How TikTok stars like B. Dylan Hollis are reshaping the American cookbook | ET REALITY


Three years ago, B. Dylan Hollis was an unemployed musician in Wyoming who had never baked anything outside of a home economics class, let alone written a recipe. Last month, he released his first cookbook, “Baking yesteryear”, became the best-selling book in the country.

Not only the best-selling cookbook: the Book number 1.

“Baking Yesteryear,” which features old-fashioned American recipes, sold 150,000 copies on its first day and was one of the most pre-ordered books in the history of its publisher, Penguin Random House, just behind the memoirs of the Obamas and the Prince Harry

Hollis doesn’t have a political career or royal family drama driving her book. What he does have is 10.2 million followers on Tik Tokwhere he has published cooking videos since 2020.

“I feel like I stole someone else’s job,” he said with a laugh in a recent video interview from his home in Laramie.

Hollis, 28, has big, curious eyes and a well-formed hairstyle, and he peppers his rapid-fire speech with colorful expressions like “Oh, dear!” Like many people, he got bored during the pandemic and started baking. Rather making sourdoughShe channeled her love of all things vintage by preparing recipes from old community cookbooks.

Its August 2020 Pork Pie TikTok Video racked up millions of views and, less than two years later, signed a cookbook deal for what he would only describe as a “huge amount of money.”

He’s one of several TikTok creators, many with little to no professional culinary experience, who have gone from tinkering with their home kitchens to topping best-seller lists in a remarkably short time. In the process, they have injected a dose of energy into a flagging cookbook market.

Total cookbook sales have fallen 14.5 percent from a year ago, according to consumer analytics company Circana, with the top 50 cookbooks selling an average of 96,000 copies in the past 12 months.

No one is more surprised than Mr. Hollis.

“I’ve only been baking for two years,” said Hollis, who splits her time between Wyoming and Bermuda, where she grew up. “Being known for baking without having any training or even special knowledge of the subject is a very peculiar notion.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Who deserves to publish a cookbook?’” he said.

The answer is changing rapidly. TikTok has altered what people look for in a cookbook, or a cookbook author, said Vanessa Santos, executive vice president of the advertising firm. Creative Monarepresenting several cookbook writers.

“A recipe doesn’t have to be that new or perfect,” he said. “It’s actually fair: Are you connecting with a personality?”

Not everyone agrees, not even cookbook authors who have a large fan base.

“When you make a 20-second video making a cake, it’s really entertaining and interesting,” said David Lebovitz, 64, the Paris-based cookbook author who started his food blog in 1999 and published a popular newsletter in substack. “But again, people want solid recipes.”

Hollis is far from the first amateur chef to land a major book deal. The Internet has long democratized the notion of who an author can be, and publishers have sought to convert online followings (from food blogs in the 1990s and 2000s to Instagram accounts in the 2010s) in successful cookbooks.

“But nothing has converted as well as TikTok in actual sales,” said Kristen McLean, an analyst at Circana.

Shortly after cookbook author Deb Perelman, 47, began the Kitchen in love blog in 2006, she received offers for quick, short cookbooks for foods like Christmas cookies.

“With the people on TikTok, I see them writing serious, real 300-page cookbooks,” he said. “This, to me, shows that the publishing industry realizes what lies ahead.”

And editors are contributing. TikTok creators are receiving the kind of advances that famous TV hosts might receive: “definitely in the high six or even more six-figure range,” said Anthony Mattero, an agent at Creative Artists Agency who represents several TikTok creators. TikTok.

“TikTok is the biggest sales machine right now,” said Nadia Caterina Munno, 40, who leveraged her TikTok audience of 3.1 million followers in a cookbook deal, “The queen of pasta.” Released last November, it debuted at No. 5 on the New York Times “Tips, How-to, and Miscellaneous” list. (She and others interviewed for this article declined to share the exact amounts of her book bids.)

Ms. Munno’s TikTok career took off with a video he published in 2020 criticizing another creator’s attempt at making lasagna. Now, he said, “I’m making more money than my husband. “I am the breadwinner of the family.”

Beyond the money, publishing a cookbook comes with prestige, even for people who are already online stars.

“It was a great honor to do a book,” said Jenny Martínez, 49, a mother of four from Los Angeles who used to sell forklifts and now has a TikTok account with 3.5 million followers; his cookbook, “My Mexican Table, and that’s it!”will be released in April. A cookbook is “another level and it is a great achievement for a publisher to believe in me.”

But having millions of followers doesn’t guarantee a blockbuster book, said Mike Sanders, vice president and publisher of DK US, which recently created a division dedicated to books by online personalities.

Sanders spends time reading comments online, “just looking at the connection that the TikToker or social media creators have with fans that might allow them to break through the noise,” he said.

Feedback on Hollis’ videos convinced Sanders that “Baking Yesteryear” would sell. In the past two years alone, DK United States, a division of Penguin Random House, has published six New York Times best-selling cookbooks written by popular authors on TikTok.

It can take considerable work to turn a video celebrity into a paper-and-ink cookbook author. Some of the people Sanders recruited hadn’t formally written recipes and didn’t understand everything that goes into producing a cookbook. “We feel comfortable finding these authors on our own, developing them, cultivating them, and surrounding them with support to make these books a reality,” he said.

That support might mean pairing the author with recipe testers or doing the photo shoot. DK even provides authors with strategies to advertise their books on TikTok, whose algorithm is sophisticated enough to identify and suppress promotional posts, Sanders said.

Barbara Costello, 74, a retired preschool teacher in New Canaan, Connecticut, is one of the authors of DK and a tiktok creator whose grandmotherly personality has earned her 3.9 million followers. She said she was surprised by how much work was involved in writing a recipe: measuring each ingredient, determining precise baking times and writing presentations.

The cookbook, “Celebrate With Babs,” was a hit, selling nearly 100,000 copies since its release in April 2022. It attracted some press coveragebut Costello said his TikTok videos about the book drove sales more effectively.

TikTok doesn’t just move merchandise; it also shapes the look and feel of these books.

Ms. Molinaro, 44, author of “The Korean Vegan,” became known on TikTok for narrated cooking videos in which she shares stories about his life. When her editor cut many of the personal essays from her book, she refined them and insisted they be added back. She photographed the recipes herself to match her online aesthetic. She even recruited her social media followers to vote for the cover.

In her upcoming cookbook, “kung food”, Jon Kung, who has 1.7 million followers on TikTok, included QR codes that link to their videos. “It will always be difficult to explain in words how to fold dumplings, knead bread or make pasta,” Kung, 39, said.

Munno, author of “The Pasta Queen,” said she doubled the number of photos of herself and beautiful Italian landscapes in her cookbook to make it more like her TikTok account.

Many readers have told her that they bought the cookbook to enjoy the pictures, but have not cooked a single recipe.

Still, many people buy these cookbooks for the recipes.

Janvi Joshi, 26, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in finance, has cooked about seven dishes from “The Korean Vegan.” She said that with recipes written in captions on social media, “the measurements and such can be a little off.

“When you read recipes in a cookbook, they’re a little more thought out and tested,” she said.

But Hollis worries that the more cookbook deals his fellow TikTok creators get, the less credible their books will become. The field can become too saturated.

“Everyone and their dog is about to have a cookbook,” he said, “and who knows what that’s going to do?”

On the other hand, Mr. Hollis is already thinking about his next cookbook.

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