How Much Does It Really Cost to Self-Publish a Cookbook?

hi, i'm chelsea!

You'll find me just outside of Portland, Oregon, hopefully in my kitchen with a big glass of Willamette Valley red wine and sous viding salmon my husband caught that week, unwinding after a day of recipe development, food photography, and marketing freelance work. Say hi on Instagram: @the.cookbook.lab

more about me

Search the Blog

Embarking on the journey of finally self-publishing the cookbook you’ve been dreaming of is so fun and rewarding, but yes, it does come with a bit of an investment. Don’t worry: I’m going to guide you through the costs involved, from the must-haves to the nice-to-haves, ensuring there are no surprises.

Looking for a little extra help finally getting your book into the hands of your readers? My course, The Cookbook Lab, has everything you need to take your book from start to finish.

The Non-Negotiable: ISBN Costs

Perhaps the biggest essential is your ISBN—a unique identifier for your book (think barcode). Purchasing this from Bowker, you’re looking at $125 for a single ISBN or a bundle of 10 for $295. Opt for the bundle; you’ll need multiple ISBNs for different formats of your book, like Kindle version or hardback, or if you write more cookbooks down the road.

A Tip from The Cookbook Lab: Avoid the temptation of free ISBNs from platforms like Amazon KDP. They might seem convenient, but they’re a bit of a golden handcuff. If you use Amazon’s ISBN, they are the de facto “publisher,” and you can only list your book with them. Think big!

Variable Costs: The Ingredients of Your Cookbook

While all of the below aren’t optional, how much you spend is going to vary depending on how much work you’re willing to do yourself and how frugally you shop.

  • Adobe Suite: If you use Lightroom, you’re likely paying for this anyways, but you’ll also want to get InDesign for designing your cookbook. Your investment here depends on how long you’ll need these tools.
  • Groceries: This is one expense you likely already know well. Depending on the types of recipes in your book (i.e. baked goods vs. meat) and how many times you plan to test, the bill here can vary.
  • Recipe Editing: I have learned so much about recipe writing from good recipe editors. Every one of your recipes should lead the reader to replicate your dish, and a good recipe editor can make sure that happens.
  • Copy Editing: Don’t skip this. Even after you, your mom, and your best friend have combed through the manuscript a dozen times, a professional editor can think of things you wouldn’t have.

Optional (but dang helpful!) Expenses

Do you need to shell out for the below expenses? No, but they can be super helpful! This is where it really comes down to time vs. money.

  • Printing a Draft: I printed my draft at FedEx to edit in physical form—a decision that paid off immensely. This also lets you see how your font and photos will print.
  • Indexing: An easy thing to forget, but a well-organized index is a reader’s best friend. Whether you DIY or hire out, it’s a step you can’t skip.
  • Photography: If you’re a food blogger, this might be something you’re happy to handle yourself, but if not or if you don’t have the time, you can hire out. Heads up: this can get very expensive.
  • Book Tour/Publicity: Good PR will make or break your cookbook. This is something you can do yourself, or you can hire a publicist. We also teach PR basics in The Cookbook Lab! If you want to go on tour, you’ll foot the bill for travel, but it can be so fun to see folks in person.

What about printing and fulfillment?

In The Cookbook Lab, we teach about “Print on Demand” (POD) publishing. What does this mean? POD publishers don’t print a copy of your book until someone places an order. This is amazing for you, the self-published author, because you aren’t sitting on a garage full of cookbooks you hope people buy, that you’ve had to front the cost of printing and shipping for.

Print costs will vary for each book and the POD publisher. If you’d like to get an idea, check out the KDP royalty calculator.

The Bottom Line: Earnings and Opportunities

I’ll be upfront: writing a cookbook is not going to get you rich. If that’s what you’re hoping for, don’t embark on this project.

However, they’re a nice source of passive income and, more importantly, can significantly enhance your brand, as well as your EEAT. Since publishing my cookbooks, I’ve done countless TV appearances, podcast interviews, tables at events like farmers markets, and so much more. Before taking my blog full time, I even got a job because of my cookbooks!

My blog has benefited so much from the authority I’ve gained as an author and I’ve been provided countless opportunities because of my hard work creating these cookbooks. 

Tailoring Your Budget with The Cookbook Lab

Wondering about the exact cost for you to bring your cookbook to life? I’ve developed a tool just for that.

Plus, The Cookbook Lab will walk you through each phase of self-publishing, ensuring you understand exactly what you need to do to bring your book to life. Choosing the self-publishing route can seem daunting, but with the right guidance and a clear understanding of costs, your cookbook dream is well within reach. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

@2019-2024 The Cookbook Lab | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy