You were asked to vote on my next big writing challenge or experiment, and boy did you come through. I'll be honest. I didn't expect much voting given how difficult it was to pull initial ideas out of you. But vote you did.

I didn't think we'd hit 50 responses by the end of the day Friday. Instead, you doubled that more than a day before the intended survey close time. Unfortunately, not expecting much of a response, I used a limited survey. And you capped it out quickly. So I had to close things a bit early. Thank you!

The result was clear, and not really surprising. Your top two choices were both blogging related -- launching a new blog and reviving an older one. The new blog launch was the resounding winner. It makes sense. Freelancers, authors, and professional bloggers all frequently launch and manage blogs, so I can understand the broader appeal.

writing challenge survey results

Now it's time to lay out a plan so you'll know what to expect.

The Basics

Here's the gist of what's involved:

  • I'm to build and launch a brand new blog.
  • I'll be doing this under an existing pen name (where I have some presence online, but not much yet -- in line with where many of you would be if you launched a new blog today).
  • The challenge itself will run for three months.
  • That three-month clock will start on its launch date. This way you'll get to see three full months' progress in stats.
  • Prior to that, you'll be given details on plans, including the content strategy.
  • I'll mention the new site's domain once here for the launch. I won't link to it in updates, as I don't want this site being the primary traffic source.
  • I'll be creating the content myself to show you what you can do independently. It may or may not include guest contributions, but I wouldn't expect those early on. There won't be any freelance contributors during the challenge period though.
  • I'll also be keeping costs as low as possible, again to make this something any of you can replicate. Off the top of my head, the only costs I can see it incurring would be domain registration, hosting, and a theme license purchase. I already have these things (though I'm not 100% committed to the domain name I chose for the project previously). But I'll give you the cost breakdown in the launch post to let you know how you can do the same as cost-efficiently as possible. The only other possibility would be premium plugins or services tied to special features I add to the blog. But as of now, I haven't decided if there will be anything like that.
  • I'll post updates either weekly or bi-weekly to let you know what work was done on the site and to share traffic and / or income stats.

The Site

The site for this project will be in the indie horror niche. I've been planning to launch a site in this area for a while, but it was delayed due to other commitments. Once I cleared my schedule for it, I opted to move forward with the re-launch of NakedPR.com first, so it was delayed again.

Those delays were probably a good thing. They've given me time to re-evaluate things. The initial plan was to build a fan-oriented site promoting indie horror books, films, and games. But this left me with a few problems:

  • These sites are often review-heavy, and I didn't want to run another review-centric site. Been there. Done that (successfully). Had my fill, thanks.
  • This plan would have almost definitely involved hiring a team to take on those reviews I didn't want to write. And frankly, I wasn't looking forward to managing a team of writers (again). This was one of the biggest reasons for the delay -- trying to settle on a sustainable content strategy that wasn't going to end up being more trouble than it was worth.
  • I have plenty of experience monetizing sites in creative niches. And if I know anything after 12 years of doing that, it's damn difficult! Arts-oriented industries don't tend to monetize easily through ad networks or even affiliate deals. You're often left to work out private sponsorships. And that can take a while to be worth the effort, because you need a solid traffic base first. So I was going to skip monetizing the site initially, and later introduce my own e-books and guides -- not for fans of indie horror, but for the creators.

When talking about challenge ideas with colleagues over in the About Writing Squared community (where this proposed idea came from), it occurred to me that I may have been all wrong about the content strategy for this site. So I said, if this one ended up being chosen for the challenge, I'd have to re-think that from scratch. And I have.

There are plenty of indie horror sites out there already that cater to fans of the genre. Rather than jump into that pool, I decided to take a more professional approach.

Instead, I'll focus on the creators.

The site will launch under my pen name associated with the genre -- A.J. Klein. But it will tap into my broader background in marketing and PR -- specifically my experience in promoting creative professionals and their work.

While I still need to hash out the full content strategy, I see this including things like:

  • Case studies & reviews of promotional campaigns;
  • Interviews with creators who are using specific promotional channels effectively;
  • Interviews with reps from relevant publications on how they prefer being pitched or contacted with news;
  • Resources and tools to directly help creators plan and manage campaigns.

I've been itching, for a long time, to get back to my indie roots. While I've been able to do that here to some degree with indie authors, it's not exactly my biggest focus. Though it wouldn't make financial sense for me to get back to consulting in this area on a regular basis, I'm well-established at this point in the web publishing game. I know how to turn around profitable sites. So having a site devoted to indie creators -- even a small subset of them -- is right up my alley. I can get back to those roots in a way that stays in line with my current business model.

My biggest concern at this point is the narrow nature of this niche. This will never be the kind of site that brings in massive amounts of traffic. It's more of a "big fish in a small pond" situation. While traffic numbers alone don't concern me, how that limitation affects my ability to monetize the site does.

I have some thoughts on how to get around the "small audience" issue, but I'll save that for when I share the more detailed content and monetization strategy. You can expect that in the next few weeks.

This is a bit strange for a "challenge" in that I wasn't given any specific target to aim for. And given how narrow this niche is, and the fact that it's my first time focusing on this specific audience, I can't just shoot numbers out off the top of my head.

So instead, think of it as more of a case study. I'll be opening up my process more than I ever have. I'll show you what goes into a new blog launch when you're serious about making it a success.

You'll see what the planning phase entails. You'll see the pre-launch promotional work. You'll see how I come up with content ideas. You'll see the revenue plan even before the first cent comes in. You'll see the traffic stats as I go. You'll see it all.

So there you go. That's what's coming. As soon as I hash out the content plan and make some progress on the design, I'll post the first official update. In the meantime, if you have questions about anything here or something I may have forgotten, this is the place to ask them. Leave me a comment below.

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