Revenue rose 17% in the first quarter ended March 31, 2022, at Simon & Schuster, to $217 million, and operating income soared 85% in the period, to $50 million. Trends that have been driving results at S&S continued into the first quarter as backlist sales remained strong, helped in part by what CEO Jonathan Karp called the BookTok phenomenon, which kept It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover (“a culturally phenomenon,” Karp said) and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid both selling in big numbers. Frontlist releases that had a good start included The Candy House by Jennifer Egan, Life Force by Tony Robbins, and Freezing Order by Bill Browder.
All of the company’s divisions had double-digit increases in the quarter, led by the international group, where sales rose 30%. The children’s division also did well, with sales increasing 16%, driven, Karp Said, by S&S’s growing list of graphic novels, which includes titles by Jason Reynolds and Stuart Gibbs.
Higher backlist sales and lower returns contributed to the big increase in earnings, Karp said. He added that refinements S&S has made to its metadata has also improved sell-through, thereby cutting returns and boosting the bottom line.
Two books being released today have Karp optimistic about the current quarter. Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, which Karp had previously predicted would become a smash hit, was released with a 250,000-copy first printing, and the book is already off to a strong start in the U.K., where it was released last week. This Will Not Pass by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns also hit shelves today; recordings of various Republican leaders, most notably Kevin McCarthy, changing their stance on the January 6 insurrection, which provide content for the book, made headlines last week, and Karp sees it becoming an immediate bestseller. A new conservative title, Here's the Deal, by former senior counselor to President Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway, will also be published on May 24.
To stay ahead of possible printing issues, Karp said S&S moved a number of its third quarter titles into the fourth period to ensure they will be available. And while Karp is bullish on the second quarter and ecstatic about first-quarter results (“I am pleased we are defying gravity,” he said), he would only offer that he remains optimistic for the full year.