Rigorous cost controls, reduced returns and 17 bestsellers helped boost operating profit at HarperCollins for the first quarter ended September 30. Earnings rose 69%, to $22 million, in the quarter, far outpacing the 8% sales gain that pushed sales up to $215 million.

HC's ability to cut costs resulted in an operating margin of 10.2% in this year's first quarter, compared to a margin of 6.5% in the first period of fiscal 1998.