Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  Xanathar's Guide to Everything is #1 on the bestseller chart.  And in this week's column, Scott Thorne explains why.

That’s pretty impressive.  Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has topped the BookScan non-fiction best-seller list as reported by Publishers Weekly and Wall Street Journal for their subscribers. [Numbers from BookScan, now owned by NPD, include POS data from most chains and online retailers, but not most FLGSs—ed.]

Xanathar’s beat The Pioneer Woman Cook, the #2 book on the chart, and is even beating out books such as Tribe of Mentors and Obama: An Intimate Portrait, both of which released about the same time.  And the book currently sits at #15 on Amazon’s Top 20 Most Sold Non-fiction Books of the week.  Given the other books in the category are either cookbooks, memoirs, inspirational or biographies and the only other book coming close to Xanathar’s category has the words "Harry Potter" in the title, Wizards of the Coast has scored some pretty impressive sales numbers for the book.   Why?

I am going to posit two reasons with the first dependent on the second.

Player-Oriented.  While WotC has released a number of Dungeons & Dragons hardbacks over the last few years since the release of D&D 5th Edition, this is only the third one that offers much material for the player.  While many D&D players are completists, buying each new release as it ships (and WotC has done a fine job, maybe too fine, of building up anticipation for each release by staggering them out), the only books really targeted towards players up until now, at least in print and not PDF format, are the Player’s Handbook and Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.

Everything else (the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, all of the campaign and scenario books, even Volo’s Guide to Monsters) targets the dungeon master.  However, for every DM, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of two to eight players, meaning a market two to eight times as large for player-focused materials as there is for DM-focused ones.

WotC has a huge untapped market out there for D&D player-targeted books and Xanathar’s Guide is the first "official" (yes, there are a lot of third party materials targeted at players but I have found that both D&D and Pathfinder players usually prefer to purchase and use the "official" materials released by the respective companies) player-oriented book released by WotC in almost two years.  With that level of pent-up demand, it is no surprise that sales of the book took most stores, and WotC, by surprise.

Deep Discounts.  Not only does WotC have huge levels of pent-up demand for player-focused materials, but customers searching online can find the book on Amazon, where just over 50% of people searching online for products to buy begin and end their search, at pretty deep discounts. Unlike some other gaming manufacturers, which have started protecting the value and price of their books though a MAP, a customer can, when it comes back into stock, order Xanathar’s Guide from Amazon for $29.95, a 40% discount.  One Amazon seller even has the book, as of this writing, listed at $19.30 with shipping, a whopping 61% off.  With discounts like that, it is no wonder that sales of the Guide have proven spectacular.

Of course, our store, and others, have sold large numbers of Xanathar’s Guide at full price, testifying to the demand, but demand coupled with discounts drove amazing sales for the book.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of