Cookbook authors don’t have it easy

Even though cookbook sales surged during the first year of the pandemic and were growing at a crisp pace even before then, cookbook authors still face many challenges. At Tasting Table, Jill Barth runs down the obstacles that would-be authors will encounter as they look for that gold mine of a publishing deal.

Cookbooks may be selling like hotcakes, but since there are so many books released every year competition remains fierce. Having an existing platform – whether via social media or other avenues – from which to launch is considered essential in the modern cookbook era. Converting fans to sales is harder than it looks, with only about 4 to 6 percent of people going from follower to purchaser at any given time.

Even the bestselling authors rarely make all of their income from book sales. Most authors do not get huge advances, and the costs of recipe testing, photography, and design all have to come out of the advance, leaving precious little on which to live if that is your only gig. Counting on royalties is not a safe bet either, because you have to hit really big sales numbers to make bank.

Because trends can come and go in the blink of an eye these days, it can be difficult to determine what is going to capture the attention of readers. Baking books were all the rage in 2020 as people made the ubiquitous pandemic sourdough, but today people are not stuck at home without access to yeast, and it seems like they are ready to try different things.

It’s not all bad news, however, as there continues to be interest in the genre, and if you have the right topic, following, and timing, there are still opportunities to pursue. Getting an agent can help potential authors navigate the waters and perhaps lead to a publishing deal. Self-publishing is another avenue to consider, and indeed can lead to awards and accolades, as evidenced by JBF winner Jesse Griffiths, who self-published The Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Butchering and Cooking Wild Pigs.

Post a comment


  • Indio32  on  June 19, 2022

    I pretty much buy books in bookshops but I know a few people that will get them wherever they’re the cheapest ie Amazon & Ebay etc. Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed those same people saying books from those sources are becoming way more expensive. A publisher SRP of £26 could be had on Amazon for £10/12 whereas these days that price point book would be £18/20. Hopefully that’ll get more people supporting bookshops. Obviously, costs of paper, shipping etc have all gone up recently but these price rises predate that. Am wondering if Amazon wanted to make more profit so has raised the price floor meaning other vendors have also been able to rise prices but still remain competitive.
    I’ve also noticed that 90%? of uk cookbooks used to have a SRP of £26 but now more are being released at £20/22.
    Wondering if anyone else has noticed

  • EmilyR  on  June 20, 2022

    In Germany, the prices are fixed, so Amazon isn’t undercutting bookstores. I think part of the draw to cooking and baking for me is the real life connection with friends, family, and neighbors where we share the experience and food together.

    I’ve made cookbooks with my children and their illustrations, favorite recipes, and family photos. As fun as I think it would be to make a saleable cookbook, I have no interest in curating a social media presence and thus it’s a moot point.

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!