Your opinion on super heavy discounts on MyFonts.

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  • You got it. Mostly twitter until recently. Now it's mostly direct traffic or Google searches for free copies of the fonts.
  • James Puckett
    James Puckett Posts: 1,978
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    Now it's mostly direct traffic or Google searches for free copies of the fonts.
    I bet I could get more site traffic if I use the word “torrent” in all of my font page descriptions.
  • [Deleted User]
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    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Deleted Account
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    "...you want the attention of everybody else a PDF isn’t a great way to do it."

    Really? When html can handle large font families, OT, including kerning, contextual subs and present a consistent page with responsive resolution across all browsers and devices without hosting 32 files per font, let me know. ;)
  • Adam Twardoch
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    Hello all,

    I’d like to post one thing as clarification and as a reminder: at MyFonts, it’s the foundries (or in case of one-man foundries, the actual designers) who set the pricing and the discounts.

    MyFonts does act as a regulator, a guardian of sorts — correcting potential mistakes, plus making sure that the system isn’t abused or that the customers aren’t mislead by false promises.

    So when, occasionally, a foundry submits a graphical poster which says one thing about the discount but the actual promotion is, typically by mistake, set up to do something else — MyFonts asks the foundry to correct the information.

    Also, to make sure that “permanent discounts” aren’t making the actual list price a fictional number, MyFonts imposes some limits: a promo may not last for more than 45 days, and another promo for the same font may not start within 45 days of the end of a previous promo. In addition, changes to the list price aren’t permitted within 45 days following a promotion. These rules ensure that fonts are sold at the list price for at least 50% of the time.

    Other than that, MyFonts does not influence the pricing strategies of the foundries. It’s their business risk, their business strategies.

    I personally think this is very exciting. I view it as an open marketplace to try out different ideas. I don’t think there is “one single answer” to whether a certain pricing strategy “works” or “doesn’t work”, just like there is no single answer to which design strategy works. With design, some foundries are consistent to their own style while others try to appeal to popular trends and current typographic fashion. With pricing, some foundries stick to consistent pricing throughout, while others work intensely with promotions and discounts. And, as usually happens in business of any kind, all of these decisions work well for some and don’t work well for others.

    More fonts sold to more customers is good news to both MyFonts and the foundries, so I’m happy to see that there is discussion going on about this!

    Best,
    Adam
  • Craig Eliason
    Craig Eliason Posts: 1,411
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    Other than that, MyFonts does not influence the pricing strategies of the foundries
    I appreciate that you mean "influence" in the sense of directly pushing pricing on foundries, but MyFonts surely recognizes that the structure they've set up for inclusion in the newsletter influences foundry strategies strongly, as Jackson mentioned. Whether it's sound or not, the "word on the streets" is that the path to success on the site comes from deep introductory discounts to make it to the newsletter. With the structural incentives in place, I don't think that's going away.
    That said, there's clear benefits as well as these costs to the hot-new-fonts setup. I don't have a better solution to suggest. And I appreciate that MyFonts also features a text font feature in the newsletter, which is a kind of "promotional subsidy" for fonts whose quality or utility isn't registering in the bestseller lists.
  • James Puckett
    James Puckett Posts: 1,978
    edited March 2013
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    More fonts sold to more customers is good news to both MyFonts and the foundries, so I’m happy to see that there is discussion going on about this!
    SInce you brought it: does that mean that these discounts are actually resulting in more revenue overall than fewer sales at higher prices, at least in the short term? I’m not asking you to try and extrapolate this out into the future.
  • Christian Thalmann
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    As a newcomer in the field, I can't yet judge whether such discounts are good or bad for the field as a whole. I gave 51% off of Octant because it was my first-ever foray into selling fonts, and I have more interest in my work being used by others than in making money. If it hadn't been for some encouragement on Typophile, I likely would have released it for free. I do type design as a form of artistic expression rather than as a trade. I realize this is not a popular opinion among professional type designers, but while I certainly appreciate the rewarding feeling of seeing sales trickle in from all over the world, I feel I'm also missing out on 99%–99.9% of my potential audience. Even my cruddy freefonts of yore got tens of thousands of downloads.

