The Magic Continues for Bloomsbury Publishing
Once upon a time, 21 years ago, the first Harry Potter book stepped onto the publishing scene and changed the world of fiction. Author J.K. Rowling achieved unprecedented success, fans met Harry and prepared for a magical journey that would span seven phenomenal books, and Bloomsbury Publishing was transformed into something much bigger than it knew was possible.
Established by four disenchanted publishers in a small office above a Chinese restaurant in 1986 with £2 million of venture capital, Bloomsbury Publishing had humble beginnings. Prior to Potter, Bloomsbury had had limited experience in the publication of children’s fiction.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was a story J.K. Rowling and her agent, Christopher Little, had to struggle to find a publishing home for. When Bloomsbury took it to print, perhaps at the not-so-subtle encouragement of the board chairman’s eight-year-old daughter, the company decided to play it safe with an initial print run of just 500 copies and an author advance of £1,500. What happened next could not have been predicted.
Small, independent Bloomsbury became one of the world’s most successful children’s publishing companies. With revenue from Potter books, films, and merchandising, Bloomsbury Publishing was able to fund business development, making itself a go-to destination for new and exciting manuscripts. Company CEO Nigel Newton was committed to diversifying opportunities and making the most of the Potter buzz. He aimed to capitalize on the stroke of luck Harry’s world had already shown itself to be.
After we floated, we started a children’s division and got lucky very quickly. We were very lucky that one of our earliest children’s books ended up being as big as it did.
Shares in pre-Potter Bloomsbury were valued at around £1. Today, shares cost an estimated average of £235. Bloomsbury, now with an estimated market value of £179m, works successfully in book publishing, this year expecting an annual revenue of £163m, and profit expectations are on the rise.
While modern Bloomsbury is a well-established and successful children’s book publisher, the company is not confined to children’s literature. The company has branches in London, Sydney, New York, and New Delhi and has four genre divisions: Bloomsbury Academic and Professional, Bloomsbury Content Services, Bloomsbury Adult Publishing, and Bloomsbury Children’s Publishing, each of these boasting a number of imprints, and in 2016, Bloomsbury restructured into consumer (trade) and non-consumer divisions. Since 2000, Bloomsbury has maintained a steady stream of smaller publishing house acquisitions, as evidenced by the Bloomsbury corporate timeline.
Bloomsbury is also home to a number of other popular stories, securing the company’s position as an industry leader. Harry Potter books continue to work with Bloomsbury and are joined at the publishing house by such stories as Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series and Samantha Shannon’s The Priory of the Orange Tree.
In the post-Potter world, Bloomsbury is exploring the benefits and opportunities of digital publishing and the lucrative academic textbook publishing industry. With 60% of its profits being earned outside of the United Kingdom, Bloomsbury continues to take on the world. As the company enjoys its 24th consecutive year of dividend growth, its cash flow positions it for continued organic growth and cash for shareholders.
Bloomsbury Publishing is no longer an independent publishing house that is new to the scene. It is a global phenomenon, following in the footsteps of the Harry Potter series that boosted it to stardom.