Facing what HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman said would be a "challenging year," the publisher reported sales of $347 million for the first quarter ended September 30, flat with last year's first quarter. Operating income moved up to $59 million from $58 million. Friedman said that she was pleased with results since the first quarter of fiscal 2003 was "extraordinary."

In the U.S., Friedman said sales at HC's Zondervan division were "up significantly," while sales in the general trade and children's group were down "very slightly." The Purpose-Driven Life continues to lead Zondervan. Through October 24, the publisher had sold eight million copies of the title plus two million units of Purpose-related products. Zondervan expects to ship almost four million new copies of the book over the next two months. Lemony Snicket's new The Slippery Slope did very well in the quarter and helped to move backlist Snicket titles, Friedman said. Mystic River and Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution were among the top sellers in the general books group.

Outside the U.S., results in the U.K. were flat, although the publisher had a big hit with the autobiography of David Beckham, which has 850,000 copies in print. Sales in HC Canada were down, but Friedman believes "the worst is behind us" and that the division "will do pretty well" for the full year. Friedman said HC's ability to eke out an increase in profits in a difficult environment was a testament to "the portfolio of our worldwide publishing" business.

Friedman was optimistic about holiday sales, noting that many retailers are looking for a good season. She doesn't expect any blockbusters from HC, but said she believes the company "will sell all kinds of books across the board."