I had a dream recently where I was in a bookstore. The owner was recommending a book to me about names. In real life I'd just been in a discussion about name changes, so the dream completed the unfinished conversation. (Like how in the old days we would go to books instead of Google to research topics.) What stayed with me most this week about the dream has been the visceral experience of being in an old bookstore again, like an old familiar friend.
Inhale the smell of bound books, slightly musty in sectioned off rooms, shelved according to topics. Sink into comfy chairs tucked in corners and perch on stools or children's school chairs in aisles. Help yourself to free coffee from the pot on a little table. Ask a knowledgeable clerk who is an avid passionate reader, to make a recommendation…sorry, I got carried away reminiscing about my favorite old bookstore on Broadway in San Antonio. (For a great description of such a bookstore, if you've never had the privilege of being in one, read THE SHADOW OF THE WIND about The Cemetery of the Forgotten Books by Carlos Ruiz Zafron.)
Ben Fox, founder of Shepherd.com, seems like a man who has been to such bookstores. Anyone who has ever had a good bookstore in his or her life, knows what we're missing. Fox is trying to fill that gap online with a book service that features authors, offers recommendations according to topics, and provides easy-to-navigate links for readers.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOOK SITE
Shepherd.com turned one year old in April 2022. In March 2022, Shepherd.com logged for that one month 71,000+ visitors, 111,000+ pageviews, and a guesstimated 11,000 clicks to just one bookstore partner. Fox is upgrading software to track more accurately clicks to partner bookstores. This is where Fox gets his income revenue. That's why he can offer this service free to authors. And no ads for readers to click out of or scroll through.
MARKETING OP FOR AUTHORS
Disillusioned with Goodreads and Amazon, Fox did extensive studies of how readers make decisions to buy books before setting up Shepherd.com. He designed a questionnaire for authors different from other sites—which sets Shepherd.com apart from the competition. I talked to several authors about joining Shepherd.com and they were concerned about how much time it would take to assemble the material and fill out the form. I completed it in one day. It takes me much longer than that to apply for appearances at bookfests and library conventions. Here's the link to my page "Best Books Going Beyond Bombs: How War Affects Families" so you can see the format.
Here's the link for authors, telling how to apply to join the author program:
For readers, Shepherd.com is easy to navigate. It is especially helpful if searching for books in specific topics and categories. Like how we used to browse old bookstores. Except you have to find your own comfy chair and free coffee.