Black Library Weekly – W/C 31/07/17

Hello and welcome to another instalment of Black Library Weekly, my regular look at what’s been happening in the world of Black Library. It’s the first week of August, which means two things – the announcement of November’s upcoming releases, and the release date for Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Black Legion novel! Lots to talk about, so without further ado…

The week opened on an eldar note with the release of Gav Thorpe’s short story Dark Son (£2.49 on ebook) for Digital Monday. Previously only available in the Path of the Eldar omnibus, it’s an interesting little story which works as a standalone even if you haven’t read the rest of the series. Gav’s eldar work can usually be counted on to dig into the intriguing specifics of life for the various different branches of the eldar culture, and this is no different. You can find my review here.

Plenty of interesting stuff happened during the week, beginning with news that Black Library are offering free shipping for the entirety of August. Orders over £20 (for UK customers, the threshold differs depending on where you live) get free shipping anyway, but if you’re in the market for individual paperbacks, non-limited hardbacks, audio dramas in CD format and so on, then free shipping is a nice little bonus.

As it’s the first week of the month, Wednesday brought with it the next set of upcoming releases, this time for November. Here’s a rundown:

The Devastation of Baal by Guy Haley – the first Space Marine Conquests novel, carrying on the Blood Angels story from Guy’s previous novel Dante.

The Last Hunt by Robbie MacNiven – White Scars vs tyranids. This one’s going to be available first at the Weekender in November.

Overlords of the Iron Dragon by CL Werner – the Kharadron Overlords’ first Black Library outing, and another cool looking Age of Sigmar novel.

The Geld by George Mann – a Raven Guard 40k audio drama.

So those are all coming in November, although you’ll notice that there’s a conspicuous absence in that list…there’s no Horus Heresy title! Whether that’s because the current release schedule of one (either main range or Primarchs) title a month is going to change, or because Black Library are holding one off as a future surprise…well, I guess that remains to be seen.

I’ve seen a few people talking about the number of titles per month, suggesting that November looks a bit low compared to other months. The absence of a Heresy title notwithstanding, I’d say that four per month (plus the usual omnibuses or other surprises) is pretty much the norm now. Here’s the number of new titles announced for each of the last six months (where a book’s had a limited edition release, I’ve only counted it as one):

  • June: 3 (The Crimson King, Plague Garden and Scions of Elysia)
  • July: 5 (Lorgar, Perturabo standard edition, Dark Compliance, Resurrection and Farsight)
  • August: 4 (Black Legion, Lucius, Tallarn and Blood and Lies)
  • September: 4 (Blackshields, Cadia Stands, Watchers of the Throne, Spear of Shadows)
  • October: 4 (Fulgrim, Ghost Warrior, Ruinstorm and Lorgar standard edition)
  • November: 4 (as above)

As you can see, it looks like four is the most common total. It’s worth pointing out that each month does usually see more than four ‘new’ titles in the end, as there’s normally something held back and not announced in advance – for example July saw Dark Imperium released, while in July we also got the Honour Imperialis omnibus.

The other item of note is around pre-orders for upcoming releases – for most of the year so far, when one month’s new releases are confirmed, an earlier month’s releases have gone up for pre-order. I’ve talked before about how I’ve felt these pre-orders take away from the hype and excitement about new releases, so I was pleased last month when instead of putting all of August’s titles up for pre-order, Black Library added notes to say that each title would be available to order as of its ‘release date’.

The assumption there was that if a book had a release date of, say, the 29th July…we’d be able to buy it on that day, download the ebook/MP3 versions, and so on. That’s what happened with Tallarn by John French…but then this weekend the rules seemed to change. I’ll talk more in a moment about Black Legion, but suffice to say it does feel like Black Library haven’t entirely made their mind up about how to release their new titles, just yet.

If you’re interested, here are the release dates for September’s titles:

  • 2nd September: Eight Lamentations: Spear of Shadows by Josh Reynolds
  • 16th September: Watchers of the Throne: The Emperor’s Legion by Chris Wraight
  • 23rd September: Cadia Stands by Justin D. Hill and Blackshields: The False War by Josh Reynolds

There’s obviously a gap in there, which suggests that the 9th September will be one of the days where something else is released. We’ll have to wait and see whether that’s something like an omnibus or some more paperbacks…or something brand new.

And so, on to the weekend and probably the most highly anticipated Black Library novel of the year (so far, at least – Dan Abnett’s Warmaster is still to come) – Black Legion by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. Interestingly, the previous book in this series – 2014’s The Talon of Horus – was the first Black Library novel to get the full, luxurious (and accordingly expensive) limited edition treatment that we’re now getting used to, although back then it was billed as a Black Library First Edition. Sure, there had been LE releases before, but not a full novel and not to quite such an impressive standard.

