Friday, February 17, 2012

Nuggets of Intelligence From a Cookbook Conference

English: Gwyneth Paltrow at the 2011 Venice Fi...
This post is a bit different for me. Usually I pick an issue or a work related topic to dive into. But since most of the readers here are writers, pursuing second careers, or thinking about pursuing second careers, I thought you might be interested in what I learned at a cookbook conference last weekend.

In case you are wondering what the heck I was doing at a cookbook conference, I will remind you that my first book (a cookbook) will be coming out shortly. I love to take advantage of conferences in New York City because it's just a short train ride for me to attend.

The Roger Smith Cookbook Conference was very unusual in that a truly diverse set of people came together to talk about cookbooks. Of course, there were authors in attendance. But there were also publishers, agents, bloggers, editors, public relations reps, educators, historians, and independent bookstore owners. (Yes, there are still independent bookstore owners.)

And there was a great deal to talk about – far more than I could have imagined. The speakers had fascinating information to share. Here is just a little bit of what I learned:

Celebrity Sells.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that six out of ten of the top selling cookbooks in 2011 were written by celebrities (Paula Deen, Guy Fieri, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman), and Lisa Lillien (Hungry Girl).

Big collections sell.
Of the remaining top sellers in 2011, three were what I would call big collections by trusted sources, including Weight Watchers, Cook’s Illustrated, and America’s Test Kitchen.

What was the number one selling cookbook of 2011? drumroll please…

Cake Pops! Looking back over the top sellers for the past three years, cupcakes (and now cake pops) do seem to rule.

Cookbooks still sell.
And by that I mean physical books, books you can touch and put on a shelf. While all books provide an experience, cookbooks seem to provide a lasting experience. There were 500 cookbooks published in 2011.

People still want and buy cookbooks.
Cookbooks are the #1 genre of books checked out from libraries. Cookbooks are the #1 genre of books stolen from libraries. Cookbooks are the only genre of book unaffected by the recession.

What about electronic cookbooks? People want cookbook apps – and they want them to be full of recipes, but they aren’t willing to pay for them. I saw some examples of fabulous cookbook/recipe apps. None of them are making money.

If you are promoting a book, readers want a personal touch. Readers still love book signings. But, even the authors with the most extensive out-reach said that book signings do not sell enough books to justify the expense.

So there you have it – the ins and outs, ups and downs, good and bad of cookbooks in 2012! What’s your take on cookbooks?


Joanne said...

For a cookbook, I'd prefer a traditional hardcover book to prop open on my kitchen counter while working from it. Statistically I'd assume they're selling better than eCookbooks? Maybe one day someone will design a kitchen gadget specifically for eCookbooks, one that is convenient to work from while cooking.

Colette Martin said...

Joanne, yes, I have probably bought more cookbooks than any other type of physical book in the last year. The only fiction I buy in hardcopy anymore is when the book is less expensive than the e-book.

Love your idea for a eCookbook device!! Saw some very cool apps, but as I mentioned, then don't sell.

Liz Fichera said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who adores cake pops. But I can't imagine buying a cookbook written by a celebrity. Don't they all have their own private chefs?? :)

Colette Martin said...

Liz, I'm with you. I boycott celebrity cookbooks.

Carol Kilgore said...

Love cookbooks if the recipes are for tastes I enjoy, the prep time is quick and easy, and they offer something different from what I already have and/or know how to do. If I'm looking for new ideas for dinner based on what I have available without a trip to the grocer, I search online and print a recipe, which I usually then mark up.

Dave E said...

Colette, does that mean we should boycott yours? Let's hope not!

Colette Martin said...

Dave, I don't think I quite qualify as a celebrity :-)

Carol, the trend towards people searching online for recipes was brought up a lot. What you describe is very common -- and the busiest time for recipe searches? around 4 pm.

Andree Santini said...

I haven't bought a cookbook in years, but my hunger and the mouth-watering pictures recently sold me a cheesecake magazine. With time I'll clip and file the best along with other favorites I've found online, in books, or magazines. I like a paper version to make notes since I often substitute ingredients due to allergies.

Come At Me Bro said...

This is great!