Sparked by a string of political bestsellers at the beginning of the year and some surprise hits at the end, revenue at Simon & Schuster rose 9% in 2004, to an estimated $740 million, while profits increased 12%. "I never had a year where everything worked right up until the end," said S&S president Jack Romanos. All units contributed to the gains, with sales in the adult segment up 6%, sales in the children's division ahead 13% and audio sales up 20%. S&S's international division, helped by a turnaround in the U.K., had a 20% sales increase as well.

Looking at prospects for 2005, Romanos said he is planning for "modest growth." He doesn't expect to repeat the political hits of 2004 that included Plan of Attack, The Price of Loyalty and Politics of Truth, but Romanos is counting on a variety of new titles to sell well. Bob Greene's Total Body Makeover and DisneyWar have already hit the charts and, down the road, new books are due from David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Dr. Phil McGraw and Frank McCourt, plus the newest Olivia title. And S&S's Dan Brown juggernaught has showed no signs of slowing in the first two months of 2005, Romanos said. The company's Atria division hopes to keep the momentum going with the April release of an illustrated edition of Angels & Demons.

Direct Time

Simon & Schuster is moving ahead with plans to sell books directly to consumers via its Web site According to S&S head Jack Romanos, the publisher is reviewing bids from companies that will provide back-end services for S&S's direct-to-consumer program. Romanos said he expects to have a "modest effort" up and running before the end of the year. The S&S site now "does everything but make it possible to buy a book," Romanos said. He said the home page will still direct visitors to traditional retailers, but will allow customers to buy books from the company's 17,000-title backlist..