    That said, I'm probably going to price my next font higher and give less discount than Octant, and see whether that won't get me to Hot New Fonts status faster.
  • David Sudweeks
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    does that mean that these discounts are actually resulting in more revenue overall than fewer sales at higher prices, at least in the short term?
    Two caveats, then I give a tentative yes: First: I'm speaking generally. I don't watch the numbers come in each day, but I do hear recaps from time to time of promos and their effectiveness. I typically try to keep a safe distance between myself and the sales figures so that work I see as great, interesting, and useful to our (FontShop's) audience gets promoted, not merely because it's selling well. Second: Quality, desirability, and ability to fill a specific gap in a designer's palette—all these conditions must be met. That said, in the short term at least, yes. Double and triple. In the longer term of course demand tends to yield about the same revenue whether the cost is high, low, or in between.
  • Adam Twardoch
    Adam Twardoch Posts: 507
    edited March 2013
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    One of the basic economic principles is that the higher the price, the lower the demand, and the lower the price, the higher the demand. On the other hand, the higher the price, the higher the profit per unit, and the lower the price, the lower the profit per unit. So in the simple supply/demand model, the market sets and optimal price which is best for both the supplier and the audience.

    As mentioned here, and observed elsewhere, type designers — just like other creators and/or traders of goods — have different desires that contribute to the mix of strategies they use. Many, though not all, may have a desire to maximize their revenue. Many, though not all, and not necessarily the same lot as the previous one, may have a desire to maximize their impact (exposure).

    By putting these two goals together, you end up at a continuum at which, one one end, you have very expensive fonts which may be addressed to a very small group of elite buyers. If the group is very tiny, then you won't make much money, and if the group is just a bit larger yet still small, you may actually make some good money but your impact may be very limited. On the other end, you have free or very cheap fonts. If they're free, you may get a huge impact but no revenue. If they're extremely cheap, the exposure is still large yet the revenue is still very small. But if you find a good balance there, you can have a low price and still such a large exposure that these multiply to a large revenue.

    And then, there's all these points between these two extrema. There, you have different mixtures of higher and lower unit profits and lower or higher impacts.

    Since the scale on which you can position your price is, in the end, relatively limited (between $0 and, say, $200 per font), and there are well over 100,000 fonts on the market, each "dot" on the price scale is still a pretty crowded place. So you need other factors to compete for the user's attention.

    One obvious is quality. That's a complex subject by itself because different audiences have a different perception of quality. Overall, from the sales perspective, we could however hypothesize that quality is always about "best fitting the purpose the purchaser has in mind". So for some, a well-crafted multilingual character set in a text face may be a signifier for quality, for others it may the a vast number of weights and widths i.e. flexibility, and for yet others it may be a succint, pointed visual expression of one particular concept they want to depict ("romantic", "funny", "techno music" etc.).

    Choices of fonts, like clothing, are subject to social phenomena, which change with age. Younger people typically try to fit into a group of peers, older people are more likely individualistic. Unlike clothing, fonts are purchased by both their users as final products and by vendors of other goods as ingredients (for packaging or advertising). "Hipster fonts" for example, may be bought by <30 years-old actual hipsters to make posters or by >40 years-old advertising executives who want to sell products to the aforementioned hipsters.

    Individualistic products are typically sold to a relatively small elite (of various age) who has either a well-defined self-perception of personality ("I think different because I can afford to"), or who is rebelling ("I think different because I'm against everyone"). The rest of the products are addressed to mass audience which is more-less homogenic ("I'm with them"). The mass audience is subject to mass fashion changes, so the current mainstream product will be different from that of 8 years ago. And of course, within the mainstream, people still want to maintain a bit of individuality, so you end up with lots of typefaces which are "contemporary but with a twist". Lots of "me-toos", which look alike but having minute differences. (...)
  • Adam Twardoch
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    Finally, one can propose a hypothesis that men make their choices somewhat differently than women. Women have a stronger desire to individualize early on because they are in an individual inter-gender competition while men, among themselves, either compete individually or, as an alternative, build huge herds and then compete against other male herds. Therefore, men have a stronger tendency towards uniformization than women. (Have you ever been to a ball where most men have suits that are hard to distinguish but two women in identical dresses are a huge faux-pas?)

