I've been offering free products through DriveThruRPG for a few months now, but last week I released my first PWYW (Pay What You Want) product, Blood & Bile. In practice this was a very small step (I just had to activate the PWYW option, and enter a suggested price), but it felt like a major personal milestone for me as an indie publisher.
I'm pleased with the way Blood & Bile turned out, but it's a very different style of game to Saga of the Goblin Horde, and incorporates some experimental ideas I wanted to try (such as not requiring any GM preparation, or character sheets for the players) - so I didn't want people buying it blindly based on my earlier work, and then feeling misled afterwards. I was also curious about the PWYW model, and figured this would be a good way to test the waters.
It has been pointed out that PWYW is a marketing strategy rather than a sales strategy, and there have been some interesting discussions (as well as this excellent article) about the pros and cons. My work is well known within the Savage Worlds community, but now I'm trying to establish myself in the wider RPG community, so building up an audience is currently my main priority.
Blood & Bile was released on 14th March. I already had 2696 unique customers on DriveThruRPG thanks to Saga of the Goblin Horde, and 2222 of them accepted email from publishers, so I sent out a short message telling them about my latest product. While that didn't spark quite as much interest as I'd hoped, I did get a reasonable number of downloads in the first couple of days, after which it slowed down to a trickle:
14th March: 70 downloads (including 9 sales totaling $11.20)
15th March: 114 downloads (including 15 sales totaling $33.56)
16th March: 38 downloads (including 5 sales totaling $11.79)
17th March: 20 downloads (including 4 sales totaling $8.00)
18th March: 15 downloads (no sales)
19th March: 19 downloads (including 3 sales totaling $7.00)
20th March: 9 downloads (no sales)
21st March: 4 downloads (including 2 sales totaling $1.01)
That's a total of 289 downloads, of which 38 (13.1%) were sales. The total sales were $72.56, which is an average of $1.89 per paying customer. Nearly half (18 people) paid the recommended $1, the lowest amount was $0.01, and the highest was $5 (paid by 6 different people).
It's the total number of (non-free) sales that determine rankings and medals, rather than the amount of money paid, so even a 1-cent sale is useful. At one point I managed to reach rank 8 in the Hottest Small Press, but there's a lot of competition on there, and I soon dropped back down again.
Ratings and reviews seem to be harder to come by. I had expected people would be more willing to click on a rating than pay money, but that doesn't seem to be the case. So far I've had two reviews, hopefully there will be more once people have had the chance to try out the game.
DriveThruRPG keep 30% of the sales, which leaves me with a little over $50 that I can put towards future products. I'm not yet sure how I'll use that, if there's interest I may release another minimalist RPG using the same system, otherwise I'll probably put it towards Swift d12.