Hello, I'm Simon Appleby

I blend digital skills with publishing know-how

I have 20 years’ experience of delivering digital projects – websites, apps and e-books – and have spent the last 10 years working with publishers, authors, literary agents and reading charities. As well overseeing the design and production of an extensive portfolio of website projects, I have also provided consultancy, delivered training and talks, and written articles for the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, The Bookseller, Futurebook and others.

I am currently available for consultancy engagements – please contact me to discuss your requirements.

My key skills:

Digital strategy
Requirements gathering and analysis
Information architecture
Data modelling and database design
Project management
WordPress development and integration

Freelance Project Manager, YESS

November 2017 – February 2018

Challenge: Your Employment Settlement Service (YESS) had undertaken feasibility studies, grant funding applications and initial planning for a project to offer automated employment law advice via a series of online pathways. They required assistance to take the documentation already produced and refine it in to a single, comprehensive Invitation To Tender (ITT), which could be shared with potential development partners.

Solution: As well as reviewing the documentation already produced and prioritising and synthesising the core elements in to a single document, I also worked closely with YESS’ content team to produce a fully realised example pathway covering disability discrimination law. This was included in the ITT document so bidders could gain a clear understanding of the types of content they would be working with, and so that all parties could be confident that the pathway requirement specification was reflective of real content and functional needs. I then evaluated the submitted proposals, created a shortlist and ran a ‘pitch day’ on which all bidders presented their solutions on a level playing field.

Results: Created a well-received ITT document which the client could understand and buy in to, and in which bidders would find the necessary level of thought and detail to confidently create and submit their proposals.

“As a lawyer, with little IT technical expertise,  developing an accessible interactive guided pathway for employees was a challenge.  I needed a Project Manager to guide me through the technical process in a practical way to achieve our objectives.  Simon was a delight to work with.  He explained the technology in a clear way, worked very well with the team and always delivered well on time.  Together, we agreed a timescale, goals and interviewed developers, agreeing the outcome. I have worked with other project managers and Simon was much easier to work with than others.  We are a charity so he also had to advise the Oversight Board. All the experts on the Board valued his input.  We all trusted him. I have no hesitation in recommending Simon and would add that when I spoke to others who had worked with them they also highly recommended him.”

Camilla Palmer QC (Hon), Founder, Your Employment Settlement Service

Digital Strategy Consultant, The Reading Agency

May 2013 – January 2017

Challenge: The Reading Agency required a digital strategy capability, and over the course of three and a half years, I worked on a number of distinct engagements. The largest challenge was to put the charity’s range of websites on a more sustainable footing, which reduced project costs and made the same core functionality available to all its websites.

Solution: I proposed a web architecture for The Reading Agency which consisted of three elements:

1. The Reading Database – a single bibliographic database, powered by a feed from Nielsen Bookdata, which could be used to find books and and post book reviews on any site with which it was integrated, making it easier for users to post book recommendations and build reading lists

2. The Reading Agency Passport – a single sign-on mechanism which could be used on any site requiring user registration and login, which prevented users from having different logins for different sites and gave the charity a clearer understanding of its total digital user-base

3. The Resources Database – a single repository of digital resources for end users and partner organisations, designed to reduce data entry and upload time and cut down on wasteful duplication of resources between individual programme sites and the main Reading Agency website

Results: The ‘three pillars’ of the architecture I devised were implemented by The Reading Agency’s lead developers, and now underpin all of its digital service delivery.

“Simon and Bookswarm have always been so much more than web developers or digital consultants to The Reading Agency. Simon’s patient and approachable style and his positive, solution-focused methods make him a pleasure to work with. He really understands our work and the world in which we operate and because of that has been integral to helping us reach new audiences, develop new projects and interact with our partners and beneficiaries.”

Sue Wilkinson MBE, Chief Executive, The Reading Agency

Associate Producer, The Space

November 2014 – February 2015

Working with The Space to assess applications for funding via their second Open Call, as part of a team of experts from a range of cultural sectors. Responsible for initial assessment of applications, and supporting longlisted and shortlisted applicants through each stage of the process.

Digital Publishing Consultant, Octopus Publishing

July 2011 – December 2012

Challenge: Helping leading illustrated publisher Octopus devise digital products which fitted in well with its publishing plans, and which had co-edition potential. Work included information architecture, database design, project management and supplier management.

Solution: Scoped and delivered a number of app and website projects, including:

Puppy School app – concept design for iOS puppy training app based on bestselling book The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey

Decisions on the Rules of Golf – iOS app in conjunction with the R&A

Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine – iOS app (2 versions) and underpinning wine review database, which is still used to power the creation of this popular annual wine guide in conjunction with a number of co-edition partners

My Pilates Guru and My Yoga Guru – companion apps for illustrated books, delivered in English, as well as French, Italian and German for co-edition partners

Colour Me Beautiful – colour-matching app for iOS

Weber – barbecue recipes app for iOS

Hamlyn QuickCook – website which allowed book owners to download and share any recipe from this innovative cookery series

Hamlyn All Colour – iOS recipe app based on popular cookbook series

Results: Successfully embedded a deeper understanding of digital product life cycles and development issues within the Octopus business, as well as delivering a number of well-received digital products.

“Simon has successfully delivered a diverse range of projects for us at Octopus, from hand-crafted illustrated e-books and complex apps to websites and databases. He understands book publishing extremely well, is bang up to date yet refreshingly free of geek-speak, and is a highly creative, nimble problem solver.”

Denise Bates, Group Publishing Director, Octopus Publishing Group

Contact Details

  • E-mailsimon.appleby@bookswarm.co.uk
  • Phone+44 (0) 7847 912989


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Professional Experience

  • Bookswarm – Founder and Director
    2008 - present

    Bookswarm is a small, agile digital agency dedicated to delivering projects to the UK book publishing trade – publishers, authors and agents. We have a great deal of experience in these areas (plus, we’re mad about books!). We focus on the delivery of beautiful and easy-to-use websites using WordPress, including e-commerce projects using WooCommerce.  

  • Independent Publishing Agency Collective (IPAC) – Founder
    2014 - present

    IPAC is an association of like-minded independent companies that work for and within the book industry. It offers a diverse and comprehensive list of services for publishers, authors, booksellers, agents and many others involved in the book world. At the heart of the IPAC group there is an immense amount of digital expertise but it is also multi-disciplined. It offers support across all forms of marketing, publicity, event management, and design, editorial and in particular system, business and content management and development.

  • Octopus Publishing Group – Digital Projects Manager
    2009 - 2012

    Responsible for the development of the digital publishing programme, including the specification, vendor selection and project management for three iPhone apps and the creation of illustrated and text-only e-books. Initially worked as a member of staff, then on a consultancy basis.

  • The Publishing Training Centre – Tutor

    I jointly delivered the two-day course 'Developing Digital Products the User-Centred Way' with co-tutor Zelda Rhiando.


  • University of Cambridge – BA (Hons), History
    1995 - 1998

Contact Me

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Contact info

Give me a call or drop me an e-mail to discuss how I may be able to help. I am always happy to chat, and can host meetings in London if needed.

  • 49, Greek Street, London
  • +44 (0) 7847 912989
  • simon.appleby@bookswarm.co.uk

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