How I Created A $60K/Year Software For Novel Writers

Published: February 2nd, 2022
Katja Kaine
Founder, Novel Factory
Novel Factory
from Otley, UK
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m Katja Kaine and I am the founder of The Novel Factory, a novel writing software that helps guide new writers through the novel-writing process.


My company has just launched the latest version of our software, Novel Factory 3.0.

The Novel Factory has dedicated software for novel writers. It helps keep track of characters, locations, and drafts - but it does much more than that. It contains heaps of useful prompts, resources, and guides for writers, to help learn the craft. It also has plot management tools and lets you cross-reference and link all your data.

When we first started we would sell just a few copies of our software every month, but now we get over 1000 free trial signs up every month and over 100 new subscriptions.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

The Novel Factory and its success are built on three different foundations - my passion for writing, my entrepreneurial instinct, and my background in software.

I’ve always had the urge to be an entrepreneur. As well as studying Business Studies at A-Level and Management Science at University (along with Linguistics and European Studies), whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up I always answered: run my own business. Never mind that I had no idea what it would be in…

At school, I also organized events to raise money for charity, and I even made a profit of £100 at my 16th birthday party by hiring out a venue, laying on entertainment, and selling tickets for £1 each.

Try to get something out there as quickly as possible and get feedback about what’s working and what’s not.

So, after hopping between a few random jobs including croupier, silver service waitress, and English Language teacher (okay, that one was a bit more of a serious job and I did it for quite a few years), I set up my first proper business - making websites. I taught myself how to make them, and started by making them for friends and family.

Then I used my microscopic budget to try my hand at marketing - in the local newspaper (somewhat successful) and even on the radio (not a single bite).

Customer by customer, my business grew, until I was able to take on a developer friend, expand into simple software applications, and hire one of my ex-English students to assist me.

I had always written stories, and as I was approaching 30, I decided I wanted to get serious about it.

But when I sat down to write my first novel, I thought it would be madness to just do the whole thing on the fly, there must be structures and rules that could be followed which would make a book more likely to appeal to readers and not just meander around aimlessly.

I was right, and over the following years, I learned absolutely tons about story structure, character development, techniques of dramatic tension and so much more.

I’ve always been obsessed with continuous improvement and seeking efficiencies, and I took that same approach to write a novel.

So I took everything I learned and tried to create a repeatable method for writing a novel, with all my research materials ordered to be at my fingertips at the exact point I needed them. For example, it made sense to start the novel with a premise, so that would be my first step, and I’d collect all the information I’d learned about writing premises so I could review it just when I wanted to write a premise.

I repeated this for writing a plot outline, creating characters, drafting, editing, and all the rest - and then I found I had created a step-by-step method of writing a novel.

And that’s how the Novel Writing Roadmap was born. I figured other people might want to take advantage of all the legwork I’d done, so I published the Roadmap for free online - and people loved it. It helped new writers learn the craft of writing while completing their first novel.


The other thing I noticed when trying to write my novels, was that I found it very hard to keep track of all my novel data. I would create character profile templates, but then I kept accidentally overwriting my master sheet and having to go back and manually delete all the answers again.

And within my novels, I would forget what people were wearing, how old they were, and whether I’d mentioned this or that plot point already. Word wasn’t cutting it. So I looked for some software to help me out.

There was already a well-established software application for writers, but I found it very confusing and fiddly. There were a few other products around, but none of them did what I wanted. So, as is my habit, I decided to create my solution.

Take us through the process of designing and prototyping the software.

I made a rough design of what I wanted the software to do and had my software developer create a prototype.

One of my main priorities was that it should be completely intuitive, and even if it had lots of clever features included, it should always look simple and just show you the most important things first. Then, if you wanted a particular function, if you looked for it - it would be there.

I integrated a bunch of plot templates I’d created, as well as character worksheets and a few unique things, like a way to keep track of multiple character viewpoints.

After a little internal testing, we quietly released it into the world.


Once it was out there, we encouraged our users to give us feedback on what features they would like added, and we implemented them whenever we could.

