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Hi, I’m Darren, and I’ve just released a new desktop app for writers


#1

I live in Dublin, Ireland, and call myself a serial builder. I keep saying never again but then can’t seem to stop myself from building just one more app.

Six weeks ago I released my latest application, Atomic Scribbler, a project management and writing environment for novelists and short story writers working on Windows PCs.

https://www.atomicscribbler.com/

Writers use the software to plan their novels, prepare and maintain research material, and then write that novel chapter by chapter or scene by scene in a modern Windows application that has a similar look and feel to Microsoft Word.

[That’s the elevator pitch from my marketing plan — are we still doing elevator pitches?]

The release has gone very well, with sales approaching what I wanted for the first two months. I’ve just finished working on my marketing plan — wrong way around, I know, but like so many of us I have a habit of coding first and planning second.

I have one other app in the same space that sells quite well — SmartEdit: editing software for writers. The Microsoft Word plug-in, despite its higher price, is what users seem to go for.

http://www.smart-edit.com/

I’ve lurked around the forums here for some time, and thought I’d jump in and start sharing. It was this forum that lead to me choosing to go down the Discourse route from my own support forum.


#2

Atomic Scribbler looks interesting. How did you come to write such software?

BTW: a slightly reworked version of your elevator pitch would be great as your landing page’s main headline or secondary headline!


#3

About 10 or so years ago I built a similar product for my own use. An aspiring writer with technical ability — rolling my own software became the ultimate procrastination. It was a far inferior product to Atomic Scribbler, but it still managed to sell a few thousand copies over the years. But, sales never grew — they remained static for years, then dropped off. My own fault.

The market for dedicated software for writers is extremely large and there are a lot of players with varying offerings — some doing very well for themselves. Atomic is my interpretation of the perfect software for writers — one interpretation amongst many. The current version is a starting point — there’s still a lot of development work to be done and a whole lot of marketing.

With the first product from way back, lack of marketing was the killer — I had no plan at all. “Build it and they will come.” This time I have a better product and a more structured approach to getting it out there. And I had a starter user base providing feedback and early sales — which always helps.


#4

Tell me how do you advertise and promote the application? This application is in a special niche and it seems that I have the same situation and I really do not imagine how you can advertise and look for clients for this software


#5

Promoting to a niche market is, to my mind at least, far easier than promoting a generic product to the masses. You work out who your target users are, you find out where they live online and offline and what they do there, you find out who they listen to. And then you target those communities, those websites, those clubs or organisations, and those people with influence.

It’s not any different to sales and marketing for other businesses. It’s all about understanding who your customer is and tailoring your promotion and advertising to suit.

Sure, not all paid advertising works for this particular software — Google ads don’t work as Google do not give the option to choose an operating system — something that is crucial for a Windows only desktop app. It’s easy to generate traffic in this niche from Adwords, but when half or more of that traffic is using a Mac or Apple device, it’s wasted money.

But Adwords is only one of a host of advertising and promotion possibilities. Ads on community websites can be bought (individually), as can space in dedicated newsletters. Individual influencers in the community can be approached — this goes for every community, not just my particular niche.

Only yesterday the product was tweeted about by an influencer to 50k followers, bringing a lot of targeted traffic to the site. This was not a random occurrence, it happened because I approached this person directly and asked them to take a look at the software.

The possibilities for promotion of this and probably any niche product are immense. But, you have to do the leg work first and really find out about your user. There’s no quick and easy answer like throwing money at Adwords.


#6

Thank you very much for the detailed answer, I wrote down my notebook (I need to think about this)

Sure, not all paid advertising works for this particular software — Google ads don’t work as Google do not give the option to choose an operating system — something that is crucial for a Windows only desktop app. It’s easy to generate traffic in this niche from Adwords, but when half or more of that traffic is using a Mac or Apple device, it’s wasted money.

I think most of those who develop for Mac face the reverse problem - 70% of the traffic is Windows users, although it is possible that it is in the field of writers that a different ratio, so many creative people like Mac …

an interesting niche, I’m sorry I do not understand anything in this niche, otherwise I would be your competitor - a joke :slight_smile:

But, you have to do the leg work first and really find out about your user

What do you mean? Really how English is not my strongest advantage and some speech turns for me are not clear especially in the context of business

Good luck and thank you


#7

Know your user and potential customer — where they hang out online, which subreddits they read and comment on, what type of user they follow on twitter, what’s important to them and what’s not, are they a student, an employed 40 year old, an old aged pensioner, do they use Dropbox for everything.

All this helps you work out where to advertise, who to court on twitter, which news sites to try to get coverage on, even how to price your product. If you don’t know your customer, you can’t do any of this effectively.

And the best way to know your customer — once you start getting a few — is to talk to them and ask them. Another thing many of us try to avoid.


#8

Hi Darren, greetings from Belfast :slight_smile:

Did you not consider making it a webapp?


#9

I did seriously consider build a web app (no platform issues, recurring revenue, everyone always on the same versions, etc.), but the target user is simply not that interested in using one, and the small proportion that are interested do not want to pay the yearly fee a complex SaaS product would require. There are a few SaaS products out there chasing my target market – some of them are strong products with decent media exposure, but none of them have any real traction.

Users of my product and my competitor’s products are heavy content creators. A small number might be ok using smart devices for writing 100,000 word works, but most are not. Like developers, photoshop users, video editing, etc. they work best on full PCs or Macs.

When guys like me and you move away from IDEs like Visual Studio and into browser based IDEs, then I guess the time might be right to expect my users to be doing the same.


#10

Hi Darren,

man that looks like a lot of work - how long has it taken to build your app? Do you also do MVP style releases?


#11

Development was spread over a year, as I was only working on it for a short time each day. However, I already had a user base using an older and similar product, which added a degree of certainty to the feature set I was building. I also had a good understanding of the market.

An MVP for a product that was missing key features would have been far too basic to attract paid users. It was only with the version 2 release (2 weeks ago) that I felt the product had reached a fully marketable state.

I’ve released MVPs for other products in the past, usually when I was unsure of the potential or the market. In those cases, more often than not I got it wrong and built something nobody wanted. Here’s an example: http://www.timekeeperforword.com/

Free, solid features, MVP, no interest from anyone. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to build version 1 of that product, so the cost of building something no one wanted was not great.