Simon Appleby – background and experience

I have over 25 years’ experience of delivering digital projects – including websites, apps and e-books – and have spent the last 14 years working with publishers, authors, literary agents and charities.

As well overseeing the design and production of an extensive portfolio of website projects, I have also provided consultancy, delivered training and talks, and written articles.This page contains some more information about those publishing-related experiences.

Writing, speaking and teaching

Panellist, Virtual London Book Fair (2021)

Panellist for Quick, Quick, Slow: What have been the technological changes in publishing this year?

We discussed how the pandemic, Brexit and other technological changes had been affecting the publishing industry – for better and for worse.

The discussion was chaired by Justine Solomons, Director of Byte The Book, with Mark Stay (Author, Screenwriter and co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast) and Hermione Ireland (MD of The Académie du Vin Library).

Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook

My article, ‘Make Some Noise: Online Marketing and Social Media’ (written with Mathew F. Riley), and the revised version, ‘Making waves online’, have been featured in the Yearbook since the 2010 edition.

Successful social media strategies for authors – London Book Fair 2016

Panel member for a seminar at Author HQ, alongside Will Rycroft, Community Manager for Vintage, on the topic of successful media strategies for authors.

Presenting to the Publishing Scotland Conference

Presentation to an audience of over 100 Scottish publishers on the subject of Effective Digital Marketing for Independent Publishers at the Publishing Scotland Conference, held in conjunction with the Bookseller’s Association.

Presenting to the Faber Factory Conference

Presenting to the Faber Factory conference on the subject Digital Marketing: Inspiration vs. Perspiration. The idea was to showcase a wide selection of digital marketing ideas, from the simple to the more involved, and hopefully inspire the attending publishers with a few new ideas to try.

Trainer, Publishing Training Centre

I jointly delivered the two-day course ‘Developing Digital Products the User-Centred Way’ with co-tutor Zelda Rhiando.

Winner, Bookseller Essay Prize

Won the second edition of The Bookseller’s regular essay prize with a piece which focuses on two very different types of publishing. This first appeared in The Bookseller on Friday 14th 2013.

Key engagements

Freelance Project Manager, YESS

November 2017 – February 2018

Challenge: Your Employment Settlement Service (YESS) had undertaken feasibility studies, grant funding applications and initial planning for a project to offer automated employment law advice via a series of online pathways. They required assistance to take the documentation already produced and refine it in to a single, comprehensive Invitation To Tender (ITT), which could be shared with potential development partners.

Solution: As well as reviewing the documentation already produced and prioritising and synthesising the core elements in to a single document, I also worked closely with YESS’ content team to produce a fully realised example pathway covering disability discrimination law. This was included in the ITT document so bidders could gain a clear understanding of the types of content they would be working with, and so that all parties could be confident that the pathway requirement specification was reflective of real content and functional needs. I then evaluated the submitted proposals, created a shortlist and ran a ‘pitch day’ on which all bidders presented their solutions on a level playing field.

Results: Created a well-received ITT document which the client could understand and buy in to, and in which bidders would find the necessary level of thought and detail to confidently create and submit their proposals.

“As a lawyer, with little IT technical expertise, developing an accessible interactive guided pathway for employees was a challenge. I needed a Project Manager to guide me through the technical process in a practical way to achieve our objectives. Simon was a delight to work with. He explained the technology in a clear way, worked very well with the team and always delivered well on time.”

Camilla Palmer QC (Hon), Founder, Your Employment Settlement Service

Digital Strategy Consultant, The Reading Agency

May 2013 – January 2017

Challenge: The Reading Agency required a digital strategy capability, and over the course of three and a half years, I worked on a number of distinct engagements. The largest challenge was to put the charity’s range of websites on a more sustainable footing, which reduced project costs and made the same core functionality available to all its websites.

Solution: I proposed a web architecture for The Reading Agency which consisted of three elements:

1. The Reading Database – a single bibliographic database, powered by a feed from Nielsen Bookdata, which could be used to find books and and post book reviews on any site with which it was integrated, making it easier for users to post book recommendations and build reading lists

2. The Reading Agency Passport – a single sign-on mechanism which could be used on any site requiring user registration and login, which prevented users from having different logins for different sites and gave the charity a clearer understanding of its total digital user-base

3. The Resources Database – a single repository of digital resources for end users and partner organisations, designed to reduce data entry and upload time and cut down on wasteful duplication of resources between individual programme sites and the main Reading Agency website

Results: The ‘three pillars’ of the architecture I devised were implemented by The Reading Agency’s lead developers, and now underpin all of its digital service delivery.

“Simon and Bookswarm have always been so much more than web developers or digital consultants to The Reading Agency. Simon’s patient and approachable style and his positive, solution-focused methods make him a pleasure to work with. He really understands our work and the world in which we operate and because of that has been integral to helping us reach new audiences, develop new projects and interact with our partners and beneficiaries.”

Sue Wilkinson MBE, Chief Executive, The Reading Agency

Associate Producer, The Space

November 2014 – February 2015

Working with The Space to assess applications for funding via their second Open Call, as part of a team of experts from a range of cultural sectors. Responsible for initial assessment of applications, and supporting longlisted and shortlisted applicants through each stage of the process.

Digital Publishing Consultant, Octopus Publishing

July 2011 – December 2012

Challenge: Helping leading illustrated publisher Octopus devise digital products which fitted in well with its publishing plans, and which had co-edition potential. Work included information architecture, database design, project management and supplier management.

Solution: Scoped and delivered a number of app and website projects, including:

  • Puppy School app – concept design for iOS puppy training app based on bestselling book The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey
  • Decisions on the Rules of Golf – iOS app in conjunction with the R&A
  • Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine – iOS app (2 versions) and underpinning wine review database, which is still used to power the creation of this popular annual wine guide in conjunction with a number of co-edition partners
  • My Pilates Guru and My Yoga Guru – companion apps for illustrated books, delivered in English, as well as French, Italian and German for co-edition partners
  • Colour Me Beautiful – colour-matching app for iOS
  • Weber – barbecue recipes app for iOS
  • Hamlyn QuickCook – website which allowed book owners to download and share any recipe from this innovative cookery series
  • Hamlyn All Colour – iOS recipe app based on popular cookbook series

Results: Successfully embedded a deeper understanding of digital product life cycles and development issues within the Octopus business, as well as delivering a number of well-received digital products.

“Simon has successfully delivered a diverse range of projects for us at Octopus, from hand-crafted illustrated e-books and complex apps to websites and databases. He understands book publishing extremely well, is bang up to date yet refreshingly free of geek-speak, and is a highly creative, nimble problem solver.”

Denise Bates, Group Publishing Director, Octopus Publishing Group