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Building Shepherd - Catching up, woohoo!!!

Shepherd is reimagining book discovery online. So less like buying toothpaste and more a magical fun experience that readers deserve.

Summary: May 2nd to May 13th 2022
What have I been working on the last 2 weeks?
I am finally catching up on everything, and it feels good!!!!
What stuff?
  • I published 300+ bookshelves and reviewed another 500 that were not quite ready to be published. Once we ship the huge topic engine update in early June I will finish publishing everything (and set up a weekly publishing schedule). We have 2,078 published bookshelves, 360 pending my review, and 515 in draft status (meaning they were not quite ready or needed further review).
  • I reviewed 7,000+ topics to decide if they belong in our system or not. I have another 15,000+ to go, but I will wait until we ship the huge topic engine update in early June as that update will change some things.
  • I helped the team catch up on the backlog of book recommendations and further streamlined that process. My goal is to send authors the preview link for their page around three weeks after they submit it. I consider it late once we hit 3.5 weeks (currently, we only have three submissions running late).
  • I offloaded a bunch of odds and ends to the team that I have been doing. That has helped, and a huge thanks to Cathy and Jessy for taking those over.
  • The designer and I have been working hard to wrap up the updated Bookshelf pages, and you can see mockups here. We are very close! And we are almost done with the updated book recommendation design with the new recommendation system. After that, we just need to finish the last 20% of the book celebration pages and books “like pages” and then we can start on the new stuff :).
After a few more “good” weeks, I hope to start testing the new formats on readers one to help non-fiction authors and one to help fiction authors).
2022 roadmap is finalized...
I had time this week to nail down the rest of the 2022 roadmap.
  • June - Improved topic engine accuracy
  • August - New recommendation system for book lists
  • Q3 - Improved UX for bookshelves
  • Q3 - Adding book celebration pages
  • Q3 - Adding “books like” pages
  • Q4 - Add genre/age filters to Bookshelves
  • Q4 - Add genre pages
  • Q4 - Add age-related pages
There is a decent chance that the genre work will run us into Q1 2023. Over the next four weeks, I will be working to streamline all the above features. I want to make 100% sure we are working on what is most important and has the most significant impact on getting us to financial sustainability quickest.
Thinking a lot about financials...
Shepherd needs to make ~$15k a month to be financially sustainable. My goal is to hit that by the end of 2023.
Our costs are divided by…
  • 10% - Server, software, and book metadata licensing.
  • 40% - The team that runs the day-to-day (I work for free).
  • 50% - The cost of our awesome freelance developer and designer.
We are a very lean operation. Goodreads has 347 employees listed on LinkedIn, while we only have 1 part-time freelance developer and me. Imagine what we could do with a team of three developers dedicated to this project? :)
My big focus for the next 3 months is to plan out how we are going to achieve that financial goal by the end of 2023. So I am crunching a ton of data and trying to decide which features will get us to that point fastest. And how I want to increase monetization of the website. I’ve avoided ads so far but those are what will likely get added later this year. I’ll write more on this in a few weeks.
What is going on outside of Shepherd?
We are relaxing in Croatia this month and finding our breath. Life is good :)
I love Croatia
I love Croatia
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Ben Fox

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