I was 27-years-old running a multi-million dollar agency, but I was tired. Tired of the endless business development. Tired of always having to talk with many clients. At the end of the day, I wasn’t as interested as I’d thought I’d be in devoting my life to selling marketing services. I felt like a cog in a machine I’d accidentally created. That’s why I started Squibler, a book writing software.
My interests always lie in technical marketing and writing. I’d been writing almost every day for seven years. To date, I’ve written over 1,000 blog posts and five books. Wanting to dig deeper into my passion, I thought how could I combine these two interests – that’s when I met Dhaval, my co-founder of our book writing software.
Dhaval was working on software to analyze the emotions of
Tired of dealing with client churn and acquisition, and traveling for business development, I wanted to look for something evergreen. The authorship space simply made sense because I love writing and people will always write books.
I dreamed about building something for the writing industry similar to Canva for the design industry. In other words, a simple product, but providing value to a huge market. It was time for me to pivot my career. At that same time, I just so happen to be working with Dhaval to pivot his startup.
Rather than jump into something right away, which almost never works, we started with research. First, we looked at the existing players in the book writing industry.
The Top Five Book Writing Software
When doing research, I noticed the book writing software space wasn’t overcrowded. Rather it was a bit “old.” Most of the software was still based on desktop and created before 2013. Before we started working on Squibler, these were the top five book writing software programs.
1. Scrivener, a Desktop Book Writing Software
I had used Scrivener before stumbling back on this idea to create a book writing software. I had an awful experience with the product. The learning curve was too steep and the UX and UI drove me a little insane, to say the least. So I never finished my book. What I didn’t know – this was the main alternative to Microsoft Word for writing books. Moreover, they’ve had over 800,000 customers. I couldn’t believe it.
I write technical documentation on software for a living and even I thought this book writing software was complex. The next step was to find out why – so I listened to Scrivener’s founder on different podcasts and read his Medium posts. It turns out he liked implementing lots of user requests. In short, he overbuilt his product because he wanted to appeal to every writer from aPhD student working on their thesis to the romance fiction writer.
Moreover, they lacked the fundamental benefits of being an online app. This includes a better onboarding flow, community, personalizing experiences, and the ability to understand your users’ pain point in their customer journey using data.
With that said, it was still the best alternative. And when you’re the best alternative – you’ll succeed.
2. Novlr, an Online Book Writing Software
When I first came across
Moreover, I didn’t feel like the founders were invested in the education of writers. I didn’t come across any blog posts, videos, or community where I could learn more about writing. The experience wasn’t personalized to me either. Instead, I felt they were saying, “If you think Scrivener is too complicated, well, we’re the best alternative to them.”
Even though I didn’t enjoy the product – the good news is they validated a lot of the work we were looking to implement. Progress.
3. Ulysses, a Mobile Book Writing Software
Ulysses is one of my favorite book writing software. It’s almost everything I’d want out of a mobile and desktop app. However, they lack some key functionality by not having an online presence and not making the product specifically for writing books.
With that said, they perfected the minimalist design for writing – even better than how Medium did it.
I like Ulysses for taking notes, but I didn’t feel like it offered everything a book writer would need today in order to be successful. They were missing not only the educational component but the community and online onboarding experience that can enrich products. With that said, they gave us the roadmap for a minimalist design when it came to building out our online product. If we were to be like Canva, then we’d need to keep it simple.
4. Microsoft Word, a Desktop App and Online Software for Writing
Microsoft Word is the “OG” of the space. They have a desktop and online version for you to write your books. They have a lot of features to improve your writing and many writers are familiar with the product. The downside is similar to Scrivener, they wanted to be everything to everyone. Moreover, there’s no personalized experience.
As a result, if you’re looking to write a book with the product, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There’s also little education and community around their product for writers interested in authoring books.
With that said, the product is sharp. I’m a huge fan of Microsoft Word’s online version for writing books. I like Microsoft Word as a book writing software even more than Scrivener and Novlr. In fact, I wrote my first book in Microsoft Word.
Plus, Word has almost every feature you’d need to write books, but they remind me of why people choose Canva over Adobe Photoshop – it’s the shorter learning curve and simplicity that often builds a company faster.
