Sales were up across all major Simon & Schuster divisions in the first quarter of 2021 over the comparable period in 2020, CEO Jonathan Karp told PW. The strongest increase came in the publisher's international division, where revenue was up 21%. Karp noted that S&S companies in both Canada and the U.K. expect record years.
Overall, revenue in the quarter increased 8.8% over 2020, to $185 million, and operating income increased to $27 million from $15 million. (Current S&S parent company, ViacomCBS, treats S&S as a discontinued operation pending the completion of the sale to Penguin Random House; there was no update on when the sale might by concluded.)
In the U.S, digital sales rose 8% in the quarter and print book sales had a healthy increase, Karp said. The digital increase was driven by audio, where sales increased 17%. E-book sales were about flat, with Karp noting that the format had a sales surge in late March last year when the pandemic first hit.
Sales were up in both the adult and children's divisions. In the adult group, Karp pointed to the success of Sanjay Gupta's Keep Sharp, The Code Breakers by Walter Isaacson, and Sister Souljah's Life After Death and The Coldest Winter Ever as among the top sellers. In addition, a book that S&S had delayed because of the pandemic, The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles, has also done well, particularly at independent bookstores. And Karp said a number of the publisher's major commercial authors saw gains in the sales of their most recent books, in particular Jennifer Weiner and Jack Carr. In the children's group, books by new authors Tracy Deonn (Legendborn) and Chloe Gong (These Violent Delights), combined with Cassandra Clare's newest, Chain of Iron, to boost revenue in the division.
Karp had no comment on protests by S&S employees about the company's decision to sign Vice President Mike Pence to a book deal and its decision not to drop Post Hill Press as a distribution client after the company signed The Fight for Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy by Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of two Louisville, Ky., police officers that shot six bullets that killed Breonna Taylor. S&S is not distributing that title.