Here’s a breakdown of why I decided self-publishing on Amazon was the right thing for my cookbook, as opposed to traditional publishing. I give you some of my best self publishing tips and all the pros and cons!

I self-published my first ever cookbook, Everyday Sous Vide: It’s All French to Me, back in 2018.

Since then, my life has been a whirlwind of opportunity and support. I feel so lucky, so grateful, so in awe of the people in my life and the ones I’ve met since launching and how they’ve supported me.

I’ve been talking to a community of food bloggers and one question I keep getting is: why should I self-publish instead of going the traditional publishing route?

Before we get into this, a moment of disclosure: I haven’t been down the traditional publishing road myself, but I have been approached by a publisher and talked to several cookbook authors about their own experiences (self-published and traditionally published).

Chelsea holding her cookbook while sitting at her desk.

High Level: Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

Pros of self-publishing:

  • You get to write about whatever you want to write about!
  • You own the look and feel of the book.
  • You get to pick the title.
  • It’s on your timeline.
  • You get ALL the royalties.
  • The book is 100% yours.

Cons of self-publishing:

  • Your distribution won’t be as great.
  • A smaller network to tap into for PR.
  • You have to source someone to edit your book.
  • You have to project manage the process.
  • You don’t get an advance.

Let’s break it down.

Creative Control

If you choose to work with a traditional publisher, the content of the book is ultimately up to them. A few … horror feels like too strong of a word, but let’s go for it … horror stories I’ve heard:

  • The author was forced to change the title of her book, despite her own very strong feelings about it.
  • The author was asked to write on a completely new topic, despite the year of work she’d put into the previous concept

If you self-publish, you determine the book’s destiny. Although this can seem scary and the imposter syndrome sirens might be blaring in your brain (“Don’t they know better than me?!”), your gut instincts could be correct. Make sure to really test the concept with your audience, but go with your gut!

Aren’t sure what you want to write your cookbook about or how to test the topic with your audience?

Money, Moolah, Dough

Yes, if you go with a traditional publisher, you get an advance. But unless you’re Chrissy Teigen, this advance will probably only be a few thousand dollars.

What’s worse is that the amount cookbook authors are paid for an advance hasn’t change, but their workload has. Now, many authors are expected to do their own food photography, hire someone to do their index, and much of their own marketing & PR in this new social media dependent landscape.

Once you’ve made that advance back and the royalties start coming in, you’ll be splitting those royalties with your publisher and possibly your agent. Real talk: most cookbook authors make less than $1 per book. I make between $4 and $5 on my self-published book. Which means: even though they have higher distribution, I only have to sell 1 book for every 4 they sell to make the same amount of money.

You get it.

Wondering how much you’ll have to invest in order to self-publish your cookbook? I break that down here: The Cost of Self-Publishing a Cookbook.

I’ve also got a free calculator so you can figure out your specific costs:

Project Management

Okay, yes, this one’s a toughie. But it can be done. And frankly, if you are already a food blogger who’s considering self-publishing, I bet you’re a good self-manager.

Set a timeline, and do your best to stick to it. I was two weeks late with my book, and you know what? I’m pretty dang happy with that.

I used the work management platform, Asana to manage the entire process (and the two people I hired to help: graphic designer and copy editor).

More good news? I’m working on something that will guide you through the process from start to finish, so you don’t have to do what I did and essentially pave your own way.

You do you.

Really, it all depends on what you want for yourself and for your book. There are lots of advantages to going with a publisher.

But if you have a burning book idea that you want to get out into the world, try self-publishing! It could lead to a book deal. In fact, I had a publisher reach out to me about doing a project with them because of my self-published book.

Prefer to watch instead of read? I made a video version for you!

I created a whole course to guide you through self-publishing your own cookbook from start to finish. It’s not open for enrollment now, but get on the waitlist so you’ll know the moment it is: