This past weekend two cookbook editors from Chronicle and Ten Speed told an audience at Book Passage bookstore in Corte Madera, CA what they’re looking for in a cookbook. I thought you might like to know.
Let’s start with Amy Treadwell, an editor at Chronicle Books. She’d love to find another book that will do as well as Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans, which has sold more than 100,000 copies. That book led to more cupcake-based products: the Cupcake Kit and Cupcakes Deluxe Notecards.
Treadwell said she’s looking for three things:
- Cookbooks that tell a story, versus just a collection of recipes. She gave the upcoming The Commonsense Kitchen: 500 Recipes Plus Lessons for a Hand-Crafted Life as an example. It’s based on a college that teaches men to cook.
- Targeted single subject books, such as the one on Whoopie Pies she co-wrote in six months to capitalize on a trend.
- Blog-to-books such as the upcoming Cake Pops by Bakerella, a top pre-order on Amazon.
Melissa Moore, an editor at Ten Speed Press, said the company’s top recent successes include Rustic Fruit Desserts, the best selling cookbook in 2009 with no blog or restaurant behind it. Last summer, the bestseller was the Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook.
The categories that have done best for Ten Speed are:
- Baking books.
- International and ethnic cuisine. The upcoming My Sweet Mexico, for example, focuses only on desserts and sweets.
- Previously uncharted territory that still seems mainstream, such as nutritionally sound yet accessible cookbooks. Forget sending a vegan cookbook, as she says the category is overcrowded.
- D-I-Y cooking such as pickling and preserving.
- Wine and spirits, if you have a new twist or you can demystify the process
- “Food writing,” a small segment of narrative with the right recipes woven in.
What does she not want to see? “I get five proposals a day for ‘Fresh from the Farmer’s Markets,'” she sighed.
(Shameless self promotion: Don’t send off your proposal without reading my chapters on writing cookbooks and proposals in Will Write for Food. Or hire me to help you craft an irresistible proposal.)