Look who is cooking with Books
By Barbara Ann Cerda | Contributing Writer
Celebrity does not guarantee a bestselling cookbook.
The making of cookbooks is expensive. Rich imagery, quality products, professional consultancies and food photographers have large price tags. Hardcover cookbooks – although they experienced a short cycle of slow sales in 2014 is enjoying a renaissance. Amazon’s recent debut of its own brick and mortar books stores is a clear indication that this is a lasting trend. The wetting of public taste buds, while producing successful cookbook sales require the expertise of its creator. The writer is required to own name recognition in the culinary industry.
These are a few of the authors that continue to appear in the top ten bestsellers’ list; Ree Drummond’s “The Pioneer Woman Cooks”, Lyn Alley’s, “Gourmet Slow Cooker, Kristin Miglore’s, “Food52 Genius Recipes”, America’s Test Kitchen’s, “Cooking for Two Cookbook”, Rachel Ray’s, “Everyone is Italian on Sunday” and of course Ina Garten. It is noteworthy that best selling connoisseurs are individuals whose early careers began in the food industry. Their culinary artistry found its niche before the release of the first cookbook. They began a vogue of kitchen cooks that has slowly finding a place alongside the complex sophistication of the Michelin chef.
On the road to becoming an established product, amazing recipe authors acquire important promotional skills and collection of industry resources. Rachel Ray was a kitchen cook who became famous for creating the 30 Minute Meals. She began her love of cooking while working in a restaurant her mother managed. Lynn Alley was a food editor for a prestigious gourmet food magazine, Ree Drummond began as a food writer, editor and lifestyle blogger and America’s Test Kitchen has been front and center in the cookbook world for generations. Their name says it all.
We crave culinary formulas intended for simpler kitchens and basic larders.
Most noteworthy is that they are writing and developing mouth-watering books that speak to the growing trends in readership. They have the resources to research and develop expensive complicated cooking. Then translate them to delectable formulations easily recreated in common kitchens. Basic recipes that address our yearnings for healthy eating and home entertainment have become the cookbook “go to”. This kind of marketing shrewdness does not own a price tag it creates it. Many pop culture celebs are discovering that having name recognition and a penchant for cooking does not make you a cookbook superstar. The nominal expenditure of $100.000 to $150, 000 to get your cookbook to market has little return without a culinary name. Established cooking writers make publishers lots of money.
Traditionally a publisher will pay an advance to the author; the cost of production that entails the basics of photography, foodstuffs, props and incidentals soon eats through that initial pay out. Then marketing consumes additional expenses in at least 100 copies mailed to publicists and postcards for mass mailing. For best sellers there is the expense of signage shows (at least 100 venues), ads and appearances on local TV and radio. Then the occasional bookstore drop by and purchases of “significant media mentions”. For non-bestsellers, the advance is quickly spent leaving many bills.
Established cookbook superstars also develop lines of merchandise to absorb the costs of publishing and research and development. Yet even they face stiff incoming headwinds. EBooks and culinary websites have altered the cookbook landscape making the capture of gastronomic readership harder. Allrecipes and The Food Network’s viewership has risen to a staggering over 20 million unique views in 2014.
When I want to cook something unfamiliar, I turn to the web. A recent article in the Guardian speaks about hardcover cookbooks’ waning popularity amongst 50% of women 55 years of age and over. Baby Boomers or Empty Nesters turn more and more to website food networks. It is the younger cooks that are now gathering pantry libraries.
Just as exercise wear and fitness technology are making Wall Street richer…so are cookbooks that lean to the meme of fitness. It is baked within the pricey glossy covers.
Butler pantries of mid century brides’ stand idle stacked with aging cookbooks. It was common practice in those days to contribute to a new bride’s lauder of pricey glossy pictorials with time-consuming food formulations. Today’s older cook lacks the time to spend long hours in the kitchen or shopping for obscure ingredients. Yet the newest generation is developing a penchant for the hard covered kitchen cook’s book that contain well tested foods meant for good eating and healthy lifestyles. This demographic is feeding the rising popularity in general for hard or trade covered books. Hard copy cookbooks contributed $233 million in sales for 2014.
The skill for creating elegant delectable foods at home using common ingredients is growing. Making cook books that deliver this requires seasoned knowledge of the culinary craft. The once complicated and time-consuming recipes meant to impress are being redesigned to fit the culinary skills of busy kitchen cooks.
Having movie star wealth may open the door and wallets of a few but cookbook consumers are smart.
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