How Organize for Writing A Community Recipe Book

For Fundraising Or As A Family Keepsake, Cookbooks Build Community

woman cooking at counter with recipe notebook
Community cookbooks are collections of recipes from home cooks. Getty Images

Even before self-publishing a book was the phenomenon it is today, church groups, Junior Leagues, local communities, and families collected their favorite recipes and published "community recipe books." These cookbooks were typically sold for fundraising or, in the case of extended families, sometimes just cherished as keepsakes.

Tips to Organize to Write A Community Recipe Book

Whether they feature potluck supper recipes or ethnic specialties, community cookbooks are still popular today.

And with today's self-publishing tools - on services such as Blurb or Shutterfly - your book can be more sophisticated than ever. If your community or family wants to gather and publish their recipes, here are some guidelines:

Choose A Cookbook Project Manager

Writing and publishing a cookbook requires good project management skills, so tap someone with good project management skills to lead the team. There are a lot of moving parts to keep track of — recipes, headnotes, photos or illustrations, jacket, publication. Whoever spearheads the project should be prepared to manage the:

Cookbook schedule – Allow approximately a year from start to finished book. Some of these steps can be done in tandem, but you should allow time for the committee members to review. 

  • Recipe and photo collection – two months
  • Recipe testing – two to three months
  • Writing additional text and editing recipes – two to three months
  • Proofreading – two weeks to one month
  • Package design, page layout, and publishing – depends on service chosen, but allow two months.

Budget – Some publishing services don't charge anything upfront, but get their money when the buyers purchase the books.

Subcommittee heads – Regularly touching base ensures that all the processes are on track for publication.

Meetings – to check on progress, flag questions and possible issues.

Pick A Theme for Your Community Recipe Book

There are many possible organizing principals you can use to write a group cookbook, and you need to pick a theme at the outset, so members know what types of recipes to submit. Here are some general possibilities:

  • family favorites
  • ethnic specialties
  • quick meals for working parents
  • local specialties - for example, seafood dishes for a vacation shore community
  • parties and entertaining

Choose A Community Cookbook Publishing Service

Do this early in the process, because the requirements of the publisher may affect in what format you ask for recipes or artwork. Also, the service you choose will help you narrow your next decisions — format and pricing. Some cookbook publishing services enables online sales for ease of promotion. If your group is good with DIY, read about Blurb and about other possible self-publishing services. If you would like a publisher to handle more of the work, there are companies that specialize in community cookbooks, like Morris Press.

Choose Your Cookbook Format and Pricing

Your format will affect your price point, so you will likely have to do some back and forth to make an ultimate determination.

But you should have an idea before starting the project, so you can be clear on how many recipes you can accept. Here are some format questions: 

  • Will your book be hardcover or paperback?
  • How many pages?
  • What is the desired trim size?  
  • Will you have photos or illustrations?

If this is for fundraising, price point is important.

  • How many do you want to sell?
  • What price will your audience bear?

With your answers in mind, and determine your format and the estimated price.

Form Your Cookbook Writing and Other Committees

Beyond that, subcommittees are useful for different elements of the project.  Some useful subcommittees might be for:

Create Email Lists for the Cookbook Committee

For ease of communication, create a master email list for the whole committee, a list of the subcommittee heads and a list for each of the subcommittees.

Get Started With Writing the Cookbook!

Follow these next steps to pulling together the community recipe book