Revenue in the first half of 2018 rose 1.4% over the comparable period in 2017 at the Hachette Book Group, parent company Lagardère reported. Profits in Lagardère's U.S. subsidiary also rose in the period, though Lagardère did not say by how much.
Total revenue at Lagardère's publishing division fell 1.9% in the first six months of the year, to €1.0 billion. Earnings dipped to €40 million, down from from €41 million in the first half of 2017. The revenue decline reflected the €42 million negative impact of foreign exchange, partially offset by a gain of €18 million from acquisitions made in 2017.
HBG CEO Michael Pietsch attributed the improvement in the U.S. to an “excellent ongoing backlist performance and strong publishing programs across divisions.” Two frontlist books that did particularly well were The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson and David Sedaris’s essay collection Calypso. Pietsch also pointed to a strong performance by the Avalon Travel imprint, continued growth in the sale of audiobooks, and a strong first half by its distribution business. Those gains offset declines in HBG's Nashville-based group who last year had great success with The Shack.
In other parts of Lagardère's publishing business, sales in France rose 2.5% in the first half of the year, driven primarily by improved sales of general literature and an upward trend in its distribution group. In the U.K., sales dropped 2.5% as the strong performance of Fire and Fury was offset by a soft showing from frontlist titles at Headline and Hodder.
E-books continued to represent a smaller part of Lagardère's business; in the first half of 2018, the format accounted for 8.4% of total revenue, down from 8.8% a year ago.
Back in the U.S., Piestch said he is “looking forward to an extremely strong second half” of the year. Among the authors he pointed to with new books were Sally Field, James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), Joel Osteen, and Ambassador Wendy Sherman.