Macmillan’s Podcast Strategy

VP of Podcasting at Macmillan Kathy Doyle shares an inside look

2019 marked a watershed moment for spoken-word audio. For the first time ever, more than 50% of the U.S. population reported listening to podcasts and 50% reported listening to audiobooks*. Macmillan has spent years developing a robust podcast network to build and then capture that interest in audio content. On their podcast network Macmillan Podcasts they feature podcasts hosted by their authors like Astro Poets, companion podcasts to books like The Girls: Find Sadie, or as completely unique content like Steal the Stars.  

That’s why we asked Kathy Doyle, VP of Podcasting at Macmillan, to share her perspective on audio in publishing. She describes Macmillan’s podcasting content strategy – how they design podcasts to best support their authors as well as the collaborative process that brings those podcasts to life. She pulls back the curtain on how Macmillan works with distribution platforms, as well as how she and her team think about creating mutually beneficial advertising relationships. 

Plus, whether indie publishers or self-published authors should get in the podcasting game, and what big changes in the industry she’s excited to see in 2020. 

What is your history with audio and podcasting? 

I joined Macmillan at the end of 2011. I was hired as the director of what was already a podcasting network at that time – called Quick and Dirty Tips. QDT had already been around for 3 or 4 years by the time I joined, but it was a dual platform. It had this major website, which it still has today, and it had a podcasting arm. I was hired to run the collective – the entire network. I have run websites almost my entire career. I started in digital at the Wall Street Journal back when the internet was emerging as a format and already had some familiarity with podcasting in 2011, so I was hired by Mary Beth Roche to take on the entire business unit as its director.

Tell about your role in developing audio strategy at Macmillan

I’m primarily responsible for the podcast networks. We now have two networks, [one of which is] QDT. From QDT we learned a lot about format and what we were finding was that we were trying to put authors of all types into that “quick and dirty” format of providing actionable, interesting information in 8 mins or less. We were finding that we had an opportunity because podcasting was starting to emerge as a bigger, bolder format for media consumption. We had the opportunity to start a second network, which we called Macmillan Podcasts. That really enabled us to strategically use authors of all types from some of the best imprints in the world – Henry Holt, St. Martin’s Press, Flatiron Books – and allow those authors to come onto the platform. We worked with them to develop various types of programming, which was not as contained as the QDT model. We’ve been able to do some fiction, some audio drama, we’ve done a lot of interview format. We’ve really expanded our capabilities from a strategic standpoint on the podcasting side.

What do you think about the relationship between podcasts and audiobooks? Are you both competing for the same ear time? 

There’s definitely some crossover. APA came out with a study earlier this year that said 55% of people who had listened to an audiobook have also listened to podcasts. We’ve just seen an absolute explosion in audio as a form of consumption for media. It’s shifting paradigms. It’s really powerful. We don’t feel as though it’s competitive in nature at all. It’s strategic for us. We used to say that podcasts were audiobooks-lite — they were for someone who wanted to dabble in the format or hadn’t listened to spoken word audio before and this gave them a free and somewhat frictionless way to dabble in that media. But I think what we’re seeing is that people who want information via audio want all kinds of information via audio whether it’s short format or long format, book or podcast. Whether it’s because they’re driving or they’re exercising or making dinner, whatever it is, they can do other things while they’re consuming spoken word audio. 

People who want information via audio want all kinds of information via audio whether it’s short format or long format, book or podcast

So you’re seeing this audio boom as a result of multi-tasking from the listener standpoint?

It can be. It’s not always. I mean, some people are very content to just listen and absorb the content the way they would if they were nose-deep in a book. I can just speak to the fact that we see a lot of research and hear from our listeners very specifically about how they listen to podcasts and audiobooks — what they’re doing at the time of consumption. I had an Uber driver in L.A. say something to me that I hear all the time, “I listen to podcasts to learn. I don’t always listen to podcasts when I’m in the gym. I want music to give me motivation, but when I’m doing housework or when I’m driving my Uber and I don’t have a patron in the car, I want to learn. And that’s when I turn to podcasting.” I hear that all the time.

Let’s turn to Macmillan podcasting specifically. Macmillan Podcasts are divided into two groups – Bold Voices and Addictive Stories. Tell me more about how you developed those two areas of focus. 

It definitely happened organically. What happened was we found that we were being approached by editors, we were identifying talent on our own, and it just felt like the right way to start the process early on of developing a catalog — a podcast catalog — in ways that we could define categories.

The Bold Voices really are author-hosted shows where there’s someone with authority — who has something to say — typically nonfiction. All the QDT shows fall into that format to some extent. We have shows like I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics which is [hosted by] Jeanne Safer who wrote a book about how to navigate politically troubled times when you have a partner, a colleague, a family member who you don’t see eye to eye with.

The Addictive Stories, that’s the very elusive driveway moment we’re all looking for. [A driveway moment describes audio that keeps you in your car to listen, even after you’ve arrived at your destination.]

Those are stories that capture you emotionally and you don’t want to let go. So that’s Steal the Stars, our audio drama which we described as Arrival meets Ocean’s Eleven. It had everything – it had heist, it had romance, it had crime, it had all kinds of elements that comprised a very engaging, richly entertaining story that you wanted to binge. But That’s Another Story is our narrative book podcast hosted by Will Schwalbe who is an executive here and also a bestselling author. He talks to people in a very powerful way about a book that changed their life. He’s spoken to everyone from Jodi Foster to Min Jin Lee. he just had the hilarious macmillan author Gary Janetti.

How do you learn about your audience?

There’s a variety of things that we can do. Podcasting is a deeply engaged medium, so we get a lot of listener feedback. We have voice mailboxes set up for every show where people can call in and leave feedback or, in the case of some of the Bold Voices shows or QDT shows, leave a comment or question. We very carefully monitor ratings and reviews, we can learn a lot there. We’ve done some work with little focus groups where we bring people together and do listening parties to see what kind of reaction we get. We’ll get some from our ad broker; that helps give us demographic and other details about the listeners. The other thing we can do is on the backend of some of the distributor platforms, we can actually see things like what we call retention. If you have a 40 minute episode and you see that 60% or higher are dropping off after 20 minutes, [you can learn] about what listeners are staying tuned for, what adjustments we might need to make to the format or the approach to better serve the listening community. The platforms do not have the same consistent information from platform to platform but we sort of know what elements we want to look for.

If you have a 40 minute episode and you see that 60% or higher are dropping off after 20 minutes, [you can learn] about what listeners are staying tuned for

What factors are you keeping in mind when developing a new podcast?

There’s still this perception that I think is shifting as competition increases and the industry learns more about podcasting, but there’s definitely this perception that it’s really easy to pull off a podcast. And it is incredibly difficult and challenging work. It takes a lot of different people in the mix. We look at talent holistically. We want to make sure that we’re making choices that serve our publishers, that serve our talent, that serve the listening community for our podcasts. It’s all of those things. We get together with potential talent, we talk about an arc or a creative approach to the show. Then, we’ll do a creative brief where we talk about who the audience is just like a book – what are the comps that are out there that we can use as comparisons for how the show might do or the kind of approach we might take? We talk about the creative process, we talk about the workflow and make sure everybody’s on the same page. We talk about the schedule, which is really important. We talk about the business arrangement, which is also really important. We sort of work all that through and then we might do a pilot or a trailer or talk to our distributors about relationships for the show. It’s a really elongated process. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s very collaborative.

Who makes up the team that brings a podcast together?

One of the best things about working at Macmillan is how incredibly collaborative we are. Everyone from the marketers to the publicists to the editors, we’re all involved in the decision-making process. This is an organization that cares deeply about its authors and takes very good care of their authors. so we want to make sure that we’re making the best possible decisions both for our organization and for the talent.

We will work with the editor to develop the relationship with the author or the host. When we get ready to launch the podcast, we’ll work with the marketer and the publicist from the imprint to make sure we’re all in sync in terms of who we’re pitching to, what kind of work we’re going to do on the marketing side. And then we just make sure that the editors get to listen to stuff before it goes out. We stay in very close touch throughout the entire process. Most communication happens up front but it is a true collaborative effort from start to finish. 

Are you proactively approaching talent?

It’s all over the place. We do spend some time identifying talent. We [also] work within our imprints to try and find talent who would make good podcast hosts or guests. On the QDT side we will often bring up an emerging talent who is starting to grow a platform. We will work with them to grow their podcast and then work to help them secure a book.

What makes for a good podcast host?

I think it has to be someone who listens to podcasts — someone who embraces and understands the medium and what the pros and cons of the medium are. I think it’s someone who has to be willing to work and not just sit in a studio and read a script that they just wrote. For us, it’s about the collaborative nature of podcasting, and making sure that everyone is in tune and in sync with the goals and the objectives that we work toward in terms of developing and launching a podcast.

