The Book Format Thread

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The Book Format Thread

Postby Athelassan » Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:41 pm

Discussion on this topic was starting, like a gigantic octopus of grievance, to extend its tentacles into all sorts of other threads and divert them from their True Purposes. As such, this thread has been created for discussion on the subject of any changes to the format of BL books, be they hardbacks, different sizes of mass market paperbacks, trade paperbacks, ebooks, audiobooks or (if we ever get any more) background books.

Note that, although it did provide the impetus to start the thread, this thread is not the sole province of complaint, and positive contributions are welcomed!

Ath
Last edited by Athelassan on Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Major Rawne » Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:42 pm

I love it. I love it all :D
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Vivia » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:14 pm

:D
I think it's important that the discussion is about positive and negative.

GW decided that giant books is the new trend. I wonder who their costumers are and where they live. There is a certain amount of hilarity about selling giant books. On the other hand, everyone knows that the world is getting less crowded. This is the Future.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:15 pm

The format changes don't bother in and of themselves. Its the marketing screwup that has gone along with it that bothers me.

To sum up:

1. The $7.99 eBooks for the Horus Heresy novels will NOT be available until the mass market copies are out. The case of Angel Exterminatus was a screw-up and they let it slide. They did an entire blogpost about all the different formats and they neglected this crucial detail. For people who do NOT want the extra perks in the eBooks, they have to wait a full 9 months from hardcover release.

2. The current ToL trilogies are switching to trade paperback format and the mass market is being completely discontinued. Reason: the ToL omnibuses have been popular sales wise and they feel justified with this production move.

3. We still do NOT know when Horus Heresy titles are being shipped in hardcover. You have to approximate guesses and/or rely on Amazon to spill the beans on trade paperback release dates. This is the biggest screwup. Reason: they are marketing the hardcovers as "early" releases. However, they are NOT early if fans do NOT know what the original release dates, i.e the trade paperback release dates, are.

Don't think I've really missed out on anything. Anything else I want to say is much more on the marketing side than this specific issue.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Vivia » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:30 pm

Wow. Any reason for why this is happening?

Edit: my remark about fumbling in the dark was a joke but now I feel kind of speechless.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:47 pm

The only reason I can come up with is that BL marketing just doesn't know what it is doing. They refuse to update their website properly with upcoming releases, citing, info will be available when they can absolutely confirm when the products will be available. Many of the filter categories on the website have incomplete listings. Full listing of author works have not worked for at least 2 years.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby paulus » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:52 pm

If I want a book badly enough I'd buy it in any format, my own circumstances are that I've sooooo many good black library books I've yet to read I'm more than happy Horus heresy in mm format won't be out for 9 months!

As for release dates and black library not supplying exactly what date they will be released is it really a big deal?
You can't get it till they are released so what good does it do knowing the dates?

I've a few hardbacks but prefer to wait for paperbacks cause they are cheeper and cheeper end I can buy more :-)

Half the books I own are different sizes due to omnibuses and then paper backs as released.

I gather the space marine battles are the trade format and will be staying that size?
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Vivia » Sun Mar 31, 2013 9:17 pm

shadowhawk2008 wrote:The only reason I can come up with is that BL marketing just doesn't know what it is doing. They refuse to update their website properly with upcoming releases, citing, info will be available when they can absolutely confirm when the products will be available. Many of the filter categories on the website have incomplete listings. Full listing of author works have not worked for at least 2 years.

They deserve all the strange questions they get on FB. Mhmm.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Sun Mar 31, 2013 9:31 pm

The release dates matter because then I can plan what I want to get. I'm not going to drop money on 1-4 titles at a moment's notice. Small stuff like the exclusive but not limited novellas, short stories, eShorts are a different beast. On novels and omnibuses however? Just no.

Advance information also means that I can get excited by what is coming out. It means that I know which of my favourite authors have stuff coming up, stuff that I want to read, stuff that I want to be able to share with people and get them excited too. I can't do that if I don't know what's coming out.

