Three ways to collaborate on a cookbook with a professional writer
So you’re a cafe owner, community development coordinator, health and wellness professional or marketing manager for a food brand. You know that making a cookbook is the direction your content marketing needs to go. But you also know you don’t have the resources in your team to pull it together - especially when it comes to writing the words.
The most obvious next step is to engage a professional writer to help you pull together a complete text and deliver the copy for your book in a timely way. But then you have to ask the question, how am I going to work with that writer?
I’ve worked on several of these projects and thought I’d share three possible ways of working with a professional writer to produce your cookbook and why they work in certain situations.
Outsource the writing completely
The first and most obvious way to work with a professional writer is to outsource your project completely. This is a good option if you don’t have the time to write (or even project manage) a big content marketing initiative. This takes away a lot of the stress and pressure, but to ensure the best results for your business, you’ll need to brief the writer very clearly before they begin work.
You’ll need to provide clear information about:
Your purpose: What do you want to achieve with your cookbook? Maybe you want to increase sales of your product. Perhaps you are keen to raise awareness of an initiative within your community or profile the food businesses in your area. Being clear about this from the outset not only helps the writer deliver for you, it also helps you to measure your success and the return on investment at the end of the project.
Your audience: Who do you want to read this book? It may be the same as your businesses target market or you may be trying to warm up a new one.
Your voice: How do you usually speak to your audience? Provide your writer with any explicit brand or style guidelines that you need them to adhere to.
Your format: How will this be published? Is this a digital book, a website-based initiative or a printed publication?
Your deadline: When do you need the final copy delivered?
If you’ve never had to brief a writer before, don’t worry. Most writers (including me) are skilled at asking the right questions to get to this information!
Use the professional writer as a copy editor
This might be the way to go if you’ve already got a large portion of the text written. It means that the writer comes in towards the end of the process and tidies up the copy. You will still need to clearly brief them to make sure your expectations of them are clear.
This type of collaboration works particularly well if you are working on a community cookbook. If there are multiple contributors, the writer makes sure the tone of voice is consistent throughout the whole book. The writer also makes sure that recipes are written consistently and use the same conventions throughout. They can also write any missing copy or linking text to make sure the cookbook is entirely cohesive.
Check out this community cookbook Frasers Property developed using this method.
Work iteratively to generate the copy
This collaboration style works if you are confident as a cook but not as writer or if you already have creative inspiration for recipes. You can work iteratively with a professional writer to get the words for your recipes down on the page. This works well for individuals (chefs, nutritionists, cafe owners etc) who are keen to have a book that reflects their unique style.
In this case, you might write out the introductory copy and get the writer to copy edit it. Then, you might provide them with a 'blurb' about each recipe, the ingredients list and notes on your method. The writer then writes up each recipe and submits it back to you for review. You may do some edits to the text and your writer tidies up the whole work to finish.
This is a fun way to harness a writer’s skills but still make sure the essence of the book is your own. If you aren’t confident that you can get words down on a page in the first place, use a voice recorder to record yourself talking about your recipes while you are cooking. Not only does this provide your writer with an initial text that they can work with, it also gives them a great sense of your unique voice.
The ‘right’ way to work will depend on your unique situation. Feel free to contact me to discuss your project to determine the best way forward for you.