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GW Investor Report- Black Library Sales Down


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#26
Sandlemad

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Only so much Bolter Porn you can ingest, I suppose.

Bingo, they need to write better books. We need more books like Dark Harvest and Requiem Infernal. More substance, less bolter porn I rarely ever read Space Marine books now, tired of them overall. 

 

I agree with you in general but I don't think it's a given that books with more substance - which is definitely Requiem Infernal - necessarily sell better than the same old bolter porn, both for BL and in the wider fantasy/sci-fi market.

 

There's probably larger questions there about how reliable/flexible the core of readers who just buy anything related to their faction are vs. the market they're missing out on by putting out books with a very narrow focus but I'd put a lot more weight on the systematic issues with how BL markets and sells books that theSpirea brings up.


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#27
Shinros

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Only so much Bolter Porn you can ingest, I suppose.

Bingo, they need to write better books. We need more books like Dark Harvest and Requiem Infernal. More substance, less bolter porn I rarely ever read Space Marine books now, tired of them overall. 

 

I agree with you in general but I don't think it's a given that books with more substance - which is definitely Requiem Infernal - necessarily sell better than the same old bolter porn, both for BL and in the wider fantasy/sci-fi market.

 

There's probably larger questions there about how reliable/flexible the core of readers who just buy anything related to their faction are vs. the market they're missing out on by putting out books with a very narrow focus but I'd put a lot more weight on the systematic issues with how BL markets and sells books that theSpirea brings up.

 

I agree, advertising and systems is a major issue as well. I just forgot to mention that in my post XD. 

 

Anyway, I do feel BL is sleeping on Peter Fehervari going through his goodreads reviews I notice a trend, people outside the fandom generally loves his stuff, even those inside the fandom also love his stuff which is interesting. He is great at writing "disconnected" novels that bring people into the setting and go "I should read more warhammer books." 

 

To me, it seems GW wants to go... bigger so to speak. Talk of an Eisenhorn tv show, partnering with Marvel etc. They need these sorts of authors in the limelight, they need to push their stuff to get those outside interested. Anyway, I'm just a fan, I can only state what I see or think, there are more people in this topic like theSpirea who has a far more better idea on what to do as you said. 


Edited by Shinros, 16 January 2020 - 09:47 AM.


#28
Sandlemad

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Anyway, I do feel BL is sleeping on Peter Fehervari going through his goodreads reviews I notice a trend, people outside the fandom generally loves his stuff, even those inside the fandom also love his stuff which is interesting. He is great at writing "disconnected" novels that bring people into the setting and go "I should read more warhammer books."

Agreed, it's definitely one of Ferhervari's virtues. Having a massive interlocking background is cool and all but to anyone who is asking the perennial "hey, I want to get into 40k" question, hearing "ok here are dozens of books, only some of them are good, many of them are actively bad if you haven't set your standards low enough yet, but you need this to understand this so you better read them all" isn't great.

GW/BL have certainly made an effort with anthologies aimed at newcomers - stuff like Crusade and Sacrosanct and books tied in to starter kits - but even they are like tasters that lead you off in a hundred and one directions, as well as being mixes of questionable quality.

 

Fehervari offers work comparable to the better sort of fantasy/horror/weird and which doesn't feel like the editor had to do a pass to remove the trademarks for Primaris Marine Stalker Bolt Rifle or whatever terms are obviously connected to the model range. Unlike a lot of BL's other good writers, you need no core of background knowledge (primarchs, legion history, the metaphysics of the warp, characters from other series, the big events of 40k) to get much out of his work. That's what endears him to folks from outside the fandom, I think, and that he absolutely nails the tone/atmosphere of 40k at the same time is a miracle.


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#29
cheywood

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Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like equating quality books with better sales numbers doesn’t quite hold up. You can find examples of people entering the setting through the more esoteric and in-depth works like Requiem Infernal. However, if the authors are to be believed, the best selling books are the Heresy and Space Marine books featuring popular chapters. Getting new people into the setting through the novels is all well and good, but at present the path to strong sales seems to be through appealing to the setting’s existing fan base rather than drawing in fans of good literature.

Edited by cheywood, 16 January 2020 - 10:54 AM.

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#30
Sandlemad

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Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like equating quality books with better sales numbers doesn’t quite hold up. You can find examples of people entering the setting through the more esoteric and in-depth works like Requiem Infernal. However, if the authors are to be believed, the best selling books are the Heresy and Space Marine books featuring popular chapters. Getting new people into the setting through the novels is all well and good, but at present the path to strong sales seems to be through appealing to the setting’s existing fan base rather than drawing in fans of good literature.

I agree that quality books certainly don't always translate to good sales numbers. Appealing solely to the setting's existing fan base though does not seem to be characteristic of modern GW's aims in the last few years (more small games, more affordable 'routes in' to the hobby, WH Horror and Crime, a wider range of non-traditional GW products including TV, animation, Marvel comics, big name audio productions, YA books).

