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shinros

GW's Black Library Sales are slumping slightly. (A discussion)

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Right so I was browsing the Bolter and Chainsword forum and found in the recent report that BL sales are declining(somewhat). I find this fact quite interesting and I think if we discuss this subject so we can let GW know what we want to see. (I have no idea if they read this forum.)

So here is my opinion, stop writing basic action stories. Just stop it, look at the books people are talking about. GW have you seen people speak poorly of Dark Harvest or Requiem Infernal? Do you want to know the reason why? Substance, people want substance. Now I don't know how much money these books have made, but if said books were pushed forward heavily I think they would sell like hot cakes. 

Look at he most popular BL series', it's Eisenhorn and Gaunts Ghosts, not Space marine story 1020323. Now that's not to say Stormcast and Space Marines stories can't have substance but they are following a specific story line EVERY TIME.

Also, one more thing. ADVERTISE THESE BOOKS. Please, GW/BL do better advertising. People still don't know Dark Harvest has even released for crying out loud! Hell it's the same for Requiem! Think about the warhammer horror brand as well, barely any advertising in that area as well. 

Now all of this is my opinion, I don't know what goes on in the background or what you do. But, this is just me, a fan of your works giving his opinion. Now if the mods feel that this topic is outside of bounds feel free to lock it. If that is not the case I am eager to hear from others on why they think BL are declining and your feedback on how to fix it.  

Edited by shinros
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Bl has never been well nor heavily advertised as strongly as GW could I feel. They've a few choice series that do really well like the Horus Heresy, but otherwise it doesn't seem to get as much attention in some ways. Then again I think its also because it targets a market that shares wargaming but is separate from it. 

 

In the AoS bracket I'd say a few things have held back sales:

1) The early stuff was not their best. Even good authors were challenged by writing for a totally new setting which had the basic premise of infinite possibilities. That can be super hard to write; even harder to make it blend with what other authors write as well.

2) Time. AoS hasn't really got a dating system in place. This makes it hard to read various stories and place them in even a rough chronological order. Right now we've a few major events like the start of the Age of Sigmar and the Necroquake. After that it gets really hazy on the timeline front

3) Maps. Time and space - geographic positions are hrad to work out too as is their relative importance. 

 

 

Now AoS has got some big benefits of course. A big one is that GW isn't focusing on just Stormcast; they are focusing in on all races here and there. SC got a lions share and will get a lions share moving forwrad, but many other races get a good showing. Most factions have at least a good few stories that head them up at the forefront of their own tales. 40K suffers in this respect because an overwhelming number of stories tend to revolve around the Imperium; whilst Xenos factions tend to get a bit more under-represented. Recently I was looking for Eldar stories and the number of them is tiny compared to the legion of Marine and Imperial books. 

 

 

Another aspect is us the community. Like it or not I also feel that a weak point is that the community doesn't read enough of the books we claim to desire. Furthermore we don't talk about them enough either. This directly feeds into fewer people taking up reading them as they join into the community and game world. We focus in on a few key areas as a community (esp online); painting, building, rules and list building. Those four areas are heavily dominated in discussions. However actual playing tactics and method; books and lore etc.... these things tend to take a bit of a backseat. Lore chatter often gets struck up, but tends to revolve around "Battletome/rulebook" level understanding; with fewer mentions of the background books. So sales might be done and part of it might be on us to promote.

I'm not absolving GW's marketing not promotion of their own product of course; of any wargame company they've got the money and resources for marketing. Then again even when you think outside of the BL; book advertising is hard. It doesn't really catch TV or internet adverts all that much; in fact beyond a "Harry Potter" level book you see very little book advertising unless you go looking for it. It doesn't tend to feature much in youtube videos and such either. 

So its not just something BL clearly struggles with, its something the whole publishing world can suffer from. 

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Don't you think you are making this out to be bigger then it actually is?  sales going up and down is normal.  

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13 minutes ago, Overread said:

Large text!

You summed up my thoughts well, far more better than I have. I do think they need to advertise to a broader range. So I took the time to look up some goodreads reviews, those who aren't all that invested in warhammer largely they speak positively about those two books Dark Harvest and Requiem Infernal. Other times they find other novels confusing or hard to get into. 

