Running Wizard’s Tower is proving interesting and educational in a number of ways. Unsurprisingly, I have discovered that I am not a very good salesperson. Making stuff is no problem. Persuading people to part with money is quite another. Some of that is personal. A Welsh Methodist upbringing drums into you that asking for money for anything except charity is a bad thing to do. And for very obvious reasons of personal history my self esteem is not exactly stellar. However, there are also techniques to be learned, and that’s interesting in a different way.
One observation that I would cautiously advance is that the behavior of human beings en masse is very different from their stated individual behavior on the Internet. No matter how much people may rail against the evils of commercialism, much of it works. I suspect, for example, that it is much easier to sell things if you price them at a ridiculously high mark-up and then offer periodic massive sales than if you were to price them closer to cost, no matter how “evil” such behavior might seem.
The other thing I am learning is that there are all sorts of delicate balancing acts to be negotiated between reminding people to buy and not being irritating. I’m currently erring on the side of caution, I think. Of course it may simply be that what I’m doing is utter rubbish and no one wants to pay for it, but that way lies surrender and I’m not prepared to give up on life just yet.
Here’s an interesting concrete example. I tend to think that it is better to ask for money in return for something than to ask for money for nothing. Hence I’d prefer to have people buy ebook editions of Salon Futura than donate money. But that falls down in a couple of ways. Firstly many of you don’t have ebook readers, and while you can read epubs on a PC, you might as well read the website. Secondly it requires you to actually go to the store and make a purchase. That’s work. It is easier to persuade people to pay money if you make it easier for them to do so.
(This, incidentally, is one reason why most people will still buy their Kindle books from Amazon, rather than from independent retailers like me, even though the Amazon ones are DRMed and mine are not. Buying through the Kindle shop is easier, because the book downloads automatically.)
So here’s a question for you. If I were to offer a £1.49 monthly subscription to Salon Futura, via PayPal with automatic billing, would any of you sign up? It is cheap — only £1.49/month — and easy — sign up once and not have to worry again. Of course you wouldn’t have to do it — the magazine will still be available for free online. But it would help pay the bills if enough people do it.
If you don’t want to comment about it here, but would be happy to pay, email me. I want to get a good sense of whether this is worth doing before offering it. Thanks!