Simon Does A Podcast

Created by John Pettigrew, Talking Through My Hat explores bookish businesses and the fantastic people who create them, looking at why business are started, how they keep going and where we can take them in the future.

This week, the guest is Bookswarm’s very own hat-wearer-in-chief, Simon Appleby.

You can listen here on this very website, visit the podcast’s home page or find it in your podcasting platform of choice, including iTunes and Spotify. There are loads of other intriguing guests to listen to as well, including friends of Bookswarm Emma Barnes of Bibliocloud, and Ken Jones of Circular Software.

It’s GDPR day! Revels abound…

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Yes, the day has arrived. The General Data Protection Regulation is being enforced from today, Friday 25th May.

If you have taken the first steps on your compliance journey, well done!

If you haven’t – DON’T PANIC! The Information Commissioner has been doing the media rounds this morning, saying that small businesses are not the main targets of this legislation, that they will not be actively seeking to identify non-compliance by small businesses, and that the key thing is that they can show intent and progress towards achieving compliance.

Your website is still one of the key areas where your business can easily demonstrate an effort to comply with the new laws. We’ve helped a number of our clients work on this with audits and website changes, and we’re still available to assist if needed.

Download our free white paper about GDPR, or contact us for help.

Blue lights and sirens – unhacking WordPress

We’ve helped two clients deal with hacked WordPress sites this week. We won’t say who they were, but they both had fairly nasty infections which meant that when visitors accessed their sites, new browser tabs would open with spammy content. In one instance, the content in question included an audio element and a persistent pop-up that was tricky to close without completely closing the browser. These were not sites we built or hosted, so it was interesting to see what the issues were and I thought it would be good to share.

The sites had some risk factors in common:

  • The use of off-the-shelf WordPress themes which had not been updated
  • Out-of-date plugins
  • Weak admin passwords
  • No firewall installed
  • No additional ‘hardening’ measures in place

WordPress is great, and now generates strong passwords by default (it didn’t used to); but failing to keep things updated (especially the WordPress core and themes) is asking for trouble – and the longer updates are left, the greater the risk. That’s why we harden every WordPress website we build, and handle maintenance for most of our clients, to keep things up-to-date and minimise risk.

In the case of these two hacked sites we managed to get them both repaired and hardened in less than an hour each, so if you know what to look for, a hacked WordPress site doesn’t have to be a big deal.

This repair service is available to everyone via our dedicated WordPress rescue service WPRescue.


Image credit: Life belt

What makes a good literary agency website?

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We’ve recently completed several projects for literary agencies and we thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the anatomy of an effective agency website.

From experience, we think that most agents’ sites will need the following core elements:

  1. An introduction to the agency and its specialisms
  2. Information about the agents themselves, along with their supporting team
  3. A list of their clients, with a certain amount of information about their work (from book covers through to more detailed publication information)
  4. Clear and detailed information about how to submit, perhaps with a form to facilitate the process

Let’s look at those four things in a bit more detail.

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Ten Years, Ten Things

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It’s been ten years since I started Bookswarm. In that time, we have designed and built a lot of websites. We have made a lot of mistakes. And we have learned a lot of lessons.

I sat down to reflect on all of our experiences, and to try and and identify some of the key lessons. So, behold, the result, which I have modestly chosen to call… Appleby’s Laws! Continue Reading

One week until London Book Fair!

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For those in the publishing world it’s that time of year again – all the fun of London Book Fair awaits at Olympia (and the sore feet and sore throat that the hardened book fair visitor knows only too well!).

Bookswarm will once again be on the IPAC stand – 4B30 – we still have some availability on the Tuesday and the Wednesday if you would like to say hello. Alternatively, we will be attending Byte The Book’s Reciprocity Circle of Publishing Goodness event, so you can catch us there:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018
17:00 – 18:00, in the Buzz Theatre

Justine Solomons founded the Byte the Book club on the premise of helping members and attendees of their events make valuable connections in the publishing world. Join her and the Byte the Book team as they set up a reciprocity circle live at London Book Fair and you’ll have the opportunity to get help and help others at the fair. This will be a vital and enjoyable session for writers, publishers, agents, digital folk and all those looking to improve their network in the publishing industry. The facilitated session will be followed by more lubricated networking (drinks) in the Buzz Theatre.

Whether we see you or not, if you’re there, have a good fair!

Breakfast Byte The Book – How Can I Make My Publishing Business GDPR Compliant?

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Continuing our current obsession with all things GDPR, Simon will be sharing some know-how at a Byte The Book breakfast event in May. Here are all the details…


This is the first in a series of informal breakfasts run by Byte the Book at The Groucho Club for all those connected to or interested in the publishing industry.

