In Summer 2021, we started building sites with our own custom ModFarm Author Theme which was a leap forward for author site development, giving us much easier ability to customize site fonts, colors, navigation, and increased our page design options.
Summer of 2022 was the first evolution of the ModFarm Book Management System (BMS), with later theme and BMS development rolling out in Spring 2023. We called this ModFarm 2.5 and it came with a lot of improvements in Book Page layout, cover art, sales links, button control, and a lot more. It was a big update, but didn’t get us quite all the way.
Now here we are, November 2023, and we are finally ready to put out ModFarm 3.0, the most comprehensive change to our author website system to date. It hits a lot of issues that have been sticking points for a while now and brings out some capabilities that many have been requesting and waiting for.
We’re talking translations, audiobooks, ecommerce, page layouts, and more. It’s a lot of stuff.
First, I’ll go through what we’ve done and then how we’re going to roll it out to all members.
The Boring Stuff
Three new book taxonomies were created. Joining book series, book author, and book tag, we’ve now added book genre, book format, and book translations.
We also added more options for book cover art. Previously, book pages only had one option: Featured Image. Now, we can upload and access dedicated options for flat art, audiobook, 3d mockup, and composite.
Two new book page templates – blocks and full-header blocks – are now available, in addition to the original “single book page.” No code or extra plugins needed, everything built right there on the page.
And, finally, we added a LOT of book meta fields. Previously, there was not much linking for books built in, only the 6 buttons. Well, not any more. There are now 29 available external links, including retailers like Amazon, Kindle, Audible, iBooks, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Waterstones, etc, etc. There are deciated fields for link to reviews, link to sample, link to series. We’ve added meta fields for illustrators (for comics/graphic novels), translators, and cover artists. Even links to buy direct – ebook, audiobook, paperback, hardcover, and signed copies. And each of those fields can be called from and dropped into places all across the site.
There have also been a plethora of smaller changes to styling/CSS, meta-data, and some other behind the scenes functionality that comes up from time to time.
Which brings us to hosting level infrastructure upgrades (yawn, I know).
Details about the new hosting pricing plans are available over here. I’m gonna talk about what’s actually different technically.
- Image size reduction has been improved by 400% – faster delivery, no quality reduction.
- Upgrades to security
- Improvements to code asset delivery
- More Store/eCommerce integrations
- Domain Names – that’s right, we can obtain and manage them for you. You can even transfer them over to us to manage – not just nameservers, I mean the whole thing.
- Google Analytics – if you don’t have your own GA account, we’ll get it and connect it for you.
- ReCaptcha 3 – better, faster, lighter
For the ModFarm Newsletter user:
- Improved custom form design
- Improved segmenting by Tag/Field
- Improved subscription automations
- Improved retargeting, including automated retargeting
- Infinite Lists (previously limited to 40, which is a lot, but you know…)
- Improved eCommerce integration
This boring sounding stuff provides the groundwork to a lot of the more exciting stuff.
The Cool Stuff
With the ground work in place, we added functions to pull all that itemized information in some pretty exciting ways.
First and foremost is the ability to completely customize the book page. Book elements can be placed anywhere and in any combination. Want to go wide? Sure thing. Kindle Direct? You got it. Want your onsite store links to be first, then outside links? Not a problem. Some buttons over here, some other there? Yup, easy day. This combines to create a unique looking and uniquely functional site.
Second, is a series of custom blocks that allow for access to all book page information, letting sites pull out and distribute book information in ways that were impossible before.
Format specific listings, especially audiobook listings, are now possible. We created the multi-taxonomy block that allows us to sort books by format and any other taxonomy. For example, for a publisher’s author pages, we want to show both the author’s available books and audiobooks. And those audiobooks should look like audiobooks – square covers, maybe also the audio sample and the narrator. Previously, to do this was a intensely manual effort that required constant reworking and updating. Now, it’s just a couple clicks and that’s it.
Want a second set of index pages just for audio books, ordered by series, also with square covers, samples, and links direct to Audible instead of the book page? Or maybe to your site’s direct-buy store? Well, now you can.
Box sets, special edition hardcovers, books available with signed copies – all easily identified, sorted, and accessed
With the new blocks accessing a book’s expanded foundational information, authors can now embed books anywhere on their site, however they want, in whatever format, dynamic or static. No code, no customization – just select your options.
Translations and dedicated translation patterns. A side benefit of the expansion in book page layouts is the ability to add multiple custom Book Page patterns. For those with translations, we can rapidly apply page layouts customized for language, taking advantage of translated buttons, custom store links, specific mailing lists, and more.
Also, a lot more pre-made page, blog, and application patterns: linktree style pages, book inserts, locked content, also-boughts, recommended books, book reviews, media kits, book releases, press announcements, and more.
The Secretly Cool Stuff
We’ve covered the groundwork stuff, and the flashy stuff, but what about the under-the-hood marketing stuff?
To start with, site analytics gathering has been significantly expanded due to a dramatic revision in our application of Google Analytics. Darn near everything has an analytics tag in it. If someone is clicking on something book related, we want to know about it.
Why is this cool and important?
ModFarm author sites are a lot more effective than the standard website, with conversion rates higher than Amazon (really). This is achieved by ruthlessly watching metrics and arranging page designs that convince visitors to take specific actions.
But, over the last two years – and definitely the last year – we’ve been seeing site visitor trends that I would like to get a lot more insight into. Specifically with larger Index and Series pages – which now includes individual even book pages, as the new 3.0 system allows for much more book embedment in those pages – Complete Series, You Might Like, Also By Author – kind of things. How much are they clicked? How does it affect site conversion? How large an index is too large?
What about alternative page layouts? Are some more effective than others?
Turning your author website into a beautiful and highly effective marketing machine is our primary goal. And advanced metrics help us achieve that.
The Deployment Process
First, I’ll push out the new code to every site. Not much will change right off the bat. But, over time, as your site’s content is updated, we’ll take the opportunity to bring in more information and start flushing things out.
For example, a new book is added to a series. We’ll likely take that time to add in all of the audiobook covers for that series, and maybe another one.
It will be that kind of process – first we upgrade the capability for each site, then we’ll go back and make changes slowly.
Good news is this has already started, with more than half of our sites updated to the new framework.
What’s coming next?
A few more things we’re working on:
Always on, always updated Book Series Indexes – because sometimes that is really hard to keep up with. It allows each Book Series to be broken out by genre/subgenre and then listed and linked using the title and the first book cover in the series. Whenever a series is added, it’s instantly updated. Set to be alphabetical by title and will auto-index itself. Clients with larger bibliographies know how handy something like this can be.
Deluxe Single Book placement. Similar to the Multi-Tax block, but this one will be for single embedment. We use the “Simple Book CTA” a lot, and I think the ability to be able to add in format variations and meta to those embeds will be even more handy.
Both of these should be ready late 2023 early 2024. I’m really close, just need a week or two of uninterrupted development time to polish them off.
The next big development track is to make our themes fully “blocked” with the ability to create custom page templates for anything – including index pages (the only thing we can’t do at this time). That requires a lot of change and will be our transition away from the Genesis platform, which is a really big deal. That will probably take a majority of 2024
Thank you for being a ModFarm member. We love taking care of you, your readers, and your sites.