Coming off of a record 2008, Hachette Book Group USA CEO David Young doubted the company would top it in 2009, but with Stephenie Meyer titles continuing to sell in record numbers and all other parts of the publisher performing well, HBG USA grew by more than 10% last year, with profits up by more than that. As a result, the U.S. and Canada accounted for 25% of total revenue for parent company Lagardère Publishing last year, up from 22% in 2008. With Lagardère reporting sales of 2.28 billion euros, sales from the U.S. and Canada were about $775 million last year, with HBG USA responsible for the vast majority of revenue.
“It was an amazing year,” Young said, noting that the spectacular sales of Meyer (33.6 million copies sold in 2009 in the U.S.) came on top of solid performances by the rest of the company, with a record number of bestsellers. Young credits HBG's success to the willingness of Lagardère to invest in the publisher, which it bought in 2006. “Hachette's hallmark has been to invest in the business, not just in author acquisition, but in warehousing, systems, infrastructure, and digital development that I believe will serve us in good stead in the years ahead,” Young said. E-book sales accounted for 3% of total revenue in 2009, and in December e-book sales hit $5 million, higher than for all of 2008.
Another good attribute about being owned by Hachette is that “they know the ups and downs of the book business,” Young said. HBG USA has an aggressive budget for 2010, and if the company hits it, the year will be the second-best year in company history. Young said he is thrilled with the start of 2010, which has benefited from sales of Nicholas Sparks books tied to the Dear John movie and a huge first week of sales from Chelsea Handler's Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang. And the company is not done with Meyer. Set for release is the graphic novel edition of Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 1, which is being released March 16 through HBG's Yen imprint with a first printing of 350,000, considerably more than the typical first run for a Yen title.
In his presentation to analysts, Arnaud Lagardère said the acquisition of the former Time Warner Book Group was “one of the best acquisitions the company has ever made.” Young said the French-based company remains very interested in further expansion in the U.S. Lagardère “would consider any trade business that was offered at a realistic price,” Young said.
While Young said he is curious to see what the reaction to the spring launch of the iPad will be among consumers, he said his top concern remains the health of the bookstore market. “Bookstores are where most all bestsellers are made,” he said.