Commissioning an effective publisher website

BookMachine_logoBookswarm MD Simon Appleby has been blogging for BookMachine about the key considerations for publishers when they commission a new website.

Read the article on BookMachine

See Bookswarm’s Simon Appleby at London Book Fair’s Author HQ

Simon will be appearing on a London Book Fair panel to talk about Successful Social Media Strategies, taking place at Author HQ on 13th Apr 2016, from 09:45 to 10:30.

Social media gives authors the power and ability to connect directly with their readers in a way that is fundamentally changing the way they buy books. But how can authors make the best of the opportunity? This session will cover the do’s and don’ts for authors looking to build a platform for themselves and their books on social media, as well as provide an overview of how publishers are working with their authors as well as engaging with consumers. It will also provide top tips on how authors can maximise their own social media presence. It will also cover what makes a good author website, the importance of website design and branding, and practical advice such as what platforms to use, keeping to budget – and what to do once your website is up and running.

12507302_10153940169021742_5040132430012215599_nSimon will be offering thoughts on the importance of author websites as a base for social media marketing, and giving some insights into successful content marketing strategies used by some of Bookswarm’s clients. Simon is the founder and Managing Director of Bookswarm, the only digital agency in the UK dedicated to delivering projects for publishers, authors and others in the world of books. We have extensive experience in website design and development and have delivered author websites for a wide range of writers including Stephen King, Patrick Ness, Penny Vincenzi, Simon Scarrow, Marcel Theroux, Clare Furniss, Hanif Kureishi, Katy Birchall and Marcus Chown.

16e1a16Appearing with Simon will be Will Rycroft, Community Manager for Vintage, part of the Penguin Random House empire. Will worked as an actor for 20 years before following his passion for literature. After seven years writing about books online he became the Community Manager at Vintage where he creates and commissions web and social media content. He is constantly looking for new and exciting ways to engage readers, wherever they are, and likes nothing more than pressing the right books into the right reader’s hands.

Bookswarm release new white paper on commissioning author websites

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12507302_10153940169021742_5040132430012215599_nBookswarm is today publishing the first of a new series of white papers designed to help publishing clients to get as much value as possible from their use of WordPress, which is emerging as the Content Management System of choice for a wide range of publishers, large and small.

Our Spring White Paper is entitled Commissioning Author Websites with WordPress: Ten Things We Learned (So You Don’t Have To). It’s designed to share some our hard-won knowledge and experience, based on the the numerous author websites we’ve developed. We’ve created projects for everyone from self-published authors to bona fide household names, and worked with writers across a wide range of genres. We’ve distilled many of the things we learnt in to the white paper, including:

  • Ideas for author content
  • Best practice for integrating social media with an author website
  • How to handle bibliographic data
  • Easy SEO
  • Performance, security and management

We hope you find it useful!

Simon Appleby, Managing Director

Meet Bookswarm at the London Book Fair 2016

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LBF_horizontal__strap_pink_2016It’s not long until the London Book Fair 2016, its second year in its new home at Olympia.

Once again Bookswarm will be on Stand 3A40 as part of the Independent Publishing Agency Collective. If you’d like to arrange a meeting, please contact us.

Bookswarm MD Simon Appleby will also be taking part in a panel discussion on Wednesday morning at 9:45 on ‘Successful social media strategies’ in Author HQ. Further details will be announced here soon.

Alongside us on the IPAC stand will be:

  • Agile Marketing
  • AMS Digital Publishing
  • Arkesis
  • Booktube.tv
  • Hybert Design
  • Librios
  • Supadu
  • The Literary Platform Collective
  • Think Big Books

We hope to see you at the Fair!

