Make the Copy Shop Bow to Your Cookbook with 6 Easy Steps

You’ve waited 15 minutes in a line at Kinkos. You don’t mind, though. This family cookbook is a labor of love you’ve been working on for four months, and you are so excited to finally be at the point where you are ready to print out 25 cookbooks for your family, your friends, and most importantly your mom. You finally get your turn to place your order, and the magic crashes down around you like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

“Look, lady,” some pimply grandkid behind the counter sneers at you, “What paper stock do you want? How do you want it output? What weight you want? Doublesided or single?” He rolls his eyes. “Never mind. I’m on break.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. So I thought I’d offer some advice on how to take back control of printing your cookbook at a local copy shop. You might still run into that pimply jerk, but at least you’ll be armed for battle:

1. Output the files to PDF. Your local copy shop probably doesn’t know what Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software is, and if you used Word (shame on you) they won’t like handling it anyway. Creating PDF (or Acrobat) files “freeze” the cookbook so text can’t re-flow to different pages and fonts can’t get lost. Nothing is more frustrating to printers and copy shops than missing fonts and files created in software they’ve never heard of. Download a free PDF creator following the link at the bottom of this page.

2. Take it to a good local print shop. I don’t generally recommend Kinkos as I personally find them to be overpriced and of mediocre service. Ask around and find a good copyshop. I always like copy shops where the owner works in the store.

3. Ask for a heavier cover stock for the front and back cover, and 20lb text paper for the interior. There’s a huge variety of paper stocks out there, so why not be a little adventurous and go with a linen or a nice recycled paper. Make sure to have them use clear plastic sheets over the top of the front and back cover, as that will protect from spills. Fancier paper and the plastic sheets shouldn’t really add more than 25% to the cost to the job. If it does, seek a different printer.

4. If you have a limited budget, print a couple of cookbooks out in completely full color. Give those copies to the few people who will really care the most about the book. Your mother should definitely get the full color. For everybody else, just do black and white interior and color front and back cover. The number of color pages in your entire project will have a HUGE impact on the cost of the job. Plan on spending 3-5 times as much on a full-color cookbook as on a black and white cookbook.

5. Have them spiral bind it together. They may default to just using black, but if you ask a lot of print shops have a variety of spiral bind colors. Make sure you get it SPIRAL bound and not comb bound. Comb binding is like this:

Spiral binding is like this:

I hate using cookbooks that are comb bound because it looks cheaper (although it’s not) and it doesn’t lay flat on the counter when you wrap the page back. Spiral and comb binding cost about the same.

6. You can also save money by writing a printing specification and shopping it around to multiple printers to find the best price. A printing specification for your job might look like this:

“I need 20 8.5×11 cookbooks output from my PDF files in black and white double sided interior with full color doublesided covers. I’d also like an additional 5 cookbooks printed in full color throughout, also doublesided.
“For both versions, there are 45 interior sheets for a total of 90 pages of copying in the interior, plus the cover sheets. The interior sheets will be on 20lb laser text/gloss, and the cover will be 60 pound cover gloss. This is an 8.5×11” book when finished.
“Please use a clear plastic cover sheets over the front and back for protection, and spiral bind each book with white spines (if available).
“Please provide for me a quote and an estimated amount of time it will take to complete the job.”

By writing up a printing specification like this, you can just print it out and hand it to three different printers, and they can each put a bid together on what it will cost. Most printers have email, so you can send them the specification and your PDF files without even having to go in the shop. Also, a printing specification takes some of the guesswork out of it for both the printer and you. The printer may be more inclined to give you a better price because he can tell you have your act together.

I guarantee that if you try three printers, one will be at least 25% less than the other two. However, don’t necessarily go with the cheapest. Also think about which one was the most helpful and which one has the best reputation. You might also consider having the copy shop you like the most print up a single book for you to see if it’s up to snuff.

I don’t have a lot of faith in samples that a printer has sitting around in his drawer. You don’t know if the copier used to make those samples is still around, or if that sample is just the very very best they can do. I’m not bashful–I’ll often ask to see a sample of a project they are working on right now.

