News

HarperCollins reports best year since 2008

HarperCollins has had its best financial year since 2008, with e-book sales accounting for 10% of total revenue during the past four weeks, its c.e.o. has said.

Victoria Barnsley was speaking as parent company NewsCorp reported its financial results overnight. The media conglomerate no longer strips out performance for HarperCollins and there was no mention of the publisher .

The UK publisher declined to give sales or profit figures. C.e.o. and publisher Victoria Barnsley said: "This has been a great year for HarperCollins UK in which we recorded the highest turnover, the highest profit and the best margin for three years. A great success by any measure but especially in the current economic climate and one which shows our investment strategy of recent years is paying off. Digital sales continue to expand, growing seven fold year-on-year, and accounting for 10% of home trade revenue in recent weeks."

Barnsley's statement appears to confirm just how integral e-book sales are to a publisher's financial performance. According to figures from Nielsen Bookscan, which does not record e-book sales, for the year to 18th June 2011, HarperCollins had sales of £122.7m, compared to £132.7m for the same period in 2010. The publisher has previously said it is impossible to fully measure performance without digital sales.

Among the titles and authors Barnsley identified were Brian Cox's Wonders of the Universe, Frankie Boyle's My Sh*t Life So Far, Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and Michael Morpurgo, Darren Shan and David Walliams in children's. She added: "Our information businesses, Languages, Geo and Education, turned in a great performance, following our two-pronged growth strategy of repurposing content across multiple platforms and expanding into international markets."

Although released after the end of its financial year in June, Barnsley also described George RR Martin's A Dance with Dragons as a "stand-out success".

Comments: Scroll down for the latest comments and to have your say

By posting on this website you agree to the Bookseller comments policy. Comments go direct to live please be relevant, brief and definitely not abusive. Report any "unsuitable comments by clicking the links"

Agree with comment above. Sloppy, lazy story. And confusing - headline conflicts with opening two paragraphs. Also, if HarperCollins sales are £10m lower in 2011 (via Book-track) and ebook sales have only been 10% in recent weeks then its "best since 2008" performance must be down to other areas of the business - export? Or the fact there have been cost-cutting job losses at the business?!

A little bit harsh although rightly you do point out that it seems HarperCollins have managed to off-set print sales falls with growth in digital much like all publishers, one must presume.

Hello: thought I'd answer back ;-)
Neither digital nor Harper's education businesses are reflected in the Nielsen numbers and may have combined to lift Harper's performance and back up Victoria's statement. Incidentally, publishers tend not to put a negative spin on their numbers, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't report them.
Also, the first half of 2008 was actually ok for print sales, it was the second half when the recession took hold: Harper's 2008 accounts would refer to the period before the market fell off a cliff (to end June 2008).
I also just looked at the UK acccounts of HarperCollins Publishers (the best indication we can get of the business, though again I'm sure not the whole picture). The accounts showed Harper had sales of £245m, leading to a profit of £25m (a small improvement on its 2007 numbers) in the year to June 2008. Sales have been around £242m in the two years available since, with profit down as low as £3.4m in 2009, and as high as £28m in 2010. But the biggest impact on profits comes from a line described as "other operating income", which could mean anything (though it does refer to exceptional rights income in one of the years). Harper of course bought Letts over this period, which would also have had an impact.

I'd imagine Victoria's assessment looks at the underlying performance of the business, which it seems pretty clear is not accurately portrayed by the Nielsen numbers (for perfectly good Nielsen reasons), and may not be accurately portrayed by the numbers available from Companies House.

So spin or not, it is all we have!

Ah, this week's "big publisher massages their numbers to show us all how well they're doing, no really" column. Thanks.

Agree with comment above. Sloppy, lazy story. And confusing - headline conflicts with opening two paragraphs. Also, if HarperCollins sales are £10m lower in 2011 (via Book-track) and ebook sales have only been 10% in recent weeks then its "best since 2008" performance must be down to other areas of the business - export? Or the fact there have been cost-cutting job losses at the business?!

A little bit harsh although rightly you do point out that it seems HarperCollins have managed to off-set print sales falls with growth in digital much like all publishers, one must presume.

Hello: thought I'd answer back ;-)
Neither digital nor Harper's education businesses are reflected in the Nielsen numbers and may have combined to lift Harper's performance and back up Victoria's statement. Incidentally, publishers tend not to put a negative spin on their numbers, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't report them.
Also, the first half of 2008 was actually ok for print sales, it was the second half when the recession took hold: Harper's 2008 accounts would refer to the period before the market fell off a cliff (to end June 2008).
I also just looked at the UK acccounts of HarperCollins Publishers (the best indication we can get of the business, though again I'm sure not the whole picture). The accounts showed Harper had sales of £245m, leading to a profit of £25m (a small improvement on its 2007 numbers) in the year to June 2008. Sales have been around £242m in the two years available since, with profit down as low as £3.4m in 2009, and as high as £28m in 2010. But the biggest impact on profits comes from a line described as "other operating income", which could mean anything (though it does refer to exceptional rights income in one of the years). Harper of course bought Letts over this period, which would also have had an impact.

I'd imagine Victoria's assessment looks at the underlying performance of the business, which it seems pretty clear is not accurately portrayed by the Nielsen numbers (for perfectly good Nielsen reasons), and may not be accurately portrayed by the numbers available from Companies House.

So spin or not, it is all we have!

Ah, this week's "big publisher massages their numbers to show us all how well they're doing, no really" column. Thanks.