Little did I know that when I started building Aesop Story Engine one year ago, that it would have generated nearly $25K along with close to 20K downloads only ten months later.

It was December of last year. I had just come off of a really big programming project (http://modernfarmer.com), and was really inspired by the “modules” that the designer had designed. Each area of interactivity was essentially encapsulated, which really was the inspiration behind the idea. Each post had a distinct design, and each story could be set as a Super Feature, or just a normal Feature. Then I started noticing longform articles taking off, like Snowfall via NY Times.

And the rest as they say, is history.

Image-2014-12-17-at-8.41.00-AM

Aesop Story Engine is a free plugin, but in 10 months we’ve made $23,097.34 from selling themes and add-ons built specifically for it. Our themes command the highest price point in the industry, carry the least amount of options, and are only released every four months; but they continue to sell. Our most popular selling theme was Jorgen at 146 purchases netting $9,040.24 (we didn’t raise prices until Jorgen had already been out for about two months). Novella is our second most popular with 66 sales at $8,047.32. We’ve paid out $3,921.12 to the designers of Novella and Kerouac, and I’ve paid myself $1600 this year.

The rest (save a few thousand for taxes and costs that go along with running a business) has gone back into the plugin. This means we have invested at least $12K into the free plugin itself.

And we’re just getting started.

What’s Next?

Although our revenue has gone up, it fluctuates with each theme release. This is not sustainable. We thought for many months, and even garnered feedback on a “subscription club” type of program here. There wasn’t a lot of interest, and to be honest, I think those programs devalue the products within them. We want to make money, but we also want to create something that solves a need. This is where Story.AM comes in.

We have spent months on this so far, and it’s at about 94%. It’s a hosted platform for storytellers (built on WordPress but does not resemble WordPress) where you can create interactive stories within your own story collection. The layout of the collection of your stories will change based on the amount of content you have, and will design itself to match your images. We detect faces and crop images so you don’t have to. And, you invite other storytellers in to collaborate and sell stories with, or follow other storytellers on the network. It’s a social network for storytellers, with the editor being powered by Aesop Story Engine.

The goal of this is multi-faceted. We’re after a recurring revenue model, and we want to create a place for writers and storytellers. But we also want to fund the next phase of development for Aesop Story Engine — the push to the front-end.

Aesop Front End Editor

When Story.AM launches into private beta, it will be limited to a certain number of users. These “Founders” will get to be on board first, with amazing perks that come along with being a Founding member. We’ll be relying on these Founders to use Story.AM and our new editor before the public does, and provide feedback so we can fast-track the development and testing. The funds from this will be put into building the next version of Aesop Story Engine that will initially power Story.AM.

Currently Aesop Story Engine components are added into the editor in an admin area. We’d like you to be able to do this from within your story on the front-end of your site. So with Aesop Story Engine 2.0, we are becoming the front-end editor with story components that you can drag and drop into place.

This is indeed exciting, but in order to do it right, it’s going to take both time and money. We have the technical know how. In fact it’s already being outlined and steps have been taken to get things started. The only thing we need now? You.

We’ll share more about how to become a Founding member soon, but until then head on over to Story.AM and get signed up to be notified. If you sign up and refer 20 users that end up signing up to be notified, we’ll email you first ahead of everyone else.

Wrapping Up

To say that this year has been exciting is an understatement. It has been nothing short of amazing, and we’re all thankful for each and every one of you!! We have some big goals set in place for next year, and we really hope that you’ll help us get there! We hope that you have a Merry Christmas, and a safe and happy New Year.

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