Introducing Bookswarm Consultancy

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Delivering consultancy services has always been a key part of what Bookswarm does – but providing information about that alongside our portfolio of core services has always been something of a challenge. So now we’ve created a new website to showcase some of our consultancy work. Take a look at Bookswarm Consultancy.

Bookswarm founder Simon Appleby has 20 years’ experience of delivering digital projects – websites, apps and e-books – and has spent the last 10 years working exclusively with publishers, authors, literary agents and reading charities. As well overseeing the design and production of an extensive portfolio of projects, Simon has also provided consultancy, delivered training and talks, and written articles for the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, The Bookseller, Futurebook and others.

Download our latest White Paper on e-commerce options for WordPress

We shared it with visitors to our stand at London Book Fair this week and now we’re sharing it with you – our latest white paper on selling with WordPress.

Bookswarm has built its business around WordPress, and one of the things we’re increasingly being asked by clients to work on is e-commerce. With the range of options widening we thought we’d provide a tour of some of the solutions out there, and look at some of the issues and challenges specifi c to the world of publishing, and to selling books online.

Download the white paper now

Meet Bookswarm at London Book Fair 2017, March 14-16

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Bookswarm will be exhibiting at London Book Fair at Olympia again this year – we’re on the Independent Publishing Agency Collective stand (3A40), which you can find directly opposite the Tech Bar.

If you’re going, please do come along and say hello. You could even join us and fellow IPAC members for a drink at 4pm on Wednesday 15th March!

And if you would like to organise a meeting with Bookswarm while you’re at the Fair, please contact us.

Looking back on 2016

2016 has been a busy year for Bookswarm. Simon Appleby looks back…

Don’t mention Brexit, don’t mention Trump, don’t mention Brexit, don’t mention Trump, don’t mention Brexit, don’t mention Trump. Putting events that shall not be named to one side, 2016 has been a busy and successful year for Bookswarm, and I thought it would be nice to look back and reflect on some of our work.

2016 has seen 40 new projects added to our portfolio, with clients encompassing everything from children’s poetry to high-end PR.

snap-2016-09-16-at-11-31-12It’s certainly been a productive year delivering new websites for some of the UK’s leading independent publishers:

  • April saw the launch of a new web presence for Saraband – the start of an exciting year for them which included the shortlisting of Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project for the 2016 Man Booker Prize.
  • In June, we launched the new Belgravia Books Collective site, which replaced separate sites for Gallic Books and its bookshop. Belgravia. Gallic Books are one of our oldest clients, so it was great to be able to revisit their sites in line with their changing needs and the new capabilites of WordPress, as well as providing a home on the web for new imprint Aardvark Bureau. Combining all the sites in one makes sense, as the publishers can offer all of their own titles for direct sale, under the umbrella of the bookshop’s larger inventory.
  • In October it was the turn of South-coast illustrated publishers Summersdale. Their new site is updated on a nightly basis with a feed from their Stison bibliographic data system, and we made a site which reflects the entertaining, informative and innovative values at the heart of their publishing.
  • In November we launched a new site for Atlantic Books. Driven by a feed from their Biblio system, the Atlantic site encompasses four different imprints. Each imprint has its own home page within the site, and the correct imprint branding is automatically used for each book.
  • Last but not least, we launched a new e-commerce website for Alma Books. As with Atlantic Books, the site is organised to reflect Alma’s five imprints.
  • Further afield, we also created a new website for Hoopoe, a new imprint of the American University in Cairo Press, and an e-commerce website for Wisconsin, USA-based specialist educational publisher Christopherus Homeschool Resources.