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Bookswarm delivers custom book-selling for Libreria

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The Libreria team

The Libreria team

Libreria, a new book shop, printing press, and interdisciplinary community space, will open at 65 Hanbury Street, London, today (Thursday 25 February, 2016), merging state of the art design and technology with a fresh enthusiasm for physical bookselling. From Rohan Silva and Sam Aldenton, the founders of Second Home, the iconic East London space for entrepreneurs and creative businesses, Libreria blends the best of the digital and analogue worlds. The space will operate a no-phone policy, designed to create a sanctuary away from the bombardment of modern life, while at the same time using custom-made software to manage the store itself, developed in collaboration with Bookswarm.

Rohan Silva, co-founder of Second Home, said: “Libreria has been years in the making – we believe in the value of books and literature and have wanted to do this for a long time. Across industries we are seeing a return to physical, material things and a fresh appreciation of craftsmanship. These things are not being killed by the digital; they are being given new life. We believe there’s space in London and beyond for a reimagining of the bookshop, and it’s the perfect time in Second Home’s journey for us to augment who we are and what we do.”

“One of the joys of physical book buying is having an experience unimpaired by algorithmic recommendation – encountering works you might never otherwise see. When curated well, book shops are the best place to encounter new ideas and a lot of thought has gone into this.”

Rohan Silva

Designed by the award-winning Spanish architectural practice Selgas Cano, the space draws inspiration from Jorge Borges’ short story The Library of Babel, with a thoughtful aesthetic and carefully curated shelves. The name “Libreria”, which means “book shop” in Spanish and Italian, is a nod to its cosmopolitan outlook.

Bookswarm have been working with Libreria to create a bespoke Point-of-Sale and stock management system – Libreria Bookscanner – powered using WordPress and its popular WooCommerce plugin. Stock is added using a barcode scanner, with book details and covers downloaded in real time from Nielsen’s BookData web services.

Kjell Eldor joins Bookswarm as a contract Project Manager

We’re very excited to introduce you to the newest member of our team, Kjell, who is joining us as a contract Project Manager. We asked Kjell to tell us a bit about himself:

Kjell-Headshot_bwI’m Kjell Eldor (professional list maker, spreadsheet lover, cyclist) Bookswarm’s new Project Manager. I’ve worked in the publishing industry before. I spent a time as Digital Projects Manager at Octopus Publishing Group (Hachette) where I produced websites, apps and eBooks. My claim to fame at Octopus was producing an app that (for a time) beat Angry Birds in the app charts.

On the bookselling side I also worked for the retailer Blackwell’s, where I was part of a team that delivered a new digital platform for the chain. I then spent a year out of publishing, to project manage the delivery of a new name, brand and digital offering for the blood cancer charity Bloodwise (formerly Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research).

I’m now delighted to be back in an industry that I know and love, delivering digital projects for Bookswarm. I’m most excited about working with authors and publishers again to help turn ideas into websites and apps that audiences love. I like to take a jargon-free approach to project management, with a preference of collaborating with others to get the best results rather than being prescriptive with solutions.

When I’m not working, I cycle and travel. I recently cycled from London to Paris before spending two weeks exploring the south of France.

Follow Kjell on Twitter: @kjellsebastian

10 Blog Writing Tips for Authors

In the first of a new series of guest posts, Bookswarm client and author Shannon Selin shares her tips for how authors can make the most of blogging.

Shannon_Selin_image1_lowresThanks to Bookswarm, you’ve got a blog integrated into your beautifully designed website. You are now ready to use the best author marketing tool within your control. Here’s how to make the most of it.

  1. Write posts that are relevant to your books.

Blogging is a form of old-fashioned content marketing. The purpose of your blog is to attract the attention of people who might want to read your books, and to retain the attention of your current readers. Write posts that will interest your target audience. If you haven’t defined that audience, do so before you start to blog. If you have more than one target audience, write a rotating mix of posts, aimed at each audience in turn.

  1. Take the time to write high-quality, original posts.

To stand out in the crowded field of author-bloggers, you have to create valuable content. This means not repeating what is already easily available online. If you think it has all been said before, find a new angle, or a new way of presenting the information. I often blog about Napoleon Bonaparte, about whom more has been written than just about anyone else who ever lived. I have still found lots to say about him, including what would seem to be the unnecessary subject of what Napoleon looked like.

