Led by a host of bestsellers, sales at Simon & Schuster rose 5% in the third quarter of 2018 over the comparable period in 2017. Meanwhile, operating earnings increased 9%. According to S&S parent company CBS, sales rose to $240 million, while earnings were $51 million in the most recent period, up from $47 million a year ago.
Although two of S&S's big sellers in the quarter were titles focused on President Trump, Fear and Unhinged, the publisher's hits weren’t limited to political books. Among the other titles that did well were Whiskey in a Teacup, Leadership, and Sleeping Beauties. In the children’s group, author Jenny Han had three hits—To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You, and Always and Forever, Lara Jean. Sales of those books were boosted by the August release of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before film.
S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy said the success of the Han titles—the three books have over 3 million copies in print and sold as e-books—helped to lift revenue in the children's group 7% over last year's third quarter, while sales in the adult group rose 6.5%. Reidy noted that the adult group was facing tough comparisons with last year's third quarter when Hillary Clinton's What Happened and Stephen King's It were big sellers. It did particularly well in digital audio, limiting the audio sales increase in the most recent quarter to 15%; for the year to date, audio sales rose 27%. Reidy continues to be bullish on the format.
Another important element to the company's performance has been its distribution business, Reidy said. S&S has already outgrown the warehouse it uses for its distribution clients and has leased a new space where, among other clients, it will begin distributing Skyhorse in the new year. "Distribution remains a very important initiative for us," she noted.
S&S has a number of new books hitting in the current quarter—Dork Diaries 13 shipped late in the third quarter, King's Elevation went on sale Tuesday and Whose Boat is This? by the Staff of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” which now is up to 500,000 copies in print of over 500,000 copies, goes on sale on Election Day.
Given the lineup, Reidy is optimistic that the company will have a good holiday season, but she acknowledged October was a bit soft, something she attributed to distractions caused by the midterm elections. Reidy hopes when the elections are over business, which has been good for most of the year—for the first nine months of 2018, earnings were up 8% and sales increased 2% over the comparable period in 2017—will pickup again.
The focus on the election has not been all bad for S&S, though. Reidy said a number of the publisher's authors have been booked for television shows to discuss the run-up to the November 6 vote, as well as the possible results. "Our authors will be all over TV," she said.