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 ) 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 ). 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,