How to Create a Community Recipe Book

Steps to Creating a Community Cookbook

The image shows a home cook's hands adding ingredients to a bowl. Next to the bowl sits a well-used cookbook with simple ingredients listed.

Cavan Images / Getty Images

Creating a community recipe book is often a labor of love for a group, and can be fun. With that said, writing a cookbook can also be complex and time-consuming, even with a lot of able and willing hands on deck. 

Whether your group wants to write a cookbook online or use a cookbook publishing service, start by conceptualizing what you want the cookbook to contain and how it will look. Here are the steps:

1) Plan Your Community Recipe Book

Before you ask for recipe submissions, decide if your cookbook will have a theme or other important elements. Is the cookbook simply regional cuisine or is it focused on potluck favorites? Also, what types of recipes will it contain? Will it just be desserts or will there be recipes for every meal?

Some other things to consider before you get started include how long your book will be, so you can decide on the number of recipes you need to gather. What categories or chapters will be in the book? Decide your printing plans, such as submitting to a publisher or self-publishing through a local print service or print-on-demand. Will there be photos and, if so, how many?

2) Collect the Community Recipes

The largest and most time-consuming part of writing a recipe book is gathering the recipes from the group. These tips make it easier.

Create a template. It's most efficient if there is a template that offers guidelines contributors can follow when they are writing their recipes. Some things to consider:

  • Give hints on how to write cookbook recipes in case the contributors haven't written their own.
  • How many?: Do you want them to submit just one or a half dozen, so you can choose? Be specific.
  • Headnotes: Ask people to give some background or additional information about the recipe. Some possibilities are: why the recipe is a favorite, the origins of the dish or its history of being served in the family, make-ahead or serving suggestions, where to find specialty ingredients, allowable substitutions, etc.
  • Type of dish: Where will this recipe fit in the cookbook? What sub-section or chapters will there be in the book? Give contributors specifics to make it easy to choose the recipe.
  • Photos or illustrations: If contributors submit photos, make sure to get photo credits and permissions to publish in the book. Let them know the minimum dimensions and minimum dots per inch (dpi) you'll need for the photos to print well. Your printer should have guidelines on this if you don't know.
  • Remind contributors of recipe ethics: It's not okay to copy or use adapted recipes without attribution.

Do a wide call-out for recipes. Let potential contributors know the theme of the cookbook and what sub-categories/chapters there are for the recipes to fit into. Also, let them know exactly how you want the recipes and materials submitted, such as through email or an online form.

Establish a firm deadline and send reminders. A deadline is critical to ensure people get their cookbook recipes in on time. Many people procrastinate on projects like this, so send deadline reminders more frequently the two weeks before your cutoff date.

3) Choose a Title for Your Community Cookbook

Create a cookbook title and a subtitle that reflect your community, as well as the theme you've chosen. It should also be appealing to maximize sales. You and your committee can brainstorm ideas or even solicit input from other members of your group. Having the group contribute ideas to the cookbook can make them feel a part of the process, which will lead them to want to buy a copy when it comes out.

4) Test the Recipes

Many community cookbook organizers skip this step, assuming that the home cooks have made the dishes many times. Testing the recipes not only ensures that the food tastes great, but also that the recipes are easy to follow.

5) Obtain and Organize the Food Photography or Artwork

Cookbook artwork can include photos and/or illustrations. This step also involves making sure you have permission to use the photos and have the proper photo credit to put in the book. The artwork should meet the photo standards you indicated during the call for recipes to insure they print well in the book.

6) Write Catchy Recipe Titles and Chapter Intros

Recipe titles should make it clear what the recipe is and any special attributes it might have. For example: Aunt Rose's Gluten-Free Double-Chocolate Cake. Also include any additional copy necessary, such as who is Aunt Rose, why this gluten-free cake is tasty, and any other headnotes you want to include, such as nutrition facts or serving amount.

7) Edit the Cookbook

The format of each recipe should be consistent, as they are in professional cookbooks, and editors need to make sure the recipes are written clearly so they make sense to the reader. All the other text should be grammatically correct and error-free. You might want professional proofreading help.

8) Proofread the Entire Book

Recipes have their own proofreading challenges, and proofreading, in general, takes a precise eye. If your group has a budget, consider hiring freelance editorial help. Consider asking a few members of your group to beta read the book as well. The more eyes that have gone through the book, the more likely all errors will be caught.

9) Create the Index

An index isn't required, but it is useful and appreciated by cooks because it allows for more detailed search than the table of contents. For the most professional job, you may want to hire an indexer to do this.

10) Lay out the Pages

Depending on the book publishing service used, a template will likely be provided, and you'll be able to do this online. If not, you'll want to use a design program to layout and format your recipe book's pages.

11) Design the Cookbook Jacket

The publishing service you choose may provide this service. Note that the book jacket is an important component, and many people in your committee will have an opinion and want to weigh in. Decide early how you will handle choosing the jacket.

12) Submit the Materials to the Publishing Service

Your service will have guidelines to follow, and reputable services will have a system of proofs and checks. If your cookbook will be printed, order a galley proof before approving the print run. Get a number of eyes on the cookbook before it gets printed.

When the recipe book is printed and finished...

13) Throw a Launch Party for Your Cookbook

For fundraising or for fun, celebrate the huge accomplishment of publishing a cookbook.

  • Feature recipes from the book as refreshments.
  • If the book is for charity fundraising, call the local press to cover the event.
  • Be sure to publicly thank the entire cookbook committee.
  • If you're selling the book online, make sure to have a computer on-hand so the attendees can place orders right then and there.
  • Don't forget online marketing strategies. A YouTube video making a recipe, Instagram photos of recipes, and other online marketing tactics can help boost sales.