I mean I'm sure that there isn't anyone here who wouldn't prefer to know when stuff is coming out? Like the next Heresy book, the next SMB, the next ToL, the next Fantasy book, etc.

BL is starting to turn more and more into a sort of exclusive club where info is all "Need-to-know".

The Space Marine battle books are a smaller size than the new HH paperback format. All new "regular" series paperbacks are the same size as SMB. The differences are something like "B" format paperback and "D" format paperback or something.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Athelassan » Sun Mar 31, 2013 9:35 pm

shadowhawk2008 wrote:The release dates matter because then I can plan what I want to get. I'm not going to drop money on 1-4 titles at a moment's notice. Small stuff like the exclusive but not limited novellas, short stories, eShorts are a different beast. On novels and omnibuses however? Just no.

Advance information also means that I can get excited by what is coming out. It means that I know which of my favourite authors have stuff coming up, stuff that I want to read, stuff that I want to be able to share with people and get them excited too. I can't do that if I don't know what's coming out.

I mean I'm sure that there isn't anyone here who wouldn't prefer to know when stuff is coming out? Like the next Heresy book, the next SMB, the next ToL, the next Fantasy book, etc.

BL is starting to turn more and more into a sort of exclusive club where info is all "Need-to-know".

That's basically what's happened with GW/Citadel, but I'm not sure that that's been a roaring success from a customer awareness perspective - with the Tau release, I got emails notifying me about the new release from third-party retailers before I did from GW...

In any case, supposedly the GW short-notice releases are to help prevent independent manufacturers muscling in on their space by releasing their own knock-offs in anticipation of the release. Not sure that's actually true but it's what I've heard, anyway. But that can't really apply to books.

I'm worried that recently BL have started to adopt more of the mannerisms of GW central regarding sales/marketing, but I'm not sure those are transferrable between a miniatures company and a publishing house.

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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby paulus » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:13 pm

Call me old if you like and but as a kid I still remember going into martins ( a toy shop, stationers, magazine and book store) and being greeted by a shelf of new Star Wars figures and books of which I knew nothing of the release before hand, the excitement was incredible, which would I buy, how many new ones were out, did they ave all in stock?

Had I have seen these in magazines, on the Internet (no the Internet wasn't around back then, bbc models b computers with tape drive were cutting edge) I think the excitement would have been dulled somewhat. I still like to be surprised by something new that I can actually have there and then.

Am I trying to get back some of my childhood ? Maybe :-)
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Rob P » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:22 pm

I'm quite a fan of the ebooks now. I don't like the notional enhanced price of the ebooks that accompany the hard back releases, but I just don't buy them until the price is fair.

In other format related matters: I saw the Sigmar trilogy in W H Smiths, and it's about the same size as the hardback release of A Dance With Dragons (hand cramps aplenty). It's too big to read comfortably.

I am not particularly bothered about the different sizes of the paper books (other than the Sigmar point above), but more so the fact that it feels like they are bringing out bigger books to justify a price hike. If they want to increase revenue just charge more for the books; don't dress it up as a fantastic new format.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Major Rawne » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:27 pm

paulus wrote:Call me old if you like and but as a kid I still remember going into martins ( a toy shop, stationers, magazine and book store) and being greeted by a shelf of new Star Wars figures and books of which I knew nothing of the release before hand, the excitement was incredible, which would I buy, how many new ones were out, did they ave all in stock?

Had I have seen these in magazines, on the Internet (no the Internet wasn't around back then, bbc models b computers with tape drive were cutting edge) I think the excitement would have been dulled somewhat. I still like to be surprised by something new that I can actually have there and then.

Am I trying to get back some of my childhood ? Maybe :-)

These are pretty much my thoughts exactly. I remember walking into a bookshop 10 years ago and the sheer excitement I would have at finding a new book had been released and the buying said book. There is something somewhat dulling in knowing something is going to be out, but that I can't have it yet. For me it is hard to be particularly excited about most things more than a few weeks ahead in time. It's one of those sad (and great if I am honest) things about the modern age of information and technology that we live in.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 6:51 am

paulus wrote:Call me old if you like and but as a kid I still remember going into martins ( a toy shop, stationers, magazine and book store) and being greeted by a shelf of new Star Wars figures and books of which I knew nothing of the release before hand, the excitement was incredible, which would I buy, how many new ones were out, did they ave all in stock?

