The sun was out more often than not last year and we had a good year. Over the last decade, the world of publishing has been troubled, anxious and confused yet we’ve always been profitable.
Perez: It’s really exciting that we’re putting out the Yigit Pura cookbook. He’s opening Tout Sweet at Macy’s any day now and he’s such a lovely chef.
Bay Area Bites: How did that come about?
Perez: Here's a good piece of local gossip: Yigit knows Frankie Frankeny and Frankie’s wife Chloé Harris Frankeny through the Marriage Equality movement. The book idea was from them organically talking in a way that’s more closely knit rather than just an agent’s proposal arriving on our desk.
Bay Area Bites: What role does social media play at Chronicle Books?
McEvoy: The biggest food app that people rely on is Instagram. Everyone relies on what they saw and ate and everyone here is in love with it. We have a huge Pinterest culture and find authors there. So much of social media is relational and about discovering.
Perez: We were early adapters to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest and find neat ways to get people’s response. We’re really conscientious of being tastemakers and trend watchers; we’ve been publishing for over 25 years.
The most primal thing that’s been going on now close to five years is that we have a regular food based blog post weekly. I’ll write it or I often get our authors to guest blog. One of our best selling authors is Bakerella -- and we’re approaching a million copies with her book. When she’s a guest blogger for us, it’s mutually beneficial. It’s not paid placement and it’s really through the social experience online.
For the blog, usually there’s a recipe embedded to give people a connection to the book. We share recipes, and it’s a PDF that you absolutely have permission to keep that content. Or we do Q&As and quizzes that get a huge response. We’ll do a crowd source kind of thing, where we use Instagram for hashtags and say, “Tell us your favorite ice cream flavor.” We published Humphry Slocombe and they have over 300K Twitter followers. We let the author be a judge, and select who we pick.
There’s more behind the scenes and context on why we published the book. When we do giveaways, it’s to get people to comment and instigate a response. We have a lot more readers than commentators. We’re trying to engage and not be hard hitting with, “Buy our books.” We know people love our books for a reason and we publish things we really believe in. It’s not just a crass commercial operation.
Bay Area Bites: Why keep Chronicle Books in San Francisco?
McEvoy: I’ve always thought that one of the advantages is there isn’t that much publishing in San Francisco so you don’t go out and have drinks on the town and run into folks. It’s an interesting world we live in out here. My kids are so into Facebook and I just see a world where we get increasingly digital and fast-paced and non-material. At the same time we have Slow Food and caring about where the chicken went to high school. We are increasingly interested in the physical and sensuous real world as a counterbalance to how much time we spend in our little screens and boxes. We are in fact all mammals and it’s under reported how much we like things.
Bay Area Bites: Nion, what’s your involvement with McEvoy olive oil & what’s the story there?
McEvoy: My mom used to say, “Sometimes I think in my last incarnation I was a medieval farmer because I love olive oil and bread so much."
Mom got the property in Marin and thought it’d be a nice place for my kids. Marin wouldn’t let her do anything unless it was with an agricultural purpose and she thought olives. I introduced her to Maggie Klein's book The Feast of the Olive and then to Italian olive expert Maurizio Caselli. Maurizio looked at it and said “Oh yes, perfect.” Then my mom imported seedlings from different Tuscan varietals and planted her first crop with olive trees. She’s 93 now and does not make all the executive decisions so I get pulled in to help out. Our little marketing dept Christina Cavallaro and Jane Steele--who both worked at Chronicle Books at one time-- thought it’d be good to go into lotions and skin care products for our 80 Acres line. We had to learn that from scratch. Then a few years ago we released our 1st scent/flavor called verde. Then after that, we did lavender and blood orange. Those have been dramatically successful and now sell in Harrod’s. The relation between olive oil and Chronicle Books is that both companies share a love for high quality and the beautiful and sensuously pleasing.
Bay Area Bites: Nion, what are your favorite Bay Area spots for food & drink?
McEvoy: Fish in Sausalito for the Vietnamese salmon banh mi and Out the Door for chicken pho.
Bay Area Bites: Nion, what is your guiltiest food pleasure?
McEvoy: Caramel and sea salt ice cream from Whole Foods. I’m not that susceptible to junk food but I am susceptible to food.
Chronicle Books is having a Back To School Warehouse Sale, where you can save 65% on select titles. Peter Perez recommends arriving early for the best deals and selection.
WHERE: Chronicle Books Corporate Headquarters ONLY
680 Second Street
San Francisco, CA 94107