The ironic thing about those two books sell the setting pretty well and capture it vividly in my opinion. 

In my work place I get to talk to a lot of people, those who are into sci-fi and fantasy stories have either heard or read Eisenhorn. I don't think the average fantasy book reader is going to pick up a stormcast book on kindle or amazon if a BL advertisement was slapped in their face. Just my opinion. 

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3 minutes ago, xking said:

Don't you think you are making this out to be bigger then it actually is?  sales going up and down is normal.  

The BL section of sales have been declining for awhile actually. This is from personal memory but there have been several drops to BL if we go by previous reports while everything else is booming. As a consumer I just want to give feedback, as I said I have no idea if GW reads these forums. I really enjoy warhammer books and I don't want GW to do something... "drastic" to plug that hole. They tend to do that. 

Now you can feel I am being over dramatic, that's your prerogative, but I want to foster a discussion. 

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3 minutes ago, xking said:

Don't you think you are making this out to be bigger then it actually is?  sales going up and down is normal.  

Without checking the finances it is hard to tell if its good or bad and BC and other news sites can make things out to sound a little worse or better than they are for the advertising clicks it will generate. I do recall reading that some of the Warhammer Classics books aren't doing as well as might be expected; however at the same time GW did kill off that whole franchise game wise so its not a huge surprise. But with Warhammer Old World coming back its an ideal avenue to invest into now with more of their collected editions.

If I were running BL I'd even consider restructuring that section of the site and potentially put up a big notice and then steadily remove all the individual books and short stories - just leaving behind the omnibus editions. With some due notice its something that would cut down on teh bulk of material they show - making it far easier to dip into for newer readers. Considering many series are at least 3 books long that cuts down their inventory display by 2/3rds for novels and strips out a lot of short stories. 

 

Which does actually raise a good point. The BL site isn't bad, but at the same time you sort of have to know what you want to find it. Heck I got terribly confused and made two massive threads on it so that I could sort out what was going on. The information is there but its not as clear as it could be. If you're Gotrek or Horus Hersey you get your own section listing; but a lot of connected stories that aren't big names (or aren't yet) don't really get listed out like that. They are "hidden" to new readers. Again they could re-organise and make the site far better and easier to navigate and find stories. 

40K should have xenos listings for stories that revolve around the xenos - marine chapter sections for the different chapters etc... 
 

 

Price might also be a factor - a lot of BL books tend to be priced at the high end of the market. 

I'd also say that I can't tell if its a mistake or not, but I'm always sad that BL only does one time short print runs of many of the big beefy lore and art books. And by short I mean many rarely make it to the end of the pre-order period before going out of sale. I don't mean your special editions; but your Libre Chaotica and Jess Godwin sketchbooks. I'm actually amazed that the Sabbot Worlds Crusade book is still in stock!

 

On the subject of dropping sales any idea if they are gross sales or sales of just print or digital? It might be that digital is going up and print is going down ;or that BL direct sales are down but Amazon sales are up etc... 

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9 minutes ago, Overread said:

text

I do agree, I recall a time I wanted to read older books they were quite hard to find on the website. Now the recent drop is 7-9 percent, but so far it's been a steady drop over time. As I said going off memory, I recall them mentioning BL hasn't been doing that great for awhile.

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Considering BL book prices don't devalue over time on the website I'm surprised they don't push more attention on earlier stuff and create neat "starting points" more clearly for people. 

 

One other metric would be to compare BL's sales to regular book sales and to fantasy/sci-fi sales as well; whilst also removing some outliers (eg you'd remove Lord of the Rings and anything that recently had a big film or TV series ilke The Witcher). It might not explain a steady decline, but it might reveal that some values are in-line with bigger trends in the market in general. Or if BL is suffering a shortfall whilst the rest of the market is going the other way then it highlights that perhaps content and/or marketing are to blame and that BL is only suffering reduced sales because its not out-reaching in the right way to its potential customerbase and thus is losing out on sales. 

