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There are many different formats you can publish a cookbook in. The most popular are
The book format you choose will affect the layout, length, photography, and design of your book so it's important to determine it ahead of time. Each book format has positives and negatives, quirks, and things to keep in mind.
Print books are the most popular format for most major publishing houses and until recently were the only real way to purchase a cookbook. These are the books you find in every book store and usually have full-color covers and their interiors are either color or black and white. Most printed cookbook have 100 to 300 pages and range from 30 to 100 recipes, depending on the type of cookbook.
There tends to be no main difference between paperbacks and hardback cookbooks, besides the material of the cover. Pamphlets tend to run much smaller, between 40 and 100 pages.
You can get a lot more information about print books and choosing a self publishing printer.
Electronic cookbooks first entered the marketplace mainly as PDF files. Over the last several years electronic cookbooks have become more and more popular, driven primarily by the Kindle and expanding into the Nook, iBook, and other electronic formats based largely on the epub specifications. Electronic cookbooks tend to break down into two major categories, print-like cookbooks and electronic-only cookbooks.
Print-like books are works that follow traditional cookbook styles. They are often an electronic version of a printed cookbook and follow the typical page and recipe counts found in print cookbooks.
Electronic-only cookbooks can follow the traditional guidelines but they also can break from them in many ways. The two main paths these books deviate are by selling them for very little money or by creating an interactive book.
Without needing to cover print costs, electronic books can be sold for very little, or even given away. This strategy can be used to increase distribution of a book or to monetize smaller books that contain much less content. It's not unheard of to sell a 50 page cookbook in electronic format for $1, something that isn't possible for print books (unless they are in the bargain bin).
Interactive books go the other direction and deliver more content than a traditional print book does. This may include audio snippets, videos or calculators and other tools. The cookbook might be more in the format of a magazine or a cooking show. Or the cookbook might just have an amazing design and innovative ways to access the recipes and content. Interactive cookbooks usually cost the most to produce.
You can get a lot more information about ebook publishers and distributors.
The type of format you choose will depend a lot on the goals for your cookbook. If you are trying to maximize your income, then producing a book that works in as many formats as possible should be your goal. If you want to spread your ideas, then a variety of formats is also important, though focusing on a lower cost. If you want to market yourself, then pick a format or two that will let you create the best product to show your expertise.
I tend to publish my books in as many formats as I can. This opens up sales on several platforms and allows me to make use of the same content in multiple locations. Moving from one book format to another is usually also a pretty easy process, especially compared to writing the book initially!
When writing your book, you don't have to focus on a format but once you move into the design phase the format you choose will affect many things. It is a good idea to initially focus on the format that is most important to you and that you will spend the majority of your marketing time on. Then you can tweak that design into the other formats.
For my books I tend to focus on the print versions. They are my largest sellers and money makers. I start off optimizing my books for the print format then convert the finalized book into the other formats.
To help show show the sales can vary between the different formats we released our 2014 sales comparison as a case study.