[For new hosts] we will do some training. We had a conversation this morning about one of the QDT hosts who was interrupting a guest with “uh huh” and making auditory affirmations as you would in a normal conversation. In podcasting we tell our hosts, “Tell your guest up front that you won’t be acknowledging them because you might not be in the same room.” If it’s a Skype  interview or done via the studio, they can’t always see the person they’re communicating with. So it feels very natural to want to say “uh huh” or “yes, I agree” but you’re interrupting the flow of your guest’s statement in a way that’s going to make it difficult for the producer to put it out there as great-quality content. 

That’s just one kind of small example but I think people who aren’t used to working in an audio format definitely need to be trained and educated on what suits the format best in terms of developing and creating and releasing the best possible experience for the listener — the highest quality for the listener. 

We have such incredible guests — a lot of them are authors also, sometimes they’re outside experts. [Hosts] get involved in these really deep, interesting, engaging conversations and they’re so excited about the content they’re getting they forget that they have to be mindful of the format and the experience.

What about distribution? Which platforms do you use, and what benefits do you see from distributing your podcasts on multiple platforms?

I would say one of the advantages we bring to the table is our longevity because we’ve been podcasting for over a decade, we have great relationships with the long-standing distributors like Stitchers, Apple Podcasts and the new players that have come into the space. We’ve worked hard to develop those relationships over time — Spotify, Pandora, iHeart. We have great relationships with all of those teams. We’re not one-off shows just looking to boost our downloads. We are looking to build sustainable, long-term relationships with these partners. 

It’s a two way street. Every conversation we have with our partners… we will not get off that call or leave that meeting without saying “How can we better serve you as well?” 

One of the distributors came in recently with some back-end features and functionality that they wanted to test. They wanted to get our opinion; how would we use this data and how would we use these features. So our team got together in a conference room and we went through it with them step by step and we provided them with feedback about how we would use those features. It’s a two way street. Every conversation we have with our partners, we always make an ask — we might be asking for something whether it’s a promotion or for them to entertain a pitch, but we will not get off that call or leave that meeting without saying “How can we better serve you as well?” 

What about podcast advertising? How is advertising on the medium changing?

There are two different camps on the ad side. There are branded campaigns which are general awareness and brand lift, so there’s nothing specific the listener has to do except retain that information the next time they’re in the drug store and need to buy moisturizer. There’s also what we call direct response which is really what grew the industry. The Squarespaces and the Mailchimps — they built this space for many podcasters

Direct response is really labor intensive on our end because we have to make sure the talking points are correct, we have to make sure the promo code works, we have to make sure the URL works. A lot of the times [a promo code will be] mailchimp.com/grammar. Well we have to make sure that page exists before we have our host record that ad and put it out in the feed because we’re protecting our listeners. We want to make sure the ads are as accurate and as compelling and as engaging as the rest of the content. It’s hard work to deliver an ad well and sound genuine. 

We want to make sure the ads are as accurate and as compelling and as engaging as the rest of the content. It’s hard work to deliver an ad well and sound genuine. 

We also have requirements. A lot of times we turn away from advertisers if our host can’t support their product in a way that is genuine and viable and will make for a good ad read. I hear a lot of hosts on other shows — you can tell they just have the ad points in front of them and they’re literally just reading them with no emphasis with no personal experience with no integrity. We strive to make sure that doesn’t happen. As a result we leave some money on the table. If you’re a big listener, you know. 

Not everyone obviously has the capacity of Macmillan or a big publisher to develop such a robust audio strategy. Do you recommend that indie presses or indie authors get in the game of podcasting or audio content?

There’s a lot of debate in the industry right now. I was just on a panel at Digital Hollywood and this was one of the premises of the panel – Do you need a network? Networks bring a lot of great support. They bring resources, they bring manpower, they bring history and experience. All of that said, it’s very competitive. 

But if you are someone who has a story to tell, who has an experience to share, who has an expertise that will benefit, I’m all for developing an independent podcast. There are incredible resources out there to teach you how to do just that and the cost point — there’s very little barrier to entry. You need to buy a microphone; you need to buy some software. People can do it independently and some of the best and longest-running podcasts out there started out this way. It’s not as easy as it used to be to make that success happen. But, it’s also a great way to train and to test yourself on the medium before you have a big team behind you. You can try things out on your own that you wouldn’t be able to do if you were a part of a distribution platform or a big network. And I’m really impressed with some of the companies and people in the industry who have come forward to develop incredible training resources for anyone who independently wants to start a podcast. It is doable.

So it sounds like what you’re saying with the indies is that not everyone needs a podcast, but if you feel strongly that you have a unique perspective that fits in audio, and you have the bandwidth, you should learn how to do this and do it right.

Write it down, develop a plan — a full-blown plan that includes what you’d cover in the first 5-6 episodes. A plan that covers the format of the episode, how long you want them to be, how many voices will there be? Will it be just you behind a microphone or will you be having guests? you really need to think through strategically. Treat each episode as if it’s a separate project. Intertwined, but a separate project. And figure out how you want to approach those episodes so that you’re developing a curated collection of your best work. 

Tip for indie authors and publishers: Treat each episode as if it’s a separate project. Intertwined, but a separate project. And figure out how you want to approach those episodes so that you’re developing a curated collection of your best work

What new developments are you excited for in audio?

Some of the platforms are developing really interesting social sharing and other kinds of features. Spotify, for example, has developed customized playlists which can be done in a variety of different ways. You can actually integrate a playlist that has music and podcast episodes and then you can share it to your audience. That’s really powerful. We’ve been having a lot of fun with that. QDT has so much great New Year, New You content, so we’ll be developing a variety of playlists that will tackle that topic in ways that nobody else can.

The other thing that I’m watching closely is data attribution. You often hear podcasting referred to as the wild west, which it’s not anymore.That may have been true five years ago but now I think it’s really grown up a lot. Ensuring that we are all reporting our listens accurately is critically important because we all want to monetize with advertisers and they need to be able to trust the data they are getting from us. The Interactive Advisory Bureau has gotten involved. They have developed standards and compliance [for podcasting]. We are compliant on the platforms that we’re on, but not all podcasters and not all platforms are yet compliant with these standards. [We want to be sure] that 500k downloads on this platform is the same as 500k downloads on that platform. There were a lot of discrepancies in the data. So that’s all being resolved and I think 2020 will be a big year in terms of seeing that into fruition.

Ensuring that we are all reporting our listens accurately is critically important because we all want to monetize with advertisers and they need to be able to trust the data they are getting from us

As people have shifted to the compliant standards, and as the hosting platforms that these podcasts reside on have made changes on their backend to bring those systems up to full compliance, people have seen shifts in their download numbers. Sometimes quite dramatic! Consistency across the board is key and I think we’ll see that by the end of 2020.

One of the challenges on the content side is that of the top 200 podcasts on the Apple platform, 32% are now hosted by major celebrities or influencers. That’s huge. And it makes it really hard for the rest of us. That trend will continue – big name celebrities getting into the space. I think we’re going to see continued consolidation of some of the content providers as it makes sense for businesses to evolve and join forces together. We just saw Wondery and NBC strike a joint partnership. A year or two years ago, [a big trend] was VC money entering the space. That’s what everyone was following really closely. Now I think that’s shifting a little bit towards other kinds of partnerships. 

In terms of genres, there’s opportunity and room for YA content. That’s changing a little bit, but there’s still opportunity there. And travel.

What podcasts are you listening to?

I love Dolly Parton’s America. It’s a brilliant new podcast that’s been getting a lot of buzz. I’ve also been listening to a show called The City which is from Wondery. This season focuses on the city of Reno and some aging strip clubs that are causing some issues with the city. I’ve only listened to one episode but it’s really interesting and I will definitely be continuing. There’s another season of the Jet Propulsion Lab’s podcast. My son is in aerospace so I follow that closely. And I’ve just become addicted to the daily news shows. I listen to Up First from NPR and I listen to The Daily religiously. I find that especially because I have a long commute those are great ways to stay informed. 

At least two distribution platforms now have daily drive playlists that they are curating for listeners based on their listening habits. A lot of our shows are falling into those categories as well. The recognition that podcasting can be used as a means of entertainment and information for your full commute end to end is really becoming reality.


Kathy Doyle is the Vice President of Podcasts for Macmillan Publishers. She runs the Macmillan Podcast Network, which produces popular podcasts with the organization’s bestselling authors and book imprints. Current podcasts range from sci-fi and true crime to literature and self-help. She also oversees one of Macmillan’s largest digital networks, Quick and Dirty Tips. QDT produces a dozen weekly award-winning audio podcasts hosted by subject matter experts on a wide range of topics. Podcasts include the long-running Grammar Girl and Savvy Psychologist. The network has a large web presence, too, which features content from the podcast hosts and a large variety of Macmillan authors.

*2019 Infinite Dial Study by Edison Research and Triton Digital

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Ask a Podcaster: Books & Boba

Podcasts are an important part of the cultural criticism and influencer ecosystem for books, and beyond. And because audio is such an intimate medium, with hosts speaking directly into the ears of their audience, podcasts develop particularly dedicated fan bases and engaged communities. In Ask a Podcaster, we hear directly from different book-related podcast hosts to help you learn more about their community, what they are interested in featuring on their podcasts, and how they find their next book picks.

