SUMMARY: We have an idea for enabling forum members to sell plans for their homemade tools and we'd like to hear your feedback.
If you've been on this site for any length of time (or if you founded it ), you know that the #1, #2, and #3 requests from site visitors are for "plans" to build the listed homemade tools. This is evident everywhere from written user feedback to search keyword data, and it also satisfies common sense.
We've recently been wondering about the level of serious interest in creating and hosting a market where members could sell plans for their tool builds. Some of you may have seen existing online marketplaces where you can buy and sell 3D plans, or may even have bought or sold plans on such sites. Plans for homemade tools are a little more nuanced than 3D plans, but they're in very high demand.
Here's how it could work:
1. You would provide us with a bundle of files that collectively made up the "plans" for your homemade tool build. This would include any or all of the following: technical or CAD drawings, step-by-step instructions, parts & materials lists, photos, videos, etc.
2. We would package and touch up the plans a bit (add legal disclaimer, double-check spelling/grammar, convert to PDF, maybe add a cover, like we do for our ebooks). Where necessary, drawings might be upgraded by us, as part of the process, to a proper mechanical drawing standard.
3. We would handle all promotion, marketing, payment processing, and digital order fulfillment, and pay you monthly. We would promote the plans on various parts of our site, the forum, our email list of 25,000+ subscribers, the 6,000+ visitors to the site we get per day, Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest, etc. You could also do your own promotion if you wanted (see below). We would charge a flat percentage of your sales and would pay you your share on a monthly basis.
Other notes and details:
- When people say "plans", we think they broadly mean "more building details" - they want highly-detailed step-by-step instructions, parts and materials lists, photos, diagrams, and videos sufficient to reproduce the particular tool. Some folks want plans appropriate for first-time builders, while others are looking for something significantly beyond "tab-A, slot-B". Consequently, we can apply a difficulty grade to each set of plans (similar to that found on a model kit) so that everyone understands what's in the box.
- You would retain all relevant intellectual property rights to your plans, just like an author selling a book.
- You would get a summary of how many plans sold per month, and which ones, and a payment. Probably through PayPal, but we could pay by other means, especially for non-US guys.
- As you refined your build or created a Mk II version, you could update your plans accordingly.
- Authors would be able to set their own prices, but we could provide some pricing guidelines. $20 seems to be about average for a set of highly detailed plans available online for a complex tool. However, simple plans for a simple tool could be as little as $3. Authors also might even want to offer a couple of tool plans for free, as a means of promoting their other paid plans.
- What would our cut be? 30% seems to be common on existing plans marketplaces and digital goods marketplaces, meaning that the author would get 70%, and we would get 30%. We're shooting for closer to 25%, but we don't know the exact percentage right now. The important part is that the fee structure aligns our incentives, so that we don't make money unless you make money.
- We would create a page showing all available tool plans. Each individual author would also have his own page showing his tool plans.
- You could link to your tool plans page in your forum signature, in your blog, and in any plans you publish ("Click here to see my other homemade tool plans…"). If you post on other forums and they allow such promotion, you could link to your plans there, too. Likewise for any social media accounts you maintain.
- You could still post your homemade tools to the forum, just as you do now. If you wanted to sell accompanying plans for them, you could say something like: "To purchase detailed plans for building this tool, click here".
- You could create detailed plans for previously-posted tools and then update your earlier post to include a link to purchase the full plans.
- Plans purchasers would be encouraged to post on the forums, in a dedicated subforum, with any questions that may arise. If you wanted, you could answer their questions there.
What do you guys think? Would you be interested? How would you improve the above structure? Any constructive criticism (or non-constructive criticism) to offer?
Jon As a comparatively new member of this site I like the idea
I have spent countless years dreaming up and designing many tools from the very simple to some being quite complex sans electronics However many of my homemade tools or machines will never be listed here or anywhere else since I either do not still possess the tool or the pictures of same even though I do in many cases still have all of my 3d cad (Solidworks) drawings and assembly files in archive that I can easily retrieve, revive and convert to PDF for uploading.
Glad you and the others are thinking about doing something like this.
Never try to tell me it can't be done
When I have to paint I use http://kbs.justoldtrucks.com/
I do quite like this idea although I'm not sure I've anything quite ready for general release just yet.
You could do something like Thingiverse where they have "I've made one" functionality to review the item you've printed.
My main question is how do you deal with mods or improvements to a design that you got from this site? And what keeps others from changing your design and claiming as their own? I don't mean to be a stick in the mud, just curious.
So do you wait until somebody wants plans or do you think the fact you offer plans would drive sales? More of a rhetorical, chicken or the egg type question I guess.
Ah yes, a remix makes it challenging....
There's plenty of people who do sell plans so there must be some demand. I know that MyfordBoy on Youtube is now selling plans but I also know he's selling castings to go with them. Hemmingway kits also sell plans/castings kits and MyTimeMedia just sell plans.
I like this idea but I may be more of a consumer than a publisher. Today, we publish different levels of details and photos of our tools but rarely know if someone would like to build or modify the tools. Perhaps you can add a poling button similar to the rating feature that would let us know if there is truly any interest in providing all the building details and plans.
On a similar topic, I have always been interested in seeing what others have done with the ideas and designs published at HomemadeTools. It is the reuse of the designs with more features, cleaner design, ease of construction or a clever change that takes the tool to a new level of innovation. It would be easy to publish the new work as a reply to the original publication.
Thank you for the suggestion for selling plans at HMT. I think we will see a lot of discussion on this topic.
