Citing difficult comparisons to 2022, when Colleen Hoover’s Verity and Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson sold in big numbers, revenue at Hachette Book Group fell 6.8% in 2023, parent company Lagardère reported. HBG was the weak link in Lagardère’s global publishing portfolio, which saw total sales increase 2.2%, to €2.81 billion ($3.04 billion), and earnings before interest and taxes slip by €1 million, to €301 million. The operating margin of 10.7% was down slightly from the 11% margin achieved in 2022, but still hovered near the 9.2% margin in the last pre-pandemic year of 2019.

Lagardère’s Spain/Latin America group had the best performance in the year, led by higher education sales in Spain and its Mexican trade division, whose “excellent” year was powered in part by big gains in dictionary sales. In its home market of France, sales were up 6.1%, driven by solid sales of illustrated books, young adult dark romance titles, and its general literature division. Sales in the U.K. also rose 6.1%, led by Hachette UK’s adult group, where both frontlist and backlist titles did well. This offset a decline in young adult sales, where the Heartstopper series was a huge bestseller in 2022.

Back in the U.S., HBG said that Orbit and the Running Press Group divisions had good years, as did Hachette Audio. With the down year, the share of total revenue in the U.S. and Canada fell to 29%, from 32% in 2022, tying it with France for Lagardère's largest market. The U.K.'s share of revenue also slipped, falling to 19%, from 20%.

For the entire Lagardère publishing group, audiobook sales accounted for 4.5% of revenue, up from 4.3% in 2022. E-books represented 7.8% of sales, breaking even with 2022.

The Lagardère presentation made no mention of the November decision to form a united English-language management structure, which is being led by former HBG UK chief executive David Shelley, while then–HBG CEO Michael Pietsch was named chairman. In fact, the publishing group’s performance was overshadowed by the company’s other main business, travel, where sales skyrocketed 27.8%, to €5.02 billion, as worldwide travel boomed following the end of the pandemic. That group’s earnings also soared, but at €245 million, they still trailed the profits earned by publishing. In his remarks, however, chairman Arnaud Lagardère predicted that within three years, travel earnings at the company would surpass those of its publishing business.

In other brief comments, Arnaud Lagardère said that the company “strongly believes in publishing for years to come.” He added that Lagardère has plans to grow organically, and would also consider further acquisitions. For 2024, however, the company predicted that sales and earnings will both be flat with last year.