Widespread changes made last year to such things as its supply chain, remote work, and efforts to reach consumers led to a point-of-purchase print unit sales increase of 36% at Sourcebooks in the first quarter of 2022 over the comparable period in 2021, the publisher said in an announcement. The gains came despite an 8.9% decline in print unit sales at outlets that report to NPD BookScan.
Sourcebooks founder, CEO, and publisher Dominique Raccah told PW that the independent publisher is enjoying the best period in its history. (In 2019, Penguin Random House took a 45% stake in Sourcebooks). “I think you are seeing the results of being a mission-driven publisher,” Raccah said.
According to the company, frontlist sales rose 46% in the first quarter, led by novelist Katee Robert and the second book in her Dark Olympus series—Electric Idol—and the paperback release of Hostage by Clare Mackintosh. Adult fiction sales jumped 72% in the quarter, driven in large measure by the 2021 launch of the boutique imprint, Bloom Books, which published Freed: Fifty Shades Freed as Told by Christian by bestselling author E.L. James. In its first six months in business, Bloom Books shipped nearly 1 million print units for all of its authors, Sourcebooks said.
Romance sales in general have exploded, Sourcebooks reported, especially to indie bookstores. Another growth driver in the most recent quarter was book club favorite Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris, which sold over 1 million units in print and e-book in the first quarter quarter. “Our adult fiction imprints—spanning mainstream fiction, a wide range of romance, mystery, horror, and more—are putting up big wins with our authors and tremendous sales every week for our retail partners,” noted Todd Stocke, senior vice president and editorial director.
Backlist sales were up 30% in the first quarter, Sourcebooks said, led by How to Catch a Leprechaun and Welcome Little One by Sandra Magsamen.
Strong sales of thrillers to teens and young adults contributed to a 70% increase in the publisher's YA imprint, Sourcebooks Fire, with those strong sales continuing into the first quarter. The imprint was one of many beneficiaries of TikTok, with This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp enjoying a big lift from the platform.
On the retail side, Sourcebooks said its Booksellers Change Lives program helped 320 indie stores increase direct-to-indie sales by 126% percent in 2021, and the company also had its first Indies Introduce Pick last year, with Pura Belpré Honor Book Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna by Alda P. Dobbs.
Raccah said Sourcebooks is continuing to reinvest in the company, and pointed to its March acquisition of duopress, which added more than 100 books and products for babies and young children. In 2021, Sourcebooks's acquisition of B.E.S. Publishing grew its offerings for both kids and adults by more than 800 titles, and was Sourcebooks’ s largest acquisition.
All this sales growth has led to a hiring spree, with the Naperville, Ill.–based Sourcebooks doubling the size of its New York City office. And despite recent attention to the frustrations of a new generation of publishing workers, Raccah said she hasn’t seen any sign of young people disenchanted by publishing, saying the a recent job posting attracted 120 applications in a couple of days.
This story has been updated.