 

Thinking along those lines I'm surprised GW doesn't do a few more book-in-model deals. I recall I only read Dune the novel because I got a special edition of the Emperor Battle for Dune game that came with the book on the front cover (heck I've still got that book). I do notice that they do do them, though I'm never sure how many of them they sell compared to just the models alone by the time stocks run out. GW could get tighter and place book 1 of a series specifically with a limited set so that the only way to get the limited set is with the book itself. Of course limited sets are their own hotbed of opinions (my personal one being that they are fine so long as GW brings out the models from the limited duel set in a decent time frame - a year is getting a  bit too long in my view for some of the AoS duel sets)

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I think the main thing holding Black Library books back is just... well, they're not that good. Even the more famous and well-regarded of the titles, like Gaunt's Ghosts, are extremely pulpy, and have very limited appeal. Don't get me wrong: I really like Gaunt's Ghosts. They're very binge-able, perfect beach fodder and nobody should be ashamed for liking them, because they're great fun. But at the same time, they are held back by the same thing that holds most of the BL's fare back, and that is that, by and large, there is only war. Who is going to read Black Library books? There are exceptions, but on the whole it's existing Warhammer fans. All of them? No. Not everybody cares about the biggest, toughest rat and how many dwarves and goblins he kills (they should, but they don't 😥). Not everybody wants to pick up part 237 of the Horus Heresy saga. There are types of people who are keen on finding out how exactly every Primarch got to where he is, and who get excited by revelations about Roboute Guilliman's backstory, but there are not enough of these people to keep BL in the, ahem, black.

A limited range of genres, stories of wildly varying quality, already restricted by their sci-fi/fantasy nature and link to a known nerdy hobby, are not going to set the publishing world on fire, and comparisons to the rest of the publishing world, where books are cheap, does not help: Waterstones currently has five out of fifty books in its paperback bestsellers lists at £9.99 or more, and that's pretty much the starting point for Black Library books. You can pay a tenner to read David Guymer's story about underwater elves, or you can pay £6.99 and get The Handmaid's Tale- or £5.99 and get La Belle Sauvage, both of which are, I am confident in asserting, are better-written and have more to say than your average Warhammz novel.

Again, please don't mistake me and think I'm trashing BL. They're fine for what they are, and nobody should have to defend their literary tastes. But great literature they are not, and when it's such a challenge for them to break out of the niche they have dug very deeply for themselves, the concept of them making less and less money (assuming that is the case) should come as no great surprise to anyone.

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58 minutes ago, Overread said:

Without checking the finances it is hard to tell if its good or bad and BC and other news sites can make things out to sound a little worse or better than they are for the advertising clicks it will generate. I do recall reading that some of the Warhammer Classics books aren't doing as well as might be expected; however at the same time GW did kill off that whole franchise game wise so its not a huge surprise. But with Warhammer Old World coming back its an ideal avenue to invest into now with more of their collected editions.

If I were running BL I'd even consider restructuring that section of the site and potentially put up a big notice and then steadily remove all the individual books and short stories - just leaving behind the omnibus editions. With some due notice its something that would cut down on teh bulk of material they show - making it far easier to dip into for newer readers. Considering many series are at least 3 books long that cuts down their inventory display by 2/3rds for novels and strips out a lot of short stories. 

 

Which does actually raise a good point. The BL site isn't bad, but at the same time you sort of have to know what you want to find it. Heck I got terribly confused and made two massive threads on it so that I could sort out what was going on. The information is there but its not as clear as it could be. If you're Gotrek or Horus Hersey you get your own section listing; but a lot of connected stories that aren't big names (or aren't yet) don't really get listed out like that. They are "hidden" to new readers. Again they could re-organise and make the site far better and easier to navigate and find stories. 

40K should have xenos listings for stories that revolve around the xenos - marine chapter sections for the different chapters etc... 
 

 

Price might also be a factor - a lot of BL books tend to be priced at the high end of the market. 

