Half-Year Review 2015: Publishers and authors

Half-Year Review 2015: Publishers and authors

After a number of years of physical declines and surging digital sales, many of the larger publishers’ print returns are beginning to blossom.

It is heartening to see a lot of positive numbers in our top 20 publishers chart. The print picture for the bigger groups has been challenging in the past few years—in our 2014 Review of the Half Year, eight of the top 10 publishers had year-on-year sales drops.

The picture is almost reversed in 2015, with seven of the top 10 in the black. Penguin Random House is down marginally (–0.5% to £120.8m) year on year, but as noted in the previous pages, the Nielsen BookScan data information is based on a 24-week half year. A 26-week chart would include the nearly £3m E L James’ Grey (Arrow) has earned in its first two weeks on sale.

Still, through 24 weeks, PRH has lost a tiny bit of market share on its competitors, down to 22.4% compared to 23.1% in 2014. The Penguin division was the group’s top performer, rising nearly 5% to £47.1m, with Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing and Zoe Sugg’s Girl Online earning £1.5m and £1m respectively. DK was up 1.8% to £11.3m, boosted by its various licences, particularly LEGO; of the 146 DK titles to hit the TCM in 2015,37 are LEGO tie-ins.

The pre-Grey Random House numbers are down 3% to £40.1m, led by Mary Berry’s Absolute Favourites (BBC, £1.6m). Yet it is a third off the £2.4m Mary Berry Cooks (BBC) had earned by this point in 2014. Despite having the runaway success of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, Transworld is down 12% to £14m. This year, two Transworld titles have earned more than £400,000 through the TCM: The Girl on the Train (almost £3m, hardback and trade paperback combined) and Lee Child’s Personal (£792,000). Last year, the publisher had seven books break the £400,000 barrier by this point.

Hachette had a solid 4.2% rise to £67.5m, grabbing a 12.5% share, up from 11.7% last year. Hodder (+11.7% to £14.6m) and Headline (+17.7% to £5.7m) have had excellent half-years: the former the beneficiary of Ella Woodward’s Deliciously Ella’s (Yellow Kite) £1.9m in sales; the latter on a spread of fiction hits, including Victoria Hislop’s The Sunrise (£380,000) and Martina Cole’s The Good Life (£308,000).

Octopus was also in double-digit growth (+16.7% to £4.8m), boosted by a strong cookery list, while Orion was up a shallower 4% to £12.4m. Little, Brown remains the biggest part of the Hachette empire (£15.4m), but sales dropped 13.7% year on year.

HarperCollins’ 9.7% spike in TCM sales is owed in large part to the acquisition of Harlequin. But there was solid organic growth (+3.9%), too. Children’s—David Walliams inparticular—was especially strong, with Walliams’ sales leaping 31% on a very strong 2014. Walliams accounted for eight of HC’s top 15 books of the year by value.

Flying Pan

And what a start to 2015 for Pan Macmillan. On top of a robust first- half in 2014 (itself up 8.4% on 2013), TCM sales rose a stonking 20.4% year on year, to £23.4m. It is the result of across the board strength and there is a nice young guns/old guard balance in fiction, including the paperback of Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist (Picador) earning £1.3m and Jeffrey Archer shifting almost £950,000. Non-fiction was topped by a foray into adult colouring books, Emma Farrarons’ The Mindfulness Colouring Book (Boxtree), and Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life (Macmillan).

Children’s, and Julia Donaldson, remain a strength. Donaldson is once again the top-selling author of the half-year, and looks on course to record her sixth consecutive £10m-plus year of TCM sales by the end of 2015. Just over £3.5m of Donaldson’s £5m earned in 2015 has been published by Pan Mac (Scholastic is her other major publisher), meaning the Gruffalo co-creator is responsible for 51% of Macmillan Children’s Books’ £6.9m in sales; she accounts for 15% of Pan Mac’s overall total.

Of the five publishers who have experienced triple-digit growth in our On the Rise: Publishers chart, two have benefited greatly from the adult colouring book craze. Laurence King’s TCM value has risen by just under £1m year on year, mostly due to Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest.

Michael O’Mara, meanwhile, is up £1.2m year on year, and claims five places in our Colouring Books top 10 (below). Pavilion, publisher of Millie Marotta under its Batsford imprint, just misses out on the On the Rise: Publishers top 10; the illustrated independent’s TCM sales jumped 49% to £1.8m.

Tops in the chart is Alma Books, the beneficiary of Jane Hawking’s memoir of her life with ex-husband Stephen, the basis of the Eddie Redmayne-starring biopic “The Theory of Everything”. Hawking’s Travelling to Infinity sold just over £369,000 through the TCM, earning 70% of Alma’s total.

Paula Hawkins and Ella Woodward are brand new faces in the top author chart, a welcoming sight to see considering publishers are taken to task for not supporting new talent (sometimes rightly, to be fair).

Further down the list, there are eight writers (not including celebrity memoirists) who have been published for the first time in the past 12 months, including Emma Healey (£1.5m), Jessie Burton (£1.4m), Alfie Deyes (£1.1m) and Zoe Sugg (£1m).