Selling and distributing fonts in sub-sets_Pros & Cons

Alex KaczunAlex Kaczun Posts: 163
edited October 2012 in Type Business
I've recently been contacted by David Jones, FontSlice, about selling my font library through his online startup "font—sub-setting glyphs" web site. I must admit, the concept sounds intriguing, but I cannot help feeling uneasy about joining the bandwagon on this. I would be very interested to hear everyones opinion on this topic before I entertain the idea.

His web site link is:



  • There was a somewhat lengthy discussion about this on Typophile a while back: (are there rules about linking to typophile here?)
  • RalfRalf Posts: 170
    Now that there is Skyfonts by the biggest player in the font business, slicing the usage time sounds so much more convincing than slicing the fonts itself.
    There might be a small but profitable niche for FontSlice and the foundries who take part in this service, but I don't think it will really ever kick off like they hope. (I remember the claim »becoming the new MyFonts« in that Typophile discussion)
  • They also said they would be the "iTunes of Type"
  • @Jackson, thanks for the heads-up on the 'typophile' discussion on this topic already. I've been avoiding that forum lately, for obvious reasons. I read the entire link. Interesting, to say the least. Everyone bought up some good pros and cons concerning the matter. I'm still not convinced, or sold, on this new model. The jury is still out on this one.
    @Ralf, very good point indeed! I agree completely. Renting fonts or using fonts on a time basis is a much better approach to this entire thing. Much more sensible than all these 'sub-set fonts' floating around.
    I'm going to sleep on this one for awhile longer. Interesting concept, but I just do not see it bringing in substantial additional revenue, just more confusion from the 'users' point of view.
    Thanks guys.
  • David Jones wrote "Our goal is to make high-quality commercial fonts more accessible to the average consumer."

    My initial thoughts about his model when I first read it is that I would not be interested. I think he is opening up a can of support worms for someone if he is targeting the "average consumer" who is used to buying a CD with 1,000 fonts on it for $9.99 including shipping.

    I would much rather sell 50 complete fonts at regular price to professionals than sell 5000 parts and pieces of fonts at some deep discount to an "average consumer" who is only interested in how cheap they can get it for.

    So my final thought on the subject is: I realize that things do change and at some point in time I might consider it, but for now the answer is "no".
  • Yes George, I agree completely. Thank you for your insight. You just made up my mind as well. The jury is back—it's a no go!

    But, I think I will start to offer different versions of my font families going forward. I've been starting to make 'Pro' fonts with 500+ glyphs for the same selling price as my previous 256 character sets. It sure takes a lot longer to make these professional extended fonts, and tedious to say the least. So, a less expensive sale price for 256 versus 500+ and extended language support. I'm thinking $19 for basis version versus $39 for the 'Pro' version. Maybe worth the effort to sell fonts to the low-end 'user' and other markets simultaneously. Give everyone a better choice on budget restraints.
  • I think the real problem here is that FontSlice doesn’t seem to have numbers to back up the business model. If a thousand designers in the USA and Western Europe were polled and said they often don’t buy fonts for use on a small job, but 75% would do it if they could pay by the letter, there might be something to this. But without data to back it up type designers are gambling, and if we lose we could see a lot of one-off sales lost when people pay for three words and not one font.

    I would be much more interested if FontSlice had rights-managed photography style pricing. It would be great to know that if Warner Books slaps a font on the cover of a J. K. Rowling novel I’ll get a big fat check that might cover the cost of a risky type design.
    So, a less expensive sale price for 256 versus 500+ and extended language support. I'm thinking $19 for basis version versus $39 for the 'Pro' version.
    Nick Shinn tried this, and IIRC, nobody even bought the inexpensive versions. If you’re going to design extended character sets in display fonts, do it because you love doing it. There really isn’t much of a market for selling fonts in Eastern and Central Europe.
  • Good point(s), James. Good to know. I love making typefaces. That's why I made a commitment going forward to address as many other languages as possible without spending an eternity making a font. Your point is well made. I will continue to make the extended character sets (for a standard price) because of my love for the business. Thanks.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,059
    edited October 2012
    It was $9 for an extended Latin font, and $59 for the full-featured version.
    However, I think the greatest impediment was the naming: if you search for Paradigm at MyFonts, you find the $9 version, and don’t realize what a deal it is, because there is no mention of the $59 Paradigm Pro version.

    I have the same problem there with Beaufort and Handsome—I suspect I am losing sales of their Pro versions to the basic version. Also, as they are listed as separate families, there is less likelihood of Beaufort in general making the Bestseller list there, which misses out on the publicity boost that gives to sales.

    It might be better to make some weights free, but I don’t go there, and generally keep the prices quite high, which reinforces my image as a quality brand.

    In the long run, if you’re going to the trouble of making large OpenType fonts, in families, with lots of language support and features, then I think it makes sense to target the high-end market with premium pricing.

