So, you’re thinking of self-publishing a cookbook! That’s awesome. I self-published my first cookbook in 2018. You can read more about that here if you want!

And now you’re wondering about the cost of self-publishing a cookbook. When you decide to self-publish as opposed to traditionally publish, that means you choose to take everything on yourself, including fronting the costs.

However, you should know that even if you traditionally published, a lot of the costs we’re going to discuss would come out of your advance, anyways. So, in the long run of the process, you’ll still end up fronting the costs.

Fixed Costs of Self-Publishing a Cookbook

The only true fixed cost of self-publishing a cookbook is the cost of your ISBN, or your barcode. These are purchased from a company called Bowker.

The cost of your ISBN will cost you either $125 or $295. Why either cost? You can purchase 1 ISBN (barcode) for $125, or 10 for $295. I highly recommend just getting 10 at $295.

Why? You’ll need a separate ISBN for a Kindle book if you choose to make one, and that way you have more ready to go if you decide to publish additional books!

An important note: if you choose to self-publish with Amazon’s KDP platform (which I recommend due to its ease of use and because Amazon is the biggest book dealer in the world whether we like it or not), they will say that you can get an ISBN for free through them. DO NOT DO THIS.

This ISBN is only valid for Amazon purchases, and once it’s on your book, it’s tied to your book for ever. No takesy backsies. Do it the right way from the start so if a small local kitchen supply store or an independent company wants to carry and sell your book, they can! (For what it’s worth: my book is sold places other than Amazon!). This is not the place to save a buck, k?

Variable Costs of Self-Publishing

The following are services/things you’ll need but will cost more or less depending on…

  • The quality (i.e. # of years experience an editor has)
  • The amount of time you use them for (i.e. # of months you need the Adobe Suite for)
  • The degree to which you do yourself vs hiring out (i.e. building the index yourself or hiring someone to index for you)

Okay, let’s get to it! Here are your variable items when it comes to the cost of self-publishing:

  • The Adobe Suite
    • You’ll want the Adobe Suite for editing your photos in Lightroom and building your book using InDesign.
  • Groceries
    • Obviously, the cost of this will vary depending on the quality of groceries you buy!
  • Recipe Editing
    • In my view, this is a nonnegotiable cost. Another set of eyes, a set of eyes in front of a brain that has experience recipe writing, is so important to make sure your recipes are written clearly and correctly.
  • Copy Editing
    • Another nonnegotiable. Here’s what I did: read and reread it myself until I thought it was perfect. Made every willing friend and family member read and reread. Then, when I thought it was perfect, I hired an editor to go through with a fine tooth comb.

Optional Costs of Self-Publishing

These costs are optional: things you could choose to skip or choose to do yourself. It’s mostly a matter of time vs. money.

  • Printing
    • Once an editor had gone through my book, I chose to have it printed at FedEx so I could see how it looked in paper form and edit it in a different form. I’m so glad I did!!! My volunteer editors also combed through my book once printed.
  • Indexing
    • The index is something that will sneak up on you. You’ll be like “My book is done! Oh, crap, the dang index.” It’s essentially thinking of tags for every single recipe, and organizing them all into an index. It’s tedious and time consuming. I chose to hire it out, but you do you!
  • Photography
    • If you’re a food blogger, it may feel obvious to do this yourself, but lots of cookbook authors who even are food bloggers don’t! Do you know Serena Wolf of Domesticate Me or Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking? Both hired out for their books. I chose to do the photography myself. It is a lot of work. SO MUCH WORK. But I wanted complete creative control.
  • A Book Tour/Publicity
    • I did not do a book tour, but I did do several live TV appearances, events, and classes here in Portland when my book came out. I did all of this work myself (more than you’d think!) and I really loved it all. I have a full time day job, so this was the easiest thing for me and it really paid off!

Okay but, how much will I make off my self-published cookbook?

Almost all cookbook authors will tell you: cookbooks are not a great source of income. You’ll make money, and if you manage your expenses well you will certainly make your investment back (I did pretty quickly).

Think of it as a nice source of passive income that will probably cover your monthly blog expenses, but not much else.

The real value comes from all of the opportunities being a cookbook author brings! I’m now make regular appearances on a local TV station, do dozens of local events of year, have held booths at farmer’s markets and holiday markets, done podcast interviews, been asked to be a judge on contest panels, been involved with food conferences, and so much more.

Writing a cookbook gives you authority and respect in your space, and gives folks a reason to talk to you!

How much will it cost, exactly, me, specifically, to self-publish?

You just read a bunch of what ifs and hypotheticals, but I created a tool that will allow you to figure out exactly how much it will cost you specifically to self-publish your cookbook.

I also created a course that guides you through the self-publishing process from ideation to building to designing to marketing. It’s not open for enrollment right now, but get on the list so you’ll know when it is: