The Book Format Thread

Considering Black Library books, products and events.

Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Xisor » Tue Apr 02, 2013 12:41 am

And my axe!

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More properly, my main non-NIMY, stance and ultimate interest is as indicated: is the Rawne/Paulus/Ath-pleasing strategy the better book-selling one in the long run? I think yes, but I know it's not clear cut and, critically, BL could be soliciting the worst of all worlds where the Heresy is concerned: fatiguing a portion of those who'd otherwise throw money at the opportunity to get a HH story and being obnoxious (big, isolated, clique-y) to the casual customer.

What the balance of (or even if) that is actually the case intrigues me deeply.

(The critical diff between a ToL omnibus and the HH books is that the ToL ones are rather obviously both spectacular, bargains *and* [CRITICALLY] self-contained stories - so no you're only committing to one purchase for complete enjoyment - there's synergy for the ToL trilogies at a pocket-cash level that's surely absent for the Horus Heresy. Is this an existent factor?)


---

If there were a PoD legacy A-format, ebook, enhanced ebook, audio and direct Hardback, all released at once, but capitalising on that immediate, barely-heralded-release "WOW!" factor - could that actually work well, long-term?
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby schaferwhat‽ » Tue Apr 02, 2013 2:45 am

B format is known as Trade in some places (I think Europe is one of them but I will grant you that three formats and two terms for them will lead to confusion).


The move to B format I can accept. I don't like it, I can fit an A format in the pockets of most of my jeans and inside pockets of jackets and the like with ease. B format isn't quite so handy but it is acceptable. The industry as a whole is moving that way for a variety of reasons. There is the idea the the "mass market" nature is diminished with there being the e-book revolution allowing fiction to be cheaper and arguably more accessible. Thus meaning books need to be higher quality to prove their worth to the book collector.

I think that is a secondary consideration compared to sale price. You can charge more for a bigger fancier book and the customer won't object so much. Drawing comparisons to the retail sector where I work for the past few years packets have been decreasing with costs staying static or the amount being held in packets of equal size and price has been reduced as various producers played various customer psychology ploys to increase profits and sales. The time is right for this to happen. The main cost barrier between formats A and B was shipping, you can ship more units of A format for the price of shipping B but fewer physical book sales mean less shipping all round so you may as well maximise the potential of the units being shipped by having them be retailing at £2-£4 more than A formats.

I can understand why the publishing industry is moving this way. It sucks to be me with my inadequately sized pockets and income but companies exist to generate profits not pander to my whims no matter how much better it would be for the world. I accept this you all should do.

With regards BL, The Horus Heresy and Games Workshop exclusives.

First and foremost the confused communication between BL and the fans hasn't helped. This seems to be in line with the general shift of culture from GW to be a bastion of silence. Passive marketing on the hype and good will of a customer base that are fans and thus emotionally invested in the product already to take the running out of things.

Originally it was GW exclusive edition three months prior to paperback release. But that wasn't the paperback release people were expecting and it seemed like a dick move if only because it wasn't properly explained. This was further exacerbated by the fact that GW and BL didn't even support the A format paperback release of their own book at all through their blog or emails (well maybe the blog but not the emails). Yes walking into a shop seeing something unexpected and buying it having not realised it was available is a great rush as a customer but bookselling probably requires more effort than just relying on the coincidental customers turning up as your book is released.

The C format makes some sense. It requires no change of formatting or typesetting from the exclusive hardback. It is thus cheaper to produce than the A format version having developed an edition purely to push sales through GW stores and thus increase profits on the books. (My main issue with the whole GW exclusive idea is that they haven't gone ahead and just released all books a month or so early in GW stores, instead selling on the notion that a cross over exists with regards the want to have a collection of nice things between the hobbyists and the book readers which no doubt does exist but I am dubious of its market potential).

In that regard it is much more economically viable than making a B format and an A format version a top the Hardback. It also means that they can add more money onto the price tag of a Horus Heresy book on general release. Which considering it's popularity makes some sense. Only that for all the HH has been sold as a premium range of novels over the BL standard it isn't. Don't get me wrong there are some fantastically well written stuff in the HH but it is (still if what I hear of Angel Exterminatus is correct) inconsistent and to be fair the BL standard of quality has probably upped a bit in the years whilst the Heresy has gone on (providing even some thoughtful Space Marine Battles books). Which makes me think that the books aren't justifying the higher price on their own merits.

