How should the trial version work? Comments, please.

Hello all,

I am right now in the middle of incorporating the eSellerate engine into Scrivener. The eSellerate engine is basically just some code, a library and a website that handles the web store, serial numbers, activating the program, returns, e-mailing registration codes and so forth. Did I say “just”? It is actually a fantastic tool that shaves about a year’s work off a program and means that the developer can concentrate on improving (or using :slight_smile: ) the program rather than on how to set up a web store and implement serial numbers and so forth. A lot of Mac (and Windows, for that matter) shareware apps use eSellerate, including CopyWrite, Fetch and various others.

(Note that although eSellerate will be embedded from beta 4, and therefore Scrivener will be ready to sell as soon as I decide it’s release time, the user won’t see any of this until it is release time, aside from a menu option to register that will do nothing.)

Anyway, as I integrate eSellerate, I have a few choices to make - about price, licensing and how to limit the application to registered users. Here are the choices I have made so far:

  • Price: The price for Scrivener is now set at $34.99. I have always said it would be between $30-$40, so I have plumped with a number right inbetween. I know some of you were trying to persuade me that the “sweet spot” would probably be $29.99, because of the psychological factor of it being under $30, but in the end that was just too low in UK pounds after NI, bank charges and eSellerate take their 10%. (US-based businesses have slightly lower outgoings.) I still think this is very reasonable when compared to the competition. CopyWrite and Avenir are only $5, Mori is $5 more, and Ulysses is a lot more expensive. So: $34.99, and cheap at half the price as my grandma used to say (a phrase I never quite understood - surely it should be “cheap at twice the price”, but then she was slightly batty).

  • Licence/Registration: When you receive your registration code after ordering, you will need to activate it by entering it into Scrivener, and hitting “Register” or “Activate” (whichever I name it). You will need a live internet connection for this, as your registration code will then be activated and tied to your machine. The licence gives you permission (and the ability) to install and activate Scrivener on the number of licences for which you pay + 3. So, if you buy 1 licence, you will be able to install it on 4 machines. If you buy 10 licences (bulk discounts are available), you can install it on 13 machines. This way, you should be able to install Scrivener on every computer in your household - I don’t expect you to have to pay for separate copies for your wife or kids. The licence will specify that it is a household licence, though - you are not allowed to use your extra activations to register Scrivener on a friend’s machine, for instance.

Hopefully all of this sounds fair and reasonable so far. I hope the idea of having to activate the software via the internet doesn’t put anybody off. Let me know if you are particularly averse to that.

Anyway, the final decision I have to make, and the one for which I really would appreciate some discussion, is how to set up a “trial version”. By this, I mean, how should Scrivener run if it has not been registered? These are the options as I see them:

  • 30 day trial version. This is the standard way of doing trial versions. The program would be fully functional for a 30-day test period. On each launch there would be a nag box reminding the user how many days they have left (a bit like the beta nag box at the moment). After the 30-day trial period, the app would either: a) stop working altogether; or b) become crippled in some way (see below). There would be a nag box asking the user to buy the program (and probably an option to export work done so far in case they don’t want to buy).

  • Feature-limited trial. This is another commone one. If I took this route, certain features in the menu would not be available to the user. For instance, I would probably disable Export, though I’m not sure what else (suggestions?).

  • CopyWrite-style trial. CopyWrite has a rather innovative way of dealing with unregistered versions. In CopyWrite, if your version is unregistered, you can only create 5 documents, but everything else is fully functional. In Scrivener this is more complicated because you are allowed hierarchies, but I could do something similar. For instance, I could limit the number of documents you are allowed in the Draft. Or only allow a two-level structure in the Draft with only five documents in each group. Something like that.

