Tender: help us create our new website

We are inviting expressions of interest from individuals, teams and companies interested in working with us to create our new website. Sadly our current website is no longer fit for purpose and has become outdated, and we'd like the new website to showcase and celebrate the work we are producing in collaboration with our authors, translators, editors and partners, and our huge archive of audio and visual material. We want someone who is creative and can bring us fresh, new ideas for the site, while ensuring it is usable and accessible to our broad range of audiences. Our main priorities are ensuring that the site can support an improved shopping function (through a platform like Shopify) and a subscription service.

 

Full details are in the brief below. 

 

COMMA PRESS – Website Brief (April 2021)

 

Main contact

Becca Parkinson – Engagement Manager – Comma Press

Becca.parkinson@commapress.co.uk

(available Mon – Fri 10-5)

 

About Us

Comma Press is a not-for-profit publisher specialising in the short story and fiction in translation, based in Manchester. It is committed to a spirit of risk-taking and aims to put the short story at the heart of contemporary narrative culture. In 2012 Comma became an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, and also joined the Greater Manchester Combined Authority Cultural Portfolio in 2020. 

We publish collections by new and established authors, interdisciplinary collaborations between authors and experts, and translation commissions devised to identify cutting-edge (often marginalised) voices from across the world. Our award-winning publications include The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim, Tea at the Midland by David Constantine, You Should Come With Me Now by M. John Harrison, The Sea Cloak by Nayrouz Qarmout, and the first ever collection of science-fiction from Palestine, Palestine +100.

In 2017 we won Northern Soul’s ‘Northern Publisher of the Year’ award, and for the last three years running we have been shortlisted by The British Book Awards for ‘Small Press of the Year’ (winning the North of England region in 2020).

Comma Press also works as a writer development agency, delivering short story courses throughout the year, and hosting annual conferences including the National Creative Writing Industry Day and Manchester in Translation, to give early-career practitioners access to advice, knowledge and skills from industry professionals.

Comma Press founded the Northern Fiction Alliance in 2016 alongside three other leading independents, Peepal Tree Press, Dead Ink Books and And Other Stories, and have since been joined by a range of publishers such as Bluemoose Books, Saraband and Valley Press. The Alliance is a radical publishing collective devised to showcase the creativity, diversity and outward-looking agenda that sets publishers in the North of England apart.

 

Audience

·       Audiences for our events, courses and outreach programme

·       Audiences for our books 

·       Industry professionals, including aspiring publishers and peers

·       Booksellers and programmers at festivals/venues and organisations we collaborate with

·       Financial supporters – (e.g. Arts Council & GMCA) and project funders, including trusts & foundations etc

·       Academics and students 

·       The media (regional, national & international)

·       Our workforce – core team, board of trustees, sales representatives, freelance creative collaborators & interns

·       Our suppliers 

 

Old Site

·      Too static, boxy/framed and lacking in visual flair or interactivity. 

·      Search function brings up too much and doesn't prioritise books and authors (e.g. if you search for 'Protest', instead of bringing up just the two books called Protest - paperback and hardback, you get every event ever held in relation to it, every news item, and even book covers, in no particular order) and makes navigation tricky.

·      News and events pages are unattractive. 

·      Doesn’t showcase our wealth of resources as well as it could (i.e., video, audio, blog posts). 

·      Sales are good but analytics show visitors to the site are using it to access resources more than for browsing and shopping, which should be its primary focus. Unable to purchase multiple books without incurring high postage, and no facility for discount codes.

·      Mailing list sign-up and forthcoming titles are not prominent enough.

·      Doesn't have Shopify function, or any ability to buy books directly (with credit/debit card), except for through Paypal. (We want both).

·      Books page doesn't order books in a helpful way (tags make it repeat appearances, and old, unattractive, and non-typical books are currently at top). Solution: order them most recent at the top, to oldest at the bottom.

·      Doesn't have a Subscription function, or an easy CMS-driven Special Offer/Discount function.

 

New Site

Aims:

·      To create a strong brand identity and cohesion in terms of logos, fonts, colour, aesthetic – shareable and attractive.

·      To improve our direct sales figures, by increasing shop browsing and launching subscriptions.

·      Our target audience is readers first (who want to buy books, or subscribe), followed by potential event attendees (who want to look at our events, including course goers), writers and translators (who want to access our resources).

·      Become known as a short story specialist as well as a Northern, independent press.

·      Showcase our titles prominently and optimally, holding up the short story as an exemplary form. 

·      Host our wealth of resources and events for writers, publishers, translators and readers (including hosting easily embedded video and/or audio from previous events) and how we can support them, and as a result also increasing future event attendance. 

 

Key features:

·      Visually attractive (mobile optimised) homepage that vertically scrolls as well as allows us to include a horizontal carousel of images/books, a Shopify/bookshop element as well as news, events, blog, podcast potentially.

·      Prominent 'subscribe to the mailing list' function (e.g. pop-up and link at bottom of home page?), that auto-generates mailing list additions (for us to update our mailing list) or simply integrates with Mailchimp.

·      Easily navigable headers along the top banner with drop downs to subsequent pages.

·      Increased usability of the search function to find a particular book, author, series (i.e. one that prioritises in the following order: book, single author (not one of many contributing authors), series, forthcoming event, and doesn't include old events, book covers, etc).

·      Increased prominence of audio and video resources on all pages (and a function that allows us to add (i.e. embed) or delete audio and video onto books pages, etc, ourselves).

·      A PDF of our sales and rights catalogues which is linked on the site. 

·      More visually led news and events pages (i.e. news and events pages that require a visual, and lead with that rather than just text).

·      Conversion of large author database to A-Z function where authors appear by surname alphabetically once you click a letter.

·      Image-led books page that is in chronological order, click on books to get more info and purchase.

·      Prominent use of Comma logo on the masthead, along with company name and tagline.

·      Social media links and key partner logos along the bottom banner on every page

·      Integration of the blog into the website.

·      A subscription service and a better (and secure) shopping experience with a cart, discount codes, ability to use other methods of payment than PayPal (e.g. allowing users to purchase books, bundles, subscriptions and possibly even event tickets, with debit/credit cards at an industry level of security).

 

Sites we like

1.     And Other Stories

https://www.andotherstories.org

2.     Fitzcarraldo

https://fitzcarraldoeditions.com

3.     Saqi Books

https://saqibooks.com

4.     Influx Press

https://www.influxpress.com

 

Branding

Key colours – black and white (TBD)

Keywords – inclusive, accessible, fiction, short stories, northern, independent

 

Technical requirements

·       2.1 WCAG compliant and accessibility statement. As inclusive and accessible as possible i.e., compatible with audio and braille browsers, clear navigation and copy.

·      Easy for Comma team to add new pages, copy, images, video, audio.

·      Standardised inbuilt formatting of font (size and type) for headers, paragraphs when copy and pasting text into CMS fields.

·      Appropriate cookie consent, with explicit opt in. 

·      Google Analytics.

·      Mailchimp integration.

·      Suitable across a range of devices i.e., mobile, tablet, PC.

·      Quote for ongoing maintenance and training on how to use the new site.

 

 

Budget 

7-8k for entirety of project. 

 

 

Timeline

·      Beta-site for testing by mid-July 2021, followed by bug fixes. 

·      Replace existing website by 1 September 2021 with minimum interruption to current site use by readers and event attendees as possible.

 

How to respond to this brief

If you’re interested in working with us, please send an expression of interest to Becca Parkinson, Engagement Manager, at becca.parkinson@commapress.co.uk by 30th April.