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Nov 97 MacTech Online

Volume Number: 13 (1997)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: MacTech Online

by Nicholas C. "nick.c" DeMello

Shareware: Software In A Bottle

There are three great myths in modern society. One concerns a man named Elvis, another involves a place known as Roswell, and the third is the idea that you can't make money writing shareware. I can't say much about the first two, but shareware is a powerful and effective marketing method. It isn't easy to make a living building shareware products, but many folks do. This month we're going to tour some online resources that you should explore if you intend to make money through shareware.

The Voice Of Experience

One of the first games I remember playing on the Macintosh was called Scarab of RA. It's not surprising that Rick Holzgrafe, the author of that classic shareware product, has something to say about making a great shareware product. Rick's shareware company (Semicolon Software) hosts eight pages of suggestions for aspiring shareware authors. If you're interested in creating shareware, you should read these pages.

Folks who move files to or from a Mac by FTP know who Peter Lewis is. The author of Anarchie and NetPresenz, Peter makes his living as a full time shareware author and few people have better insight into the shareware industry. Peter and Jeremy Nelson have two pages of practical advice for the new shareware author.

A fundamental and controversial issue of shareware authoring is deciding how to encourage your user into paying a shareware fee. While everyone was arguing their opinion on this issue, shareware author Colin Messitt conducted a case study. Colin released a single copy of a shareware program whose installer had a 50% of chance of creating either of two subtly different versions. One version was completely functional, but periodically reminded the user to register. The other version was hobbled in such a way that the user could explore the programs functionality, but not seriously make use of the program until it was registered. Colin found folks registered the hobbled version 5 times more frequently than they did the unrestricted version. Read the details of this study online at

Rick Holzgrafe's Successful Shareware Pages
Peter N Lewis & Jeremy Nelson on Writing Shareware for a Living
"Why do people register shareware?" by Colin Messitt

Support For The Shareware Author

Possibly the most impressive track record in shareware development belongs to Andrew Welch. For three years Andrew published shareware products under the aegis "Ambrosia." In November of 1992 he released the game Maelstrom, which won MacUser's 1993 Best Shareware Game award. Then, in August of 1993 Andrew founded Ambrosia Software, Inc. which has become one of the most successful Mac OS shareware companies to date. Today, Ambrosia not only offers a variety of award winning games (Chiral, Apeiron, and many more), but they offer the possibility of partnering their considerable experience and resources with new shareware authors and artists. Check out the Ambrosia "TechWorks" pages for the details . Kagi is a payment processing service, that allows any shareware author to enjoy the luxury of having their own registration department. For a modest percentage of your shareware fees, Kagi will supply you with a registration program (written by Peter Lewis) for distribution with your product. The program allows users to register your shareware electronically, through the mail, or via a web site (payment by US check, money order, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or cash). Kagi will handle all the registration issues then send you a single check and a detailed registration report each month. If you are at all serious about shareware, consider Kagi.

A number of shareware associations offer support to shareware authors. The most prominent of these, the Association of Shareware Professionals, also hosts a short FAQ about shareware distribution. If you do nothing else, read the ASP's answer to the question "What is shareware?"

Ambrosia's Invitation to Shareware Authors
The Association of Shareware Professionals
The Shareware FAQ, by Mitchell Friedman
The Elite Shareware Author's Group
The Shareware Authors Network

These and other links are available from the MacTech Online web pages


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