A soft fourth quarter in which revenue fell 7% led to a 0.6% decline in sales for 2018 at Simon & Schuster. Despite the sales decline—from $830 million in 2017 to $825 million last year—operating income rose almost 6% in 2018 over 2017, to $144 million.
S&S parent company CBS said the fourth quarter revenue decline was due to lower print book sales. S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy said the company "came up short" on a couple of titles right before Christmas, but that it performed well in the period given the reduction in printing capacity the industry experienced over the holidays. She added that the industry now realizes it is operating in a new environment where printing capacity has declined. Nonetheless, she is confident S&S will adapt to the changing circumstances.
Looking back on 2018, Reidy said sales of downloadable audio once again had gains well into the double digits that countered declines in e-book sales. Overall, total digital sales rose by half a percentage point over 2017.
Sales in S&S's two big domestic groups, adult and children's, were flat with 2017. International sales fell. Reidy noted that 2018 didn't have the benefit of some movie tie-ins that helped drive sales in 2017. "We relied on our own publishing and I am proud of that," she said. Reidy also noted that despite the sales shortfall in the fourth quarter, profits rose for the 16th consecutive quarter of the comparable period.
Three political titles did extremely well in the year: Fear by Bob Woodward, Ship of Fools by Tucker Carlson, and Unhinged by Omarosa Manigault-Newman. Children’s sales were led by Jenny Han's To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Dork Diaries 13 by Rachel Renee Russel, and Cassandra Clare’s Queen of Air and Darkness.
While the first half of the publisher's 2019 lineup doesn't have any political titles, it does feature a number of books by well-known authors such as New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke, Pioneers by David McCullough, Backlash by Brad Thor, and Don’t Stop Believin’ by Olivia Newton-John. Reidy also wouldn't rule out that some political books will be added to S&S's list. "We have some things working. We will have to see how they play out."