With solid sales throughout much of the year, revenue at Simon & Schuster rose 10% over 2020 to just under $1 billion ($993 million), while operating income jumped 52%, to $213 million. “It was an extraordinary year for all of our groups,” CEO Jonathan Karp told PW.
The two fastest-growing divisions were the company’s distribution group, where sales jumped 50%, and its international unit, which had a 25% increase. Both divisions benefited from strong sales of manga; S&S is the worldwide distributor for Viz Media, and the graphic novel publisher had 49 titles reach PW’s trade paperback bestseller list last year.
S&S’s adult group saw a 4% sales increase led by its Atria publishing group, which is home to TikTok sensations Colleen Hoover and Taylor Jenkins Reid. Karp said that sales for both authors have continued strong into 2022, and he sees no sign that enthusiasm by TikTok users for the authors is diminishing. The adult group also had two books that sold more than a million copies last year, American Marxism by Mark R. Levin and The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave.
Sales in the children’s group increased 7%, helped by sales of These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong, who Karp called “a rising star,” and Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz.
Total digital sales were flat in the year as a 9% decline in e-book sales was offset by a 11% increase in audiobook sales.
Karp said S&S has done a good job in keeping costs under control, and noted that significantly lower returns contributed to the big earnings gain.
With an August trial date looming in the government’s effort to stop the sale of S&S to Penguin Random House, Karp praised the ability of employees to keep focused on publishing good books. Noting that Forbes recently ranked S&S as #342 out of 500 companies on its “America’s Best Midsize Employers 2022” list, Karp said he sees that as a sign that morale is good. The S&S management team hopes to keep morale up by engaging in “predictable flexibility,” a concept taken from the S&S book Pay Up by Reshma Soujani, Karp said. As part of that strategy, S&S is allowing employees to continue to work remotely until the litigation with the Department of Justice is resolved.
Karp thinks S&S is well positioned to have another good year in 2022. He has extremely high hopes for Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, a debut by U.K. author M.F. Steadman. Karp said the book, the first in a series, reminds him of the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series. Rights sold in 36 territories and the book, which was acquired jointly by S&S and S&S UK, will be released in May. Also in the children’s group, Once Upon a Tim is the first book in a new series by Stuart Gibbs, and is publishing in March.
On the adult side, Michael Schur’s How to Be Perfect is a #1 bestseller, and Karp thinks the new Tony Robbins book, Lifeforce, will soon be at #1. Another book in the new imprint Simon Element, The Modern Proper by Holly Erickson and Natalie Mortimer, will be published in April.
During the conference call held by S&S’s current parent company, ViacomCBS, to discuss 2021 results, it was announced that the company is rebranding itself as Paramount, though Karp noted, “we are still Simon & Schuster.” In the early 1990s, following an earlier rebranding of Viacom to Paramount, S&S was renamed Paramount Publishing.