Software for designing and building a cookbook

Hello everyone, first post in this forum. :slight_smile:

I’ve recently gotten interest in graphic design, but I’m still very much so a newbie trying to figure things out.
I have been lurking briefly in this forum. I hate to be the guy that breaks the silence because he needs something, and I’m not sure this is the right place to post this, but here I go.

I’m trying to write a cookbook, and while I have the recipes figured out and a pretty clear idea in my mind with what I want to do, I’m not sure where to go next to find a good software to use and to put things ‘on paper’.
I thought this would be a good place to ask you guys and girls if you have any recommendations of software to use to design and build a recipe ebook.
I have been trying to mess around with free software, but didn’t have luck finding one that fits my needs, and before paying for one, I wanted to see if I could get some opinions from people that have more experience than me and might be able to point me in a direction.


You’re best bets are either purchasing the Affinity creative software or subscribing to Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Since you’re not a pro or working in a studio environment, I would lean towards the former. There will be a good learning curve either way. If you are so lacking experience that you don’t even know what software to use, you might be better off hiring the work out rather than trying to do it yourself. That’s not a diss. We all have areas about which we don’t have knowledge or experience and need to hire pros. A lot more goes into designing a book than just having the right software. Have you researched the cookbook market? From my experience, cookbooks are very well designed. Creating the book is just the first step of many. How are you going to sell the book? How are you going to market the book? How are you going to build your personal brand?

Welcome to the forum

Most here would use Adobe Indesign for doing a many-page layout.

For less money I’m hearing
Affinity Publisher (not to be confused with the horrible Microsoft thing of the same name) is working fairly well.

If you have a Mac, Pages comes loaded as part of the standard software kit but I don’t know if it’s any better than Word, which you should also avoid.
Pardon typos. Using iPhone with thumble fumbs

Steve-O types faster LOL

Thanks for the quick reply.

I will definitely check out what you suggested.
I’m willing to learn and teach myself, as I’ve done with other things. I have time on my hands to do so, so I’ll give it a crack and put in effort, and if I see it really is too complicated I’ll end up hiring someone of course, although I would rather that be my last resort.

To answer your questions, yes, I have researched the cookbook market quite a while, and yes, they are generally well designed, hence why I want to ask what the right starting step is when it comes to the area I know the least about.
The book would mainly be sold on Amazon in an electronic format, and a few copies could be physically printed if there are requests for it.
For marketing, I’m looking to reach out to a few influencers that think alike regarding food and that would be able to promote it.
However, that said, the goal with this ebook would mainly be to help people out, and ‘making bank’ would be secondary to that, as I’m looking to price it very cheap and significantly under market value for what it would offer, for the sake of making it as accessible as possible.

Thanks for the quick reply as well.

Seems like you both like the same software. :slight_smile:
I’m glad I came here to ask.

I do not have a Mac.
I did try a silly attempt with Word at the beginning, I’ll admit, but it didn’t last very long. :smile:
I’ll check out both Affinity and Adobe’s.

As suggested Affinity or Adobe are the way to go (Adobe being Industry standard). However, in addition to learning software (get it wrong an you can make some very expensive print mistakes), you have to learn all about print production, which is a life-time subject all on its own. Then there’s typography. Again another life time could be spent just on this. I am not saying this to put you off, but if you want to learn, good on you. However, it might not be a bad idea to start off with a slightly less ambitious project than a book.

For that, I’d go with others’ advice and hire a designer – and not one off a competition site. Many of them know little more than you do. Hire someone who knows what they are doing. It will save you a world of pain.

Affinity has no export function for ebooks.

InDesign is the leading software for page layout and long documents.

In saying that it would be cheaper and less time consuming to have a professional do it for you. As they would be familiar and allow for all sorts of epib compliance across different devices.

It’s a steep learning curve.

You are better off handing of a folder containing the text formated the way you want with bold italics etc and your 1/4 measurements etc. And a folder with all the images labeled correctly for easy placement.

All credit to you for wanting to dive into this subject, but …

Do your learning on something that doesn’t matter. Something you won’t be showing anyone else ideally. When you get confident with the software and the concepts of layout and typography, have a go at something more serious and show it to someone who can give constructive criticism.

For a book you intend to publish, electronically or in print, hire a designer. I’m not just saying this - you could make a lot of expensive and embarrassing mistakes if you don’t know what you are doing.

Please take this in the spirit it is offered - friendly advice. I’m not trying to put you off, far from it. We were all beginners once and I really hope you make a go of graphics because it can be very rewarding on so many levels.

Thanks for your input.

The book would be in electronic format, so need for printing. Printing would become an issue only if there are enough requests for physical copies, at which point I would have to go to a publisher regardless.
I understand your suggestion to hire someone. I might go with that, but I still want to see for myself what it’s like, on top of the fact that learning some basics about graphic design gives you an idea if things are at least being done with a certain criteria.

Affinity seems to have a 30 day trial and Abode InDesign seems to have a 7 day trial, so I might as well give it a shot for the time being.

Thanks for the reply.

Good to know!

I get the point of hiring a pro loud and clear. And if things do seem really complicated and I see the learning curve would be too steep when I mess around and try to get a hold on things in the free trial, I will definitely do that.

Yeah, I like to work methodically, so if I end up hiring someone, something like that would be a given.

As others have said, either the Adobe Creative Suite (generally meaning InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator) or Affinity (Pubisher, Photo, and Designer) will work.

Adobe Creative Suite will cost around $60 per month. The Affinity Suite is a one-time purchase and not a subscription. It just happens to be on sale now for 40% off and is considerably cheaper than the Adobe software and, for your purposes, probably just as good.

