S&S's Reidy tells staff to 'resist censorship' after 'tumultuous' 2016

S&S's Reidy tells staff to 'resist censorship' after 'tumultuous' 2016

Simon & Schuster's president and c.e.o. Carolyn Reidy has urged colleagues to "resist censorship" in an email to staff in which she summed up 2016 as a "tumultuous year" politically and culturally.

Reidy said it was S&S' "responsibility" both to "resist censorship" and "to stand unequivocally for freedom of speech"-"no matter how difficult that might be at times". Donald Trump's impending presidency has already prompted PEN International to declare that freedom of expression is now "in peril in the Land of the Free".

"As we head into 2017, we can expect that our civic and cultural life will remain turbulent. In these times it is especially important to remember that as publishers we will always endeavor to give voice to a wide range of opinions and divergent viewpoints. We publish for many different and frequently conflicting audiences, and must be fully cognizant of our responsibility to resist censorship and stand unequivocally for freedom of speech, no matter how difficult  that might be at times," said Reidy.

In spite of this, she said she felt the publishing marketplace was enjoying "a period of relative stability" and she used the opportunity to pay tribute to S&S' many successes this year, notably Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. She called The Boss' memoir "undoubtedly the most-anticipated and talked about book of the year, published to both critical acclaim and tremendous sales" and praised the execution of its global publishing campaign. 

Other "noteworthy newsmakers" that made it into the end-of-year email were Amy Schumer’s The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody, Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog, Taraji P Henson’s Around the Way Girl and DeVon Franklin and Meagan Good’s The Wait; plus Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, currently number one position on the New York Times bestseller list. Reidy drew special attention to Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood and  The Woman in Cabin 10, both of which she credited Scout Press in publishing "flawlessly" to establish Ware as "a major author in the suspense field".

Books by Springsteen and Schumer helped Simon & Schuster to an 11% year-on-year increase in its third quarter revenue to $226m (£181m), according to CBS, S&S' parent company, in November 2016.

Reidy said of Bareskins, Zero K, All the Single Ladies, The Gene, Grit, and, again, Born to Run: "It is especially satisfying when editorial excellence is greeted with enthusiasm by the book-buying public". 

Digital entrepreneurs, social media stars and YouTube celebrities were said to offer "ongoing strong sales", whether as backlist, sequels and follow-ups or new authors. "Our publishing in this category has been outstanding across the board, and reminds us that in today’s world it is ever more possible to mine nontraditional sources for authors and content with popular appeal, and that there will always be new audiences and groups of readers for us to find and serve," said Reidy. 

New imprints introduced in 2016 include Salaam Reads, for the Muslim community, and Gallery 13 in the graphic novel category, both of which will publish their first titles in 2017.

Audio she said had shown "significant year-on-year growth", 2016 being the second consecutive year S&S has experienced an increase of more than 30% in digital downloads. According to Reidy, S&S subsequently plans to publish "even more audiobook titles in 2017".  The audiobook of The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo was hailed S&S' "fastest-selling digital audio ever" (it has just received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Spoken Word Album). 

Altogether digital revenues represented 23% of S&S’s total revenues for the third quarter, The Bookseller reported in November.

In S&S' Children’s division, notable authors highlighted were Rachel Renée Russell, for her new middle grade series The Misadventures of Max Crumbly from Dork Diaries, Jason Reynolds, referred to as "an unstoppable force of award-winning creativity in both middle grade and young adult", Cassandra Clare for the latest instalment in her Shadowhunter series, Marla Frazee for her picture books and Sharon M Draper for Out of My Mind.

Singling out UK successes, Reidy shone a spotlight on S&S' two Man Booker Prize longlist titles, Ian McGuire’s The North Water and Virginia Reeves’s Work Like Any Other, and further praised the UK's "superlative work across the board with authors both local and from the US". "From Santa Montefiore to Philippa Gregory and Rachel Renée Russell, Graham Swift to Elizabeth Strout, their list is as complete and strong as it has ever been, and has a stellar publishing effort behind it," said Reidy.

Reviewing the performance of its other international companies, Reidy told staff Simon & Schuster Canada’s local publishing program has a track record over 40% of its titles become "bestsellers"; Simon & Schuster Australia had gained market share from its local publishing and by growing e-book sales; and that India, celebrating its fifth year as a Simon & Schuster company, is planning to launch its own domestic publishing in 2017, while offering localised versions of titles from sister companies.

S&S recent results for the third quarter showed an 11% hike in sales, but operating profit for the publisher increased by just  $1m to $44m (£35.26m) - “as the increase in revenues was largely offset by higher production and selling costs".