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Is Substack the New TikTok for Cookbook Deals?
And rest in peace, Raghavan Iyer.
Howdy cookbook fans!
And welcome to your Tuesday news round up! A couple ~programming notes~ for you for the upcoming few weeks: Next week, I am leaving for an extremely-needed vacation til late April, and as such publishing significantly fewer issues until I come back. Paid subscribers can expect their weekly Friday paid issues to continue (and I have some fun recipe surprises lined up for you!), but these Tuesday issues will resume their regular cadence in May. With the May cookbook preview!!! Okay? Okay!
Great let’s talk cookbooks.
I think we’re all just looking for recipes that work. We like it when people explain it to us in plain language. I have no cheffy authority whatsoever. I’m always just trying to say it to you the way it would sound if I was saying it to you right now. And I think that makes it a little more approachable, nobody’s being bossed around or condescended to, it’s just about making it work in your kitchen.
Cookbook Author Raghavan Iyer Dies at 61
Award-winning cookbook author Raghavan Iyer has died at the age of 61, his longtime partner Terry Erickson announced on Instagram. Iyer, who was perhaps best known for his book 660 Curries, had just released a new book called On the Curry Trail at the end of February. The New York Times profiled him recently on the occasion of the book’s publication, and the profile also revealed his terminal cancer diagnosis. You can read obituaries of Iyer at The Star-Tribune and The New York Times.
On a personal note, I never met Iyer but he had a reputation as a kind and generous man. I know many of his friends subscribe to this newsletter and I am so, so sorry for your loss. The cookbook world will not be the same without him.
EVENTS The British library has announced their upcoming food season, which stretches from April 17 to June 7 and features events that are held in person and simultaneously streamed online. Marquee names include Nigella Lawson, Nadiya Hussein, Fergus Henderson, Sandor Eli Katz, Olia Hercules, and more. Details here.
AWARDS SEASON Cookbook author and actress Madhur Jaffrey will be awarded the James Beard Foundation’s 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award. Since 1973’s An Invitation to Indian Cooking, Jaffrey has written over 30 cookbooks in addition to hosting television programs and much more. She was inducted to the JBF Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2006. [JBFA]
Are Substacks the New TikTok for Cookbook Deals?
So, are we about to see a rash of cookbook deals based on Substacks1 or what?
Longtime readers know I’ve been tracking TikTok book deals more or less since they started happening. The first couple deals coincided with TikTok’s early pandemic boom, and saw deals go to TikTok stars with millions of followers, like Tabitha Brown and Poppy O’Toole. But over recent months, I’ve seen these deals proliferate and then dwindle; you used to need millions of TikTok followers to get a book deal, now I see people with less than 200,000 followers getting deals.
Well, never fear: on to the next. Because I’ve officially encountered the first cookbook deal I’ve ever seen based on a Substack:What to Cook (When You Don't Feel Like Cooking). The book, sold to Union Square & Co. for a TBA pub date, will feature 100 recipes “for busy people who love good food, focused on maximum flavor but minimal ingredients, dirty dishes, and fuss.” Same as her newsletter, , which has “over 66,000 followers” at time of publication.'s book deal blurb on Publishers Markeplace for the upcoming Breaducation (Ten Speed, pub date TBA) mentions his Substack, . While both the newsletter and cookbook focus on his area of expertise (bread), the book is not specifically based on the Substack itself. Janjigian tells SPN that while he credits the audience he found through Substack as one of the reasons he got a book deal, the book won't be The Wordloaf Book but rather he considers his newsletter “a sketchbook” for Breaducation.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that TikTok food folks and Substack’s recipe writers are the same. While some TikTokers definitely have writing and recipe development skills, there is a vast difference between making dinner on camera and writing down instructions for making it that others can follow. (For example, I am quite skilled at one and not the other. Guess which! :P) Some TikTok stars, like the “Pasta Queen” Nadia Caterina Munno even engage co-authors to help write, in her case veteran cookbook author Katie Parla. Whereas Janjigian is a professional recipe developer, and Chambers is a cookbook author (Just Married: A Cookbook for Newlyweds, 2018) who even joked that her newsletter was her second cookbook when she launched it.
Anyway. There are only these two deals in Publishers Marketplace that mention Substack, and the Chambers deal is the only one that is literally based on a newsletter. But it could be fertile ground! With writers who have written recipes before, and built-in readers who enjoy them! (If you know of other Substack-to-Cookbook deals, email me.) Stay tuned; you know I’m keeping an eye on it.
Coming Attractions: Tiffani Thiessen, Eater, Anissa Helou, Clarice Lam, Zareen’s
All deals via Publishers Marketplace unless otherwise specified.
Above: Tiffani Thiessen has revealed the cover to her second cookbook, Here We Go Again, to People. The book, written with Rachel Holzman, sees Thiessen joining the leftovers/reduced food waste cookbook trend, and will be published in September by Worthy Books.
My pal Hillary Dixler Canavan has compiled 100 essential restaurant recipes from across the country for Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters, out in September. (Congrats Hillary!)
Anissa Helou, author of 2018’s FEAST, among others, to write an untitled cookbook focused on the food of Lebanon, which is where her mother’s family is from. Ecco, pub date TBA.
New York pastry chef Clarice Lam to write Breaking Bao, “a technique-forward love letter to the bold flavors and nostalgic pull of Asian American snacks and baking.” 88 recipes! Chronicle, pub date TBA.
Silicon Valley restaurateurs Zareen Khan and Umair Khan to write Zareen’s Pakistani Kitchen, which shares the recipes from Zareen’s locations in addition to recipes and memories of their childhoods in Karachi. Sasquatch, February 2025.
Above: Start ‘em young. [Instagram]
Are cookbooks key to raising the profile of private label brands? (HEB, call me!) [Storebrands]
A copy of 1871’s The Household Cookery Book by Urbain Dubois is going up for auction in the UK. [Lichfield Live]
The 5 best cookbooks of spring 2023, according to the WSJ.
5 more books for spring 2023, a la National Geographic.
Why bother cooking? [The Spectator]
I promise this is not self-serving….unless it is. Call me! :)