Sales at Simon & Schuster rose 3% in the first quarter of 2019 over the comparable period in 2018, rising to $164 million from $160 million a year ago. Operating income increased 6%, to $17 million, S&S parent company CBS reported.
Print books and digital audio led the sales gains. S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy said the children's publishing group drove the increase in print sales, with big performances from Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, which has been adapted into a feature film, and the newest Cassandra Clare book, The Red Scrolls of Magic. Adult bestsellers included Supermarket by Logic; Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat, which was adapted into a miniseries by Netflix; and After by Anna Todd, which was also adapted for film. Reidy said a number of the company's best performing titles in the quarter were carryovers from 2018, something she attributed to the ability of social meeting to keep a strong selling title visible to readers.
Sales of audio were up 7% in the quarter, a growth rate slower than the format has experienced over the last several years, but Reidy said the modest gain in the period was due in part to the mix of titles and that she still expects audio to remain a robust segment. The increase in sales of digital audio offset declines in e-book sales, keeping overall digital revenue even with the first quarter of 2018. The company also benefited from sales growth in its distribution operation and expanding that business remains a priority, Reidy said.
The second quarter got off to good start with the release of Scribner's edition of The Mueller Report, which features commentary and analysis by editors of the Washington Post. The book now has 375,000 copies in print and is #1 on PW's adult trade paperback list for last week. S&S also has a number of other big books coming soon, including The Pioneers by David McCullough, Howard Stern's forthcoming memoir Howard Stern Comes Again, Mrs. Everything (the first novel by Jennifer Weiner in four years), and The Misadventures of Max Crumbly by Rachel Renée Russell.
Reidy said that, while she is disappointed that Baker & Taylor is closing its retail wholesaling business, the company will work with its accounts to keep any disruption in the supply chain to a minimum. She said the closing of B&T's Reno warehouse posed some challenges for re-supplying stores in the west, but she was confident S&S will come up with alternatives. On finding a replacement for the distributor, Reidy was clear: "We will make it happen."
Correction: Mrs. Everything will be the first novel by Weiner in four years, not the first book.