Shepherd: A New Way to Find and Promote Books

Hello, reader and writer friends! I haven’t blogged in a while, but have been keeping busy. I’m currently working on a new novel about a middle-aged woman who realizes that neither her marriage nor her career feel fulfilling any longer, so she starts exploring new options. A very rough first draft is complete, and I’m now tackling the long-but-exciting process of structuring the story and developing the characters. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to share more soon.

In the meantime, I thought some of you might enjoy checking out a cool new beta site that I’ve been lucky enough to learn about and contribute to. It’s called Shepherd, and is the brainchild of Ben Fox, a person who sincerely wants to help readers find books they really want to read while also providing authors with a new way to promote books they love (including their own).

The primary philosophy of Shepherd is that when it comes to books, human recommendations are always better than algorithms. Almost all authors are avid readers; we started writing because of our love for certain types of books. Therefore, Shepherd has given more than 7000 authors (so far) the opportunity to share five of their favorite books on a topic or theme of their choice. For example, my list on Shepherd is called The Best Books about People Fixated on Music.

It’s funny too, because when Shepherd contacted me, I was smack in the middle of re-editing my novel Leaving the Beach. Over the past few years, I’d become uncomfortable with several things about the book. First and foremost, it needed a content warning. Leaving the Beach is about a music-obsessed woman who’s also suffering from a severe eating disorder. Other themes include suicide and suicidality. When I first wrote the story, I never considered that some readers might be triggered by its content, but society has become far more aware of–and sensitive to–such things recently. Therefore, the new version begins with a content warning.

On a more personal level, I’ve grown a bit as a writer, and as I leafed through the pages, I felt a strong urge to rewrite many of the sentences and paragraphs. The story and plot remain unchanged, and if you’ve read the original version of Leaving the Beach, you probably won’t find the new version much different (if at all). On the other hand, if you haven’t yet read it and enjoy stories with unreliable narrators, flawed characters, and lots of references to music icons of the 70s and 80s, you might want to give it a try. How’s that for a sales pitch?

But back to Shepherd. How to describe the site? Well, it’s designed to compete with both Goodreads and Amazon in the online book-discovery space. Ben Fox and the Shepherd team believe readers and authors deserve better than those options. Below are some excerpts from Shepherd:

As a reader, I am incredibly frustrated with online book discovery. Goodreads does almost nothing to help authors meet readers or find fantastic books … At the same time, Amazon sells books the same way they sell toothpaste … A book is an experience, and the process of finding a book is part of that experience … Nothing will ever replace the “bookstore experience,” but I want to reimagine book discovery online with more serendipity and delight … I also want to help authors meet more readers … There is a growing trend that authors have to become their own marketing team. That concerns me because it is very difficult to do. I want to make this easier. 

-Ben Fox

Sound intriguing? I think so and hope you do too. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.




About Mary Rowen

My three published novels, LEAVING THE BEACH (a 2016 IPPY Award winner), LIVING BY EAR, and IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY focus on women figuring out who they are and what they want from life. Music and musicians have a way of finding their way into the stories. I live in the Boston area with my family and pets.
This entry was posted in author talk, Authors and readers, Book promotion, books, books about music, Leaving the Beach, opinions, publishing,, Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Shepherd: A New Way to Find and Promote Books

  1. JT Twissel says:

    I know what you mean — I’ve been reading through Flipka and seeing cringe worthy passages. Not that many, fortunately but one is enough. It’s been many years since I read LTB but I don’t remember anything needing a content warning but you have to go with what makes you comfortable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mary Rowen says:

      I don’t recall anything cringey in Flipka, Jan. But I think everyone who creates stuff will look back on past writings and realize they could’ve done certain things better. IMO, that’s a sign of growth.

      Since LTB is told by an unreliable narrator with a terribly unhealthy self image, some of her self assessments made me cringe. Also, bulimia is a form of self harm. Some people might say that since the book description emphasizes that the protagonist is bulimic, the self-harm element is implicit. But I’d hate for someone at risk for an eating disorder to read it without thinking about that and become triggered.


  2. Wow, thanks for this! I’d never heard of Shepherd before. Love your list! My WIP has a lot of music in it, so your list is especially helpful. Best novel along those lines I’ve read recently was Joe Meno’s Book of Extraordinary Tragedies–wonderful!


  3. Hi Mary – great to see your post! Congratulations on finishing the draft of your next book. I like the premise! I also enjoyed reading Leaving the Beach – it’s great you can make changes to adapt to new readers’ triggers. Also, thanks for telling us about Shepherd. That sounds like a great way to recommend books and support authors.

    Liked by 1 person

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