Name: Reera Yoo & Marvin Yuen

Show: Books & Boba

Books & Boba is a book club and podcast dedicated to spotlighting books written by authors of Asian descent. Every month, hosts Marvin Yueh and Reera Yoo pick a book by an Asian or Asian American author to read and discuss on the podcast. In addition to book discussions, they also interview authors and cover publishing news, including book deals and new releases.

What should book publishers know about your audience?

Marvin: They are a diverse group of readers, and not necessarily all Asian-American. Our listeners range from Asians from across the diaspora (including the UK, Oceana, and expats) and non-Asian readers who are interested in different perspectives in the books they read. Those that follow us are generally interested in our focus on Asian authors, representation in media, and own-voices narratives.

How do you pick books and authors to feature on your podcast?

Reera: We have a Goodreads list of books that our audience recommend us. We try our best to alternate genres and feature different representatives of the Asian diaspora experience.

Marvin: We make it pretty clear in our podcast opening that we focus on books written by Asian and Asian diaspora writers. We have been more flexible in terms of the genres we cover and have read both fiction and non-fiction novels, and everything from contemporary thrillers to regent-era historical fantasy.

What do you love best about your audience?

Reera: I love their passion and enthusiasm for Asian and Asian American literature. Many of our listeners are avid readers who have felt frustrated by the lack of diverse representation in publishing. Some are from countries where it is particularly difficult to find books by authors of color. So, it’s always wonderful to see their excitement in learning about upcoming and undiscovered books by Asian and Asian American authors.

Marvin: It’s always great to see new listeners who discover new books through our podcast, but I’m especially excited when our members engage with us on our Goodreads forums. Part of what we want to build at Books & Boba is a community of readers who are excited about the breadth of narratives coming from Asian authors.

What do you think is unique about podcasting as a medium for book lovers and for cultural commentary?

Reera: Reading is often a solitary activity. When you finish a book and feel your outlook on the world shift, it can be disappointing when you don’t have anyone to share your experience with. I think literature podcasts make the reading experience more intimate and less lonely. It’s like being in a book club with your friends, only you don’t have to go through the hassle of scheduling.

Marvin: I think podcasts in general are a great medium because listening can be a passive activity, so our listeners can listen to us discuss books while driving or working on something else, so you can be productive and learn stuff. Podcasts maximize efficiency!

If you use NetGalley, what strategies do you use to find books to request?

Reera: We often look through our list of forthcoming books by authors of Asian descent and search on NetGalley if they are available. We also consult [NetGalley newsletters] to see if there are any new books we might be interested in reading for our book club.

What trends in the book industry are you most excited by?

Reera: We’re very excited by the surge of sci-fi and fantasy novels by marginalized authors. It’s fascinating to see how these authors are injecting their heritage and changing how we see race, gender, and sexuality in sci-fi and fantasy.

Marvin: Like Reera, I’m excited in the emergence of speculative fiction from Asian and other authors from traditionally marginalized communities. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the classics and family dramas about intergenerational issues and immigrant struggles, but seeing fantasy inspired by the Three Kingdoms era and science fiction that uses Eastern concepts as more than just window dressing will always bring a tear to my eye.

What podcasts are you listening to?

Reera: Since we are a part of the Potuck Podcast Collective, we listen to a lot of our fellow members’ podcasts, which include Good Muslims, Bad Muslims, They Call Us Bruce, Korean Drama Podcast, and KollabCast.

Some book-related podcasts we like to listen to are First Draft, Book Riot, Minorities in Publishing, and 88 Cups of Tea.

Marvin: In addition to producing several podcasts (including Books & Boba), I also listen to a lot of (too many really) podcasts! Speaking of book clubs, I follow the granddaddy of book club podcasts Sword & Laser, I also listen to pop culture discussion podcasts like Pop Rocket and Pop Culture Happy Hour, comedy podcasts like Hello from the Magic Tavern, and anything from the McElroy family, and of course our fellow podcasts from the Potluck Podcast Collective!

Follow Books & Boba on their website, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Goodreads.

And be sure to check out our whole Ask a Podcaster series!

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length

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The Importance of Publisher Podcasting with Candlewick Press Presents

For Candlewick Press’s 25th anniversary, they decided to make a podcast that gave listeners a peek behind the curtain of the house that gave them Judy Moody, Because of Winn-Dixie, Where’s Waldo? and more. Candlewick Press Presents gained thousands of listeners during its limited run in 2017, and it’s still getting plays from industry hopefuls as well as book lovers.

In this guest post, Ally Russell from Candlewick Press describes how a traditional publisher got into the podcasting game and how it benefited from connecting with its audience in a new way.

A Learning Experience

Publishing is a fairly small and exclusive community, and many people want to know how others broke into the industry. Some readers just want an answer to a simpler but equally complicated question: How are books made? Giving people insight into the journeys of successful book creators and providing them with details on the publication of particular books gives them tools to use on their own publishing paths and a deeper appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes.

One of the most exciting pieces of information we’ve come across since the release of Candlewick Press Presents is that our podcast has been used in college classrooms as a teaching tool. At least two college instructors have required their students to listen to episodes of the show to gain a better understanding of the book publication process. We’ve always aimed to help educators use our books in the classroom, so having the podcast used as a supplementary teaching material was a huge measure of success for Candlewick.

We use the Candlewick podcast to give our readers insight and entertainment. We tell new stories — stories that wouldn’t work in a traditional book format. It’s true that the Internet has forced publishers to adapt and find new ways of putting books into the hands of readers, but it has also allowed us to broadcast stories into the heads and hearts of millions of listeners.

We’re still book people, but now we’re also in the business of oral storytelling.

Initially, we weren’t sure if our readers would be receptive to a different kind of storytelling from Candlewick Press. However, the publishing industry has had to adapt to the digital age, and reaching readers beyond bookstores is something that we feel passionately about. So we dipped our metaphorical toes into the world of podcasting. We could only hope that our listeners would enjoy the stories from behind the scenes as much as they enjoy reading the stories printed on the pages.

We’re book people. We spend our days looking closely at text and illustrations, but we had to learn to listen closely to audio recordings to eliminate extraneous noises (which were almost always children from the daycare next door pattering their tiny hands on our windows during their afternoon walks). We know how to produce and market beautiful books, but we had to learn how to present and promote the creators of those books. We know how to tell stories on paper, but we had to figure out how to tell them in a podcast.

We spent months completing logistical work: Choosing a podcast name, purchasing a domain name, designing a logo, and testing recording equipment in our “studio” (which is really just a small conference room named after one of our most beloved book characters, Maisy).

Creating and Launching Candlewick Press Presents

For the launch of the podcast, we had to curate a list of locals from our roster of brilliant talent who would be willing to help us on our journey into the world of nonfiction audio storytelling. The task was particularly difficult because we wanted to choose authors and illustrators who represent the broad spectrum of books we publish. We brought in picture book illustrators Ekua Holmes and Scott Magoon and wordless picture book storytellers Aaron Becker and Ethan and Vita Murrow. We included board book and interactive activity book creator Jannie Ho and middle-grade fiction author Teresa Flavin. We also invited nonfiction storyteller Martin W. Sandler as well as two creators who are skilled at spinning tales of both fiction and nonfiction for various ages, author/illustrator Annette LeBlanc Cate and author/poet Lesléa Newman. Annie Cardi and anthology editors Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant covered YA books. Finally, we rounded out the list with picture book creator Matt Tavares and YA author M. T. Anderson, who have been publishing with Candlewick Press for almost as long as our doors have been open.

In May 2017, after months of research, interviewing, and editing, Candlewick Press Presents launched! The podcast aired weekly between June 8 and August 31. The show was available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. During its first week, the podcast picked up almost 500  downloads. Within its first month, almost 2,000 downloads. As the weeks went on and with each new episode, the program gained steam.

Within six months of airing, our podcast was picked up by Spotify. At the time, Spotify was relatively selective about their podcast content, so it was an honor to be included in their offering of shows. Red Tricycle’s website — which has 1 million unique visitors per month — named Candlewick Press Presents one of 5 Cool Podcasts to Try on Your Next Road Trip. In addition to other media outlets taking notice of our show, we learned that our podcast was being listened to all over the world, including in Australia, Canada, the U.K., Singapore, Japan, and Argentina.

The biggest hurdle for any podcast is acquiring ratings and reviews, and we haven’t been able to gauge the success of the show based on those. However, we know it has been a success because we’ve managed to hit 10k downloads in just over one year, even with an irregular, somewhat unpredictable schedule in 2018.

Value of Candlewick Press Presents

Here’s why we think readers will continue to seek out and listen to Candlewick Press Presents:

Behind-the-Scenes Peeks at Candlewick Press:

Isn’t it every reader’s dream to see where and how their favorite books were created? We’ve had local readers stop by our office and ask for a tour. There’s a reason that some of our most popular social media posts are photos that feature our office and staff: readers want to know! Candlewick Press Presents throws back the curtain and gives readers a glimpse into the world of publishing. The show is recorded right in our office in Somerville, MA, and it invites readers to join the experience that Candlewick employees and book creators are part of every day.

