Do you think writers are broke and ignorant? I don’t think so.

February 15, 2020

By Emanuel

It’s been a month since we gave public access to the platform. In the meantime, the feedback we received changed.

Before the launch, we chose our beta-users, and they were interested in making the platform better. The promise of increased productivity, a framework that will allow them to focus on being creative, and better time management were the goals. After the launch, it’s different.

The constructive feedback kept coming. Our Concierge – Jira Service Desk – proves to be a very easy to use and efficient communication tool. It’s a pleasure to answer back to writers and tell them “Hey, we made last night the change you suggested. Please check and let us know if it’s what you needed. Also, thank you because we are sure the other writers will benefit from it too.”

And then comes the other type of feedback revolving around the next two ideas:

  1. Writers are poor/broke. Paying for an online tool when there are others free, it doesn’t make sense.
  2. Few people heard of Kanban project management methodology.

While for a few seconds I cringe knowing that these are absurd arguments (I’ll explain below why), I make an educated effort I taught my brain to do a long time ago and force myself to approach it as an opportunity to communicate and explain more. It’s an educated effort because, at first, it hurts to have somebody criticizing your hard work. Being complacent in getting hurt is useless. Therefore, I changed my POV and observe the way I can turn this into a psoitive experience.


Crash course in how we started this business – setting the framework

When you start something with the purpose of creating a disruption in an industry and offer new and hopefully better ways of doing things, you have two choices:

  1. Use external resources: investors, borrowing vehicles, etc. You set a formal office, hire the specialists you need, generally have a minimum structure/physical presence that comes with specific costs: accounting, payroll, and so on.
  2. Bootstrap: work with the resources you have. Prepare to split your life in three: professional life, personal life, and your start-up.
    1. Time: while you’ll work full-time so you can make money from which you’ll allocate a part to your start-up, the personal time and your sleep will suffer. When you have a family, it’s mostly your sleep that gets cut.
    2. Money: you have to explain to your significant one that you’ll take a risk and you’ll use a percentage of the money that should go into the household for your idea. You’ll start cutting your personal expenses and become a minimalist – you’ll stop indulging in 99% of the things you liked. My business partners and I were lucky. We got people in our life that are supporting us.
    3. Health: Stretching your mind and body’s limits will take a toll. You’ll have many moments when you’ll just fall in a chair with your mind numb and your body aching for just one more minute of sleep asking yourself if it’s all worth it.
 

Phase 1: Building the software solution

You’ll need an internal team: partners, employees, or a mix of both. You’ll also have the external team: friends knowledgeable about the writing industry, software development, business strategy, in our case also professional writers (some very busy, rich, and famous) that will give you precious advice for free. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help just because they can.

This team will have to fill in certain roles:

  1. Business knowledge: legal, strategy, finance. You have to create a business entity, to cover all the administrative needs for it to exist and function. You also need to decide how you will structure your five-year plan of developing a digital value chain to cover the entire publishing industry. What to develop first, how to price the services you offer and when to change that to fit your needs.
  2. Industry knowledge and research: What the industry is missing or doesn’t get right and how professional writers are really writing. There is always a reluctance about the secrets of a trade. It takes time, perseverance, and a lot of luck to get them talking.
  3. Software development knowledge:
    1. UX and UI expertise – how a SaaS (Software as a Service) should look and work. How it will look and how will include all the needs of a writer to get to the final draft (this is our goal for the first phase)
    2. Back-End and Front-End development
    3. Technology (hosting, backups, security, etc) expertise
    4. Graphic Design
    5. Project management

We cover all these functionalities with a small team. It helps that we have experience in various domains and as core belief continuous learning.

 

Phase 2: The launch

You have literally few hours maybe a day to celebrate your hard work and sacrifices. The first 100 users of your product are reason for celebration.

The what if roller-coaster starts:

  • What if there are bugs we didn’t notice and users will leave because of them?
  • What if our message is not communicated right?
  • What if, the big if, what we built is not what the writers need?

The what if phase is short. You trust your industry research, your data was collected from relevant writers, the system is good and with a short learning curve. And most of all you trust the mix of gut, knowledge, love, sacrifice, time, money, grit, and faith that brought you to this point in time and space. You’re here to stay and persevere. The grind is real and you’re moving on no matter how hard it is.

 

Phase 3: The future

The future is less worrying than the present. Plans are in place for different situations. The goal remains the same: to build the best digital tools for writers.


 The other type of feedback

Let’s go back to what started this article:

  1. Writers are poor/broke. Paying for an online tool when there are others free, it doesn’t make sense.
  2. Few people heard of Kanban project management methodology.
 
