Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Random House and Harper Collins Publishing Earnings Up!

The five largest publishing houses are enjoying increased earnings over the past six month period compared to the same period last year.


See if you can figure it out after reading the following report from Publisher’s Weekly by Jim Milliot:

There is no better example of the cyclical nature of book publishing than the six-month results of the nation’s five largest trade publishers. Four of the five houses reported significant changes in their operating performance in the first half of 2010 compared to one year ago, with big books, or the lack thereof, playing a major role in the shifts.

Random House and HarperCollins, which both had declines in revenue and earnings in the first half of 2009, posted gains in both areas this year. Simon & Schuster, which had a steep drop in sales and earnings in the first half of 2009, had a small dip in sales again this year, but a big rebound in earnings. Of the major publishers, Penguin Group has been the most consistent, posting a solid increase in sales in the first half of 2010 after recording a double-digit gain in the January-June period in 2009. Revenue and earnings at Lagardère Publishing, parent company of Hachette Book Group, had the expected decline as the company found it impossible to match the sales volume generated by the Stephenie Meyer books in 2009. The good news for Lagardère was that despite declines, it still had the highest operating margins among the big houses.

While the cooling off of a blockbuster series led to a decline in results at Hachette, the continuing sales surge for the Stieg Larsson trilogy was key in boosting results at Random House, with 6.5 million copies (hardcover, e-book, audio) of Larsson’s works sold in the U.S. and Germany. Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue played an important role in turning around the sales fortunes at HC. Released late in calendar 2009, the book’s sales carried through for much of the first six months of 2010. One thing keeping S&S from returning to the sales levels of 2008 is that it has not had a blockbuster of the magnitude of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, but that could change. Byrne’s The Power, just out this summer with a one million–copy first printing, has become an immediate bestseller. S&S was able to show a dramatic improvement in its bottom line this year, despite a sales dip, because of improved operating efficiencies and cost cutting. S&S took restructuring charges of $1.7 million in the first half of 2010 related to severance costs; in the same period in 2009 it took $2.9 million in charges.

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The Demise or Rebirth of the Book Business?

There’s a lot of upheavel, turmoil and change in today’s book publishing industry. But, I feel it’s just a bump in the road to improvement; and I also feel the “printed” word will be around forever, it will just have brothers & sisters. I have discussed aspects of this changing environment in previous posts. Boris Kachka published a relevant & insightful piece in the New York Magazine last September:

‘The book business as we know it will not be living happily ever after. With sales stagnating, CEO heads rolling, big-name authors playing musical chairs, and Amazon looming as the new boogeyman, publishing might have to look for its future outside the corporate world.

HarperCollins occupies floors 1 through 22 of a giant steel-and-glass box on 53rd Street. But up on 26, the receptionist for a tiny offshoot of the company sits alone, gatekeeper to a few drab rows of empty cubicles. A glass container on a table holds a mysterious pile of bright-yellow lightbulbs.
“Welcome to our temporary home,” says 51-year-old publisher Bob Miller, ushering me into a colleague’s more inviting office. Inside, he and his staffers prepare to impart a cheery message: They’re going to fix publishing!
But first, a horror story. Debbie Stier, Miller’s No. 2 at HarperStudio (as this little imprint is called), has been collecting videos for their blog. “You want to see what happens to books after they go to book heaven?” she asks. On the screen of her MacBook, a giant steel shredder disgorges a ragged mess of paper and cardboard onto a conveyor belt. This is the fate of up to 25 percent of the product churned out by New York’s publishing machine…’ Read entire article at

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