I'd also say that I can't tell if its a mistake or not, but I'm always sad that BL only does one time short print runs of many of the big beefy lore and art books. And by short I mean many rarely make it to the end of the pre-order period before going out of sale. I don't mean your special editions; but your Libre Chaotica and Jess Godwin sketchbooks. I'm actually amazed that the Sabbot Worlds Crusade book is still in stock!

 

On the subject of dropping sales any idea if they are gross sales or sales of just print or digital? It might be that digital is going up and print is going down ;or that BL direct sales are down but Amazon sales are up etc... 

According to some of the authors, AoS books sell more then fantasy books. So people reading Age  of Sigmar novels is not going down. In fact, I would say the number of people reading AoS stuff is increasing.  

What I will say is the majority of BL sells are from 40k,  So my guess is some people ether  don't like where the story of 40k is going. Or a lot of people who  use to buy  space marine novels, hate the primaris space marines and won't buy stuff with them in it.

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I remember Josh saying last year that their book sells were never great but it's surprising to hear they're doing bad now.

They've been doing so many bundles, cycling older stuff back in(I was happy to see "Hammerhal and other stories" come back after two years gone), diverse stories & audios  with free samples and while they could do better advertising it's still big announcements on their community sites and facebook.

It feels to me like they're doing everything right(especially writing, AoS 2017-2019 has been amazing reads). All I can think is that the model sales boom is affecting it. I know when I do my orders I always prioritize what I can afford in models over books despite how much I adore the AoS lore & stories.

Edit: Yeah I'm gonna hope on the "40k needs to do better" train. I recall on a big discussion on new Primaris in reddit that the AoS fans rallied behind the fact that they play and read AoS because it's not an endless power armor parade.

I could believe the Imperium focus is a hindrance when they've gotten Necromunda and Black Fortress making other races and factions rise in interest. (Plus I wouldn't be surprised that the Star Wars turmoils are making sci-fi readers question nostalgia pandering)

Edited by Baron Klatz

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I personally haven't read a lot of Black library books (Dark imperium,Devestation of Baal, Talon of Horus,Black Legion, Lords of Silence, and spears of the emperor). I'm not to familiar with the sigmar side yet, but I will be reading Soulswars and Nagash the undying king soon. I have also listened to a couple of Eldar audio dramas. More on that in a bit. 

I will say anything from Aaron Dembski-Bowden had been a treat to read and I look forward to reading more Black Legion books from him. 

Now I do believe there is way to much Space marine books. We need more Xenos and chaos books. I'm an eldar play and I feel there is little there, sucks more if you are a Drukhari or Harlequin fan such as myself.

I do think the novellas are a great idea and the implementation of a horror genre, just waiting for one of them to catch my attention.

Now the Harlequin Audio Dramas are AMAZING! I cannot recomend these enough,even if you have no interest in 40k they are fantastic. Great cast fun dialogue and good worlding building from a Harlequins perspective. I'm glad GW is even giving an army as small as Harlequins a chance, let alone audio dramas which im assuming cost quite a bit to make. Then again Harlequins are guardians of the Black Library so it is fitting.

 I feel GW needs to take risks on the smaller factions, even if they are the novellas, or short stories, it could bump up interest in BL and get xenos hyped to learn more about their faction.  But what do I know I just want a Harlequin novel. 

 

Anyway that's my 2 cents/ramble.

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I'll chime in and say I don't think most of what they offer is that good.  The writing itself just does not engage me.  There are a few exceptions, but I think they need to re evaluate their formula.

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38 minutes ago, Kirjava13 said:

I think the main thing holding Black Library books back is just... well, they're not that good. Even the more famous and well-regarded of the titles, like Gaunt's Ghosts, are extremely pulpy, and have very limited appeal. Don't get me wrong: I really like Gaunt's Ghosts. They're very binge-able, perfect beach fodder and nobody should be ashamed for liking them, because they're great fun. But at the same time, they are held back by the same thing that holds most of the BL's fare back, and that is that, by and large, there is only war. Who is going to read Black Library books? There are exceptions, but on the whole it's existing Warhammer fans. All of them? No. Not everybody cares about the biggest, toughest rat and how many dwarves and goblins he kills (they should, but they don't 😥). Not everybody wants to pick up part 237 of the Horus Heresy saga. There are types of people who are keen on finding out how exactly every Primarch got to where he is, and who get excited by revelations about Roboute Guilliman's backstory, but there are not enough of these people to keep BL in the, ahem, black.

