The 10 largest children's trade publishers posted total estimated net sales of $1.29 billion in 2002, a 4.7% increase over 2001, according to PW's annual ranking. The gain for the top publishers was better than the sales increase for the entire children's book segment, which had a sales gain of 0.9%, to $1.83 billion, in 2002, according to figures from the Association of American Publishers. The top 10 publishers accounted for 70% of all children's sales last year, compared to a market share of 67% in 2001.

However, the outlook for 2003 sales is mixed. With the exception of Scholastic, which expects a significant increase in trade sales due to the success of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, most publishers are looking for only modest gains this year. A particular drag on overall growth for the industry is the weak public and school library budgets.

The largest children's publisher in 2002 was Random House, with estimated revenue of $299 million, a 8.7% gain over 2002. There are a number of factors that contributed to strong sales in 2002 for RHCB: the integration of Golden Books, which was purchased in 2001; the hardcover success of Hoot by Carl Hiaasen and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares; strong paperback sales for The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli and Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Curtis; and continued sales of the Junie B. Jones and Magic Tree House series.

Penguin, with a 3% sales increase in 2002, to an estimated $235 million, remained in second place. Contributing to the company's 2002 growth were two picture books (Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve? by Jan Brett and "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," Said the Sloth by Eric Carle) and two novels (Double Fudge by Judy Blume and Triss by Brian Jacques).

Despite a sales decline of 3.2%, to $208 million, for the fiscal year that ended May 31, 2003, Scholastic held on to third place among children's trade publishers. The decline was attributed to a $30-million drop in Harry Potter sales plus a decline of $6 million in sales of other backlist titles. Those declines were partially offset by $31 million in revenue from Klutz.

HarperCollins's 1% sales increase, to an estimated $200 million, followed several years of higher growth. Lemony Snicket was HC's most important franchise in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2003, selling more than 3.3 million copies last year.

Simon & Schuster experienced significant growth, from $102 million to $115 million, a 12.7% increase. Several bestselling picture books helped to lift those numbers, including Eloise Takes a Bawth by Hilary Knight, Robert Sabuda's pop-up The Night Before Christmas; and America: A Patriotic Primer by Lynne Cheney. In addition, Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion won the National Book Award, and sales of books in the Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants and Bob the Builder licenses were strong.

Disney's sales rose 17.6% in 2002, to $100 million, the largest percentage growth in our list of top 10 publishers. The increase was due in part to Michael Chabon's novel Summerland; the launch of the Baby Einstein series; and two books in a new format for Disney, Princess Music Box and Christmas Music Box.

Across-the-board increases boosted Little, Brown's revenue to an estimated $45 million last year. David Ford, publisher of LB's children's division, said sales are running ahead of 2002, and he attributed this to more series publishing and good backlist sales. He expects a strong fall and holiday season, led by Look-Alikes Christmas.

Sales at Houghton Mifflin took a slight dip in 2002, from $33 million to $32 million. Clarion Books scored an awards coup in 2002, winning both the Newbery Award (for A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park) and the Caldecott Award (for The Three Pigs by David Wiesner). [PW did not include sales from the popular Lord of the Rings series in estimating Houghton's children's book division sales.]

Harcourt's children's group is headed toward another year of flat sales, company president Dan Farley said. The "scaling up" of the division's paperback fiction line has worked well, Farley noted, but sales of hardcover picture books are "challenged" by budget problems in the institutional market.

Candlewick's net sales for 2002, $25 million, were $1 million over the previous year, and 2003 is projected at $26 million. Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie continued to sell well in paperback, as did the Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald; picture books Don't You Feel Well, Sam? by Amy Hest, illustrated by Anita Jeram, and Faerie-ality by David Ellwand, also contributed to sales.

Top 10 Children's Trade Book Publishers
($ in millions)

Company 2001 2002 % Change
1 Random House $275.0 $299.0 8.7%
2 Penguin 228.0 235.0 3.0
3 Scholastic 215.0 208.0 -3.2
4 HarperCollins 198.0 200.0 1.0
5 Simon & Schuster 102.0 115.0 12.7
6 Disney 85.0 100.0 17.6
7 Little, Brown 41.0 45.0 9.7
8 Houghton Mifflin 33.0 32.0 -3.0
9 Harcourt 30.0 30.0 0.0
10 Candlewick 24.0 25.0 4.2
Total 1,231.0 1,289.0 4.7
Sales estimated by Publishers Weekly .