How to self-publish a cookbook (4 easy steps + crucial tips)

By Susanna read
16 May, 2024
How to self-publish a cookbook (4 easy steps + crucial tips)

In today’s digital age, self-publishing has opened up a world of possibilities—you can literally transform your culinary passion into a beautifully crafted recipe book and share it with a target audience.

Thousands of food bloggers are now making a living by selling cookbooks online. Some rely on Instagram, while others promote their own recipes on TikTok. More and more creators are also setting up online stores to sell their cookbooks.

In this blog post, we’ll take you through the development process: creating, editing, and self-publishing a cookbook. From the initial spark of an idea to the moment your cookbook reaches the hands of readers, we’ll break down the process into four easy-to-follow steps.

As a bonus, we’ll provide you with some great marketing strategies. So, let’s dive right in.

How to self-publish a cookbook (in 4 steps)

It’s never been easier to create and distribute a cookbook on your own!

In this guide, we’ll explore the four easy steps to the self-publishing process. First, we’ll go over writing, editing, and designing a successful cookbook. Then, we’ll talk about how to launch an online store and publish your cookbook.

1. Write & edit your cookbook

Before you get started, you need to decide on the theme or focus of your cookbook. Are you writing a general cookbook, or do you want to specialize in a particular cuisine, dietary preference (e.g. vegan, keto), or cooking method (e.g. slow cooker recipes)?

Once you’ve decided on a theme, the next step is to choose a variety of recipes that fit your theme.

Here are some general recipe development tips to follow:

  • Include a table of contents that lists all the recipes and their page numbers for easy navigation.
  • Write clear and concise instructions for each recipe. Use simple language and avoid terms that might confuse your readers.
  • Include a list of ingredients with accurate measurements. Use both volume (cups, tablespoons) and weight (grams, ounces) measurements for accuracy.
  • Provide cooking times and temperatures. Be specific about oven settings, stovetop heat levels, and other important details.

And, last but not least, proofread carefully for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Consider enlisting a friend or professional editor to review your work.

Sellfy Tip
You can use a word processing software like Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer to write and edit your cookbook. If you have a Gmail account, Google Docs is also an option. However, for a straightforward solution, using a free tool like Canva is highly recommended. Canva provides a great selection of pre-designed cookbook templates.

2. Design your cookbook & make it stand out

Now that you’ve written and edited your cookbook, it’s time to focus on design.

Here’s how to nail your cookbook design:

  • Choose a style that complements your theme and target demographic. Use images, graphics, and fonts that align with your vision.
  • Pay attention to the cover design and overall layout. Make sure the cover design is eye-catching and that the recipes are easy to read and follow with ample spacing and clear headings.
  • High-quality photos or illustrations of the dishes can greatly enhance your cookbook’s visual appeal.
  • Ensure that the images accurately represent the food and showcase their presentation.

cookbook canva templates

If you’re looking for an easy way to design your cookbook, look no further—Canva offers a wide range of free customization options, so you can experiment with different layouts, colors, and elements to create a cookbook that reflects your personal style and vision.

Other alternatives to Canva are Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Photoshop, etc.

If you’re not comfortable designing your cookbook yourself, you can also hire a professional book designer to create a custom design based on your vision and content.

3. Launch your cookbook shop with Sellfy

If you’re thinking about making and selling your cookbook online, it’s super important to find the right eCommerce platform that ticks all your boxes.

You’ll want to make sure it has crucial stuff like a safe payment system, automatic file delivery, and an easy-to-use interface.

Out of all the options out there, Sellfy stands out as a reliable choice—it’s got everything mentioned above covered.

To get started with Sellfy, you have two options—a 14-day free trial or opting for a subscription plan:

  1. Starter—for self-published cookbook sellers who wish to sell an unlimited number of recipe books. This plan includes access to 2000 email credits and the advantage of a custom domain.
  2. Business—for self-published cookbook sellers experiencing more sales in the cookbook market. It provides a white-label store, store design migration, cart abandonment tools, product upselling capabilities, and 10,000 email credits.
  3. Premium—for self-published cookbook sellers who have established a dominant presence in the cookbook market. This plan comes with product migration assistance, priority support, an impressive 50,000 email credits, and additional promotional tools to effectively showcase your recipe books.

sellfy plans

To begin the sign-up process, you’ll need to provide your first name, a valid email address, and create a password.

Once you’ve initiated your trial, don’t forget to verify your email address so that you won’t miss out on important Sellfy updates, account information, and other relevant news.

Upon verification, you have the choice of either selecting a pre-designed Sellfy theme or customizing your store from the ground up using the Store Customizer tool.

sellfy recipe a store

Choosing the pre-made theme is the easiest and most efficient way to get a professional-looking store with minimal effort.

For those seeking a more personalized touch, the Store Customizer tool lets you adjust colors, buttons, text, fonts, images, and other design elements.

4. Self-publish your cookbook & start selling

To self-publish your cookbook and start selling, just head over to the PRODUCTS section in your dashboard (remember to convert your cookbook into a PDF version first). Once you’re there, hit the Add new product button to begin the upload process.

digital products

Each product allows for up to 50 files. If you prefer to offer your cookbook as a single file or multiple files, you have the option to create compressed .zip file folders.