  • Support limited trial. Some software doesn’t seem to have any limits on their trials - for instance, OmniOutliner and Mori. If I took this route, Scrivener would be fully-functional unregistered, but you would just have a nag box every time you opened it. This relies on people’s honesty, though, and is almost certain to result in lower revenue (I know that isn’t a concern from the user’s perspective :slight_smile: ). Some programs just say that they will not reply to any support e-mails if you aren’t registered, so this is an option too, though personally I don’t think I could do this as I would feel too guilty. Also, it’s likely to put off buyers if you don’t respond to them just because they haven’t paid you yet.

So, these are some of the options. Let me know what you think.

Thanks and all the best,

In defense of Grandma, I think the phrase is intended to mean that if $34.95 were half the price (of a $70 product), it would still be a good buy. :wink:


Short reaction:

  • price too low: if Scrivener were mine, I would ask more! Or wait, let’s say the same thing in positive terms: very generous offer!

  • as to the number of licences, the formula x + 3 is very generous too.

  • as to the trial version, the first alternative (a fully functional version for 30 days - calendar days, or perhaps days of real use) seems the most simple and the most effective solution. After that, only Export should function. If 30 days don’t suffice for making up your mind if you want to pay for this very user friendly and partly very innovative application the not really prohibitive sum of $ 34,95, 300 days won’t either.


Please don’t turn off export once the demo period has expired. If anything, it should be the only thing that still works! The .scriv format is “just” RTF files in a package, but it would still be a turn-off to people to think that their novel could be “locked” inside this demo software if they don’t pay.

I know I’d be reluctant to actually do work in scrivener if I knew that the export function wouldn’t work at the end of the 30-day trial period, and I’d “lose” all the work I’d done.

Wouldn’t be willing to trust actual work to the demo => not doing a proper trial… or not bothering to do a trial at all.

janra, I think you misread my post - if you read it again, you will see that I said that if I take the 30 day trial route, there should be an option to export your files. This would take the form of an “Export Project” button on the nag box which would just export all of your files from the project using the “Export Files” methods.

I’m in full agreement with Timotheus & Maria.

On the internet connection/activation issue, I think it’s fine: people expect it. However (and I may be reading your post wrong here), does this mean that the software will not work without an internet connection? methinks that would be a royal pain in the arse.

Keith, I’m very excited for you! And…errrrr…I’ve got money burning a whole in me pockets! :slight_smile:

Hell no - that would be horrible. No, you will only need an internet connection to activate the software the first time you register it on a machine. After that, the only time you would need an internet connection would be if you reinstalled the OS.

Oh, and thanks to those who are saying that it sounds a bargain! :slight_smile: The reason I want to keep the price relatively low is that I want buyers to feel that they have got a good deal even if there are no updates for months (whilst I’m using it to write myself).

EDIT: And actually, just for you, I’ve just increased the price by 4 cents… It should be $34.99, not $34.95 - I made a 4 cent mistake there. I hope that isn’t a deal-breaker for anybody. :slight_smile:

I read it again a couple of times, and on a careful read I see what you mean. But on a quick second read, it still seemed the way I thought it was…

followed by:

That’s all. I thought it was odd that you’d suggest something like that…

I like the Copywrite-style demo scheme. It’s a really poor user experience to have constant countdown nag windows or broken features, and if I have a 30-day limit I find it hard to integrate the program into my own workflow. I like the hierarchy limit, or the document number limit. In that way the user has the knowledge that this software is not going to pull the rug out on them in any way, but at the same time, as they learn how to use Scrivener (it is not hard to use, but it does take time to learn to integrate it into your writing habits), they will come up against a fairly organic limit. It won’t stop them short; it will merely provide a ceiling beyond which they can’t progress.

This has sucked me in, er, I mean, this has caused me to buy a program in the past–having a number limit on files. I hit that number, I’ve used it enough to know I want to continue to use the software, so I buy it.

