Cookbook Editing and Design

Cookbook Editing and Design

A Special Love Affair

I love cooking, creating recipes, cooking shows and competitions, experimenting with ethnic ingredients and cuisines. Being a designer, desktop publisher, writer, and taking every project seriously and professionally, all adds up to being an excellent cookbook editor and interior designer.

As someone who has written and published books, I know this is your baby. I know a lot about giving birth to beautiful book babies.

Check out our article on saving time on formatting and editing services.

Developmental Editing to Plan and Compose Your Cookbook

You can work with me during the cookbook development stages to work out the overall plan and modifications for your cookbook. What sections should you have? What level of instruction do you need to give? Who are you catering to? What will they need?

This is a blend of coaching and critique, looking over your early manuscript and making suggestions, recommendations, for directions to go in, recipes you should include, sections that are redundant or may be missing, etc.

It can also be helpful when you have a completed manuscript, to discuss the overall order of chapters, chapter introductions, whether a glossary is necessary, whether your book would benefit from an index, etc.

  • Developmental Editing - Address overall cookbook composition, features, order of sections, lists of recipes, detail, instructions, photography, etc. ($85/hour)

Your Cookbook Manuscript Needs Detailed Scrutiny

I know you've written out your recipes, you've been over things many times, and sometimes things just slip through. It needs to be consistent, without typos like a 2 instead of 4 or a teaspoon instead of tablespoon, or missing ingredients from your list, or missing a step in the directions.

I don't test your recipes, but I do take them into my mental test kitchen and play out in my head what your steps look like to the reader. I stand there with your future cookbook, and all your ingredients spread out and I picture every step in the process, and see if there are ingredients that stand out as being the wrong measurement, or missing from your list, or if I would be frustrated because the instruction to preheat the oven was missing, or if your steps are confusing.

I have an editor's eye for punctuation, grammar, commas, and more. I will be sure to look up some obscure cheese or wine name and find out whether it's lowercase or capitalized. I know what's normal for the average person picking up a cookbook, and that calling a silicon baking mat a "silpat" is really asking too much from your reader.

I've taken chef kitchen notes and translated them for home cooks, I've tweaked recipes to adjust from professional kitchen to home kitchen quantities, and I've found errors that were sure to make a recipe fail in the cook's kitchen.

Don't publish your cookbook before having it checked out.

That might seem like a strong statement, but I've received formatting jobs, started the work of going through the text and assigning styles, and stopped because I couldn't help but notice that there were glaring errors in the manuscript. The first time this happened, I formatted the book and the woman had 18 rounds of revisions correcting her own mistakes in spelling, word use, and grammar before I stopped her and said, "I'm sorry, but you need to get this edited." Now I stop people much earlier in the process, because that was incredibly painful. Imagine if that book had gone to print? We're blind to our own mistakes, how many errors would she have published with?

And it happens with cookbooks. Excessive abbreviations. One client said desert instead of dessert, over and over. Duplicated recipes, missing ingredients, missing words like "French" (in French dressing or French toast) that need to be capitalized, referencing a recipe that's missing in the manuscript, putting a recipe in the wrong chapter. There's so many things that can go wrong, and trust me after the 10th or 12th time you've re-read your manuscript, you are error-blind.

Get an editor. Anyone competent. Please don't think you can get away without one.

  • Editing - making sure all the text in your book is grammatically correct, that the ingredients match the directions, the logic of your recipes, that quantities make sense, etc. ($45/1500 words)
  • Rewriting- I will take your kitchen staff recipes and rewrite them for home cooks AND perform all above editing tasks as needed. ($75/1500 words)
  • Recalculating- An add-on service to change quantities in your recipes. For example, if you have a "serves 12" recipe, I can adjust it to "serves 4" for you. (add $15 per recipe that requires recalculating)

A Beautiful and Professional Interior Design

Cookbooks have specific design needs that stand out from other books. They range from simple no-frills drag into the kitchen, dog-ear, annotate, and splatter with batter black-and-white interiors through full-color artsy coffee-table-worthy designs you wouldn't dream of getting dirty. The main difference here is budget and the quality of the camera work, and it also determines the cost of the printed cookbook at the end of the day.

If you want your book to be affordable and your profit margin high, then you should scale back your interior design wishlist. One of the more fancy books I've worked on is a $60 retail book. If you don't want customers to pay that much, then don't go for fancy interiors. If you have a huge following, though, you might be able to support going all-out both in up-front costs, and in what the end consumer is willing to pay. Your wishlist will affect the fees.

Formatting should only take place with a completed and edited manuscript.

