Simon & Schuster turned in its best quarter of 2016 in the third period, ended September 30. The publisher reported gains in both profits and revenue. Sales, which had been down in the first half of 2016, rose 11% over the third quarter of 2015, to $226 million. Operating income increased to $44 million from $43 million.
S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy attributed the sales gain to a "raft of books" that did well in the quarter, including The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, which Reidy noted "has shown remarkable strength." Other hits included A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and The Light Between the Oceans by M. L. Stedman. S&S also shipped a significant number of copies of Bruce Springsteen's memoir Born to Run and Amy Schumer's essay collection, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo.
Overall, Reidy said sales in the adult group were up by double digits. Sales of downloadable audio also had big gains. However, sales in the children's division were flat. The increases in digital audio offset more declines in e-book sales, resulting in a 5% increase in digital revenue in the quarter. Total digital sales accounted for 23% of all S&S revenue in the period.
Reidy said that while sales of digital books are down for the year, she believes S&S will finish 2016 with only a slight decline in e-book revenue. She noted e-book sales are dependent, to some degree, on the type of titles that are selling. Born to Run, for example, is selling very well in print "because [Springsteen's] fans want to have a physical object."
Despite S&S's strong third quarter performance, Reidy said that sales in the industry as a whole seem "lackluster." She, like everyone else in publishing, is hoping that once the election is over people will start buying books again.
To that end, Reidy pointed to the fact that her house has a strong fourth quarter lineup. The company just released Bob Dylan's The Lyrics: 1961-2012 and other forthcoming titles include Faithful by Alice Hoffman, Mistletoe Secret by Richard Paul Evans, and The Sleeping Beauty Killer by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke.
Revenue for the first nine months of 2016 rose 2.0% over the comparable 2015 period, to $558 million, and operating income increased 3.8%, to $83 million. "We've done some good publishing," Reidy said. "I'm confident we'll be happy with the final results for the year."