Background Information on Celebrated Authors and Illustrators:

Many of the guests on Candlewick Press Presents have been interviewed by other media outlets, but what makes the Candlewick podcast so engaging is the wealth of background information that we’re able to collect about our authors and illustrators and the publishing process of each book. We thread each discussion with funny anecdotes about the guests and interesting facts about the publication of certain books — information that only our staff could provide. Without background information from editors, book designers, and publicists, our listeners wouldn’t know about Scott Magoon’s impeccable singing voice or the story behind M. T. Anderson’s first manuscript.

Ally Russell is the consumer outreach specialist at Candlewick Press. She works to develop long-lasting, impactful relationships with organizations, and connect with consumers. She is the host of Candlewick Press Presents.

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Ask a Podcaster: Not Now, I’m Reading

Podcasts are an important part of the cultural criticism and influencer ecosystem for books, and beyond. And because audio is such an intimate medium, with hosts speaking directly into the ears of their audience, podcasts develop particularly dedicated fanbases and engaged communities. In Ask a Podcaster, we hear directly from different book-related podcast hosts to help you learn more about their community, what they are interested in featuring on their podcasts, and how they find their next book picks.

Name: Chelsea Outlaw and Kay Taylor Rea

Show: Not Now, I’m Reading

Now Now, I’m Reading is a bi-weekly podcast where hosts Chelsea & Kay discuss what they’re reading and loving. Their guiding principle is that they want to read things that make them happy. From comics to romance, through science-fiction, young adult, crime, or fantasy. If it can be classed as genre fiction, it’s something they’ll gush about.

Chelsea & Kay aim to be critical media consumers, but strive to make Not Now, I’m Reading a space for positivity and celebration of media that gets it right.

Chelsea, co-host of Not Now I’m Reading

Kay, co-host of Not Now, I’m Reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you love best about your audience?

Kay: Personally, I love how excited they are to hear about what we’re reading and that they’re just as happy to share their current media favorites with us. Our listeners tend to be heavy social media users and we interact with quite a few of them through Twitter and our Patreon.

Chelsea: Similar to Kay, I love the fact that our audience feels so much like family. Whenever they reach out over Twitter to discuss an episode, give their feelings about a rec we gave, or to recommend us something in return, it feels like such an equal exchange for love for a thing!

What should book publishers know about your audience?

Kay: Our listeners skew heavily female, which makes sense given how much airtime we devote to romance and fanfiction. Our listeners are also more likely to pick up ebooks and audiobooks, at least the ones who’ve reached out to us. Accessibility is important, for us and for them. We provide full transcripts for every episode of our podcast, so we actually have a fair number of ‘listeners’ who read instead of listen as their primary means of consuming Not Now, I’m Reading. We embed links in the podcast transcript and show notes, too, which makes it very easy for our listeners to click on whatever we’re talking about and snag a copy while they’re still listening to the episode!

Chelsea: Our audience is always on the look for titles that are diverse, current, challenging takes on tropes or themes they love. We are proud of the fact, and our readers respond well to the knowledge that, in the history of our podcast, we haven’t had a book by a cis straight white man as our main focus. Our selections tend to skew heavily towards newer releases, with the exception of YA and middle grade titles, for which we tend to look more towards the backlist.

What do you think is unique about podcasting as a medium for book lovers/cultural commentary?

Kay: There’s something incredibly personal about book podcasts, and not just because there’s something personal about the human voice. Is that a creepy way of putting that? I’ve always felt a sense of intimacy with radio and podcasting. Especially when you have a very informal chatty format like ours, it’s really like you’re sitting down with a couple of your friends to talk about the things you’re enjoying. And while reading is most often a solitary pursuit, I think many book people love discussing what we’re reading and what we’re thinking of reading and how all of those things compare to things we’ve read. Sometimes you don’t have people in your daily life who are big readers, and that’s okay! But it’s nice to listen to other bookish people and media geeks enthusiastically discussing stuff they love. I mean, we love it so much we record ourselves doing it and then send it out into the world for other people to listen to!

Chelsea: Perhaps this feels a bit dramatic, but in a time when it feels like the educational fabric of our country is unraveling bit by bit, we love that we are able to provide a fun, welcoming, open discussion of books and reading in a way that addresses books as they interact with so many other aspects of our lives. Like Kay said, reading can be such a solitary activity, it can feel so good to feel a connection to other people who are reading, and to the world at large through the written word. We try our hardest to be open about our mental states and lives as they relate to the books and media we’re consuming, and that honesty and the personal and cultural overlap is what I’ve always loved most about book podcasts, especially more casual ones like ours.

How do you pick books and authors to feature on your podcast?

Kay: We exclusively feature genre fiction on the podcast, and mostly tend towards romance and SFF. We feature YA, mystery, women’s fiction, and other genres, as well, but romance and SFF are our big two. We also don’t feature any books by cishet white men. There are plenty of places their work is being featured, they don’t need our airtime, too. We also try to have the books and authors featured reflective of our person reading. Both of us set pretty high goals on the numbers of women/POC/LGBTQIA+ authors and characters we want to see in the books we’re reading. We also aim to talk about new releases within a month of launch date, but we pre-record episodes because of scheduling constraints, so it’s not always guaranteed. As far as authors we interview? At this point they’ve all reached out to us first, but we have a bit of a dream list of people we’d love to have on to talk with us.

Riven by Roan Parrish, a recent interview subject on Not Now, I’m Reading

Chelsea: Kay pretty much summarized it nicely, but I will also add that we run polls as part of our Patreon, which is where we try and feature more backlist titles and books that revolve around central themes or tropes, which our patrons can then vote on. We choose these titles by the same guiding principles Kay laid out, but this avenue also allows us to interact with our audience in a more engaged way!

If you use NetGalley, what strategies do you use to find books to request?

Kay: Is it awful to say I don’t really have a strategy? It’s not very Slytherin of me, surely. I’m usually already coming to the site with abbook or an author or very rarely a rough target release date in mind, on the off-chance we have an unexpected schedule gap for a specific air date. I do less browsing and more targeted searching.

Chelsea: Whereas, being the Hufflepuff in this scenario, I go entirely by window-shopping feel! I have most of the major publishers for our two biggest genres (SFF and romance) bookmarked and once every few weeks I’ll go and just browse by cover art, author familiarity, or just things that catch my wandering eye. In and of itself it’s not really much of a strategy, but the more browsing I do the better my gut intuition becomes.

What trends in the book industry are you most excited by?

Kay: I’m terrible about keeping track of trends! I tend to find new authors and subsequently binge their backlist titles, so I’m not always great at staying on top of new releases. I hope it’s not a trend (since that implies it’ll end relatively quickly), but I do love that even self-pubbed and small press books are starting to be more readily available on audio. At least 50% of the novels I read consumed in audiobook format. I’m also a big fan of how many ‘spinoff’ series are being picked up by mainstream publishers. For instance, Alisha Rai recently sold a spinoff series of her Forbidden Hearts books, which Chelsea and I adore. The first book in the new series will focus on the sister of a heroine from the previous series.

Chelsea: Like Kay mentioned, I am thrilled by the rise in audio consumption and availability. We consume so much of our own media in an audio format, and we know a great number of our listeners do as well, that it’s really exciting to see smaller presses get that audio treatment. On a smaller scale, I’m really excited in what seem to be trends towards musicians in romance and WAY less grimdark in SFF. I’m all about both of those things, very very much so!

What podcasts are you listening to?

Kay: Chelsea is much better at keeping up with podcasts than I am. I do so much audiobook reading, I’m usually racing a library-induced deadline to finish books before they’re due. I’m a longtime listener of Reading the End. We’re friends with Jenny and Jenny, the co-hosts, and I’ve done a guest appearance with them chatting about fanfiction. I also regularly listen to Overinvested, Smart Podcast Trashy Books, Ride or Die, Fangirl Happy Hour, Radio Free Fandom, and When In Romance. There are so many great ones out there that it’s tough to keep up!

Chelsea: Oh, buckle in friends! At last count, I had well over 60+ podcasts in my reader feed, and at least half of those are book are book industry-related. For general news, it’s hard to beat Book Riot as the standard. I will listen to the Jennys at Reading the End the minute their podcast comes to air, and the same goes for all of the podcasts that Kay mentioned! I also love several other genre related podcasts, including SFF Yeah!, The Wicked Wallflowers Club, Whoa!Mance, and Heaving Bosoms! I also listen to a ton of general pop-culture or, like, book-adjacent podcasts, especially: Food 4 Thot, My Brother, My Brother, and Me, Be the Serpent, Desi Geek Girls, Get Booked, The Popcast, Adventure Zone, Critical Role, Thirst Aid Kit, and Who Weekly. And while these are probably only of use to those who find themselves on the democratically liberal end of the spectrum, I would be remiss not to mention the fair amount of current event and political podcasts I listen to (like, four times as many as this time two years ago, go figure): Hellbent, Hysteria, Why is this Happening, Trends Like These, The Wilderness, Keep It, Lovett Or Leave It, and Queery. I told y’all, I have a bit of a podcast problem!