Of course, I also believe that Scr. is such a strong program that a fully functional, 30-day trial would be enough for someone to decide to buy it. But that may be because I used it a couple of times, ran through the tutorial and was blown away. An instant sell! But as others point out, that may not always be the case with all users. :slight_smile:

Maria makes a more compelling point, though, in my mind. Those limited number demos really don’t offer a way to fully use the program. I think you are much better off letting people use Scr. to its full capacity for a limited time than using the limited number approach. Scr.'s power lies in its ability to manage a large project in smaller pieces. This approach requires many documents and groups, etc. I know I could not really understand Scr.s power without the ability to use all of its functions fully.

So I come down on the time limit idea. I’d keep it at 30 days myself. I don’t think Scr. is so complex that more would be needed, and 30 days seems like more than enough time to really try it out.

The price–first you said 34.99, then you posted saying it was 39.99 (not 39.95). I must have missed something in there. Either way I’ll buy it. I think if you are going to be in the $30-$40 range, I’d go high, as you did with 39.99. I don’t know that there would be a significant marketing difference between 34.99 and 39.99. Actually, $39.95 may make a difference psychologically just in the way it sounds.

But I claim no real expertise in the area of marketing software!

It is exciting that you are able to start this discussion–that Scr. is almost ready for its big debut! It will be exciting to the general Mac world as well, I think.


D’oh! I’ve edited the posts about the price. I should have said that it is not $34.95 but $34.99. So, just to clarify:


I’m still torn between the 30-day approach and the limited number thing, mainly because the 30-day thing is often quite simple to hack. I’ll have to look for a safe way of doing it.

Thanks for feedback so far,

“not $34.95 but $34.99. So, just to clarify: 34.95”

:question: :question: :question: :question:

(our commander in chief is torn not just between two trial versions, but also between two prices …)

I have tried apps with just about every version of trial demo and MUCH prefer the 30-day limits, though it does mean I need to make sure I will use it well during the 30 days following installation. I am not so sure about the 4 machines limit. Is there any evidence that this increases revenue? Because I run a large research lab, I have 5 Macs of my own (3 at home, 2 at work) and another dozen that are used by my students. I can see some rationale for requiring that I buy 2-3 licences but I probably would not do so and no other apps that I like have such a limit. I anticipate that the hassle—for you—of dealing with requests for just one more installation are not worth it and the loss of revenue in allowing unlimited installations would be small.

I like the $34.99/95 price point and think the no. of sales at this level will more than compensate you for the loss of revenue that charging $39.99 would get you.

What about updates/upgrades? I love programs that have lifetime licences but this surely is a bad way for the developer to make a living. At $34.95 I would be perfectly happy with free updates for version 1.x then a small fee for upgrade to v2, say $10.


You know, I burst out laughing at your post, because otherwise I think I would have cried. :slight_smile: This is what comes of trying to post on the forum and work on Scrivener all at the same time. I give up. I’ll just show you the price button I designed ages ago, which is why I decided to revise it from $34.95 to $34.99 (I got it right that time, please tell me I got it right that time) - simply because I couldn’t be bothered, for the sake of 4 cents, to redo the price image. But now I really wish I had instead of trying to change it here. Look:

I hope that clarifies things, finally. So now we all know that I changed it from £59.53 to 53.99 shillings, right?

As far as I know, most software packages only allow you to install on one machine. Maybe they don’t check this, but they make it clear in their licences that it is only for use by a single user. For instance, with Mellel, if you want to use it on more than one computer in the home you have to buy a “Family pack” licence. In your own case, you would need separate work and home licences. There are volume discounts for those who wish to buy over 10 licenses (10 licenses = 13 activations) for use in the workplace, and I will consider educational pricing for institutions if the demand ever arises.

Updrates will be free for 1.x, and I doubt that I’ll even be thinking about starting a 2.0 release for another year or so. For the next few months it will just be about bug fixes, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere. And of course, you won’t have to pay the full price to upgrade, but I can’t even start to think about what the price would be to upgrade right now as it’s too far in the distant future.

All the best,

Shillings!? 53.99? I thought it was 34.99???