Snap 2016-08-26 at 10.28.00In our work for authors, we’ve covered a diverse range of writers. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Our website for K L Slater, is actually the second site we have made for the same author. Having already created a site for Kim Slater’s young adult books, her new site supports her psychological thrillers for adults.
  • Lloyd Clark is an historian, lecturer and broadcaster specialising in military history. We created a new site to showcase both his publishing and his broadcasting work, including doing Who Do You Think You Are? with Paul Hollywood.
  • Paul Bright is a children’s writer and poet, who has published many picture books for children as well as poetry for kids. Paul has also written for school reading programmes, CBeebies radio and BBC web sites, and had stories broadcast on CBeebies TV and CITV’s Bookaboo. We designed and built a website to showcase Paul’s work, including his contribution to the official Winnie-the-Pooh sequel The Best Bear in all the World.
  • Anne Holt is a journalist, lawyer, politician, news anchor and crime writer, published by Atlantic Books in the UK. This new website promoted Anne and her work ahead of the broadcast of a new television adaptation of her work, Modus, on BBC4.

Snap 2016-07-07 at 08.05.02The broader category of microsites and imprint sites encompasses any project designed to promote a particular list or book. Some favourites include:

  • Chambers – we took an existing site based on a different Content Management System and migrated it to take advantage of WordPress, whilst retaining key existing functionalities like the crossword solver. We also made it mobile friendly for the first time.
  • We were very pleased to help Walker Books on their book designed to encourage the next generation of coders, Get CodingThis site included easy management of the code samples that were referenced in various places in the book.
  • Also for Walker Books, we created promotional sites for Girl Out of Water and Moonlight Dreamersboth of which were very visual and tied in to the respective designs of the books

Looking up from the keyboard, we exhibited at London Book Fair 2016, where I did a panel about how authors could get the most out of social media, and Alex volunteered at WordCamp. WordPress has made it to version 4.7, we rolled out a new support system, and we’ve been working on loads of projects which will see the light of day in the first few weeks and months of 2017, including sites for Wasafiri Magazine, Pavilion Books and Michael O’Mara Books. It’s all fun and games!

We wish all of our clients a prosperous 2017, and look forward to working with clients new and existing. I will be writing another post soon to talk about some of the big things we will be focusing on in the coming year.

All the best,

Simon Appleby
Managing Director

Author websites for beginners

Bookswarm’s founder Simon Appleby rounds up some useful advice and information for authors considering taking the plunge on creating their first website, or renewing an existing web presence.

Why does an author need a website?

5614813544_b480316fcd_mHere are the three most important reasons:

1. A central hub of information about you

It gives you the ability to make it crystal clear to Google and other search engines precisely who you are. Your website is a central hub of information about you, to which both readers and search engines can go for authoritative information.

2. A flexible platform from which to engage

It gives you a flexible platform from which to engage more deeply with your readers, bloggers and the media. You can use it to gather email signups and really only with a website can you reliably and systematically build and own direct relationships. Social media platforms are great but unlike a website you don’t own them and the rules by which they play can change at any time.

3. A place to link to

It gives a logical place for anybody (e.g. journalists, publishers, bloggers) writing about you to link to.

What does a good author website look like?

There’s no definitive answer to this question – it all depends on:

  • The type of books you write
  • Your target audience(s)
  • The ways in which you wish to engage with your audience, and how much time and effort you are able to put in to creating website content
  • How you want to express yourself and your personality on the web

4937023263_fbaa43cfcb_mMany people find that looking at other authors’ sites is a great source of inspiration for their own, and many a brief starts with the words “I want it to look a bit like [insert author name here]”!

If you’re not sure where to look for inspiration, I have written several pieces over the years examining ‘what good looks like’:

Take a look to get some food for thought – and remember, sometimes knowing what you don’t like is as useful as knowing what you do like.

What kind of content should an author website have on it?

8497864053_e6f2023963_zThat very much depends on you and on your audience, as well as your available time to create it. Of course, not all of these ideas will suit all types of writer, but you could consider:

  • News stories or blog posts (blog posts tend to be more opinion, news stories more fact)
  • Event details
  • A listing of your books with access to purchase them from online retailers (or even directly from you, if you want)
  • Samples of your books
  • Going behind the scenes with blog posts about the creative process, your research or how / where / when you write
  • Pictures and videos of locations from your research trips
  • Feeds from social media channels on which you are active

For a few more ideas, Bookswarm client Shannon Selin blogged for us with some excellent Blog Writing Tips for Authors, and I talked about content ideas in the context of social media strategy at my talk for London Book Fair earlier this year.

