Publishers hope bonus recipe content will increase appetite for growth category
Publishers are looking to feed the growing appetite for Christian fiction with some additional takeaway value. Several new and recently released books feature recipes that allow readers to literally chew over what they have read.
Among the authors serving up the extras is best-selling Amish drama writer Wanda E. Brunstetter, who recently completed a taste-test book tour in support of White Christmas Pie—released in September by Barbour Publishing.
During Brunstetter’s tour, Christian bookstore employees made homemade samples of the dish of the title, which included instructions on how to make the dessert.
Others offering culinary bonuses include Eva Marie Everson and Linda Evans Shepherd’s whose “The Potluck Catering Club” series from Revell/Baker Publishing Group debuted in September with The Secret’s in the Sauce, featuring six friends from the earlier series “The Potluck Club” who start a catering business in a small Colorado town.
Everson and Shepherd said the food focus of the book has provided many opportunities to connect with hungry readers in local book clubs.
The authors said the typical book club meeting consists of preparing a food featured in the book with discussions on how they prepared the meal. “Potluck Catering Club” readers also connect and share recipes on a promotional Web site for the book series.
Also released the same month as The Secret’s in the Sauce was debut novelist Beth Wiseman’s Plain Perfect (Thomas Nelson), pairing Amish cuisine with an Amish storyline. She has posted recipes featured in the book on her Web site.
Meanwhile, readers will soon be invited to submit their own recipes in an upcoming contest for to-be-determined prizes promoting the April 2009 release of Face of Betrayal (Thomas Nelson) by Lis Wiehl and April Henry, the first novel in the “Triple Threat” series centering on three female protagonists who meet to solve cold cases and share their favorite desserts.
Food plays an important role in drawing readers in, according to Camy Tang, author of the novels Sushi For One? and Only Uni (both Zondervan). Tang prominently included scenes of family meals in her books and has been promoted as an author who writes “Asian Chick Lit with a kick of wasabi.”
“Readers—both Asian and other ethnicities—love the food described in the ‘Sushi’ series, even those who don’t like sushi,” Tang told Christian Retailing. “They enjoy learning about the different types of foods—Japanese and Chinese—and the mishaps that occur around food and eating.”
Tang said the focus on food in her novels was due to the high value placed on family gatherings in the Asian community. With custom requiring visitors to bring food, the focus of shared meals was a natural fit for her books and readers have responded.
“Readers tell me that food forms a large part of many other ethnic American cultures, and they enjoy reading about Asian food, comparing it to dishes their family makes,” she said.
Mavis Sanders, corporate publicist for Tyndale House Publishers, told Christian Retailing that food plays “an integral part of almost every Tyndale novel … whether it be for sustenance, fellowship, comfort or to help to set the scene or describe a character.”
Sanders said that Angela Hunt’s “Fairlawn” series, including Doesn’t She Look Natural?, She Always Wore Red and the March 2009 release She’s in a Better Place, feature recipes for “comfort food” like hot chicken salad casserole, strawberry muffins and brown sugar pecan pie.
Tyndale’s “Sweet Delights” series by Terri Blackstock, Elizabeth White and Ranee McCollum concludes each novella with a favorite recipe from the authors, including “Death By Chocolate” brownie dessert, chocolate icing and “The Rhys Carter Surprise”—a no-bake chocolate dessert.
Although the food-fiction connection has been heightened recently, it is not entirely new.
Neta Jackson’s popular “Yada Yada Prayer group” series, published by Thomas Nelson, may have been an appetizer for the trend, with re-released, enhanced “party editions” featuring additional content as well as recipes and tips for celebrating international holidays.
Despite the food-in-fiction interest, Christian retail shelves have traditionally been bare of cookbooks, which have typically not sold well.
The large format inspirational cookbook Come to the Table by Benita Long (Thomas Nelson) has been a recent exception.
In its second printing less than two months after its October release, the $24.99 cookbook had done “very, very well” at Christian stores, according to Jason Jones, Nelson’s publicist for business, culture and general interest.
In a similar vein to Come to the Table, a series of books released by Harvest House Publishers have centered specifically on sharing stories and fellowship through tea parties.
Titles in the series include Sandy Clough’s Come to My Tea Party, When Friends Gather for Tea and An Invitation to Tea, co-written by Emilie Barnes.