We had no marketing budget and no platform, so growth was incredibly slow at first. This was no overnight millionaire stuff. But as the months and years passed, we started to grow a following and the software started to make a small profit.

However, I’d learned so much more about software and writing in the meantime, I had about a hundred ways I wanted to improve the software. And because of the limitations of the original technology we’d used, at some point, it made more sense to start again from scratch, rather than keep reiterating.

So we started work on Version 2.0 - which was web-based. The decision to go web-based was largely due to the fact we often got messages from Mac users upset that they couldn’t use the software because it was Windows-based. By going to a web platform, we could make the software accessible on any platform that had Internet.

With Version 2.0 we did a lot more testing, and there were a lot more features that had to be in place at launch - as the users of V1 would be expecting them. This time, we invited beta users to test the software for us before launch, and give us feedback on what worked and what didn’t. We thanked them for complimentary licenses for the software once it went live.


Once Version 2.0 was out we started growing even faster, and eventually, the software hit the point where it was making more money than the website and software development side of the business. So while still supporting our existing website clients, we switched the company’s main focus to the Novel Factory.

In 2021 we felt it was time to launch Version 3.0 of the software. Our increased profitability meant we were able to hire my partner (life and business) full-time. He’s always been involved in the company as a director and technical consultant, but until now we weren’t able to afford his salary.

Once he joined the company we were cooking with gas. He spent the first six months dedicated to creating Version 3.0 of the Novel Factory, using all the latest cutting-edge technology and adding in slick new features and functionality to add the basic structure we started with.

The newest version offers both a web app and an online app, which seamlessly synchronizes.

On September 13th Novel Factory 3.0 was launched, replacing both previous versions.


Describe the process of launching the software.

I’ll talk about the launch of Novel Factory 3.0 because we didn’t do proper launches of the previous versions, as we didn’t have the expertise or confidence.

By the time we were getting to launch 3.0, we had been approached by an American marketing company, which had seen the potential of our product and wanted to help us grow the business.

So with their help, we launched the software and enjoyed record sign-ups and sales from the first month it went live.

These were the elements of the launch:

Mailouts in the lead up

When people visit our website they are invited to sign up for our newsletter and given the incentive of a free Character Questionnaire PDF (which is the most popular and comprehensive one on the internet), so by the time we got to launch we were lucky enough to have a mailing list in the region of 30,000 writers.

In the weeks running up to launch we sent out little teasers with screenshots and snippets of what was in the new version.


In-House Webinar

At the core of the launch, the campaign was a webinar that we ran, offering free training on how to write the first draft of your novel, with a brief walk-through of the software at the end. We had over 300 signs up for this.

Guest webinar software walk-through

We also partnered with a well-known grammar and editorial app, which hosted a software walkthrough webinar to their own (very large) following, with a discount to attendees wishing to sign up for the software.

Social Media

And we used our social media to tease and then announce the launch of the software.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Our outstanding customer service is one of the things that makes a big difference to how users feel about us.

I answer all support queries. So people don’t get some robotic customer service representative who has never used the software, bounced to an FAQ, or was treated as a nuisance.

Speak to your customers and treat them like the valued people they are. Listen especially hard to the ones that are complaining - they can teach you the most.

It’s genuinely important to me that every one of our customers has their needs met as far as is possible for me to do so. So I take the time to answer each one like a human, to fully understand their issue, and do whatever research I need before responding.

We are generous with offering goodwill gestures if people do encounter issues and never quibble about refunds.

The other strongest arm of our offering is the wealth of high-quality free content we give away. We’ve always written painstakingly researched articles about topics surrounding writing and shared them freely on our website - but with the help of our marketing partners, we’re able to create even more of these and increase their reach to a wider audience.


We’ve never had much luck with Google adverts - even though we feel like it should be quite effective for us. Likewise, we’ve taken out print ads in a few industry magazines over the years and never seen any tangible results. That’s not to say those things can’t work - possibly we just don’t know how to leverage them properly, but we don’t bother with any of that anymore.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We’ve gone from a tiny app that nobody had heard of to being one of the more established brands in the marketplace, with a growing community of followers and enthusiasts.


