Despite working under the uncertainty of who their new owner will be, employees at Simon & Schuster were able to deliver a record year for the country’s third largest trade publisher. In his letter to the staff, CEO Jonathan Karp wrote, “it is my pleasure to share the news of our extraordinary, stratospheric year, which all of you made possible.” Sales in the year were up about 10%, and at $1.1 billion, revenue topped the $1 billion mark for the first time since S&S operated as a standalone trade publisher. Operating income rose 16%, to $248 million.
In his letter and in an interview with PW, Karp said revenue was up in all of S&S’s operating groups with audio posting the biggest increase helped by the success of Bob Woodward’s The Trump Tapes, which is also the subject of a lawsuit brought by the former president. Both the adult and children’s segments benefitted from strong performances of backlist and frontlist titles. Backlist hit makers included Colleen Hoover, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Jenny Han, while frontlist stars featured children’s authors Aaron Reynolds and Chloe Gong, and adult books by Jennette McCurdy and Stephen King, whose Fairy Tale is his bestselling novel in years, Karp said.
In addition to strong gains in audio, the print and e-book formats also had double-digit increases over 2021. While some publishers have reported that hardcover sales have slumped, Karp believes any decline is due more to title selection than to the format. He agreed that narrative nonfiction has been challenged due in part to competition from podcasts and documentaries. “We are definitely in a post-Trump era” in terms of nonfiction he said, but added. “It only takes a few good books to turn things around.”
Karp was especially excited about the results in S&S’s international division where sales were up across the board. Sales at Simon & Schuster UK rose 21% in the year and the company had the bestselling debut novel of 2021, Bob Mortimer's The Satsuma Complex. Good years were also turned in by S&S Canada and S&S Australia. Karp said the ability to sell bestselling authors in all major English-language markets has been a key to the company’s overall success. To help to continue to grow internationally, S&S is investing more in each region’s local publishing programs, Karp said.
2022 was the third consecutive year of record growth for S&S, and while Karp said he feels good about 2023, he realizes the run can’t last forever. And with S&S’s future ownership still uncertain, Karp said now is a good time to take a momentary breath. “I think I will enjoy the moment. I think I speak on behalf of everyone at Simon & Schuster," he said.
No Sale Update
The release of S&S's year end results was part of parent company Paramount Global's 2022 financial presentation. In its written remarks and in its conference call with analysts, Paramount executives did not provide any new information on how the sale process for S&S is proceeding. A Reuters report earlier this week said Paramount was working with a financial advisor as part of its effort to sell S&S for more than $2 billion.