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Building Shepherd - Launch Date, Data Entry, and Marketing.

417 authors have now committed to writing a book list for Shepherd’s launch (or already turned one in). The response is fantastic 😃.

Mar 9th - Mar 19th.
April 15th Launch News
We now have an official launch date, Shepherd will launch on April 15th!
I will spend the first two weeks of April talking to every author and making sure their book list looks great on the website. I want to make sure they are happy with how everything looks.
I spent the majority of the last two weeks inputting all the book and author data into our system. It is a lot of manual work to add all the book titles, book cover images, ISBNs, author names, and other data. I’ve paused emails to new authors until I catch up. And, I’ve been working with a developer to make some big improvements to this workflow. That will help me speed up this process and add someone to help eventually 😃.
What's next? Data Entry & Testing
I will spend the next two weeks inputting the rest of the book data into our system and testing the frontend to ensure we are ready for launch. It isn’t very sexy work, but it is the grind that will make this project an ongoing success.
I’ve been so busy the last 6 weeks that I haven’t had time to update the list of authors who are taking part in our launch. This page has really helped me to convince authors to take part by showing them who I am working with. I am going to automate this page toward late summer so that authors can search through it by name or topic. My hope is this will convince even more authors to take part.
Mockup of a future page for authors to see who is taking part.
Mockup of a future page for authors to see who is taking part.
What else? Marketing!
I am super excited to start marketing! I love marketing and it is so much fun to show people what you are working on, get their thoughts, and hopefully encourage them to share your story. Marketing is all about making a great introduction, delighting them, and building a long-term relationship so they keep coming back.
Marketing will start slowly and increase as we ship key features over Spring and Summer (for a list of those key features and a roadmap go here). I will be spending about 50% of my time on marketing after we launch on April 15th.
The foundation of our marketing plan is to attract search engine traffic around book topics. When someone searches for the “best books about WW2” or the “best books on the Battle of Midway” we want to be the website that answers their question. And, once they are on the website we want to help them find amazing books. This not only introduces them to Shepherd but also creates a long-term user who will come back every time they want to find a new book.
In terms of direct marketing, what will I be doing in April? It will be the grind of reaching out to influencers, online groups, and friends to help them become aware of the website. In the early days, this is a very manual process, and as the flywheel gets moving it will take on a life of its own.
To start, this will be things like:
  • Reaching out to people who are passionate about books on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms to tell them our story and get their feedback (with the hope that we delight them and they will share it with their followers and friends).
  • Working within Quora, Reddit, and Facebook Groups to introduce Shepherd to readers, gathering feedback from those users, and repeating that process. User feedback is crucial to learn what is working and what users would like.
  • The slow process of talking to blogs, websites, news media, and other sources to get our story out there.
I’ve used these methods in the past and I am looking forward to showing readers what we are up to.
I hope you have a great weekend, feel free to hit me up with any questions,
Thanks, Ben
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Ben Fox

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