When I embarked upon creating a book writing software, I started with a basic online editor. The reason is all I wanted was an online editor to drag and drop my scenes and chapters. Sure, there was already software online that could do it, but it had a clunky experience and I wanted something better. Little did I know how deep this rabbit hole would go.
As I conducted more research around the market, I began to see there was a ton of opportunity besides creating a basic online editor.
During this research process, a lot of assumptions I had about the book writing software industry and writing would be proven wrong. Because I hold writing sacred, I thought of writing as almost too good for software. That writing couldn’t be templatized or reduced to features.
The opposite was true. It’s that templatization and features enable you to focus on the most creative aspects of writing. This realization is when my original motivation to create a writing software drastically changed. It went from all about what I wanted to how to enable millions to write books.
Why a Book Writing Software?
The short answer: it’s hard to write a book. It often takes hundreds of hours to do so, which means writers need a lot of help.
The long answer is because everyone should write a book. Externalizing your thoughts through writing is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fantasy fiction, romance, or recounting personal memories. Writing helps us understand ourselves and the world around us. In other words, it makes us more empathetic and genuine human beings.
It’s not just for us. The people who read books become more empathetic as well and – hopefully – they’ll learn more things about the world around them. It’s a beautiful cycle. By creating the book writing software, Squibler, I’m encouraging that cycle to become bigger and more impactful.
How Does a Book Writing Software Help Writers?
This is the question I’ve been trying to answer and finally have after over a year of studying the writing market. A book writing software helps writers with these six primary areas:
1. Book and Novel Templates
Book and novel templates help you get started faster with writing. They may include setting a word count goal for you, inputting the copyright page, setting up your notes to include a setting and character section, and much more. This territory is still relatively unexplored by software techies.
2. Helping Writers Focus
Focusing when writing is a huge hurdle for many writers. Oh, look a squirrel! We get scattered brained, click around online, and before we know it, we wasted a half hour surfing the web and have only written one sentence. Ouch. To help writers focus, there are three features a book writing software needs to have:
This is to keep writers motivated. That means rewarding them for consistency with points, upgraded avatars, or another type of compensation.
B. Expanded editor
To ensure writers can block out everything except the editor they’re writing on, they should have an option to expand it so all they can see are their words.
C. Personalized Features
For a writer, it’s hard to focus on using a software’s feature in a non-distractive way. For this reason, everything must be personalized to that individual writer. So when they click writing prompts, they see the exact writing prompts they’re looking for immediately. Same with book and novel writing templates.
3. Writing Prompts
Writing prompts are still unchartered territory. Because what’s considered a good writing prompt? Often people think a prompt is good if the answers are. It’s a bit of a catch-22. What I know is that people use writing prompts to practice writing and get in the habit of doing it. See, not everyone will come up with an idea to write about, but everyone can be given an idea to write about. By doing so, it keeps people actively writing and engaged with the editor.
When you’re writing a book, it’s easier when you have detailed notes. These notes dive into your characters, settings, research, and much more. Often these notes require you to be exact in detail so you paint the picture perfectly in your book. The most exact detail? That comes with images. Now, this is unexplored territory as well. Many images fall under copyright law and won’t be usable in publishing, but they can be used for notes and inspiration. The question is how do we show the right images when a user is looking for them?
There are scientific ways to brainstorm that will produce better results faster. It’s why the book writing software, Scrivener came out with a mind-mapping tool called Scapple. It sells this tool separately. Authors love these tools as their book often require endless hours of piecing their thoughts together and coming up with new ones. The trick is including a feature where authors can brainstorm but doesn’t overwhelm the product experience.
This is the last piece because the only way publishing benefits a writer in a book writing software is if they finish writing their book. As you can imagine, there’s a huge drop off in regards to writers who actually finish.
Today, most books are self-published. A book writing software should enable an easier self-publishing process, one where you don’t have to figure out Amazon KDP. Since Amazon dominates the book market, easier self-publishing means syncing your book directly to Kindle on Amazon from the software.
Book Writing Software that Got it Right
Scrivener figured out that book writers and other writers need templates to have success with their product so they introduced them in their onboarding flow like in the example below.
The issue is Scrivener makes the writing templates complex to understand leaving the writers confused. Moreover, because they’re a desktop app, it limits the benefits they can provide with templates from sourcing web images to much more.
Ulysses nailed the simplicity of their product’s user interface and goal setting feature. However, because they lack a proper onboarding flow, it’s still complex to understand scaring off many would-be authors.
Reedsy’s mission is to become the #1 marketplace for authors whether that’s to find cover designers, editors, publishers, or book marketers. They’ve been very successful at it – less so with their editor. However, one featured they got right is their publish one. When you go to publish, they offer a range of customization to ensure you get the perfect book appearance for Kindle or print.
In the screenshot below, they allow you to format chapter numbers, then select the different versions to download whether it’s .epub or .mobi, then download your book right there.
You can even select to print it. If so, you can format it for print in only one click. Now that’s easy.
The downside is not many writers will get to this publishing point. Because the hardest part for writers is to keep writing. So even though the end customization is excellent, the rest of the editor doesn’t encourage book writers to spend the hundreds of hours to get there.
What They’re Missing
Today, when you use software like Canva or Wix, you’ll notice that they personalize the experience based on the data they have on you. None of the above products do that. As a result, their user experience doesn’t wow you. It gives you a meh, this just another editor thing type of feel. That’s no good. We need higher standards for writing products than that.
When Melanie Perkins created Canva, she did so with the purpose to make anyone feel like they could become a designer in less than a minute. Why can’t we do this with writing books? I think the reason it hasn’t been done with a book writing software is people don’t believe it can be done.
With that said, I’ve seen the craziest things happen in the software world. For example, Lumen5, a video making and editing tool can turn a blog post into a spectacular video in minutes automatically. If software can do that today, then the potential is limitless. It’s about having the confidence and patience to see it through.
How We Differ in Our Approach
If there’s one thing I learned about software, it’s the importance of getting it right the first time. To create a book writing software, it’s better to under-build than overbuild. If you overbuild, it’s the fastest way to get killed by a competitor because it’s hard to erase the code and remove features for existing users. That’s the last thing you want to happen.
What we’re doing is taking an acquisition, then build approach while mirroring many of the best B2C companies, including Canva’s and Duolingo’s features. This way, we don’t overstep and we get it just right.
By going acquisition first, we risk disappointing users as they get deeper into the product. To us, that’s okay. This is because we don’t want to guess what they want down the line, it will make them more upset. We rather have them tell us by showing us what converts them into using more of our product.
In software, you don’t get many chances to get it right. It really does make patience a virtue.
Acquisition Means Creating Templates
What I learned in B2C marketing is that the template’s page is often the best page to acquire new customers. Notice how with Wix and Canva, the template page is either the third or fourth most-visited page.
It’s where visitors get the aha moment that says, “Hey, this can be easy.” As a result, they click the template and plug it into your software to get started.
The problem with templates in the writing space is they haven’t been explored to much extent. The only templates we have are what Scrivener uses, but that doesn’t give us a good glimpse because their editor is based on desktop. For Squibler, we must explore with baby steps while asking the user what they want and seeing their reaction to each new feature no matter how small.
Where the Magic Happens
The number of people who get excited to write their first book is estimated to be, at least, 100 times larger than the people who purchase Scrivener or use Reedsy’s editor. The reason they don’t is they get overwhelmed.
If we can give these people a feeling that they can become a book author in a matter of minutes, then we’ve done our job to inspire a new world of writers where books will continue to flourish. As a result, a world with thousands – and maybe millions – of more stories will be read.