Much like you know a Workman book when you see it, you’d know a Robert Rose book if you saw it. They’re usually paperback, with copious color photos. The type is large and the recipe steps are numbered, with text following a strict two-column format. Titles often feature numbers—300 Sensational Soups, 150 Best Diabetes Desserts, 12,167 Kitchen and Cooking Secrets—and recipes tend to be uncomplicated. Sales tend to be consistent, too: Robert Dees, president of the company, says it’s not uncommon for books to sell between 75,000 and 100,000 copies—which is notable for a small house in Toronto that doesn’t do much publicity or promotion, and doesn’t publish celebrity authors.
The company was launched about 13 years ago, when Dees, who’d formerly run Macmillan Canada (which has since been bought by Wiley), teamed with Rose Reisman to publish a cookbook, Simply Thai Cooking. It’s still in print and selling well with almost 100,000 copies in print. That spawned a series of light-themed cookbooks, and since then, Robert Rose has grown considerably, publishing about 20 books a year and boasting a catalog backlist of about 175 books, heavily weighted toward cookbooks but also including books on parenting and health. Most of the house’s authors are American and tend to keep a low profile. Among its stable of writers are Linda Amendt (400 Sensational Cookies; 175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades & Other Soft Spreads), a baker and canner who has won more than 900 awards in food competitions; George Geary (500 Best Sauces, Salad Dressings, Marinades & More; The Cheesecake Bible), a cooking instructor who teaches at some 200 schools a year; and Donna Washburn and Heather Butt (250 Gluten-Free Favorites), whose gluten-free books have 150,000 copies in print, and whose bread machine books have more than 250,000 copies in print.
Dees, who employs two full-time and two part-time employees, usually generates book ideas in-house and then identifies authors to write them. “We’re always digging up subjects,” he says. A recent example is 200 Best Panini Recipes, which went from idea to publication in six months and capitalized on a popular trend. Another book, 200 Fast & Easy Artisan Breads, came together in four months, riding the coattails of St. Martin’s bestselling Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The books are distributed in the U.S. by Firefly.
Dees says Robert Rose books are aimed at middle-level consumers, and most are priced around $24.95. “Our books are known for their usability,” he says. “You should be able to go in the kitchen and happily use this.”