Where Old Books Go to Die
When one of your babies goes out of print.
When authors tell me their book is going out of print, it’s a sad day. Some add that they plan to purchase all the remaining copies from the publisher. They will sell them at conferences, from the trunk of their cars, or on their own websites.
I can’t blame them. Those books are their babies, the physical culmination of months of work.
And now it’s happened to me, with the coookbook I wrote with chef Craig Priebe in 2008, Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas.
Today this book is 15 years old, and still for sale online. Sales were high at Williams Sonoma when it debuted, because stores displayed it next to grilling equipment and pans. The title earned out its advance and had good sales in summer.
Then Penguin Random House bought the book’s publisher, DK (Dorling-Kindersley). Suddenly Bookshop.org (which I use for online book links) said they couldn’t order the book anymore.
I asked my literary agent to investigate. Here’s what DK’s new publisher said:
“Yes, this book is now out of print. I'm afraid a reissue at this time isn't the best fit with our publishing strategy. We are working almost exclusively with influencers with a large (500k +) social media following and building books around them and their brands.”
Sigh. This response is every author’s nightmare. Probably 95 percent of us don’t have followings of 500k+.
Months later, Bookshop.org told me that Ingram, the nation’s biggest distributor, no longer stocks our second cookbook,The United States of Pizza. Now I’m wondering if the same fate awaits.
I’m trying to be realistic. Our books had good runs. They were a fun way to test hundreds of pizza recipes. I learned more about how to write cookbooks and my husband and I ate well.
Author Michael Ruhlman mentioned in a recent newsletter that one of his books will go out of print too. And this one won a James Beard award! Here’s Michael:
“My book, Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques, 100 Recipes, a Cook’s Manifesto, is going out of print. This is one of my two most favorite cookbooks. It’s a great book. Seriously. I say that without humility or embarrassment. I wasn’t even surprised when it won a James Beard Award for best general cookbook in 2012. Alas, the publisher, Chronicle Books, has decided not to print any more (*sniff*), so snatch up the last 1000 or so copies that remain. It was a good run anyway.'“
Even some of our best authors’ books go out of print. So it goes in publishing.
But hey, it’s summer: time to grill a pizza. If you have an outdoor grill or a pizza oven in your backyard, pick up a copy of Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas before they’re gone.
What I’m eating:
Speaking of pizza, here are four pizzas from The United States of Pizza, made by a friend who is professional recipe developer. Click on the photo to read more. Rosemary made the Grandma pizza again to show her granddaughter in a video — so sweet.
News about Moi
My rant in my last newsletter about “In a Bowl Combine” created quite a stir on Twitter, especially among British food writers. Someone looped Nigella Lawson in on the tweets. British food writer Rachel Phipps wrote a “response of sorts” in her Substack newsletter.
Veteran cookbook authors Molly Stevens and Kate Leahy interviewed me about the modern history of food writing for the “Everything Cookbooks podcast.” We had a blast! I hope you’ll listen.
On My Blog
The Subtle Burn of Restaurant Recipes. Bonnie Benwick, former Washington Post recipes editor of the Food Section, is not pleased by some of the chef recipes she’s discovered lately.
Classes and Events
One-hour consult: $250
For years I've had a five-hour minimum for consulting. But now, through Delicious Experiences, we can do a Zoom call for just one hour or more. If you want to start your dream cookbook, get your book published, or get better freelance assignments, let’s move you forward with your goals. Writers at all levels have booked me to discuss a variety of topics.
What I'm Reading
The Most Exciting Cookbooks to Look Out for This Summer. The Thrillist breaks it down.
Richard Olney: A Memory. Nancy Harmon Jenkins reflects on meeting a legend.
“ Tell me you’re a food blogger…” Ansley Beutler of The Fit Peach blog shows what food bloggers do in the summer.
Why Cookbooks are Still Essential. Number 2 resonates with me particularly, the opportunity to travel the world from our kitchens.
What is quality content and how do you create it? Yoast defines the term and provides good tips.
Who won the Art of Eating prize in 2022? Here’s the list and comments from the judges.
A Cook Who Never Used a Cookbook Now Has Her Own. An inspiring New York Times profile of 89-year-old Emily Meggett, who wrote a cookbook about Gullah Geechee food. (Free to read)
358: How Anela Malik Grew a Successful Subscription-Based Membership Community. I’ve been curious about Malik for months, and now I’m fascinated by her business model and chops.
Why Is Every Cookbook a Memoir Now? Many of today’s cookbooks reveal the personal, unabashedly.
Eight Dazzling New Cookbooks. The New York Times says so. (Free to read)
Excerpts from Ina Garten’s Anarchist Cookbook. Funny! The voice is spot on.
How to Market Your Book Without Social Media. For self-publishers and those with small numbers, here’s a good list of things to do.
Getting Book Endorsements (Blurbs): What to Remember, Do, Avoid, and Expect. The author covers it all.
Inside the Push to Diversify the Book Business. The New York Times on how excutives are trying to open up the industry. (Free to read)
News About Clients and Students
(I like to brag about food writing accomplishments here. Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Anna Mindess wrote The California Chefs Showcasing the Diversity of Native American Cuisine for Gastro Obscura.
Time magazine recognized the work of Berkeley teacher Neeli Patil for her work on climate change.
Pat Tanumihardja’s picture book debut, Ramen for Everyone, illustrated by Shiho Pate, is now available for pre-order.
Thanks for Reading
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Disclosures: I am an affiliate of Food Blogger Pro, Amazon and Bookshop.org.