Publishing News: Issue 23
London Book Fair Goes Digital for 2021
By Naomi Churn
The London Book Fair has announced plans to go fully digital this year, revealing an exciting, new format for a three-week online-only event due to take place in June.
The fair was originally postponed from its usual springtime slot with the hope of hosting an in-person event this summer, but the organisation was forced to cancel in light of ongoing pandemic restrictions. This latest announcement comes in the wake of several publishers, including Big Five publisher HarperCollins, stating that they would not attend a physical event.
Retaining the Spirit of the Fair
The online event still hopes to retain the spirit of the fair as a global marketplace and hub for rights negotiations. In a recently published statement on their website, fair organisers announced that:
“The programme will shine a spotlight on key areas of the fair, creating the opportunity for a larger global audience than ever before to come together in a flexible way to network, learn and share ideas.”
Bookending the month of June, the fair will begin with a series of world-renowned conferences and conclude with a programme of flagship digital events at the end of the month. This line-up is set to include talks, panels, breakout gatherings and ‘In Conversation with…’ sessions, which visitors will be able to access free of charge on The Online Book Fair platform. Publishing hopefuls and early-career professionals will want to look out for the ‘Introduction to Rights’ conference on 7 June, which aims to provide invaluable insight for those looking to establish a career in rights, while aspiring writers should not miss the chance to hear from industry experts in ‘The Writer’s Summit’ on 8 June.
Matt Haig, Author of the Fair
Good news also for fans of Matt Haig’s poignant novel The Midnight Library, one of the stand-out releases of 2020, as the bestselling UK writer has been announced as Author of the Fair. Speaking about his appointment, Haig said:
“It’s an honour to be involved in The London Book Fair during this testing year. Books have never been more vital and more of a comfort and so The London Book Fair feels somehow more important than ever.”
Other highlights to watch out for include the ‘Industry Insights’ sessions covering issues affecting the publishing industry today and the ‘How to' masterclasses, a programme of workshops run by London Book Fair exhibitors. There are also events discussing topics as wide-ranging as children’s publishing, technology in publishing, reskilling within the industry, book illustration, authors in business, writing and literary translation. It is set to be a varied and fascinating line-up.
Those out enjoying new-found post-lockdown freedoms during the month of June need not miss out either, as all content will be available on demand from 2–16 July. To register for tickets visit the London Book Fair website here.
Economic News in the Publishing Industry
By Katie Gough
As we approach the halfway mark of 2021 and we begin to leave the pandemic behind (we hope), it's worth taking a look back at the economic news from 2021.
Back in February, Bloomsbury came to the end of their fiscal year and announced that revenue was expected to be ahead and profit was significantly ahead of upgraded market expectations for the year ending 28 February 2021. This put revenue above the current consensus market-expectation of £171 million. It was also announced that the £63,000 of government furlough money they received had been repaid. Bloomsbury’s stellar year was solidified with an acquisition of Red Globe Press, which is expected to contribute approximately £6 million of revenue before the end of their 2022 fiscal year.
Pearson and Hachette
In April, Pearson announced sales growth of 5% in their first quarter. The Global Online Learning division rose by 25%. Hachette reaped the rewards of Bridgerton after revenue rose by 19.8% in their first quarter. This comes at a tricky time for their parent company Lagardère as it confirms that it is negotiating its transformation into a joint stock company in which chief Arnaud Lagardère would lose his position at the top, leaving him accountable to the board of directors. In exchange for this removal, he would receive a payment of between €200 million and €250 million – enough to pay his €164 million debts.
Unsurprisingly, the giant Amazon announced that their net profits more than tripled in their first quarter, reaching £5.8 billion. A financial report showed that net income had increased by 224% from January to March 2021.
Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House and HarperCollins
This month, Simon & Schuster saw an 8.8% increase of sales – hitting £133 million – with a similar increase of 8% in digital sales. Penguin Random House just beats their soon-to-be acquired imprint with a 10% organic revenue rise and revenues of £3.6 billion. Their organic revenue was also up 7% from its pre-COVID-19 level. In bigger news, Bertelsmann’s acquisition of Simon & Schuster has been cleared (as of 12 May) by the Competition and Markets Agency. A decision by the US Department of Justice is expected soon, after a second request for information was made, but in the UK, the $2.2 billion acquisition will go ahead.
HarperCollins saw a 19% global revenue rise, reaching £353 million, and their digital sales were up 38% on the year before.
After this whistle-stop tour of revenue updates for 2021’s first quarter, the news that the entire publishing industry ended the pandemic year up 2% can also be reported. The Publishing Association’s Publishing in 2020 report indicated that the industry’s income reached £6.4 billion, encouraged by a digital surge that offset a 6% decline in print sales. It seems publishing has soared out of the pandemic with the prediction that it will be an industry worth £10 billion by 2030.