Friday, 28 February 2014

Gamebook Friday: Black Library sales and Shadows Over Sylvania

Today I received the half-yearly sales commission figures for my Black Library books. The royalties generated are never very much (I've not written a conventional novel for BL for nine years) but it's always a pleasant surprise when the statement comes through the door and, as they say, every little helps.

I was particularly interested to see this set of figures, however, since it would really let me know how my newest BL publication - the vampire gamebook Shadows Over Sylvania - is selling. Now I don't normally discuss sales figures and the like in public, but here's a thing. I feel that Shadows Over Sylvania is one of the best gamebooks I've written (and it's received some positive reviews since it was published) but the sales figures do not reflect this. From publication up until the end of December 2013, Shadows Over Sylvania has sold a grand total of... drum-roll... 237 copies. That's all.

More people backed my YOU ARE THE HERO Kickstarter than have bought a copy of Shadows Over Sylvania. (The book certainly hasn't paid for the time it took me to write it yet.)

Herald of Oblivion, my Warhammer 40K Path to Victory gamebook (which I do not feel is as good as Shadows), has sold 2,344 copies. Yes it's been out longer, but that is still a huge disparity.

So why the poor sales? It's not because the book is rubbish. Shadows is good*, and I can say that with some confidence, it's just that not many people have read it. (Match Wits with the Kids suffered from the same problem, despite earning a 10/10 review in The Independent.)

Is it because Warhammer just isn't as popular as Warhammer 40,000? Is it down to a lack of promotion by BL? (Gamebooks certainly aren't their thing, despite the fact that they are the book publishing arm of one of the largest games companies in the world.) Is it down to the high cover price (due to the book being Print on Demand only)? Is it due to the fact that the book is not available in stores, only at events, where it's not obvious what type of a book it is? (Certainly very few GW store managers that I've spoken to have any idea what the Path to Victory books are.) Is it a result of the book having very few illustrations (unlike the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks that inspired the Path to Victory line?) Is it that gamebooks have had their day? (I certainly hope not.)

At the end of the day, who knows? All I know is that I've done all I can to promote the book and if any of you feel able to do the same, here's where you need to send prospective readers.

So, until next time... And thank you.

* I'd argue it's one of the best vampire books BL have ever published. The reader, playing the part of a vampire, fighting undead and the Empire, not to mention Skaven, Daemons and Goblins... What's not to love?


Anonymous said...

I'd have to go with the POD reason - not much visibility, price tag. On the flipside, just a little bit of promotion alongside the new vampires could have seen this flying.

Jonathan Green said...

New vampires? You mean the Sigmar's Blood campaign?

Steven Leicester said...

I think WFB not being as popular as 40K is certainly a factor. Being honest the high price is what has put me off, along with Black Library postage charges. If it was say £7.99 on Amazon it would be a no brainer for me to grab a copy.

Anonymous said...

Too expensive.

Jiminy said...

I have had both HoO and SoS on a wanted list ever since they were published, but the price and delivery charges have stopped me from buying.

The recent Way Of The Tiger paperback books are £8 including delivery, and Fabled Lands are cheaper still.

Availability on Amazon would significantly increase market visibility and impulse buys.

Jonathan Green said...

That's something I'm going to give very careful consideration to when I embark on my next gamebook project.

Joseph Kelly said...

Jon I have a copy; LOVED IT. The price didn't put me off at all. The sales for Herald of Oblivion indicate that there is some interest in gamebooks, and they will sell even without any marketing at all. I think all of the factors you've identified have some part to play. For me the 'price' element is the least relevant, as buying books from the UK is way cheaper than buying them here in New Zealand (where we have huge mark-ups and VAT). The amazon suggestion is a good one. I also don't get the popularity of 40K over fantasy (and I've worked for GW in several countries) but it is undeniably true. I feel that the decline in popularity of warhammer may have something to do with the shift away from the 'old' old world, which I would contest had a fairly distinct feel and imagery, to the 'new' old world, which is increasingly fantasy bland. Just my two cents. Compare 'Drachenfels', by Kim Newman, to something like... 'Runefang', which is fantasy LITE. There are other factors too, of course, but that's the one that first pops into my head.

Jonathan Green said...

Hi Joseph

Thank you for the kind comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the book.

Marketing is certainly an issue. Other than for a couple of blog posts when the book came out, there's been nothing else. There aren't even any explanatory signs as to what the books are at BL events.

lordperrin said...

I would think that sales are low because it's not available on the main book store everyone shops at. Why isn't it on Amazon? I didn't even know it existed until now.

Jonathan Green said...

You can read The Founding Fields review of Shadows Over Sylvania here:

Javi_Rumil said...

It's sad I cannot buy it now. I have just met the book and I would like to buy it for a friend who loves Warhammer lore.

I'm sure the gamebooks series are not dead! I think that not many people know its existence. That's all.

See you, if anybody know any way to buy the book send it to