How I Wrote the Perfect Cookbook–Part 3

How I Wrote the Perfect Cookbook—Part 3.

If you have a topic or a theme for your cookbook, you’re well on your way, but there is still a ways to go. How will you organize it? How many recipes should you include? Do you want photographs? Illustrations? Graphics?

Are you looking to publish with an established publishing house or to self-publish?

At some point you’ll have to resolve these and a dozen other matters, many of which you’ll anticipate and a few you won’t. Before you get to any of them, though, there is a question you must answer, and how you answer it will help you to think through the ones that will follow.

Who is your audience?

People I respect tell me this is first a marketing question—one you must ask and answer for the Editor who is, understandably, wondering if he or she can market and sell the book you want to write.

The business of publishing does mean you will need to think about the market, but asking what the market is, to my mind, is not the same question as Who is your audience.

Who do you see when you imagine someone picking up the book? Who do want them to be? I have always believed that books make their readers. Readers are not inanimate objects, prepackaged and lumpen. They take on the characteristics and personalities we as authors ascribe to them. Books make readers. Not entirely, of course, and not always, of course.  But thinking so helps you to think about what kind of information you want a reader to glean from your book, as well as helps you to think about what sorts of information and knowledge you think the reader brings to the book—or to a recipe.

I wanted my readers to be students as much as cooks; I imagined them to be curious, interested in history, politics, literature, philosophy—and omelets.

I wanted my readers to be playful philosophers, disinclined to following instructions, and willing to try and fail.

So that’s the audience I tried to write for, and that decision influenced pretty much every other decision I had to make along the way.

Did I need exceptionally detailed instructions in the recipes, or should I assume they would know their way around the kitchen?

Would my readers want to get straight to the recipes, or would they be sympathetic to diversions and stories and my idiosyncrasies?