Writing Contracts for Recipe Testing and Editing

Many recipe testers and editors are satisfied with having a simple letter of agreement with their clients. This may be sufficient for small jobs, but the testing or editing of an entire manuscript deserves the writing of a formal contract.

It’s surprising to me how many professional recipe testers and editors do not have formal contracts for the work they do. Builders, doctors, real estate agents, and other service providers of all kinds require a written formal agreement before any work is undertaken, but recipe testers, developers, and editors are often hesitant to do so.

As Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” A contract – more detailed than a letter of agreement – sets boundaries on both sides. By making clear the expectations and limitations for all involved, a contract prevents misunderstandings and resentments. It also elevates the status of the work by establishing a high level of mutual respect for the parties involved. Offering a contract is a sign of professionalism on the part of the service provider, and if a prospective client is reluctant to sign one it’s an indication that the relationship would have been a rocky one without a contract (and might be even with one).

A good contract should be of equal service to the provider and the client; in other words, all parties involved should negotiate the terms and be happy to sign. You can easily draw up a contract yourself. Include the following essential information, and elaborate as needed.

Name of the parties involved

On letterhead, give the date of the agreement and the names and addresses of the client(s).

This agreement is entered into this XX day of Month, 20XX, by and between Name of Tester, Tester’s Address (“Tester”) and Name of Client, Client’s Address (“Author”).

Delivery and Schedule

Outline the services that will be provided.

A. Tester will test XXX recipes (“Recipes”) from Name of Book or Project, to be submitted by the Author. A “Recipe” includes the title, yield, list of ingredients, preparation instructions, and serving instructions.  For the purpose of this agreement it does not include headnotes, footnotes, sidebars, or any other portion of the manuscript. Recipes with missing or incomplete information will be returned to the Author for additions or corrections before testing will be done.

Once the recipes are tested, they will be edited in accordance with the style heretofore agreed upon by the Tester and Author, while also following guidelines indicated by the publisher’s style sheet.

The Author agrees to provide on or before the XX day of Month, 20XX:

  • All recipes
  • This contract signed by the Author
  • The first payment and advance for expenses
  • Publisher’s editorial style sheet or guidelines
  • A sample of an “ideal” recipe

 The Tester agrees to provide on or before the XX day of Month, 20XX:

  • A style sheet reiterating the style guidelines and any additional notes or comments regarding the testing process
  • A list of all recipes tested
  • All edited recipes, each accompanied by notes on the testing
  • All edited recipes minus notes on the testing
  • An invoice and receipts for expenses


— Tester will return the edited recipes by email attachment to the Author. Hard copies of edited recipes will not be provided. 

—  If there are any changes to recipes submitted after they are tested, each time a revised recipe is submitted for re-testing it will be considered a new recipe and subject to an additional $XXX charge.

—  There will be a charge for each recipe tested even if the Author does not include it in the final manuscript. 

Consideration (Fees)

With the understanding that there will be a minimum of XXX (XXX) recipes to be tested and edited, the Author shall pay the Tester, as full compensation for any and all services rendered by Tester hereunder, a fee in the amount of XXX  dollars ($XXX.XX) plus all expenses for ingredients for each Recipe tested and edited, payable as follows:

(i)  Due Month and Day, an advance payment of  $ XXXX.XX

               {$XXXX.XX  plus $XXX.XX advance toward expenses}

upon execution of this Agreement; and 

ii)  Upon submission of completed materials and invoice on the XX day of Month, 20XX, a final balance (amount to be determined after testing is complete) for any remaining recipes and expenses, to be paid within thirty (30) days. 


Author agrees to pay for expenses incurred by testing the Recipes, including all ingredients, shipping for ingredients that Tester and Author agrees must be ordered by mail, or expenses for copying or printing that have been requested by the Author. Tester agrees to provide documentation (receipts) to the Author for the foregoing expenses.

A Warranty of Assurance

Tester represents and warrants that (i) Tester’s contribution to the Recipes is original; (ii) Recipes will be edited in accordance to industry standards; (iii) Tester’s contribution to the Recipes has not been previously published or used in any medium for any purpose, nor has the Tester made any commitments in any third parties with respect to the recipes or their use.


IN WITNESS THEREOF, the parties have signed this Agreement on the dates indicated below.


___________________________________________                            __________________

Signature of Author                                                                                            Date

___________________________________________                            __________________

Signature of Tester                                                                                            Date


There may be other information that you wish to insert in the appropriate places.  You may need additional advances or payments, separate fees for writing, hourly fees for research or consultations.

Listen carefully to your client and accommodate reasonable requests when possible. Set up a realistic timeline for the work, allowing more time than you think necessary, especially for editing.