Follow Not Now, I’m Reading on Twitter or on their website.

And be sure to check out our whole Ask a Podcaster series!

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length

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Ask a Podcaster: Bad on Paper

Podcasts are an important part of the cultural criticism and influencer ecosystem for books, and beyond. And because audio is such an intimate medium, with hosts speaking directly into the ears of their audience, podcasts develop particularly dedicated fanbases and engaged communities. In Ask a Podcaster, we hear directly from different book-related podcast hosts to help you learn more about their community, what they are interested in featuring on their podcasts, and how they find their next book picks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name: Becca Freeman

Show: Bad on Paper

Bad on Paper is a weekly podcast hosted by 30-something YA enthusiasts Grace Atwood, also known for her popular lifestyle blog The Stripe, and Becca Freeman. Every other week, Grace & Becca host a book club with a new book they promise you won’t be able to put down. In between, they share their best tips for “adulting;” helping you do everything from finding the right career to the perfect face serum.

What do you love best about your audience? The best part about our audience is how interactive they are with both us and other listeners. On weeks we don’t talk about books, each episode is centered around a topic and listeners write in specific questions to be answered. We love how our listeners actually shape the content of our episodes to make sure the topic matter is relevant to them. In addition, we have an amazing Facebook community where our readers can share reactions to our book club picks, ask questions, and give and receive book recs. It really feels like we’ve built something that is a two-way dialog and not just a one-way conversation where we talk at our audience.

What should book publishers know about your audience? Our audience is made up of incredibly voracious readers. While our podcast started covering just YA books, we’ve recently expanded to include adult fiction titles, too, based on demand from our audience. We’ve also been really flattered by how many 20- or 30-something YA readers who have come to us saying that they were previously embarrassed by reading YA, but are excited to have found a like-minded community to discuss with.

What do you think is unique about podcasting as a medium for book lovers/cultural commentary? I think what’s really interesting is that we’re able to take the book club model and bring it to a much larger audience. Personally, I’ve been a member of many book clubs but oftentimes they’ve fizzled out because of hectic schedules. We’re a book club that you can dip in and out of or consume based on your schedule. It’s convenient to have your book club on your phone to partake in when it makes sense for you.

How do you pick books and authors to feature on your podcast? Grace and I are both very avid readers, so we’re constantly reading and flagging books that could make good podcast picks as we go. In addition, as our audience has started to understand our reading tastes, they’re often giving us recommendations of books we’d love or they think should be on the podcast.

Recently, we crowdsourced our first listener-pick book on Instagram via an Instagram story poll. Our audience picked To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. We thought it was fun to turn the picking power over to our listeners and talk about a book they were already passionate about!

Lastly, I’m a huge user of Goodreads, and am always cruising the New Releases and Most Read sections for inspiration and to keep of the pulse on what’s new and popular.

If you use NetGalley, what strategies do you use to find books to request? Oftentimes, I’ll search for books I hear about on Instagram, from bloggers, or find on Goodreads. Of course, sometimes the odd cover art will attract me, and I’ll request that too!

What trends in the book industry are you most excited by? I’m really excited that we’re starting to see more smart female protagonists in YA. A lot of books center around a girl who doesn’t know she’s smart or pretty or has any worth until a boy tells her. It’s really exciting to see more YA titles with more feminist-friendly heroines.

What podcasts are you listening to? I’m obsessed with Who? Weekly for my weekly celebrity gossip fix, Forever35 for self care talk and a surprising amount of author interviews, and Second Life for interviews with amazingly accomplished women about their career trajectories. I also check in with Call Your Girlfriend, That’s So Retrograde, and Fat Mascara when an episode topic intrigues me!

You can follow Bad on Paper on Facebook, Instagram, or on their website. You can subscribe to their podcast on iTunes or contact them via email at badonpaperpodcast@gmail.com.

For more information on finding podcasters to pitch, check out this recent article.

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Reach Beyond Your Market: Finding Podcasters to Pitch

We are now several years into the podcasting boom. Podcasts like Serial and S-Town have gone viral and every major news outlet has gotten in on the game, from The Daily at the New York Times to Thirst Aid Kit from Buzzfeed. And there are countless smaller, indie podcasts about everything from true crime to comics to wellness.

Naturally, there are plenty of podcasts that cover books and the book industry. Some of these podcasts, like Book Riot’s Hey YA, are only focused on a specific market in the book industry while others, like Call Your Girlfriend, are broadly about culture and media, and often feature books as well. Podcasts are an important part of our cultural landscape, and therefore should be an important part of authors’ and publishers’ publicity plans.

Photo Credit: BookRiot

Podcasting is an intimate medium, which is its strength. At their best, podcasts feel like being let in on conversations between friends. Listeners develop personal attachments to podcast hosts. It’s one of the reasons why sponsors and advertisers prefer live reads for their ads. Featuring a book or an author on a podcast functions like a word-of-mouth recommendation because of the intimate relationship that listeners have to podcast hosts. If a book is vetted by a cultural critic who feels like a friend, a listener is more likely to pick up the book or research it further.

If you have never included podcasters in your publicity strategies, now is the time to start!

When building a roster of podcasts to pitch, start by searching podcast recommendations for listeners. There are plenty of lists of podcasts of all types, from Bookish podcast recommendations to romance podcasts to podcasts hosted by women of color.

Photo Credit: Call Your Girlfriend

Expand your horizons beyond exclusively literary or book-focused podcasts. If you write sports romances, look into sports podcasts. If you are publicizing a non-fiction title about time management, explore podcasts about wellness, creativity, and career advice. Podcasts give you an opportunity to reach unexpected new audiences.

Just like other media, it can be difficult to find just the right podcast to suit your book, and to help your book stand out. The most popular podcasts are also going to be the toughest to have your book chosen for a feature, while smaller podcasts might have too tiny an audience to be an effective part of your marketing strategy. This is why it is important to be creative with the types of podcasters you’re pitching, ones who reach niche communities relevant to your book.

Trickier still, there’s no standard way to tell how many people a given podcast reaches. Hosting platforms like iTunes generally don’t show the number of subscribers for a podcast, making it hard to tell how big a specific audience is. To get a sense of a podcast’s audience, take a look at the podcast’s social media presence. Does it have a good number of followers? Do those followers engage with the podcast through comments, likes, and re-tweets? Has the podcast been written up in any other sources (i.e. on lists of recommended podcasts for its particular niche)? Use these guidelines to find a list of appropriate podcasts to pitch.

When you are pitching, make it personal. As with all other kinds of pitching, targeted and personalized requests tend to be better received than anonymous, formulaic ones. Demonstrate to podcast hosts that you are familiar with their work.

Take advantage of the form. Think about what opportunities audio offers your titles.  A short teaser of an audiobook? A chance to highlight an author’s witty banter to build personal interest? Audio podcasting is a unique medium. Be creative with how you might use it in your publicity strategy.

Podcasting is an exciting and emerging part of the media landscape. Tell us about how you use podcasts as part of your publicity strategy in the comments or by emailing insights@netgalley.com. We hope to share success stories in future articles!

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Case Study: 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons

How an indie author and online writing coach kept engagement high for her debut novel across platforms, turning her audience into a launch team

By the time Abbie Emmons was ready to publish her first book, she had built up an audience as a blogger, YouTuber, and Bookstagrammer. But having an audience doesn’t automatically mean success; eyeballs don’t equal engagement. So when Abbie Emmons was getting ready to publish her novel about two teens with disabilities who fall for each other, she knew she was going to have to work to turn her audience into her launch team.

Emmons strategically engaged with her audience across platforms during her pre-publication push for 100 Days of Sunlight. She kept her community in the loop through her writing process, with the cover reveal, and once she had review copies. As soon as 100 Days of Sunlight was available on NetGalley, Emmons brought her pre-existing community there, as well as finding a new audience of NetGalley members browsing for their next read.

As a writing coach, Abbie Emmons has thought a lot about strategies that independent authors can use to launch their books with limited time, budgets, and resources. And as an author, she was able to put those strategies into practice.

What was your path to becoming an author? What about a writing coach/educator/resource? Which came first and how did you make the pivot to the other?

I fell in love with stories at a very young age. My mom introduced me to the world of reading, and I was enraptured by the magic of storytelling. I started writing stories of my own as soon as I learned how to hold a pencil, and I haven’t stopped since.

Becoming a creative writing coach was a natural “next step” for me – it blossomed out of my passion for storytelling. In 2016 I started blogging about writing, which turned into creating videos, and it’s been about one year since I launched my YouTube channel. It’s been amazing to connect with other writers all over the world and share my insight and my authoring journey.

