Harpercollins has been working on an internal growth initiative dubbed Publishing+ aimed at "exploring innovative ways to create, market and sell high-value content and meet author, customer and consumer needs in today and tomorrow's global marketplace," CEO Jane Friedman wrote to employees in a company memo concerning HC's third-quarter results. Friedman said that given HC's strong results over the past six years, it is "the perfect time... to think outside the box and position ourselves for a strong future." She closed the memo by noting that more details will be released as "our plans go from concepts to practical business initiatives over the next few months."

HC's strong financial performance extended into the third quarter of fiscal 2004. For the period ended March 31, sales increased 30%, to $321 million, and operating profits jumped 56.5%, to $36 million. For the nine-month period, operating profits were up 17.8%, to $152 million, on a 9.8% sales gain, to $1 billion. Sales were up in all of HC's worldwide segments.

Results in North America were "fabulous," Friedman told PW. The general books group had solid gains, led by several bestsellers including The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands, which has about 800,000 copies in print, and Deliver Us from Evil, with 630,000 copies in print. The Oprah pick One Hundred Years of Solitude has close to one million copies in print, Friedman said. Series publishing has been the story in the children's division, Friedman said, citing such successes as Lemony Snicket, the Princess Diaries and the relaunch of My Little Pony. Even some of HC's smaller imprints contributed to the gains in the most recent quarter. Amistad's The Known World "had an upsurge in sales" after it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and now has about 100,000 copies in print, Friedman noted. The trade paperback edition of the book will go on sale by the end of the month, and Friedman predicted that World will do very well in that format. A first printing of 150,000 copies has been set.

And then there is The Purpose-Driven Life. Approximately 3.5 million copies were sold in the third quarter, bringing the total sold to more than 15 million. Nearly 20 million books and ancillary Purpose-Driven products have been sold to date. Friedman said she sees "a continuation of very strong sales" for the book. HC, however, is not expecting author Rick Warren to deliver a new title in fiscal 2005.

Friedman said the momentum of the third quarter has carried into the final period, and she predicted that the last quarter "will be a good one." She said HC will end the year on a solid note. "I'm very pleased," she said.