Cooking Up the Books

A Discussion on Editing and Marketing Cookbooks with Pamela Cannon and Pamela Cortland

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Amateur cooks entered a contest to cook up a Julia Child recipe to tie-in with the theatrical release of "Julie & Julia."

On Tuesday, February 23, the Young to Publishing Group hosted “Cooking Up the Books,” a brown bag lunch discussion on the editing and marketing of cookbooks with Pamela Cannon, Editor-at-Large of Ballantine Books and Pamela Cortland, Assistant Marketing Manager at Knopf. The dynamic duo discussed everything from what factors are considered during the cookbook acquisition process to the opportunities that the digital world offers the cookbook market.

Cannon spoke first, and gave the audience insight on the editorial side of publishing cookbooks. “We don’t need any more recipes; we don’t need any more cookbooks. We need personalities that can really drive the book,” Cannon said, illustrating that in the world of cookbooks, a strong chef personality is just as important as tasty recipes. “I like to have a narrative in cookbooks just to get to know the personality behind it.

She stressed that cookbooks are, after all, illustrated books and that they are highly expensive to produce. Thus, when considering a book idea, she said that it has to have a broad reach and must be a visual and cerebral experience. When asked about the current trend of blog-based cookbooks she agreed that they can be successful, but the book itself has to be dynamic enough to stand on its own. A common question that she asks when a blog-based cookbook is pitched to her is “will someone actually want to pay for the book when they can get its content online for free?”

“We don’t need any more recipes; we don’t need any more cookbooks. We need personalities that can really drive the book.” – Pamela Cannon

Pamela Cortland then took over and discussed her experiences with cookbook online marketing at Knopf. She said that the key to successful online marketing is “synthesis, participation, and great cookbooks.” She highlighted the importance of synthesizing the message and theme of all of the social networking sites that marketers use, and to be an active participant in the social networking community by engaging users.

An sampling of Knopf's Borzoi Cooks Newsletter

Cortland gave examples of successful marketing projects that she’s spearheaded at Knopf, including “The Borzoi Cooks” blog ( where members of the Knopf marketing staff document their experiences cooking from the books that they publish, and the “Be Like Julie: Cook From Julia” contest ( that challenged readers to blog about cooking from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.

With both marketing projects residing on the Knopf/Doubleday website, Cortland illustrated her idea that a publisher’s website should serve as a destination for consumers, not just a resource for marketers and publicists.

Other topics discussed included the changing demographics of cookbook buyers, particularly a new interest among younger audiences and men (“Cookbooks are not just something you buy for Mother’s Day anymore,” Cannon said); the opportunities for added value that can be provided by including online bonus features such as extra recipes and video demonstrations to complement a traditional print cookbook; and the cooking and restaurant blogs that they frequent the most (Smitten Kitchen, Grub Street, and 101 Cookbooks).

Cannon said that at the end of the day, the basics of cookbook publishing are simple. “We’re looking for value. We’re looking for something that tastes good, is impressive, and doesn’t break the bank.”

Pamela Cannon is Editor-at-Large of Ballantine Books.

Pamela Cortland, is an Assistant Marketing Manager at Knopf. You can follow her on Twitter at

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