Selling software is an extremely profitable business. The recent “Grand Theft Auto 4” release sold over $500 Million in the first week and many more mundane software titles like word processors, spreadsheets, and screen capture tools sell hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of product year after year.
For information producers who are more familiar with creating courses and seminars, there is another alternative that will help you cash in on the software business using the content you are creating right now.
A Different Kind of Software
Back in college I studied fiction writing and came across a piece of writing software called “WritePro.” The software was (and still is) pitched as a virtual writing tutor designed to help users craft better characters and richer story lines for their writing. This software is not particularly sophisticated and has not been updated much, but continues to sell for $99 per copy over 10 years later.
The foundation of the software is a writing course created by author and writing coach Sol Stein. It consists of a series of exercises and questions designed to help you develop a fictional story with well-rounded characters. The software simply presents the questions and exercises to you in a specific sequence and records your responses.
As you work through the material, you revisit and add to the material you previously wrote and, finally, convert it into a wordprocessor file to further develop into a manuscript for a novel.
The technology to run this software is very simple – it’s the sequence of questions and exercises (the content) that creates the value. Speaking of value, let’s take a look at the value of Stein’s teaching in various formats.
The Value Of Content In Various Forms
Sol Stein has 3 significant books on writing that can be purchased today: “Stein on Writing”, “How to Grow a Novel”, and “Solutions for Writers.” All three books can be purchased at Amazon right now for $47.74 plus shipping – if you buy them used, $32.23.
There is an MP3 audio on CD version of “Stein on Writing” that sells for $24.95 new and $15.72 used (that’s about $5-$14 dollars more than the print version.)
The “WritePro” software is constructed from essentially the same teaching content, but it is presented in an interactive interface that prevents people from jumping ahead until they have done the writing work for each module. That software sells for $99 today and has been on the market for over 10 years.
Transforming Your Content Into Software
Think for a minute about all of the ebooks, audio recordings, videos, and websites you have created. Can that content be presented as a sequence of learning modules with assignments at the end of each one? Can the end result of the activities be combined to create a resource that will help your customer succeed at whatever subject you are teaching them about? If so, you could have the makings of an excellent software product on your hands.
If you have an ebook about how to write short ebooks, it probably breaks down the writing process into steps that build on each other. Imagine a software package that instructs users to pick a topic and write it down. Then, it asks them to write down four sub-topics. Then it presents each sub-topic and asks the user to write several paragraphs for each one. The software would walk the user step-by-step through the writing process, capturing the results of each exercise along the way. When the writing is done, the software could present the user with several templates to chose from and out the other side comes a well written professionally formatted ebook ready to sell. That’s just the bare bones of an idea. There are many other useful functions that could be added to increase the value to the user.
The first step in adapting your content is to create a teaching plan and define the final output and how it will benefit your customer. Next, plan the content for each module and make notes on how you would like to present it to the customer. How will the user be able to navigate through the exercises? Will there be supplemental teaching material available? Will the user need to review previous results during later assignments? Make your notes and show them to a trusted adviser to get an outside opinion of how well the material flows.
There are a number of different technologies which can be used to program your final software. You can use a program like Flash or Multimedia Maker to create your program and deliver it to your customer. Or, you can hire a programmer to start from the ground up and create everything in C++ or Java. Whatever your solution, before you search for a programmer on eLance or start working on it yourself, create a detailed outline from your notes of how you want the software to work and make samples of how you want it to look. This will help shorten the development process and minimize mistakes and miscommunication.
The greatest value will come if the software you create helps people create and store resources they can use again or pushes them to complete a process they wouldn’t otherwise finish if they just had a blank pad of paper and your content in ebook form. Some of the simplest software I’ve seen does little more than ask people to fill in a few blanks about a product and then inserts the results into a pre-formatted HTML template to create a sales page. The user uploads the resulting file to their server and they are ready to start driving traffic to it – a simple tool that helps people who have trouble putting together a decent sales page.
The bottom line is this, create something useful and you can profit with it for months and years to come. There is big money in software.
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