  • Basic Cookbook Formatting - A professional black-and-white interior for your book, or black-and-white with inset color photos (see Add Photos). This can be done in Microsoft Word, for example. ($20/1500 words)
  • Fancy Full-Color Book - If it's the same set-up as a black-and-white interior then there's no added charge — this is for the extra-fancy full-color, full-page photos with bleed books with colored text, page background colors, extra doodles or graphics added for flair, fancy headlines, etc. This requires working in Adobe InDesign (base $400 + $40/1500 words) See "add photos" for additional per-photo charges.
  • Add Photos - Photos should be submitted in CMYK (print colors) or an added fee applies. (+$3 per photo add $2 per photo for conversion to CMYK if needed). Photo retouching or editing extra.
  • Add eBook - Add an ebook version to your project. Not every cookbook will make a good ebook, so this is priced on a per-project basis given the specifics of your cookbook. Cookbooks in eBook formats (such as Kindle) may require specialized formatting, because they have to be viewable on every device.

Go Over the Top with Cookbook Indexing

I love indexed books. Indexing isn't easy, but it contributes a polished professional look and ensures that your book will be referred to as a reference work on your culinary topic. I'm a competent indexer for general information and taxonomies, but I am not a certified indexer. Indexing should take place with a completed, edited manuscript, preferably after formatting as well.

  • Basic Indexing - 1-3 major ingredients per recipe, recipe name, recipe category. ($50/5K words, rounded up)
  • Ingredient Index - includes basic indexing & all non-staple ingredients. ($70/5K words, rounded up)
  • Full Subject Index - index even non-recipe text for subject matter. Requires going through the text several times developing a list of topics to index, editing the topic list with client input, then actually indexing topics which may span multiple pages. (per-project custom quote only.)

Cookbook Portfolio

A real cookbook collector's delight — I love looking at my shelf full of cookbooks I've helped give birth to. Some very amazing people have crossed my path, and everyone just wants to help someone eat healthier, more delicious, nutritious foods.

(Many of these links are Amazon affiliate links. Every few months — not even every month — I get a modest check for affiliate sales from Amazon. This is not how I make a living, and it doesn't affect how much you pay. It's just a tiny bonus for you stumbling on a book because of me.)


I hired Criss to format a cookbook, and then found out it needed editing as well. Needed a lot of help. She was able to edit and format with excellence. I reached and even exceeded my goal because of her attention to detail and knowdedge of cooking as well as her complete grasp of the formatting needed and excellent communication skills. - Kim Minert

Above & Beyond helpful and professional. Early delivery - just another bonus! Totally satisfied. - Mary Jo Montanye
She was very quick and responsive, professional and delivered an amazing product. I highly recommend her services to anyone especially a novice writer. She gave great advice and suggestions on how to enhance your product. - Ashlyne K. Reid

Helpful! Criss made sure that I had everything exactly how I wanted it and even let me know how to improve on certain visions I had for my cookbook. and She fights for her clients to make sure she makes their vision come to life. - Kenneth C. Temple
If you are looking for a great layout person, editor, etc....stop here. Criss is professional, motivated, communicative, etc and definately a book midwife for novice authors. I cannot say enough about her. I can tell you this, you will not be disappointed. - Barbara Solomon MS CNS

This cookbook/memoir manuscript was a MESS! Now it is a beautiful work worthy of your bookshelf, and it was all done in an extremely timely and pleasant manner. HIGHLY RECOMMEND! - Jodi Thompson, Fawkes Press re: Blue Moon Vegetarian
I absolutely trust her with every aspect of my project. As a fledging writer, the detail to attention and respect she shows for my work has taken the book to new heights. and Clear communication. Top notch formatting was finished fast. It is relief to work with someone who has experience. She has guided me in decision making and over delivered. My project looks so polished! Will work with her again. - Karen Hoyt

Great job with our cookbook! It is so hard to see where edits are needed between ingredients lists, cooking instructions and head notes. A good edit was sorely needed and Criss did an outstanding job! Thanks so much! - Lynda Malleck for Kevin Malleck
I am so pleased with the fine attention to detail and the fabulous editing job on my cookbook. I am a happy customer. - Deb Gleason

Awesome service. Clearly laid out my options and provided better than what I asked for. Would order from her again. - Raymond Miller for Wilma J. Miller
Criss was fantastic and supportive throughout the entire process - and my book looks fantastic!!! - Lisa Joan Anderson

Getting Started on your Cookbook

No matter which step in the cookbook-creation process you're at, I can help you out. Please contact me below, let me know where you're at in the process, and we can talk about how I can help you.


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