  1. Plan your keywords.

If you’re having trouble deciding what to write about, use Google’s keyword planner for suggestions. My most visited post is “10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte,” which I wrote because “Napoleon facts” is one of the most searched-for terms about Napoleon.

  1. Don’t be afraid to deviate from standard blogging practice, if it’s appropriate for your target audience.

My posts are longer than the typical blog, and I include footnotes, which is not common. My readers, who tend to be history buffs, say they like this.

  1. Post consistently, to a schedule.

This will make it easier for you to write your posts, as writing them will become part of your routine. It will also help your readers know when to expect new posts.

  1. Where possible, tie your posts to recurring events in the calendar.

This could be seasonal, or specific dates. For example, when blogging about historical figures, I include each character’s birth and death dates. This makes it easy for me to revive each post on social media every time one of those anniversaries rolls around. (You must, of course, promote your posts on social media.)

  1. Include a link to your book in the content of each post.

I initially thought that having a link to my novel, Napoleon in America, appear in the sidebar of my blog would be sufficient. But busy eyes can tune that out and, on mobile devices, the sidebar doesn’t show up until the bottom of the page. When I started deliberately including a reference to the book in each post, visits to the book page increased.

  1. Also include links to your other relevant blog posts.

The longer people remain on your website, the more likely they are to be drawn into your writing, to want to know more about you, and to want to read your books. Build a sticky website by including links to relevant previous posts in each new post. For some audiences, it may be sufficient to include hyperlinks within the post text. I find I get more visits to other posts if I also add links explicitly at the end of each post, in a “you might also enjoy” section.

  1. Screen your comments.

Edit or delete any that might be considered inflammatory. Keep your blog a polite space where all readers will feel comfortable commenting. You will learn things from your readers – corrections of fact, suggestions for new posts, and ideas that can be applied to your next book.

  1. Hang in there.

Be patient and don’t give up. It takes time to build an audience. Quality and consistency are the key. A post that might initially seem a sleeper can turn into a big one. One that I wrote about a minor character jumped in traffic over a year after the fact when it was quoted in a Washington Post article. In the meantime, as your blog grows, you will receive encouragement from your regular readers and other author-bloggers.

Historical fiction writer Shannon Selin is the author of Napoleon in America, which imagines what might have happened if Napoleon Bonaparte had escaped from exile on St. Helena and wound up in the United States in 1821. Shannon blogs about Napoleonic and 19th century history at shannonselin.com. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, where she is working on the next novel in her Napoleon series.

Bookswarm support Andy McNab’s #ReadingJourney

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Andy McNab is trekking to the South Pole in support of Bookswarm’s longstanding client The Reading Agency.

Imagine not going to the supermarket or filling in a form because you’re unable to read very well. Andy McNab was a teenager who couldn’t read well and he’s now a bestselling author.

Andy’s Reading Journey started when he joined the army and now takes him to the South Pole, in the 100 year-old footsteps of Ernest Shackleton and his Endurance crew, to raise money to help The Reading Agency help other people like him. Their work already reaches 1.5 million people every year – but there’s so much more to do.

The_Reading_Agency_CMYK_320_174Did you know that:

  • 1 in 5 UK children can’t read well at age 11, rising to 1 in 3 from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • 16.4% of UK adults score the lowest level of proficiency in literacy
  • 33% of adults don’t read for pleasure. Yet this is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background

Bookswarm is proud of our work with the Reading Agency and we have sponsored Andy in this great reading journey – please donate if you can.

New website for The William Morris Society

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the-william-morris-society-logoBookswarm has designed and built a new website for The William Morris Society, which was founded in 1953 to make the life, work and ideas of William Morris (1834-96) better known. The Society’s aim is to take its world-wide membership to new places, shares discoveries and deepen people’s understanding of a most remarkable man, his artistic and political networks, and his vision of ‘How We Might Live’.

