3000% Increase in Sales

apankrat's picture

In the light of this thread I just remembered this piece of news from a year ago - a half-price sale of a game resulted in 3000% increase in sales.

* 10% sale = 35% increase in sales (real dollars, not units shipped)
* 25% sale = 245% increase in sales
* 50% sale = 320% increase in sales
* 75% sale = 1470% increase in sales

Some strings attached of course, not exactly the same product type, but still I suspect that those of you guys open to licensing experiments may find it quite interesting.

blank's picture

Discounts do result in extra font sales, but the numbers are very different from first-part discounts on Steam, and the Steam model is largely irrelevant in comparison to fonts. This is because:
• There are literally tens of millions of people capable of buying and playing games using a service like steam. The number of graphic designers in a position to actually buy fonts is in the tens-of-thousands. So there’s a hard limit in how big a font sales spike can be.
• Because the market for fonts is so much smaller advertising budgets are also much smaller. Valve spends millions of dollars to promote its games. No type designer can do that—most type designers are making less money in a year than Valve spends advertising a single game. When Valve has a sale thousands of people are waiting for it. Not many people are just waiting for that one font to go on sale.
• Games are inexpensive entertainment items and there is a constant market for them as impulse buys. Even discounted, fonts are professional tools and usually purchased only as needed. This is why fonts discounts happen mostly during August and December when the design market slows down. Discounts during the rest of the year just eat away at profits on sales that would occur anyway.
• Discounts should be irrelevant to serious designers as fonts are professional tools and their cost should be passed along to clients. Designers with serious fonts budgets aren’t pikers working for clients who nickel-and-dime everything. Constantly experimenting with pricing and promotions to try and dredge up some extra sales from the bottom of the barrel eats up time that could be spent drawing more fonts to sell to serious designers.

apankrat's picture

Deep discounts is a way to scoop out all fence-sitters and everyone one else on a tight budget who is interested in a product. You seem to be sweeping these people aside and focusing exclusively on "serious designers". That's your choice.

dezcom's picture

There are not that many "fence sitters" and many of them are not interested in the work that goes into making a respectable font. Even if you achieved 100% of the type market with a 75% price cut, you would be nowhere near a 1470% increase in sales.

apankrat's picture

Chris, I can tell you that I have a wish list of about 20 typefaces at the moment. And even though I don't need any of them I would gladly buy a half of the list if it went on a 50% sale.

With regards to "not that many fence sitters" - if you have actual numbers, I would be very interested to look at them. Otherwise the only way to gauge them is to try.

Also, keep in mind that this is a short once-a-long-while event. Deep discounts cannot be permanent, because that will just kill the regular sales.

(edit) PS. I am not advocating this approach by any means. It may or may not work. It may or may not be a lot of effort for too little benefit. But the reason I posted this in the first place was that I can see this working on me. I would buy some typefaces that I would have not ever purchased otherwise.

andreas's picture

Buy 10 typefaces for 100% and make you and the designers happy.

Don McCahill's picture


As others have mentioned, the type craving market is small, and while you might have a list of 10 fonts, 99.99% of the world does not.

I used to sell newspaper advertising. It bothered me when people would put an ad in the paper, and then complain that it didn't boost sales. I tried to impress on them that ads work best when the message they have is noteworthy, like a significant sales deal.

I think the other thing works just as well. You can cut prices 75%, but there will be no reaction unless people are made aware of the discount, and it is something that is in demand. The problem is, as others have said, that fonts are not heavily advertised.

It would be interesting if one of the font retailers like FontShop or MyFonts was to run a weekly sale. I suspect that it would result in increased sales. The big question would be: how much?

blank's picture

Chris, I can tell you that I have a wish list of about 20 typefaces at the moment.

So use them in 20 designs and charge them to your clients.

aluminum's picture

I don't buy fonts as often as I'd like to primarily because I do mostly web stuff these days. But I have made impulse purchases over the last couple of years...one being James' Recovery (it was at an easy 'impulse buy' price point) and several from Dino's DSType when they had a large sale. Granted, DSType's wares were getting a lot of awareness before the sale, which probably helped.

So, anyways, I am but one fence sitter.

I think the 'non piker serious client' designer is a valid market just as much as the 'freelancer who has an eye on a few faces just because they really like them' market. I think one can market to both using the occasional discount model. Designer A needs a face when they need it. They have the budget to buy it at that point. Designer B doesn't need a particular face, but would like to have it if/when they see a discount.