I mostly provide coaching through my video content, but I’m in the process of creating digital products to provide my community with the opportunity to go deeper and learn more. WritersLife Wednesday also has a Patreon community, which allows me to connect more personally with committed writers and offer them a one-on-one experience. Within the Patreon, there’s a private Facebook group where I connect personally with followers and also a monthly podcast where I answer specific story questions real-time.

Tell us a bit about your YouTube channel. How does it intersect with your work as an author?

My YouTube channel, WritersLife Wednesdays, is all about making your story matter. Through my videos, I teach writers how to harness the power and psychology of storytelling and transform their ideas into a masterpiece. I also share my experiences of the publishing process to help other authors take the next step with their book.

I love teaching about story because it intersects so beautifully with my writing. I’m constantly learning and improving my own writing processes, which helps me give better, clearer advice in my videos. It’s a journey of experience and growth, and I’m so thrilled that other writers are joining me in this pursuit of writing meaningful books.

In September, 100 Days of Sunlight was the #1 best seller in Teens & YA fiction about Disabilities and Special Needs on Amazon. What do you think resonates with readers about your representation of disability in the book? Did you focus on reaching audiences who might be interested in narratives about disability? If so, how?

I wrote 100 Days of Sunlight in hopes that it would resonate with every reader – whether they have a disability or not. That’s the reason why I focus so much on my characters’ emotional journeys in the book; because even if you’re not going through a physical challenge like Tessa and Weston, you might be very familiar with the feeling of fear, despair, or helplessness when life takes an unexpected turn.

My research process involved tons of reading and investigating. Not only did I reference experts for medical details, I consulted real-life accounts and experiences of people with the disabilities I wrote about. I read lots of blog posts, articles, watched videos, asked questions, read more, and constantly referenced true experiences throughout the writing and editing process. Researching this book was a fascinating and educational journey, and I’m humbled and honored to be able to include representation of these disabilities in 100 Days of Sunlight.

After the publication of 100 Days of Sunlight, I did actively target readers who are interested in the Special Needs genre and who love comparable titles and authors. I was so thrilled to see 100 Days reach #1 best seller in its category on Amazon!

How did NetGalley fit in with the rest of your launch plan for 100 Days of Sunlight?

I found NetGalley at just the right time – about 4 months before my release date. I was seeking a way to efficiently deliver my book to my ARC team, with as little back-and-forth communication as possible. As an indie author, I have to manage a lot on my own, and I knew my ARC team was going to be sizable.

I was able to send everyone from my YouTube channel over to NetGalley to request the book, and that first rush of requests helped me to rank high in my category [appearing in the Most Requested section], which in turn gave my book more exposure to new ARC readers. I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out!

How did you determine the right timing for 100 Days of Sunlight‘s time on NetGalley with regards to its pub date and your other marketing and publicity efforts?

Every author has a different publishing timeline that best suits their schedule, but mine is roughly 6 months – starting the moment my book returns from my editor, and ending on the pub date. Of course, there’s post-release marketing, but that’s another animal.

Because of my shorter timeline, I decided that 3 months pre-publication would be a perfect amount of time. I wanted the book to still be fresh in my ARC readers’ minds when the release date rolled around, to create more buzz and conversation around the book launch.

100 Days of Sunlight has nearly 400 reviews! How did you get the word out about it once it went live on NetGalley?

I told all my people, multiple times. I made kind of a big deal out of the announcement – posting on my blog, YouTube channel, social media, and contacting all my email lists. I also continued to remind my followers on social media, urging them to go to NetGalley and request to read my book if they hadn’t already.

I had built up the hype for this novel long in advance, teasing it on my blog and YouTube channel – which made my audience all the more excited when it came out.

I received a lot of requests and happily accepted most of them. The result was a huge, fabulous ARC team who was excited to share their reviews of my book. I think it’s also worth noting that I had built up the hype for this novel long in advance, teasing it on my blog and YouTube channel – which made my audience all the more excited when it came out.

How have you kept momentum up for 100 Days on NetGalley throughout its time on the site?

Throughout the book’s listing on NetGalley, I continuously reminded my followers and fans to request to read the book. I also created an ad campaign on Facebook directly targeting librarians and teachers, sending them to NetGalley request my book. A book launch is really all about conversation – the more conversation you can create about your book, the more people will pay attention.

A book launch is really all about conversation – the more conversation you can create about your book, the more people will pay attention.

I worked hard every day to keep that conversation going, and it paid off. The number of requests I received for 100 Days helped move it up in the rankings in both the Women’s Fiction and YA Fiction categories. I couldn’t have been more thrilled!

How have you engaged with members who have requested or reviewed? Have you followed up with them or shared their reviews?

I personally reached out to readers who loved the book and asked them to share their reviews on Amazon and BookBub, as well as NetGalley. They were happy to crosspost their reviews, and it greatly helped the book’s early days on Amazon. I also continue to share excerpts from reviews in outreach and marketing campaigns for 100 Days of Sunlight.

We love that you have a dedicated website for your press kit and for supplemental material. Tell us why this digital presence is important to you and how you went about building it.

We live in an age of immediate access to all the information we need – and I knew that my book and author presence had to meet that standard. If someone comes to my website looking for specific information and materials, I want them to be able to find what they need as quickly as possible. It’s one of those small things that can make a huge difference. 


Reviews are social proof, and nothing is more powerful when you’re trying to get people to pay attention to your book. I share reviews on my social media, my blog, my website, and in all the marketing campaigns I produce, such as Facebook ads and influencer outreach.

How have you been leveraging your reviews outside of NetGalley? Have you been sharing them on social media or elsewhere?

Reviews are social proof, and nothing is more powerful when you’re trying to get people to pay attention to your book. I share reviews on my social media, my blog, my website, and in all the marketing campaigns I produce, such as Facebook ads and influencer outreach.

Positive reviews are invaluable and I have NetGalley to thank for connecting me with so many amazing readers, as well as librarians, educators, and booksellers.

What is your top tip for authors listing their books on NetGalley?

Send as many of your people as you possibly can to request your book on NetGalley as soon as it’s available! That first rush of requests is vital to rank higher in your category, and thus gain more visibility on the site. New readers will discover your book and the word will continue to spread organically – and, I hope, exponentially. I recommend NetGalley to all my author friends and followers – it’s an absolute necessity if you want to make your book launch successful. Best of luck, fellow authors!


Abbie Emmons has been writing stories ever since she could hold a pencil. What started out as an intrinsic love for storytelling has turned into her lifelong passion. There’s nothing she likes better than writing (and reading) stories that are both heartrending and humorous, with a touch of cute romance and a poignant streak of truth running through them. Abbie is also a YouTuber, singer/songwriter, blogger, traveler, filmmaker, big dreamer, and professional waffle-eater. When she’s not writing or dreaming up new stories, you can find her road-tripping to national parks or binge-watching BBC Masterpiece dramas in her cozy Vermont home with a cup of tea and her fluffy white lap dog, Pearl.

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

*Read the rest of our author case studies here!

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Mark your calendars: November 2019

Upcoming conferences, panels, webinars, and networking opportunities 

There is always a wide variety of programming available to help publishing professionals connect with one another, grow their skill-sets, and stay abreast of changing trends and emerging strategies. On NetGalley Insights, we share the events we’re most excited for on a monthly basis. 

This November, there are quite a few conferences, mostly focused on specific regions or niche areas of interest. Plus, NetGalley Insights Associate Editor Nina Berman will be making her way to speak at the IPNE Annual Conference. If you’ll be attending, be sure to say hello! And in the UK, Futurebook and Day of Code will have audiences thinking about 2020 and beyond. 

If you know of an upcoming event for December or after, email insights@netgalley.com so we can feature it.

US


IPNE 8th Annual IPNE Independent Publishers and Authors Conference

Conference – Strategy

Nov. 1 – 3, Marlboro, MA

“Our program includes experts and leaders from across the industry, sure to educate and inspire. This year’s program will focus on industry direction and trends, sales and marketing, and organic growth.”

ECPA: PubU

Conference – Strategy

Nov. 5 – 6, Nashville

“Training, Connecting, and Inspiring the Christian Publishing Professional”

The Charleston Library Conference

Conference – Library Acquisitions

Nov. 5 – 8, Charleston

“The Charleston Conference is an informal annual gathering of librarians, publishers, electronic resource managers, consultants, and vendors of library materials in Charleston, SC, in November, to discuss issues of importance to them all. It is designed to be a collegial gathering of individuals from different areas who discuss the same issues in a non-threatening, friendly, and highly informal environment. Presidents of companies discuss and debate with library directors, acquisitions librarians, reference librarians, serials librarians, collection development librarians, and many, many others. Begun in 1980, the Charleston Conference has grown from 20 participants in 1980 to thousands in 2018.”