    So there we have it: in principle, you can set your prices very high or very low or something in-between, and you can target your quality to appeal to elites or to the current fashion which is loved by the masses.

    Still -- the middle of the spectrum is still a crowded place. There is a huge number of mid-priced mass-appealing scripts (the "female" pop font genre) and sanserifs (the "male" pop font genre). All of them compete for a single buyer's attention.

    And here's where the discounts come in. When used cleverly, they can be used to "jump the queue", if you will. You do a discount. It then gets some wide-audience traction. People tell each other about it, tweet it, facebook it, and they buy "just in case" because the discount will end. That by itself has not generated a large revenue for you yet: it has boosted your impact or exposure, but your profit per unit has been low. Yet it has given you the publicity. And then, the discount ends. The waves of the publicity and some occasional actual projects made with your fonts are out there, which triggers the "me too" mass desire. Some of them will go and buy your fonts at your regular prices. Or perhaps the font that went viral among the real hipster student during the discount will then catch the advertising executives' eyes. For them, the regular list price isn't so important because it's part of a large marketing budget.

    And when the wave wears off, you start another discount or add some weights or make a rounded version of your previously successful font, or come up with a new design which is is showing your "design style" which people got to like.

    That's how I, personally, interpret this. Not a MyFonts opinion, just mine.

    Best,
    Adam
  • Adam Twardoch
    Adam Twardoch Posts: 507
    edited March 2013
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    In other words: when you do a discount, you move your "slider" in the price/demand spectrum towards "cheap/wide audience" for some time. That skyrockets your numbers. You could do just that by lowering your numbers. But by making the discount temporarily, you tap into another psychological trick: people may buy now even if they don't need it now, because they assume they won't be able to afford it later. Hence, you inflate the number of sold units and gamble on the network effects -- on the expectation that people will tell others about the discount, and on the expectation that, once the price has gone up again to the regular one, the decrease of demand will not be sudden but instead the demand will continue or at least it will decrease gradually.

    Of course, even if you do know the rough skeleton of these mechanisms, there is still a lot of "luck" involved. For example, if your supposed viral effect of the discount coincides with the election of a new pope, your network effects may go down in the increased information noise. :)

    You can still have the actual revenue increased during the discount. If you make a 50% discount, you need to sell twice as many units to get the same revenue. If you make a 90% discount, you need to sell 10x as many.

    If your font is already a good seller, then changing the numbers so dramatically will be difficult. Say, if you sell 20 units per day, you'd need to sell 200 a day at a 90% discount. Which may be difficult. But if you only sell 1 unit a day, then the chance of selling 10 units instead is somewhat higher -- your discount only needs to attract 9 more buyers, not 180.

    This is why many people do the discounts when introducing the fonts for the first time. Their chances of having at least the same revenue as without it are larger, AND they can hope for the "post-discount" benefits that I've discussed earlier.

    Of course with the *introductory* discounts, it's really difficult for someone like MyFonts to say "do they actually generate more sales". Why? Well, simply: because MyFonts doesn't have any data to compare to. If a font starts off with a discount, MyFonts knows what money it made but it doesn't have a way of knowing what money it would have made without the discount :)

    With existing fonts that already have some constant stream of sales, there is data to compare, but -- as I've just shown -- it's more difficult to get very significant changes in numbers then.

    Let's have a look at the earlier example again: one font has 200 sales a day, another has 1. Let's assume that they have the same list price, and let's assume that the effort of attracting one additional customer is the same for them. If we imagine that the font maker wants to keep the same revenue and yet has the resources to attract 9 more customers, then:

    1. For the font which sells 1 unit a day, to attract 9 more sales and keep the revenue means that they can set the discount to 90% (1–1/10=0.9)
    2. For the font which sells 200 units a day, to attract 9 more sales and keep the revenue means that they can set the discount to no more than 4.3% (1–200/209=0.043).

