And one more thing …

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While the last week of posts covered the best of 2013 and some things to look forward to in 2014, I wanted to make a separate post about funding the site going forward.

To this point, our website has been free; but you must recognize that most of the puzzlemakers here have been blogging for years with very little reward for their work besides your thanks in comments. I set one year after launch as a point to have a discussion on when and if things should change from “free” to something else. I’ve dismissed for now adding either advertisements (unlikely to make much money) or registration costs (unlikely to let us continue to grow users) as a means of getting support for our puzzle writing. However, I’ve strongly considered going to a patronage system where people who want to support us have an easy outlet to do so. This is sometimes a “Tip Jar” on websites, but I don’t know that that is as effective as it could be. I’ve been interested in trying out new systems to directly reward devoted fans and also tap into social networks a bit more; to this end, we now have a Patreon page for people who want to contribute funds for our puzzlemaking.

The general idea of Patreon is to support creative people in a world where fewer and fewer content providers want to pay for quality work. Instead of supporting one big project, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo do, the goal at Patreon is to get patrons to support an artist as he/she continues to put out work. In our case, every time we deliver a month of puzzles, we would get some support from each of our patrons. This would help us reimburse our authors and pay for our website to keep running.

To encourage patronage, we have also set up some rewards. These include early access to puzzles, solution images, puzzle walkthroughs (one of our most unique features that we want to start doing regularly again), and even bonus puzzles or custom puzzles from our puzzlemasters. This bonus content will only be available to our supporters. When I spoke about monthly “Puzzle Packs” in the last post, I should have mentioned that the easiest way to get everything we do at Grandmaster Puzzles in 2014 is going to be to support us at Patreon at the Grandmaster level. Consider it a subscription to all the content we ever release as every PDF book we put out in a given month will go to supporters at that level during that month. Patreon recently added PayPal support, which should make it much more accessible for some of our solvers to consider funding us.

We realize this is a new idea — for us and for you — but we’d like you to consider what you get out of Grandmaster Puzzles and if you’d be willing to help it keep growing. We’re not putting up any paywall or ads; we’ll still have an (almost) daily puzzle here for awhile for anyone who wants to browse our site. But we can be bigger and better with your help. So please check us out over at Patreon.

-Thomas, writing for all of the contributors to GMPuzzles

  • Aaron Chan says:

    Just a little suggestion. You should put the content of this post in a more permanent and easily noticeable place, like somewhere in the title or side bar, and probably the main webpage as well. For example, a lot of the web comics I see have a “Shop” button somewhere on the side bar that is clearly visible, but not obnoxious. Otherwise, this post is going to disappear from page 1 in a week, and most people who joined later/missed it will never heard about it again. On the other hand you don’t want to make it too intrusive.

    • drsudoku drsudoku says:

      Very good comment, and thanks for the support Aaron. (You do get first status.)

      I have thought of making something like this a new sticky/front-page post, but more likely it will end up as a support link below our facebook/twitter/rss follow buttons.

      • Tricia says:

        I would avoid calling your link “support,” as that could be interpreted as tech support by some people.

        You could add a word and go with “support us!” or use another word like “donate.”

        I’ll also suggest that each time a puzzle pack is released, you take that opportunity to point out that all puzzle packs will be released free to Grandmaster supporters. You can also put the Patreon link on the puzzle pack page (I assume you’ll have a page that lists all puzzle packs and allows people to buy them individually).

        • drsudoku drsudoku says:

          Thanks for your comments — we were already planning something like what you suggest each time a puzzle pack comes out — both as a reminder of what is coming and ways solvers can get it.

          PS: I was actually using the word “support” because that is what Patreon seems to prefer on almost all pages to the word donate. But I’ll do a read-through of our posts and try to increase clarity where I can.

  • Carl says:

    Patreon is a good option. I had never heard about it before you posted about it here, but I think it’s a very interesting idea.

    Could you give some indication about how many puzzles these puzzle packs will contain, and at what difficulty? At least, that could sway me when it comes to whether or not I should support it on Patreon.

    Will there also be an option to buy them separately?

    • drsudoku drsudoku says:

      We just learned about Patreon two months ago and after not finding a reasonable “Kickstarter” project for awhile, it definitely feels like a good match for what we do.