As stated before Angel Exterminatus hasn't become a bestseller. It likely won't rank that highly ever with the piecemeal release. Is this because of an increase in GW sales (GW sales don't count towards such Data as they "aren't booksellers") or because Angel Exterminatus is priced so that it is selling slower and has a proportion of the audience waiting for it to be released in its final format? We'll never have the data to know. Speculate however you want I'll err more towards the latter than the former. Does this make it a failure? I don't know, it is far too early to say, maybe if BL get their act together and actually advertise and push the A format release of AE it will do well with a push. Betrayer and the next book will provide more anecdotal evidence to form better hypothesises.

The ToL format change seems like a lack in forethought, BL is moving towards what the industry is developing as the norm and it caught them on the hop it seems. I guess these things happen and it is always easy to judge from the outside but you'd think that someone would have thought ahead a little bit. Especially considering that when commissioning a trilogy (or two trilogies with regards the beard war) you are committing to releases several years in advance. I wonder at the thinking and economies involved that made keeping the format the same untenable for the rest of the started ToL series.

With regards the release dates thing. Some of it is because some books get delayed and some authors aren't great with deadlines. However back in the day we'd have books get dropped and moved and that just happened. The calendar wasn't set in stone. It doesn't add much I guess to my excitement but it was interesting to read over and see what might take my fancy in the next few months from time to time. Also in light of the fact that I can get a dozen emails about a limited release collectors edition every single day whilst the limited time period of sales is open and yet not get a single mention of the paperback release of their best selling Horus Heresy series it'd be nice to have some faith restored that BL will keep me abreast of information and interested in their products. (Especially as they do have to provide catalogues to the booksellers so they can make their orders for copies which is why Amazon gets dates up well in advance (and those dates are liable to change) so it isn't as if the information isn't out there it just seems that short intense periods of advertising seem to be the flavour of the month).

I have no issue with Cs that are omnibuses, as said they tend to be unwieldy anyways due to sheer length so it feels somewhat proper to commit to a brick of a book that is truly going all out in its brickness.


Also with regards releases and forward announcement of release dates, there used to be a damned sight more general speculation going on about what BL books might be about and interest in them. We get a bit of that about the Heresy generally but there was a time when we'd get a title and maybe an author comment on a faction involved and we could speculate about it and that was fun, we could even continue long after the copy was written and published and authors were given the OK to talk about it because BL blurbs haven't got a great record of accuracy and the authors are lying gits. ARCs and the expansion of the blogger as credible reviewer blight put paid to that a bit but that was almost as fun as seeing a book unexpectedly in a bookshop.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Tue Apr 02, 2013 1:15 pm

On HH and NYTBSL:

ADB on WarSeer WRT to Talon of Horus making NYT wrote:Regarding the New York Times bestsellers' list, there's a chance it might've made it (with Heresy-style heavy advertising), but I doubt it now. Sci-fi hardbacks rarely ever chart on the NYTBL, which is sort of the price you pay for the fortune of getting your work in hardback. But I'm a big boy, so I'll live. (I did, however, hugely object to it a couple of Horus Heresy meetings ago because I liked making the list, and now none of the HH series will chart, anymore. Yes, yes. I'm selfish.)
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Duke_Leto » Wed Apr 03, 2013 5:52 pm

schaferwhat‽ wrote:Also with regards releases and forward announcement of release dates, there used to be a damned sight more general speculation going on about what BL books might be about and interest in them. We get a bit of that about the Heresy generally but there was a time when we'd get a title and maybe an author comment on a faction involved and we could speculate about it and that was fun, we could even continue long after the copy was written and published and authors were given the OK to talk about it because BL blurbs haven't got a great record of accuracy and the authors are lying gits. ARCs and the expansion of the blogger as credible reviewer blight put paid to that a bit but that was almost as fun as seeing a book unexpectedly in a bookshop.


Yeah that!

Others have said it more eloquently than I and in more detail than I can be bothered but here is my 2 pence anyway...

1) The Head of Marketing at GW has got it wrong when it comes to BL. They are different beasts. Whereas I understand GW keeping their new/forthcoming releases secret due to the need to prevent one of the other miniature companies stealing a march on them and getting something out first (look at the lawsuit between GW and Chapterhouse), when it comes to novels in the setting, nobody else but BL can publish those as it would be clear infringement of copyright and IP.

As said above (and quoted) we used to have fun speculating what the content of a book would be simply from the title. It built excitement and became very useful Word Of Mouth advertising (which is free). This is now lost because of the lack of update to the BL site and now all that is happening is an increasing amount of bitching!

Come on BL/GW - BL is a book publisher not a tech company like Apple - you do not need to keep your release schedule secret!