    When any of them made 10 extra sales rather than 9, that would, of course, mean that they would actually increase the revenue instead of keeping it. But to the customer, a 90% discount is of course far more attractive than a 4.3% discount (which they would barely notice). So the more you actually sell of a font, the more difficult it is to justify a deep discount, because a deep discount immediately mean you'd actually lose revenue. If you wanted to keep revenue, you'd need to attract unproportionally large numbers of extra customers, which is of course expensive and therefore contributes to the lost revenue anyway.

    In the end, it's easier for newcomers to do deep discounts than it is for well-selling fonts. But whether they will actually become successful is not just a matter of the discount but of all the quality aspects I've mentioned earlier ("quality" defined as "fit for the wide audience's needs" in this context).
  • Adam Twardoch
    Adam Twardoch Posts: 507
    edited March 2013
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    > I bet I could get more site traffic if I use the word “torrent” in all of my font page descriptions.

    Well, you could always put a password-protected RAR archive with your fonts inside and a little README which tells people to visit a certain URL to get the password for the RAR. You'd post the RAR archive along the README in one ZIP file onto BitTorrent, Usenet and other places.

    The URL could be on a special web page which would actually tell people the password but also try to upsell a real license to them at a discount. As in "here's the password, you can steal the font, but here's a discount coupon and a link to the place where you can actually buy the font".

    You could measure the traffic on the special web page, and the conversion rate i.e. whether you'd actually get any sales from it.

    Seriously, I'd like to see people do that kind of experiments, and share the results. I think we could learn an extra thing or two about purchasing behavior of the so-called "pirates". :)
  • Ben Blom
    Ben Blom Posts: 250
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    Anyone who is not only in the business of designing fonts, but also in the business of selling fonts, should consider the marketing of fonts. If you are a micro foundry without a long history, and if you are not connected very well to the design industry — you do not have a reputation and network to support the sale of your fonts. Then it will be hard to sell your fonts just by yourself; you have to sell your fonts through one or more of the big internet font marketplaces, like MyFonts. When doing this, it would be smart to consider all marketing options available. The font itself, is, of course, an important element of the marketing mix. The list price is another one. At MyFonts and other internet marketplaces for fonts, it is possible for foundries to offer a temporary price discount. A temporary introductory discount is an important marketing tool, because it can help to get exposure or visibility, and if you are lucky, it can help to get a lot of it. However, not all exposure is the same. So, for instance, very deep price discounts (especially when the dollar value of the discounted item gets very low) might lead to an unfavorable reputation.

    For many years, introductory discounts are being offered at MyFonts. A few years ago, a foundry start-up could have a shot at getting visibility at MyFonts, by offering a 20% or 30% introductory discount. Not anymore, it seems. After it became clear how successful the deep introductory discount of Pluto at MyFonts has been, more and more foundries (including me) started to offer deep introductory discounts. Until now, I have done three deep introductory discounts for new typefaces. One of those temporary discounted typefaces has been very successful (and still is). In comparison, the other two temporary discounted typefaces didn't sell very well (even though the discount for these last two typefaces has been a little deeper). From this, I have to conclude, that a deep discount in itself does not guarantee big sales. The typeface is important too. And there surely will be other factors involved as well. Will I use deep introductory discounts again in the future? I think I will, although I am not sure whether I will use them for all typeface introductions, or whether I will continue to use them in the long run.

    A temporary introductory discount is an important marketing tool, because it can help to create visibility. Is it cheating? I don't think so. Temporary introductory discounts can be found in many different markets, and they are meant to generate attention and start the sale of a new item. Look at advertisements in papers. Can you find any introductory discounts? If so, do you feel someone is cheating?

