Gourmet Today had a lot going for it before the magazine folded on October 5. For $40 (and $26.40 at Amazon), readers would get more than 1,000 recipes—for vegetable sides, seafood dishes, cocktails and much more—from the editors at the prestigious magazine. There are no photos, but high-quality recipes and equally well-researched writing. However, now that Gourmet’s final issue is on newsstands, sales of the book have jumped. Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has seen sales increase since the magazine closed—which was only two weeks after the book went on sale—and former editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl, who’d committed to touring to promote the book months ago, has been a hotter than usual ticket in light of recent events. Booksellers are reporting a bump, and Amazon says sales of Gourmet Today have doubled since Condé Nast’s announcement Gourmet was over.
Houghton reports that book sales were strong out of the gate (Gourmet Today went on sale September 22), but got stronger after a barrage of media coverage in the weeks following the October 5 news. According to publicity manager Alia Habib, the house printed 165,000 copies, and has received orders for 120,000 copies. Nielsen BookScan reports only 12,000 copies sold as of last week, although a “significant number” of Houghton’s outlets (such as Williams-Sonoma) don’t report sales to BookScan, and the publisher has staged promotions at non-traditional outlets in the lead-up to holiday.
At Amazon, Gourmet Today is selling significantly better than 2006’s Gourmet Cookbook did during each book’s respective first months of release. Borders’ Ellen Clark also says interest in Gourmet Today has increased “due to the magazine closing.” New York independent McNally Jackson is seeing a slower start; Cheryl Sucher says it has been selling “slowly and evenly,” though one customer bought two copies the day after the closing of Gourmet was announced. (Sucher also had a customer recently ask if they had any back issues of the magazine, which, of course, they didn’t.)
“This book is really being viewed as Gourmet magazine’s legacy, even as a collector’s item,” Habib said. Brad Parsons, senior books editor at Amazon, said that’s a possibility. “Perhaps there’s a sentimental factor in the new book’s popularity. People are holding onto and archiving past issues of Gourmet, downloading recipes from the Gourmet website, and the book is another extension of that—a way for the legendary brand to live on.”
National media for Gourmet Today included a Today show appearance by former Gourmet executive editor Doc Willoughby on the day the book pubbed; and interviews with Reichl on NPR’s Fresh Air and the Associated Press, and in Deborah Solomon’s column for the New York Times Magazine (where Reichl acknowledged she’s “not making a penny” from the book), as well as a number of public radio appearances. Willoughby will appear on CBS’s The Early Show tomorrow, demoing a recipe from the book. Reichl has kept up a rigorous tour schedule, making appearances in New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Kansas City (which she visited just two days after the magazine closed). She’s in Philadelphia today, St. Louis November 3 and Miami November 9. Habib said, “Especially after the magazine closed, everybody wants a piece of Ruth and Gourmet, and my phone has been ringing off the hook. The response in the tour cities has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive, both from booksellers and fans.”
This story originally appeared inCooking the Books, PW's e-newsletter for cookbooks.