With sales of both print and digital books rising in the third quarter, revenue at Simon & Schuster increased 28.5% over the quarter ended September 30, 2019, and profits were up 5.5%. S&S parent company ViacomCBS reported that the publisher's sales in the quarter were $279 million, up from $217 million, and adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization was $58 million.
During the conference call discussing third quarter results, ViacomCBS CFO Naveen Chopra said the sale of S&S was proceeding, but did not give a date when the deal might close. S&S is “performing extremely well as of late," Chopra said, adding that ViacomCBS intends to complete the transaction in a fashion that will maximize shareholder value.
As the sale process moves forward, S&S CEO Jonathan Karp said revenue in the third quarter was up across the adult, children, and audio divisions in the U.S., and international sales also increased, with Canada having a particularly strong quarter. Karp cited the strength of the company’s titles as the reason behind the across-the-board gains. He noted that five nonfiction books had all reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list: Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump (the top selling print title so far this year with almost 1.2 million copies sold); Rage by Bob Woodward; The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton; Live Free or Die by Sean Hannity; and Melania and Me by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. But Karp was quick to add that S&S had big titles in adult fiction (among them Near Dark, The Institute, and Then She was Gone) and children’s (including The Lost Book of the White and Long Way Down).
Karp said it was encouraging to see print sales remain strong through the quarter as once again mass merchandisers and Amazon were doing well with the format. He was also heartened by what he sees as the marked improvement in the ability of independent bookstores to sell online. “I think it is healthy for the industry,” he said.
Karp believes that, now that Election Day is over ,shoppers may begin to get an early start in shopping for the holidays, something retailers are promoting as a way to avoid any possible pandemic-induced lockdowns. He said two newly released titles, Group by Christie Tate (a Reese Witherspoon pick) and White Ivy by Susie Yang (a Today Show pick) have gotten off to a good start, and he thinks they could be strong sellers for the rest of the year. Another holiday title that Karp believes will do well is Let Us Dream by Pope Francis, which he said “could be the ultimate holiday inspirational book.”