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Building Shepherd - 2 new ways we will help authors!

Discovering a new book should be a magical experience where the search is part of the fun. That is what we are creating. We give readers fun ways to find amazing books. 

Summary: June 27th to July 8th 2022
I took the week of June 27th off, so this update covers the last week and is a little abbreviated.
🥳 Celebrating 2 new records! 🥳
We hit 100,000 visitors for the month of June!
Woohoo! We launched 14 months ago and we have doubled our traffic since December 2021. I know that we can grow faster and I am shifting a big chunk of my time to make that happen. The next celebration stop is 200,000 visitors…
We hit 5,000 published book recommendation pages this week!
My goal for 2022 is to hit 6,500 total recommendations published and we are on track to hit this number. We have slowed down our pace the last few months as we honed in on the right volume. Once we roll out some new formats in 2023 we will slow things down a little more. These pages are critical as they feed into all the features we are building and launching over 2022 and 2023. 5,000 might sound like a lot, but given the vast scope of human knowledge, human imagination, and books in the world we are still missing recommendations on TONS of topics.
2 new ways Shepherd is going to help authors
This is from our latest author newsletter, so if you got that you have already read this bit :)
Shepherd started with one simple format:
We ask authors to share 5 books around a topic, theme, or mood they love that pairs well with one of their books. The goal is to give readers personal book recommendations, expose your personality, and get your book in front of the perfect audience.
This format is working great!
And, now it is time to start working on additional formats to help authors sell books in new ways. Here are two formats I am ready to share.
Interesting facts + facts for kids
What is the general idea?
Every month there are millions of searches for facts about things like ants, dinosaurs, George Washington, etc. For example, searches around “ant facts for kids” receive 5,000+ searches each month.
The people searching for those facts are perfectly suited to be pitched a book connected to that topic. And, authors who are experts on that topic are perfectly suited to share amazing facts that will build that connection.
The general idea is that Shepherd would collect facts from authors, create a “fact platform” off our topic system, and use that to drive more readers to your book.
This method is aimed at non-fiction authors, but it could work well for some fiction authors. For example, if you wrote a kid’s book about an adventure in Ancient Egypt you are probably well suited to share facts that you uncovered while doing research. We want to highlight scientists and topic matter experts and we are playing with the best way to do that.
What is the status of testing this concept?
I’ve been testing this format on readers and it has gone extremely well. The next step is to build a mockup and test it on a larger batch of readers toward the Fall or Winter.
Are you interested in sharing facts and featuring your book next to those facts?
The authors who sign up will be the first ones we launch with (aiming for a 2023 launch).
What is involved at this stage?
  • 5 min worth of questions.
  • Toward Fall/Winter 2022 we will reach out to show you mockups and collect some facts to use in further tests.
This is free (the only cost is your time). This is a direct marketing method where your book is directly pitched to readers.
I’d love to get your thoughts on this approach, feel free to reply back!
Finding books by meeting the main characters
What is the general idea?
My favorite thing about books is finding a character that I love. Sometimes I even delay finishing a book because I don’t want to say goodbye. So why can’t I find books by meeting characters?
I want to give readers a way to find and meet characters from your book. Like Tinder but for the characters in a book.
The general idea is that Shepherd would define character profiles, collect those profiles from authors, and use that data to drive more readers to your book by finding interesting ways to connect those characters.
This method is aimed at fiction authors, but it could work for some non-fiction authors. If you wrote a biography of George Washington it might work to build a character profile of him (historical fiction as well). I am still playing with this concept.
What is the status of testing this concept?
I haven’t started testing this on readers. I am still playing with the profiles and what data makes a character alluring. I.E, how do you spark a connection from a profile that leads to reader interest?
Are you interested in sharing a character from your book?
The authors who sign up will be the first ones we launch with (once the feature is ready in 2023 assuming testing goes well).
What is involved in this step?
  • 5 min worth of questions.
  • We won’t reach out again until 2023 once we are ready to do testing with readers and gather some character profiles to test with.
This is free (the only cost is your time). This is a direct marketing method where your book is directly pitched to readers.
I’d love to get your thoughts on this approach, feel free to reply back!
What have I been working on the last 2 weeks?
What have I been working on?
  • Catching up on emails and all the things I missed while I was gone for a week.
  • Working with the designer to finalize the design for the upcoming “books like” and “why read this book” pages. I hope to have the designs finished in the next 4 weeks so we can launch those in the Fall.
  • Working on upcoming features to make sure I get the order right for what will grow our traffic and get us to profitability. I’ve been building a lot of spec documents to figure out how everything is going to work together as there are 2 critical launches in 2023 we need to hit.
What is going on outside of Shepherd?
We got back home to Portugal on Sunday. It is so nice to be back and be working from my home office with my big monitor. This week was a ton of catch up given that I took a week off.
What have I been reading?
  • I am reading book 1 of the DCI Ryan Mystery series. I am pretty particular when it comes to crime fiction so I am curious how it goes.
  • I just finished the Plot Against America by Philip Roth. That was a hard read given the trajectory of the USA right now.
  • I also finished a book by one of my favorite authors and it was a fantastic take on the Bronze Age. I highly recommend it -> Against All Gods by Miles Cameron.
And, finally, a picture of a long bike ride I did near Bordeaux last week on my time off.
Beautiful bike ride near Bordeaux
Beautiful bike ride near Bordeaux
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Ben Fox

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