5. Google Docs, an Online Writing Software
I’ve written my last four books in Google Docs. I like the simplicity and that it already integrates with my workspace. But it’s not easy to use. I have to create a new document for each chapter, then have one main doc linking all the individual chapters to keep them organized. The reason I can’t just write the book out in one long Google Doc like in the example below is I need a place for my synopsis and notes.
It’s hard to point out the flaws in Google Docs when it is a free product. You can’t expect the world when you have no skin in the game. In addition, there are many benefits to Google Docs, including easy collaboration with live chat and sharing your document with an editor. It also has a quick learning curve.
What Makes Our Book Writing Software Different?
I noticed there was a HUGE market need for a more seamless software regarding personalization and education. Moreover, an online book writing software that catered to minimalist design demands. The best part: by personalizing the experience, we could provide a minimalist experience while giving book writers exactly what they wanted while helping them succeed every step of the way with our educational component.
You can see the parallels of minimalism between Ulysses and Squibler in this one screenshot:
With a background in SaaS, I had many ideas of what the educational side would look like. Rather than rely solely on my knowledge and that of my co-founder’s, I looked at companies with similar business models. The one that came to mind besides Canva: Duolingo.
Duolingo finds out what language you want to learn and how much time you’re willing to devote to learning that language before you begin using their product. This allows them to create a more pleasant experience for their users.
It’s why we implemented these two questions into our onboarding flow:
By the time a user starts writing in our product, we know their level of commitment and what type of book they want to write. As a result, we can provide them personalized content to succeed.
My favorite part: when the user is going through this onboarding experience, it doesn’t change page URLs so there’s no additional loading time. And because they’re inputting their level of daily commitment, we have a reason to send follow-up emails to ensure they hit it.
Creating a Foundation of Educational Content
One of the main pieces of Squibler is creating a section for educational content where people can learn more about writing books from how to start writing to publishing. Many SaaS companies have what they call “universities” like Webflow where they educate their user and customer base. I see ours as something similar.
There are two main players in the education space: Self-Publishing School founded by entrepreneur, Chandler Bolt; the second player is Now Novel, a community around helping authors succeed. Both of them have been a huge inspiration for me for understanding the power of content marketing to support writers. Chandler has mentioned that Self-Publishing school does 10 million in ARR as of writing this. That’s a great sign of how big the market is.
The other goods news: neither are our competitors. In fact, they complement our book writing software, especially if they promote it. Plus, the more people they encourage to write books, the larger our customer base becomes.
Building a Team Around our Book Writing Software
Today, we have eight people working on the software. On our marketing front, we have our community manager, Rachelle; two writers, Steph and Elizabeth, who have a backlog of 70 articles to go through as of writing this; infographic designer, Ivana who’s turning our writer’s work into visual content. For example, she’ll turn a blog post like this one into a beautiful infographic that can possibly go viral similar to the case study I wrote about here.
On our development and product front, we have Oleg and my co-founder, Dhaval. Then we have a kick-ass product designer, Kirill ensuring we keep a minimalist and personalized design.
Lastly, on my front, I’m working on recruiting, creating the product development roadmap, content marketing
Where We’re at in Regards to Implementation
To date, there hasn’t been a book writing software operating like a top-notch consumer SaaS company. We’re hoping to be that first one.
As of now, we’re working on the system’s architecture to load everything within the web app faster. This will be done in about a week as of writing this.
Moreover, we’ve been using external code/plugin for our editor. To scale, we’ll need to build a custom version. It’s not ideal since it will take time, but providing a strong foundation for our product is critical to not wasting time down the line because we didn’t solve this problem sooner.
Features we’re implementing soon:
- Drag-and-drop scenes
- More font choices
- A split screen to view your notes with the main editor simultaneously
- Grammar corrections
Looking Down the Road
Ideally, when we have a strong enough user base, we’ll build a mobile app and have the data to test heavy-duty features, including one for visual outlining and image searching. These are all still a little far out on the road map, but fun to think about as we move forward to ensure we build the best book writing software.
I hope you’ll follow along on the journey.