The big buzzword in cookbook publishing for the last decade has been “platform,” referring to something that made you famous before you actually wrote a cookbook. It usually meant a television show or a famous restaurant. Publishers Weekly’s recent list of the top 10 bestselling cookbooks of 2012 bears that out in spades. The interesting thing, though, is how the notion of platform is changing.
Granted, six of the top 10 books are based on television shows (though three of the top five are on a home shopping network). But the other four are books by bloggers -- a platform that can be shared by anyone with some good recipes, an interesting twist and the willingness to spend a lot of time at the computer.
The bestselling book, by a long shot, was Food Network star Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof,” which sold 428,105 copies.
Three QVC authors placed in the top 5 -- David Venable’s “In the Kitchen With David” (264,953 books sold), Marlene Koch’s “Eat More of What You Love” (132,796) and Bob Warden’s “Great Food Fast” (122,665).
But No. 2 was blogger Ree Drummond’s “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier,” her second bestselling book. The first, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From an Accidental Country Girl,” was published in 2009 and still placed No. 8 (103,751).
Other big blogger books were Deb Perelman’s “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” (No. 6; 114,547) and local girl Lisa Lillien’s “Hungry Girl to the Max!” (No. 10; 86,656).
Rounding out the top 10 were “The Chew,” based on the ABC television show (No. 7, 109,020), and “Weeknights With Giada” by Giada De Laurentiis (No. 9; 95,040).
More generally, cookbooks seemed to hold up better than many other forms in what was a down year for sales. That’s not a lot to cheer about, though. Sales were off 3%. But it could have been worse -- business books were down 18%, science fiction was down 21% and biography/autobiography was down 26%.
About the only category that saw an increase was romance, powered by the “Fifty Shades” fever. Various iterations of the series took the four top spots in adult fiction, selling a combined 14.3 million books.