Also, there’s no need to be concerned about storage or bandwidth limitations—Sellfy offers unlimited storage! So, you can go ahead and upload files as large as 10 GB per product without any hassle.

Once you’ve uploaded and published your cookbook, don’t forget to connect payment methods. To add payment options to your store, simply go to STORE SETTINGS > Payment settings and connect your Stripe or PayPal account.

connect payment methods

Now, whenever someone purchases a cookbook from your store, Sellfy will take care of payment processing and automatically deliver the cookbook to them.

Here’s a breakdown of how this feature works:

  1. Once a payment is successfully processed, customers are instantly redirected to the cookbook download page via the Order Confirmation page.
  2. Simultaneously, Sellfy sends a Purchase email to the customers, containing a PDF download link, immediately after confirming the payment. This allows customers to access their purchased cookbooks directly from the store or by clicking the link in their email.
  3. To ensure security and prevent piracy, each purchase comes with a unique download link. Customers are allowed up to five download attempts for their purchased product.

cookbook download

Thanks to Sellfy’s automated file delivery system, your customers experience a fast and hassle-free process when receiving their digital cookbooks.

Physical or digital cookbooks?

Should you sell digital cookbooks (PDFs) or traditionally published cookbooks? At Sellfy, our recommendation is to go digital and sell PDFs.

Here’s why:

First and foremost, digital recipe books are way cheaper to produce than printed books—they don’t require printing, shipping, and storage costs.

Secondly, digital recipe books are simpler to distribute and sell because they can be easily accessed and downloaded online.

digital cookbook

Digital recipe books are also more interactive and engaging than printed books because they can include videos, animations, and other multimedia content to help readers learn and understand the recipes better.

Another advantage of the digital format is that digital can be easily updated and revised whenever necessary.

Overall, these factors have made digital cookbooks a more profitable and popular choice for both cookbook authors and readers.

Digital recipe books not only present an excellent opportunity for generating passive income but also offer a less complex business model compared to selling physical cookbooks.

glowbodypt sellfy store

To recap:

  • Instant delivery. In contrast to physical products that may face stock limitations, digital recipe books can be sold without any restrictions on quantity.
  • Cost-effective. Digital cookbooks eliminate the need for shipping expenses associated with physical cookbooks.
  • Increased profit. As ongoing expenses are typically minimal, digital cookbook sales can result in higher profit margins.

4 crucial marketing tips for your cookbook

Now that we’ve covered cookbook publishing, we can take a look at four different strategies on how to market your product. With effective marketing, you can generate revenue even when you’re not actively creating new recipe books.

1. Spice up your product offerings with on-demand cooking videos

As of 2023, online videos account for more than 83% of all consumer internet traffic. People love to watch videos. So, why limit your creative culinary endeavors to just cookbooks?

Why not consider creating and selling full-length cooking videos as on-demand content through Sellfy?

This is a great product idea for those who have already built a target audience on video platforms like TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube and are looking to monetize their content.

Take LL Kitchen Meals, for example. This Sellfy store successfully sells instructional recipe videos to its audience of 33K.

llc kitchen meals

Once you’ve created your full-length cooking videos, the next step involves promotion. A brilliant approach is to make short and compelling clips to post on TikTok or Instagram.

These clips should be between 15 and 60 seconds long and should showcase the best parts of your video.

You should also ensure that your clips are easy to understand and that they give viewers a good idea of what they can expect from your full-length video. Then, include the link to your Sellfy store.

For instance, the highly successful food blogger, Ashley Renee (also known as the Messy Eats Blog), employs the same strategic approach to attract followers.

Ashley has over 703K followers on Instagram and 644,6K+ on TikTok, and her feeds showcase high-quality food videos that keep her followers craving for more.


Another great way to incorporate video content into your product offerings is by creating multimedia cookbooks in Canva.

So, instead of creating conventional recipe books with pictures of food, you can add short-form video content that demonstrates the cooking process or showcases prepared meals.

With Canva, you can seamlessly integrate multimedia elements such as videos, animations, and interactive graphics. You can even upload your own short clips and embed them directly into your recipe pages.

Then, sell them through Sellfy as subscription-based products and offer your readers the opportunity to access multimedia-rich cooking content on a recurring basis.

my balanced kitchen sellfy store

To create a subscription product with Sellfy, go to PRODUCTS > Subscriptions. Then, select the subscription, add your cookbook, and select Save subscription.

Sellfy Tip
We recommend boosting your reach with TikTok first. Start by creating videos for TikTok where content is more likely to go viral (thanks to the platform’s unique algorithm). Once you’ve gained traction, repost those videos to Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts without the TikTok watermark.

2. Consider upselling complementary cookbooks

​​Offering complementary products or even discounted product bundles presents an effective strategy that can help increase the sales of your recipe books.

This way, you are able to provide your audience with a package deal that is often more economical compared to purchasing each cookbook individually. This approach can be particularly helpful in persuading hesitant customers to make a purchase.

veganmichele sellfy store

To upload discounted cookbook bundles on Sellfy, you just need to create a new product listing, include multiple files in one product upload, and set a price for the package offer.

