Sneak peek at genre & age group integration!
And see how I will soon be able to build really unique bookshelf pages!
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: January 30th to February 10th
I am finally getting caught up on a long backlog of work. That feels good.
Here is a quick summary of what happened over the last two weeks:
Marton (the part-time dev I work with) made a ton of progress on bringing genre and age data into Shepherd. Currently, this is only on the backend, and I will share a sneak peek below!
I finished the spec to bring the concept of a “book series” into the backend. Toward Q2, we will add frontend pages around book series data (I have some cool stuff planned).
Marton and I started discussing how to bring a user system to Shepherd. This is coming later this year and is our first step toward user logins and personalized features.
I spent a TON of time working on marketing for Shepherd. This is vital to my goal of increasing traffic by 3x this year.
I added a page to our For Authors section that outlines a new format coming in 2023 → share your 3 favorite books of the year. I recommend checking out the other new formats we will launch this year, introducing your character and interesting facts to readers.
I spent a lot of time cleaning up book data this week. I have a lot more to do…
Sneak peek: Genre & age data on the backend!
We are getting closer and still on track to unveil genre and age group pages in late March. We are running behind on the web design work but I hope to pull that all together very soon!
Genre/age on book recommendation lists
Here is the genre and age data for a book recommendation list by author Ben Gartner: The best new action-packed middle grade books with heart.
With this, I can see what percentage of the five books he picked are attributed to which genres. This will help us understand what lists are about from a genre perspective in addition to Wikipedia topics (which we detect using NLP/ML).
I will use this data to improve our recommendations and help more readers find this list through genres they like. This will help fiction books, especially as our current topic approach is better suited for non-fiction.
Similarly, we can see the target age groups for this book. I will use this to improve the recommendations and how readers discover Ben’s book recommendation list from around the website.
Genre/age on the book The Last Shadow Warrior
And here is the type of data we have on the book The Last Shadow Warrior.
I haven’t cleaned up genres yet, so this data is still pretty raw. From here, we can add and remove genres on a specific book.
The publisher assigned this book as having an interest age from age 8 to age 12. Using that data, we have assigned the following age groups:
This illustrates one of the challenges around determining a book’s age.
YA encompasses ages 12 to 18, and I need to do a lot of testing to figure out how to make this work well. Luckily everything is made to be adjustable, so as I learn how readers react, I will improve the experience. Many adults read YA, so I am trying to figure that aspect out.
Genre/age on the Vietnam War bookshelf
You can browse our current bookshelf on the Vietnam War here.
IMO, this is the most exciting user of genre and age data. Soon we will launch features to help readers narrow in on the type of book they are looking for within a topic (as well as other parts of the site).
So if someone lands on the Vietnam War bookshelf, they can narrow it down to see only history books, only biographies, only fiction, only books about women, only books for kids, or only thrillers.
And here are the age groups we see under the Vietnam War bookshelf. This is a little messier, given that YA also goes to 18 right now in our system, which means every YA book is also considered an adult. I am still trying to figure this out.
Using this data, we can do things like this in the upcoming version of bookshelves…
Want to see something cool?
This is what we are putting the finishing touches on now.
This is a screenshot of the system we use to build our bookshelves. We’ve expanded it to be any mix of topics, genres, ages, etc.
This system allows me to create incredibly creative bookshelves, not to mention that we can make unique genres to fit what readers are looking for.
For example, I can do things like:
Limit to “Historical Fiction” and “new books only” (new books are books published in the last 2 to 3 years).
This would then take all the recommended Romance books in our system but pull out only books that are “new” and also marked “historical fiction.”
I am excited to start using this, as it will also further improve a lot of topic pages as we add genre data that correspond as well.
What is going on outside of Shepherd?
My wife and I walked my son to his first day of school last week. He rated it a 3 out of 10, but luckily day two was a 9 out of 10. Unfortunately, things went downhill fast. He is getting bullied by a girl in his class (trapped in some tires at one point). He is a really sweet kid and hasn’t experienced the “fun” of humanity in larger groups. He has found it very confusing. The next day he made it to the gate but refused to go inside.
He came home, reset, and returned later. The teacher is now aware and going all out to get him settled. And the girl and her coconspirators have since apologized. My wife talked with him about investing our energy and attention in people who treat us well rather than those who mistreat us. That is a lesson I wish I had learned at a younger age.
What am I reading?
An unpublished book - My brother introduced me to a friend who has a book I am interested in for a project idea to help me understand book marketing better. I am looking forward to reading it! Almost done with it, and it is a really cool concept; I really like the writing. I can vividly imagine the world!
P.S. My son’s first day of school :)
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