How much does it cost to build an author website?

7027604401_406e35ba1f_zLess than you may think! Over the course of a number of years and many successful projects delivered for authors across a wide range of genres, we have been able to put together a standard package for authors designed to meet all your key needs. Bookswarm will design and build a WordPress-based website optimised for you, including a range of features designed specifically for authors; and the design will be unique to you – not based on a template.

The cost of this is £1,800 (plus VAT). We know that’s a meaningful investment in your success, and we now offer authors the chance to pay for this in the normal way, or to set up a payment plan over 6 or 12 months, allowing you to divide the cost up in to manageable chunks.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss how Bookswarm can help you

How easy is it to manage the website after it’s built?

3730930942_1b6835eef7_mThe author websites that we build use WordPress. WordPress is an Open Source, free blogging platform which has developed over time in to a full-blown Content Management System (CMS). It’s estimated WordPress now runs 25% of all websites that have a Content Management System (CMS).

Bookswarm uses WordPress for almost all its website needs. We have developed numerous client websites using WordPress, and all of the sites that you can see in our portfolio use WordPress.

Although you will need some basic IT skills in order to manage your site, you won’t need to know how to use HTML – everything is point-and-click and WYSIWYG, and if you can log in to web-based e-mail, and use the basic functions of a word processor, you probably have most of the required know-how. All of our clients receive a training session as part of the project, and all our websites have a built-in support plugin so you can easily reach out and ask us for help.

Once you’re logged in, editing a page, adding a new blog post or event, or setting up new pages, is at your fingertips. WordPress makes embedding media really easy too, so if you want to share video or audio clips you simply need to know how to copy and paste their addresses.

We also provide a drag-and-drop form builder that allows you to easily create web forms – perfect if you want to run competitions, survey your readers, or simply have a contact form for your fans.

What’s stopping you?

4334937069_5abb9e6dba_mWhether it’s taking the plunge and contacting us, setting up a free blog on a platform like Tumblr or having a play with WordPress yourself, we think all authors should have a digital presence that they control, and we’re always surprised by how many still don’t.

This article is only a small taster of the know-how that Bookswarm bring to each and every project we work on. We hope you’ve found it useful. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Image credits

Why?: Ksayer1 on Flickr
Designer’s notebook: Saaleha Bamjee on Flickr
Word: Tom Woodward on Flickr
Money: Tax Credits on Flickr
WordPress t-shirt: Andrew Abogado on Flickr
Water: nina | athena on Flickr

5 ways to build a website that ‘looks after itself’

Kjell Eldor reflects on the five top ways to keep your website ‘busy’ without it becoming your full-time job … 

I’ve led you here under false pretences … There is of course no such thing as a website that can ‘look after itself’. Engaging websites take time and commitment to keep fresh. However, at Bookswarm we often work with clients who want their finished product to look ‘busy’, with new content gleaming out of the homepage; but who are in fact too busy themselves to create and publish content regularly.

This is to be expected. Without content teams at your disposal to create engaging web-content for you, the art of furnishing a finished website with user- and Google-friendly content often falls on team members who are already very much occupied with the day job.

With that in mind we often work with publishers, authors and organisations to find creative ways to ensure a website delivers users something new each and every time they visit, whilst taking the pain (and time) out of pumping new content into the site on a daily basis.

Here are our top five ways to do just that:

1) Randomising elements of the homepage
Example from the portfolio: The Academy of New Zealand Literature

We recently worked on a project for the newly launched Academy of New Zealand Literature. A key aspect of this ‘magazine-style’ site was to ensure the homepage felt ‘dynamic’ and presented the user with new content every time they landed on the homepage. We achieved this in three ways: first we implemented a rolling quotes section. This either displays quotes from authors or quotes from content within the site, with a link to the cited post. These do not roll, like a carousel, instead they change each time the page loads or is refreshed. The benefit of this approach is quote short is ‘short content’, or a quick win. If you pre-load enough of this your homepage can show something new and  interesting every time.