Big heresy/marines books definitely sell in large quantities to an existing fanbase but there's clearly a feeling in GW/BL that they want to go beyond that. Actual quality of literature* is a bit of a distraction here. It's probably not the best route to understand this, even if a lot of folks might be relatively 'quality agnostic' (really trying hard not to sound mean here) when it comes to buying books about their preferred chapter.

I think we'd be better off thinking of it terms of breadth of offerings. If all you make is bolterporn books or installment #43 of the heresy soap opera, you'll sell like gangbusters to a hardcore crowd of existing fans. Add in a more diverse range of products and you'll pick up a wider range of readers/consumers who would otherwise not be interested or actively turned away by bolterporn/heresy stuff. Any one of those segments (crime fans, horror fans, literary sci-fi fans) might not deliver the same sheer volume of sales as your existing fans yet but they're still folks who otherwise wouldn't be buying your stuff. And GW is clearly trying to target them.

* and this applies outside of BL. There's fantasy authors who sell millions of copies, to the point of propping up whole SFF publishing imprints, whose writing is on par with or even worse than BL's more generic bolter porn.


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#31
cheywood

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Snip.

Snip
I agree with everything you’ve said. My language was a bit muddled but I meant to say well-regarded fiction doesn’t always equal sales the way a popular faction does, not that GW should only publish fiction about popular factions.

Edited by cheywood, 16 January 2020 - 12:14 PM.

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#32
Knockagh

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As much as I enjoyed it I doubt Requiem Infernal and books like it are going to shoot sales through the roof.
Heresy weariness has I would say resulted in some drop off in sales although that should have happened a few years ago. Marketing has been atrocious. Looking at this months White Dwarf BL doesn’t even get a mention. Scrapping the popular coming soon section was an idiot move and the BL website is a standing joke, especially the lack of PayPal.
I think BL quality has improved again this year with lots of new writers coming on board. The stories are more diverse than ever, a lot less bolter porn. (Maybe people want bolter porn?? I hope not)
I’ve heard gamers say they don’t want to spend on non core gaming items as they are so expensive to collect. I’m sure this has a bearing. The Warhammer community probably hasn’t expanded massively and yet the product range has exploded. We only have so much spare cash. I know I rarely buy game stuff anymore as the books are were I’m at with time, family and social groups etc. I used to buy some models to paint but now it’s very rare I’d rather put money into a better quality book. I imagine there are more gamers who want to spend their hobby budget on minis than books though.
I would love to see the figures for inferno and other cheap books aimed at new readers.

#33
DarkChaplain

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The January or December WD? Because frankly, if it was December, I can't blame them. December was mostly void of releases for them. Advertising the advent calendar halfway through the month would've been tricky, especially without revealing too much, and beyond the Court of the Blind King and Mephiston, was there anything else of note all month?

 

As for bolter porn, I think it's a lot more popular for general sales figures than we'd give it credit for within the fandom. Heck, apparently Kyme's Salamanders novels for 40k have been selling like hot cakes, too, despite the community's general reception of Nick's books. We're the vocal minority that is more invested in the setting than most, but as 40k (and Fantasy, due to TW:W) grows in the public eye, few of the casual fans really have any grasp on the setting at large, and would be lost with novels about the intricacies that we enjoy the most. The hardcore fans are obviously more familiar with (and most assuredly more tired of) all the bolter porn around, while for less-involved fans, the action is still a big draw. It's also something that ticks me off in regards to seasonal Anime releases; seeing toplists being dominated by shallow mass-appeal drivel mostly watched by casuals while the actually great stuff with heart and soul barely gets a tenth of the attention in comments and upvotes, has been hugely frustrating to me for years.


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#34
cheywood

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Snip

I would love to see the figures for inferno and other cheap books aimed at new readers.


Me too. I’d also be curious to see if LE’s being released six months in advance is hurting sales of regular editions. There’s a vocal contingent on reddit convinced the delayed release schedule is ruinous for their personal experience because they just have to read every spoiler thread they see. It always comes with the attendant speculation that sales numbers for regular editions are down as a result.

#35
Knockagh

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January’s WD

Yes I think the bolter porn probably is more popular than we think. Many gamers see the books as a side piece that’s a bit of fun to put their battles into context. Selling the universe takes more engagement.

Also of note is that much of GWs growth is overseas and I don’t think BL do many foreign language translations.

#36
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If I might share an anecdote; on Saturday my wife was going into town and kindly agreed to pick up the new Kharadron book for me. She got there a few minutes after opening time and was told that the single copy on release day was sold. Fortunately I managed to secure it from element, but a lot of people might have given up at that point. The problem with limiting releases to your own stores is when you then don’t have enough confidence in the product to add sufficient stock. We’ve seen the battle sisters novel and cawl novel sell out as well as the various limited editions.

