Business profile: Simon & Schuster

Business profile: Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster's m.d. and c.e.o. Ian Chapman can afford to look back upon past hardships with equanimity, given the company's recent performance. In its results released last month, S&S hit a landmark all-time high in turnover of £50m for 2011, a "milestone", according to Chapman. "The last 12 years haven't all been successful," he says. "There was a bad moment in 2005 when things didn't work out . . . that was not an easy time."

Four years ago, Chapman says, S&S was "considered by the trade as a nice little company, doing alright and making progress, but unable to compete". Last year, however, it not only had record revenue, but grew physical book sales by 5% and e-book sales by 360%. Such figures make S&S now the seventh largest trade publisher by value, and sixth largest by volume.

Chapman says: "Perhaps some of our competitors have seen more substantial or equal growth in digital. But their physical book sales have slipped, whereas we are still increasing our physical salesand we are hoping to continue that this year. In British publishing it could well be that digital is offsetting print sales, but that is not my concern, it isn't for us. What we are showing is growth across the board."

Where the growth is

Helping the company's bottom line last year were the children's, sports and illustrated lists. S&S children's grew 11.4% year on year through Nielsen BookScan to 6.7m, led by Claire Freedman's Underpants series (which took just under 1m through the tills), and the category now represents 20% of the total S&S business. Illustrated titles doubled from 23 in 2010 to 51 in 2011, and hauled in a net sales increase of 108% year on year, mainly through new cookery contract business with Bonne Maman, Sacla and Waitrose, among others.

However, a stand-out area of growth that Chapmana Manchester United fanis keen to draw attention to is sport, led by Paul Scholes' memoir. "In a market down 3%, S&S bucked the trend, with 151% value growth in 2011," Chapman says. S&S will continue to grow its sport and children's lists through 2012, and booksellers can look forward to titles by cricketers Stuart Broad and Shane Warne, alongside releases by golfers Nick Faldo and Sam Torrance.

Right people, right now

>Looking at the means by which the company has grown, Chapman is adamant that having the right people on board the S&S ship has been central to its success, and points to a host of recent new hiresKerr McRae, James Horobin, Julian Shaw and Carly Cook to name a few.

The industry scionChapman's father, also Ian, was a publishing heavyweight at Collinshas a straightforward, simple philosophy; buying the right books at the right prices. Chapman says: "I have always thought that publishing is terribly simple. That's not to say it is easy, there is a difference. It is basically about having the right people in the right areas to take on what we consider to be the right talent editorially to build your publishing list, and having the right people in that team to be able to package and publicise it and deliver it to the marketyou have got to have the right book."

The "right books" for S&S this year in fiction include big-brand Philippa Gregory's Changeling, Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles, Lynda La Plante's Backlash and Jackie Collins' The Power Trip; and in non-fiction there will be memoirs from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jeremy Vine.

Chapman expects digital to grow further for S&S predicting 100% growth in 2012, led by more digital-first, digital-only books, and the conversion of backlist titles. Digital currently accounts for 10% of the S&S business. In terms of new acquisitions, Chapman said he would like to develop more brand authors, and add to the bespoke publishing list.

S&S Facts:

2011 Revenue: £50m
2010 Revenue: £46m
2011 Physical book value growth: +5%
2011 E-book value growth: +360%