It's sort of like airfare. M-F the airlines charge what they want as most business travelers will pay whatever because they have to get from point a to point b. Tourists can get a discount by flying weekends and waiting for that occasional discount on a non-full flight.

apankrat's picture

So use them in 20 designs and charge them to your clients.

Unfortunately that's not an option. I am my own client.


It would be interesting if one of the font retailers like FontShop or MyFonts was to run a weekly sale. I suspect that it would result in increased sales. The big question would be: how much?

I assumed that MyFonts allowed for setting font discounts already, and I further assumed that pretty much every reasonably active foundry has a Twitter/Facebook/etc account. If they are in fact going to run a 3 day 50% sale event, the news will spread. The deeper the discount, the more the viral effect is going to be.

I do however agree that it is likely to work much better for the pricier fonts that are already well-marketed and that are in demand.

Nick Shinn's picture

I try to strike a balance between designing/making fonts, and marketing them.
With a little time left over for Typophile, which I find more interesting than Twitter or Facebook.
My business philosophy does not include discounting, for various reasons.

oldnick's picture

It would be interesting if one of the font retailers like FontShop or MyFonts was to run a weekly sale. I suspect that it would result in increased sales. The big question would be: how much?

A few months back, MyFonts sent out a newsletter promoting ten fonts under ten dollars each—not a sale, simply the regular retail price. Two of my $7.95 fonts were among the ten spotlighted. The result? For me, over $5,000 in gross sales for one week...

Nick Shinn's picture

Well, I wish they had included one of my fonts!
Paradigm Standard sells for $9, but not a lot of interest in it -- I conclude that it would have been better to make it a freebie, with the upgrade to the Pro version being the money-maker. Perhaps I don't publicize it enough.

oldnick's picture


Don't be shy: let the folks at MyFonts know about this hidden gem. They were VERY pleased with the overall results of the promotion, and are likely to repeat it.

blank's picture

A few months back, MyFonts sent out a newsletter promoting ten fonts under ten dollars each…

Maybe we should lobby MyFonts to let us plan our discounts far in advance to all coincide with a monthly discounts newsletter. The MyFonts mailing list is probably a much better option than hoping word will spread through designers, because MyFonts will hit a LOT of non-designers. I would be more interested in discounting with some serious promotion behind it.

aluminum's picture

"because MyFonts will hit a LOT of non-designers"

Maybe worthy of a separate thread, but out of curiosity, any idea how much of one's fonts that are sold go to working professional graphic/media designers vs. other fields?

evanbrog's picture

I'm a freelancer, for the moment, anyway, with a list of about 20 fonts I'ld like to buy for myself. I graduated 2 years ago, and perhaps unlike a lot of people out there my age, I DON'T think everything on the Internet should be free. But considering the current job market and my all around poorness, a good enough discount would probably be the tipping point to me buying a font that I just want to have. Some are simply way to expensive and a discount isn't going to help, but others...

Btw Shinn you'll be pleased to know your Eunoia Reg. & Round are on my list.

apankrat's picture

Here's another take on the same idea - http://www.humblebundle.com - this one with the real-time numbers.

Oh, and at least two of these games - Braid and Machinarium - are really really good. Do check them out :)

quadibloc's picture

Who purchases typefaces?

People who buy videogames buy them with their own money. So a discount makes a big difference to them, and impulse purchases are a normal phenomenon in that market - because a game is something one can have a lot of fun with.

When it comes to typefaces, the way I see it, the market is broken down into a number of segments.

One group is ordinary computer users who would like to have a selection of typefaces to use on their laser printer - other than the limited number that comes with their operating system, or the somewhat greater number that comes with Microsoft Office.

If they purchase Corel Draw, or their computer came with Corel Office, their font requirements would mostly be met, because they would have professional versions of pretty well all the old standbys - Garamond, Baskerville, Palatino, Optima, Cooper Black, Hobo, Papyrus - and would not see a need to obtain more.

The people who would consider spending even $20, never mind $200, for a typeface like Williams Caslon, Starling, Times Ten, Goodchild or even Stone... work for art departments and the like. They're not spending their own money, and they are purchasing typefaces for the specific requirements of a job. Yes, there is a possibility of buying a few typefaces on spec if it's anticipated they'll be useful multiple times in future work, adding to its perceived quality - but price elasticity is still far lower in this kind of market.