I’ve put together complicated books and magazines in both suites, and either one will get the job done. The Adobe software has been around for many years, so its features are more extensive. Affinity is something of a newcomer and not quite as developed but still completely adequate for putting together a cookbook. Unless the money is of little consideration and I were in your position, I’d lean toward the Affinity software.

As others have alluded, getting the right software doesn’t make you a designer. As an example, if we were on a carpentry forum, a bunch of experienced professional contractors would be giving you advice on saws and pneumatic nail guns, but buying those saws and nail guns wouldn’t provide you with the skills to build a house.

If you’re intending to sell this cookbook as a published book rather than just a personal project for friends and family, the overall look needs to be just as appetizing as the recipes. As others have said, you might be better off in the long-run hiring an experienced designer to put the book together for you.

Yeah, messing around with things and seeing what I can is what I had in mind, at least at first.
I wouldn’t go and publish something without making sure I know what I’m doing and having it be criticized first.

You’re not putting me off, I appreciate the honesty.
I still want to see if I can learn something from it (which could be useful) and see how complicated it really is for myself, but you guys did sway me more towards being more open in getting help from a pro.

Thanks for all the help people, didn’t know it would be this welcoming. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Just to elaborate on that a bit, we need to define ebook. Affinity does export to PDF, which preserves the layout of the book and would likely be the format of choice when exporting a cookbook for digital use. Exporting as the type of ebook that one might use when exporting a novel (almost entirely text) is another matter since a cookbook might not lend itself to this kind of ebook without a major reorganization of the material in the book. In other words, depending on your layout and your intentions, the absence of the latter type of an ebook might not be an issue. It gets a bit complicated.

Thanks, lots of useful information.

Yes, I’m getting the picture that it would be considerably more complicated than I expected it to be, and that if I’m going to be using software that would guide my hand in what I’m doing and is formatted for cookbook creation and layout already, the options would be too limited. And building it from scratch, I understand your guys’ suggestion to hire someone.
That is to say, I was looking to see if nail guns and saws that are guided and have an in-built program to automatically build my house as I give them directions were available, but I see that good enough for what I want guided tools that do most of the job for you don’t exist, and that I have to do it completely from scratch to have enough freedom to do it the way I want to.

I will see how complicated it is for myself still, but I appreciate the help, and I’ll definitely consider hiring someone.

Yes, I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I’m here, because I’m clueless on how to make that happen. :slight_smile:
But now I have a bit of a better picture on how to go about it.

Not to say it’s not true.

But a PDF is actually different from an eBook. PDFs would be designed for maybe digital distribution to be read through an attachment on email or through a web browser (which we all know can give different results) - and mainly an PDF would be used for printing whereas an eBook is to be read on an Reader and have a different structure.

But yes - PDFs can work - so by the definition of an eBook it is not.

That’s an important realization. You’re right, the software we’ve mentioned (the saws and nail guns) assumes you will be building your house from scratch and not just assembling a pre-fabricated house IKEA style.

It pains me to mention this, but there are those pre-fab layout tools in the works that are picking up steam and getting better. For example, there’s Canva that provides various online templates that can be modified online using relatively simple drag-and-drop methods combined with Canva-suggested typefaces and color combinations. In some ways, it’s a more sophisticated version of Microsoft Publisher templates that give you a starting point.

However, at this point, I’d never suggest using Canva for much of anything other than building social media graphics and other low-bar sorts of things. The kind of cookbook I think you’re describing is a custom, from-the-ground-up, bespoke design.

For what it’s worth, mastering the skills needed to create good graphic design is far more difficult than learning to use the production tools. For that matter, I’d probably say it’s something like a 10:1 ratio favoring the former. I think you realize this, though.

I wouldn’t recommend Canva for anything other than what @Just-B has said.
We charge extra for print files from Canva as they have to be manipulated greatly to get any sort of decent result for printing. We have also on occasion rebuilt the entire design in professional software as it’s too much work to get a Canva made PDF to actually work in print.

I don’t know what it’s like for eBooks, or how difficult/easy it is to use.

I think in the short term you might get what you need out of it - but in the long term it will cause you headaches and cost you more time and money to fix things if it needs a professional touch.

I think for you the professional grade software is a massive learning curve along with learning the massive curve for good design practices on top of learning the software.
That’s too much for anyone.

And then on the other side you have the ready-to-use template sites like Canva that offer short term solutions and create long term problems.

Between those 2 you have the perfect option - the goldilocks option - not too cold and not too hot - it’s the professional designer.

That’s my honest assessment.

Of course - you can try it yourself in pro grade software or in dumbed down software.

It’s up to you.

Yes, that’s the distinction I was trying to make. Cookbook layouts, unlike text-based books, don’t easily lend themselves to an automated conversion into standard ebooks. Instead, the ebook formatted version would probably entail a do-over for that kind of fluid paired-down format.

In other words, whether the Affinity suite’s limitations regarding ebook exports being an important consideration might depend on what, if any, digital version was planned for distribution.

If the goal is a one-to-one reproduction of the printed book, PDF would be the logical choice. Even using Adobe’s more adept software for ebook export, one would need to design the book from the very beginning in just the right way (careful attention to style sheets) to facilitate a sensible ebook conversion. So even using Adobe CC apps, a true ebook version of a cookbook might be best approached as a separate, do-over project.

I do agree 100% with that.

Those programs seem to be quite a problem for you designers. Not that every other job is safe as time goes on, but I wonder how the majority of designers will survive once the tech gets even better and hiring someone will become more and more obsolete. Maybe it won’t be a problem for high-end pros that are hired and valued for their consultation as well as practical skills, but I can see someone with average or below average skills not making it.

Yes, it is.

Yeah, I can see Canva would be able to give a sketch of what I want or its utility could be in trying to visualize an idea easily, rather than the final product.