Q: I would like to write and sell a cookbook with my mom. I need information on this and any black publishing companies that could help us get started.
–C.C. Workcuff, Kansas City, Missouri
A: “Investigate what’s out there in the market to gauge interest in your cookbook,” says Robert Fleming, author of The African American Writers Handbook: How to Get in Print and Stay in Print (One World/Ballantine Books, $12). “But first write a proposal for your cookbook. Describe what type of cookbook it is, its length and the audience it is targeted to. Talk about why your book will beat the competition. Check to make sure your recipes are accurate. If the quality and attractiveness of your dishes are substandard, food experts and cookbook fans may call you to task. It also never hurts to put in the history of the dish-where and why the ingredients were first used and their significance.”
Look for publishers that produce attractive, quality cookbooks, Fleming suggests. “Look at the packaging. How attractive are the photos? How big or small is the print?”
You’ll also want to consider finding a literary agent for your particular manuscript. Normally, you can’t submit a manuscript to a major publisher without an agent, but you may not need one to submit your manuscript to a smaller, independent house. But before approaching a publisher, you must draft a brief but effective and well-written query letter to pitch your cookbook project. Use information from your proposal to define who your target market is and consumer interest in your cookbook idea; explain why it is important to you; why it has commercial appeal; and why you are qualified to write it. If possible, submit a few recipes from the completed manuscript. And thank the editor for reading your query.
Consult 2000 Writer’s Market: 8,000 Editors Who Buy What You Write (Writer’s Digest Books, $27.99) for publishers’ policies on accepting unsolicited material. If you can’t find a particular publisher in this directory, call them directly and ask for their policy, or check out Black Women in Publishing’s Website at www.bwip.org.
Mail your small business questions to What’s Your Problem?, black enterprise, 130 Fifth Ave., 10th Floor, New York, NY 10011, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.