Logo Successful Shareware

by Rick Holzgrafe of
Semicolon Software

6. Propagation

I should have called this section "Distribution" but then it wouldn't have started with a P. :-) It's about getting your software into the hands of as many people as possible. The more places your software is available, the more people will see it, download it, try it, buy it. Distribution doesn't happen automatically. You have to take a hand in it.


Macintosh authors can send their products to <macgifts@info-mac.org> or to <macgifts@mac.archive.umich.edu>. Either address works fine, and within a couple of weeks (usually, depending on load) your product will be available worldwide from dozens or hundreds of mirrors of the central Macintosh shareware archives at Stanford and the University of Michigan. Before you submit, be sure to read the submission guidelines. They're available via ftp from any of the mirrors. Try <ftp://mirrors.aol.com//pub/info-mac/help/posting-guidelines.txt> or look in the "help" or "info" sections. To find a mirror near you, look in the bookmarks supplied with Anarchie.

I'm sure there are similar distribution points for DOS and Windows software. If any authors in the know would like to send me the info, I'll add it to this page.

Your Web Site

We'll talk more about your Web site in the next section, Promotion. For now we'll point out that having your own site makes a place where people can come at will to find your latest releases and news. This is a great way to spread your product, because you can publish your Web address in many more places than you can publish the product itself. If you do it right, you can funnel a lot of potential customers through your site and give them a chance to download and purchase your wares.

Media Publishers

As your product gains popularity and notoriety, you will begin to be contacted by publishers. Most will want to include your shareware in a CD-ROM collection they are producing. Occasionally someone will be writing a book and including a floppy or CD in it, and wish to feature your software.

If the publisher wants you to sign a contract, read it carefully. Most are harmless CYA ("Cover Your Assets") statements, so the publisher can prove you gave permission, and so the publisher can't be sued if your product sets someone's house on fire. I don't think you need to be paranoid, but it's always good advice to be careful what you sign.

Some authors are suspicious, offended, even outraged at the thought of someone else making money from their work. In my opinion, this is exactly the wrong attitude. Nothing's wrong with both of you making a profit: you and the publisher. The more exposure your product gets, the more customers you will have. A widely-distributed CD is a great way to reach people who aren't yet connected to the net -- and to reach those who are, but who haven't stumbled across your product yet.

I can't remember having ever turned down anyone wanting to put my shareware on a CD or in a book. (I may have done -- but if so, only once or twice.) My rules are simple, and nearly every publisher is happy to abide by them. I insist that the publication plainly state that buying the CD is not the same as buying the shareware it contains, and that users are expected to pay for any of the shareware that they decide to keep and use. I require that my entire product package (program, Read Me file, manuals, and any other files included) be on the CD, complete and unaltered. And I require that the price of the CD be reasonable: since most such publishers are in fact just collecting a lot of other people's work, it's unfair for them to charge as if it were all original work, unavailable elsewhere. I don't mind them turning a profit, but a disk of shareware that costs (say) $120 sounds like a scam to me and I don't want to be associated with it. But $20 doesn't bother me; there's a lot of work and some risk involved in producing a CD, and the producer is entitled to a profit.

You can set your own standards, of course. But in general, my advice is: "Just say yes!"


The Next Chapter: Promotion

Introduction Product Patience Polish Pay Up Propagation Promotion Politics Links