Profits surged to £7.5m at Quercus last year, as the independent announced HarperCollins publishing director Susan Watt is to set up a new imprint called Heron Books.
In its financial results for the year to 31st December, sales increased 66.5% to £31.8m. Pre-tax profits increased from £0.9m in 2009 to £7.5m last year. Quercus said sales growth excluding Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy within Nielsen BookScan's Total Consumer Market top 5,000 titles was 55%.
E-book sales increased 16-fold last year and now account for 3% of Quercus' total sales. The publisher predicted e-book sales could reach 10% of total revenue over the course of 2011. Chief executive Mark Smith said: "The last quarter of 2010 saw a step change in the rate of sale, which has continued into 2011."
Chairman David Potter said: "2010 was an excellent year for Quercus, with Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy delivering on its earlier promise and the publishing programme across fiction, non-fiction and children's books making great strides both commercially and critically."
Smith added: "Although we are acutely conscious of the tough economic climate in the UK and developed world and are being cautious about deploying our resources, 2011 has got off to a strong start and has exceeded management's expectations. The surge of digital sales that began in the last quarter of 2010 has continued and we believe that 2011 will mark a step change in consumer behaviour."
Among the non-Larsson highlights in translated fiction, Smith identified John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In and Three Second by Roslund and Hellstrom. In crime and thriller, Smith noted titles by Richard North Patterson, Brian Freeman and Stephen Coonts. In non-fiction, highlights included the William Hill-shortlisted A Last English Summer by Duncan Hamilton and Saltire-shortlisted At the Loch of the Green Corrie by Andrew Greig.
Meanwhile, Quercus announced the launch of Heron Books, which will be run by HarperCollins publishing director Susan Watt. She will continue to work at HarperCollins part-time, as she has done from April 2010.
The list will concentrate on fiction and non-fiction and its first book, Mark Nepo's The Book of the Awakening will be released on 28th April.
Watt said: "I am so interested in finding original, even quirky, talent in writing every kind of book, storytelling in both non-fiction and fiction—and of course particularly fascinated in finding books that suit the rapidly expanding group of new middle age, who have the time to read as well as the means to buy."
Smith added: "Susan has an outstanding track record in both spotting talent and commissioning groundbreaking ideas and I am thrilled that she has chosen to join us. Our imprints—Maclehose Press, Jo Fletcher Books and now Heron Books—complement the core Quercus publishing programme and we all look forward to the projects and authors that Susan will bring."