Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cookbooks Going Cold?

There are many evolving trends coming out of publishing these days.  One of them is the impending extinction of cookbooks.

Cookbooks are still alive, but things are changing.  If I can use my job as a gauge, I’d say the genre is dying out. Every day I field calls for book publicity from authors and publishers of all sizes on all genres.  I used to get queries about cookbooks.  But I can’t recall the last time I had one.

Cookbooks have moved online.  It makes sense. Recipe books can be done as e-books in a less expensive way.  Rather than printing four-color, glossy, photo-filled, hardcover books that cost a lot to print and even more to ship, e-books fill a real need when it comes to cookbooks.  But the free world of the internet makes buying a cookbook—in any form—almost unnecessary.  Do a search for any kind of recipe—low-fat, diabetic, Thai, vegetarian, Malaysian—and a zillion sites pop up online.

But the kind of cookbooks that will survive will have to be those that offer something unique, new, different, or rarely found online, such as:

·         A celebrity author.
·         Adding lengthy text that comments on lifestyle and goes beyond recipes.
·         Packaging the book with a cooking video.
·         Making the pages scratch and sniff.
·         Attaching fun things like stickers.
·         Selling the book with a membership pass for recipe updates.
·         Mixing related topics with the recipes (i.e.: medical advice for a disease-related cookbook or cultural history for an ethnic recipe book).

But I do believe cookbooks will continue to disappear from bookshelves and will eventually be sold cheaply online.  This is a logical fallout due to the digital tsunami sweeping books and all forms of entertainment.  Having never purchased a cookbook—who cooks these days?—I can’t speak about the pro’s and con’s of disappearing cookbooks but it does show how publishers will need to find new ways to capture consumers.  Supplying innovative content is the great quest.  It’s not enough to write a very good book, package it nicely, and make it affordable.  Each new cookbook is competing with the hundreds of thousands that came before it, as many of them are available online, and competing with free Web content as well.  Today’s cookbook has a high bar to hit; it must be revolutionary, radically different, and great in all aspects just to have a slim chance to compete in the new marketplace.

Now excuse me while I order in some Chinese food and leave the cooking to others. 

Interview With eMusic Audiobooks Editor Maris Kreizman on The Hunger Games  

  1. The Hunger Games is now an audiobook. Is it better than reading the book or seeing the movie? It’s a different experience. Movie tie-in audiobooks appeal to me because they’re performed and interpreted by narrators, but they still allow listeners to formulate their own ideas about the book—to see the characters and settings in their heads, rather than in the movie theater.

  1. Why should people listen to it? The audiobook is a great halfway point between the page and the screen. The Hunger Games is a good example of what I like to call a “gateway audiobook.” It’s a non-intimidating starting point for potential customers who are unsure if audiobooks are right for them. I’ve been recommending the Hunger Games trilogy to lots of newbies in the hopes that they’ll get hooked—that they’ll move on from there to other audiobooks, and really become fans.

  1. Why do you think The Hunger Games is such a popular commodity? The Hunger Games strikes a chord because it shines a light on the injustices of the world, and also empowers us to fix it—it shows humanity at its bleakest, but ultimately gives us hope. Harry Potter needed magic to save the world; Katniss Everdeen is a model heroine because she just needs a bow and arrow and some determination.  eMusic contributor, Jessica Wilson, expanded on this theme in an editorial piece for our site on why dystopian literature is so popular now, particularly in the Young Adult category. (It can be found here: /book-news/spotlight/the-hunger-games-and-the-allure-of-dystopia/:).

  1. What do you love about audiobooks? I love being read to. I read books all of the time, but listening to a book feels separate from that, like it’s using a different part of my brain. I love the way a good narration can make a book really come to life, or help me notice elements of the text that I might otherwise have missed had I been reading.  There’s nothing better than hearing authors read from their own works, to discover their natural rhythms and timing and points of emphasis.  Many eMusic subscribers love the convenience of audiobooks—that in an age of multi-tasking, you can enjoy a book and also drive to work or do some cleaning at the same time. It’s hands-free reading.

  1. What advice do you have for writers looking to breakthrough in audiobooks? We have a ways to go before a writer can break through in audio without breaking through in print as well. But for authors who are already under contract, it’s a great idea just to ask their publisher or agent about audiobook plans, and ask what you can do to help. Be involved as much as you can.

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading? Audiobook publishing, along with the rest of the industry, is getting more digital by the day.  As physical product grows scarcer, digital-only audiobooks will become a norm. My hope is that with distribution costs being cut, there will be room for more voices to be heard in the audiobook market. In the past few years, we’ve started to see a shift in publishers converting only their biggest titles to audiobooks, to a broader and more diverse list.  For example, indie audiobook publishers like Iambik and Dreamscape are doing a great job finding quality books that might not be mega-bestsellers, but are more than worthy of getting the audiobook treatment. I hope that trend continues.
Interview With Award-Winning Romance Author Donna Wright

1.      Donna, as an award-winning author, what do you make of the new publishing landscape?  I have to tell that if you had told me in 1997 that small e-presses and self-publishing was the wave of the future I would have laughed you out of the room.  Now, all I can tell is make sure you go into every contract with your eyes open and make the decisions that are right for you.  The opportunities are endless, however, so are the ways to fail.  Reach for the stars and keep your feet on the ground.  Yes, I’m quoting others, but nothing could be more true.

2.      What advice do you have for struggling authors? Two things:  first-NEVER STOP WRITING.  EVER!  Second, be careful.  Never hire an agent that charges a reading fee.  When someone wants money for publication, really be wary.  Not all self-pubbing places are equal.  Check several of them out and then make the decision, carefully based on your needs and expectations.

3.      What is your newest book about? Funny you should ask.  My newest book is my first book!  My Japanese rights were sold to a company that put it into Manga.  It is the cutest thing I have ever seen.  They drew the pig (I’ll need to tell you the story someday, or maybe you can read it!)  just the way I imagined him looking as I was writing the book.  Other than that, I have a romantic suspense novella on The Wild Rose Press called Visions of Fear, which is also available in Kindle.  I am now stepping totally out of my comfort zone and working on a paranormal set in Regency times.  So, I am all over the map and world!

4.      What inspired you to write it? You know, most people can really pinpoint that moment when they knew they had to write and all I can say is I always have.  From the time I was just a kid.  I even submitted a story one time as a teen to a teen magazine.  Never got a reply.  Now I know why.   It was literally hand written on college ruled note book paper.  How unprofessional could I have been?

5.      What do you love most about the process of writing? Just dreaming it up.  Sitting by myself and talking to the characters and in character.  Yes, that makes me crazy, but I’m okay with that.

6.      What makes for a great wrier? I suppose there are all types of different answers for that, but here’s how I look at it.  Someone who loves to write just for the sake of writing.  Someone who would have to write because the stories are inside of them.  (However, just so you know, I’m not opposed to making lots of money, and would like it very much, thank you!) 

7.      Which skills must a writer possess? Perseverance. A HUGE willingness to take critique and rejection. The ability to lose herself in the story. The ability to love her characters they way they should love each other.  (Remember I write romance.).  

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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