Types of Cookbooks

Hey there. This video is going to be all about determining the type of cookbook you want to put out. There's many different types and they don't have to be just recipe based. We're going to talk about the different ones and what might work best for you. So, let's get started.

Everyone is familiar with the classic recipe-based cookbook. It contains a lot of recipes all together in one book. However, that's not the only way you could approach a cookbook. One of the other types might be more suited to your writing style. Here's an overview of the main types of cookbooks that you might be interested in and want to explore writing.

Recipe-Based Cookbook

We'll start with the one everyone knows, the recipe-based cookbook. There are many different ways you can approach this. But at the most basic level, it's a book with a ton of recipes in it. To me, the most quintessential look at a recipe book is The Essential New York Times Cookbook. It has a thousand pages of all recipes with maybe 50 black and white photos in it. It's basically just recipe, after recipe, after recipe on everything you would ever want a recipe for. Even the recipe intros are only a paragraph long. There is nothing included on how or why to do these recipes. It's just the recipe itself.

That's a great way to approach it, but most authors don't take it quite to this extreme. A lot do have some sort of guidance or information about the whys of the recipes and not just the recipes themselves. But a recipe-based book, at the most basic, comes down to having a lot of different recipes in it.

Informational or Technique-Driven Cookbook

The second type of cookbook that I like to talk about is an informational type. These still have recipes. You're still allowing people to cook food, but you're diving more into the technique and the hows and the whys of the recipes. Your goal is to educate them, not just provide them a series of steps to finish a recipe.

I like to hold up Michael Ruhlman's books, especially his recent ones, as great examples of this type of cookbook. One of his is called How to Roast. It's 160 pages long with 20 recipes, only 20 recipes in 160 pages. That's because his goal is to not give you a recipe for a roast chicken and a roast turkey and a roast beef. His goal is to educate you on why roasting works, and how roasting works. So, when you decide you want to roast something you can figure out the recipe on your own. You don't need to rely on him. You have the knowledge and the information to make your own decisions.

Most of the books I've done fall in between these two types of books, recipe based and informational based. A lot of mine have less recipes. I probably have 20 or 30 in a lot of my books, but I'm very heavy on the technique and the hows and the whys you're using sous vide to do certain things. I do have a few that are more traditional recipe base that have 100 to 200 recipes and just a little bit of information at the beginning. So, you can explore these two methods to really come up with a sweet spot that suits your style the most.

Collaborative Cookbook

Another type of cookbook that's usually a recipe-based or informational base cookbook is a collaborative cookbook. A collaborative cookbook is when you work with other chefs, other writers, and/or other bloggers to come up with a cookbook together. It's a mixture of your recipes and their recipes, your information and their information to better fulfill the needs of your readers.

There's a lot of different ways to do this. You could work with one other person. Maybe you're not as strong in photography and they are. So, you write the recipes, and they make and photograph them all. Then you combine it together.

You can also work with many different people and combine everyone's recipes in one book. That's one thing I did with my co-founder, Michael la Charite, at the International Sous Vide Association when we put out our Champions of Sous Vide book. We worked with about 30 different chefs and food bloggers to come up with some of their best recipes. We combined it all in one package and sold it. There were over 100 recipes from 30 chefs who are some of the biggest names in sous vide.

It's a great way to raise the profile of the book, especially if you can find people that are bigger names than you, which normally you can do. Providing a recipe for a book is often a pretty small ask for a lot of people. And one of the additional benefits to having a collaborative cookbook is that most people are excited to have a recipe in a cookbook. So, when you put out your book and you send them links to say, “Hey, here's where you can get that book with your recipe in it.” They're going to share it with their friends and family. They're going to share it with their fans. And it's a lot easier to get people to write about your cookbook when they have recipes already in it.

Story-Based or Narrative Cookbook

The last type of cookbook I want to talk about is what I call a story-based cookbook. This is one that doesn't rely on recipes. It's more of a storytelling book. They usually have recipes in it, but it's not the highlight of the book at all. They can be historical based like High on a Hog which is a great look at African American food pathways and how a lot of the classic dishes got over here.

They can be biographical. There's a lot of books out there that will look at different places at different times and will talk about the recipes that people were making at that time. And it can even be fictional. I know there's an entire detective series that I think is based around a bake shop and they have recipes from that fictional bake shop included in the book.

In a lot of cases, people aren't buying these just for the recipes. They're buying it to read the story, to take in the information and to either learn or be entertained by it. Just like the collaborative book, the story-based can also be combined with some of the other types of cookbooks. So now you have an idea of numerous different types of cookbooks you could put out.

It doesn't have to be just 200 recipes in one book. You have many of options. There are a lot of things you can explore to see what's best for your writing style and for the type of food that you write about.

In the next video, we're going to talk about choosing your subject. Nothing is going to make or break the success of your cookbook more than the subject you choose. You have to choose a good one and then you have to execute. But if you don't choose a good subject, you have very little hope of being successful. I'm looking forward to helping you with that next.

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