2) On book formats it really comes down to personal taste combined with what you are prepared to spend as a consumer. I will never (and have never) purchased a C format paperback. If I want a large format premium edition I will buy the hardback. If I want a good read on the train for my commute I want something portable. In the face of the kindle/e-book revolution I understand the move away from A format (though it is a shame) and begrudgingly accept B format.

However, it smacks of milking your customers for just a few more £s each time.

The result this has had on me is that I am now buying far fewer BL books. Whereas I was an avid collector and bought almost all W40k/HH books for several years, now I am ONLY buying those I really want (I was fine, almost, in spending a few £s on an Andy Hoare in case it was good but now the price point is just that little bit too much to risk = lost sale).

3) As said already - the way BL handled the communication on the format change etc and the mess around HH editions is a joke. Someone in the marketing team really needs to be reprimanded for that. Appalling.

BTW - in case anyone asks (you probably don't care) I am the Marketing Director for a very large organisation (approx 10 times larger than GW). Still just my opinion, I am sure the BL Head of Marketing will argue for their approach.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby schaferwhat‽ » Wed Apr 03, 2013 6:35 pm

there may be an issue that BL is still fairly open with us fans in some regards however we get contact with all the wrong people.

We get word from the editors and authors who aren't always on the button with the details of such things. (The reformatting heresy was broken by editors).

That said I sometimes think GW takes its fanbase for granted with regards it's marketing. Yes I am a fan of your IP and products (mostly) but I still want to be seduced.


That said maybe it is just the length of my relationship with GW that I am starting to feel like a neglected housewife.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Athelassan » Wed Apr 03, 2013 8:49 pm

schaferwhat‽ wrote:The C format makes some sense. It requires no change of formatting or typesetting from the exclusive hardback. It is thus cheaper to produce than the A format version having developed an edition purely to push sales through GW stores and thus increase profits on the books. (My main issue with the whole GW exclusive idea is that they haven't gone ahead and just released all books a month or so early in GW stores, instead selling on the notion that a cross over exists with regards the want to have a collection of nice things between the hobbyists and the book readers which no doubt does exist but I am dubious of its market potential).

It makes sense for the publisher, but I'm not sure what its market is supposed to be, or what the actual benefit is for the consumer. Like Xisor says, there's that psychological £10 barrier, and then above that there's the £20 one. The C-formats are £12.99 a go, which is jwell over the £10 mark; moreover, you can't really get another novel with it (certainly not a BL one) with it for under £20. So if you can't wait, or you want a higher-quality product, you might as well... get the hardback. If you're going to wait for a paperback release anyway, you might as well wait for the (much!) more affordable, and much more collection-friendly, A-format.

The hardback release looks funny to me too. I'm not sure what the plan is there. It's a safety-first move that looks logically like it'll actually do more harm than good. GW were never going to sell enough copies through their own stores and website for it to chart on the NYT list again, even if their stores counted towards the sales figures. But apparently that hit in marketing terms is acceptable compared to the risk of a full-scale hardback release; the problem is, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course the hardbacks aren't going to sell well enough to justify a large release, because they haven't had a large release.

I think you're bang on the money with the release strategy. An early release in GW stores and on the BL website would be enough of a pat on the head for the GW faithful, but wouldn't shoot the rest of the market in the foot quite as badly. Or, if you really insist on making the hardbacks a GW Exclusive for whatever reason, then ship the C-format at the same time to normal bookshops. People who want the hardback will buy the hardback anyway, and the concentration of sales figures might do the publicity a favour. I'm sure we'll never see them, but I'd be very interested to see the sales figures for Angel Exterminatus and Betrayer - broken down by all three formats, and compared to a couple of previous HH releases.

When it comes to the release schedule, I'm not really that fussed; like I say, I tend more towards the "whatever" school of thought than poring over the thing a year in advance. I must admit... discussion of the schedule hadn't really entered my mind when I started the thread, partly because I think the book formats are a largely discrete issue, but mostly because I don't really care enough.

Duke_Leto wrote:The Head of Marketing at GW has got it wrong when it comes to BL.

From what I understand - this is based off internet hearsay, but the sort I'm normally inclined to trust - GW don't actually have a marketing department. Like in Project Zeus, marketing is handled by Sales.

That may be hogwash, but if it's true it would explain a lot.

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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby schaferwhat‽ » Thu Apr 04, 2013 2:24 am

I will cede that when I say "it makes sense" to go for the C format it only does so in a straight economic sense that looks only at production costs and ignores the notion and context surrounding selling of the thing.