Regardless, always always ALWAYS print out a single book before you print up 25 books. Look over it closely. Use it for a week. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find something (if not many things) you’ll want to change before you do the 25 book print run.

I’ve been working with printers and copy shops for 15 years, and I know how intimidating they can be to the uninitiated. They tend to seem more rude and patronizing the less you know about what you want. But then a lot of us can come off more standoffish than we mean to in the heat of the moment. 😉

No matter what, never let a copy shop or anyone else take away the magic of what you are doing. Making a family cookbook is a truly special and noble act. It can be a little easier if you go into the copying part of the job prepared for the experience.

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About Erin Miller

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Posted in Cookbook Software, Recipe Binders, Recipes & Cooking Advice.


  1. Thank you so much for your insights. I am about to purchase your software and will use the above hints. This is my first cookbook and will be a wedding gift in May. I look forward to the finished product.

    Thanks again

  2. Hilarious, scary but oh too true video! I just purchased your software and my question is this: How on earth do I find a customizable ring binder for the 1/2 sheet format I intend to use? My vision is to have a cookbook that looks like my (very) old BHG cookbook. The standard fare offered by my local office supply stores are just not up to my ideals…any ideas?

  3. Hi, Anita!
    So happens that we are planning on adding a 3 ring half page binder to our store in a few weeks. Please check back and see if it’s something you’d like!

  4. After weeks of research into HOW to do a cookbook, I had almost decided to go with your software. However, the Myspace entries I saw today on your website were not something I want to support. How is your business connected with those commentaries? Do you think it is “good business” to include vulgarity on an otherwise pleasant website? I await your response. Thank you, Carla

  5. Carla-
    I honestly don’t know what you are talking about. I pride myself on keeping my site tidy–please show me a link of what you are talking about. (I’ll research it myself too!)

  6. Carla-
    Are you referring to the Dave Chapelle parody above? If so, I’m sorry it offended you. It’s a bit more coarse than I generally like, but it so perfectly captured how bad the service at copy shops can occasionally be. I weighed it’s language against its overall message (copy shop people can be rude) and I thought it was still worth posting.
    I’m sorry it offended you.

  7. Is this going to cost me an arm and a leg cuz my husband just lost his job in the coal mine and everyone here is doing without
    love, Dessie

  8. Hi, Dessie-
    I know things are pretty rough out there for a lot of us. I’m sorry to hear about your husband. Honestly, I don’t know what your budget is, so I just can’t tell you whether it’s expensive or not.
    I can tell you that our software is under $40 (a new copy of Microsoft Word is $100.99.)
    I can also tell you that I know people who’ve taken their cookbook to Staples and had a simple black-and-white cookbook printed and bound for under $4.00.
    A lot of our success has come from helping people make affordable cookbooks, and I hope we can help you too.
    Best wishes (and I honestly believe better times than we can imagine are ahead),

  9. I’m still not sure how to get my cook book to a copy store. Sometimes I’m just a little slow. lol.

  10. Pingback: Printing Your Family Cookbook Away from Home | Matilda's Family Cookbook Kitchen

  11. I agree with Carla. The Dave Chapelle parody was offensive. I realize print shops can be a real test of patience when dealing with them, but there ARE good print shops out there. Just don’t deal with the jerks of the printing world!

    The parody should be eliminated from your website. It is crude and doesn’t fit with your nice website. Even with the offensive words bleeped out, it is offensive!

    By the way, I just ordered your software and look forward to creating my cookbook of treasured recipes. Right now all my recipes are in two bulging zip lock bags. They are a lifetime of colleting the very best from friends and family and deserve to be published. Thanks.

  12. Well, i own and operate a copy shop in northern Montana and i have this to say to you! I watched that video and litterely fell over was the PERFECT video for your article. For me personaly, i always go the extra mile with service and quality to someone thats real nice to me. Rude people get regular service.

  13. Just putting my two cents in…

    The video was great! It’s not like it played automatically when the page was opened – we have the option to play it, just as we have the option to pause it.

  14. Oops. I forgot – thank you for the verbiage to use to get a quote on a print job. Priceless!

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