A limited range of genres, stories of wildly varying quality, already restricted by their sci-fi/fantasy nature and link to a known nerdy hobby, are not going to set the publishing world on fire, and comparisons to the rest of the publishing world, where books are cheap, does not help: Waterstones currently has five out of fifty books in its paperback bestsellers lists at £9.99 or more, and that's pretty much the starting point for Black Library books. You can pay a tenner to read David Guymer's story about underwater elves, or you can pay £6.99 and get The Handmaid's Tale- or £5.99 and get La Belle Sauvage, both of which are, I am confident in asserting, are better-written and have more to say than your average Warhammz novel.

Again, please don't mistake me and think I'm trashing BL. They're fine for what they are, and nobody should have to defend their literary tastes. But great literature they are not, and when it's such a challenge for them to break out of the niche they have dug very deeply for themselves, the concept of them making less and less money (assuming that is the case) should come as no great surprise to anyone.

I generally agree with you, ironically it's the novels with greater substance that appeal outside of the normal warhammer fandom like Eisenhorn and from the looks of things Requiem Infernal and Dark Harvest, a part of me feels overall they need to step up their game and take a step back from pulpy books. 

They should also advertise said books more. 

Edited by shinros

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For 40k I think they went too hard on the HH series.  I tried to keep up at first but after about a dozen books my eyes started glazing over. 

 

For AoS nothing really has gripped me either like a handful of older BL books (Grey Knights/Guardians of the Forest/Dwarf).  I haven't read a new book yet where I would find myself unable to put it down.

One shoutout though is the Realmslayer audios.  Those have been amazingly done.

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14 minutes ago, King Under the Mountain said:

For 40k I think they went too hard on the HH series.  I tried to keep up at first but after about a dozen books my eyes started glazing over. 

 

For AoS nothing really has gripped me either like a handful of older BL books (Grey Knights/Guardians of the Forest/Dwarf).  I haven't read a new book yet where I would find myself unable to put it down.

One shoutout though is the Realmslayer audios.  Those have been amazingly done.

Read ghoulslayer. And "overlords of the Iron Dragon"( it's getting a sequel soon) with a name like yours, I'm pretty sure you're a fan of the Dwarfs.

There is also the "legends of the age of Sigmar: fyreslayers" book.

Hopefully we can get some dispossessed stuff at some point.

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It's out now, "Profit's Ruin" is up on the BL site. :D

"Volturung Road"(get the "Sacrosanct and other stories" omnibus), "Sea Taketh" and the "Spear of Shadows" are good duardin reads too.

That's a lot of reasons why I don't think AoS is the issue. The big variety of content and average to above average writing brings in a pretty good crowd of people diving into the setting.

Most of the times I interest someone on reddit into AoS I have a whole slew of novels to point them towards for their interests to which they're pretty positive on the book in question.

Edit: oh there's also "When Cornered" which has an interesting duardin related premise.

"

THE STORY
For many long months has Neave Blacktalon, greatest of Sigmar's Knights-Azyros, tracked her prey across the Mortal Realms. At last, the sorcerer Xerkanos has been run to ground… yet he has not fallen beneath Blacktalon's twin blades. Captured by a duardin clan whose king he killed, Xerkanos is being transported for trial. But Blacktalon would have her prize – and any conflict between her and the duardin may be moot as dark forces plot to free the sorcerer before the blade can fall…"

 

 

Edited by Baron Klatz
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4 hours ago, Dead Scribe said:

I'll chime in and say I don't think most of what they offer is that good.  The writing itself just does not engage me.  There are a few exceptions, but I think they need to re evaluate their formula.

I have heard black library described as 'the Mills and Boon of scifi and fantasy'. I tend to agree that many of the books feel rushed and listening to author interviews on warhammer TV reinforces that impression. 