Women’s Media Group: How to Sell Your Product, Your Brand, or Yourself on LinkedIn

Workshop – Social Media

Nov. 12, NYC

“WMG is pleased to have Afiya Addison the Education Lead, The B2B Institute @ LinkedIn, present all you ever wanted to know about LinkedIn, arguably the most import platform for your professional life. You’ll learn: How to optimize your personal profile, Best practices for brand pages, The art of engaging content, Effective advertising solutions, What LinkedIn analytics can teach you about your campaign.”

BIGNY: Program Night: Designers’ Roundtable

Panel Program – Design

Nov. 19, NYC

Moderated by Anne Twomey of Celadon Books and She Designs Books, a panel of New York Book Show award–winning designers will discuss what goes into a book’s design. Presenters include adam b. bohannon, NYU Press and adam b. bohannon design; Nicole Caputo, Catapult and Counterpoint Press and She Designs Books; Richard Ljoenes, Richard Ljoenes Design; Jen Wang, Clarkson Potter. The event will be held at Penguin Random House, located at 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. Program begins at 6:30 P.M.; a professional networking event will precede at 5:15 P.M.

Penguin Random House: Book Fair For Adults

Book Fair

Nov. 23, NYC

“Back in the days of recess, snap bracelets, and Dunkaroos, life was simpler, wasn’t it? When your biggest fear was getting detention, and your best days were when you had the luxury to spend an hour picking out which book(s) to read next? We miss that, too—so we decided to bring it back for an afternoon.

Join us on Saturday, November 23rd for Penguin Random House’s first-ever Book Fair. All afternoon, we’ll have 60-minute sessions where you can browse the latest and greatest books and merchandise, participate in throwback activities, and get schooled by our beloved authors.”

UK


BookMachine: Can Design Thinking Transform Your Publishing Strategy 

Panel Program – Strategy

Nov. 13, London 

“Designers as creative thinkers are powerful problem solvers. But traditionally, colleagues in finance, editorial, sales or marketing are promoted to the top publishing jobs. What is lost without the transformative effect design thinking can add to strategy and leadership? How can design thinking enhance management decisions? What can publishing learn from our own and other sectors’ creative leaders?

Join our panel for an intriguing discussion on how design thinking can transform a business. Hear from an organisational behaviour expert on the theory, as well as a Creative-turned-board-member on the practice. And get inspired by the insights from a Creative Director who will show how design thinking really does make a huge difference.”

Futurebook: Day of Code, 2019

Workshop – Technology

Nov. 22, London

“As one of 40 bookselling and publishing delegates from across the book trade, supported by ~15 coaches, you will build a real website on your laptop using free technology showcasing your own selection of book data provided by Nielsen. You will publish your website to the web and can continue to develop it after the workshop. The results will be showcased the following Monday at FutureBook 19, to inspire and motivate your peers. This exclusive course, created especially for FutureBook 19 by publishers who code, is included in the price of your FutureBook 2019 ticket. But you must apply separately after buying your FutureBook ticket: space is strictly limited to 40 delegates. “

The Bookseller: Futurebook

Conference – Technology

Nov. 25, London

“For 10 years FutureBook, The Bookseller’s annual publishing conference, has tracked, interrogated, and challenged the way the international book business has embraced (and rebuffed) the digital content revolution. Today the event remains the stand-out gathering for smart thinkers, creatives and innovators across books, with FutureBook Live 2019 offering the most ambitious and far-reaching programme so far, with executives from Pearson, Hachette, Waterstones, Bonnier, Springer Nature, Faber, Booker, the BBC, Penguin Random House, Blackwell, and Lonely Planet, confirmed as speakers.

The conference will once again examine the burgeoning audiobook and podcast markets, the academic and educational sectors, and will also tackle the big themes dominating the book business right now, including the globalisation of platforms and audience, the threats to freedom to publish, the cultural importance of books and renewal of physical bookselling, the rise and fall (and rise) of female leaders, and the challenges (or opportunities) posed to reading by other entertainment sectors.

The prestigious FutureBook Awards will return, including BookTech Company of the Year, Podcast of the Year, and the FutureBook Person of the Year, who will once again deliver the closing keynote.”

BookMachine: Facebook Ads Training for Publishers

Workshop – Marketing

Nov. 26, London

“BookMachine Works is running a training session for publishing professionals who need a deeper Understanding of Facebook Ads, either for managing a team/agency; or for setting up your own campaigns. Understanding Facebook Ad Options, Building Facebook Advertising Content, Measuring your Facebook Ads Success.”

Global


6th Annual Sharjah International Book Fair

Book Fair

Oct. 30 – Nov. 9, Sharjah, UAE

“Featuring more than 400 literary events and a stellar line-up of authors, this annual book fair is one of the world’s largest. Returning for the 37th year, the Sharjah International Book Fair features 11 days of writing workshops, poetry readings, book signings, cookery demonstrations and children’s activities. The prestigious fair attracts more than two million book lovers and 1,420 publishing houses to the Expo Centre, with great discounts on books available in 210 languages. Entry is free and the fair is open daily from 10am-10pm (from 4pm on Fridays).” -via Visit Sharjah

6th Sharjah International Library Conference

Conference – Librarians

Nov. 5 -7, Sharjah, UAE

“The American Library Association (ALA) provides leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. The Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) is one of the largest book fairs in the world, the most prestigious in the Arab world and home to the most exciting literary event in the region. ‘For the love of the written word’ is its inspiration, passion and reason for being.”

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Case Study: The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White

Bethany House curates an engaged community of faith-based and general readers on NetGalley, earning impressive review counts and social share numbers

Sometimes at NetGalley, we field concerns from faith-based publishers that books with religious themes won’t perform well in our catalog. Publishers aren’t always sure that their books will find their readers if they have religious or spiritual underpinnings. But Bethany House demonstrates that with strategic use of NetGalley’s tools, faith-based books can become major successes on the site. Their contemporary romance Falling For You received over 75 5-star reviews and was named a 2019 Christy Award winner by the ECPA. The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White, historical fiction set in the world of WWII’s British code-breakers, earned 150 reviews, a 4.6 average star rating, and over 300 social shares.

Amy Green, Senior Fiction Publicist at Bethany House, shares how she used tools like the widget and the Auto-Approved list to build pre-publication buzz for the latest historical fiction from Roseanna M. White. Plus, how she thinks about the intersection between a faith-based readership and a general one.

As a Christian publisher, how do you think about promoting your titles to a general audience, as well as a faith-based one? 

“I don’t usually read Christian fiction, but this book was amazing…” You’d be surprised how often we hear that sort of thing.

One of my favorite things to see as a publicist is a NetGalley review that starts something like, “I don’t usually read Christian fiction, but this book was amazing…” You’d be surprised how often we hear that sort of thing. Readers who might never wander into a specific genre’s section of a bookstore or library will see a stunning cover or compelling plot description on NetGalley and request to read it. The barrier to entry is pretty low, and oftentimes they end up loving the book and seeking out more from that author. Christian fiction (also called inspirational fiction) has changed a lot over the years, and many readers outside of a faith background tell us that the spiritual aspects of the stories feel natural to the characters and the development of the plot. We love granting requests from people outside of our usual readership!

How do you use NetGalley marketing? 

We’ve used placement in NetGalley newsletters to launch debut authors in particular, especially ones with striking covers like The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright and Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes, which we had featured in the Mystery/Thriller and Summer Reads newsletters respectively. It’s a great way to get the names and work of authors just starting out in front of a wide range of influential readers.

What kinds of members are you most interested in connecting with  on NetGalley? 

We love the connections we’re able to make through NetGalley with collection-development librarians, bloggers, and media. The ability to zip a NetGalley widget off to a reviewer has made it much easier for me to schedule interviews and blog tours. Some contest coordinators even request NetGalley to send copies of entrants’ books to judges, giving them additional time to read and choose finalists—and eliminating the worry of copies getting lost in the mail. Most recently, we sent widgets to judges for the Realm Awards, a competition for speculative fiction books written by Christian authors.

162 members from your Auto-Approved List accessed The Number of Love. How do you build this list and engage with its members? 

We want our Auto-Approved list to be a targeted group of readers and influencers with a high capacity for reading across multiple genres. These are the folks who aren’t just interested in the latest release from one favorite author, but who want to promote all subcategories of inspirational fiction. One way that we do that is by accepting applications from interested readers. They answer a few questions, like “Send us a link to a review you’re most proud of” or “What’s something unique you do to promote authors and their books?” If we like what we see, we’ll invite them to join the team. Other cases are even more specific. I saw a Bookstagrammer gushing online about being Auto-Approved for Bethany House—”It’s like I just won the reading lottery!” It was great to see someone excited about reviewing our books…and I took note of a few of the influencers who commented on that post to message them about joining our team of reviewers as well.

Some of the members of the Auto-Approved list are just added without much ongoing maintenance required (a reviewer for an online publication, for example). But we have a newsletter list for about 200 of the top influencers we’ve identified and Auto-Approved. We send them updates about new books added to NetGalley on a monthly basis along with our recommendations. 

How did you incorporate the widget into your launch strategy for The Number of Love?

