Friday, January 06, 2017

book trade news from Publishers Lunch

We are accustomed to mediocre holiday sales reports from Barnes & Noble, since the last time the bookseller recorded an actual gain in core, same-store holiday book sales was the 2011 season. But even by that low bar, BN outdid themselves in holiday disappointment this time around: Same-store sales for the nine-week holiday period decreased 9.1 percent -- as online sales gained "approximately 2 percent."

The company didn't try to pretend this was ok: "We were not pleased with our results," ceo Len Riggio says in the release, and he really can't blame this on the fired Ron Boire. Riggio told investors after reporting earnings in November and blaming both Boire and the election, "We think we're going to be back on track before the holidays and through the holidays." Now he claims, "Post-holiday traffic and sales have improved and we are optimistic for the remainder of the fiscal year, and we believe this most unusual retail season may be behind us." Maybe what the company really needs is a new, full-time, long-term ceo, which they theoretically have been searching for since last August (but maybe not since Riggio took back the ceo position.)

In the release, the company says that "the sales decrease was largely due to lower traffic, as well as the decline in coloring books and artist supplies," even though print book sales in general look to have continued to increase modestly tradewide. On what's made to sound like the bright side, they still "expect to exceed last year's operating profit owing to strong expense management." But that's a low bar, too -- fiscal 2016 operating profit was a mere $14.7 million, and the main reason for "improvement" would be the reduction of the $98.5 million Nook operating loss (now projected at an EBITDA loss of $25 million for the current fiscal year). And to be clear, the company says "based on the holiday sales results, consolidated EBITDA is now expected to be at the low end of the Company's previously issued range." If they meet those projections, EBITDA will still be below where it was in fiscal 2015.

BN's stock, which had risen with the overall market following the election, is down over 5 percent in early trading on the poor holiday news.

Libby McGuire has joined The Gernert Company as an agent. Most recently she was publisher at Ballantine Bantam Dell, which she left a year ago. David Gernert said in the announcement: "Having worked with Libby for years I have no doubt that she will be a terrific, and terrifically successful, agent. And her vast experience in publishing will be helpful to us in a variety of ways." McGuire added: "I have long admired the talent and strategy of The Gernert Company, so when I made the decision to become an agent, they were my first choice. I am thrilled to bring my passion for authors and championing their work to this new role."

Andy Cummings will join Lerner Publishing as vice president & editor-in-chief on January 20, working out of the company's Minneapolis office. Most recently he was vp, strategic development for the Dummies brand at Wiley, and prior to that was vp, publisher of Dummies Technology for 13 years.

Flatiron Books announced a number of recent promotions and new hires. Sarah Barley and Christine Kopprasch have both been promoted to executive editor. Nancy Trypuc has moved over as senior executive director of marketing; previously she was vp, creative services at St. Martin's. Molly Fonseca has been promoted to senior marketing manager, while Steven Boriack moves up to publicity manager. Finally, Erin Gordon will join as marketing designer/developer on January 9.

Tom Mackay has joined Mary Evans Inc. as an associate agent. He previously scouted for Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. In addition, Julia Kardon has been promoted to vice president.

At the Robin Straus Agency, Katelyn Hales has been promoted to junior agent.

Chris McEwen has been promoted to creative executive at New Leaf Literary & Media. Previously, he was story editor.

Brigitte Shull will join Cambridge University Press later this month as senior vice president for Academic Publishing in the Americas, responsible for the overall management and direction of the business in this part of the world. She was most recently vp of management, business, economics, and political science publishing at Springer Nature.

Hannah Davies has joined UK public relations agency Four Colman Getty as prizes and communications specialist , leading campaigns for their portfolio of book awards clients.

Brian Kelleher has left Simon & Schuster, where he spent 28 years, most recently as sales director working on Books-A-Million and Wholesale Book Company. Kelleher may be reached at

Longtime Norton sales rep Kristin Keith, 45, died January 4 of complications from myelofibrosis. Keith joined the company more than 8 years ago as mid-Atlantic sales rep, and before then served as regional Publishers Group West rep, staying through the first two years of the Perseus merger. In a note to the staff, Norton chairman Drake McFeely said: Kristin's passion for books, for Norton, and for life itself were a model for us all. Her accounts adored her. All the rest of us who knew her felt the same way."

Former bookseller Nadine Beck, co-founder with her late husband Bob of Beck Book Store, Inc. in the Chicago area, died December 23 of natural causes. She was 94. 

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