This situation may change in future, if typefaces somehow become perceived as more of a fun thing to play with. For example, I could see more ordinary people being in the market for fonts if they were:

a) more likely to be licensed for, and
b) easier to be used in

web pages.

Thus, I think that font foundries are acting soundly by not perceiving the likely results of discounts to be anything like those which would apply in the video game field.

This is not to say that they're necessarily selling an awful lot at high prices either; it seems to me that there are a lot of commercial typefaces out there, only a limited portion of which will ever achieve any significant success. But since there are many typefoundries that appear to be thriving businesses, throwing up their hands and quitting the business doesn't appear to be the necessary solution. They're managing, and they will monitor market conditions and respond to them with due caution.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

You a painter? You buy paint. You a designer? You buy fonts.
You a poor painter? Make your own paint out of dirt and stuff. You a poor designer? Change careers. Or make your own fonts.

tmac's picture

"You a poor designer? Change careers."

There would hardly be anyone left.

blank's picture

There would hardly be anyone left.

I’m pretty sure there would be a lot of well-off people left if we could chase off all the people who work for table scraps. Ann Landers used to say that people can only take advantage of you if you let them, and designers should think about that when the clients are trying to nickel and dime every job down to a tiny sliver of a margin.

apankrat's picture

Thus, I think that font foundries are acting soundly by not perceiving the likely results of discounts to be anything like those which would apply in the video game field.

If I may direct you to my own reply to James back in March.

RadioB's picture

can someone send me a message if DTL fonts ever go on sale:>

in my very humble opinion I don't think fonts should go on sale

tmac's picture

James, you are right.

I'm sometimes guilty of eating table scraps, yet I do manage to purchase fonts. And I don't always buy them for a specific job. For example Actium: I keep going back and looking at it and my consumerist impulses grow in proportion to my available credit.

Renaissance Man's picture

When I saw LiebeErika in this thread (http://typophile.com/node/75530), I really liked it but didn't buy it.

When I saw LiebeErika @ 25% off, quite by chance, I bought it.

I suggested a while ago that MyFonts put on sale the same fonts featured in their monthly newsletter.

apankrat's picture


A highly recommended read if you are trying to decide between $5 and $45 per weight.

hrant's picture

{To Follow}

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

As to selling our own work, I would just like to say that people will value cheap things cheaply, and expensive things expensively.

There are exceptions to this rule of course, but in general it holds up.

zachhinkle's picture

I think the way some of us think about the value and distribution of fonts is a bit draconian.

We all agree that people's hard work is valuable, and that good fonts are worth money. That isn't debatable.

What Steam does for videogames is outstanding. Steam sells millions of games in an age of piracy and penny pinching. People happily spend their hard earned money on games because the games are good and the prices are amazing. Steam's christmas sale, for example, had games from 60-90% off. Good games too. I personally purchased dozens of games that I haven't even played yet just for the fact that they were great games and the prices would never be cheaper.

Do video games take a lot of time, talent, and resources to create? Yes. Are good videogames worth money? Yes. Are the distributors, creators, developers, or game community the lesser for selling their games at a heavy discount? Absolutely not.

Perhaps a great font like Bembo isn't something I would purchase. I have other nice serifs that do a fine job. Now, if the Bembo family went on say for say, $20 I would be extremely likely to purchase it because it becomes an incredible value for me.

Discounted sales on fonts would be huge and I support the idea 100%.

hrant's picture

Good observations and points.

To me the main problem with discounting is people
come to expect it, and wait for it. It's extremely hard
to ever bring your prices back up (if you ever want to).


kentlew's picture

Discounting, as a business strategy, is always a numbers game. Is the decrease in margin made up for by the increase in volume?

This is never a simple question, except in hindsight.

dezcom's picture

The issue is the maximum size of the total market. Example:

Item 1: Toilet paper; Max market: 99% of worlds population

Item 2: Average Font; Max market: 0.001% of worlds population

Item 3: Typical Computer Game; Max market: 15% of worlds population

I am not saying my figures are very accurate, I am just saying the orders of magnitude is reasonably close.

eliason's picture

So maybe the right strategy is to repurpose some of my test specimens as toilet paper!

apankrat's picture

Stop with Stream, just stop. Forget about the games. Don't anchor there, look at a larger picture.

