Earlier this week the New York Times published its biweekly Here’s-the-Latest-Industry-TikTok-is-Upending piece. A few weeks ago, it was how MovieTok is changing film criticism. This week, it’s how TikTok creators with little or no professional cooking experience, but who have millions of followers, are getting deals to publish cookbooks.
The focus of the piece is B. Dylan Hollis, a creator with 10.2 million followers on TikTok, who’s been posting cooking videos since 2020. According to the Times, just three years ago, “Hollis was an unemployed musician in Wyoming who had never baked anything outside a home-economics class, much less written a recipe.” Now he has the bestselling cookbook in the country.
Much of the story focuses on how Hollis and other creators have used their social media popularity to acquire book deals. This isn’t exactly news. The creator-to-book-deal pipeline has proliferated for several years, and it was only a matter of time before it affected the cookbook industry.
But in the last few paragraphs, Hollis touches on a common anxiety in the oft-sanctimonious world of gatekeeping. In response presumably to a question about how more and more creators with little to no cooking experience are getting cookbook deals, Hollis says that he’s worried about how that could impact his own cookbooks.
“Everyone and their dog is about to have a cookbook,” he said, “and who knows what that is going to do?”
In short, Hollis, who’s only recently published his first cookbook thanks to the following he’s cultivated on TikTok, wants to seemingly pull the ladder up behind him — a British expression first used in a more literal sense to notify the rest of the crew once a stranded sailor had gotten safely aboard the ship.
Whether this sort of statement makes Hollis a “gatekeeper” isn’t particularly worth litigating. Some might suggest he is. Others might suggest he isn’t.
Far more interesting is the anxiety that Hollis, who’s new to the cookbook industry, is already feeling despite having the number one cookbook right now. It’s not yet been a month since Hollis published “Baking Yesteryear,” and he’s already worried that in an ever-shifting media landscape, the success of his next cookbook is already in jeopardy. Naturally then, Hollis felt inclined to take a shot at the creator to cookbook pipeline — the same one that allowed him to get where he is today. Sure, it’s hypocritical. It’s also human nature.
In fact, Hollis’s comments speak to the speed at which the creator economy is growing and shifting. Having amassed so many followers in such a short period of time, Hollis understands what every creator is faced with at a certain point in their career, that all the work they’ve done to that point is yesterday’s news. In the creator ecosystem, the questions are always: What have you done today? This hour? This minute?
In that sense, Hollis’s comments are a perfect encapsulation of the heat following the warmth of an overnight celebrity. And in an industry as precarious as the creator economy, it’s only natural that today’s most influential and powerful creators are going to shore up their domain. To give Hollis the benefit of the doubt, he may not even realize that’s what he’s doing.