Things have been quiet at the Magic Appreciation Tour for the past couple of months, and now I’m ready to reveal why. I’ve been busy working on new site software so I can support more reader and author features without having to do a lot of manual page tweaking. Plus, some things just can’t be done without some kind of database behind them.
The new web site looks pretty familiar on the outside, but if you look closely, you’ll see several enhancements for both readers and authors.
New Reader Features
The new data-driven features for readers include:
- Paging of the book and author listings for improved browser performance
- Book sorting and filtering features
- Meet the Author pages that give readers the author bio plus all book listings for that author
The Books and Authors pages now have paging so your browser doesn’t have to load the entire list of books and their cover images. As new authors register for the site, the load time on those pages would have just kept getting worse and worse.
The Books page now lets you sort books by how recently they were added to the site or by author last name. By default, the list is sorted by recency, so readers who return to the site can quickly see what has been added since their last visit.
You can also filter the book list by price range, sub-genre, and book length. Are you only interested in short stories? Do you want to avoid certain sub-genres? The filtering tools let you zoom in on just the books that interest you.
Author and Book listings now link to a Meet the Author page that shows the author bio along with all of the books by that author on the site. These summary pages are great for readers who find a favorite author, and they are great for authors who want to promote their magical fantasy works in one place.
New Author Features
The new data-driven features for authors include:
- Automated registration with built-in image uploads
- A membership area that let authors add new books as well as update their author and book listings.
- Easy opt-in/opt-out to the Magic Appreciation Blog Tours email list.
To be honest, the new automated registration system benefits me, the site administrator, more than anyone. I no longer have to copy and paste information out of an email, manually resize images, and manually update the web pages with new HTML.
However, authors also benefit because they can preview their author listing and book listings as they enter them and see exactly what the listing will look like when it goes live. Authors no longer have to send me a separate email with an author photo and book cover image because the images can be uploaded during registration. Also, the turnaround time from registration to being live on the site has been reduced because all I have to do now is click an “Approve” link to make the listing go live.
The heart of the new registration feature is the new membership area. When you register, you create a login that lets you return at any time and add new listings or update your existing ones. All changes have to be approved before they go live on the site, but after a quick review of the listing, approval is a one-click operation for a site administrator.
The Magic Appreciation Blog Tours has turned out to be a great addition to the Magic Appreciation Tour. Several of our authors have taken advantage of free touring, and many others have benefited from the offers of guest blog posts. Authors can now easily join the blog tours (or unsubscribe from the list) from their profile page.
One of my tasks with making the new site go live was to enter all of the existing author profiles and books into the new database. While doing that, I created login accounts for all existing authors. I plan to send out an email to each author that includes the new login information, but if you want to go check out the new membership features immediately, just Contact me me and I’ll send it to you right away.
Also, be aware that many of the listings exceeded the 800-character limit I specified on the original registration page. That limit has been expanded to 850 characters, and the new registration page does not let you put in more than that. In some cases, I had to trim down the author bio or book description to fit. Please review your listings and update them (again, contact me for a login) if you don’t like the way I edited them.
So Long Post Exchange
The only major site feature that I eliminated was the Post Exchange. To some degree, the blog tours replace that feature. For authors who just want to do a single exchange rather than a full tour, it is easy enough to simply contact other MAT authors through their blog, as many of our authors have already done.
Putting a database behind the site gives me flexibility to add more reader features and author features. I’m open to suggestions, so if you have any ideas for useful tools that could be added to the site, let me know in the comments or send me a message through the MAT contact page.
Here are a few things I’ve been considering:
- Group promotions: MAT authors would sign up to participate in a group promotion on a specific date or range of dates. The site would give us a “hub page” for the promotion with links to the participating author blogs and book listings.
- Giveaways: MAT authors could sign up for a giveaway that the site would manage for them. This feature would be similar in concept to a RaffleCopter giveaway.
- RSS feed: Readers could sign up for a book registration feed, so every time a new book is added to the MAT, they’d be notified. Readers could subscribe to this feature through an email notification as well as an RSS reader.
- More buy links: The site currently supports a single buy link for each registered book. That means authors have to choose one retailer and one format for promotion on the Magic Appreciation Tour. I’d like to make it so authors can add multiple buy links that specify different vendors, different formats, and different prices.
Check out the new site and feel free to let me know what you think. I look forward to new opportunities to make the Magic Appreciation Tour a more fun and useful tool for all magical fantasy readers and authors.