You’ll have the opportunity to hear from industry experts about a specific topic and gain practical advice for your business. There will also be time to network with the speakers and the audience before and after the talk.

The subject of this first breakfast in the series is GDPR.

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and comes into force on 25th May 2018.

It will have significant impact on any businesses that hold personal data which means:

  • Enhanced personal privacy – more rights for your customer or visitor.
  • Organisations will have to have more defined processes in place for dealing with data.
  • You must be more transparent as to why and how you use personal data.
  • All staff need to be up to speed on the new regulations.
  • Financial penalties can be imposed for breaches.

We’ll be joined by Alex Hardy (Lawyer at Harbottle and Lewis) who will talk through the legal ramifications for your business and Simon Appleby (Director of Bookswarm) who will explain what steps you or your technical team need to make in order to be compliant.

A light breakfast is included in the ticket price.

Tickets are £25 for Groucho and Byte the Book members and £35 for everyone else. All tickets can be booked via Eventbrite. Prices do not include booking fees or VAT.

Book now

Check out our partners

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[insert obligatory handshake picture here]

At Bookswarm we’re big believers in partnership and karma – so we thought it was time we had somewhere on our website that listed the wonderful friends and partners we have worked with over the years. They all do things that we don’t do, and they do them very well indeed!

View our partners

So what’s this GDPR malarkey then?

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You may have started to see a marked increase in blog posts, articles and general chatter about GDPR in recent months. Although the details have been known about for ages, it comes in to force in a May, and in best ‘Millennium Bug’ tradition, many businesses are only now starting to worry about it.

What is the GDPR anyway?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) is a regulation by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU).

The GDPR will supersede the current UK laws on data protection, which are enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It introduces tougher fines for non-compliance and breaches, and gives people more say over what companies can do with their data. It also makes data protection rules more or less identical throughout the EU.

But we’re leaving the European Union, I hear you cry! Blue passports, independence from Brussels, rule Britannia! Well, sorry, but that doesn’t matter, because EU laws and regulations will be incorporated in to UK law, and, equally important to our non-European clients, even if data controllers and processors are based outside the EU, the GDPR will still apply to them so long as they’re dealing with data belonging to EU residents. There is little doubt these regulations are with us for the long-term, EU member or not.

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Bookswarm sponsoring Byte the Book

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Bookswarm is sponsoring February’s Byte the Book event, entitled Buzz Words: How Can You Build A Community Around Your Content, which takes place on Monday, February 19, 2018, from 18:30 – 21:00 at The House of St Barnabas in London’s Soho.

What are the most effective techniques to build an audience for your work? What online and offline marketing techniques and tools work best? How can you be heard using limited budgets? Who does community building well and what can we learn from other industries?

Lysanne Currie (Journalist and Digital Strategist and Ex Group Editor and Head of Content Publishing at The Institute of Directors) will chair and her panel will include: Piers Torday (children’s book author), Laura Lindsay (Director of Global Communications at Lonely Planet) and Leena Normington (Senior Media Producer at Vintage Books and the brains, voice and face of YouTube channel JustKissMyFrog)

As well as the talk, you’ll also have the opportunity to network with authors, agents, publishers and suppliers to the publishing industry before and after the discussion.

Bookswarm client Piers Torday is included on the exciting panel, and of course our own Simon Appleby will be there to hear what they have to say and enjoy a spot of networking.

Booking information

Simon’s interview with Abidemi.tv

Our own Simon has been interviewed for writing advice site Abidemi.tv by Abidemi Sanusi, the founder of the site, which aims to provide support to writers.

Read the interview

Bookswarm creates Literature Matters Online Hub for RSL’s new campaign

The Royal Society of Literature is launching a programme, “Literature Matters”, to campaign for recognition of the power and value of great writing. Writers and readers are being asked to help with contributions, proposals and support.

A key part of the Society’s new programme will be the Literature Matters Online Hub, designed and built by Bookswarm as an extension of the RSL’s main website.

RSL director Tim Robertson told The Bookseller: “For me and Marina [Warner], we are the new gang at the RSL, we are building on its tradition and heritage but feeling that in the panoply of all the different literature organisations – some like The Reading Agency about literacy and reading, some like Arvon about creative writing, others like the Society of Authors about writers’ rights – our bit is about being a voice for literature, great writing, words that aspire to be more than plain communication.

“That’s what we’re trying to do, show that in this big, complicated, messy world, literature has a really vital, crucial role – our job is to make that case and get that debate heard out there in the nation.”

Visit the Literature Matters Online Hub