How This Boutique Cookbook Publisher Is Reimagining the Industry
The publishers started in the pandemic to help their own local restaurants, but are now looking to expand worldwide.
Avid cookbook collectors know the magic of flipping through sleek pages with gorgeous photography, tried-and-true recipes, and insightful stories woven between the covers. Cookbooks serve as a snapshot of a time and place for restaurants and chefs and function as beloved keepsakes for enthusiastic fans.
But cookbook publishing is a challenging—and slow moving—industry to be in. The time and effort it takes to pitch a concept, write and draft and test the recipes, develop the cover, edit the book, and all the other intricacies it takes to finish such a project can span over years. But when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged earlier in 2020, it became obvious that some restaurants wouldn’t have those years—or even months—to hang on due to the economic fallout of the pandemic. This very predicament is what motivated Simon Davis and Vaughan Mossop, the co founders of Somekind Press, to create their own scrappy and quick-paced publishing house that is, in their own words, “hyperlocal.”
Both Mossop and Davis have cut their teeth in cookbook publishing, so although Somekind’s structure and business model is different, building out the content within the pages was familiar to the pair. “[I was] concerned around my friends in the hospitality industry and thought, ‘What could I do to help?’ If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s to create cookbooks,” Mossop said of the lightbulb moment that brought Somekind to life. “I thought I’d make cookbooks for these venues to sell directly to their fanbase or their communities to support them and flip the publishing model on its head a bit to give most of the profit to the venues. When this started, I thought we’d sell maybe a couple hundred and then I’d just dust off my hands and go to the next freelance job or whatever. But it kind of blew up pretty quickly and all of the sudden we were giving a good amount of money to these venues and actually showing real support to them.”
“I think that people are buying into the series not just because they want to support their own locals, but because they want to hear these stories going forward.”
Somekind’s cookbooks follow an innovative, dreamt up business model that feels like a foil to traditional publishing. For starters, the majority of the money raised goes directly to venues—the remaining is then split among creative contributors, like designers, photographers, and editors. The cookbooks double as a crowdfunding source and work on a preorder basis; if 100 copies of a cookbook aren’t sold, the title will not go to print and the money that has been raised will be donated to the venue. “A normal, traditional publisher will invest in say, 10,000 copies that get printed in China and then hope to sell all of them and need to push that to make sure that they’re accountable to sell them,” Mossop explained. “Because we crowdfund and preorder all of these, we actually don’t need to keep stock so we only print what we sell so we don’t have any waste.”
It’s an entirely new method of publishing, which is reflected in the name of their company: it’s not traditional publishing nor is it digital, it’s just some kind of publishing.
Though both Mossop and Davis are conscientious of the environmental impact that comes with creating physical books, it was important to the pair that the stories they helped restaurants tell came in the form of a tangible book. “We live in a world now that there’s so much content that is out there but still that value on the physical thing is very special,” Davis said. “I think the name Takeaway reflects that; it’s literally something to take away from the venue to keep. To own. It’s important.”
Their Takeaway series, which allows chefs and restaurateurs the freedom and creativity to tell their own stories and share signature recipes, began in Australia—highlighting iconic food spaces that are cherished within their communities. Since the initial launch in March of 2020, Somekind has expanded stateside to Los Angeles. But rather than consulting a “Best LA restaurants list” or reaching out to the most popular venues, Davis and Mossop took a more local approach.
“We’ve got a good handle on Australia as far as the places and we work with commissioning editors to find places that are really plugged into their community. But because this whole series is about community, it didn’t make sense for us to just go online and find the coolest places that have the most accolades in LA. So we approached Now Serving because we just knew that they’re very plugged in… They understood that this was a very community-focused thing; we wanted places that are important to LA.”
But Davis and Mossop don’t want to just stop in Los Angeles. They have their sights set on New York, Tokyo, and beyond—with plans to connect with the locals who know their restaurant scenes best and can develop curated places to pick from.
And though Somekind started in the pandemic as a way to support struggling restaurants, Mossop and Davis see Somekind existing beyond this challenging period. “It’s definitely shown us that there is a place for a hyperlocal publisher, a community-focused publisher to be able to tell some of these stories in ways that traditional media—whether that’s magazine or online—doesn’t normally afford them this time and space to be able to do,” Davis said. “I think that people are buying into the series not just because they want to support their own locals, but because they want to hear these stories going forward.”