I’ll start by thanking Daniel for inviting me to document my ongoing shame and humiliation as I have a go at the world of shareware authoring. Daniel and I have been, until now, good friends and my abject failures may stir some sympathy in his black, corporate suit-wearing heart, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Just kidding, but actually I’ve realized that’s it very difficult to be a successful shareware author. I last looked at the market as a whole about 7 years ago when I worked for Sausage Software on the HotDog web editor and our whole business was basically one big shareware operation. You used to send your program off to CNET and Tucows and a couple of others, and hey-presto you’d done your marketing. At least that’s the way I remember seeing it – developers are notoriously blinkered to the point of borderline autism and I may be inventing some of these memories subconciously. But still, I remember it being a fairly small field.
While at Sausage Software I was asked to write a program for our tech-support staff to use; something to help them answer email more quickly. They wanted a human being composing the reply, or at least selecting the “right” answer to a customer’s query, but mousing around to .txt files on a network folder was too slow. “Put the answers in a searchable database.” was the spec. I went a little further and made the program become activated by a single keystroke, and paste the content into your email window with just one more keystroke.
They loved it ! As our virtual dotcom funds evaporated our tech support crew fell to just three or four people, but thanks to this program they were able to handle the same amount of email as they always had. After I left Sausage I forgot about it and went on with life, moving to America and generally losing one short-lived job after another….don’t worry, there’s a happy ending.
Shannon Scarborough, one of the last few tech support Sausages, contacted me and asked if I still had that program because she really needed it again in her new job. I told her I didn’t, but I’d be happy to write it again and see if I could sell it to other companies too. I was looking for an excuse to learn how to properly use data-aware components in Delphi anyway, and I’d always wanted to write a program that might provide me with an income stream without having to work too hard at it.
A few months later I gave her a prototype, hooked with a nice gentleman to help me with the marketing and ideas on design and what features to include and set off down the Happy Shareware Highway. I’ll continue writing here about what kind of decisions went into those steps, but I’ll give you a snapshot of the state of play today: downloads: 110. sales: 0 (zero..well, one guy in South Africa said he wanted to buy 30 licenses, but hasn’t replied to my last two emails). Website: up and running, new set of plans for world domination…..ready.