Faber has returned to profitability this year after recording a loss in 2015, helped by a “wide range of titles selling extremely well”.
The results mark the “third best in the company’s history”, Faber said, with turnover up 6.9% in the year ending March 2016, to £17.06m (£15.96m in 2015), “ahead of expectation”, helped by the strong sales of A Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson, The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer and The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.
At the same time, the operating profit for 2015–16 was £1.09m, up from a loss of £0.44m a year earlier, leading to a profit after tax of £0.70m (up from a £0.49m loss in 2015).
Faber’s fiction list enjoyed a particularly “outstanding” year, the company said, with sales up 13%, and up 46% in the crime genre. Faber Children’s sales were also up 24% year on year and its creative writing scheme, the Faber Academy, recorded growth of 32% year on year, with a number of Academy students winning high-profile deals with trade publishers.
The company made eight jobs redundant in March 2015 following a restructure and Mitzi Angel was appointed as publisher in September 2015. She made several changes to the editorial department, including “closing” the positions of publisher for fiction and paperbacks Hannah Griffiths and non-fiction publisher Julian Loose, while hiring Louise Joyner as editorial director from Canongate in April 2016. Stephen Page, Faber c.e.o., also dropped the role of publisher from his own title.
Some of Faber's 2016 hit titles
During the year, Faber also consolidated all of its physical sales service under one umbrella, expanded the Independent Alliance and closed Faber Factory Plus. The Faber Factory joint venture with Perseus also came under full Faber control at the end of 2015–16, after the sale of Perseus’ distribution services to Ingram in March 2016.
Page said: “These bold changes ensure that we remain at the forefront of world literary publishing, building on our independence, extraordinary backlist and reputation to shape a modern, high-quality business that can thrive in this exciting era for readers and writers.”
He added: “This year’s performance has been a major team effort across the company, with exceptionally hard work and close co-operation across all departments. I’m immensely grateful to all our brilliant staff, and proud of the high standards they are setting.”
Page added that the results reflected a “pleasing” fast turnaround “following a difficult year in 2014–15”.
He added that a key element in the company’s transformation was “we behaved as one thing…We really got our different departments working extremely well together”.
Page also told The Bookseller there were opportunities for a more “diverse” range of publishing in the current market than there was two years ago, helped by the revival of Waterstones and the general strength of the independent publishing sector.
He added: “The whole independent bookshop sector is so strong and thriving, it is like having a second national bookshop chain.”
Page's predictions for future Faber hits
Looking ahead, Brexit was highlighted as one of the potential risks and uncertainties for the company. “It is very uncertain what the effects of Brexit will be and our major concern will be consumer confidence and its potential impact on the high street, although we are not seeing any effects yet,” Page said. “We also hope that the government will continue to be supportive of copyright.”
The results also noted that the “other significant potential threat to the company’s future plans and performance continues to come from the dominance of one or two major retailers, particularly in the online sales sector” in reference to Amazon, which has an estimated 90% market share of the UK e-book market.
On this, Page said: “It is not good for any market to be dominated by one player. For us and other publishers, the e-book market has got a little stuck over the past year. We need more dynamism in the e-reading space. That tends to come from new entrants to the market, entrepreneurialism and from more diversity.”
He added that despite print book sales being up and e-book sales growth slowing, “I do not believe in the long term that digital has somehow reached its peak, that it is not going to progress, I don’t believe that for a second. So I would like to see more dynamic competition in the market.”
While there were many advantages to being a smaller, UK-based independent publisher, “the global reach and increased size of the largest publishers remains a consideration,” said a statement in the company results.
Page said sales had continued to perform well this year in the months since March 2016. He was confident about Faber’s upcoming performance over Christmas, forecasting Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End to be a big hit, along with Alan Bennett’s diaries Keeping On Keeping On, which Faber is co-publishing with Profile, and a collection of P D James short stories, The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories.