Cookbook sales still going strong after pandemic boom - Marketplace (2024)

Leslie Gray Streeter, prepping to cook mushroom risotto, has 47 cookbooks in her kitchen. This year, her goal is to make something from every single one. Samantha Fields/Marketplace

How many cookbooks are too many cookbooks? Is there such a thing?

Cookbook sales still going strong after pandemic boom - Marketplace (1)

Only if you don’t use them, is what Leslie Gray Streeter decided. She’s a single mom, an author, a columnist for the news site the Baltimore Banner and a cookbook … hoarder? Collector? Enthusiast? All of the above?

She has dozens of them — some she bought, some she was gifted, some old, some new. Almost all have been sitting on a shelf in her cluttered kitchen, untouched, for a long time.

“In my regular rotation, I probably was regularly using three?” she said. “Four?”Still, she kept buying more. Her latest? Pinky Cole’s “Eat Plants, B*tch.”

“And when I bought that, I spent too much money on it,” Streeter said. “And I thought, ‘I have to use all the cookbooks that I have.’”

So, in January, she made a resolutionpublicly, in the Banner: to use every cookbook in her kitchen at least once this year.

A month in, she’s already made something from 28 of them.

“I think of a cookbook as like an album”

People love buying cookbooks, whether for themselves or for others.

“It’s always a strong category,” said Kristen McLean, book industry analyst for market research company The NPD Group. “They are the fourth largest category of nonfiction that we sell here in the United States.”

Sales fluctuate a little year to year, but they’re generally stable — around 20 million or so. In the first year of the pandemic, cookbook sales spiked about 16%. Though they have dropped off a bit since then, sales remain strong.What changes more is the kinds of cookbooks people are buying at any given time.

“In 2020, after the pandemic arrived, we saw a very sharp uptick in certain types of cookbooks, including cookbooks on the basics for cooking for yourself, cookbooks on bread baking, cookbooks a little bit later on co*cktail making and other types of like in-home entertaining,” McLean said. “So it was a real ticker tape of the psychology of the folks who were stuck at home.”

Today, it’s a completely different list.

“Now the emphasis is really on quick and easy, single-pot dishes,” she said. “The type of thing you would expect if people were having to integrate cooking back into very busy lives.”

Case in point: On the New York Times bestseller list right now are Ina Garten’s “Go-To Dinners” and Jamie Oliver’s “ONE: Simple One-Pan Wonders.”

“I think people are just tired of deciding what to make for dinner,” said Paula Forbes, who writes cookbooks, cookbook reviews and a newsletter called “Stained Page News.” “On my newsletter, some of the most popular posts are guides to cookbooks that I pull off with on a shelf when I have no idea what to make for dinner.”

Flipping through a cookbook can be less overwhelming than scrolling endlessly on your phone, looking for inspiration.“If you have a cookbook, you can browse it, you can flip through it, and you see what catches your eye, see what sounds tasty on that particular day, and you make it,” Forbes said.

And if you end up liking the “chicken with miso, ginger and lime,” recipe on page 230 of “Ottolenghi Simple,” chances are you might also like the “pork with ginger, green onion and eggplant” on page 231.

“I think of a cookbook as like an album,” Forbes said. “The individual recipes on blogs and things, those are singles. But when you have the cookbook, you have an album, and if you like one of the songs on the album, you’re probably going to like another song on the album.”

Like albums, a lot of cookbooks are also beautiful works of art that can just be nice to have around the house.

“The archival record that comes with touching paper”

For Leslie Gray Streeter, there’s also something about print that she loves.

“Something about having a cookbook, and putting it on your counter, and maybe flour on your hands, and olive oil on your fingers … and just the archival record that comes with touching paper,” she said.

One of the recipes she’s revisiting, now, for the first time in years, as part of her new year’s resolution, is wild mushroom and asparagus risotto from Sarah McLachlan’s “Plenty” cookbook, which her sister gave her back in the ‘90s when Streeter was in her “Lilith Fair phase.”

At the time, she followed every single instruction to a T.

“You can see the check marks,” she said, picking up the book. “I literally — the first time I made this — I put a check next to everything I did, so I knew the stuff I’d already done.”

Cookbook sales still going strong after pandemic boom - Marketplace (2)

Now, more than 20 years later, she’s a whole lot looser in the kitchen. Today, for this wild mushroom risotto with asparagus?“We’re not using asparagus, because I don’t have any,” she said.

Instead of garlic cloves, she’s using dried minced garlic; instead of rosemary, an herb blend and instead of white pepper, black.

But she loves being able to pick up this book and see those check marks from her younger self.

“You can see the stains on it, and the things that spilled in the middle, and the worn quality of it,” she said. “And it reminds me of the first home that I had, and the first time I hosted Thanksgiving, and I just remember those things when I use this.”

