“You’d have to be sleeping under a rock to not see how curious men have become about the kitchen,” says Suzanne Rafer, Workman’s director of cookbooks, in reference to Steve Raichlen’s Man Made Meals. Conventional wisdom holds that men feel more comfortable cooking with fire and gadgets. But does the same apply to women?
Live-fire cooking is the ultimate slow-food experience,” says Storey editor Carleen Madigan, talking about Cooking with Fire by Paula Marcoux, a food historian and editor of Edible South Shore, a one of the few women to have written a grilling book.
Agate will publish Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain by Jeffrey Weiss, one of several meat-heavy books coming this spring, and Chronicle will release Sausage Making by Ryan Farr.
“In recent years we’ve seen a rise in vegan and vegetarian-interest cookbooks,” says Rodale editor-at-large Elissa Altman; Rodale’s titles in the category include Martha Rose Shulman’s The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking. But the next wave will highlight “the place of vegetable at everyone’s table—including meat lovers’.”
Also this spring, Globe Pequot will publish The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure by Tammy L. Shames and Lyssie Lakatos; The Diabetes Breakthrough by Osama Hamdy is due out from Harlequin; Tuttle will release Everyday Bento by Wendy Thorpe Copley, a healthy alternative for kids meals; and Mayim’s Vegan Table by Mayam Bialik is coming from Da Capo Lifelong. “The demand is growing for more creative ways to find the right balance of flavor and nutrition in the kitchen,” says Lissa Warren, Da Capo’s senior director of publicity.
Two weeks ago we ran our announcements list for the spring, in which we listed cookbook highlights from nearly 50 publishers and offered 10 selected books to look out for. But how are these books acquired, and how are they reaching the public?
“We have found the food-blog-to-cookbook category is still red-hot, but the bar is very high,” says Lucia Watson, senior editor at Avery Books. “Voice is hugely important to attracting a big following.”
“My authors this season all have current or previous television platforms,” says Justin Schwartz, an executive editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who edited Marc Forgione, the onetime Iron Chef competitor.
Kourtney Joy at Ulysses Press has seen a big jump in sales in recent years, “thanks to family-friendly retailers like Sam’s Club, Costco, and Walmart.”
According to Carolyn Mandarano, senior managing editor at Taunton, “We continue to see great results at nontraditional book outlets, such as supermarkets and garden centers.”
Rux Martin, whose eponymous imprint at HMH is publishing The Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert, says, “Fully half of the sales of our big cookbooks come from nontraditional markets,” referring to outlets such as Target, Sam’s Club, and Costco. Sweet Paul Eat & Make, also from the Rux Martin imprint, will be carried at the Anthropologie chain.
“We’ve been expanding our cookbook marketing and promotion online for some time now,” says Michael Flamini, executive editor at St. Martin’s, which will publish The Hungry Girl Diet by Lisa Lillien. “There is so much food writing online that [the Web has] proven a real salon for cookbook enthusiasts,” he notes.
“My goal is to publish, and find ways to sell, books that will be in the kitchen for a lifetime,” says Ecco publisher Dan Halpern. Ecco is coming out with Lorraine Pascal’s A Lighter Way to Bake. “Recipes and food prose triumph over trend and fad.”
Bestselling Cookbooks of 2013
Blogger Ree Drummond has three titles from her Pioneer Woman Cooks series on PW’s top-20 list: A Year of Holidays, with 367,000 sold, topped the list, followed by Food from My Frontier (2012) at #3 and Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl (2009) at #6, with a combined total of over 300,000 for the latter two.
There were four health-related cookbooks on the list. William Davis’s Wheat Belly Cookbook: 150 Recipes (2012) came in at #5, with 127,000 copies sold. Another grain-free cookbook, this one from Victory Belt, a small press, came in at #16: Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great (it was also the bestselling paleo-themed cookbook).
Surprisingly, there were only four TV-related titles on the list, including Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen by Kay Robertson, which is based on a non-food-related show and hit #2, with nearly 300,000 sold.
Last year’s surprise favorite was Yotam Ottolenghi, who had two titles on the top 20: Jerusalem (with Sami Tamimi) at #7, and Plenty at #19.
While cookbook coverage in O, the Oprah Magazine and O online has always been strong, cookbooks are also being discussed on the Serious Eats blog and in L.A. Weekly. Lucky Peach, the quarterly journal of food and writing (with issue #9 just out) founded by Momofuko’s David Chang and distributed by McSweeney’s, also prominently features chefs/cookbook authors.
Cookbooks in Libraries
“We do surprisingly well with coffee-table books, such as Bouchon Bakery,” said Brian Kenney, director of the White Plains (N.Y.) Public Library. “If it’s one thing print books can do well, it’s cookbooks.” Kenney, who also writes for PW, says that his library had “20 circs on the book; it was out half the year.” The White Plains library is part of a Westchester County consortium, and Kenney says the group has invested heavily in the lifestyle category. For his library, he notes that celebrity chefs do well, as do books on “healthy cooking and living—such as vegan.”
Among the titles that have circulated well in White Plains are Daniel Boloud’s Daniel: My French Cuisine, which circulated 12 times, and Manresa and Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book—each with 10 circs. Kenney noted that The Kinfolk Table, Paillard Dessert, and the I Love New York Cookbook also did well. “We decided to invest in what libraries had previously been cautious about—coffee-table books,” says Kenney. “They are right there, hand in hand with interior design books.”
Kenney also noted that prices have come down and people aren’t stealing those heavily illustrated and designed books like they used to. In fact, this is an area where he sees a crossover to buying: “They will check out a cookbook, try a recipe, and maybe go out and buy it if they like it.”