It also seems like they haven't landed on a new epic character like Gotrek or eisenhorn which have been able to capture the imagination of so many people. 

Lastly, do we even know how much this is to do with black library vs the whole book publishing industry? I could well imagine a lot of book publishers are seeing year on year falls in sales.... 

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They just don't advertise them or synergise them with product lines well. I didn't even know Dark Harvest came out and I'm very plugged in (I've read 95% of the AOS books). I don' necessarily mean each book needs to be released alongside an army release, but at least feature them prominently on product pages.

They also really need to push Peter Fehervari - he's the only author (maybe ADB) who's books are of a standalone quality regardless of IP. A truly excellent writer whoo should be supported more.

Edited by The World Tree
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The stormcast books are unreadable twaddle in large parts. 'Bromdus lightning butt strode through the valley of skulls hammer in hand to fight the skull reapers of the blood tribe of blood. FOR SIGMAR!' its just awful stuff really childish and poorly written in places. I've tried to read both realmgate omnibuses and they are hard work. 

The realms offer some interesting possibilities but the factions are rather too focused sometimes to create great characters and stories. Most memorable characters I've read of have been humans living in a city of sigmar or a chaos warrior . Every other character is written as what they are. A fyrelsayer is an angry fire dwarf a witch elf is a murderous witch elf. Writers don't seem to be able to create different personalities for characters unless they are a generic human. 

The 40k stories are sometimes truly awful. No wonder sales have slumped. 

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I've just read through the half year report and going to say that my gut feeling is that is pretty click-baity on Bolter and Chainsword's behalf.  Year on year sales for Black Library are down by ~6% (roughly £71k), although this is going in the "wrong" direction, I don't think that this is cause for concern.  It's certainly not indicative of the sky is falling!

I think what will be more telling will be the full year report when we see if December improved sales at all.

Edited by RuneBrush
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Wow a rare case I can agree with Icegoat on some level.

 But I will echo what World Tree has said, BL are sleeping on Peter Fehervari. His stories has substance, he writes xenos great and truly captures the terror of the alien and heretic. Going through his goodreads reviews his books have a broad appeal that other stories tend to lack. 

Thinking about it why haven't we got a book that does a nosedive into the culture of the daughters of khaine? Court of the blind king is also the kind of book where the writer chose to go a more pulpy route for his story instead of something that is more heavy and I keep using this word, substance. 

Dark Harvest should of been advertised harder in hindsight in comparison to court of the blind king. 

 

Edited by shinros
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3 minutes ago, RuneBrush said:

I've just read through the half year report and going to say that my gut feeling is that is pretty click-baity on Bolter and Chainsword's behalf.  Year on year sales for Black Library are down by ~6% (roughly £71k), although this is going in the "wrong" direction, I don't think that this is cause for concern.  It's certainly not indicative of the sky is falling!

I'm not saying the sky is falling. (It may have come across that way as Xking said) But I have personally noticed a trend where GW makes off-handed comments that their BL publications slumping somewhat. 

Just wanted to make a feedback thread, you know put forward what readers may want to see so that area can boom like every other part. But I'll change the title, make it less... dramatic. 

Overall I do think GW can handle BL better. 

Edited by shinros

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3 minutes ago, shinros said:

I'm not saying the sky is falling. (It may have come across that way as Xking said) But I have personally noticed a trend where GW makes off-handed comments on their BL publications slumping somewhat. 

Just wanted to make a feedback thread, you know put forward what readers may want to see so that area can boom like every other part. But I'll change the title, make it less... dramatic. 

Sorry, wasn't meant as a dig at anyone!  I just always associate slump with a huge change rather than a smaller one 😊

I'd be interested to see what BL's analysis is on the reason for the decrease.  I imagine it's not going to be simply down to the quality of the books being written (though it will likely play a part).  Is it as simple as 2018 was particularly good or had a limited ed novel released that people lapped up (easily accounting for that money)

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One of the problem I am not satisfied with the BL AOS products is the lack of connection with model.

The character you find interesting in background is nobody on table while the character you actually use on table is almost nobody in background

IMHO 40k did a far better job on building up some characters

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