At the Paris International Cookbook Fair

Gaza Kitchen at the Paris International Cookbook Fair, 2013

Today is the second day of the Paris International Cookbook Fair, which is taking place all around me in the Salles du Carousel, at the Louvre. It’s been pretty exciting to be here representing the team that put together the fabulous Gaza Kitchen cookbook. This morning I went to a talk given by the main Fair organizer, Edouard Cointreau of Gourmand International magazine. He made the very important point that producing a cookbook is ALWAYS a team effort– and that has very much been the case with Gaza Kitchen!

I wish that Maggie Schmitt and Laila el-Haddad, the co-authors– or at least, one of them– could have been here too! But sadly, both of them have smallish babies at home to look after. (Last year, in addition to birthing the book, each of them also had a new baby. Wonderful babies! Fabulously talented and capable women!) Laila, Maggie, Juan Alarcon the graphic designer, and I as publisher formed the core of the Gaza Kitchen team,

Gaza Kitchen at the Paris Cookbook Fair
Gaza Kitchen at the Cookbook Fair

But all of us (especially I) have had a lot of other people we’ve needed to draw on throughout the project. When Ed was talking about teamwork this morning, he said that some cookbook projects have 30 or even 50 photographers working on them! That made me even more admiring of Laila and Maggie, who between the two of them produced ALL the content in Gaza Kitchen… the recipes, the photographs, and the info-boxes. And the quality of their photographs certainly holds up to the best of what I’ve been seeing here. In fact,because the photos have not been extensively “styled”, to me that makes them even better.

Talk business at the Paris Cookbook Fair
Talking business at the Paris Cookbook Fair

There have been two main benefits to being here. One has been that I have learned a LOT here! I wish, actually, that I had come last year, or two years ago, when we were still planning the project. There is a huge display on the upper level, showing many hundreds of cookbooks that have been published around the world in the past year or so: An invaluable learning tool. Then, there are all the displays on the floor of the exhibition hall… and the talks that are scheduled throughout the day in two or three different venues. Finally, many of the presenters and other attendees whom I’ve met here have been generous with their advice and their interest.

The other big advantage of being here is that I’ve been able to make some fabulous contacts… I’ve had two fairly solid expressions of interest from people who are considering buying foreign-language rights to the book; and a couple of good leads to other possible rights deals.

Some other big points from Ed Cointreau’s talk this morning on ‘Trends in Global Cookbook Publishing’, in brief, were as follows:

  1. T.v. appearances by cookbook authors are always a HUGE boost to sales.
  2. The biggest trend right now worldwide is for books of easy, cook-at-home recipes– books, as Ed said, bought by people who want to cook at home more than they have but who were never really properly taught to cook by their parents.
  3. The continuing big tie-in between tourism– both international and regional, within countries– and cookbooks sales.
  4. The important role of financially sponsored cookbooks. (Ah, we could only wish!)
  5. The rising importance of cookbooks dealing centrally with the health aspects of cuisine. (Money quote: “In the West, people eat first and foremost for taste. In the East, they eat first and foremost for health… “)
  6. The single most “international” country in cookbook publishing is the Netherlands. Plus, the Netherlands is a very strong market in itself. (After hearing those points, I hared back up to the cookbook display room and checkout out the Netherlands-published volumes. Impressively international, indeed.)
  7. In Europe, the further north you go, generally speaking, the higher the level of cookbook sales.
  8. Several studies have shown that in places like the U.S., 80% of cookbooks are NOT bought primarily for the buyer to use the recipes. Most people have two or three cookbooks at home that they use all the time– but they may well have an extensive further collection of cookbooks that they’ve bought for general interest. “People are buying the virtual possibility of cooking the recipes… but they very seldom do cook them.” Having said that, though, the recipes do have to be properly tested and to WORK, since if the recipes are faulty that damns the whole project…
Helena and the upside-down pyramid, Carousel du Louvre
Helena and the upside-down pyramid, Carousel du Louvre

All so exciting. But my battery’s running down so I’ll need to stop blogging… More soon!


2 thoughts on “At the Paris International Cookbook Fair”

  1. Great to find you safe Helena, after the strange messages whenever I tried to access JWN. I have enjoyed several of JWB and will be getting The Gaza Kitchen as well. Keep on blogging when you can!!

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