In addition, the limited ed, followed by hardback some months later release schedule really irks me. I don’t particularly want to shed out for a hardback, particularly for an author or series I’m not already invested in, and I am not really interested in the limited editions. So by the time a book is available, the discussion here is often months old and I feel a bit left out. It could be easily solved by releasing the two concurrently, or doing pre orders for limited editions.

I also feel that whilst I tend to read most things, a lot of people will pick up a series they are following (like gg or cain) or for a faction they like and the lack of space marine releases just means less tie in buys for people. I’m eagerly awaiting plague wars part 3 and I suspect many more are also because of it being an ultramarines and Guilliman book. It sometimes feels that Guy Haley is carrying the whole department in that regard as for me the big releases have mostly come from him recently. Especially with making sense of the updated background.

Black library could (for example) done a tie in novel for each psychic awakening book and I bet they would have sold well. The novels are good but there is a lack of what a lot of fans want and a real
Need to sort out the limited edition and coming soon issues, imo.
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#37
Knockagh

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It does seem more than a little odd that sales are falling but books are selling out so quickly and limited editions are gone in seconds. That a sign of bad management rather than poor demand.
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#38
Xisor

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If memory serves, publishing as a model *normally* works in the basis of publishing things that seem decent, but hoping that one "takes off".

So most novels don't sell brilliantly, but the whole system is funded mostly by big hits.

Knowing which are going to be big hits beforehand isn't easily achievable (and so advertising appropriately around it all is difficult) - there's "good shouts" on being a better-than-average seller, e.g. any Blood Angels novel, no matter the quality relative to the best/worst books by popular appeal.

E.g. How well did "Betrayer" sell relative to "Fear to Tread"?

But predicting which ones are going to be the BIG HITTERS doesn't seem to actually be possible.

There's good practices that encourage good books, and good advertising practice that encourages serviceable sales and allows for things to "go viral" (reading-wise)...

But none of that quite works relative to suddenly getting a 40k Fifty Shades of Grey (Knights), Ahri Potter and the Black Library of Chaos, or the Da Vinci Boyz.

And that's where dramatic sales impacts will be.

(I'd love to see the trend, and numbers broken down by units sold, region, revenue gained etc etc - I assume that's not in the report? It's on my, err, to-read list. But I'm on an Age of Sigmar run at the mo. Yay, Warbeast!)
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#39
Rob P

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Where are people getting their info from? The only page of the report that specifically mentions Black Library concerns trade sales only.

 

Am I missing the bit that makes it clear that Black Library sales are generally down and not just down on third party sales? Can someone point me to it?


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#40
Knockagh

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I’m ashamed to say I didn’t read the report just the comments on here. Having looked at it your right. The specific BL volumes they show are tiny around 1.2 to 1.3 mill and explicitly states them as external revenue.
Non story.
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#41
caladancid

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Where are people getting their info from? The only page of the report that specifically mentions Black Library concerns trade sales only.

 

Am I missing the bit that makes it clear that Black Library sales are generally down and not just down on third party sales? Can someone point me to it?

 

 

I’m ashamed to say I didn’t read the report just the comments on here. Having looked at it your right. The specific BL volumes they show are tiny around 1.2 to 1.3 mill and explicitly states them as external revenue.
Non story.

 

Are you being serious? Look at what it says.  External revenue is a HUGE portion of income. It includes GW stores, distribution, online sales, etc.  Not sure why you think external revenue is a throwaway.

 

The report specifically says the BL portion you are looking at (among other things) includes sales to distributors i.e booksellers like Barnes and Noble.

 

Now, I know I am not the finance guy (either in life or on these forums) but if you don't believe me here you should go check out the main thread where the guy who always does the analysis around here (and appears to really know what he is talking about) discusses BL sales being down.



#42
DarkChaplain

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Yeah, but if it's *just* sales via distributors, but not actually including direct sales via GW, which has been a tad more prominent this past year due to shifting stuff like the Siege Limited Editions from BL itself to the main GW store, for example, then we can't really say that BL overall has fallen. There's a lot of stuff they're releasing that doesn't actually get sold via retail to begin with.



#43
caladancid

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Yeah, but if it's *just* sales via distributors, but not actually including direct sales via GW, which has been a tad more prominent this past year due to shifting stuff like the Siege Limited Editions from BL itself to the main GW store, for example, then we can't really say that BL overall has fallen. There's a lot of stuff they're releasing that doesn't actually get sold via retail to begin with.

 

Right so to some degree it is possible that BL is selling less to bookstores and making it up through in store (GW only) sales.  There is only one sales metric that went down on that entire list though, and it is the one we are discussing.

 

I think calling it a non issue is perhaps more wishful thinking than reflecting on possible causes.



