New partners, new initiatives, new staff, and new readers all contributed to a 48% increase in net revenue at Sourcebooks in the first six months of 2021 over what was already a record first six months in 2020, publisher and CEO Dominique Raccah said.
Among the specific areas of strength highlighted by Raccah was international sales, now under the direction of Shawn Abraham, who joined Sourcebooks in 2019, and which saw big gains. Abraham said that, after moving to Sourcebooks two years ago, he changed the company’s approach to international sales, in particular by looking for distributors and rep groups that fit with Sourcebooks’ entrepreneurial style. Many of those new relationships kicked in early in 2020, and matured to the point where international sales doubled in the first six months this year over the first half of 2020, Abraham said. (Sourcebooks began a distribution agreement this January in the U.K. with DK, and sales in that region increased 10%; DK is a subsidiary of Penguin Random House, which has a minority stake in Sourcebooks.)
A second important growth area in the first half of the year, Raccah said, was the mass merchandise channe,l where sales of adult fiction doubled and sales of young adult fiction increased by 60%. Raccah said she was heartened by the strength of fiction sales, saying that it suggests more people have picked up the reading habit—a trend she believes will continue.
Sourcebooks’s entire fiction program was given a huge lift by its partnership with Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James, which led to the creation of Bloom Books, an imprint looking to work with entrepreneurial authors. The first title published by Bloom, James’s Freed, hit the top of numerous bestseller lists this spring. The addition of James, said Molly Waxman, who moved to Sourcebooks as executive director of fiction marketing last March, helped raised the visibility of Sourecbooks’ adult fiction program among retailers and readers alike.
In July, Bloom Books reached a deal with self-publishing bestseller Scarlett St. Clair. It will publish King of Battle and Blood in November, and also make her Touch of Darkness series available in all channels. Waxman said that Bloom will release works by a third author later this year.
Waxman said that another way Sourcebooks has been able to expand its fiction sales has been by working with the many book clubs, celebrity and otherwise, that sprang up during the pandemic. The company has also taken advantage of exposure books have gained on TikTok, and Waxman said Barnes & Noble has done a particularly good job in merchandising TikTok-boosted titles.
In juvenile fiction, sales rose 17%, with all three of Sourcebooks's fiction imprints—Wonderland, Jabberwocky, and Young Readers—experiencing growth after posting big gains last year. Among its biggest sellers was How to Catch a Unicorn, which sold more than 100,000 copies in the first half of the year.
Raccah said that sales in the first few weeks in the second half of the year are still up over 2020. She added that, while growth has cooled somewhat from the first half of the year, she is expecting to see a strong fourth quarter.