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(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).

Paid vs Free Downloads

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.

Dodecahedron - Price Paid Per Unit

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).

Dodecahedron Revenue Breakdown

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.

Other anecdotes:

  • 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.