An Australian cookbook publisher is shifting who gets the money.

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Credit: Courtesy of Somekind Books

What started as a way to raise funds for restaurants during pandemic lockdowns just might change the cookbook publishing industry. The Takeaway series from Somekind Press operates on a simple premise: helping restaurants, bakeries, and other food businesses write, publish, and sell books while splitting the proceeds. "We looked at the most economical way to do [it]," says cofounder Simon Davis. "Print-on-demand, black and white-whatever we could do to keep the costs down while still making the books look lovely." Call it a stylish combination of crowdfunding, zine-making, and old-fashioned community fundraising cookbooks.

Books are only printed after preorders reach 100 copies, so there's no up-front cost for Somekind. That means they can take greater risks creatively, and restaurants keep more of the profits. (If preorders don't reach the threshold, the money raised goes to the restaurant, minus a $50 listing fee.) The model also allows them to skip the big-name chefs often wooed by traditional publishers, instead approaching restaurants, bakeries, and other food businesses that have passionate audiences within their communities. "It is about supporting your local venue," Davis says. "It's not there for the big faceless chains; it's there for those restaurants that are really struggling." The process of creating these 96-page books takes 12 weeks, start to finish, which is a nanosecond compared to the typical two-year cookbook publishing cycle. Copies cost $20 apiece, making them significantly cheaper than glossy hardback cookbooks, which tend to start in the $30 to $50 range.

Founded by cookbook publishing veterans Davis and Vaughan Mossop, Somekind Press started in Australia in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, Davis estimates Somekind has sold 20,000 books in Australia, raising over $300,000 for the venues behind them. They launched Takeaway LA in November 2020, partnering with Ken Concepcion and Michelle Mungcal of culinary bookstore Now Serving to help curate the series. So far, six Los Angeles food businesses-bakery Bub & Grandma's Bread, Mexican seafood counter Holbox, Chinatown institution Hop Woo, Taiwanese tasting menu spot Kato, seasonal porridge shop Porridge + Puffs, and tiny taquería Sonoratown-have been featured, with six more to follow. Recently, Somekind announced it will be launching a series in New York and Japan, and there are plans for other food and drink series, as well as art books.

Born of a crisis, Somekind Press has re-imagined an entire industry, rebuilding it with fewer risks for the publisher and creative flexibility for authors. And with readers enthusiastically responding, the future of cookbooks could lie within these hyper-local, efficiently produced volumes.