William Morris was a revolutionary force in Victorian Britain: his work as an artist, designer, craftsman, writer and socialist dramatically changed the fashions and ideologies of the era.

Working with a new brand identity developed for the Society by Pentagram, Bookswarm delivered the project in just six weeks from beginning to end, with the site going live on Saturday 12th September as the new branding was launched at a 60th birthday event for the Society.

See the new website in our portfolio and find out more about William Morris.

Selling with WordPress – Bookswarm’s guide to e-commerce

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Bookswarm has built its business around WordPress, the Open Source Content Management System (CMS) that began life as a simple blogging platform. One of the things we’re increasingly being asked by clients to work on is e-commerce, and with the range of options widening we thought we’d provide a quick tour of some of the solutions out there.

Quick and cheap

If your requirement is simply for ad-hoc selling, maybe of a limited edition product or event tickets, this can be achieved without any fuss using GravityForms and its PayPal add-in. GravityForms is a brilliant form-building plugin for WordPress, and once you have a PayPal Payments Standard or Pro account, you can make any form an order form.

PayPal handles the money and GravityForms can generate the order acknowledgment to the customer and the e-mail to your team with details of the new order. Great if you need e-commerce in a hurry, but still perfectly professional.

We have set up these kind of forms to sell event passes and short-run publications, but with the power of GravityForms you could sell almost anything, including providing product customisation options.

WooCommerce for the win

woocommerceWooCommerce is the daddy of WordPress ecommerce plugins – and since its acquisition by Automattic, the owners of WordPress.com, it’s now more than ever the leading choice.

The first thing to know about WooCommerce is that the core software is free. Out of the box it provides a full, searchable catalogue, basket, checkout, customer account, stock control, support for virtual and downloadable products, a range of approaches to shipping costs and many more features besides. And if you only want to use PayPal to process payments, that’s built-in too.

Some extensions do cost: a wide range of payment processors are supported – for example SagePay, WorldPay, Stripe – but typically an extension costing around $79 is required to use them. A vast array of premium extensions is available, both from Woo themselves and from third parties. Want to offer ‘buy two, get one free’? There’s an extension for that. Want to sell memberships which offer discounts on products? There’s an extension for that too. Almost any kind of promotional pricing scenario you can think of has been catered for already. You can even sell DRM-protected eBooks directly from within WooCommerce using EditionGuard (and yes, the dreaded MOSS regime is covered too).

And because WooCommerce is grown-up software with its own Application Programming Interface (API), it can be integrated with all kinds of external systems. Bookswarm has built plugins to import product data from retail system Merlio and from bibliographic data providers BooksoniX and Biblio, and to send details of completed orders to Combined Book Services and Gardners; integrations with Macmillan Distribution and other UK book distributors are currently underway.

Bookswarm has built WooCommerce-based shops for Grub Street, Robert Hale, and retailer Belgravia Books, and we currently have three more in the pipeline. If you’re looking to sell a meaningful inventory of products, and especially if you need to make your shop talk to other parts of your supply chain, WooCommerce may well be an option worth exploring.

Snip, snip – shortcode-based solutions

logo-snipcartWe have been very interested to see the emergence of a new type of e-commerce solution in the last year or so. These ‘shortcode’ based solutions are designed to be easily and quickly integrated in to existing websites, and would work extremely well with WordPress, especially if integrated in to an existing product catalogue.

What is a shortcode?
A shortcode is a WordPress-specific code that lets you do nifty things with very little effort. Shortcodes can embed files or create objects that would normally require lots of complicated, ugly code in just one line. Shortcode = shortcut.

In essence they rely on the insertion of a couple of lines of code in to an existing site: one snippet (in every page) adds support for a basket and checkout to the whole site; the second (one shortcode per product) handles the creation of the ‘Buy’ buttons.

One such provider is Shoprocket and another is Snipcart. While Shoprocket requires you to add details of each of your products to its system, Snipcart doesn’t need that extra step – so a website built on a database of products already (title, ISBN and price) could be up and running as a shop in very little time indeed. For publishers wanting to dip a toe in to the waters of e-commerce, such solutions could be an excellent, and speedy way to find out what the appetite for direct sales is from their audience.