Secondly we added a ‘spotlight on’ section. This displays a picture and bio of Academy members. The inclusion of members was part of the brief from the get go, so here we’re reusing existing content in a different way to add value to the homepage. Similarly to the quotes section above, these too change every time the page loads and the site admin can curate who’s in the honour roll. This not only keeps the homepage nice and fresh, but it adds a new mode of discovery for users to interact with. Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.54.14Finally we included a ‘comic strip’ section. The client commissioned a load of these upfront. Same rules apply: they change on page load. These are fun and eye-catching. What’s more the client commissioned these all in one go and added them to the site at the same time. Once this work is done, they were free to sit back and let their users enjoy the ever-changing content.

2) Creating post-relationships
Example from the portfolio: Karen Rose Cityscape

Creating post relationships is another great way to keep pages busy, whilst adding a navigational layer to the the site that users love. We did this recently on a book marketing site for the romantic suspense author Karen Rose. This site has relationships between characters, locations and books, allowing it to offer a geographical exploration of the various storylines within the author’s books.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.18.07

3) Adding User Generated Content (UGC) features
Example from the portfolio: Cityread London

Another great way to to get your users to add it for you! With an engaging call to action, an interactive element and a simple way for users to share their own content you can add real value to your site. We did this recently for Cityread London.

Cityread London is an annual celebration of literature that aims to bring reading to life for the whole capital. Each April, Cityread asks London’s citizens, workers and visitors to pick up a book – the same book – and read it together. Taking the chosen novel as a starting point, a month-long programme of book groups, film screenings and other events takes place across all 33 London boroughs in libraries, bookshops, museums and other venues.

To inspire users to ‘respond’ to content we added in audio, text and video content and asked users to share their thoughts about it:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.24.43

We also had a section of ‘rolling questions’ with a call to action. This asked users to respond to the questions on Facebook, Twitter or directly on the site:

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.24.12

This created a community feel on the site that was not only in keeping with the Cityread campaign itself, but it meant that the site content ‘looked after itself’ once the site was complete.

(Note: Obviously UGC needs moderation. Each post sat in a ‘approval pen’ and was checked by an admin before being published. So not quite something for nothing!).

4) Pre-loading rich content
Example from the portfolio: Nicos Hadjicostis

Getting your content right early on can go a long way. We recently worked on an author site for Nicos Hadjicostis. The client had a rich achieve of photographs from around the world. We added these to the site, with a light box feature which lets the images pop-up when they are clicked on.

With so much content being added to the site up front, users can spend hours enjoying the stunning photography.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.31.35
5) Being (truly) social
Example from the portfolio: Live Fast Lose Weight

If you want noise – social media is a great starting point. We worked on a marketing site for Headline author and Geordie Shore star Charlotte Crosby. This had a competition element. To enter the comp users had to share a picture on social media and use a hashtag.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.37.29

We then aggregated all of this social media content into a ‘social media hub’; which kept the site fresh, busy and engaging, and made it very easy for the competition to be managed too.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 11.35.00

How to build a website with Bookswarm

Kjell Eldor reflects on the anatomy of a successful project.

We recently worked with the editorial team at Walker Books to create a micro-site for their new publication Get Coding! In this case study I’ll share with you how we bring website projects to life at Bookswarm.

The product

The fully-illustrated book teaches cget codinghildren aged 7+ how to code and build their own website, app and game using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The book consists of 6 fun missions, which take the reader through the basic concepts of coding whilst ‘gamifying’ the process.

The book was produced in collaboration with Young Rewired State, who run “a global community of digital makers aged 18 and under”.

The brief

The brief was to create a micro-site which added value to the book by helping readers with the missions within. We worked with Walker Books to create a site architecture that allows users to easily find the section of the book they’re in, and drill down to specific code snippets they need.

After our initial project kick-off meeting we wrote up a Creative Brief, which defined every aspect of the project from audiences and objectives; to tone and visual design.