    Established foundries usually have a reputation and network to support the sale of their fonts — so for them, selling those fonts will be easier compared to small start-ups. They might be able to sell their fonts themselves. They might be able to opt for premium pricing. They might not have to work 60 hours or more a week, because the "long tail" is good for them. They might be able to look down on small foundry start-ups which offer deep discounts for their fonts. And indeed, they might, in time, risk to loose market share to the current start-ups. How annoying.

    I am not annoyed by deep introductory discounts. They just can happen in markets, including the font market. But they should be done in a fair way.

    In the middle of 2012, I noticed this misleading behavior with deep introductory discounts at MyFonts: first set the list price very high, then offer a very big discount on this high list price, and a few days after the end of the introductory discount period, lower the list price. This misleading behavior annoyed me. The first time I complained about this kind of behavior at MyFonts, they didn't see a problem in it. Perhaps I didn't make my point clear enough. When I saw the same kind of behavior again about a month later, I complained again. This time MyFonts responded by saying they have a rule that the list price shouldn't change within 45 days of the beginning or end of a price reduction period. Concerning the case I complained about, MyFonts had failed to enforce this rule. Since then, MyFonts seems to enforce the rule. All in all, it seems that some "smart" foundries had invented this trick with introductory discounts, and that, after some time, when MyFonts realized what was happening, MyFonts introduced a rule to prevent this trick. I think that MyFonts acted responsibly by introducing this rule.

    Unlike two years ago, I see deep discounts everywhere now. I do not expect they will go away quickly.
  • Ermin Međedović
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    I can't wait to get Adobe Creative Suite 7 Master Collection with deep introductory discount.
  • Ralf
    Ralf Posts: 170
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    I can't wait to get Adobe Creative Suite 7 Master Collection with deep introductory discount.
    Well that’s that what every enrolled student gets. And it's a VERY deep discount.
  • Max Phillips
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    The main rationale for deep discounts seems to be "exposure." But aside from possibly making the reseller's newsletter (which seems like a clear win) what sort of exposure do you actually get through discounting your stuff by 90%?

    If slashing your price to five bucks brings you lots of new buyers, it stands to reason that many of them will be the sort of people who like $5 fonts. A few might be great young designers with no money, but many will be stamp collectors who'll never actually use your typeface, or people who think one brush script looks much like another and they might as well pick the cheapest for their scrapbooking project. Will they tweet, post, pin your stuff? Will they do good work and inspire others to use it?

    People who care about clothes generally don't buy $5 polo shirts at Wal-Mart. And people who buy their clothes at Wal-Mart aren't generally tastemakers who influence others. And when people who care about clothes pass a table full of $5 polos at a street fair, they're likely to wince and avert their eyes.

    Pluto's discount had a happy ending, but HvD was a well-respected designer when he released Pluto—he wasn't an unknown trying to establish himself. And you'll notice he didn't do the same with Brandon. So I don't think Pluto's a perfect example of deep discounts --> exposure --> success. Does anyone have a better one?
  • James Puckett
    James Puckett Posts: 1,978
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    But aside from possibly making the reseller's newsletter (which seems like a clear win) what sort of exposure do you actually get through discounting your stuff by 90%?
    Lots of free advertising on social media. A new font being released isn’t very interesting unless it’s either from H&FJ or from someone who rarely releases new work. At least for now people find a steep discount interesting and chatter about it. But eventually discounters will run into the problem retailers have been dealing with for decades: when steep discounts are just expected what can you do next?
  • Ralf
    Ralf Posts: 170
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    Will they tweet, post, pin your stuff?
    Yes, for now that’s the case. It might change if there are new 90% discounts every day.
    People who care about clothes generally don't buy $5 polo shirts at Wal-Mart. And people who buy their clothes at Wal-Mart aren't generally tastemakers who influence others.
    I think this is a typical example of why some people are so uneasy about font discounts. “Discounts” or “sales” remind us of these kinds of products like clothes. It’s discounted (maybe even permanently) because it's a cheap product. It's on sale because it's out of fashion and no one wants it anymore …

