Upstart Crow Literary


A full redesign for an NYC agency

Based in NYC, and founded in 2009, Upstart Crow Literary was in need of a complete site redesign. As the agency’s roster of published authors grew, so did their need for a responsive, scalable Wordpress site that could show off their best work. We wanted to make it easier for their staff to use, and for users to find the information they needed - especially new or unpublished authors wanting to submit their manuscripts. 

A key goal was emphasizing the amount of educational material for writers they had on their site. During our research phase, we discovered they had a lot of really great advice-based content for writers, in the form of downloadable PDFs. It just needed to be made more accessible. We were able to create two call-to-actions on the homepage, leading to the most important areas of the site. We turned all their PDF content into searchable, tagged blog posts. We created a “Writer’s Toolbox” index page that guided writers seeking author-specific information, towards all related blog content. We also created a special bookshelf section, featuring Upstart's “must-read” book lists on the craft of writing.Another issue they had was controlling the deluge of submission they received. We emphasized submission buttons in key areas of the site to help funnel (or deter) writers wanting to send in their manuscripts for consideration.


In order to provide better communication with would-be authors trying to submit book ideas, we created custom controls on the back end that allows each agent to show whether or not they are accepting submissions. Messaging appears on each agent's profile page telling writers if that agent is currently accepting. If they've switched accepting "on", their image and submission info automatically shows up on the submissions page under "authors currently accepting submissions." 

Each agent specializes in specific book genres, so with these controls in place, authors will have a better idea which agent is available. This one piece of information saves an author and agents from wasting time on irrelevant manuscripts and submission effort.


To tie it all together, we updated the look and feel of the site. The client wanted to avoid the flat design look that was quickly becoming a trend. So we dug into some 18th century engravings to use as backgrounds, and added subtle texture to buttons and headers. These helped maintain a classic, literary vibe. Some added bright colors for buttons and links balanced out the old with the contemporary.

The end result was a responsive site that eased the staff's burden of managing new content. It also improved the user's experience by making their content easier to find, and helped vet and educate writers before submitting their work.


Upstart Crow Literary


Project title:

Website Redesign


Michael Stearns, Courtney Stubbert, Paul Fernandez


Strategy, Art direction, Custom functionality, Front-end design, WordPress development