Pay What You Want – An Updated Analysis

Here’s an update I promised a few months ago when I wrote my first post about how my DMs Guild products were fairing. That article generated a lot of interest and questions about how the DMs Guild works and how my pay what you want products were faring since. I figured this was a good time to once again lift the curtain and share my sales information with you.

If you want to find out why many of my products are pay what you want, read that previous post. The TL;DR version is that it’s material I first released on the blog before the DMs Guild or fifth edition Open Gaming License was in effect. I promised that material would always be available for free and I intend to keep that promise.

The Numbers

First here’s a look at the total number of times my DMs Guild products have been purchased including free and paid downloads.

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Here’s just the paid downloads.

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Note: Tarokka Expansion is a paid product only and a recent release. Greater & Elder Elementals began as pay what you want and is now a free product.

It’s no surprise (especially if you read the previous post) that most people choose to pay nothing for the product given the choice. You can see just how huge the difference is on the charts. You can also see that people who do pay for my products generally pay less than $2 no matter the content or size of the product.

Best Seller Metals

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In my last post I wrote about best seller metals on the DMs Guild and I now have a little more information about that after conferring with some other people who sell products on the DMs Guild. (Thanks, David Gibson!) The metals are based on the number of paid sales a product has. As best I can tell, products achieve medals after making around the following number of sales:

  • Copper. 50 paid sales
  • Silver. 100 paid sales
  • Electrum. 260 paid sales
  • Gold. 525 paid sales
  • Platinum. I have yet to achieve this metal, but I’d guess somewhere around 1050 paid sales or more

Don’t freak if your product has the number of sales it needs to achieve a metal, but hasn’t received it yet. It seems the DMs Guild takes a day or so to update metals and sales rankings for products.

At the moment I have metals for 15 New Backgrounds (Gold), 50 New Magic Items (Gold), 20 New Traps (Silver), and Catastrophic Dragons (Copper).

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What Does Well?

As you can see from my sales, the platinum best sellers above, and the list of the 40 current top sellers products that are good for both dungeon masters and players sell best. New classes, archetypes, races, and feats do very well. My own top sellers are magic items and backgrounds. Products that speed up play, like spell cards, cheat sheets, lists of names, and maps, also sell.

The occasional adventure (usually if it’s written by someone with a little name recognition) gets up there but there are many well written adventures on the guild that get outsold by the stuff that’s good for players and DMs.

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Not shown on the list above are the Adventurers League adventures that also do very well. Of the 30 gold best sellers on the DMs Guild, 17 are Adventurers League adventures. It definitely pays to have the support of organized play.

What Do People Pay For?

My own experience is really interesting as far as what people pay for. 50 New Magic Items is far and away my top purchased products. It’s got almost 400 more than the next best seller, 15 New Backgrounds. Yet 50 New Magic Items only has 17 more paid sales and actually made $40 less in total sales than 15 New Backgrounds. I can’t say why my top seller isn’t my top money-maker. Maybe it’s because people think it takes less effort to design 50 magic items than it does 15 backgrounds, but that’s not true (and these products are both more than just what’s in the title). 50 New Magic Items is 29 pages and 16,208 words and people who paid for it paid $1.08 on average. 15 New Backgrounds is 19 pages and 12,494 words and people who paid for it paid $1.18 on average.

After that people paid for 20 New Traps, probably because the Dungeon Master’s Guide is so light on traps. People paid $0.82 on average for the 8 page, 4,492 word product.

As you can see, even with two gold best sellers, I’ve made less than $1000 total. My work on the DMs Guild has garnered me way less than $0.01 a word. A lot of this is work I had ready to go on this blog that I had done for free, so I’m happy to have anything for it but just remember that you’re not going to break the bank with pay what you want products on the site.

What Does Wizards of the Coast Like?

There is one other factor I want to talk about related to Wizards of the Coast. Every other month they highlight a few DMs Guild’s product in their Unearthed Arcana Dungeon Master’s Guild Preview. These articles seem to give people a nice boost in sales. The D&D team appears to like highlighting very creative, out-of-the-box products in these articles, like Blood Magic and Darker Gifts. So get out there, get creative, and get writing!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!