Yes having a very expensive hardback with pictures edition and having a quite expensive (very for a) paperback version is a very top heavy costs gamble. You have to be selling enough of the higher price higher profit versions to justify the costs of producing so many versions in which case the piecemeal release with no marketing support (I only realised today that Betrayer was out in trade paperback. Which to be fair slightly less late to the party than I was with Angel Exterminatus and I'm still not wanting to actually buy it until it is at the other format but still) seems ridiculous when you need those sales to be consistent and high.

Unless you factor in that I doubt many people give a damn and that GWs retail presence isn't as great as it once was (I'm baffled that even during the school holidays my local GW is still only open 5 days a week) and that if they hadn't had that window of exclusivity the sales for the most expensive version they produce would be worse. Yes the people who really want the collectors edition would still buy it but how many sales are by people who don't mind that much but are financially in a position to pay over a tenner more to read something a few months earlier?

In that regard the spaced out release makes some sense but really three is one too many formats to be releasing it in to my head. Though all the numbers in my head are imaginary so the math may not bare up to scrutiny.

I suppose they have enough books down as NYT bestsellers that "the New York Times bestselling series" line can be used for a while. Truthfully it mightn't be that disingenuous I doubt people will be turned off entirely from buying a heresy novel to stop them buying the books so the sales will still be made eventually. Just spread out but that doesn't matter when some of the books are providing extra bucks (and one format is pushing sales in the subsidised retail arm of the publishing house's parent company).
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby LordLucan » Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:21 pm

I wish they would release a normal run of a HH novel before they release the next one. It is very aggravating.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby schaferwhat‽ » Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:56 pm

Even when they switched to Hardback like with the ghosts. You'd not get the next edition in hardback out before the paperback release.

Sure Heresy has a tighter publishing schedule many authors and all that but yeah it is a pain.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby LordLucan » Wed Apr 10, 2013 4:00 pm

schaferwhat‽ wrote:Even when they switched to Hardback like with the ghosts. You'd not get the next edition in hardback out before the paperback release.

Sure Heresy has a tighter publishing schedule many authors and all that but yeah it is a pain.


Precisely.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Argel Tal » Mon Jun 10, 2013 8:38 am

I was plenty annoyed by the format change when it happened, and I recall saying so long and loud on various forums.

Then I picked up a (admittedly slightly damaged and therefore discounted) copy of Mark of Calth at Salute, and just looking at it made me realise why people liked the HB format for the HH. Then I bought AE and Betrayer in TPB from Waterstones with £3 off each, and they look lovely too.

For a while when they first made the changes, I too was moaning that I would have to wait ages for the MMPB versions otherwise my collections wouldn't match and my OCD would be offended. Then I looked at my GG and Inqusition collections, and their mix of TPB and HB. And my Terry Pratchett's Discworld collection, which is frankly all over the place format wise, and I got over it.

To those who don't like the new formats, I understand and accept that you feel that way, but I think it's a bit of a leap to conclude that BL marketing don't know what they are doing and that the company is going down the pan. Like any business, they will keep doing what makes money. If the HB formats weren't doing that, they'd soon change them.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Athelassan » Mon Jun 10, 2013 5:09 pm

Argel Tal wrote:To those who don't like the new formats, I understand and accept that you feel that way, but I think it's a bit of a leap to conclude that BL marketing don't know what they are doing and that the company is going down the pan. Like any business, they will keep doing what makes money. If the HB formats weren't doing that, they'd soon change them.

The problem is that with the staggered release schedule it'll be difficult, and take ages, to see what effect the hardbacks, if any, are having on sales (or profits). They won't know yet, for instance, because even the first hardback release hasn't had its MMPB outing.

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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Argel Tal » Mon Jun 10, 2013 7:27 pm

True enough, but if the HB's are all selling (and the way I heard it they had to order another run of AE to keep up with demand) then from a business perspective they're winning. If they end up with masses of unsold HB's they'll stop doing them was my point :)
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby HamsterExAstris » Tue Jun 11, 2013 1:26 am

Argel Tal wrote:True enough, but if the HB's are all selling (and the way I heard it they had to order another run of AE to keep up with demand) then from a business perspective they're winning.

You heard correctly - late last month I ordered all of the HH hardbacks to date, and AE was a second printing. (Fortunately for my OCD, the dust jacket still had gold printing.)

