So You Want to Write a Cookbook


I’m not the first and certainly won’t be the last to memorialize a writing experience, by well, writing about it. I have dreamed of writing a cookbook for years. Most of my adult life. The promise of printing a cookbook from a list of collected recipes was one of the reasons I purchased the software program MasterCook more than 20 years ago. That promise didn’t hold, but it has been my go-to for storing recipe, menu planning, and shopping lists ever since and has helped immensely in the process of organizing my collection.

Then five years ago I started a blog. 

Sharing a passion that nourishes body and soul is deeply satisfying. I also appreciate the way recipes tangibly connect generations while photo albums sit on shelves and old stories are sometimes lost. But recipes, those wrapped in tradition and comfort, remain. You may not have a photograph of your grandmother close at hand, but her Christmas cookies are a mainstay every year, and you think about her and tell the story again to new friends and family. So this blog and writing a cookbook has been living that passion and passing it on to my kids.

The process of writing a cookbook is radically different than cooking and collecting recipes.

Cooking feels like a natural instinct to me, a flow of creative energy channeled in stirring, mixing, and blending. Stopping to jot notes, set a timer for every step, and measure every ounce of salt and pepper can be a fun sucker, for sure. I can appreciate how it has improved my recipe writing skills (I’m thinking you will too!) and the process has opened my eyes to places I need to improve.

Throwing food away goes against my grain, but when a recipe doesn’t work out (again), sometimes dumping it is all you can do. Or the doorbell rings in the middle of a cooking session, and the timing element gets all out of whack—it will be back on the menu again soon to really nail it. It has made me appreciate the spontaneity of blog posts, following the whimsy of whatever sounds good, knowing I can change typos at any time (I’ve updated this post three times already).

Then there’s the doubt and self-imposed deadlines, met and unmet. 

Self-imposed because self-publishing demands someone stay on task, which brings a whole new hat-wearing learning curve, but I like the level of independence and control. Of course, I’ll let you know how much I liked it once it’s done. 😉 Speaking of deadlines, a few months ago a friend asked me how long I’d been working on the cookbook. It’s funny how answering a direct question changes your perspective and motivation (or sends a wake-up call). I paused to think about it and said, “Ten years.” The next day I was working on a schedule with clear goals and a real deadline.

Doubt creeps in. Anytime I see a concept I’ve been working on already published, glance at the long lists or read an article about how cookbooks don’t really make any money, I want to cry and retreat. Then I see articles claiming just the opposite, something connects and I learn a new trick, or someone raves about a recipe, and my hope soars. What a roller coaster! It has taken an exercise of faith, and the steady encouragement of those who have faith in me, to keep going; to know it matters, and to see it through.

To see a dream realized holds value in what it makes of us.

At this point, I feel like I’m running a marathon and I’m somewhere around mile marker 20. I’ve already run farther than ever before so there’s victory in that, but there are miles to go. The excitement and creativity that once swirled in my head at the start is now a list of tasks keeping me focused on the finish line. And I’m tired. The question of “how bad do you really want it” motivates me to learn more about my camera as well as organize props and writing tools. Of course, when you’re busy it’s harder to stay on budget, which is another area of discipline needing some work. (Food and publishing expenses can quickly get out of hand.)

There have been days I’ve had to walk away from it to enjoy a simple dinner without analysis or photos. I think that has been a good thing, like slowing down for a cup of cold water. Yet another lesson in savoring when things are pressing in. I am blessed with a faithful cheering section, holding out the cup for me along the way just when I need it (and happily eating one more pan of test brownies). Extra props to Matt for all the dish washing and idea processing these last months—he has been rock-solid.

Oh, and there’s a blog redesign coming too. 

Like I needed a thousand more decisions to make right now, but Savoring Today really is due for some redecorating and better functionality. So when I’m done writing and cooking by day, I pin color, font, and texture ideas to a Pinterest design board by night. Might as well do everything at once, right?! I have wanted to make some changes for a long time, and there isn’t a better time than when promoting a new product or book. Between the two, I’m starting to think the first of June will feel like Christmas around here.

All this to say, thank you, to everyone reading, following, sharing, and commenting. You inspire me with your own accomplishments, encouragement, and creativity. I have been abundantly blessed sharing food and friendship with you these past five years and hope there are many more. 🙂




  1. says

    Really interesting read. In a former life I was an acquisitions book editor. Never did cookbooks, but at one place my office was next door to the food editor. The books you’d know about that she did were the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) books. Because I was so into cooking, she and I talked about her books a lot, so I know a bit about cookbook publishing (and a lot about book publishing in general). It’s a hard biz, and I admire the work you’re putting in. Writing any book really is work, and it takes a lot of discipline, as you’ve discussed. Good luck! It’s a fun process, although I know so well the periods of frustration that you sometimes face.
    [email protected] Riffs recently posted..Mexican Charro BeansMy Profile

    • says

      Hi John, you are right, it is a hard biz, and nearly every day I question the sanity. We’ve had some eyes-wide-open discussions about it and have come to the conclusion I have to try. I’ll start with an e-cookbook and follow-up with hard copy, one step at at time. Thanks for your well wishes and any advice you’d like to impart. 🙂

  2. says

    Exciting news, Judy, hang in there and follow that dream! I feel the same way and have been considering a book for the last twenty years or so. Looking forward to seeing your end product… and the new look blog xox

  3. says

    I know exactly what you are talking about. It took me years to finish and publish my book and in hindsight I should have taken a litte more time to change a few things but I guess that is how you live and learn. I am in the throes of updating a section of it but getting to spend 5 minutes on it is near impossible at the moment. You have re motivated me to get cracking and looking forward to your finished book and new blog look.
    Have a beautiful weekend Judy.
    🙂 Mandy xo
    Mandy recently posted..Maputo, MozambiqueMy Profile

  4. says

    Dear Judy,

    I think writing a cookbook gives a lot of clarity and a chance for us to reexamine our cooking philosophy, how we treat fresh ingredients and foods that inspire us the most. Good luck in your venture.

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