Simon & Schuster finished 2017 on a high note, posting a 12% increase in revenue in the fourth quarter over the comparable period in 2016. The publisher also saw a 22% jump in operating income. With the strong finish, sales for the full year rose 8% over 2016, to $830 million, while earnings increased 11%, to $132 million.
S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy said 2017 was a year in which most of S&S's plans came to fruition. She noted that all four of the publisehr's major operating groups posted sales gains over the previous year. The audio group, led by sales of downloadable audio, saw the biggest gain, followed by the international group, the adult group, then the children's group.The company's distribution business also had higher sales in the year.
By format, Reidy said sales of print books rose, while overall digital sales increased 3.6%. In the digital category, downloadable audio gains offset yet another year of declining e-book sales.
While S&S had no blockbuster titles, Reidy noted that "we had a lot of books that did awfully well," pointing to such fourth quarter successes as Leonardo Da Vinci, Principles and It. Accompanying solid sales of frontlist titles, Reidy noted that S&S's backlist sales "were incredibly strong." Also adding to the top line were sales of movie tie-ins with Reidy citing successes like The Glass Castle.
One of the keys to the strong profit gain, particularly in the fourth quarter, was that S&S had hits with the books it spent big money to buy. The titles for which S&S spent large advances did as well or better than expected, Reidy noted, adding that this "doesn't always happen."
She said one of the initiatives the company will focus on in 2018 is adding more local publishing to its subsidiaries in Canada, Australia, and India. She is also expecting solid trade paperback sales in 2017, as many of 2017's hits are reprinted in the format.
Among the big new titles S&S will publish this spring are Our Damaged Democracy by Joseph Califano, Faith by Jimmy Carter, The Restless Wave by John McCain, and Us Against You by Fredrik Backman.