There are different categories of buyers, especially for such a niche product as fonts. If you are pricing your fonts too high, you are aiming at agencies and missing out on individuals. If you are pricing your fonts too low, you are getting to the "mass market", but commoditizing the font, making it less appealing to the larger agencies. Why you guys are so resistant to the idea of scooping up low-budget buyers once a year with a deep discount sale (not 5-15%, but 50%... something that would make an impulsive purchase an absolute no-brainer) - that frankly I don't understand. $60 per weight should get you a flow of well-budgeted customers, and $5/weight would get you a burst of those who are ready to pay you less, but pay no less.

Also, this is an excellent opportunity to develop a mailing-list (or Twitter, or Facebook) following that can be further used to market new designs and what nots. Just put a small plug on a website saying "we have a deep discount sale once a year, sign up if interested". Guess how many of those who really like the font, but find it too pricey will not sign up? A rhetorical question.

hrant's picture

When FontFont released Ernestine* in mid-December they offered
it at 75% off for two weeks. From what I can tell that was the first
time they tried this. I'm not permitted to share the numbers, but
apparently FF was happy with the results. Personally I'm waiting
for the 2012-Q1 numbers to see whether getting the publicity and
an established base out there has had a domino effect (although it
might still be too early). In any case, to me it's much better to offer
a steep discount either at the very beginning of a typeface's life or
after it flatlines; the last thing you want is customers watching and
waiting for discounts...

* http://ernestinefont.com/


dezcom's picture

It seems to me that there are about 4 kinds of type buyers:

1. The big guys who buy lots of seats and often custom fonts. They need more exclusivity to ensure brand imprint. They need broad worldwide language support and numerous weights along with support and back up. They frequently work with established houses that can come to them with options, do testing, and offer after sales service.

2. Large publishers or advertising groups who may need some exclusivity but for a shorter time span and perhaps not quite in the custom market. but need a bit of hand-holding. Need good language support but perhaps only one script.

3. Graphic designers, freelancers, smaller publishing shops, who need very little supplier input but have much price negotiation with their own clients. They may not need exclusivity but they can make multiple uses out of one purchase for work after the initial use of the type. Some students edge in to this area who will shortly carry their catalogue of type to freelance usage. This group needs a broad range of things but not always. They may need display faces with limited weights but book faces with a broader spectrum of choices. They don't expect to pay for after purchase service but need rock-solid products which just plain work as expected. Reasonable price but with expectations for multiple use drive them but mostly, their client's needs.

4. One timers, hobbyists, scrap bookers and some students who just like the stuff but may never be in a position to make money from it. These folks have limited language requirement and limited weight usage. They buy on a whim and assume type should be almost free. They make no money from type, it is more recreational for them. Quality is often not recognized by this group and the certainly make use of free type. They are the least technically savvy and may not even be sure how to load a font and determine if it is working properly. Cheap price and high novelty drive them.

Does one price fit all? No... But neither does value and quality and service.

If you want to make money on volume, design type for group 4. Make it cheap and don't dwell on it much. Think of it as a consumable with little longevity and no sense of quality. Release very often and batch bunches of your older faded stock with slash/cut sales. You don't need a sales force or much of a craftsman's sense of pride to sell here.

For number one, big guys, you need a core of operations that can handle these clients--in other words an investment in staff, and capital as well as a good base of connections and clients who "know you". You can make money here too but you need a big investment to do well. The work must be quality work but not too leading edge to appeal to the market. This is a collaborative approach. You need to understand business and be able to work with different sets of people. This is not the place for someone who just wants to design nice type. This is a place for a business head and a process thinker who has access to all the other pieces of the puzzle.

The other two groups are tougher to pin down because boundaries get fuzzy quickly. These guys want great design because that is what they assume they do. They need a mix of both innovative and workhorse type. They need to be able to more than cover type costs with usage but do not have deep pockets. They prize quality highly but can't afford boutique prices.

Which is the most lucrative market? Depends on who you are as supplier. Can you deliver the goods that are needed? Can you support the client segment? do you have access to the client segment in a usable way? What satisfies you? in the "make money vs design great type for your own sense of pride" continuum. You have to know who you are and what motivates you as well as who your market is and what motivates them.

Align yourself with the market that fits you. Are you a big profit guy or a "love of craft guy"? You need to go for the mix that you can live with as a person and live on as a human being. Mix and match if that is you but realize that every venture has some sort of price for some sort of reward. The price and reward can be either monetary or pride, whatever floats your boat. Just be able to accept what you wish and work for with all of its ramifications.

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