Getting Paid for Recipes, One Year Later

Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen (left), says that absolutely, bloggers should charge for recipes. That's Kate McDermott of Art of the Pie in the middle and me on the right. (Photo by Lora Giorgi, Cake Dutchess)

What a difference a year makes. Last year at The International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), Amy Sherman of Cooking With Amy got a ton of push-back on our recipe-writing panel when she suggested food bloggers should get paid for recipes.

Even I wrote a conflicted piece on giving recipes away for free, which continues to be one of my most-commented upon posts ever.

This year, at IFBC in New Orleans this past weekend, Deborah Perelman of Smitten Kitchen stated, firmly, that bloggers should not give away recipes for free because companies make money from them. There was silence. Hobby bloggers occupied half the room.

And then a woman in the audience, from Wilton, said her company pays for recipes, and that bloggers should always ask for payment. Shauna James Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl, also in the audience, tweeted: “Love hearing @thesmitten, @katemcdermott, and @diannej encouraging women to advocate for themselves when charging for recipes. #IFBCNOLA.”

That’s an improvement over last year, when people talked about giving away recipes for “goodwill” and “connection.” But complicated questions remain about who is asking for these recipes, what you get from giving them away, and what should you charge or not charge in each case. Let’s look at three examples:

  1. Company or corporations: These firms have budgets to pay for work.The rate is anywhere from $250 to $600 per original recipe, according to recipe developers I spoke to when doing research for the IFBC panel. Groceries for testing are never included in the price, and the company will probably own the recipe. Some companies want to pay you in goods. If so, the goods should be worth more than the fee to make it worthwhile.
  2. Cookbook author. If an author wants to put your recipe in her cookbook, charge him or her a nominal fee, unless it’s for a charity you deem worthwhile. But how much, and what if they say they can’t pay? Decide if it’s worth it. An obscure book with a small publishing company might have few readers. On the other hand, it doesn’t cost you much for a recipe already published on your website to appear in a book. And on the other hand, if you believe inclusion would be prestigious, such as in the Food52 cookbook, then you might find it worthwhile from a credibility standpoint.
  3. Company website. If someone offers to post a recipe from your blog for no pay, should you do it? I’d prefer that the answer is no, but I’ve worked with beginning bloggers who have given away content from blogs because it’s good for their credibility and creates incoming links. I don’t like it, but I understand. I just hope it’s a short-term philosophy that bloggers can use as a stepping stone to paid work.

The best approach, the panelists said, is to ask, “What is your budget?” Sometimes after saying no, companies come back with a budget. This moment can be the turning point for many food bloggers, who thought of themselves as hobbyists, and then find that people are willing to pay for their work. And they should. Just because writing recipes is your passion doesn’t mean you should do so for free, outside of your blog.

What is your experience? Has anything changed from last year? Are companies still asking for recipes for free, or is it more common to offer payment now? Are you at the point now where you won’t give away any content for free?

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For more posts about IFBC New Orleans and recipe writing, see: