Sneak peek of the new search result pages...
And some thoughts on where we are going in 2024.
Every two weeks, I share my notes on building Shepherd.com.
My goal is to create the feeling you get wandering around your favorite bookstore. I want to make exploring and discovering your next book magical (while helping authors get their books in front of the most likely readers).
Three hurrahs for our 537 Founding Members who keep us independent and fund new features. My 2024 goal is to reach 1,000 members to fully fund our part-time developer and designer so we can keep building great new features for our community.
I'member 30th to December 14th
Mood check 🤪
We are still struggling to catch up…
Due to my workload, I haven’t been able to help the two part-time editors. We will see how things look in two weeks. Currently, we have 168 submissions that are over a 21-day wait (we try to get everything ready in a minimum of 3 weeks).
I will need to make changes for next year’s “best books of 2024” so we can handle the much higher number of submissions. How I do that is something I’ll be thinking about this winter.
We’ve started work on the revamp of search!
In late January, we will launch the revamped search feature (plus an improved frontpage).
Here is an early look at a search result page for the book Man’s Search For Meaning (by Viktor Frankl) and Dune (by Frank Herbert).
This is what we show readers when they search for either book and select that book from the options.
Remember, this is not like Goodreads; as people come to our website to book a new book, we aim to help them find a place to start exploring.
We show the book cover and title.
Then, we show them book lists that include that book. In user testing, this was incredibly popular with readers as they love seeing the unique connections authors make and diving into those.
Then we plug our “books like” page, which uses human associations with that book to connect them with similar books (I am hoping to improve how well this works in 2024).
Then, we show book lists that are connected to the book. Meaning book lists that don’t include that book but are near it in genre or topic (still working to implement this, as you can see).
And finally, we connect them with topics and genres around the book.
Keep in mind this is super early. We are still implementing and fixing bugs.
What am I thinking about for 2024?
Given our limited budget, I am trying to figure out what features we can build in 2024 that" will grow our traffic and income.
My goal is to break-even on costs by the end of 2024 (currently, we are meeting 50% of our costs). Over the last 4 months, I’ve trimmed some of our costs, but we are very lean, which can only help so much.
What would I love to see in 2024?
3x our traffic
2x the number of Founding Members
If we could do that in 2024, we would be in excellent shape. And I would love to be able to hire a full-time developer in addition to our part-time developer. That would allow us to build new features faster for readers and authors.
What am I thinking about in the coming months?
I want to improve the accuracy of our topics, genres, and books-like recommendations.
I need to rethink the entire genre/topic system on the backend. This will require several months of thinking and testing before revamping it.
Right now, we pull in data on genres from publishers using an industry-standard called BISAC, and it sucks. Publishers make all kinds of mistakes, classifying nonfiction as fiction and books with the wrong genre.
We use Library of Congress data and NLP/ML to classify books to Wikipedia topics. This works pretty well for nonfiction, but for fiction, not so much. I need to upgrade this entire system to improve accuracy (and I am looking at switching fiction to themes, among other fun ideas).
I want to take all the data we have to improve books-like accuracy.
I want to expand our marketing into email.
I want to build a simple personalized book recommendation email for readers. I want them to input their favorite books, authors, genres, and topics and get fun book-browsing ideas every few weeks.
I want to launch our book series pages (built on the backend, but we haven’t had the resources to build it on the frontend).
I am playing with another new format for authors/experts that aligns with the website’s core mission.
I want to improve the bookshelves by adding some sections readers ask for.
Improve the book section based on what readers tell me they want there.
We don’t have enough money to do all of this in 2024, so I will sit down from January to March to think about where we are going.
What else am I working on?
I am working to set up all the Founding Members with our new book launch ad! We got a massive burst of submissions, and I am working through them this week 😊.
I am working to organize and catch up on all the work I ignored in October & November while we were working so hard to launch the Best Books of 2023 feature.
What is going on outside of Shepherd?
My dad and stepmom arrived yesterday! They are visiting us for 3 weeks, and I am excited to show them Portugal. 😊
What am I reading?
M: Son of the Century - About Mussolini, just started.
Devil’s Gun by Cat Rambo - This is the sequel to You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo. I enjoyed the first one and am curious where it goes.
P.S. From my bike ride last summer in France. I miss warm weather.
Thanks for reading Building Shepherd! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.