Also, remember to tailor the product image and description to emphasize the savings and value that buyers will gain from purchasing the bundle.

To enable the upselling feature in your store, log into your account, and go to Marketing > Upselling. Then, click on Add new upsell.

sellfy hints upsell

Here’s how upselling generally works:

When a customer buys a cookbook that is linked to the Upselling feature, they’ll get a pop-up window that displays the other exclusive cookbook deal. They’ll then have the option to either decline or accept the offer.

You can use this marketing tactic to your advantage and create an attractive cookbook package deal. As a bonus, you can also write an optional message for the pop-up window, e.g. “special cookbook offer just for you—20% off!”

More reasons to consider upselling complementary products:

  • Highly effective in time-sensitive campaigns
  • Boosts your average order value and overall sales volume
  • Draws in more buyers because of the perceived value

3. Be generous—offer pay-what-you-want pricing!

The pay-what-you-want (PWYW) approach allows customers to pay an amount they can afford while still supporting your online business. This gives them a sense of empowerment in their purchasing decision.

It also demonstrates that you’re willing to accommodate customers with varying budgets.

And, believe it or not, PWYW pricing can help sustain revenue flow even in difficult economic times (like the current inflation).

A lot of Sellfy sellers have praised the PWYW feature—it not only helped them to sell more products but also boosted customers’ trust and brand loyalty.

Here are some effective ways in which PWYW pricing can help you increase sales:

  • If you’re planning a new product launch, the PWYW pricing model can catch the interest of your audience and serve as a gentle push to try it out.
  • Consider donating a portion of your sales revenue to a charity of your choice, and be sure to communicate this cause clearly to your customers. Recent studies have shown that customers are often willing to pay higher prices for brands linked with charitable causes.
  • Set a minimum price or suggest one. While some customers may choose to pay less than the typical cookbook price, others may be motivated to pay more if they appreciate the flexibility and perceive value in your recipes.

picture chef sellfy store

To apply PWYW for your recipe books, all you have to do is switch the Pay what you want toggle on the Edit product page.

4. Do a cookbook giveaway for a limited time

Everyone loves a freebie! Giving out something for free is an amazing way to grow engagement—it allows you to build trust and loyalty with your audience.

By offering something for free, you demonstrate your willingness to help your followers without asking for anything in return. People are also much more likely to share their purchases and experiences on social media when they receive a free gift.

For example, Kaiwan Shaban managed to drive an enormous amount of traffic to his Sellfy store just by giving out freebies:

I collected around 100,000 emails by giving out freebies. This helped me get more than 1.3 million visits to my Sellfy store, so I think that’s a great marketing strategy.

And, another Sellfy creator, Jack Cronin, has successfully used the same marketing tactic. He recommends giving out freebies to easily build an email list and grow your business:

Don’t be afraid to post stuff for free! I’ve gained thousands of emails from sharing free stuff over the years. Later on, you can always start pushing products that cost money and get some sales.

Sellfy makes offering free cookbooks to your customers easy. Simply go to PRODUCTS > Freebies to add a freebie.

add freebie

You can add as many freebies as you like, and share them in any way you prefer:

  • Bundle them up with other products using the Upselling feature
  • Share on social media platforms to grow your email list
  • Distribute them through promotional emails

One of the most effective ways to get leads is to use Sellfy’s email marketing tool. With this tool, you can announce the giveaway to your email list and social media followers.

FAQ: selling cookbooks

Is writing a cookbook profitable?

Yes, writing a cookbook can be profitable, especially if the book is well-written, informative, and appeals to a wider audience. One of the main benefits is that you can create cookbooks once and sell them multiple times.

This means that you can create a passive income stream that can continue to generate revenue for you over time.

How to self-publish a cookbook?

You can self-publish a cookbook with Sellfy. That way, you can have full control over your business. First, create an account on the Sellfy platform and set up your store. Then, start uploading your cookbook files, including recipes, photos, and any other information.

Once your cookbook is ready, you can set a price and publish it on your store. Sellfy will handle the payment processing and automated delivery of your cookbook.

How much does it cost to create & self-publish a cookbook?

The expense varies based on the chosen online platform. For instance, if you opt to self-publish through Sellfy, there exists a monthly subscription fee for its services (starting at $29 per month).

Overall, the cost of cookbook publishing with Sellfy depends on your selected subscription plan, but it provides an affordable and user-friendly option for those looking to sell their own cookbook.

How much money can you make from publishing a cookbook?

The amount you can make from cookbook publishing depends on several factors, including the quality of the recipes and professional food photography, the marketing and promotion of the book, and the popularity of the seller.

Successful self-published cookbook sellers can earn anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands in sales. Some Sellfy creators have reported making upwards of $10,000 per month selling cookbooks online.


Susanna is Sellfy's Content Guru with a genuine passion for copywriting, storytelling, and eCommerce. With years of content marketing experience behind her, she helps to create the best possible landing pages, blog posts, emails, and other types of copy. She also keeps close tabs on social media trends and enjoys digging deep into marketing psychology.