Writers come from all walks of life
  1. Full-time writers – these are fewer than we like. Main reasons are that the traditional publishing industry can serve a limited number of writers and the indie publishing industry have few writers that treat writing as a business that needs to make money, a book as a project that costs money, and accept the value of a good editor.
  2. Dedicated writers – professional and beginners.
    1. The professional writers have the knowledge, skills and talent. What they need is increased productivity and better time management. This is where we are, Asengana, come as a good solution offering a platform that keeps all your research, planning, drafts in one place with a project management system and analytics to support your needs.
    2. The beginner writers have different reasons for writing. Some want to become a professional writer, others just to write one book. To them we can tell: Hey, we have the digital tools that will allow to write everywhere and while we can’t teach you how to write we can give you the tools that a lot of professional writers use. (I argued that even a memoir needs a hero’s journey structure – but this is a subject for another article).
 
Price is not too much or not enough. It’s what you’re willing to pay for the right tools to support your passion.

We spent a lot of time thinking about pricing. We end up with two strategies. I will talk about the one you see on our website. The second one is not useful yet.
There’s an entire conversation about free products that sell user data, freemium (money are charged for the additional features to the free version), or just selling your product. Compared with other SaaS solutions, we’re a niche product useful for a limited number of people (see above). We went with what-you-see-is-what-you-get.

This core product is a writing software with project management (research, planning, execution, monitoring) and analytics tools. As an Early Adopter you pay a fix price of $6/ month for life. It includes the core and all the other developments: collaborative writing, editing tools, ePub and other formats export, marketplace, writing contests, and other features. This will end in a month. You might as well take advantage of it now.
The premium accounts will be those that will use Ambassadors’ Club referral system. That means that you need to be invited by a member of our community. We decided on a price of $9. For all the other users the price will $12 or more, depending on the additional features they want to access.

While we took in consideration a series of factors on deciding the price, the conversation started with how much me, Emanuel the writer, will be willing to pay per month for a platform that will allow me to write my books, keep everything organized in one place, be able to have a lot of functionalities from export to writing on a mobile phone.
I live a parsimonious life. I have to. Every time I crave for something, I just don’t. Every dollar I don’t spend on essentials goes into Asengana. Living in communism was part of me being educated this way. Except for family, friends and my profession (project manager), I have only one passion: writing. This is what a live for. I even put writing aside in order to build Asengana for longer than I wished.

The conclusion is that $9 dollars it’s about right. I’m willing to pay less than $10 dollars for a digital environment where I can unleash my passion, create worlds and mold beings that will exist because I gave them life.

 

The suggestion that writers don’t understand and can’t learn Kanban is absurd. It denies the essence of being a writer: an inquisitive and creative mind in a process of continuous learning.

I’ll start with the conclusion. As a project manager with over 14 years of experience I can tell you that Kanban is the best project methodology for a writer and the way we personalized it for writing in Asengana it will help you be more productive and manage better your time.
I’m proud of me and my team. We built an entire software solution in less than a year while having jobs, families, and we didn’t burnout, we never had an argument. We had fun in doing this and loved our project. Oh, and we used Kanban.

You DON’T NEED TO KNOW the Kanban theory to use it. And you don’t need to know any theory to use Asengana. But, for the sake of argument, let me explain it.

As project management methodology, Kanban is easy to understand and apply. The information online is abundant. Only one of the software solutions promoting Kanban used by companies all over the world, Trello, announced last year that they passed 50 million users. As a writer, there’s quite a high probability that you already used a Kanban style tool and you’ll find our application in Asengana familiar. For those of you that don’t, it’s easy to understand. The concept of Kanban comes from lean manufacturing. Kanban was the card that stopped the production line when there was a defect or not enough components for the respective step.

“The kanban card is, in effect, a message that signals a depletion of product, parts, or inventory. When received, the kanban triggers replenishment of that product, part, or inventory. Consumption, therefore, drives demand for more production, and the kanban card signals demand for more product—so kanban cards help create a demand-driven system.” – Wikipedia

It was adapted in business and software development as a tool for controlling WIP – Work In Progress – on a Kanban Board.

In Asengana Kanban Board, you have a simple five columns structure: Backlog, To Do, Doing, Done, Archive (Reader Ready). The tasks for your project are actually the scenes of your book. Every day you decide on 5 scenes (approx 900 words/scene – that is just an assumption we used as a starting point) you will work on. During the day you can add or remove, but as soon as you add a sixth and save the board, you’ll get a Kanban Card that “stops the production”. This allows you to plan for a manageable amount of writing every day.

Another specific application you’ll find in the Manuscript page. Here are listed all the scenes grouped by chapter of your book. It can be quite long even if the sidebar navigation is easy. Activating the Kanban button will hide all the Scenes except those from the Doing column. This will allow you to focus only on the Scenes you want to work on that day or the next days.


To end this article, there are a lot of writing solutions and each one is a fit for a way of writing. Asengana is for those writers that want to have easy access anywhere to write, be productive and be able to manage better their time. We think the price is right and Kanban is the right and easy-to-use project methodology. We are certain that we will improve Asengana and always deliver more value than its price.

Thank you for reading and take advantage of our Early Adopters offer while it lasts.

Power of ownership over the publishing process

Our goal: create the best digital tools for writers. Period.

Asengana Writing Platform has the tools to get your book finished. Think of it as taking in it to the next level. When you use the right tool, you are more productive and you write better and faster. 

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