Kenney, who also hosts cookbook author appearances at the library, sees little movement in digital cookbooks. But David Burleigh, director of marketing of Overdrive, a distributor of e-books, audiobooks, and music, is optimistic about the format, noting, “We have more than 6,700 titles in the cooking and food category, with significant circulation statistics.” He says Overdrive has titles from 536 publishers in 12 languages, including Russian. The company also boasts 28,000 libraries and schools in its network, and, according to Burleigh, Cooking & Food is among its top 25 categories by circulation—above Health & Fitness and Suspense. He notes that Overdrive supplies 90% of libraries with e-books and audiobooks, the food-related blog on its site is one of its most popular. In a recent post titled “Dinner at Hogwarts,” Renee Lienhard recreates recipes from cookbooks based on novels and TV series.
Overdrive has also been promoting its Big Library Read series, in which it works with publishers to feature titles across all of its participating libraries. Its first Big Read was a novel by Michael Malone called Four Corners of the Sky (Sourcebooks). For its third Big Read, Overdrive will feature Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp, from Chronicle Books. The publisher is making that book available through Overdrive to libraries and schools; it will be available free for a two-week period (February 17 through March 5). “So far we’ve heard from publishers that during these two-week periods, they’ve seen bumps in sales for the featured title.”
2013 Top 20 Bestselling Cookbooks
|1||A Year of Holidays||Ree Drummond||William Morrow||Hardcover||367,000|
|2||Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen||Kay Robertson||Howard Books||Trade Paperback||290,000|
|3||Food from My Frontier||Ree Drummond||William Morrow||Hardcover||190,000|
|4||Barefoot Contessa Foolproof||Ina Garten||Clarkson Potter||Hardcover||174,000|
|5||Wheat Belly Cookbook||William Davis||Rodale||Hardcover||127,000|
|6||Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl||Ree Drummond||William Morrow||Hardcover||113,000|
|7||Jerusalem||Yotam Ottolenghi||Ten Speed||Hardcover||109,000|
|8||Giada’s Feel Good Food||Giada De Laurentlls||Clarkson Potter||Hardcover||106,000|
|9||Forks Over Knives||Del Sroufe||Experiment||Trade Paperback||104,000|
|11||From Mama’s Table to Mine||Bobby Deen||Ballantine||Trade Paperback||98,000|
|12||The Juicing Bible||Pat Crocker||Robert Rose||Trade Paperback||86,000|
|13||The Healthly Green Drink Diet||Jason Manheim||Skyhorse||Hardcover||85,000|
|14||The Chew||Mario Batali||Hyperion||Trade Paperback||73,000|
|15||Weight Watchers New Complete Ckbk.||Weight Watchers||John Wiley & Sons||Hardcover||67,000|
|16||Against All Grain||Danielle Walker||Victory Belt||Trade Paperback||66,000|
|17||The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook||Deb Perelman||Knopf||Hardcover||65,000|
|18||Michael Symon’s 5 In 5||Michael Symon||Clarkson Potter||Trade Paperback||64,000|
|20||The Science of Good Cooking||America’s Test Kitchen||Cooks Illustrated||Hardcover||62,000|
Great Lakes Chefs Cook Up Self-Published Cookbooks
Restaurants in the resort towns along Lake Superior and Lake Michigan have, for decades, self-published compilations of their most popular menu items to sell to their seasonal clientele.
The White Gull in Wisconsin’s Door County self-published two cookbooks, one in 1989, the other in 1997; total sales for the two are 25,000 units. Owner Andy Coulson is contemplating self-publishing a third cookbook.
Another Door County restaurant, Al Johnson’s, which, in 2012, repackaged and branded a 1946 Swedish cookbook, is self-publishing Al Johnson’s Recipes & Recollections this fall, with a 3,000-copy print run. Priced at $17.95, it’s meant primarily, representative John Nelson says, as “a memento” for the 58-year-old restaurant’s customers. Other restaurants in the region, however, want to do more than simply produce and sell souvenir cookbooks: they want to be players in a competitive market. Three iconic restaurants in northern Minnesota are bypassing traditional publishers, opting instead to self-publish. After testing their recipes in home kitchens, each hired freelance editors, designers, and photographers to produce hardcover cookbooks that are as polished and as glossy as any from a traditional publisher.
The Duluth Grill Cookbook, designed by a graphic artist with book-publishing experience, was written and is being promoted by an editor with a magazine publishing background. Duluth Grill, which has drawn crowds since being featured on Guy Fiore’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives television program in late 2010, displays the $29.95 cookbook at the entrance into the dining area; it also sells it online and at a few local shops popular with foodies. It has sold about 4,500 copies since its December 2012 release.
Lake Avenue Restaurant & Bar, also in Duluth, self-published the Lake Avenue Cookbook this past December. The $34.95 volume, written by the chef-owners, and designed by a graphic artist who once interned for a lifestyle magazine, is available online and at the restaurant, at nearby specialty shops, and at local hair salons. It has sold 400 copies to date of a 2,000-copy print run.
The New Scenic Café, located on Lake Superior’s north shore for more than 40 years, is perhaps the most ambitious self-publisher of them all: it is releasing the 412-page New Scenic Café Cookbook in April with a 5,000-copy print run, and pricing it at $50. Scott Graden, the chef and owner since 1999, insists that he wants to oversee the process and control the production values of a cookbook that he describes as a “complete sensory experience.” Hundreds of recipes went through a four-tier testing process, and Graden took the 240 photographs. Explaining that he’s already got a list of 3,000 individuals who say they want to order copies, Graden hopes that even foodies who’ve never set foot inside NSC will want to add the book to their collections. He’s off to a good start in terms of promoting himself and the cookbook on a national stage: Graden is one of 67 featured speakers addressing 7,000 attendees at the catering and events industry’s trade show, Catersource, held in Las Vegas from March 23–26. —Claire Kirch