Don’t sell Shit!

Yesterday an inclined reader asked why I’m not selling my stuff, so I thought it’s time to post a few thoughts on this. There’s a couple of reasons for this.

First, and probably most importantly you need to realize that not a single preset or project I offer on my site was or is ever meant for the big world out there. Yepp, most of it is simply a byproduct of my own explorations, experiments and secret obsessions. Sometimes they turn out nicely and actually meet the tastes of the crowds, other times they are way to geeky to be of any value to anyone else but me. Depending on how some of those projects evolve, they are also not necessarily “safe” to be released to a greater public. I may understand how they tick and how to avoid breaking relations between items or mess up expressions, but less experienced users may not. Sure, I could spend a lot of time cleaning them up, hardening the code and writing extensive instructions, but often I don’t have the time or the inclination to do it ‘cos in my mind I’m already working on other projects and don’t want to drag this along forever.

The second possible reason is just the opposite. Just like anyone else I’m trying to protect my ideas and intellectual property and when I spend weeks and months on something really complex like some of my expression setups that have 5000 lines of code I simply may not care to give away my best kept secrets. It’s not that I generally won’t share them at all, but there are no really good ways to protect stuff in After Effects and Cinema 4D. Giving away such a project openly only would end up as a one-time payment and then it would make the rounds on BitTorrent. Of course, if you have your eyes on something specific and you have a real budget and are willing to pay a fair price, then everything can be arranged.

Which brings me to my third point. Yes, it’s about money. People just love your stuff when it’s free, but as soon as it costs a buck or two, your visitor count plummets to the bottom of the ocean. That’s ultimately why the Error Code Database no longer exists – there was no way to secure its financing in the long run and it became pointless. When you are struggling to stay afloat because due to your illness you have a reduced income, you can no longer afford to waste your time with geeking out and do other people’s jobs. That’s also true for the presets and projects – in all those years I can count the number of users who actually have donated on my stuff site with my fingers. True, I could put up all these cool things and sell them for 99 bucks a piece, but how many people would actually buy them? So for what it’s worth, unless that changes, I don’t see myself producing more stuff aimed at mainstream users.

This also leads to the next point – once I sell stuff, I would have to commit myself to it fully. I would have to market it, provide customer support and deal with all sorts of people that I actually don’t like at all. Also once you go commercial it limits your ability to experiment and explore uncovered territory. You have to fix bugs so your stuff keeps working or end up always doing more of the same because people request it. E.g. my GenArts lens flare pack is still popular and there’s a couple of downloads every week after almost 2.5 years and there is certainly a market for this thing, but would I want to craft flares all the time? Most definitely not. And yeah, I hate doing tax papers and invoices, so I wouldn’t enjoy that part, either.

Finally, and this is probably gonna hurt some people, I’m being snobbish about quality. I often find that people sell you crap for a lot of money. A few plastic-y Cinema 4D material presets for 99 bucks? Dysfunctional plug-ins? Rubbish text presets? Crooked airplane models? Cheesy After Effects templates? Ugly animated stock content? Dunno, just not my kettle of fish. I understand that there’s a market for everything, but I’d feel bad and it would be like cheating my customers if I sold them things that I never would use myself because they don’t meet my standards. Sure, a lot of what I do is pretty rubbish, too, but at least it’s free! Also many of these things have “I did it for the money.” quite literally written over them. They are done without love and you just feel it. It’s dull, uninspired stuff when I always thought the whole point of being in the creative industry is to seek inspiration, be original and get there by creating the content yourself, not buying it from somewhere…

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