(Updated with new anecdotes at the bottom of the page)
I’ve been discussing the Pay What You Want pricing model lately. Most publishers who use it are doing so to promote a major release, or to recoup a bit on what would be free stuff. James Raggi takes it to another level and sells his print works using this model when he’s at European RPG conventions. Which rocks, btw. He’s also trying it out on a larger scale with his next release (written by the amazing Rafael Chandler, btw) – he’s offering a new full-colour hardcover book as PWYW for all Indiegogo contributors.
But all this chatter made me go back and check out how PWYW has worked for me. I’ve released eight issues of Dyson’s Dodecahedron in a PWYW format. Originally I released them for free through the blog, but when I moved to using RPGnow as a vendor (because of the demand for PDF versions of Dyson’s Delves and Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts), I also moved the Dodecahedron issues over there and made them PWYW.
The expectation was of course that they would effectively be free, and people who really liked them could throw me a few bones (this was before I started my Patreon Campaign).
Since the move to RPGnow, there have been 4,475 issues of the Dodecahedron downloaded – of which 1082 involved some amount of payment. I was seriously NOT expecting a quarter of my downloads to be paid for when I transitioned, so this was a huge number for me. It’s also nice to see how much interest there is the ‘zine overall, as it is harder to track downloads through WordPress than through a dedicated ecommerce site like RPGnow.
This breaks down the price paid per download. When posting them up at RPGnow I was asked to list a “suggested price” – I went with 50 cents per issue. 37% of those who did pay for the issues went with this suggested price. Remarkably, almost as many paid between $1 and $2 per issue.
Oh, and the 1% who gave me a penny… really? I live in Canada, we already got rid of pennies.
In all, $965.33 has been spent by persons downloading the Dodecahdron, of which I get $675.02 after RPGnow’s cut (which includes all the usual credit card processing fees and the other stuff that goes with it).
For the fun of it I ran one last pie chart – checking out the total revenue stream versus the amount paid. While the $5 and up category only accounted for 2% of downloads, not surprisingly it was 10% of my revenue. And the lion’s share is the $1-$2 line.
So, there we have it, a snapshot of how PWYW has worked so far for my zine.
Update and Deeper Analysis:
At the requests of a few readers, I dug deeper into the customer data this morning.
- 17 Customers who paid $0 came back later and purchased other issues
- 2 Customers came back and paid for the issue they had already paid $0 for
- 5 Customers did batch orders where they only paid for one issue in an order of 5-8 issues, and in each case they paid above the suggested price per issue.
This means that the price per sale above is probably a bit off if I were to average out the amount paid by the number of issues downloaded in one order. But that’s more math than I’m up to this morning.
- Only 2 customers with ID numbers over 600,000 paid. You 600,000+ users? You folks is cheap.
- One person paid 10c for issue 8, and then came back the next day and downloaded the other 7.
- One person doesn’t really understand the OneBookShelf “bookshelf” system and repurchased (for $0) every issue on at least two more occasions.
- Several people (6-9 – I wasn’t really keeping track) bought only 1-3 issues and paid $3 or more per issue, but never grabbed the other issues.
- Getting money from someone once does not mean they’ll pay next time, nor does it mean they won’t. It’s pretty hit-or-miss, even from the same customer.
- Customer 29713 is my hero at $35.50 for 8 issues.
Do you get hit with fees when someone pays $.01?
Dyson Logos said:
Nope. I get 70% of whatever is paid. So I get 0.7 cents for a penny transaction.
At one point RPGnow had a minimum purchase total of $5 (ages ago), but they got rid of that.
I don’t know if it’s possible to check, but if it is look at the people that paid a penny to see if they came back and downloaded it again paying you more. I could easily see some folks decided to look at it before deciding what to pay for it.
Dyson Logos said:
I would expect that more of the $0 crowd than the penny crowd. But I’ll make the effort to dig through the data and see what the repeat consumer’s actions have been.
I sometimes take PWYW stuff for free and go back and pay for it once I’ve evaluated what it’s worth to me. I’ve never paid a penny for something like this.
Thanks for sharing the numbers!
And related to 210Darryl’s question, are these numbers really downloads or purchases? Because RPGNow lets you download things you’ve purchased multiple times.
Dyson Logos said:
These are purchases. They are linked to specific purchase dates. Downloads are not counted.
As silly at it sounds, I was unaware that you could “purchase” PWYW items for $0. I presumed there was a minimum cost.
Dyson Logos said:
I updated the article with additional data, as requested.
It appears that two people have gone back and repurchased a title that they originally bought for $0.
No one who paid a penny repurchased later.
Tom Stephens said:
I’ve seen similar numbers although I have only 1 PWYW product. It has a suggested cost of free and I’ve had 507 purchases of which 97 have paid (so roughly 20% instead of your 25).
Interestingly over half of the purchases were for $5 or more. But that is probably due to the different nature of the product.
To each person the value of the product will differ. When I see something in a retail store I evaluate it against the listed price. If it isn’t worth the price to me I don’t buy. This method allows me to do my own market evaluation. Someone who has only a dollar a day income to pay a dollar if the product is worth a day’s income to him. Those who pay nothing in my mind represent that segment of the population better off flushed from existence. The insult is that your hard work is not worth anything which is untrue. IMO
Christopher Smith said:
While I often pay under $1 for PWYW items, if I like the company’s stuff, I always go back and buy more.