At a time when cookbook authors are pursuing increasingly novel ingredients and preparation methods, and when cookbooks are becoming increasingly expensive, Artisan Books is trying a different approach with a new line called Artisanal Kitchen. The titles, priced modestly for the publisher and for the category, at $12.95, are intended to appeal to new readers—and new retailers.
The first three titles in the line—Perfect Pizza at Home, Perfect Pasta, and Vegetables the Italian Way—came out in June. Aside from their low price point, the books are notable for their brevity: each is under 100 pages.
Written by Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens, the owners of Franny’s restaurant in Brooklyn, and New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark, the books are adapted from Franny’s: Simple Season Italian (Artisan, 2013). Artisan publisher and editorial director Lia Ronnen said she’s hoping the titles will go some way toward reviving the publisher’s retail presence.
“A $30 cookbook today has a very limited space in which it can be sold,” she said. Bookstores and retail outlets such as gift stores and gourmet specialty food shops are devoting less and less space to higher-priced cookbooks because, according to Ronnen, they believe they’re “showrooming for Amazon.” The stores, Ronnen elaborated, think customers see the books in their store, then buy them for less online.
With this in mind, Artisan wanted to find a way to package the quality it’s known for—authors with specific and relatable points of view, “paired with exceptional photography and exceptional production value”—in a more affordable format.
Ronnen sees the books as impulse buys, but ones less generic and more sophisticated than other recipe guides you might find near the cash register. “This is a specific chef applying a specific technique to his food,” Ronnen said, of Feinberg. “There’s something to be learned from these cookbooks.”
Indeed, Artisan wanted the books to be not only affordable but also approachable. Over the past few years, Ronnen said, the cookbook market has become “bloated with restaurant cookbooks that are not written with the home cook in mind.” Pizza, pasta, and vegetables are “what we go to,” she said. “It’s how most of us are eating at home on a regular basis.” Such classic subjects also lend themselves to merchandising opportunities. “The fantasy is that an account one day calls and says, ‘Oh, do you have any pizza books? We’re selling pizza stones.’”
Artisan will publish three more Artisanal Kitchen line titles—Holiday Cookies by Alice Medrich, Holiday Cocktails by Nick Mautone, and Party Food by Susan Spungen—in the fall, and hopes to continue the series after that.