The hardback editions have had one positive effect: they got me back into reading the series. (I'd bought the first dozen or so books, but slogged out somewhere around Descent of Angels and never finished the lot. I'd been keeping up with the audios, but am using the hardcovers as an excuse to start reading the series again.)
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Xisor » Tue Jun 11, 2013 9:10 am

As Therion pointed out somewhere or other, this should really just be a tremendous incentive to get round to the local library.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Shaggy » Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:50 am

Argel Tal wrote:To those who don't like the new formats, I understand and accept that you feel that way, but I think it's a bit of a leap to conclude that BL marketing don't know what they are doing and that the company is going down the pan. Like any business, they will keep doing what makes money. If the HB formats weren't doing that, they'd soon change them.

My biggest problem with it all is the way that they suddenly changed with little or no warning, and mid-series as well!

OK, I can understand the Horus Heresy changes... that's pretty much become the flagship of BL publishing, and they're going to want to make is special (and profitable) as possible... and with the sheer scale of the project, they couldn't really wait until everything was published in MMPB before going back and doing HB.

It's the Time Of Legends changes that have really, really narked me off. Bad enough that they drop the MMPB format anyway (and I happened to like the style they used, with the black surround and the metallic lettering - obviously to act as a companion style to the HH books) - but to do so in the middle of no less than THREE trilogies?! :shock: :evil: No warning, no escape... if you bought the first books of the trilogies (which I did - all three) then you are immediately screwed. Your choices are simply have an asymmetrical-looking series, buy all three first books again in the new format, wait for the omnibus editions or say "stuff it!". Whoever it was at BL who made this decision needs to be given a swift kick in the head and be reminded that we are more than just walking wallets to slavishly do whatever they wish (or so they make out in the PR guff... you have to wonder at times). It's called customer service - I work in sales myself, and if I treated my customers in that cavalier a fashion, in very short order I wouldn't have any customers!

(As far as the 4 options listed above, mine will either be 3 or 4... I'll decide when the omnibus editions finally make an appearance). As we know at least one of those three authors reads this forum... sorry, but this poor decision has definitely cost you two individual book sales, possibly killed off your series for me.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby HamsterExAstris » Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:37 pm

Shaggy wrote:(As far as the 4 options listed above, mine will either be 3 or 4... I'll decide when the omnibus editions finally make an appearance).

Why not combine 3 and 4 - finish the trilogies in omnibus form, then drop the series? :twisted:
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Athelassan » Tue Jun 11, 2013 3:56 pm

Argel Tal wrote:True enough, but if the HB's are all selling (and the way I heard it they had to order another run of AE to keep up with demand) then from a business perspective they're winning. If they end up with masses of unsold HB's they'll stop doing them was my point :)

The hardbacks will be on a limited run; it's likely they aimed low and surpassed their goal rather than aiming high and missing by miles. The hardbacks are only on sale through GW stores and the website, so their overall distribution will be much lower than the MMPB-led releases were in the past, and a full-scale hardback release is therefore not a (sensible) option.

In terms of overall sales, the question is not "are the hardbacks selling?" but "are BL making as much of a profit off the total release?" and the answer to the latter won't be known until the MMPBs are out. If their total sales/profit at the end of the 12-month release schedule for AE is lower than it was for Shadows of Treachery then the hardback-TPB schedule has (comparatively) lost them money. That's information we can't know yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if when the total figures are tallied there has been a drop in sales - long gaps between releases (and as far as Joe Public who only visits normal bookshops is aware, that's what's happened) tend to diminish interest and therefore sales.

It's easy to say "the hardbacks are selling really well!" when you're comparing them with nothing. But, in all honesty, I'd be more comfortable with the decision had it been a general hardback release rather than a direct sales only one. As I mentioned above, it seems like it's running the risk of falling between two stools a bit.

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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby LordLucan » Tue Jun 11, 2013 4:54 pm

I respect your opinion, people who bought the trade paperback huge format.

Nevertheless... *throws stool at them*



But more seriously, I agree with Ath about the fact the success of the big formats can't really be directly compared to previous, MMPB-only releases.


Another problem I have with the larger, more expensive formats is that the quality of the story isn't reflected by the cover. It's a bit of a selfish complaint, but if a HH novel isn't as good as I had hoped, I don't mind so much if I'm only paying a small price as a MMPB. But I wouldn't want to pay £22 for a hardback, special edition Outcast Dead.
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Re: The Book Format Thread

Postby Vivia » Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:22 pm

I agree with LL and Ath. I think a year or so will tell if this is a success.
Taking a trip to the library might be a good idea (I might do this myself to see if this is the cat's pyjamas. I doubt it, just got rid of a Poul Anderson collection in this format. Good bye book that I always hated).
There is nothing gay about the Princeton fight song. "Oh, the men of Princeton are charging up the rear, holding all the balls..." Okay, I hear it now. – Jack, episode Queen of Jordan
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Vivia
 
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