After struggling through the first nine months of 2015, Hachette Book Group rebounded in the fourth quarter, posting a 15.2% sales gain compared to the final period of 2014. The revenue increase, which excludes the impact of currency fluctuations, was driven by a strong publishing lineup led by sales of See Me by Nicholas Sparks.
The strong fourth quarter enabled HBG to finish 2015 with only a slight drop in sales for all of 2015, the company’s parent company, Lagardere, reported. For the full year, Lagardere said an increase in sales of print books was almost enough to offset a decline in e-books at HBG. The company attributed the drop in e-book sales in part to new contract terms with Amazon. With the 2015 drop in e-book sales, digital sales (including digital audio) accounted for 22% of HBG trade sales last year, down from 26% in 2014. HBG noted that sales of digital audio rose 20% over 2014.
Among the books that did well in 2015, HBG cited 14th Deadly Sin, Cross Justice, The Longest Ride, Memory Man, The Crossing, The Goldfinch, Career of Evil, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Power of I Am. HBG CEO Michael Pietsch noted that in addition to “robust” sales of its own authors, the company’s distribution business had an excellent year. And pointing to the improvement in print sales, Pietsch said HBG shipped a record 183 million books out of its Indiana distribution center.
For all of Lagardere Publishing, total revenue rose 10.1% for the year, to 2.21 billion euros. The group, like its HBG subsidiary, benefited from a strong fourth quarter and the favorable impact of currency fluctuations. Excluding the impact of foreign exchange and acquisitions, revenue in the publishing group was up 1.7%.
Outside of the U.S., Lagardere said 2015 was driven by the “excellent performance” in France in illustrated books and general literature. Bestsellers in France included the Fifty Shades of Grey series as well as adult coloring books.
Sales in the U.K. fell 3.3%, due to the decrease of e-books sales in a market affected by the VAT hike, Lagardere said. Digital sales in the U.K. represented 26% of adult revenue in the year, down from 31% in 2014.
Lagardere once again noted that e-book sales remained largely confined to its Englishing-speaking markets. Overall in 2015, e-books totalled 9.0% of the publishing group’s sales (about 198 million euros) down from 10.3% in 2014 (about 212 million euros).