We then worked together to create a set of wireframes (or line drawings) to define the most logical and user-friendly site structure, using an online tool called UXPin:


Once Walker Books were happy with our vision, we used the wireframes and Creative Brief to create a set of visual designs:

Get Coding home 01

The visual design incorporated illustrations from within the book and the book’s branding to deliver a clear and coherent look and feel.

Creative lead Hazel Miles said:

It was nice to work with such colourful and fun illustrations, it gave me plenty of eye catching elements to use in the design. The book had a clearly defined style that needed to be applied to the website which was fun and engaging – both for me when designing it and for the end user.

After a short process of tweaking and refining these we had a set of designs which we could use to build the fully functional website.

We use WordPress for all our websites, meaning the client can independently content manage their site once the development process is complete.

The result

One of the key features of the end product was to be able to share HTML code with users which they could copy, edit and work with. Our technical lead Alex Watson found a neat solution for this:

I suggested CodePen as a tool for displaying the code snippets as it makes it easy for visitors to see how the code works right there on the website.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 11.41.20

Code Pen is a third party site which allows users to save code and display it on a website. This not only means we can display the code, but it means that users can click through, create a Code Pen account and save their work as they work through the missions within the book.

This a lovely touch to the website, that added real value to the book too.

Walker Books had their content organised and saved in Word documents, ready to upload to the site. They did this whilst we completed Desktop and Mobile testing to make sure the site was perfect across multiple devices.

My job, as Bookswarm’s project lead, was to make sure I supported the client throughout the whole process; right from our initial requirements gathering meeting to the final handover training session.

Walker Books Editor, and project lead Daisy Jellicoe said:

I really enjoyed working with Bookswarm. Kjell was great at explaining how the website would be designed and built, and was very helpful throughout the entire process. We’re really pleased with the end result. Thanks, Bookswarm!

Lead Developer Alex Watson reflected on the project:

I really loved developing this website as it reminded me how much I enjoyed learning to code when I did it myself many years ago.

The website launched on the publication day of the book and has already been enjoyed by many of the books’ readers.

As with all of our websites Walker Books have access to Bookswarms’ bespoke support feature, meaning their site is supported by us into the future.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 12.01.28

Bookswarm Director Simon Appleby concluded:

We’ve built many micro-sites for the publishing trade, and each one represents a new and fresh challenge. We were very pleased to work with Walker Books on this latest project. And who knows, maybe later on in our careers members of our team will work with young coders who were inspired to code by this very book!

Visit the finished Get Coding website


Five ways to excel on Amazon

0c5aacf3f358a056c5901b14dce9c8a9f9e45841It’s time for the second in our series of guest posts. Leila Dewji co-founded I_AM Self-Publishing to help self-publishing authors get to market in the most professional way possible. Here she shares some of the tips that her authors use to get one step ahead of the competition on Amazon.

Let’s face – it Amazon sells more books and eBooks than anyone else. Whether you are a self-published or traditionally published author, getting your book’s presence right on Amazon is crucial. Although the mysterious machinations of Amazon’s algorithm are yet to be totally cracked, there are several simple things you can do to give your book the best shot of being discovered on Amazon that don’t require any super-geeky knowledge.

Before we start, one thing for all authors and publishers to remember is that Amazon is a search engine (like Google, but all the searches are carried out by customers ready to buy). Think about how powerful that is.

Register information with Nielsen ASAP

Even if you don’t have all the final title information, send whatever you have to Nielsen as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if you need to make changes to it later on – Nielsen can normally push these through the system in a few days. It’s great to upload the cover as soon as you have it, but don’t wait on that to register the ISBN. This isn’t just my advice, at Nielsen’s conference for independent publishers last year, this is exactly what they said. About a week after you have registered title information with Nielsen, Amazon will ingest the data and you will have the skeleton of a product page.

Claim and Jazz Up Your Amazon Author Page

As soon as there is a product page for your book on Amazon you can join Amazon’s Author Central program. Your Amazon author page is your base on the retailer’s site and it allows you to give readers some additional information about yourself, such as a short biography, pictures, videos, upcoming events and live feeds for your social media networks. Most authors do not make the most of their author page, but it is really worth spending some time on it. Check out Patricia Cornwell’s page, for a good example.

