cookbook sales

Cookbook Sales Are Piping Hot

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

March 6, 2023

Publishers and bookstores have noticed a positive trend in the past few years: Their cookbook sales are jumping, with cookbooks flying off the shelves.

Always a popular category, cookbook sales have soared in the past three years. In 2021, cookbook sales were 42% higher than they were the year before. Since then, the upward trend has remained steady. Cookbook sales have not slowed down.

Cookbooks Are Flying Off the Shelves

One reason for this popularity is the simple fact that people have been spending more time at home. During the pandemic, restaurants closed, and people got used to eating at home. Millions of people around the world were forced to stay indoors, and many of them worked from home. Some never went to back to the office.

Many of these people discovered a newfound enjoyment of cooking and baking. They found they had time to indulge in a favorite new hobby. Other people who loved cooking but never had time before now had plenty of time to do it. A rise in cookbook sales was the logical outcome. At the same time, the popularity of cooking and baking shows turned many people into budding chefs.

Of those cookbook sales, the clear winners were baking books. Cookbooks focused on breads and desserts have seen yearly sales increases of more than 18% every year over the past decade.

A Perennially Popular Category

However, cookbook sales number show that this popularity preceded the pandemic. In 2018, Publisher’s Weekly reported that cookbook sales were up more than 25% from the previous year.

The cookbook sales surge is even more striking because the rise in cookbook sales came at the same time that there was an explosion of food blogs, recipe centers, and recipe-sharing forums online. There are hundreds of places to find recipes on the internet, and many of them boast lively traffic.

People Prefer Printed Cookbooks

So, why do people still buy printed cookbooks?

They probably buy them for the same reasons people buy all printed books, which still outsell digital books by a wide margin. People simply prefer reading printed books of all kinds.

Many people say they use books in general, and cookbooks in particular, to detach from their reliance on electronic media. Most of us use our computers and phones all day for working, playing, or socializing, and the chance to unplug can be a welcome relief.

In the case of cookbooks, people especially like having a book they can lay on the kitchen counter. They enjoy looking at the full-color pictures, turning the pages, and getting lost in the chef’s stories of how these dishes came into being. These facts make cookbooks more like art books. People buy them for the recipes, but they also buy them for the artwork, photos, and personal stories.

According to a survey by the International Association of Culinary Professionals:

  • Most people buy two or three cookbooks each year, and 12% of buyers buy four or more.
  • 70% of cookbook buyers buy for themselves, and the remaining 30% buy cookbooks as gifts.
  • Half of all cookbook buyers say they cook at home at least once a week.

Top Cookbook Sales of 2022 and 2023

In 2022 and 2023, there were dozens of new cookbooks, but reviewers and food writers picked out these top cookbook sales as the best.

  • Once Upon a Chef: 70 Quick-Fix Weeknight Dinners by Jennifer Segal
  • Dinner in One: Exceptional and Easy One-Pan Meals by Melissa Clark
  • Air Fryer Cookbook: 600 Effortless Recipes for Beginners and Advanced Users by Jenson William
  • Chicano Bakes: Recipes for Mexican Pan Dulce, Tamales, and My Favorite Desserts by Esteban Castillo
  • Cook as You Are: Recipes for Real Life, Hungry Cooks, and Messy Kitchens by Ruby Tando
  • My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein
  • Plant-Based India: Nourishing Recipes Rooted in Tradition by Dr. Sheil Shukla
  • Snackable Bakes: 100 Easy-Peasy Recipes for Exceptionally Scrumptious Sweets and Treats by Jessi Sheehan

Good News If You’re Writing and Selling Cookbooks

What does this mean for you if you’re a cookbook author? You’re entering one of the most profitable and popular book markets.

Here are some statistics collected by the NDP Group, which tracks data on consumer buying habits. When it comes to cookbook sales, it’s helpful to know how people make their decisions to buy them:

  • 60% said easy recipes were the top reason.
  • 48% said the cookbook featured the type of food their family liked.
  • 48% said they liked the variety of recipes.
  • 47% wanted step-by-step instructions.
  • 47% looked for easy-to-find ingredients.
  • 39% consider themselves cookbook collectors.

These facts can guide the way you write, design, and print your cookbook. Focus on producing a high-quality book with beautiful images and recipes that are intriguing but not overly complicated. Those are the qualities that are pulling in readers and selling cookbooks.

Here are some pointers to guide your design and marketing strategies.

1 Focus on easy recipes that use ordinary ingredients. Since baking is popular, include several dessert or bread recipes in your cookbook.

2 Establish your expertise as a cook or baker. Before people buy your cookbook, they need to know they enjoy your approach to food and your recipes. Develop a social media presence. You should have a small but loyal following of people who look forward to making your recipes and reading your thoughts about food. Study the popular food blogs to see how these bloggers create a relatable persona, present simple recipes, and engage directly with readers.

3 Be authentic. The most popular chefs are those with a strong, recognizable personality. Have a point of view, and regularly assert your opinions about your favorite foods and cooking methods. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

4 Learn how to style food to make it look appetizing. Food styling is an art, and if you’re not good at it, your finished dishes will look unappealing. Take online classes. Practice styling your food for photos. You can get ideas from looking at other bloggers’ photographs, but keep in mind that many of them work with professional food stylists.

5 Choose a simple, straightforward design. People want cookbooks that are easy to use. Consider using wire binding that makes the book easy to place on a kitchen counter.

Classic Best Selling Cookbooks

Some cookbooks have become beloved classics just like some famous novels. These books have earned a spot as reliable favorites that chefs and home cooks have used for decades. These titles are among those that professionals and hobbyists consider cooking classics.

  • How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
  • James Beard’s American Cookery by James Beard
  • La Technique: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Cooking by Jacques Pepin
  • The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer
  • Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with 12 Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom by Deborah Madison
  • Mexico—One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Luisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck
  • The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash
  • The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
  • Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Russo and Sheila Lukins
  • The Cake Doctor by Anne Byrne
  • The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis

Your Cookbook Sales Start with Expert Printing

If your plans include writing and selling cookbooks, you should produce printed books rather than e-books. Focus on simple, step-by-step instructions, beautiful images, and a user-friendly design. If you need help printing your cookbook, contact Publishing Xpress.

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