Schmidt Family Reunion cookbook

Josiah Schmidt, Emmetsburg, Iowa, is planning the Schmidt Family Reunion and hoping to beat the Guinness World Record for largest reunion. Stay tuned!

This is an email Josiah sent his family just before Thanksgiving to share family recipes and remind members to contribute to the family reunion cookbook.



Family cookbooks are popular fundraisers and keepsakes. They are a lovely way for sharing some of life’s pleasures and a great way to preserve cherished, heirloom family recipes for future generations. Many families publish cookbooks which also incorporate family history.

Cookbooks often sell well because they are useful and other cooks are always looking for new recipes. Also, cookbooks draw recipes from many contributors, most of whom will buy copies. Cookbooks are often spiral bound and cost between $2 and $5 each to produce, depending upon size and quantity. The more recipes you include, the higher the cost per book. The more contributors you include, the more potential customers you’ll have!

A cookbook publisher’s experience and large printing capacity can reduce prices to as low as $1.75 each (minimum order 200 books). The basic cookbook includes recipes you submit along with pages for tips and hints, preprinted recipe category dividers, acknowledgments, history, a family tree, or poems.

Order an information packet from a specialty cookbook publisher to help collect recipes. Many cookbook publishers offer workbooks that contain guidelines, options, sample pages, covers and dividers, free recipe collection forms and suggestions for distribution and how to increase book sales.

Many cookbook publishers offer workbooks containing guidelines, samples, free recipe collection forms, and great suggestions.

Some companies include a table of contents, others provide free title indexes. Each company offers cover design choices or you may use your own drawing or logo on color cover stock. A color photograph on the cover costs extra. Other options include colored paper, colored ink, laminated covers, heavier cardstock dividers and promotional materials. Weigh each option carefully. Decide if the improved book is worth the extra cost.

Some cookbook companies include:

  • G&R Publishing, Waverly, Iowa, 800-383-1679
  • Walter’s Publisher, Waseca, Minnesota, 507-835-3691
  • Cookbook Publishers, Lenexa, Kansas, 800-227-7282

How to Assemble Your Cookbook
Recruit volunteers to collect and input recipes, stories, traditions and hints. Include and stick to a deadline. Follow-up regularly. When recipes start to arrive:

  • Sort recipes and stories into folders for each food category.
  • Eliminate duplicates.
  • Clarify recipes that are confusing.
  • Standardize measurements and abbreviations.
  • Proofread every word and have more than one person proofread. Careful proofing always pays off.

Printing, assembly and binding books takes two to three month

s after the company receives your recipes. You are responsible to check proofs before the cookbook is printed. Payment is due thirty to ninety days from shipping. All companies allow re-orders. One company guarantees you will sell enough books to finance your order, if you charge a given minimum price and have included a minimum number of contributors. One family who published a cookbook reported they “really lucked out” wit h a publisher whose minimum order was only 100. The cookbook took a couple of years to complete “but was well worth the time and effort.”

If you must self-publish your cookbook, answer these questions:

  • What are the book’s specifications? standard (8 1/2″ x 11″) size, softcover or hardcover, font, binding (plastic comb, wire, perfect bound, soft-back)?
  • How much do you want to spend?
  • How many will you print?
  • How many can you (realistically) sell?
  • Where will books be delivered and stored?
  • How will you promote, distribute and sell them?

Mary Barile’s Food From the Heart is a workbook designed to help you produce your cookbook without a professional company. Barile includes instructions and blank forms to organize and collect recipes. She recommends asking for recipe origins, including extra instructions or uses. She explains old ingredients and how to translate antique recipes. The advantage of writing and publishing the book yourself, says Barile, is that it increases your flexibility to include stories and background, a keepsake that preserves your family’s heritage.

Let Your Reunion be the Beneficiary!
There are some limited situations in which you may get non-family members to contribute to your reunion. In general, these are between-reunion events and activities whose proceeds help pay for ongoing expenses. If the activity is something you know your friends or others not related to your reunion might enjoy, invite them … and let them help pay for your reunion.

Solicit family volunteers to organize these events. Negotiate group rates, food, and entry/ticket prices. Mark up the price and add the difference to your reunion account. Here are some options:

  • A theater party requires transportation (bus), driver, meals and tickets.
  • A fashion show requires a location, decorations, volunteer models, clothes and accessories, meal /dessert /brunch and tickets.
  • A progressive meal or party can be paid for by generous hosts or deduct the cost of food.
  • A casino night requires a rented hall or room, games, equipment, food, beverages and volunteer dealers.
  • Tours require transportation (bus), driver, meals and tickets (negotiate group rates).

About the Author
Edith Wagner is the editor & publisher of Reunions magazine.


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