Authoring a cookbook isn’t only about introducing inventive recipes to the world, it is also… a book. An important part of writing a cookbook is the actual task of writing and if you desire to go down that route, prepare yourself for hours of draft scribbling. Personally, writing and cooking are two of my most enjoyable activities, and therefore, creating culinary content is a perfect combination of these two great loves.
Too long ago, I was sitting in this weird restaurant in Hampi, India. Backpacking alone, I decided to visit that beautiful UNESCO site and found myself spending a few hours every day just sitting next to the riverbank, eating mangos and writing my odd stories. A fellow backpacker from New Zealand happened to sit in the table next to mine and we started chatting. I learned that he was an author and so we exchanged stories and chatted about the meaning of writing in our lives. It was then that he told me a statement that remains with me till now. He said that some authors are excellent writers, and some are excellent storytellers, but for the most part, it’s either-or. Right then I realized that I belong to the latter group. I love inventing stories, but I’m always frustrated that my language skills are not up to par. That conversation made me less apologetic. I realized I’m good at storytelling and that it’s fine to be assisted on the linguistic front. This is exactly where the editor comes into the picture.
I find the chemistry between the author and editor to be extremely important. Good editors, in my opinion, stay true to the message but work their magic to transform the jibber-jabber into a beautifully told tale. As this is my first English book, I had no professional network to approach and so I sent test copies to four editors. After a short engagement with each, I picked the one where the ‘fit’ was most evident.
It is worth mentioning that using the services of editors who have experience with cookbooks is preferable as there is specific expertise around this genre. Units, measurements, the order of displayed ingredients, specifying the level of heat when cooking and many more are examples of feedback the cookbook editor will look for in addition to the general betterment of language.
To identify the right editor, I utilized Reedsy (www.reedsy.com) and found it very helpful. Every time that I finished a chapter and asked a few friendlies to go over it, I sent the copy her way and we started ‘ping-ponging’ until the copy was fully edited. All n’ all editing for the book cost me $2,900. The High Cookery book has a total of ~38,000 words which makes it 7.5 cents per word. I have no idea whether this is on the more expensive or cheaper side, but I hope you can use this for your reference.
Proofreading is the last step in the production of your cookbook before you take it to print (if you’re not only doing digital). I remember in my first cookbook I was extremely skeptical about the need for a proofreader. At that point, the book was read and re-read by at least a dozen people, some of whom read every word multiple times. I thought there isn’t much to fix at that point and proofreading would just be a waste of my money.
Luckily, the book’s editor and designer colluded together and pressured me into hiring a proofreader, and, reluctantly, I did so. When I received the manuscript back all covered in red comments, I realized how wrong I was. Most pages had some degree of mistakes in them. I was left, very uncharacteristically, speechless.
Proofreaders check for spelling, grammatical errors, consistency, page numbers, photo captions, URLs, recipe specifics and much more… They are your last line of defense before you release your creation to the world. I haven’t met a lot of professional proofreaders in my life but after meeting a few, I came to the conclusion that this level of detail orientation also comes with a certain personality. I can’t see how most people will be able to notice so many errors after so many eyes have scoured the manuscript back and forth. This is why I treat them with the reverence I reserve for the mentalists and magicians in our world.
As you can gather, I feel proofreading is a critical part of the book production and you would do good to invest the time and effort and identify the right professional for the task. In High Cookery the proofreading cost me $1,500 and was worth every dollar.