    It’s also easy to make fewer fonts. However, the many-options strategy seems to work for FontFont.
  • Nick Shinn tried this, and IIRC, nobody even bought the inexpensive versions.
    It's only one example but it should tell us something about a "consumer" market.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,601
    edited October 2012
    Nick, I believe it would be possible to group your pro and non-pro fonts under one family on MyFonts, thereby displaying them all on one page and in whatever order you want. It's just a matter of how you fill in your package data on the font submission spreadsheet.
  • @It might be better to make some weights free, but I don’t go there,...
    I have only given away (2) free fonts in my Contax Sans family—reg & Italic. I thought this might work out to be a good marketing strategy. It seems to work for some foundries. But, I certainly have not seen the results I was hoping for.
    I do not think I will be trying this again, any time soon.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,059
    Strangely enough, someone just licensed one of my $9 fonts today!
    Thanks Mark, I will look into that.
    However, the reason they are separate families at MyFonts is so that the Pro upgrade could be treated as a new release, and hence given promotion.
    The solution is to delete the old versions, which I didn't do with Beaufort and Handsome.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,337
    For something thats never been done before, a lot of people sound so certain that its going fail. I don't think the ways fonts are sold are necessarily headed towards a steady state universe with only one or two options. The more ways there are to deliver fonts to people who need them, the less need there is for people to use illicit channels I like this particular system because it appeals to younger or more tightly budgeted designers. If someone's doing a logo for $120, a $30, kiloglyph font which they're only going to use once may not be as appealing an option as buying a few letters. It's definitely not the way all fonts will be sold. Charging people more based an how often a font is displayed makes sense in some cases but it doesn't make sense in all cases.

    Another thing I like about this system us that it feels more fair to me. Decking fonts out to support several languages is an added expense but I don't think the customer who only needs 5 letters for a poster should have to foot the bill.

    I'm not expecting a windfall from this but it took me less than an hour to sign up and package my fonts for release. It cost me nothing and maybe I can access a new type of customer. It's not really the kind of deal I did a lot of hand wringing over. It's never been done before and that was enough of a reason for me to try it.
  • The reason I don't like FontSlice is that I don't like the idea of having an infinite number of incompatible versions of a desktop font out there, given the likely need for document interchange and the like.

    Slicing by duration of usage instead of by glyph seems like a better solution to me, although technically more difficult to implement.
  • @Ray_typodermic
    I do not wish FontSlice nor David Jones any ill-will, nor do I want them to fail. I like new ideas and new ways of doing business. I wish them all luck. Initially, I thought this might be a good idea. But, now, after hearing some of the 'pros&cons', I still feel some trepidation about this model for selling 'slices' of fonts.
    As others have pointed out, renting fonts is a better overall model. If someone is on a budget this certainly is the way to go. But, all these derivative variations of 'incomplete-fonts' floating around out there is disturbing. Feels like something may break somewhere along the way. Furthermore, it just feels like we are further 'cheapening' our products somehow. You know, I worked in the graphic arts industry and advertising for many years. Agencies and art directors never have any issues with purchasing a photo or image for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Yet, these same people feel that a $20 or $30 font will blow their budgets. I'm sorry, this is just wrong thinking. And all these other people, who want to spend $1.99 for an entire CD of hundreds of fonts or buy a few letters for a logo or a headline, well, that's just a bit strange. Is anyone out there selling or purchasing pieces of art images? Sorry, but it just seems like everyone today is trying to somehow make another 'buck' off 'this' or 'that'. Nothing wrong with that, but really, why not just make a good product and sell it as that. If someone likes what you have created, has a use for it, they will buy it. My fonts are like my 'children', I'm not splitting them up. It's 'all' or 'nothing'.
    Ray, I wish you much success. Let us know if it works out for you. I think everyone here will be watching closely to see what develops further. Good luck.
  • Anyone trying to expand the market for typefaces is doing the Lord's work, so I wish success to FontSlice and all who sail on her. But I hope they change over to Photo-Lettering's model. Selling little scraps of fonts, each of which must be loaded and managed, each with an ambiguous filename, each of which must be scraped out of half a dozen font caches if it needs to be superseded, is a brutally inelegant approach, and one which seems bound to cause trouble down the line. Just provide the words or headlines as vector art, the way P-L do. To an old typositor user like me, that makes perfect sense, and it's clean and simple in technical terms.

    Is there anyone here, btw, who objects to Photo-Lettering's approach, and thinks it somehow cheapens what we do? I've never heard anyone saying so.
  • each of which must be scraped out of half a dozen font caches if it needs to be superseded, is a brutally inelegant approach, and one which seems bound to cause trouble down the line.
    I hadn’t even thought about that side of it. They are going to spend a lot on tech support just to tell people to flush caches and reboot.
  • I and others brought the caching issue to their attention back when that Typophile thread started. I wonder if they've done anything to address it.
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