Research Your Niche/Sub-Chart

1One huge advantage of Amazon over your lovely local independent bookshop is its vast range. There are so many titles that in order to marshal them into a semblance of order, they have created a very detailed classification system. For example, giving a title a YA BIC or BISAC code and hoping it will feature in a YA chart will no longer work; you need to know which sub-chart within YA you want to feature in. Within the Teen and Young Adult section on the Kindle store, there are 18 subcategories. You can easily get a sense of which of these are the most competitive. The screenshot here shows that the competition in these sub charts ranges from a few hundred to tens of thousands (you are looking for a chart with the least competition).

Drill down and repeat this exercise e.g. If I choose ‘mysteries and thrillers’ then ‘romantic’ I find that the competition is now only 700, whereas the competition for ‘romance’ is 15,000. It’s a numbers game – you are looking for a chart small enough for you to stand a good change of hitting the top 10. Use this sub-chart name in your Kindle metadata, along with your other keywords. There may be several good small sub-charts that you want to feature in, put all those tags in your metadata.

SEO Your Product Page

On-page key word density counts and your product page there will be a lot of text that you can control:

  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Series Name
  • Blurb/product description
  • The first few lines of your Author Central biog.

You need to get your keywords in these as much as possible (whilst still making sense). For example, If you want your book to rank for something like ‘historical fiction’ then make sure you use that keyword in your blurb and in the first couple of lines of your author biography on your Amazon Author page e.g. ‘I have always read historical fiction, and been a great fan of authors such as Hilary Mantel…’ might be a good way to start. In simple terms this means that you are really hammering home to Amazon that ‘historical fiction’ is what your product page is all about.

Use The Same Link

Once your book or eBook is live on Amazon you will want to share the link. However, there are lots of different URLs that will link to the same page – if someone has searched by author name they will get one URL, if they have searched by title they will get another, if they have searched by topic they will get another. You want to try and standardise things and have the same URL feature across the Internet in as many places as possible. The more links on the Internet to a particular Amazon URL, the more important Amazon will think it is, which will help with rankings.

If you just type your product name into Amazon you will get a really long URL. For example, if you search for the Booker winner A Brief History of Seven Killings by typing this into Amazon’s main search box, you will get a list of results with the book you want at the top. If you click on that, you will go through to a product page with a very messy URL:



If Marlon James started sharing this URL, he wouldn’t be doing himself any favours. What authors need to do is delete everything after the 10 digit ISBN or ASIN and share this link e.g.

This will send people to the same place.

Bonus Tip: Get as many reviews as you can. Encourage everyone who reads the book to leave an honest review on Amazon. You might want to add a page at the back of your book specifically asking readers for this feedback.

I hope that’s given you some good ideas. If you have any other tips or questions about any of these please tweet me at @iamselfpub.

Excellent author websites on The Writing Platform

Writing-PlatformBack in 2013, Simon blogged for The Writing Platform about ten author websites he really liked.  Since then, web design conventions and web technology have moved on and we thought it was time to come back for another round, so Simon has written a new article with a further selection of websites that have things to tell us about good content, design and functionality for author websites.

Read the new article on The Writing Platform

Successful social media strategies for authors – Simon’s talk at AuthorHQ

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Cf6Q2RjWwAA5GJO.jpg-largeLast week at London Book Fair Simon took part in a seminar at Author HQ, alongside Will Rycroft, Community Manager for Vintage, part of the Penguin Random House empire, on the topic of successful media strategies for authors. Here are some of the highlights of Simon’s part of the talk.

It’s important for authors to play the long game when establishing an author’s digital footprint – have a strategy and give it time to work, rather than chopping and changing social media platforms or content marketing approaches before they can be.

A website that an author has full control over is a key part of that strategy – it’s base camp, their home on the web, their digital hub. While social media platforms can change without warning (or indeed, could start to charge without warning), disappear or merge, with a website there’s no question over who owns and controls the content. A website provides analytics data, and crucially, the opportunity to build a mailing list of contacts, which can be fully owned and controlled by the author (with MailChimp free for a list of up to 2,000 subscribers, there’s no need to worry about cost until the list hits a meaningful size). Websites can evolve over time, as an author’s writing career will.