As you might expect, then, Black Legion has also received the limited edition treatment, priced at the usual £40 and (thankfully) nicely matching the style of The Talon of Horus. If you can’t or don’t want to stretch to £40, you’ve got the usual ‘standard’ formats – hardback (£18), ebook (£9.99) or MP3 (£29.99). Alternatively, if you’re happy to fork out for the limited edition but don’t want to have to wait for it to be delivered, you can get the ebook for half price (i.e. £5) if you buy the LE hardback.

This is all sounding great, right? So why the cryptic comment in the previous section? Well…on the Black Library website it had the 5th August as the date at which Black Legion could be ordered, but – unlike Tallarn – this turned out to be a pre-order date, with physical copies due to be shipped on the 14th August and digital versions able to be downloaded on the 12th. Add to that the fact that the iBooks and Kindle versions of the ebook are apparently (i.e. I haven’t personally checked to verify this) available to download and read right away, and that the Kindle version is £1 cheaper than the others.

So, a couple of things here. Firstly, I’m not really fussed about having to wait a couple of weeks to get my hands on this – I’ve waited nearly three years already, so another few days isn’t a big deal. That being said, readers’ patience notwithstanding I think it’s a bit naughty of Black Library to have not made it clear that this was going to be a pre-order – if nothing else they’ve got a lot of people’s hopes up and then quickly dashed them again, which seems a bit unnecessary really.

Secondly, this all smacks of a lack of clear vision around releases – what’s the deal with being able to download it right away on iBooks or Kindle but not from Black Library direct, and even more importantly why does one book get a straight-up release while another gets a pre-release? It seems a bit pointless to speculate on the reasons behind these oddities, but it’s absolutely worth pointing them out.

These are the sorts of things that have got me (and I’m sure plenty of others) a bit riled in the past, as they smack of not treating customers quite right. Considering the HUGE changes in the wider Games Workshop business over the last eighteen months or so I’m inclined to believe that neither of these issues are representative of how things are going overall…but they’re not great, really.

Anyway, gripes to one side – Black Legion was the only real new release this weekend, but we did also see a new bundle appear in the shape of the Grey Knights Digital Bundle. As with most of the digital bundles that Black Library do it’s quite expensive on the surface – £66.99 – however you do get a lot of stories for your money. I’m never quite sure how many people are really likely to buy these bundles; it feels like they’re designed for someone who’s a big fan of a single faction, yet I imagine most such people will have already bought and read a lot of the Black Library fiction about their favourite faction. Still, if you do fancy checking out a load of cool fiction about the Grey Knights, this is as good a place as any to start.

Lastly, just a quick note to point out that the Audio section of the Black Library website has been renamed Listen While You Paint. As far as I can see it’s largely just a cosmetic update, with nothing really changing in terms of the content or navigation of the page, although it does emphasise that you can pick up a free audio sampler containing excerpts from various audios as well as the entire Veritas Ferrum short audio. I’m not quite sure if this is the same sampler that’s been available before or a new one, but if you haven’t yet got your head around audiobooks and/or audio dramas, this is worth checking out.

Thoughts on the week
I told you there was plenty to talk about! I think I’ve pretty much covered the discussion points around each of the week’s interesting items already, so I won’t go into much more detail here. Overall it’s been a pretty cool week – whether you agree or not with the different things going on, there’s been plenty going on!

Obviously Black Legion is going to be the biggest news of the week for a lot of people, considering how popular The Talon of Horus was and how long we’ve all had to wait for the sequel. Once the fuss dies down about the confusion around release dates etc. I strongly suspect this is going to be a very, very popular novel – although I did expect the limited edition to sell out pretty quickly, however at the time of writing there’s been no change to the ‘Only 2,000 Available’ message. I can’t help wondering if that’s something to do with the COMPLETE absence of promotion that it received in advance of its release.

On Saturday a quick post popped up on the Warhammer Community page, and also on the Black Library Facebook page, but that’s all I’ve seen. For a follow-up to one of the most popular Black Library books of the last few years (it’s rated 4.57 out of 5 on Goodreads and 4.6 out of 5 on Amazon) it seems very strange to not make a big deal about this coming out – in the past we’ve seen daily promotional posts about upcoming ‘big’ releases, but nothing for this. Perhaps that’s simply because Black Library assume Aaron’s legions of fans will automatically go out and buy it…but if so, that seems dangerously presumptuous. Whatever the reason, I really hope the lack of marketing for this book doesn’t do it any damage!

I don’t suppose it will…

Coming up…
You remember me mentioning weeks without confirmed releases? Well next week’s one of those – according to the Black Library website we’ve got Lucius: The Faultless Blade and Agents of the Throne: Blood and Lies to look forward to on the 19th August, but nothing’s listed for the 12th. I wonder what next week will see, then? A surprise? An omnibus? Paperbacks? Let me know if you’ve got any ideas…

As always, if you’ve got any thoughts or comments on the week’s news and releases please do get in touch via the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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