Building Shepherd - Search & bookshelves are live!



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Last month had 48,000+ unique visitors, our best month yet! 🥳

Summary: January 10th to January 21st
Search and bookshelves are live!
It feels really good to see both features live 😄.
Once the new front page is ready I am looking forward to much bigger marketing pushes. I am compiling a list of 100 websites I want Shepherd to be featured, like the NY Times, LifeHacker, and so on…
We launched 1,009 bookshelves on everything from palliative care to dinosaurs to evolutionary biology. I’ve got 1,000 pending bookshelves to publish and I am working to add more each day.
Search volume is still pretty low and I am learning more about how people are using that feature. We are limited to only the books, authors, and topics in our system so it will get better as we add more. We currently have ~14,000 recommended books in our system, 2,600 published book lists, 1,100 published bookshelves, and 47,000+ topics. That might sound like a lot but in the grand scheme of human knowledge and imagination it is very small :).
New front page is 60% done...
We are on track to launch the new front page around February 7th and you can preview it here. The search and new book list features are working well (some bugs still need fixing).
How will Shepherd help authors? Thoughts.
I have been talking to a lot of authors over the last 12 months and trying to hone in on the best way Shepherd can help authors.
Here is what I am at…
  1. I want to help authors get the first 50 to 150 book sales that are not family and friends. This is needed to get 15+ reviews on Amazon and start the organic growth machine on that side of things.
  2. This piggybacks off #1, but I want to give authors a consistent stream of sales by placing them in front of the most interested readers. The sales won’t be a huge number, but they should be consistent exposure to readers who would be interested in their book(s).
  3. And, in general, I want to give authors a place to easily become “book influencers” if they want to be. I think one of the best ways an author can connect with readers is around a shared love of books.
That is where I seem to be initially honing in based on conversations I am having.
The step after this is to figure out which books are “clicking” with readers and helping them get to the next level, i.e. thousands or tens of thousands of sales. That is something I’ll be thinking about as we grow over the coming years.
If you are an author I’d love to hear from you on what you think of this?
What am I working on?
I am working with the designer to finalize mockups for the individual book page and “books like” page. It is going well and I hope to have something to share in 2 to 4 weeks as we play with those.
I am working to get pricing on book metadata, and I am starting to map out how that would integrate with our platform. The data will allow us to do things like filter books by genre or age group, build pages around specific genres, build children’s and other discovery pages, and a lot more. It is a massive project and I think it will take the entire second half of 2022.
I am thinking a lot about what I have planned for 2022 and trying to challenge myself. I want to make sure we are only spending time on what is critical given our limited resources. This year is about getting to a solid base so that isn’t terribly hard, but I still want to make sure we are not wasting time on anything that doesn’t make sense to do at this stage. I am also starting to think about monetization options and if I want to roll out a donation push toward Summer/Fall (or, possibly combined with a membership program for readers to support us and get some cool flair).
I think the question of what do we build in 2023 is a much harder one… do we work on a user account system to involve readers more? Do we ship additional discovery features and the complexity that adds to our team’s process? Do we add author accounts and more ways for authors to connect with readers in cool ways? I’ve got a lot of ideas, so this is also fun to start testing and see what the best path might be :).
What else is going on?
We are headed back to Portugal next month, after a wonderful long winter break in Valencia Spain (our favorite city in the world). We also have a lot to think about as my son turned 5 a few weeks ago and we are trying to figure out where we want him to go to school next year. We’ve never been good at settling down in a place and as he has gotten older we want to give him a little more stability around place. We are doing a lot of research and thinking about where we want to be for at least the next 5 years…
As always, feel free to hit me up with any questions, thoughts, ideas.
Have a great weekend,
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Ben Fox

Follow along as I build the Shepherd book discovery platform (updates every 2 weeks).

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