HarperCollins, which finished the fiscal year ended June 30, 2002, in good shape, kicked off fiscal 2003 even better, reporting a 41.5% increase in operating income, to $58 million, on a sales increase of 10.9%, to $347 million, for the quarter ended September 30.

HC president Jane Friedman said all segments of the company contributed to the increase. "Sales in the general books group were up 8% and operating profit was up 113%. Harper Canada is soaring and Zondervan did really, really well," Friedman said. She attributed the impressive profit gains to publishing a good mix of titles that includes higher margin books that are selling well as well as cost containment and smart publishing. Friedman said all of HC's publishers are "very aware" of the number of titles they publish, but that HC is "not into title reduction. We're publishing a consistent number of titles." Also contributing to the gains was a strong start by HC's new mass market sales force, which had a "blow-out quarter," Friedman said.

Friedman is cautiously optimistic about the holiday season. In October, Lemony Snicket's newest release sold 36,000 copies in its first week on sale. The quarter should also benefit from the November 25 release of Michael Crichton's Prey, which has a two-million-copy first printing. Friedman is confident that Crichton won't suffer from the soft sales experienced recently by some other popular fiction authors. In December, a PBS special of The Perricone Prescription will be rebroadcast, which Friedman said will help lead HC into January. Then the company rolls out a very strong lineup of books on the "new year, new you" theme, Friedman said.