Had I have seen these in magazines, on the Internet (no the Internet wasn't around back then, bbc models b computers with tape drive were cutting edge) I think the excitement would have been dulled somewhat. I still like to be surprised by something new that I can actually have there and then.

Am I trying to get back some of my childhood ? Maybe :-)


There is a difference in not being aware of what is coming out, whether on purpose or not, and the information just not being available should you be interested. BL is choosing to NOT make available its publishing schedule for 2013. The site hasn't been updated since late Jan/early Feb, and even then we only got the info for June. Contrast with the last 2 years, and there is a huge difference in their approach.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Ogun » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:16 pm

shadowhawk2008 wrote:
paulus wrote:Call me old if you like and but as a kid I still remember going into martins ( a toy shop, stationers, magazine and book store) and being greeted by a shelf of new Star Wars figures and books of which I knew nothing of the release before hand, the excitement was incredible, which would I buy, how many new ones were out, did they ave all in stock?

Had I have seen these in magazines, on the Internet (no the Internet wasn't around back then, bbc models b computers with tape drive were cutting edge) I think the excitement would have been dulled somewhat. I still like to be surprised by something new that I can actually have there and then.

Am I trying to get back some of my childhood ? Maybe :-)


There is a difference in not being aware of what is coming out, whether on purpose or not, and the information just not being available should you be interested. BL is choosing to NOT make available its publishing schedule for 2013. The site hasn't been updated since late Jan/early Feb, and even then we only got the info for June. Contrast with the last 2 years, and there is a huge difference in their approach.


I must say I too have a bit of nostalgia for the old days of just going into a bookshop and finding a new novel from a series I was collecting. That said, I agree with you Shadowhawk, I think the Coming Soon page should be kept uptodate as it did generate more interest about titles for me. In part I loved the appearence of just the title which left us guessing what it was about. Then we got the artwork a few months closer to the release, helping to stoke the interest further. Plotting your buys, as you've already mentioned was also darn useful.
I can understand the whole generate excitement idea, but I think BL could say operate a 2-3 month Coming Soon window on the website. That would keep the surprise element yet provide some early warning to generate buzz.

The increase in book size is a little frustrating in the sense that I'd prefer for pecuniary reasons to get the cheaper MMPB. That said the new trade format is nice, and feels an awful lot more sturdy at the spine than the MMPBs. As I understand it there is more money in the trade format and I don't mind if BL wants to fulfill its function as a business. The whole e-book release date I'm sure is pretty irritating for those who collect the HH in that format but I can see why BL would not want the £6.50 e-book competing with the £12.99 trade back at release. They are probably banking on enough people wanting to get the novel then and there to boost sales of the more profitable version and e-book sales might distract from that. I guess if e-books start coming out with the trade then we know it didn't work.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Vivia » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:16 pm

I don't follow their release list too closely but I do find it useful. It's a very strange decision from BL. As far as I remember they always had a release list ( though my memory is short so it might not speak in my favour).

Everything GW do sticks me in the eyes these days. I doubt I'm the only whose patience runs very thin when it comes to them, especially so soon after that other debacle.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:46 pm

It is not generating more sales I don't think. In fact, the sales are probably LOWER. Angel Exterminatus has NOT yet hit the New York Times Bestseller list, despite the fact that the previous books did within 1-3 weeks.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Dorian » Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:39 pm

shadowhawk2008 wrote:It is not generating more sales I don't think. In fact, the sales are probably LOWER. Angel Exterminatus has NOT yet hit the New York Times Bestseller list, despite the fact that the previous books did within 1-3 weeks.


