In a letter sent to employees Tuesday, Hachette Book Group USA CEO Michael Pietsch said the company had accomplished its primary objective of growing in 2016. The purchase of the publishing division of the Perseus Books Group increased HBG's revenue by about 15% and added to the company's nonfiction and backlist offerings, Pietsch said.
Excluding results from Perseus, Pietsch said revenue was down slightly from 2015 but earnings rose by 25%, which he attributed to costs savings and an increase in the number of bestsellers. When adding Perseus, "our revenues grew and our profits grew even more," Pietsch said. He said that the decline in revenue from HBG's core properties was due to a decline in e-book and paperback sales plus the transition of Yen Press to a joint venture with Kadokawa. Offsetting those trends was an increase in its Orbit publishing programs and the release of the first titles in the jimmy patterson, Goop Press, and Lee Boudreaux imprints.
The company's distribution business had a good year, Piersch said, citing strong years from clients Disney and Abrams. HBG also added PIKids to its distribution list, and Pietsch said the company plans to continue to grow its distribution business.
Much of the integration of Perseus was completed during the year, a process that was marked by some "difficulty," Pietsch said, pointing to the enormous IT efforts that slowed progress on several projects. More changes are coming in the first few months of 2017, as HBG relocates its customer service, claims, and manufacturing functions to Lebanon, Ind. and Boulder, Colo.
Pietsch also pointed to the changes coming at Grand Central Publishing following the departure of president and publisher Jamie Raab. He said he expects to name a replacement for Raab soon.
Looking ahead, Pietsch said that HBG's leadership teams are working on a number of "major strategic initiatives" in such areas as author partnership, cost control, risk management, consumer marketing, backlist sales, and content development.
Commenting on recent current events, Pietsch said HBG will continue to publish books that contribute to the national discussion on politics from authors on all sides of the political spectrum. Those books, Pietsch noted, will uphold HBG's "culture of respect, openness, diversity, and fairness."
With free speech more important than ever, Pietsch noted that until the end of February, HBG will pay half the cost of any full-time employee who joins PEN. Penguin Random House made a similar offer late last year.
Pietsch said he was excited about the many opportunities that HBG has ahead in 2017, led by a rich array of books it plans to publish in the year.