Pick a Point of View
You don’t have to have gone to culinary school to get your own cookbook, but you do need a point of view. There are a million great bakers and creative cooks out there, and ten times that many successful blogs. What makes you stand out from the pack?

If the answer doesn’t jump out at you instantly — “I sneak vegetables into regular food to trick kids into eating them” — get out a blank piece of paper and brainstorm. Ask yourself:

    – What makes my style of cooking different from everyone else’s?
    – How is my story unique?
    – Why would someone want/need my recipes?

Hone in on what makes you special–whether it’s your favorite flavor profiles or your technical techniques. What do you have to offer that the world desperately needs?

If you’re having trouble, try watching the any episode of any season of “The Next Food Network Star.” The contestants are asked by the judges to come up with their own pilot idea for a new TV show that reflects their own culinary point of view. Those who have no idea or can’t express it are gone, no matter good their cooking is. Those who have a fun spin on food go the farthest. Examples:

    In Season 4, New Jersey dad Aaron McCargo, Jr. explained that his passion was simple soul food with “big, bold flavors.” He won, and now hosts “Big Daddy’s House.” His cookbook? Simply Done, Well Done shares his passion for big, bold flavors and fun family cooking.

    In Season 5, mom Melissa d’Arabian insisted amazing, gourmet meals could be made family-friendly and inexpensively. She won, and now hosts “Ten Dollar Dinners.” Her first cookbook by the same name Ten Dollar Dinners debuted on the New York Times bestseller list.

    In Season 6, food blogger Aarti Sequeira pitched her desire to blend her knowledge of Indian flavors with traditional American cuisine. She won, and now hosts “Aarti Paarti.” Aarti is currently writing her first cookbook, due out in 2014.

The Elevator Pitch
After you’ve filled a page (or two) with what makes you great, summarize it in just a couple of striking sentences.

In business, it’s called “the elevator pitch.” The idea is that if you were on an elevator with the executive who could green-light your project, you should be able to convince them of your brilliance in just the time it takes for them to reach their floor. As in: five minutes or less. Any longer or more complicated explanation and you’ve lost them.

Your point of view should be clear, concise, and creative. You want your cookbook to catch a publisher’s and the public’s attention. While “My Blog: The Cookbook” does occasionally get published (ala The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook), you have a much greater chance of getting published if you have an out-of-the-ordinary, or even better, extraordinary idea.

    Matt Armendariz of the blog Matt Bites got his first book by pitching how great food on a stick is: party food, street food, even junk food. His book On a Stick! 80 Party-Perfect Recipes was published by Quirk Books in 2011.

    Even though their blog Spoon Fork Bacon covers everything from pickled radishes to baked blueberry donuts, Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park had a smaller notion for their first book. Tiny Food Party!: Bite-Size Recipes for Miniature Meals was published in 2013.

    Piece of Cake blogger Shauna Sever’s first book wasn’t about cake at all. The self-described “baker next door” had a puffy epihany for a book that hadn’t been overdone. Marshmallow Madness! sold well enough that she got her second book deal for another niche idea: Pure Vanilla.

    And while Adrianna Adarme’s blog A Cozy Kitchen shares recipes for any meal and any occasion, she zoomed in on one specialty for her first book. Pancakes: 72 Sweet and Savory Recipes for the Perfect Stack was released in 2013.


Your First Front Cover
One way to get your sales summary down is to pretend you’re writing a blurb for the front cover of your book (you’ll write the back cover as part of your proposal)–the single sentence that convinces someone to bite and buy it.

For Fabulicious: Fast & Fit the winning idea was: “healthy Italian recipes made with 10 ingredients or less that go from start-to-stove in under 15 minutes.” For Fabulicious: On the Grill it was bringing easy, no-fuss Italian cooking to the grill by learning how to operate your own “outdoor oven.”

Now On to Step 2!
Once you have a clear vision of your value proposition, it’s time to sell it in your proposal.

>> Next: Step #2 – Write a Proposal