An Indie Author’s Experience of NetGalley
This is a summary of my NetGalley experience as a self-published debut author. In June 2016, I listed my ebook, The Devil’s Prayer, with NetGalley. The entry level for a single title listing at the time was $399 (All prices are 2016 prices in USD). I chose the $599 package, which in addition to the listing includes one marketing newsletter. Over the next six months, I chose to try out the various marketing tools from the NetGalley shed. I spent a further $1540 on a variety of NetGalley promotions, including a Category Spotlight placement, a Featured Title placement and two promotional eBlasts. At just over $2000 (including the listing fee of $599), it is a big spend on a single title. I have shared my experience here as it may help you decide if NetGalley is for your book, and whether the individual promotional packages are worth the money.
What is NetGalley?
NetGalley is a web-based online book review portal, where publishers promote their titles to readers of influence. Publishers pay to list their books and reviewers interested in the titles can request a copy to review for free. NetGalley has some 350 000 members (mostly reviewers and the balance comprised of booksellers, librarians, media and educators), many of whom are avid readers of influence and bloggers. It is used predominantly by publishers to get titles reviewed before these are released. If you are self-publishing, the advantage of listing your book post-commercial release is that you can accumulate book reviews on consumer websites like Amazon and Goodreads.
Interested in articles like this?
According to the Bowker Report of 7 September 2016, over 725 000 books were self-published in 2015 in the US alone. Combine this with the fact that we live today in a world that becomes more time-poor each day. Being a self-published debut author and expecting readers to pick up your book is like expecting to be selected for a highly sought-after job with no experience and no references.
When you list your book, it automatically appears on the front page of NetGalley as ‘Recently Added’. You can also list your book under two genres. Each genre page will have five books, which are on the front page as ‘Recently Listed’. Your book is most visible when you first list it. It is on the front page of NetGalley and on the front page of the two genres that you list it on. As new books get listed, your book gets relegated further and further into the back shelves. In the first week and probably more precisely in the first two or three days, the book is most likely to be requested.
By the end of the first week of listing, 68 reviewers had downloaded my book. In the second week, it was down to nine downloads and by the third week it was down further to six requests. Hence, it is best to try and attract the most requests for reviews when you list your book, as this is when your book has pole position.
Results: From the total of 83 downloads in the first three weeks, I received a total of 18 reviews.
How Can I Attract more Reviewers when I List?
NetGalley functions like any other online bookshop. The only difference is that the publisher pays to list the book and reviewers get access to books for free.
In any online bookshop, the first thing that attracts a potential reader to a new writer is the genre. Once inside this section of the online bookshop, the reader browses the book cover and the title. If this attracts the reader to the book, the back cover blurb needs to seal the deal. NetGalley recognises just how important this book cover is and allows reviewers to vote on liking or disliking the book cover.
I soon learnt that unless your book generates interest on some of the consumer forums like NetGalley Readers or NetGalley Addicts on Goodreads, after the first three weeks, you will need to invest in some marketing package to get your book noticed.
NetGalley also provides reviewers with a quick survey asking the reason for request. This survey is not filled out by every person that requests your book but nevertheless, it does provide some insights to the publisher and author as to what is working. The survey encourages readers to nominate their ‘Reason for request’ in four categories:
4 I keep hearing about this book!
As can be expected, as a new kid on the block, not backed by a publisher, I got about 6% who said it was because of the author and about 7% who said they had heard about the book. The rest came down to the book cover and the back blurb.
When’s the Best Time to List your book?
Just paying to list your book does not mean it will get picked for review. At the time I listed my book some 7000 books were also available for review on NetGalley from various publishing houses, both blue chip and bespoke. This means that even if you list your book, it is competing with books from established authors and publishing houses. Reviews attract readers and NetGalley is no different. I would suggest that the best time for a debut author/publisher to list a book on NetGalley is after it has been listed on a consumer website like Amazon or Goodreads and has received a few good reviews.
I soon learnt that unless your book generates interest on some of the consumer forums like NetGalley Readers or NetGalley Addicts on Goodreads, after the first three weeks, you will need to invest in some marketing package to get your book noticed. After the first three weeks, the downloads on the book had almost stopped.
In an attempt to revive interest in my book, I paid $75 to get my book listed as the Category Spotlight book on the popular Mystery and Thrillers page for one week. The book was placed for a week on the front page of the genre with a small promotional text box.
Results: The book got 22 requests for reviews during that week, which generated 12 reviews.
NetGalley Newsletter and Featured Title promotion
The package I had paid for when I joined included not just the listing, but also for inclusion of the book in one NetGalley newsletter of my choice. It should be noted that if you book the newsletter at the time of listing, it is an additional $200 to the listing price, but if you book it separately it costs $550. I selected the Debut Author’s Newsletter at the end of August 2016. During that same week, I also listed the book as a Featured Title on the front page of NetGalley for an additional $65.
Results: The newsletter and the Featured Title promotion together raked in 105 requests for reviews, which generated 25 reviews.
Months 3 and 4 — No Promotions
I ran no promotions for seven weeks from 7 September to 29 October. This gave me an idea of how the book would perform in the absence of marketing programs.
Results: The book attracted another 19 requests for reviews over this seven-week period and yielded five more reviews.
