Who Wrote the Bestselling Cookbooks of 2013?

Share:Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on Tumblr
Click on the image to see the cookbook names more clearly.

I was on a panel last week (during the Julia Child Food and Wine Festival at Bacara in Santa Barbara, CA) where the moderator showed this slide of the bestselling cookbooks of 2013 in the US, according to Nielsen research. If you haven’t seen it yet, I think you’ll find this chart illuminating.

Here’s what stands out for me:

1. The top book is by a food blogger. That is probably a first.

2. The author, Ree Drummond, had three bestselling books last year, not just one. Not only is Ree’s 2013 book on top, but there were so many sales of her two previous cookbooks that both became bestsellers last year too.

People purchased 670,000 books by Ree Drummond last year, almost twice the sales of her Number 1 best-selling book.

To repeat, Ree’s four-year-old book and her one-year-old book were bestsellers last year. That’s rare. Maybe unheard of.

3. Television comes out on top. Three television personalities wrote six of the top 10 cookbooks. Ina Garten was on top in 2012. Last year she was knocked off by a woman in a reality television show and a food blogger who has a Food Network show. Of course, Garten has a Food Network show too.

4. One book comes from a movie. Forks Over Knives, the cookbook, came out after the 2011 documentary of the same name.

5. Two books are about special diets. Wheat Belly advocate a wheat-free diet, and Forks Over Knives advocates a plant-based diet.

6. The minimum sales to get on this list seems to be 100,000 books sold. So if you want to be a bestselling cookbook author, that’s what it takes to get into the top ten.

You could always try for 2014. But first, read this article about who gets to publish a cookbook.

7. Amazon’s list is not the same. Now, for comparison, let’s look at Amazon’s bestselling list from 2013, listing the top cookbooks sold on its site in 2013. It’s different! But notice that the Numbers 1, 3, and 8 are from a television show, and 5 and 6 are related to a television show. America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated (owned by the same company) is cleaning up with positions 1, 6 and 8.

Numbers 2 and 10 are big food bloggers.

So that’s my take. What are your thoughts about these cookbook bestseller lists?

(Dislosures: Links in this post are to an affiliate program. I was paid in kind to speak on the Bacara panel.)



  1. says

    Wow. Those are big numbers to digest. Sell 100K? It seems daunting, yet encouraging. A challenge if nothing else.

    What Drummond has done is extraordinary! We can all take notes on her style, tone, voice and approach to cooking. I went to her site recently and loved how she told a story with photographs. Not just the same shot from different angles, but full blown story. In our in-the-moment culture, beautiful photographs are the way to capture a mood and tell a story, but producing said photographs is time consuming and expensive as we all know.

    Since I’m self-publishing (a “passion product” if there ever was one, as described in the article you linked), I know the pain of trying to produce beautiful photographs for my ebook. And as a side about that, when I went to Bowker inquire about buying my ISBN’s, I see they now offer publishing packages. Two of those packages include a Vook deal, but the fine print offers just 10 photographs (of course for more money-yet to be determined by me) you can add as many photographs as you can afford. If you or any of your readers knows this amount, I’d love to know.

    While I am a cookbook collector, I find even though I own a few celebrity cookbook and foodie culture cookbooks, most of my go-to books are how-to books by the iconic chefs of the culinary world, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, etc.

    Thanks for the sobering stats Dianne. I’m headed back to Photoshop!

    • diannejacob says

      She does an amazing job, doesn’t she Maureen? What I love most of all is her voice. It is a sister/girlfriend kind of voice, so inclusive and fun.

      I’m sure she has an assistant or two to help her with her photos. It’s a huge job! It must take a while to get them all small enough to load quickly.

      Good luck with the self-publishing. I hope it goes well.

  2. m. flasch says

    One must look at where these titles are sold. The top 4 are also sold at Costco and Sam’s Club as well as other retail markets that have small book sections. Some of the others on the list – and further down the list may not have had that reach. For some, those retail outlets are the only places they can buy books. Not everyone has time to shop online.

    • diannejacob says

      Good point. I’ve read that the big box retailers (Target, Walmart, Costco) sell about 45 percent of all books sold in the US. So fewer books are sold, but in bigger quantities.

    • Mardeen says

      I agree with the big box availability. Costco has had all of Ina’s and Ree’s books for sale throughout the year.

  3. says

    What really stands out for me is that not ONE of these cookbooks were written by a zebra. In fact, I can’t find ANY cookbook, culinary memoir or food-related volume with a zebra listed as author. Even though we’re a bit challenged with the whole hoof thing, I think we can do better (which should be simple, as we have currently done nothing).

    I’m sharing your website and the Amazon link to your book (ZeBestEver guide to food writing) with every food-loving zebra (and aspiring human author) I know. With your expertise, we will change the culinary world. Thanks so much for ZeInspiration!

    • diannejacob says

      This is true. You’ll have to get going with your own cookbook, ZeBot. I urge you to consider your audience. Will it be for other zebras, or humans? This is very important.

      Thank you for the kind words. I am honored to have you as a fan.

  4. says

    I think it’s amazing that Ree started off as a food blogger, but I think definitely the fact that she’s a food network star is what has opened her to more sales. The first time I heard of her was from the food network and I definitely became fan :) I just got one of her cook books last year and I love it. It’s encouraging that a food blogger can become another Ree Drummond.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes Absolutely, Kristin. And yes, a food blogger can become another Ree Drummond, but she is extremely talented and a very hard worker, so as long as you consider that, it’s possible.

  5. says

    I think it’s wonderful, and encouraging, that a food blogger had not only one, but three of the top selling cookbooks last year. She does a great job with her blog, pictures and recipes – so it is not surprising.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *