.5″, perfect-bound paperback from Lulu.com, assuming use of a standard template and free cover design is $9.50 per book plus shipping. If you order 200 copies in bulk, the cost per book goes down to $6.95 per book.
For the minimum number (10 copies) of a 150-page cookbook with no bells and whistles from The Great Family Cookbook Project, expect to pay $34.56 per cookbook plus shipping. If you change the number you intend to order to one shipment of 200 copies, the cost drops to $5.42 per book plus shipping.
|10 copies||200 copies|
|The Great Family Cookbook Project||$354.60||$1084.00|
So, from just these two examples we see that the number of copies we intend to purchase in bulk makes a difference in choosing a publisher.