The crucial thing to think hard about for an author website is content – it’s difficult to understate how important this is. While Bookswarm would never downplay the importance of good design, having a good-looking website without good content is a significant missed opportunity, because users will not want to come back to it and search engines will not engage with it properly.

Website content for authors has two critical dimensions:

Book information

In our experience, the biggest missed opportunity for authors on their website is failing to provide any information about their books that is exclusive, and can’t be obtained from retailer websites or their publisher’s site. This could be:

  • Research notes or images
  • Character sketches or biographies
  • Maps
  • Early drafts or deleted scenes or passages

but the author can give full rein to their imagination when thinking about this, and even set out to create this content during the process of writing the book.

News and blogging

If an author is intending to blog, they should choose a tone and frequency that fits with their writing style and social media plans. It’s not necessary to reveal personal information – the focus can be on the books.

Ideas for blogging approaches:

  • Thematic blogs around subject matter related to the book(s)
  • Blogging in character
  • Blogging about influences and inspirations
  • Teaming up with other authors

The key thing is to try and live up to whatever promises the blog makes, about style, subject and frequency of updates – it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than the opposite.

Case studies

Here are some good examples from Bookswarm clients:

Shannon SelinShannon Selin

Since launching her website in November 2013, Shannon has blogged once a week about a wide range of Napoleonic topics, based on her reading and research – and she has e-mailed her growing e-mail list every Friday. Here’s a guest post Shannon wrote for us with 10 tips for authors and here’s her website.

71G6GSPevgL._UX250_Katy Birchall

Katy’s blogging approach encompasses a mixture of author updates, video blogging and writing blog posts in character – creating additional content that’s perfect for her pre-teen and teenaged audience. See Katy’s website

Untitled-2Marcus Chown

Marcus asked us to include fun science facts in his website, supported by strong imagery which reinforces and supports his approach to explaining his subject. For example, did you know there are about 15 galaxies for every man, woman and child on earth (but Marcus has called dibs on this one)? See Marcus’s website

Final thoughts

Simon and Will were asked to give five tips each at the end of the seminar. Simon’s were:

  • Use your website to give visitors inside information
  • Prioritise content over design
  • Focus on a clear, long-term content strategy that’s right for you
  • Build your own e-mail list
  • Be authentic

We hope that both the audience and you found this useful – drop us a line if you have any questions about our work with authors.

Thanks to Will for the panoramic image at the top of this post!

WordCamp 2016 – from a volunteer’s perspective

We asked Bookswarm’s WordPress-Wrangler-in-Chief Alex Watson to tell us about her recent experiences as a volunteer at WordCamp London 2016. Clearly she had far too much fun…

WordCamp London 2016 was my second WordCamp and the first time I offered to volunteer. I did this because I wanted to be more involved and give something back to the WordPress community. WordCamps are conferences for people who use WordPress – from developers and designers to bloggers and plugin authors. Since 2006 there have been 536 WordCamps worldwide!  The entire event is run by volunteers – and does not make a profit. Attendee tickets are a bargain at £30 and it covers all food and some drinks too.

The volunteers are headed up by 8 organisers who spend the previous 6 months planning the whole thing. Hat tip to them for doing such a lot of work, all for the love of it. Some of them run several WordCamps throughout the year across Europe.

The ‘cavalry’ of volunteers with the organisers thanking us at the end of the event. Taco Verdo (

The ‘cavalry’ of volunteers with the organisers thanking us at the end of the event

My weekend as a volunteer started by getting the train to London on the Friday afternoon and attending the speakers and volunteers dinner. It wasn’t a boring sit down dinner, it was at Bounce in Farringdon which is a bar with ping pong tables. I spent the evening getting to know fellow volunteers and the speakers which was great as I’m usually not very good at approaching the speakers at a conference. Eating pizza and playing ping pong with them was a fantastic way to break the ice before the event itself.