We’ve even heard tell of a startup who are creating a shortcode-based retail solution especially geared towards publishers – so we look forward to being able to say more about that in the future.

More than one way to sell

Of course these three approaches aren’t the only ones out there – but they represent a spectrum from ad-hoc to fully-featured that will cover the needs of a great many publishers and even authors who wish to sell directly – perhaps selling signed stock or limited editions.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss any of these options.

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Mike Shatzkin on author websites

MShatzkin-251x300We recently enjoyed several blog posts from digital publishing thought leader Mike Shatzkin about the importance of author websites.

In No author website rules of the road in publishing contracts is a big fail for the industry Mike argues that the inconsistent approach taken to the creation of digital presences for authors is unhelpful for everyone.

There should be no doubt about the critical importance of an author’s web site (and no, a page on the publisher site isn’t an adequate substitute). The author site serves three absolutely essential purposes that will not be adequately addressed without one.

Mike’s argument is that no publisher should sign an author without a clear agreement over what kind of web presence that author needs, who will pay for it, own it and manage it.

If you accept it as a fact that there should be at least a rudimentary website for just about every author, a little thought makes it clear that there is a lot a publisher and author should negotiate agreement on as part of their contractual arrangement.

1. It gives an author the capability to make it crystal clear to Google and other search engines precisely who the author is. All SEO efforts are hobbled without it. An author’s website is a central hub of data (a Pete McCarthy point: “data” isn’t always about numbers, in SEO “data” is often words) about the author, to which both fans and search engines can go for authoritative information.

2. It gives the author an extensible platform from which to engage more deeply with fans, some of whom are megaphones and media from whom the benefits of deeper engagement are substantial. An author can use it to gather email signups and really only with a site can an author reliably and systematically build and own direct relationships.

3. It gives a logical place for anybody writing about the author to link. That’s why author websites often score so high in search. (Inbound links are SEO gold.) And if an author doesn’t have a website, the next logical place to link might be the Amazon author page, or the Amazon product page (the book). The next choice would be a primary social presence, like Twitter or LinkedIn.

In a subsequent post, Starter thoughts for publishers to develop new author marketing policies, Mike lays out some suggested thoughts for publisher policies around these issues. He concludes:

These questions are complex but, while time passes, they are not getting any simpler. The value of the web and email list assets that can be optimized with cooperation is increasing, which means the cost of not doing this right is also increasing. It is simply not acceptable for every author and every publisher to avoid the discussion, leaving us with tens of thousands of entities operating in siloed vacuums. That’s the status quo. It isn’t satisfactory.

We would definitely recommend publishers check out Mike’s thoughts. It’s still surprising how many big name authors, especially at the ‘literary’ end of the market, don’t have websites – for instance, Hilary Mantel has only recently acquired one, apparently created by her US publishers, and authors as stellar as Donna Tartt, Michel Faber and David Mitchell have no web presence.

Bookswarm have designed numerous author websites and blogs, for authors both conventionally published and self-published. Some were paid for by publishers, many were paid for by the authors themselves. We would certainly agree with Mike that there would be a clear benefit to publishers, authors and agents from more consistent policies around website creation, ownership and operation, and that every author, however good their sales, needs a website – and if that helps to keeps us busy, we’re certainly not going to complain!

Meet Bookswarm at the London Book Fair

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image0011It’s not long until the London Book Fair 2015, in its new home at Olympia – and Bookswarm will be on Stand 3A40 as part of the Independent Publishing Agency Collective. The Independent Publishing Agency Collective (IPAC) is a non-profit making body, formed by a number of independent agencies and teams who all focus strongly on the world of book publishing. Alongside us on the stand will be Agile Marketing, AMS Digital Publishing, Arkesis and Bookomi.

If you’d like to arrange a meeting, please contact us.

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