#44
cheywood

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At this point it sounds like we need more info to divine if this is an expected variance in sales or due to poor performance. Could a drop in the quantity of releases explain the sales discrepancy?

Edit: if it’s not counting direct sales as people are saying wouldn’t the sales from a single Siege limited edition make up for the discrepancy? The book sold for different amounts in different regions so I don’t have the exact math but if every copy sold at the US price that would be $212,500

Edited by cheywood, 18 January 2020 - 12:23 PM.


#45
caladancid

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At this point it sounds like we need more info to divine if this is an expected variance in sales or due to poor performance. Could a drop in the quantity of releases explain the sales discrepancy?

Edit: if it’s not counting direct sales as people are saying wouldn’t the sales from a single Siege limited edition make up for the discrepancy? The book sold for different amounts in different regions so I don’t have the exact math but if every copy sold at the US price that would be $212,500

 

I don't know enough, at all, about how companies release financial information to answer this question:

 

If the explanation for a drop in revenue was something like that, wouldn't you want to let investors know? I mean if it was that easy to explain- "Our yearly revenues for the publishing arm are artificially low as we have been selling that product in a different category." 



#46
cheywood

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At this point it sounds like we need more info to divine if this is an expected variance in sales or due to poor performance. Could a drop in the quantity of releases explain the sales discrepancy?

Edit: if it’s not counting direct sales as people are saying wouldn’t the sales from a single Siege limited edition make up for the discrepancy? The book sold for different amounts in different regions so I don’t have the exact math but if every copy sold at the US price that would be $212,500


I don't know enough, at all, about how companies release financial information to answer this question:

If the explanation for a drop in revenue was something like that, wouldn't you want to let investors know? I mean if it was that easy to explain- "Our yearly revenues for the publishing arm are artificially low as we have been selling that product in a different category."

From the perspective of BL’s sales it’s a notable % change, but it’s a very minor (maybe meaningless) difference in revenue for GW’s overall financial outlook. I wouldn’t necessarily expect investors to be concerned about it at all, especially with continued growth elsewhere. We notice because we’re invested in Black Library specifically as a provider of fiction, but if your GW investment is fiscally motivated and non-specific to BL this is likely pretty minor. Besides which the actions of BL don’t reflect any anxiety about future success. If BL were cutting publishing rates and contracting with fewer authors this would be a different story.

#47
Knockagh

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Without all the sales figures the whole discussion is purely speculative. It’s also worth mentioning that the figures relate to a six month period not a full financial year. The drop could be anything, I’m sure the board use this figure for something but without knowing the context of this partial sales figure its completely useless. Half picture = half right
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#48
Lord Marshal

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I suppose the argument could also be made that Black Library exists less to make profit off it's own back, so much as serve as what amounts to a glorified marketing campaign for the model line. How many Night Lords armies were inspired by ADB's work? And then the Black Legion series rears it's head. We all know about the blatant OH GEE WHIZZ, IT'S A NEW PRIMARIS INTERCESSOR IN THIS NEW DARK IMPERIUM, LOOK AT HIM GO, AND YOU COULD OWN THEM AND THE PRIMARIS CAPTAIN IN GRAVIS ARMOUR TODAY that was the Dark Imperium series.
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#49
DarkChaplain

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[...] that was the Dark Imperium series.

 

Was it, though? While it certainly had Primaris action pieces in the first book, namedropping some of the newer stuff, it didn't drown in it and instead focused more on political and religious aspects rather than hyping up models, in my eyes.


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#50
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Yeah, Dark Imperium was surprisingly low on the model name-dropping, particularly compared to some of the short works from previous years which were obviously meant to tie in with particular releases. 

 

My suspicion is that BL is probably not meant to act as a direct means of marketing the miniature range, at least not in the narrow sense of "put out new Night Lord books, rake in the new Night Lord player bucks". From what BL authors and editors have said about how books are assigned or proposed, I don't think they're really organised in that way, or (less charitably) organised sufficiently to do that sort of thing even if they wanted to. There was mention of how part of the reason that BL turned away from being intimately tied to miniature releases was that someone at GW realised that there was no possibility for a new Eisenhorn or equivalent work to be created under that business model, which in turn restricted their potential audience. On some level they clearly recognise that there's money to be made outside of simply pushing specific miniatures.

 

I reckon the 'softer' version of that idea is true though, that GW sees BL as a way of promoting GW more generally and luring new consumers in. If they only buy books, great, they wouldn't have bought GW stuff otherwise so there's a customer. If they do move from books to minis, even better, just as with everything else non-miniature related they put out or licence. Under that model, yeah, there's probably no expectation from GW proper that BL has to be perfectly self-sufficient and making killer profits year-on-year because it's serving this other function as well.


Edited by Sandlemad, 18 January 2020 - 07:59 PM.

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