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Cookbook Writers, Turn up the Heat and Get Real With Your Readers

When I was a little girl, my mom owned a copy of The Joy of Cooking. This cookbook, written by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, was first published in 1931… pretty much as a self-published work. (At least according to Wikipedia.)

Since then, it’s sold 18 million copies.

I’m guessing my mom got her copy as a bridal shower or wedding present since that was the big staple for a Mrs. or Mrs.-to-be at the time. Every American homemaker knew about The Joy of Cooking.

It was a huge deal.

If any of that sounds snarky, that’s not my intent. While I can’t recall how many times my kitchen whiz of a mother actually used this cooking "Bible," I have very fond memories of flipping through the pictures and thinking how good most of the recipes looked.

Particularly the lemon meringue pie one. Now that I know Mom made.

Yet long gone are the days when a cookbook by an unknown cook has a prayer of selling so much.

Our Challenge of the Week helps explain why that is – and what to do about it.

Put some personality into it!

Long gone are the days when cookbooks or baking books were stick-to-the-facts-ma’am kind of presentations. No doubt, that’s partially because of how competitive the genre has become.

Now that there are 5 billion cookbooks on the market, not to mention 10 billion cooking sites, food-related nonfiction has to stand out however it can. So don’t just make people love your recipes. Make them love you too. Turn your book into an admittedly one-sided conversation, and you’ve automatically got a good start.

In the spirit of honesty and full disclosure, I don’t think there are actually 5 billion cookbooks on the market. More than likely, there aren’t 10 billion cooking sites either. Hopefully though, you can look past the hyperbole to the main point being made.

Which is how there’s a ton of competition in the cookbook/baking book/recipe book market.

Forgive me while I go off on a seemingly random rant here. I promise I’ll tie it back in …

We live in a fake world filled with fake people, in large part thanks to the prevalence of social media convincing people they need to be fake in order to be liked. I just recently watched a YouTube video of a guy calling out other people of his political persuasion for being fake. And he seemed genuine.

Of course, so do the other people of his political persuasion. So who knows.

But that’s the thing. Nobody knows. Nobody knows who’s fake and who’s real. Who they can trust and who they can’t. Who cares about them and who would sooner hit them upside the head with a frying pan than bake them cookies.

Therefore, that’s your challenge as a cookbook writer: to come across as real, trustable and caring. Hopefully this is because you are. (If you’re not, then that’s on you and nothing I can say in a mere blog post is going to change that anyway.)

One way you can do this is to give an intro where you open up about your love of cooking. Tell them about your kitchen fails and whether you enjoy watching cooking shows or can’t stand the things.

Be a bit snarky if that’s your actual personality, or silly or habitually enchanted if those describe you better. But be you.

While you’re at it, be the you who wants your readers to enjoy themselves from recipe reading to tingling tastebuds.

That's what people are really craving. And if you can't give that to them, then let’s get real… You shouldn’t be writing a cookbook anyway.

For everyone else though, bon appétit! People are craving it.

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