I think it has to do with a lot of people doing what I do. There's no chance in hell I'm going to switch to a different format when we are 20 books into a series. I want books of the same series to have the same format. So I guess a lot of people are waiting for the MMPB to buy HH novels. I rarely buy hardcover books. The ones I have are books which will probably never be available as paperbacks. Paperbacks are much easier to transport and handle. I've been dying to read The Emperor's Gift but I'm patiently *grinds teeth* waiting for the non-hardcover version. :mrgreen:

What I'm basically saying is that I don't mind hardbacks. I'm used to wait for paperbacks. What bugs me though is that I have to wait much longer for HH novels because they decided to switch format in an on-going series. Buying hardbacks would cripple my budget immensly and I don't want to do without many books.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Athelassan » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:37 pm

Prompted by comments from narry and RobC/George Stirling, I think it would be useful to clarify the terms of what we're dealing with, because some of the terminology seems to be used in an inaccurate way (and I'm guilty of having done it in the past).

The way I understand it, there are three standard formats for paperbacks:
A-format: this is the format that most BL paperbacks have traditionally been in, certainly for the last ten years or so (the first few BL paperbacks were a little bigger, though smaller than B-format).
B-format: a larger paperback; the SMB novels are this size, as are most of the older omnibuses.
C-format: paperbacks the size of hardbacks. You may have seen them in e.g. airport bookshops where they sell new releases.

Of these, both A-format and B-format are mass-market paperbacks; C-format is the trade paperback. There has been a tendency, though, for us to refer to both B- and C-formats as trade paperbacks, which has been causing some confusion.

How this relates to BL releases in the future - I gather that the majority of releases from now on will be in B-format. This seems, for the most part, perfectly sensible and reasonable, because this format is now effectively the industry standard. Looking over my bookshelves I can see vanishingly few 21st-century publications in A-format, other than BL releases, and none from the last five years. Most books getting first publication now, with only a couple of exceptions, are in B-format.

Some of (all of?) the new omnibuses are in C-format, most notably the Time of Legends omnibuses. Horus Heresy novels will be released in C-format between the hardback and MMPB releases. Horus Heresy books will also eventually be released in A-format as well.

If any of this is wrong, please correct me.

***


With that out of the way, I have mixed feelings on the subject. I don't really have a problem with the move to B-format: I prefer books at that size, and they always feel slightly more robust than the A-formats anyway. The extra cost of them is neither here nor there really. Occasionally (Van Horstmann) I feel that the format is a little big for the story, and compensating with wide spacing and large font doesn't really do anything for me, but that's not a problem with the format per se.

I don't really see the point in the C-format. It's just too big and unwieldy. I own hardly any fiction C-formats, and only when there's no other size available (iirc, just one Kim Newman, and the Malloreon series omnibuses). For the omnibuses, the books are fat enough that the size doesn't feel a complete waste of time, but they're still too big and cumbersome. For single novels like the HH, it's just silly. The extra price of the C-formats is also a bit of a bitter pill to swallow for a format I actively dislike. If I want a book as large and unwieldy as a hardback, I might as well just buy a hardback.

In a previous discussion on this subject Xisor (I think) mooted that the theory might be that book lovers will want the hardback, or perhaps the large paperback, and eventually the A-format, which is as cheap and nasty as books get, will be phased out, with people who only want the story migrating to ebooks. There is some merit in this, but, I think, only inasmuch as it applies to the B-format. The C-format is such an unusual size that it's not going to fit neatly in anyone's collection, and since the rest of the fiction is moving over to B-format anyway, the C-format looks even weirder.

When it comes to hardback releases, again, it doesn't bother me so much on its own, but when combined with the staggered release dates, and the C-format release, and all the various grumbles I've made in the past about widespread discussion of the books before I get access to them (previously due to ARCs, but now the hardbacks as well) it is rather annoying. Especially with the useless (for consumers) C-format in the middle, which delays the A-format release by a further three months. The staggered ebook release dates don't bother me overly, because I'm not an ebook reader, although I can see why they're frustrating. In fact, having felt like a thoroughly second-class citizen for a while now regarding BL releases because I don't use ebooks, I'm actually rather pleased that the version of the text I want isn't available on ebook until I can also get it in print.

