If you’re a cookbook author or hoping to become one soon, do you know who would want to buy your cookbook and why?
Adam Solomone, associate publisher of Harvard Common Press, answered this question for attendees at the recent IACP conference, where he gave a slide presentation of data collected by Nielsen, in conjunction with several North American publishers. Answers came from a core group of 2500 cookbook purchasers, a subset of 80,000 book buyers, based on the the last book they bought.
Here are the top findings:
1. Sixty-five percent of all cookbook buyers are women. You’re probably not surprised. Most buyers are college-educated. About half read blogs and discuss cookbooks with others.
2. Thirty-three percent said they bought the cookbook on impulse, either by discovering it online or in a store. Another 24 percent said they bought it because they looked through it and liked it, which implies they saw a physical copy. Indeed, when asked how they discovered the book, the highest percentage said it was displayed in a bookstore (23%).
3. Buyers are most interested in general categories of cooking, baking, and food and health. Other categories of interest were
- Kitchen gardening (31%)
- Home entertaining (28%)
- Canning and preserving (22%)
- Urban farming (15 %) and
- Table setting (14%).
Regarding which cuisines they like to cook, respondents want to make
- American food (86%)
- Italian food (70%)
- Desserts (56%)
- Seafood (48%)
- Southwestern/Tex-Mex (42%) and
- Mexican/Central American (39%) dishes.
Gluten free and vegan brought up the rear with 6 percent interest each.
4. These folks only buy a few cookbooks a year, and most are for themselves. Thirty-nine percent bought between one and three cookbooks in the last year. Only 12 percent bought four or more. While most buy cookbooks for themselves (70%), the remaining 30 percent are gift purchases, nearly twice the percentage of regular books bought as gifts.
5. Half said they cook at least once a week. They were not asked if they cook more often than that. The next largest group, 26 percent, said they cook once per month or less.
6. The top factor that influenced them to buy the cookbook was easy recipes (60%). Other reasons were:
- Recipes match my and my family’s tastes (48%)
- Variety of recipes (48%)
- Step-by-step instructions (47%)
- Ingredients are easy to find (47%)
- Recipes are healthy (44%)
- They wanted the cookbook for their collection (39%), and
- The cookbook was a great value (37%).
Surprisingly, when asked if “lots of color photographs of food” were a buying factor, only 21 percent said photos influenced their purchase decision. So many authors panic when their book deals do not include photography — now they can relax. If you’re worried about good book reviews, only 5 percent said they mattered. And if you’re concerned about the jacket description or testimonials, only 3 percent said they mattered.
7. Print is not dead. When asked where they got ideas on what to cook, respondents said they still read cooking magazines (64%), other magazines (61%) and newspapers (58%). However, the majority (69%) discover and use recipes from free online sites (69%) and print cookbooks (65%).
8. They recognized top brands, but not necessarily the ones you think. Betty Crocker was the most recognized cookbook brand (44%), AARP magazine was the most recognized magazine (24%), and Allrecipes.com was the most recognized website (25%).
9. Most cookbook buyers use social media and read blogs. Some 49 percent said they read or used recipes from blogs. While 34 percent said they do not use a social media networking site, that means 66 percent do so. They like Facebook (62%). If they’re finding recipes on Facebook, that should make you nervous. See this post about Facebook pages that cut and paste rccipes.
10. Online cookbooks have a way to go. Only 16 percent of cookbooks bought are ebooks, and only 11 percent of respondents said they read cookbooks on mobile phones.
Caveat: This study was conducted in 2012, and the 2500 recipients could only select an answer that was already provided.
What do you think of these findings? Are you surprised by any of them? Intrigued?