How to Create a Community Recipe Book

Old kitchen with cookbook
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Creating a community recipe book is often a labor of love and can be fun — but 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 learning about organizing the cookbook project committees and making decisions about format, publishing services and desired pricing. Then start cooking — ah, creating — the actual recipe book. Here are the steps.

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 that 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 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) — printers require high resolutions.
  • 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 — via email or software?

    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.

    Choose a Title

    You want an appealing title to maximize sales. Here's how to create a book title and create a subtitle.

    Test the Recipes

    Many community cookbook organizers skip this step — assuming that the home cooks have made the dishes many times. But it's great to make sure that all the recipes work.

    Obtain and Organize the Food Photography or Artwork

    This can be photos and/or illustrations. This step also includes making sure you have permission to use the photos and have the proper photo credit to put in the book.

    Write Catchy Recipe Titles, Chapter Intros...

    ... and any additional copy necessary. Edit headnotes, etc.

    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.

    Proofread the Entire Book

    Recipes have their own proofreading challenges, and proofreading, in general, takes a precise eye. If your group has a budget, again, consider hiring freelance editorial help. 

    Create the Index

    These are optional but very useful and allow for more detailed search than the table of contents in a printed book. For the most professional job, you may want to hire an indexer to do this.

    Lay Out the Pages

    Depending on the book publishing service used, this is likely templated and done online.

    Design the Cookbook Jacket

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

    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. Get a number of eyes on the cookbook before it gets printed.

    And when the recipe book is printed and finished...

    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.