The great thing about attending a WordCamp rather than a more broad web development conference is that everyone has one thing in common. Everyone can chat about how WordPress is in their lives and there are always things to be learnt. I got chatting with a community manager from Yoast and learnt things about their SEO plugin that I didn’t know. Yoast is probably the most popular SEO plugin and we use it on all our client sites, so it was good to learn a bit more about about it.

I also had a chat with OnTheGoSytems who produce the Toolset plugins we use. They were impressed with what we do with it and were pleased that we have been reporting bugs to help them be fixed quickly for the benefit of all Toolset users.

The next day was an early start with us volunteers arriving at the conference venue at 6:30am. It was held at the London Metropolitan University across 3 buildings, so we had to learn the layout of them pretty fast as we would have attendees asking us where things were for the next 2 days. Luckily we brought a lot of signage with us to help with this that we starting to put up along with helping the sponsors set up their stands.

12916910_10154253994536535_3134551820234439912_o_1024It is now 8:00am and the doors have opened to the attendees. It was my job to direct them to the registration room before they got distracted by coffee, pain-au-chocolats and sponsor swag. It seemed to work okay and soon they were all registered and sitting upstairs in the main hall for the opening remarks.

The rest of my day was spent helping out when needed with things like folding t-shirts and ushering attendees into queues in the lunch hall. All volunteers were using the GroupMe app on their phones, so it was easy for use to all keep in touch while spread out across the campus.

I managed to squeeze in watching a few of the talks and learnt new things about responsive images and how to debug code in Chrome. The subject of the talks was pretty varied. It’s not all WordPress specific and ranged from design patterns and user experience to debugging and fixing a hacked website. One of the most interesting sessions was a Q&A with a panel of core WordPress contributors where any questions could be asked about the future of WordPress.

The saturday night was the afterparty, and a retro games evening was set up. Everyone enjoyed a beer or two while playing some old school computer games. A fun way to relax after a long day.

Sunday was very much the same – every volunteer had a specific job in a particular timeslot. Volunteer jobs range from timekeeping and mic-running during the talks to monitoring the green room and giving out swag. It was amazingly well organised and ran very smoothly!

34SP brought along their own Wapuu mascot!

34SP brought along their own Wapuu mascot!

So what next for me? I have come away inspired to improve my web development skills and get more involved in the WordPress community. This could be in the form of contributing to the codebase, reviewing themes, organising a Devon WordCamp or perhaps even speaking at a future event… watch this space!

Useful links:


Bookswarm launches new website for award-winning Saraband

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SarabandBookswarm have designed and built a new web presence for award-winning independent publishers Saraband.

Glasgow-based Saraband are a creative independent publisher striving to offer their readers something a little bit different. They work in three main areas:

  • Non-fiction. Producing engaging, well-written non-fiction and attractive illustrated books. With a broad range of memoir, history, arts and environment titles, Saraband celebrate extraordinary human achievement, explore important cultural traditions and champion planet Earth and its diverse species.
  • Fiction. Giving a platform to the most exciting and talented new authors, especially those from Scotland and women writers. As well as some wonderful literary and historical fiction, Saraband have now created a new imprint, Contraband, which features an eclectic range of crime, mystery and thriller writing – ranging from pacy detective stories to intriguing enigmas.
  • Digital publishing. Saraband have become renowned as something of an innovator in digital publishing and have worked on a range of successful mobile phone apps, including Bookspotting, Burns Night and Pandacademy.

Saraband’s new website organises their publishing in to three key areas – Nature, Culture and Fiction – and crime imprint Contraband has its own special home page too.

Saraband publisher Sara Hunt says:

sarah-hunt“When we decided to give our website a makeover, we were very keen to work with someone who truly understood the needs of a publisher, and Bookswarm have been second-to-none in that regard. From the off they ‘got it’ – both in terms of how our new website needed to be intuitive to use for us as publishers, and in terms of how it performed for readers and the wider books industry.

Simon and his team have been superb to work with and we’re delighted with the final website – it really does look better than we could have hoped for.”

Visit the new Saraband website

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