Head of Zeus has reported net sales of £8.4m and profit before tax of £400,000 in unaudited accounts for the year ending 31st December 2020.
The results were similar to those in 2019, when net sales were marginally lower at £8.3m but pre-tax profit stood at £428,000.
Head of Zeus said it sold fewer paperbacks in pandemic-hit 2020 but e-book sales rose to make up the difference, helping it to beat its forecast.
C.e.o. and publisher Nicolas Cheetham said: “This result is well ahead of the management forecast we made in March 2020 when the pandemic took hold, despite a significant subsequent provision for Bertram’s demise. We postponed a number of key titles to the spring of 2021 and saw a reduction in the volume of paperbacks sold. But this was balanced by an increase in e-book sales, which accounted for 38% of our 2020 turnover, and a significant increase in audiobook sales.”
Cheetham picked out the launch of SFF imprint Ad Astra in the autumn and the announcement that Liu Cixin’s trilogy, The Three-Body Problem, is to be a Netflix series helmed by David Benioff and D B Weiss, the showrunners of “Game of Thrones”. That helped the author's backlist hit sales of 700,000 that year, he said.
He added: “The growth of our narrative non-fiction list in history and politics also made a significant contribution. Our leading titles included Marina Amaral’s The World Aflame, Paul Lay’s Providence Lost, Peter Geoghegan’s Democracy for Sale and The Crew by David Price.
“In Ireland we recorded two number one bestsellers with The Art of the Glimpse, edited by Sinead Gleeson and The Arms Crisis of 1970 by Michael Heney. Our presence in the USA was established by the success of the five volumes in Terry Goodkind’s fantasy series The Children of D'Hara.”
"The most important work we did in 2020 was to plot our course for 2021 and beyond. July 2021 will mark our 10th anniversary. We've served our apprenticeship, and the company is prepared for the next stage of the journey."
Cheetham said a new business model was designed to help the indie double its market share over the next four years. The company forecasts sales of £10.8m for 2021 with a profit before tax of £1m. It is projecting double-digit growth to net sales of £16m for 2022-24.
As part of a different strategy, all new titles, along with a backlist of around 2,000 titles, are now being published by one of the company's seven subsidiary imprints. Each of these will be "managed and monitored as a self standing business specialising in a different sector of the market, and tasked with achieving double-digit annual growth targets".
Cheetham said: 'We're a small company. We compete for market share in an industry that isn't growing. Our strategy is to create unique content, make beautiful books, and focus our efforts on what we do best."