Here is why I ask: for years, I’ve done pretty well on the app store with Tasting Notes and some other apps. In fact, Tasting Notes still sells copies every single day. Sales are not gangbusters but they are consistent.
However, while Tasting Notes sells it falls way short of what you would need to replace even one developer’s salary. A handful of sales a day usually nets something like $200 per month. Tasting Notes has been on sale since 2008. In 2008 and 2009 the app typically had sales in the realm of a few thousand dollars each month.
In 2009, it was common for me and many others to release simple apps. By the end of the year, I had a suite of 12 apps each of which made sales. Some sold better and some sold worse, but they all sold. My apps were featured two times by Apple. All of this from one person with little marketing and minimal design. In 2009, the dream of being an indy app publisher solo-preneur was real.
This past week I released a new app called BeerBro. BeerBro is essentially a re-release of a beer app that I had on sale in 2009 and 2010. The former app sold pretty well – in fact it had more sales than Tasting Notes has now. While I honestly didn’t expect a blockbuster hit here I was very surprised to see no sales coming in at all. The only hit on BeerBro’s analytics came from Cupertino where the App Store approval must have happened. To this day, I haven’t made one sale.
At the same time I ran across this article from the New York Times, As Boom Lures App Creators, Tough Part Is Making a Living. The gist of the article is that making on your own in the app store is hard. This article contains some heartbreaking stories like the Grimeses couple:
“The Grimeses’ quest cost them more than $200,000 in lost income and savings. So far this year, their eight apps have earned $4,964.”
This couple’s idea (like mine) was to release a new app each month. What they found is diminishing returns and basically had to work twice as hard to make half as much on each successive app. BTW: the $200,000 figure includes their 401K and house equity.
Even more heartbreaking, is the story of an app developer that I remember Mr. Nicholas. Mr. Nicholas is the creator of the iPhone game iShoot which took off early in the app store to the tune of 17,000 copies per day! Two months later this guy quit his job and soon after that he was a millionaire. All based on an game that took him 6 weeks to write in his spare time. In 2009 that was the dream for most of us and the reality for a few. [Read more…]