What a turnaround from those heady days of 2010-12 when many believed publishing was doomed, amid very real crises in the book retail and publishing sectors.
A time when many predicted (some joyfully) the death of print and that the then Big 6 would follow Borders into oblivion as ebooks became the only format consumers cared about and publishers lost all relevance as everyone self-published.
Well, print is still here, ebooks are still here, self-publishers are still here, and the Big 6, albeit partially amalgamated into the Big 5, are still here.
Even Barnes & Noble is still here, although perhaps not the best example of surviving the digital transition.
For publishers, while there have of course been ups and downs, and new challenges like the rise of video streaming as well as new opportunities like digital audio, most are not just still here but doing rather well.
Some remarkably well.
This week Simon & Schuster’s CEO Carolyn Reidy’s end-of-year letter to employees declared 2018,
the most successful year in Simon & Schuster history.
Bestsellers like Bob Woodward’s Fear helped, of course, and the audiobook boom helped too, neatly tied together by the fact the Fear was the fastest-selling audiobook in Simon & Schuster’s history.
But this wasn’t just about a political bestseller and the latest format fad, important as audio is right now.
At which point let’s defer to Reidy, who said,
With even more audio retailers coming on board, and the further proliferation of smart speakers and other listening devices, audio will remain a growth engine for us.
Audible and Alexa will of course have been a big part of that, but only part. As Reidy says, “with even more audio retailers coming on board”…
Another key driver in the Simon & Schuster success story has been backlist sales, which Reidy said,
comprise a higher portion of our revenue than at any time in memory.
While readers wanting the tried and true is an industry-wide phenomenon, our concerted effort during the last few years to acquire books with the potential for long-term backlist sales has yielded dividends.
More revealing still is the emphasis the publisher is placing on distribution, pouring more resources into this key peripheral.
Our long-term strategic plan to expand our distribution business is in full swing, and with the opening in January of our new warehouse facility in Milan, Tenn., we are entering a new and exciting phase in this area of our business.
With our new facility on board, we are positioned to establish Simon & Schuster as a clear leader in this field.
Publishers Weekly, reporting on the Reidy letter to employees, notes.
A corporate-wide initiative that S&S completed in December that Reidy believes will help S&S grow in the future was simultaneously relaunching its domestic, international, and business-to-business websites. Among the goals of the relaunch, Reidy said, was to improve the user experience, “especially for the increasing numbers who arrive via mobile devices; and to help readers to find more quickly the information they need.”