And she loves that one day, she’ll be able to pass this book and all her others — with their history, stains and all — onto her son.

Cookbook sales still going strong after pandemic boom - Marketplace (3)

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Cookbook sales still going strong after pandemic boom - Marketplace (2024)

FAQs

Do cookbooks still sell well? ›

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.

What is the average cookbook sales? ›

“I think of a cookbook as like an album”

Sales fluctuate a little year to year, but they're generally stable — around 20 million or so. In the first year of the pandemic, cookbook sales spiked about 16%. Though they have dropped off a bit since then, sales remain strong.

Does anyone buy cookbooks anymore? ›

In 2017 roughly 17.8m cookbooks were sold in the US alone. Nielsen BookScan data shows that cookbook sales in the US grew 8% year-on-year between 2010 and 2020, with sales numbers boosted even further by the pandemic. We don't usually, however, actually cook from cookbooks.

How many people still use cookbooks? ›

According to The NPD Group, we buy about 20 million cookbooks a year, the fourth largest category of nonfiction sold in the United States. “Easy recipes” was cited as the top reason by 60 percent for buying cookbooks.

How well do cookbooks sell? ›

Cookbooks easily sell for 2–4 times their cost, allowing you to earn $500 to $50,000 or more! We're so sure you'll make money that we back it with our No-Risk Guarantee.

What demographic buys cookbooks? ›

The following characteristics are common among cookbook buyers: 3 out of 10 women collect cookbooks, 68% of all cookbook buyers are women, and women with a higher income will spend more for cookbooks. When trying to determine your target audience, consider the style of your cookbook.

What is the best site to sell cookbooks? ›

Sell Individual Cookbooks on eBay or Amazon

this route will get you the most money for your collection. We recommend eBay vs Amazon if you don't want to be selling for over a month. If you have a lot of time, Amazon works well for books and draws the largest audience. For quick turn, we prefer eBay.

Which cookbook has sold the most copies? ›

More than 75 million copies of the book have been sold since it was first published in 1950. Owing to the dominant color of the book's covers over the years, the Betty Crocker Cookbook is familiarly referred to as "Big Red", a term that General Mills has trademarked.

What is the most popular cookbook size? ›

Cookbook Sizes Standard

Portrait Size – The traditional portrait cookbook size is A4 or 8.5 × 11 inches. Landscape Size – The ideal landscape cookbook size measures around 11 × 8.5 inches. Square Size – Also a popular option is the square cookbook size which is around 12 × 12 inches.

Is there a market for old cookbooks? ›

"Cookbooks can have auction potential, especially if they are rare, valuable, or have historical significance," said Sawyer, who's based in New York City. "Some vintage cookbooks can fetch high prices at auction, particularly those that are in excellent condition and have a strong provenance."

Should I get rid of old cookbooks? ›

As much as we all love cookbooks, sometimes you hit a point where you just have to let a few go. But unless a cookbook is totally trashed or something flimsy you put together in grade school, you don't really want to just throw them in the garbage. Someone else could get use out of them!

How much should I sell my cookbook for? ›

The list price for print cookbooks typically runs anywhere from $15 to $30 for popular cookbooks and $25 to $50 for gourmet or restaurant cookbooks. Amazon usually discounts these by 30% to 50%. It is usually ideal for most Monetizing or Marketing books to fall somewhere in this range.

Are cookbooks worth buying? ›

A cookbook might teach you how to diagnose and correct your technique. Take, for example, the cookbook “Salt Fat Acid Heat,” which breaks down cooking into the basic elements. Once you understand the way certain elements work together, you can walk away a better cook. Using cookbooks can also simply be a delight.

How much does the average cookbook sell? ›

Smaller, local publishers, however, sometimes will work with authors directly, even though an agent is still preferred. Either way, it's ideal to have a book proposal outlining your concept, audience and budget to help sell your concept to them. The average cookbook sells between 5,000 and 8,000 copies.

Who is the largest cookbook publisher? ›

The Nation's #1 Cookbook Publisher - Morris Press Cookbooks.

Are cook books worth money? ›

For many rare and collectible cookbooks, a first edition, first printing makes the difference. Betty Crocker vintage cookbooks are a good example of this. Early printings are far more valuable than later printings of the same edition.

Can you make money off a cookbook? ›

The good news is, you don't have to be a trained chef or baker to make money selling cookbooks anymore. Absolutely anybody with a love for cooking can turn this into a profitable side hustle.

Should I throw away cookbooks? ›

There's no reason to throw away all your cookbooks. Instead, choose a few you want to keep. Maybe they have a colorful spine and look nice on your shelf, or perhaps they mean something to you. Keep those!

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