Just KIDDING! I think we are all now very clear on the price. :slight_smile:

I think I might have been one of those “keep it below $30,” people back in the day. I have to say my opinion has changed. Scrivener has gone well beyond what most writing applications offer for the price. If anything, $35 is cheap. Very cheap.

This always makes me nervous with smaller businesses. With something like Adobe, you can be pretty sure that when you buy Photoshop, you’ll always be able to activate it. One of the things that kept me from actually ever monetarily investing in Ulysses is that it is a small company requiring activation on their own equipment. If they go out of business, I lose my program unless I resort to illegal activity. So my question is this: If for some reason you “go out of business,” will something like eSellerate always work despite that, since it is hosted on their equipment? Or does it require that your account remain open? It is less about the loss of money, and more about the extended utility of the program. Of course, there is eSellerate itself to worry about, but they will probably last for many years, so it is more in the realm of Adobe.

I used to be fairly militant about the whole activation over the Internet thing, but I suppose I have softened over the years. I also used to be anti-anything not open source. :slight_smile: I suppose I am more adverse when Adobe does it, than when a small operation does it. There are very valid reasons for a shareware developer to use activation. As limiting as it can be for the consumer.

One question on that. The usage of the word “household.” I am not ashamed to say that when things get a little slow at the office, I write. :slight_smile: Will it be contrary to the license for me to have a copy installed at home and at work, if both are for my own personal use? Obviously, if I used Scrivener for business usage, another license would be required. If this sort of installation is fine with you, then something should be said legally to make concession for it. Where it gets tricky with work, is that 99% of us in the office do not actually own the computer we work on unless we are contractors or something. So that particular machine would not technically be a “household” machine. Have a look at TAO’s license wording for an example of something that works wherever the user works.

Trial Limitations:
I’ve never seen this implemented before, but it makes all kinds of sense to me. Volume limit the trial so that you can use 10 documents or so, whatever you decide there. You get full access to the application as long as you want to try it. However, here is the merge: The user tries to make an 11th document, a thing comes up that says the project is now in a limited feature mode. They can make as many documents as they want – but they cannot export, the clipboard does not leave the program (Scrivener is just too powerful! It is all too easy to Edit Scrivenings, select all, and plop your entire book into Mellel!), or print without a watermark. Best of both worlds. You can know what export looks like, no surprises; you can really get a feel for how the application operates with large amounts of data; but you cannot get any real work done until you buy it.

Time based trials are bad for you and the user. Most working people do not actually have time to really test something in a month. Inevitably, something comes up and you cannot get back to your trial until two months later. And for the developer, unless you use some kind of pseudo-activation, it is all to easy for someone to keep deleting their preferences every 30 days, and secret files never work. Nothing is secret on a UNIX computer.

Oh yes, and I second the negative on support limited trial. One of the first things I do when evaluating a program is write to support. If I get snubbed, that dramatically reduces my opinion of the software, no matter how good it is. When I gave Boswell a trial, I came across some issues and wrote to support. I got an extremely long and helpful response. I bought the program the next day. Plus, I think you are right about your own personality in this matter. You love to explain Scrivener and help people out. You’ll answer questions that have already been answered on the forum. Let that work in your favour. People considering getting the program will notice that and it will make them feel much more confident. Such a reputation gets spread around in blog responses, MacUpdate, and Versiontracker. Cutting yourself off for the purposes of a trial would be removing one of Scrivener’s big assets: You. I don’t mean it as flattery, I am being a cold hearted marketing queen here. Ha, okay maybe not entirely. But it is true that with small operations, a big part of the program is the person that made it.

I also don´t want to drive the price high but below 50 is more then cheap.

Ulysses costs 100 for far less functionality.
Copywrite 30

I think it should cost around 79.99
An a educational licence is 29.99

I think this is reasonable priced. Anybody how earns money with writing can afford the 79.99 because this software saves you hours, days, weeks, years.

For me the software pays back within the first day of usage.