Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Publishers Lunch


Today's Meal

Bertelsmann reported full results for 2016 on Tuesday morning, with sales at the Penguin Random House division falling 9.6 percent to €3,361 million (in line with the 10.7 percent decline they reported after the first six months of the year). Operating EBITDA was €537 million, compared to €557 million a year ago. (From here forward, we will refer to the PRH reporting division, which includes the separate Random House Germany, as PRH+, and will use PRH for just the Penguin Random House joint venture.)

At Penguin Random House on its own, sales were €3,059 million, down €335 million, or 9.9 percent, from a year ago. "Profit" at the joint venture was €372 million up from €342 million a year ago, as integration expenses, reported as "special items" fell to €38 million, from €66 million a year ago.

Bertelsmann says that the division "was impacted by the expected decline in e-book sales in the United States and the United Kingdom due mostly to new retail sales terms." Elsewhere, the German- and Spanish-language book markets showed largely stable development." They grew market share in Spain and "in Latin America, the business outperformed the market in a challenging macro-economic environment."

Breaking down the revenue decline at PRH+, the company cited "some adverse exchange rate and portfolio effects" as key factors. Foreign exchange, primarily the weakening British pound, account for a -2.8 percent decline in revenues. (More importantly, however, the US dollar remained strong against the euro. This is what lifted PRH+'s topline sales so significantly in 2015, and remained a factor in 2016.) "Portfolio and other effects," which reflects the sale of units such as Author Solutions and Bookworld (and the sale of Fodor's and Random House Studios during 2016) comprised another 2.9 percent of the revenue decline -- which equates to about 108 million euros. Organic growth was also negative, declining 3.9 percent.

For the rest of our comprehensive report on Penguin Random House's performance, including extensive details from the annual report, long-term comparison breakouts, and remarks from the investor call and Markus Dohle, see the full members-only article at

Parkeast Literary Agency director Gloria Koehler has retired, and her duties have been outsourced to another firm. Donna Eastman will stay on as editorial director at Parkeast, and will continue to market its books. Koehler is cfo of Splinterfire, a family-oriented literary referral service she started with Donna Eastman.

At Chronicle Books, Ariel Richardson has been promoted to editor, children's. Lizzie Vaughn has joined as designer.

Zak Nelson has joined Seattle-area Third Place Books and takes over as manager of events and marketing at the beginning of May. Most recently, he was a book reviewer for Shelf Awareness and a bookseller at Amazon Books. As planned, Wendy Ceballos will leave the group in May and relocate to New York.

Intercontinental Literary Agency and Lucas Alexander Whitley will represent Pocket Jeunesse for translation rights in their young adult and middle grade novels.


The PEN America Literary Awards were presented on Monday evening. Hisham Matar won the inaugural PEN/Jean Stein Book Award, a $75,000 prize, for his memoir The Return (Random House); Poet Adonis won the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature; Rion Amilcar Scott won the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, for his collection Insurrections (University Press of Kentucky); and Angela Morales won the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for her collection The Girls in My Town (University of New Mexico Press).

In the UK, the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction named its shortlist:

Jo Baker, A Country Road, A Tree (Doubleday)
Sebastian Barry,
Days Without End (Faber)
Charlotte Hobson, The Vanishing Futurist (Faber)
Hannah Kent The Good People (Picador Australia)
Francis Spufford
Golden Hill (Faber)
Graham Swift
Mothering Sunday (Scribner)
Rose Tremain
The Gustav Sonata (Chatto & Windus)

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