      The first few puzzle packs are easiest to describe: they will be 2 sections from the eventual The Art of Puzzles book, so about 50-60 puzzles each. Most puzzles are about 10×10 but some are as large as 20×36. The puzzles start Easy and end up quite Hard.

      For other Puzzle Packs, I’m telling authors to aim for about 40 puzzles. A good model are the packs that Palmer Mebane put out on his blog several times in the past. We have definitely looked to those packs as an inspriration for the right number of puzzles to meaningfully explore a puzzle type and still offer new experiences for solvers of all abilities. Of course, some packs like an “Extreme Sudoku” pack might target just very difficult but fair sudoku challenges, but this will be the exception and not the rule.

      Most packs will be sold individually as pdfs once we set up a PayPal marketplace on our website, probably for 4 dollars but the price is subject to change; some packs will eventually be combined into print books too, but only after web release.

      With Patreon, you can always alter your funding on a monthly basis if you find you really want the bonuses some months and not others. But we think you’ll be quite pleased with what is coming in the next several months and will enjoy receiving everything we will be offering to our patrons.

      • Carl says:

        Thanks for the quick answer, that makes most of it quite clear.

        – Are the puzzle pack puzzles different from what you regularly post on the website?
        – Will you aim for a more print-friendly format than for the current weekly packs?

        Being able to find the puzzles is another thing I hope you will work on. This may be intentional, but I found it a bit tedious to find the puzzle compilations for previous weeks. I hope that with the subscription format, it will be possible to make sure I can get them without having to look through the blog.

        • drsudoku drsudoku says:

          They will be original puzzles, not available on the website (except perhaps for a few samples). Most styles will be ones we feature here but some may be completely new.

          They will also be more formatted as if they were made as a collection to be printed; in other words multiple puzzles on a page when that makes sense by size. Our daily format does not make this possible for the web puzzles but we know some solvers will print a week with 2 days to a page.

          Subscribers would get the PDF by email each week. But your comment suggests it would be a good idea for us to just start a page to gather all our weekly pdfs. I will put this on my list to do soon, so even without the subscription solvers can seek out the pdf files more easily (this is tied to another project to make weekly pdfs of our first ~200 puzzles so may take some time).

  • Scott Handelman says:

    If I choose the $6.00 patronage, does that cover the cost of the PDF that month that I would be getting early? Or is it just that I get it early, but I still have to pay the regular amount for it on top of the $6.00?

  • Giovanni P. says:

    I’m in on this too. I look forward to the return of puzzle packs to the puzzle blogs.

    One question: What size of puzzles can we expect when you say “Extra Large format”? Do you mean larger than 36×20 (which I would assume is a Large), like a 45×31 or 64×50?

    • drsudoku drsudoku says:

      I don’t want to specify exact sizes because not all types “grow” in the same way and the meaning of big can change. And I might consider an interlinked set of puzzles, say with a cryptogram between them, like my old Friday Puzzle #100, or other Marathon styles from Palmer, as satisfying this definition as the set of puzzles fills a whole page and takes awhile to solve. But, of the regular puzzles I have available for this reward at the moment, some are indeed as large as 64×50 because Grant is insane(ly talented).

      • Giovanni P. says:

        That’s an understandable concern, but I’m happy to hear the definition of “big” includes more intricate puzzles as well as physically large puzzles. Even if such puzzles take a while to solve, I like that they afford the puzzlemaker a way to incorporate more elaborate themes and logic into a puzzle. I suppose you could say I have a bit of a sweet tooth when it comes to giant puzzles, so I look forward to what you have on tap.

  • Naama says:

    I supporting you through Patreon and checking every day to see how far did it go.

    I was looking for a “support” button a few times in the past year because I love your puzzles and wanted to give something back. Now that it is doable, I think there should be a support button at the top of the page (above the facebook-twitter-rss buttons). If you need a technical assistance for that matter I can ask my husband to help (I know only how to press buttons).

    Thank you for the great puzzle you provide our family!

    • drsudoku drsudoku says:

      Thanks very much for your support.

      Because Patreon is a very new site for many of our users, I expect pledges to slowly grow over time but eventually become a good part of supporting our authors’ work. We will certainly include more support awareness on the website, and probably link to the page many more times when we get close to releasing some of our goal items that I think solvers will really not want to miss.

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