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February doldrums & genre/age updates
A cold strikes & more progress on adding genre/age to the website...
Every two weeks, I share my notes on building Shepherd.com. Shepherd makes exploring and discovering new books fun (while helping authors get their books in front of the most likely readers). Please join us as a founding member if you want to support us.
Summary: February 13th to February 24th
I caught a nasty cold and have been running at 50% energy all this week. The good news is I kept up with all my emails; the bad news is I didn’t have the energy to work on much else.
Here is a quick summary of what happened over the last two weeks:
Marton (the part-time dev I work with) finished 99% of the work on the backend for genres and age groups. Now I need to crunch through 3,345 raw genres to fix data, sort out how they are mapped, and a lot of random work to get them ready for publishing (and make sure everything is working). The next step will be to update the bookshelves frontend to show genre and age filters.
Strahinja (the part-time designer I work with) and I are getting closer to finishing the updated design for the bookshelves. This has taken longer than I thought it would, but we are close. I hope to hit a late March ship date for all the new genre pages and bookshelf design updates.
I hired a new part-time designer with rich UX experience (his name is Roman, and I will introduce him in a few weeks)! I realized that a lot of the work piling up is on the frontend, and we need more people working on it. Plus, I could use help on the UX side. For his first week, Roman is getting us organized in Figma and Trello so we can work as a team on these designs.
I finished some additional design specs for Strahinja and Roman to start working on after they finish the current work.
I worked on a lot of new marketing items. That feels good, as I enjoy that type of work and haven’t gotten to do as much as I would like.
Serita (our part-time editor) is on vacation for three weeks, so I have been doing a fair bit of work in her editing groups (although I am pausing most publishing until she is back as I am not a very good editor am low on time).
February = Slower traffic growth
My goal for 2023 is to 3x traffic and reach a million visitors a month.
Over the last 12 months, traffic from search engines has been growing incredibly fast. That growth is slowing, and I think February will be pretty flat. That is a normal part of the marketing process, and growth will pick up in a few months. I also think some of this is seasonal, as February seems to be the worst book-buying month out there.
Funny enough, something like this happened in 2022 as well. February 2022 was the only month in 2022 with negative growth from search engines. Growth started growing again in March, and we grew by an average of 19% month over month in 2022.
I never enjoy hitting a plateau, and I am working hard to get more in place to keep growth moving forward. I am starting new email outreach where I email authors with recommended books on Shepherd. I want to show them the kind words other authors have to say about their book and see if they would promote Shepherd on their website or social media. So far, it has gone well, and I’ve gotten a lot of positive replies.
What is going on outside of Shepherd?
February always seems challenging as the weather is cold and overcast. Along with the cold I’ve been fighting this week, I’ve just been resting and reading.
What am I reading?
Books 1 and 2 of the Empire of the Wolf fantasy series. I am enjoying these as the world is unique and the characters interesting. I am about halfway through book 2.
P.S. A sunny day from my October 2022 bike trip in Italy.
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