As we close in on the end of the first half of 2021, we have a lot of news and information to share about what lies in store for the rest of this year and beyond.
There are always 3 questions that guide what we do here at Brick Cave, and they are:
1) How do we bring new Readers together with BC Books?
2) How do we make it easier to buy a BC Book?
3) How do we build a long lasting relationship between Readers and Brick Cave?
These are not unlike the challenges that any business faces. Good businesses are always looking at ways to improve the connect, acquire and experience elements of their business. In each of these areas we are looking at ways to get better, be more efficient and keep moving forward.
Finding New Readers, AKA "Marketing"
The pandemic freed Brick Cave in one important aspect. The organization had become very dependent on events. It was the VAST majority of the money we brought in, but the costs of doing the events had been rising annually, and the income we received had been falling. And the brutal schedule was hindering our ability to do many other things, like publish more books.
Mind you, we had already begun making changes to trim down our schedule before the Pandemic hit, but the downtime forced us to look at alternative marketing strategies and activities. We made investments in areas that we we nervous about previously, and we took some chances.
Those chances paid off, and we are continuing to benefit from them to this day.
That leads us to our online presence, aka, the website(s). Our website at brickcavemedia.com as it is today has served us well over the last 3 years without a doubt. The wordpress technology behind it has been "mostly" flawless. The challenge is that it has slowly crept up in cost- the things we have wants to do with it are progressively more expensive, especially on the eCommerce side. The other piece of that has been that the Book Club (this site) has been a separate entity using joomla. That separation, while we have managed it pretty well, has become more pronounced over time, which I'll cover more under the 3rd question.
Ultimatley, those factors are driving us to create one, new unified presence that effective communicates and connects readers to buy the book they want from the sales place they want to, be it the bookstore on the corner, us directly, or the large internet retailer.
Easier to Buy, AKA "The Journey"
This one is a bit easier to articulate. One of the challenging areas of the Pandemic has been a great big surge of sales- in ONE sales platform. We started off with a surge on our own website, but that did not hold as we got deeper into the Pandemic, but sales in that one channel (you can guess which one) accelerated late in the year and propelled us to a record sales year in 2020, and so far, has served us well in 2021.
That is all great news, and we are grateful. It's that nagging saying about putting all your eggs in one basket that keeps haunting us however, and we want to make sure that we don't become the victim of circumstance is something were to happen to that one channel.
Navigating that journey successfully is critical to making it easier for a buyer to buy the book they want, in the format they want it in. That is probably the single biggest area we need to improve on quickly.
Relationships are Important
One of the great things about events are the people that come and find you year after year. When we started work on the BC Book Club in 2019, we were looking for a means to translate that connection online- especially for those events that we had chosen to no longer do- we wanted to stay connected to those people.
Ironically, as we were well positioned to give people access to Brick Cave when the Pandemic hit, everyone pretty quickly got "connection burnout" because they had to be connected in every other aspect of their lives now. So the BC Book Club Forums, which we had designed as the center of the new experience, were no longer enticing.
The second element of that, was that with our publishing schedule, averaging 5 new titles a year, there just isn't enough going on to keep people engaged in an ongoing basis. And, because our other activities (Podcasts, YouTube) have not integrated well with the BC Book Club site, creating a bit of a further disconnect from the primary flow of Brick Cave information and activity.
So, What's the Game Plan?
One word- simplify. On the website side, we'll be moving to one platform, brickcave.media in the next few weeks. That will replace BOTH brickcavemedia.com and bcbookclub.com under one site, meaning the separation between the experiences will be eliminated. Mind you, that was always the plan from day one of creating the book club, so this is just a continuation of that work.
On the BC Book Club- simplifying the benefits. Instead of an intricate list of Advanced availability, discounts and content- it's simply, "get books, get access." We looked at a lot of potential changes to what we present through the site as "exclusive" content, service and access- and we opted to get rid of many of the things that were dormant or just frankly, not interesting. One feature we are still thinking about is the forums, as we have started a Discord server, and think that may serve us better, but we'll let you know. Wanna Keep it? Post it in the Forums.
The Buy Experience. The focus on our site from it's current iteration launch was to encourage readers to buy directly from us. Over time, and through a significant amount of research in how our peers in the industry approach the challenge, we found ourselves to be a bit of an outlier in that regard. So, since we were looking at combining the two site presences anyway, we looked at how to accomplish all of the goals we wanted to tick off regarding fewest clicks to buy, still offering direct sales, giving maximum choice to a buyer and not overwhelming them with options. We think we have a good path forward, and we'll be excited to share it with you.
We are actually populating content into the new site framework now (and have been since March), but you can imagine the amount of content that has to be moved. Some things will not move, like the forum content as it exists today.
There are some software updates that we are waiting to occur before we bring the new site online, but we will give everyone ample notice on those changes as we schedule them. For the time being, feel free to continue to use the site as it is today.