End of four months
Approximately four months from the date I had listed the book, I had run a Category Spotlight promotion, a Featured Title promotion and also featured the book in one NetGalley newsletter. The campaign had cost me:
▪ $599 Listing plus Newsletter
▪ $75 Category Spotlight
▪ $65 Featured Title
▪ Total: $739
Results: By the end of the fourth month, I had received and granted requests from 284 people to review the book. Not every reviewer who requests your book will write a review. I had received 81 completed reviews. So for every 7 requests, I received 2 reviews.
NB: There is no database of NetGalley reviewers you can write to via NetGalley. There are eBlasts that you can pay for, where NetGalley sends an email to targeted reviewers to consider reviewing your book.
In early November, on the advice of Australian eBook Publisher who managed the editing and publishing of my book, I decided to try out NetGalley’s eBlast program. Here for a princely sum starting from $600, NetGalley sends out an email to targeted users. I chose the $700 eBlast to horror, thriller and historical fiction fans in the United States. As the buyer, you get to draft the dedicated eBlast, or Netgalley offers to design one for you at no additional cost. The eBlast was sent to more than 19 300 US members and approximately 6480 opened the emails, of which approximately 470 reviewers downloaded the book. The key advantages I saw from this was that the book was being put in front of a lot of people and hopefully would generate a lot of reviews.
I decided to follow it up with a similar eBlast to all UK and Australian readers, which cost me a similar amount, namely £500 (UK pounds). This eBlast was sent to 31 000 reviewers and approximately 326 reviewers downloaded the book.
Results: The two eBlasts cost approximately $1400 and a total of 796 reviewers downloaded the book. To date 121 reviews have been received and reviews from these eBlasts are still coming in.
The first thing you will notice is the quality of most NetGalley reviews. These are detailed reviews, which highlight what the reviewer liked and did not like about your book. Most NetGalley reviewers take a lot of pride in their reviews and hence these reviews are extremely well written. I was fortunate to attract a lot of positive reviews earlier on and this probably encouraged a lot of other reviewers to pick up my book.
Some NetGalley reviewers have a large following and if you are lucky to attract one of these members, you will see discussions on their posts leading people to your book [on sites such as Amazon and GoodReads].
NetGalley is considered a benchmark for getting honest reviews and that means good and bad reviews. Just as the positive reviews from NetGalley are amazing and detailed, the critical reviews can be scathing. I got a few NetGalley critical reviews, which had gems of constructive criticism balanced with positive feedback on what worked in the book. If there was one criticism I had, it is that whilst reviewers were very careful not to have spoilers in positive reviews, the one and two star reviews often ignored this etiquette.
People today are time-poor. We read to be entertained, educated and empowered. I would prefer it if someone steered clear of my book because it dealt with subject matter they would not enjoy and that’s what negative reviews can do very well. In some strange way, well-written negative reviews validate the positive reviews a book has received and make them credible. The best outcome a negative review can have is to spark a debate between reviewers. I was not so lucky.
Blog posts from NetGalley members
Some of the NetGalley members also write their own book review blogs. I started to realise that this was one of the best ways to get a book noticed as each blog has its followers. In addition to the reviews, my book had also been featured in many blog posts. From my NetGalley listing, I have received more than 50 blog reviews to date. Not all blog reviews are positive but NetGalley is all about honest reviews.
NetGalley member promotions
At the end of their submitted reviews, reviewers are surveyed on whether they are interested in connecting with the publisher or author for events such as author interviews or giveaways. Approximately 30% of reviewers indicated an interest in connecting with the author. To date, I have had giveaways run by three NetGalley members: The Geeky Bibliophile (US), Abby’s Shelves (India) and Tome Tender (US). I had two author interviews run by Foxy Reads (US) and Life Has a Funny Way (UK). One NetGalley reviewer ran a Christmas story on her popular blog, The Gal in the Blue Mask.
The Feedback Page also logs social shares, indicating the number of times a NetGalley member shares their review via social media, and how many of their followers clicked to read the review. That link directs their followers to a special landing page with the book cover, description, the text of the NetGalley member’s review, and links to purchase or pre-order the title. The Devil’s Prayer had received a total of 888 social shares to date.
Overall Results to Date
To date, my horror-thriller/historical fiction book has been downloaded by approximately 1300 NetGalley members. It has received feedback from 272 members, including 237 reviews.
More than 90% of the 200 plus text reviews on Goodreads, 150 plus reviews on Amazon.com (USA) and 50 plus reviews on other Amazon marketplaces have all come from NetGalley. Over 50 blog posts have been written on the book by NetGalley readers and I have collaborated with six NetGalley members to date, to run promotions of the book on their websites. The book is currently in the top 25 Most Requested books on NetGalley and the Most Requested book in the two genres Horror and Historical Fiction under which it is listed.
I decided to extend my listing for another six months for three reasons.
1 This was the only place I felt my book was actually getting some attention.
2 I was still receiving reviews and believed that having a listed book would encourage more reviews.
3 Not all the reviews I had received had been re-posted on commercial sites and I did not wish to see these reviews archived as yet.
I opted for another $599 package, which I negotiated with NetGalley staff to get another eBlast to all members in India, Canada, Spain, Germany and Italy. This went out to 18 700 members and another 100 potential reviewers downloaded the book.
NB: This is a condensed version of a blog post from Luke Gracias’ ‘The Devils Prayer blog’, shared with the permission of the author.