    But I don't think it is a fair comparison, because you can't compare physical and digital products this way. There are no costs to make a copy of a font, and therefore there is nothing “low quality” about it, just because there is a cheaper offer for it at some point in time.
    Just as we might offer a deep discount to students. It's the very same product offered at a very different price. No one complains about that. Why not? Maybe because these are just around for a longer time?
    An introductory offer or later flash sale might get you customers who would otherwise never bought your family. It fits them, like the student discount fits the typical income of student.
    Or the discount might create a sale now, where a customer would otherwise just put the font in his/her MyFonts album to maybe buy it later and then just forget about it.
    So both sides got a good deal and can be happy about it. But it certainly is not like a $5 Wal-Mart shirt, because the discount price of a font is a purely arbitrary value, that doesn't represent the cost of making the product (→single copy).
    Will they do good work and inspire others to use it?
    I don't see how that is related to the existence of discounts.
    I could have bought Pluto Sans when it was out because it was a great introductory offer. Or I might just heard about the font, because of this introductory offer and buy it later, when I have a client where this typeface fits and the client pays for the regular price. If I bought it instantly using the discount, I can check the quality of the font and maybe buy later additions of the family and other fonts from that foundry. Those can all be consequences of the market penetration strategy (using discounts) when the font was released.
    But why should that affect the quality of work done with the font? The special offers are not only taken by people looking for cheap offers. Everyone is looking for them.
    If the font is good, then it will be good in use no matter if it was bought at the the regular price, the student discount, the introductory offer or the intermediate flash sale. No one will be able to tell. It just doesn't work like clothes.
  • PabloImpallari
    PabloImpallari Posts: 783
    edited March 2013
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    ...what can you do next?
    Release Libre fonts and hope for donations.... just kidding ;)

    BTW, just published my first commercial font a few days ago. No introductory discounts. Let's wait and see what happens...
  • George Thomas
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    Just avoid using the word "discount"; call it something else, perhaps "Promotional Pricing". That could help to avoid the expectation of continued discounts in the future, especially if the seller ties it to an event.
  • Stephen Coles
    Stephen Coles Posts: 998
    edited March 2013
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    Sorry, but I must briefly interrupt to remark on how much I am enjoying the figs, %, and $ of Alright Sans which are so well represented in this thread. Carry on.
  • Max Phillips
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    But it certainly is not like a $5 Wal-Mart shirt, because the discount price of a font is a purely arbitrary value, that doesn't represent the cost of making the product (→single copy).
    Actually, speaking as someone who's spent time in retail and whose wife is in fashion, clothing prices can be pretty arbitrary, too, and cheap off-label clothes are sometimes made at the same factories that produce more prestigious stuff. The final price point reflects not just unit costs, but the requirements of the brand.

    My point was that low prices can be off-putting to people who care about quality, not that low-priced fonts are necessarily of low quality. Me, I'd feel very odd licensing a five-dollar font for an important project. I might do it if the design was strong and the fit was perfect, but it would go against the grain, and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. As you say, many people are uneasy about this sort of thing.

    As for the social media benefits, thanks for the info, Ralf and James. Live and learn. Nobody tweets me about cheap fonts, but then, I'm not that deep into the Twitterverse yet.
  • Ben Blom
    Ben Blom Posts: 250
    edited March 2013
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    I don't think Pluto's a perfect example of deep discounts --> exposure --> success. Does anyone have a better one?
    I do not believe there is a simple relationship like this. Many more factors than these are involved. There have been many unsuccessful deep-discount font introductions. Success cannot be bought by just lowering the price.
  • Adam Twardoch
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    Ale, I don't see anything wrong with your English :)
    Thanks (to you all) for sharing your experiences. This thread is becoming quite insightful!

    I can confirm what Jan Middendorp told you: the stats on MyFonts are based on money revenue, not on units. Therefore, *any* combination of "price x units" for an attractive font can climb the list. Something that's "too cheap" or "too expensive" won't. And I thoroughly agree with what Ale said: there are multiple factors that influence the success, a "special blend" is what counts. The list price, character set, attractiveness of the design, selection of styles, good name, well-designed posters and specimens, good efforts on social media etc. contribute to the success as much as a well-designed promotion.