My eBook is PWYW

I wrote WordPress Multisite 101 and put it up online. Since Friday afternoon, I’ve had over 500 downloads, and 3.3% of people who downloaded have donated, averaging $9 a person. I had suggested $5. This is not what I would call a rousing success story in the world of self-publication, but it’s not an abject failure either. It’s basically pretty good, and it exceeded my expectations.

When I published, I said the book was free, or whatever, pay what you want (aka PWYW), $5 would be nice. And I released it under creative commons non-commercial, which means you can use it on your public website, you can put it on the WordPress Codex (something I’m working on, it’s just sorting out where in the codex to put it that stumps me sometimes). You can give it away when you have someone a site. You can edit it and put it in your classes. What you can’t do is sell it and make money off it.  Ads on your site is fine, people paying for your class or product where you give this away as a freebie is fine. Putting it in your for-sale book is not.

Why? Because the point wasn’t to make money, but to get the word out there. Here’s a book, where everything that’s scattered all over the web is compiled into one, nice, 40-odd page ebook, that you can use all you want. It gets my name out there as someone who knows her shit, and maybe you’ll want me to write for your site, or a book, or whatever. I expected to make, maybe $50 bucks. If you do the math, I’m closer to $150. But money wasn’t the point. It’s nice, but it’s not going to change my life.

What will change my life is practicing my craft. I’m a decent coder, but where I think I excel is breaking down this sort of thing to the masses. I don’t do well teaching someone who has no idea what a website is, but I do just fine taking the rookie who has made his first HTML site and wants to grow. I can help the self-taught who want to learn more. I don’t like, as much, helping the people who want you to hand them all the code.

I’ve gotten a lot of weird guff about it, though, which confused me. Here are the most stated comments:

“You’re doing it wrong”

Your mother. Oh fine, you want a serious answer to a stupid comment? What’s wrong about it? It works for me!

“You should have a popup to suggest people donate when they click the download link.”

If a site did that to me, I’d walk away. I’m of the opinion that most people pirate because it’s less annoying and more convenient. So instead of making it more annoying and less convenient, I went for what I’d like to see. And yes, I do donate back to people who make my life easier. Ask Andrea. I bought one of her plugins+ebook. Basically I won’t do to someone else something I find distasteful. Integrity? I haz it.

“The PWYW model is broken.”

And ‘traditional’ publishing isn’t? I have no idea if the Pay What You Want business model is sustainable. I do know that believing people will do the ‘right’ thing and pay isn’t realistic (a 3% pay rate isn’t livable). Were this something I did as an income, I’d be screwed and I know it. All jokes about starving artists aside, with this model, I no longer have to shackle myself to fighting pirates.

And having done a little research, I learned that the PWYW model works best in these three scenarios:

  1. When the consumer base is loyal. They have an idea of its value are willing to pay because the risk of it sucking is low.
  2. When there’s a lot of customized or niche services being provided.
  3. When you have to be different and stand out.

So with a WordPress themed eBook, I know I have #1. With Multisite, I’ve got #2. The third? Well, it’s not applicable really. Other people have done this.

“You’ll never make money.”

That wasn’t the point. It’s nice if I do, I wasn’t planning on winning the lottery. I’m making enough scratch to inspire me to write another one, since I’ve found there is a small need for this stuff. Everyone wins!

“You’re violating GPL!”

No. Code is GPL2 (it is, though there’s no code in the book). Text is not. The book is Creative Commons, just like this site.

“All this stuff is out there, on your site, and on Andrea’s, and the codex. Why should I pay?”

You shouldn’t. If you have all this stuff bookmarked, then obviously you don’t need this book. If you want it for a one-point reference, fine. If not, also fine. I happen to own a few ‘For Dummies’ quick reference books, not because I don’t know Unix, but because sometimes it’s easier to get a reminder than search my memory. Part of being smart is knowing where to look.

I think the real comment there is ‘All you did was collect a lot of information that’s already out there. That’s not writing.’

Honey, go pick up any ‘how to’ or ‘for dummies’ book. That’s exactly what writing is. Collecting information, writing about it in a complete and coherent way, making it available. That’s all ‘how to’ books ever are, have been or will be. Everything in ‘WordPress for Dummies’ can be found out there too. So why do people want these books?

Because it’s easier  to have the information collected for you. That’s all, and that’s what people are paying for.

At the end of the day, the only thing I wish I could do differently is implement something like Akismet’s ‘worth’ slider. As you slide the little bar left and right, it changes the amount you donate and the smiley face. Then below it has a link for credit cards or paypal.

If I could have this and hook it to Paypal and WePay, I’d be a happy camper! That’s something that, IMO, would inspire more people to donate. Of course, that would mean taking transactions via my site, which is complex. If there was a ‘pass through’ to Paypal, that would rock.

So go take my book, if you’re into WordPress and want to get started with Multisite. Take it if you made a Multisite for a client. Take it. Pay what you want. I don’t care as much as you’d think I might. Oh and what will I do with the money? Pay bills, what else?