Saturday, February 17, 2018

Publishers Lunch

Today's Meal

CBS reported fourth quarter and full-year earnings on Thursday afternoon, with Simon & Schuster registering strong sales of $235 million in the final quarter, up $26 million from a year ago (helped in part by the addition of Adams Media, acquired in November 2016). Operating income was $44 million, up from $36 million at the end of 2016.

For the full year, sales of $830 million were $63 million higher than a year ago, and operating income hit a new record of $132 million, up $13 million from a year ago. S&S had paid approximately $42 million to purchase Adams Media, and though the company does not break out how much Adams added to their sales, ceo Carolyn Reidy told us, "Our results would have been higher than the prior year" even without including Adams, which she said has proven to be "a very nice and healthy addition."

"We had a great year," Reidy said, noting "it was very satisfying." In the final quarter the adult division gained almost 16 percent, with audio the other main growth segment in that period. "For the full year every single division was up," Reidy said, with everything but the children's division "up significantly."

She noted that in the fourth quarter and throughout the year "we saw a great balance between frontlist, with both selling strongly." As Bookscan statistics bear out writ large, Reidy said they "saw a kind of shift in the business," as "backlist was even stronger than it has been in the past." Reidy suspects that "the word of mouth on backlist in trade paperback is so much stronger now that books, once they take hold," continue to sell strongly.

Digital products comprised 22.4 percent of sales for the year (or $186 million), down from 23.4 percent a year ago (or $179.5 million) -- so actual digital sales in dollars rose 3.6 percent, given the company's higher total sales for the year. All of the gains and then some came from digital audio, as ebooks continued to decline. Reidy expects digital audio sales to continue growing this year, particularly as they add "original and new and different kinds of content." On ebook sales, she says, "I keep expecting them to stabilize. In 2017 we were surprised to see a decline in ebook sales."

Reidy acknowledged that, as with other major publishers, some of their important continuing authors have been experiencing sales declines, though "we see exceptions that make us happy." She said "we're putting a lot of attention and experimentation to try to stop that decline or reverse it." While "it's natural for some authors over time to reach a peak and start to decline; we're talking about these real powerhouses that have fueled the industry for a lot of years" and "we do see it as a pattern" across the industry. "It's still a challenge to help an established, bestselling author maintain and grow his or her audience--that's a big challenge in today's world."

At the same time, Reidy was encouraged to see that their strong titles from the fourth quarter "have maintained their sales and are continuing to sell, well into the new year." Separately, the process for replacing Judith Curr "is an extremely active search" and they expect "to identify the right person...before too long." Asked about the new effort to evaluate putting CBS and Viacom back into a single company again, Reidy said they are not commenting -- like their parent company -- but noted, "We're busy publishing. The one thing we do know is that CBS greatly values us."

At Chronicle, Mirabelle Korn has been promoted to associate editor, art.

Angela Craft has been promoted to marketing director for Avon and Harper Voyager.

The University of New Mexico Press will become a part of the College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences starting March 1, as part of a university reorganization. The $7 million debt owed by UNM Press to the university will be disposed of, though the university has not yet determined how. Interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, Richard Wood said, "UNM Press was at risk of closure," adding of the debt, "we'll have to absorb it into the budget somehow." The press doesn't plan any editorial changes, but distribution will be outsourced to a third party and the south campus warehouse, employing five people, will be closed.

PEN America has awarded the Freedom to Write Award to Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, currently jailed in Myanmar for investigating and reporting on the Inn Din massacre

The Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association has
hired board member (and treasurer) Larry Law as their executive director, starting March 1. He was director of e-commerce & marketing at Anderson's Bookshops in Naperville, IL.

Reportedly, James Comey's first television interview ahead of the April 17 publication of A HIGHER LOYALTY will be with George Stephanopoulos at ABC.

The Booker Prize Foundation announced a special Golden Man Booker Prize, a one time award given only this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the prize. Five judges will choose their favorite Booker honoree from an individual decade and the public will vote on the winner. The judges are: Robert McCrum (1970s); Lemn Sissay (1980s); Kamila Shamsie (1990s); Simon Mayo (2000s); and Hollie McNish (2010s). The shortlist will be released on May 26, and the winner will be announced on July 8 at the conclusion of a three-day Man Booker 50 Festival.


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