Of course, once Angel Exterminatus is finally out of the way, the Heresy schedule will normalise for buyers of all books, and A-formatters won't have to wait any longer for Betrayer than for any other Heresy book. It's only relative to the hardbacks that there's a delay, but that's always the case. I'd rather that delay were shorter (which eliminating/bundling the C-formats would eliminate), but then as regards the social side of the books it's not a million miles off the ARC controversy that's been bugging me since at least Know No Fear anyway.

I wonder whether the C-format (or trade paperback, if you prefer) Heresy releases are an attempt for BL to have its cake and eat it. I gather there are industry benefits to hardback releases, and the TPBs might be an attempt to accrue some of those for BL's marquee series without a full-scale hardback release - it's worth bearing in mind that the hardbacks are a GW exclusive, so the relatively subdued sales is probably at least as much down to lack of widespread publicity and availability as it is lack of consumer interest. However, if this is the case, I can't see any real justification for staggering the releases over three dates: there wouldn't be any great loss from having the TPB released at the same time as the hardback, or the A-format, and it means they've still got the exclusive hardback goodie for their own direct customers while not disenfranchising the rest of us so completely. The only reason for not doing so that I can really see (unless we have a publishing guru who can enlighten us) is to delude misinformed customers into thinking the TPB is the only paperback release, so they buy it instead of waiting for the A-format, but that's only going to work once.

The final issue, of course, is the "collection disruption" aspect, which is probably the one that winds me up the most even though, possibly because, it's the least material. It's something that people who are into this sort of fandom tend to care about correspondingly more than, you know, the hoi polloi (*waves hand dismissively*) and given that BL have previously shown awareness of that it's a little alarming to see them discarding it now. It just feels like beating your loyal customers with a stick. With HH at least the A-formats will eventually be available, so we can still have matching collections, even if the hardback back catalogue seems to reward newcomers over existing customers, but meh, I can live with it.

When it comes to ToL, though, which is the only area in which the move to B-format actually bothers me, that just looks like a catastrophic failure of forward planning. Changing the format not just in the middle of a long novel line but in the middle of three individual trilogies is the sort of thing that's going to get right up peoples' noses, and indeed has done, no matter how pretty the new editions look. Both the release schedule and (presumably!) the printing arrangements are planned out a long time in advance and take months if not years to execute, so there might well be a couple of unavoidable clashes, but the move to the new formats was well underway before Neferata became available: the first copies were on sale alongside the new Heresy hardbacks and the updated B-format novels. The Great Betrayal didn't have that much of a head start either, and it's frankly astonishing that nobody thought to address this problem until the books were already out. With one trilogy, it would be understandable (after all, Dead Winter has been out for a year or so). For it to happen to all three is either a major cock-up or a signal that they just don't care.

Regarding the publication of the release schedule, I'm more on the side of Paulus and Rawne on this one: in some ways, I'd rather not know the full year's releases in advance, because it does nothing to build my excitement when I see that, say, Blighted Empire isn't due for release for nine months, or isn't even on the schedule. On the other hand, it is nice to be able to plan my purchases, because I don't get to buy a lot of books these days and knowing a month or two in advance is actually very useful. But I don't think any more than a three-month schedule is actually necesssary, and it's always better, to my mind, to produce less information that's guaranteed accurate than loads of it that may later change: the latter just makes it look like you don't know what you're doing, even if you do.

Apologies for the wall of text; I thought it was probably better to get it out in one go.

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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Vivia » Mon Apr 01, 2013 6:31 pm

Well said, Ath.
When I referred to giant books it was the C-format I was talking about, the one I have problems with.
What is most mind boggling is why book publishing from BL is turning into a Labyrinth of Sorrow. What is supposedly a fun hobby for the love of books becomes a staggering and cumbersome task. Whether it's a mixture of stupidity and arrogance from this publisher it's hard to say. What a bunch of **********.

For once I wish the FB crowd shreds them to ribbons, that's an indication of how I'm feeling right now.
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