January 24, 2014

Another Look at PWYW

Back in September I wrote about my experiences during the first three months of Pay What You Want on DriveThruRPG. I went back to look at a longer span.

In this table, sales” indicates how many PWYW titles are in my total sales that month, including people who entered $0 in the box. Income is before all costs & deductions. I’m including January as a so far” marker, I don’t expect things to change significantly between now and the end of the month.

Month PWYW Sales1 PWYW Income MoM2 Sales MoM Income
June 95 71
July 86 44 –9 –27
August 92 27 6 –17
September 90 29 –2 2
October 90 36 0 7
November 90 44 0 8
December 68 15 –22 –29
January 58 0.8 –10 –14.2

Turning that into a chart makes the trends easier to see:


While part of the decline in income is due to the decline in PWYW sales, if that were the only cause I’d expect the green line to roughly mirror the blue line. I think it’s also due to the psychology of value as discussed in my previous post. While October-November shows a growth in PWYW income, December-January returns to the trend of decline — in both cases a sharper decline than the general decline in sales volume. People aren’t just buying less PWYW, they’re paying less as a proportion as well.

I’m not releasing specific sales figures or income amounts, but while neither December or January are breaking any sales records, those two months have seen the most income since June.

I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t depressing.

What this tells me is that PWYW is not working for me as an actually independent/small press publisher. From talking to others, I’m not alone. I’m still using it for two-page games, but I’m through seeing it as anything but a tool for midlist publishers like Evil Hat. Those at the top with popular systems (or comprehensive license support) like Onyx Path, Catalyst, and Pinnacle don’t need to go PWYW. Those at the bottom don’t make enough from it for it to be worth the time.

What people might miss is that my games are self-published. With the exception of Æternal Legends, I put in all of the work to make all of my PWYW games. Not one of them has seen an income (let alone an earning) enough to match my freelancing word-rate.

As a result, I’ve put Æternal Legends back to a $5 fixed price. It’s a 160-page complete RPG and seeing people only value that at $0.01 has finally pushed me over the edge. It’s an insult to the amount of work that’s gone into the game. I’m looking into making it Creative Commons for those that can’t afford the price — until I do, if you honestly can’t afford the book contact me directly and we’ll work something out.

  1. When I say sales”, I’m including free transactions — this is everything that people got from me in that month.

  2. Month-on-Month

self-publishing for stoats

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