In our initial marketing strategy calls with authors, we always mention that their book will be available on NetGalley as soon as editorial approves a manuscript for us to use, often four to five months before release. That way, both the author and our marketing team can plan to have a standardized e-copy of their book ready to use for any initiatives where that would make sense. For The Number of Love, we planned to use the widget to send to advance endorsers, launch team members, and blog tour participants who preferred an ebook copy.

Tell us how you used NetGalley for The Number of Love‘s blog tour and to support Ms. White’s launch team? 

By using NetGalley, we’re able to catch that early “buzz” from some of the author’s biggest fans and make sure other readers think, “What’s this new novel we’re hearing about everywhere?” during pre-order season.

Several of our authors, including Roseanna White, love to send physical books to launch team members, sometimes with notes and goodies. However, that takes time for shipping and packing, and often readers on their launch team want to read the book long before we can actually get a package to their doorstep. By using NetGalley, we’re able to catch that early “buzz” from some of the author’s biggest fans and make sure other readers think, “What’s this new novel we’re hearing about everywhere?” during pre-order season. It also helps the launch team members, many of whom juggle busy lives with their book blogging, podcasting, or Instagramming, to be able to work ahead of schedule and have a review ready by or before the release date of the book.

NetGalley members shared feedback for The Number of Love over 300 times. How did you encourage them to share their influence so widely?

Something I’ve been doing recently is reminding bloggers and influencers who use NetGalley that, at Bethany House, we often notice and pass along especially glowing reviews to our authors. It can be a huge incentive to review a book if the reviewers genuinely feel that their words aren’t just increasing their chances of being approved for future books (although that is true), but could also be encouraging to a writer who might be discouraged and under deadline for a future project.


Amy Green is the Senior Fiction Publicist at Bethany House Publishers, where she connects authors with readers by arranging interviews, sending out review copies, answering social media questions, and occasionally serving cake at authors’ launch parties. You can find her writing about all things bookish at bethanyfiction.com, or check out Bethany House Fiction on Facebook or Instagram.

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Read the rest of the NetGalley case studies and subscribe to the NetGalley Insights weekly newsletter so that you never miss a post!

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Case Study: Thick: And Other Essays by Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom

How The New Press used NetGalley to engage Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom’s fanbase, while finding new audiences

The New Press publishes books that straddle the lines between academic and mainstream. Often, they publish works by academic authors geared towards a popular audience. This means that their marketing strategy needs to appeal to several kinds of readers – academic readers need to be assured of the intellectual rigor, while mainstream readers need to feel invited to engage in complicated discourse. 

Thick: And Other Essays by Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, published in January 2019, exemplifies this dynamic between the academic and the mainstream. For Thick, The New Press was working with a professor of sociology who also happens to have a significant Twitter following and co-hosts a podcast with Roxane Gay.

Brian Ulicky, Director of Marketing and Publicity at The New Press, used early NetGalley reviews to demonstrate the effectiveness of pre-publication marketing efforts to Dr. McMillan Cottom. Seeing these early reviews encouraged her to share the NetGalley listing on her own social media platforms, engaging an audience that already loved her, whether or not they were on NetGalley. As NetGalley reviews rolled in, buzz for Thick really picked up, resulting in editorial attention from Goodreads and inclusion in a Kindle Gold Box deal (not to mention reviews from the New York Times Book Review and Los Angeles Review of Books). 

Thick comes out in paperback on October 1.

How does NetGalley fit into the workflow at a small indie publisher like The New Press? 

For a good number of our authors, their first book with The New Press is their first book period (or at least their first non-academic book) and I think for any new author their book may not start to feel truly real until they see reviews of it in the world. Sharing NetGalley feedback with authors is a particularly gratifying part of the run-up to the publication date and has become really important to us in garnering early consumer reviews for our path-breaking works of nonfiction. We are particularly proud of our bestselling progressive education list (a very different subject area from my previous houses), and we wouldn’t be so successful at this publishing area without the support of teachers and librarians who adopt our books into their work and communities. I have loved connecting with educators and librarians on NetGalley for books such as on Monique Morris’s Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues or James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me: Young Readers Edition. The latter has been a particular hit for NetGalley users putting together home-school curricula. 

In the past, I worked on quite a bit more fiction than I do these days, and fiction is clearly a large part of the NetGalley community and a big part of my past experience with the platform. The New Press publishes select works of fiction, much of it in translation from the French, and we’ve had some great success with our fiction on NetGalley, like last year’s Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau or this year’s Minutes of Glory by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o..

What were your goals for Thick on NetGalley? 

Our goals were to build word-of-mouth buzz among booksellers, librarians, and book buyers on Goodreads, Amazon, and other consumer reading sites and social media. We felt from day one we had a very special book in Thick and I couldn’t wait to see that gut feeling confirmed with as-early-as-possible reads. And it paid off when, for example, Goodreads selected it for one of their spring editorial newsletters based on the strength of its reader reviews (which also led to a Kindle Gold Box deal over the summer).

You ran a homepage title promotion for Thick in the week after Thanksgiving. Tell us why that timing was the right choice for you.

The book went on sale the first week of January 2019 – this can be a sort of tricky spot as the big fall publishing season winds down and people tune out a little during the holidays. We had review copies landing in the world right after Thanksgiving and so I also wanted to make sure we had a stream of consumer reviews coming in shortly thereafter, just as we were doubling down lining up author media appearances first thing in the new year. Also that cover is pretty iconic and appealing – I just wanted to see it everywhere.

Thick was listed as a Read Now title. Tell us how you came to that reading option and what benefits it gave. 

Thick definitely has an intriguing package and title if you already know the author’s work, but if you don’t know it, I didn’t want there to be any friction or hesitation if someone came across an essay collection by a new author and had the impulse to check it out. Listing it as Read Now meant that anyone who was even a little intrigued could check it out and fall in love with Dr. McMillan Cottom’s voice.

I didn’t want there to be any friction or hesitation if someone came across an essay collection by a new author and had the impulse to check it out.

How do you handle the challenges of promoting a book that might seem inaccessible or academic to a broad audience? 

The core of The New Press’s mission and publishing program is to bridge the gap between a broad reading audience and new ideas and voices in the academic and social change worlds. We try to make sure our titles, subtitles, and jacket designs are appealing and put you in the picture without requiring too much prior knowledge from a reader; we work hard to get blurbs from recognizable names; and we aim for as much mainstream media coverage as we can get. We know there are readers out there who are hungry for books that challenge and inspire – it’s our job to find them – and sometimes on NetGalley, they reveal themselves!

The cover art for Thick received overwhelmingly positive feedback. How do you use Cover Ratings data internally?

Covers are one of the most important pieces of marketing any book gets and if the NetGalley community loves our designs, we must be doing something right. It’s helpful to have early feedback inform and confirm our very involved, iterative process of designing and choosing covers.

24% of members with access clicked to read Thick because they were familiar with Dr. McMillan Cottom’s work and 40% were drawn in by the book description. How did you think about connecting with these two different groups – the ones that were already fans of Dr. McMillan Cottom and those that were taking a chance on a new-to-them author? 

The recipe for success varies from author to author. We knew that Thick gave us an opportunity to publish a book by an author with both a substantial following and the potential to reach many, many more readers with her sharp mind and her signature dexterity on the page. The marketing, title, cover, positioning are key to reaching new readers, and for a book as smart as Thick, getting early reads and reviews from NetGalley users plays an important role in spreading the word.

Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom has over 90k Twitter followers and made a point to let her Twitter followers know that Thick was available on NetGalley. How did you work with her to help bring new readers to NetGalley to access Thick? 

We want our authors to see how much we’re doing to promote their books and we always point out NetGalley as one of our tools. I think Tressie saw the power in early reads pretty soon after the manuscript was done. We posted the final pass as soon as we could, shared with her a few of the first positive reviews we got, and the rest is history.

How did you use the positive reviews you received on NetGalley? Did you share them internally, use them in your pitches or press materials? 

All of the above. We shared them with the author (fair to say Tressie loved seeing them roll in), with media, and with our sales reps and bookstore partners. It’s always great to have fresh material and feedback in your third or sixth or fifteenth conversation about an upcoming book.

NetGalley members shared their reviews of Thick to social media over 700 times! What did you do to encourage that social engagement or what do you think inspired members to share their feedback so broadly outside of NetGalley? 

I think one of the things Tressie is uniquely brilliant at in Thick and on social is connecting the big picture with the personal in a way that clarifies both vantage points. When she’s talking about structures she’s talking about herself, and she inspires (and encourages) her readers to do the same. So it was rather organic. Her readers clamor to spread the word about her writing.


Brian Ulicky is the publicity and marketing director for The New Press, an independent not-for-profit publisher of books to build social change, where he oversees publicity, marketing, advertising and digital strategy plus institutional development partnerships and strategic communications initiatives. Before that he was in the publicity department at Simon & Schuster and was publicity director at Blue Rider Press, where he planned and executed campaigns for multiple New York Times bestsellers. He lives in New York City.

Read the rest of our case studies here!

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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