[The site is] doing all kinds of stuff people didn’t anticipate. It’s opening our minds to new possibilities.
Annick Press has been publishing classic and contemporary children’s literature since 1975. While you most certainly know some of their most beloved titles, including Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess and Kathy Stinson’s Red Is Best, they’ve also been on the forefront of publishing exciting, diverse new voices; winning major awards; and providing teaching guides and resources to an enthusiastic audience of educators and librarians.
When Annick came to ReaderBound for a redesign, their website was a decade or more out of date. It had become an incredible repository of data, but also a burden to support and update. It wasn’t mobile ready, didn’t accept the firm’s meticulously maintained ONIX feed, and was becoming increasingly vulnerable to security issues.
We were excited about the opportunity of working with this renowned children’s publisher. It would be up to us to create a website that lived up to the boundless creative energy of the firm’s staff and creators.
“Our wish list for a website developer: book industry experience, ecommerce experience, and a solid front end design team,” explains Brendan Ouellette, Annick’s Digital Project Manager. “We were getting the whole package with ReaderBound.”
When metadata gets an A+
One of the major ways Annick stood out is how they worked to develop a treasure trove of metadata specific to how they wanted to present their titles. They had rich information for their books that would be relevant to audiences of educators and parents/caregivers, such as grade level, reading level, curriculum links, themes, and more. “We care so much about getting our data really strong,” says Brendan. “The backend is going to supercharge our business.”
ReaderBound worked with Annick to ensure their ONIX feed presented their list in fresh and interesting ways. The site showcases these as important data points but also as presentation and navigation tools, enabling users to explore titles with a high degree of specificity. Teachers looking for Indigenous picture books, for example, will have no trouble quickly locating a number of suitable titles.
Prioritizing customer needs
Ecommerce on the Annick site has evolved in a particularly thought-provoking way. Annick wanted to launch the site with ecommerce functionality in place, which ReaderBound developed and set up for seamless fulfillment through their distributor. This continues to work well, minimizing staff time and facilitating audience-specific purchases such as class sets or bulk buys that are shipped to remote areas.
However, in the year or so following, the press also sought to explore the use of affiliate links: giving customers the choice to order directly, or through a bookstore of their choosing.
“We didn't feel possessive of the sale going through our website. We wanted a prominent way to refer the sale, rather than owning it,” says Brendan. “It connects us to our readers and the bookselling community in a positive way, and we’ve been able to generate some revenue from affiliate links.”
Brendan compares it to the lively shared experience of visiting the Annick booth at a trade show or other event.
That was impossible with the previous site, and it's a wonderful game changer for us.
Working together to evolve and change
The Annick team is very hands-on with their site. They are constantly finding new ways to use it, creating promotions and driving traffic by sharing events like their Paper Bag Princess Day or their frequently updated YouTube feed. ReaderBound supports with a yearly maintenance package, providing training materials to new staff members, answering questions, and working with the press on any larger updates or changes.
Annick has also participated in webinars and professional development opportunities provided by ReaderBound. “[It’s] so beneficial to empowering people,” says Brendan. “[We can] slowly build out the technical acumen of the [staff] working with the site. A wonderful value add and aligned with the technologizing of the industry.”
“The website is really suiting the state of publishing right now,” continues Brendan. “Since social media has been so popular over the past 15 years, it’s downplayed the role of the publisher site. This has leveraged so many elements of what a site can do.”
It’s standing on its own, it’s paying for itself, and doing all kinds of stuff people didn’t anticipate. It’s opening our minds to new possibilities rather than making us want to change it.
That’s very much in line with what we stand for at ReaderBound. We strongly believe that redoing your website from stem to stern every five years is a huge waste of money and opportunity.
Instead, we concentrate on a rock-solid backend with a frontend that can be modified quite easily. This leaves us free to take the lead from presses like Annick and work on innovating, finding new challenges, and inventing ways our clients’ sites can continue to evolve.