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Building Shepherd - Search updates and 2022...

2,116 authors have turned in a book list for Shepherd or committed to writing one (amazing as always 😃).

October 18th to October 29th
Publishing backlog + 2021/2022 goals...
We have 62 book recommendation pages that we still need to review, but we should be fully caught up next week. Serita has done fantastic work 😊 (she is the new part-time editor that started in early October).
My goal for 2021 is to finish the year with 2,000 published pages. We are at 1,669 and we are on track to meet that goal. We just need to publish around 40 to 50 pages each week.
My goal for 2022 is to publish 4,000 pages, so around 350 per month. We are starting to ramp up now to achieve this. It has been a huge help to have Serita, Joy, and Jessy who keep that process running smoothly. And, our move to Zendesk in late August has worked really well despite a few bugs.
Why is this important?
Book pages are key as we take the 5 books the author recommends and feed those into our topic pages and our recommendation engine. Readers who are wandering our website will click to read the author’s recommended book page and meet the author and their book. That increases sales of the author’s books among other things.
Right now we have ~8,000 book recommendations in the system and should have ~10,000 by the end of the year. If we hit 4,000 pages next year we will finish the year with 30,000 books in our system. This is also important as we need more books in order to build features like our children’s section, reading recommendations based on genre, and so on.
Updates on the 3 key features
Reminder - We are working to launch topic pagessearch, and a new front page (previews on those links). These are the 3 crucial features we need so readers can start browsing for books (we only have the related book-list section at the end of every page right now). The goal is to ship all 3 of those toward December.
Update on Search
We hit some bumps with the complexity of the proposed search recommendation engine. We are trying a simpler step now and we are going to see how that looks before getting more complex.
Update on Bookshelves
Everything is ready for the developer, and we will start work after search is done. The great thing here is that the only complexity is the same thing we are working on now with search (recommendation engine).
  • I am working to prepare the first 1,000+ topic pages for the launch of that feature in December. I currently have 704 bookshelves ready and 488 pending. I will still need to go back and do some tweaking on each but so far I’ve been able to crunch through 100 a day.
Update on the new Frontpage
Everything is ready for the developer and the good news is this doesn’t have any complex features so that is good.
What's next for Shepherd?
The designer and I are starting to work on the next batch of upcoming features for Q1 2022, those being…
  • A quick newsletter test so I can see what readers want. I am going to test how often readers want an email with recommended books and book lists. And, I am playing with some unique ideas around topics and how readers might want to mix those in that email.
  • An improved recommendation section for the bottom of every best-book-list page. This will do a much better job of helping readers to keep following their curiosity through the website.
  • A page for individual books in our system. We want to give authors a single page that celebrates their book and to help them highlight recommendations for it on our website. And, for readers, we want to show them why they should read the book in a new way :)
What else?
  • I am starting to research how I can help authors with book launches and book sales. And I am aiming to launch a free program to help with book launches toward Spring 2022.
  • I had a wonderful conversation with Blackwater Press and I recommend checking them out if you are an author. They are a new publisher but with a lot of experience under their belts.
What else is going on?
We arrived in Valencia Spain and are enjoying the change of pace, food, and energy.
Have a great weekend,
Thanks, Ben
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Ben Fox

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