Total sales inched up at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the first quarter ended March 31, 2013, rising 0.8%, to $166.6 million, and its net loss was cut to $137.4 million from $225.3 million in the comparable period in 2012. Revenue in the trade segment jumped 24.8%, to $39.8 million, while sales in the education group dropped 4.9%, to $126.8 million.

In the trade group, HMH attributed the higher sales to the purchase of the cookbook list from John Wiley last year as well as higher “general interest” book sales plus higher sales in the children’s group. EBITDA in the quarter rose to $6.7 million, a gain of 111.2%. The decrease in the education group was due to lower domestic sales in both core curriculum and supplemental products, while international sales had a small decline.

One factor in the smaller corporate loss was a dramatic decline in interest expense, which fell to $5.9 million from $66.8 million in last year’s first quarter. HMH reduced its debt load last year as part of its prepackaged bankruptcy. During the quarter, the publisher made $1.3 million in severance payments “to employees whose employment ended in 2013 and prior years.”