Thanks, Paul Jones
Workshopshed - agreed, we should have some sort of system in place where people can add reviews of plans. We might just do this in a dedicated forum discussion for each set of plans, or only allow purchasers to review plans, so that people can't just anonymously downrate or uprate plans. I'm sure we've all seen questionable 1-star and 5-star reviews on Amazon, and we want to avoid that here.
C-Bag - That's a really good question. So I think what you're asking is, for example, what if I take Frank S's Chicken Tonight Guillotine, add, say, a bottle opener to it, and then submit it as "my" Chicken Guillotine Plus Bottle Opener plans. Something like that we wouldn't allow. Unlike other sites, we would be manually reviewing all tool plans prior to offering them for sale, and we would reject something like that. There's also a legal protection layer in place; people are free to build others' tools, and are also free to be "inspired" by others' tool builds as they write their own plans, but it's not legal to significantly copy others' plans and claim them as their own. So we would enforce that law, and we would also reject any tool plans that were suspiciously "similar" to existing plans.
Of course we would allow significantly different plans for similar tools (for example, multiple different plans for different kinds of workbenches). And if someone made plans for an improvement to an existing tool (for example, motorizing it), we could allow that on a case-by-case basis, especially if it encouraged a purchaser to buy the original plans. For example: Tube Bender by User1: $20, Motor Add-On for Tube Bender by User2: $5, Wheeled Transport Case for Tube Bender by User3: $10, etc. User1 would still have an advantage here: he could advertise his accessory plans in his original plans ("To purchase add-on plans for this Tube Bender, click here"), and, as the original plans builder, he would be more trusted by the user. This is similar to how any company can sell an iPhone case, but only Apple can legally sell an iPhone. And if Apple had a great idea for an iPhone case, they would have an advantage over third-party sellers.
Paul Jones - Good idea. Something like: "Interested in plans for this build? Click Yes/No". Then we could notify the builders when there were 50 or so plans requests. Another thing people can do is look at our All-Time Most Popular Tools, and see which tools would have the biggest markets for plans. You can see that metal benders, belt grinders, and power hammers top the list. You can also see on that page that tools whose titles include the word "Plans" (even if the "plans" are minimal) have much higher click rates, which further suggests the users' desire for detailed plans.
Thank you Jon for giving us the opportunity to chime in on this. It's one of the things I like most about the HMT, the openness and moderation is wonderful and a joy to be part of.
I had to think about this for a day before chiming in and apologize in advance for the dissertation/spew. In concept I think it is a wonderful opportunity to help others and builders (share and get a return) which is what this forum is about to me.
Implementing it may be another story. Everyone has a different idea of what build plans would be. I semi regularly check out some of the other "Plans Sites" and find them interesting sometimes but usually lacking in quality. However, the "ideas" they bring forward is what appeals to me whether the plans fit my need exactly, gives me an idea for something else, the instruction set works, or I just want to try something to learn. My wife pointed out to me that she has bought knitting/crochet plans a few times and found significant errors in them once getting materials and getting started. For me I have red lined drawings and written SOP's/Assembly procedures for several decades and still make mistakes...so your idea of an "over-watch" is important but may be a bit much to chew for your percentage based on all the other things you will be providing from above. It also brings up the idea of an ECO (engineering change order) process will need to be thought about based on the initial assessment and likely purchaser feedback, IMHO. For instance, will plans also be available in an IGES format, SW, DWG or other formats (napkins) as well or just embedded PDF; if so who will provide them? My friend Chris (Clickspring) has some of his packages available and I have bought them, mainly to support Chris (The Very Best edutainment ever on YT Videos, IMHO), but excellent quality and he supplies both IGES,SW and PDF versions so people like me could modify the design to fit their needs for a very modest price. If this is a possibility here, then the "Over-watch" on your part may require several rounds with the builder and or the ability to generate these files...not inexpensive as a Seat is $$$ and someone to do the work as well.
I wholeheartedly agree with C-Bag's and Paul's comments about the chicken/egg and polling. Again I think implementing Iterations of someone’s work would be a task. My bump roller build on my site was based on Rick Taylor's YT and I gave him credit for my modified build, but I'm quite sure he didn't invent it because Chris built one also and credits someone else and think John Moran also has one. I kind of get the workbench/tube bender scenario but think there may be more to it in the ever litigious world we live in...Apple Vs Samsung came to mind and the mind boggling number of patents being applied for weekly. Doing this here, kind of goes toward that Creative Commons approach, I think. But I'm Not a lawyer, nor would Ever Be one! To me it’s just good manners and respectful to pay homage to a great build or an inspiration for a modification or another use of an idea.
The polling is a great idea because it gives others a clue about what peoples interests are in a given project and the builder the opportunity to spend the time to document their work, if they choose to. I also think the Rating process will bare good fruit as to the quality of a document package and maybe the ECO/Over-Watch processes, but may be a slippery slope work wise, as noted by the Trolling on YT and other sites. I love Amazon reviews and use them and other sites to make decisions, but have had to develop my own technique for separating the wheat from the chaff in them because of the protocols for having them open to "Opinion" not necessarily quality.
I’ve thought about including a cart for plans on my sight but have not, mainly for time constraints and my theme is sharing, as I feel this site is. I’ve also been on the bad end of helping someone bring an idea forward because I believed in it and them, then been severely Ripped OFF by them running off with it and monetizing it for personal gain, so I have mixed emotions which is another reason I choose much more carefully anymore what I do choose to share freely. The wonder of sharing and growing the community mind is beyond price, IMHO. However, if this would help others and give a $ROI to the work we en-joy (to cause us to be in a place of Joy), then give it a shot…plan the best you/we can and allow for and embrace the inevitable change...but put it down if it gets out of hand. Thank you again Jon and all the others on the forum! ~PJ
‘‘Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.’’
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