The first half of the year: the c.e.o perspective

The first half of the year: the c.e.o perspective

Felicity Wood talks to the head honchos of the ‘Big 4’ to get their thoughts on how 2015 has gone so far and what is to be expected in the second half


Anthony Forbes Watson, m.d of Pan Macmillan

"We've received terrific support from our retail partners this year and at the halfway mark we have them and a rich seam of copyrights to thank for being an industry-leading 21.2% up against last year in the TCM. Our ebook sales are also ahead year on year as are our exports to international markets.  Year on year growth from evergreen brands Jeffrey Archer, David Baldacci and Peter James has been complemented by stand out performances from Lucy Diamond and saga queens Annie Murray and Margaret Dickinson;  a fabulous paperback performance from Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist and the sustained sell-on of The Mindfulness Colouring Book have both made significant contributions to year on year growth. We have also benefited from the TV boost to Winston Graham's classic Poldark series and the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland, which we have celebrated with a scintillating list. This is a great platform from which to look forward to the next six months, with many and various excitements to come."


Charlie Redmayne, Harper Collins UK chief executive

"Highlights for the half year included our move to state-of-the-art new headquarters at London Bridge, joining our fellow News Corp companies News UK and Dow Jones – and at the 2015 London Book Fair, we announced the further expansion of our foreign language publishing programme to augment our already established HarperCollins Germany and HarperCollins Español and Iberica ventures, plus a major coup to sign a global publishing deal with Karin Slaughter.
In terms of publishing it was yet another great year for David Walliams, with Demon Dentist going to number one in paperback, and his picture book The Queen’s Orang-Utan raising over £300,000 for Comic Relief. Meanwhile Rob Biddulph’s Blown Away won the overall Waterstones Children’s Book Prize this year.

In Fiction we had success in hardback with S.K Tremayne’s debut The Ice Twins and in digital with C.L. Taylor’s The Lie, and in non-fiction Amelia Freer’s Eat. Nourish. Glow. saw phenomenal sales after being endorsed online by Sam Smith.
4th Estate and William Collins also had a string of successes, with Laline Paull’s The Bees the only debut on the Baileys Prize shortlist, Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell going to number one in paperback,  Kate Gross’ memoir Late Fragments securing extensive print and broadcast coverage at the start of the year, and of course, the news that Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See scooped the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction."


Tim Hely Hutchinson, chief executive for Hachette UK

“The first half of 2015 was busy and successful for Hachette UK. We published 72 Sunday Times bestsellers of which, pleasingly, many were debuts, including Ella Woodward’s Deliciously Ella (Yellow  Kite) which became the fastest-selling debut cookbook of all time on publication in January and has been a consistent bestseller through the year. Two standout first novels The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett (W&N) and I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh (Sphere) went straight into the fiction lists on publication, Stephen King’s Finders Keepers (Hodder) was his eigth number one bestseller and David Nicholls and Victoria Hislop returned to the number one slot with The Sunrise (Headline) and Us respectively.

Weidenfeld & Nicolson richly deserved the award of Imprint of the Year at the British Book Awards. Octopus has made a great start to the year, benefiting from the craze for colouring books and being delighted to see cookery writer Diana Henry’s work breaking through with record sales for A Bird in Hand.

We made a number of strategic appointments in Hachette Children’s Group, underpinning our increased ambition for our children’s publishing. We completed our succession work at Orion and Little, Brown with the appointment of David Shelley, Katie Espiner, Jon Wood, Charlie King and Emily-Jane Taylor to important new roles.

Hodder Education has had a very strong first half, on the back of two very successful years, acknowledged by being named Educational Publisher of the Year this year. Last year’s acquisition of Rising Stars has made Hodder a market leader in primary and secondary education and now one of the big three educational publishers in the UK.  This year’s curriculum changes, for which we are publishing a thousand new titles, is giving us a big opportunity for further growth.
The move to our beautiful new offices at Carmelite House has now been very smoothly and successfully completed and we will shortly be welcoming new colleagues from Nicholas Brealey who will be joining John Murray Press.  

We are looking forward to a very strong second half with, amongst many highlights, long-awaited sequels to some of our biggest ever books, including Leading by Alex Ferguson with Michael Moritz, Gregory David Roberts’ The Mountain Shadow and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz. Equally important standalone novels include Martina Cole’s Get Even, Robert Galbraith’s Career of Evil, John Grisham’s The Rogue Lawyer, Ian Rankin’s Even Dogs in the Wild, Michael Connelly’s The Crossing and Anthony Horowitz’s new James Bond novel, Trigger Mortis. Top non-fiction, in addition to Leading, includes the amazing memoirs of twenty-times champion jockey A.P. McCoy and John McEnroes’s But Seriously.

Our own ebook sales remain buoyant but the general rapid growth that the trade experienced between 2009 and 2014 has been halted, at least for the time being, by the imposition of UK VAT at the full 20% rate and probably also other factors such as the natural balance between reading in print and electronically being reached.”


Tom Weldon, c.e.o of Penguin Random House UK

“Penguin Random House UK has been behind the most talked about books in 2015: from established brands such as E L James (688,000 p + 395,000 e copies of Grey) to breakthrough authors like Paula Hawkins (294,000 p + 440,000 e copies of The Girl on The Train) and Emma Healey (285,000 p + 180,000 e copies of Elizabeth Is Missing in the first half of 2015) to backlist hits including Wreck This Journal (51,000 copies) and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (86,000 copies in 2015).

Those standout books, often driven by social media, helped Penguin Random House maintain the lion’s share of the bestseller chart, with 40% of the Sunday Times number one bestsellers.

Some of the biggest bestsellers in the UK this year came from talent built on digital platforms such as YouTube and Instagram and we are thrilled to be publishing YouTubers PewDiePie and Dan and Phil, as well as Zoe Sugg’s much-anticipated Girl Online 2. As publishers, we can give them permanence on a grand scale. This year we will create and manage a 20-date 40,000-seat tour for Dan and Phil when we publish their first book in October.

We have found new ways of reaching people who have not traditionally been readers with our content. Audio has fast become a growing channel through which we help audiences discover our stories. This year alone we became the global publisher of BBC Worldwide’s radio content, heard Reese Witherspoon record Go Set a Watchman and hired one of the most influential BBC comedy and drama executives, Caroline Raphael, to help us build our audio list.

Through our Children’s IP business, we are reaching new audiences on a global scale. We have invested in creating a pre-school series, "Puffin Rock", which is now on air in the UK, Ireland and Australia and will premiere on Netflix in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and many parts of Europe this September. Next year we turn this into a publishing stream.
Penguin surpassed 1 million followers on Twitter in May. Later this year, we will build on this success with our new company and Penguin-branded consumer websites.

Our publishing will be just as strong, with Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman (55,000 physical pre-orders), Terry Pratchett’s final Discworld novel, The Shepherd’s Crown, new cookery books from Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Yotam Ottolenghi and Rick Stein, as well as autobiographies from Steven Gerrard, Sir Tom Jones, Chrissie Hynde, Elvis Costello, Steve Coogan and Sue Perkins, and new books from Bill Bryson and Simon Schama. Our fiction list is equally exciting with new novels from Robert Harris, Lee Child, Sebastian Faulks, Jeff Kinney, Dawn French, Jojo Moyes, Jacqueline Wilson and Rick Riordan.”