As our reputation grows, it becomes easier to make connections with influencers, and over the coming years, we believe that will be one of our best growth areas.

Big names in the writing and self-publishing industry who completely blanked us years ago are now actively approaching us to ask if we have an affiliate program (we do) and if we would like to collaborate (we usually would).

Our marketing partners are doing a lot of number crunching and analysis that we’ve never had the resources or expertise to do before, and are applying SEO magic to boost our already solidly successful website to new heights.

I’m extremely proud of the latest version of the software and think that it is of a standard to compete with the leader of the market.

We’re constantly adding new features and functions and have so many more ideas about how it can help make the process of writing a novel even more fun.

And there are plenty of opportunities for expanding the software further, even once we’ve got all the features a novel writer could dream of. One priority is a world-building module, and people have already been asking us to create versions of the software which are more specifically aimed at screenwriters, roleplayers, and non-fiction writers.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The thing that changed the most over the years was how much I reached out for external feedback. To begin with, the software was designed specifically for how I wanted to use it, and I didn’t seek the opinion of anyone else.

But as we’ve had more interaction with our customers I’ve come to greatly value the different ways in which people work - this applies to how people write novels as well as how they like to use the software. So now I don’t assume that the way I want to do it is necessarily the best way or the way everyone else will want to do it.

And finding out what are priorities for our users is useful for helping to guide our roadmap for development:


I agree with what other entrepreneurs have said on this site, that it’s best to get something out there - that’s the only way to find out for sure if there’s a market and what works and what doesn’t. If you end up going down a rabbit hole of endless research and development, you risk wasting a lot of time, money, and energy.

For me, a key part of the success was creating software in an area I was personally passionate about. This has paid so many dividends.

It means I was able to ‘dog-food’ the product myself. This means that I use it for real every day - the term comes from the idea of ‘eating your dog food’, which presumably not too many dog food producers do.

It also meant that I had a personal stake in making it the best it could be because I could take advantage of all those lovely features when writing my novels. If a feature was clunky or didn’t do what I wanted, I knew about it and I wanted it fixed.

Furthermore, it meant there was perfect synchronicity when it came to creating useful content. Writing an article about how to create dramatic tension gave me the excuse to spend hours researching the topic, distilling the concepts, and making sure I fully understood it for myself. This meant that as well as providing content for our followers, I was constantly upping my skills as a writer.

Nearly ten years on from starting to learn how to write novels, I am finally starting to get some traction in the industry (there are some anecdotal stories bandied around the writing community that before you get to be any good, you have to write for ten years, or a million words!).

Over the past year, I have come second in two international novel writing competitions and been longlisted for two others (one of which is still awaiting the shortlist). Because of these successes, I have now got literary agents approaching me with interest in my books, so I’m cautiously confident that soon my writing career will achieve the next level.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use far too many project management systems to keep track of our tasks and tickets, including Unfuddle, Git, Trello and Teamwork.

We use the wonderful Balsamiq for wireframing - and it’s also a great example of fab software design - extremely intuitive but powerful under the bonnet.

For marketing we use Canva, Animoto, Storyblocks, Camtasia and the fantastic Unsplash for high quality, free images.


As Mailchimp was too pricey for us when we started doing mailing lists, we went with Mailerlite, which has all of the functionality we need at a fraction of the price.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Many years ago I read The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris, and while I don’t agree with all his approaches, it was genuinely life-changing. It made me rethink my attitude to work and what it was for - and most importantly, it made me turn off all notifications - especially email ones.

When designing interfaces I spend a lot of time on blogs and websites such as Smashing Magazine, UX Planet, Google’s Material Design and so many others.

Other than that all the books, podcasts, and other resources I consume relate to writing, not running a business, and they are far too numerous to list here.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Start your business in an area you feel passionate about.

Try to get something out there as quickly as possible and get feedback about what’s working and what’s not.

Speak to your customers and treat them like the valued people they are. Listen especially hard to the ones that are complaining - they can teach you the most.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can find out more about our software here.

And get a free trial of the software here.

You can see the kind of content we create on our blog.

We also have a Facebook page.

And a Facebook community to support writers.

And we’re on Twitter!

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!