Case Study: Half Truths by Claire Contreras

Why a self-published, New York Times bestselling author didn’t tell her audience her latest book was on NetGalley

Author of the New York Times bestselling Hearts series, Claire Contreras, had never considered using NetGalley until she was getting ready to share the first book of her new series, Half Truths. When most authors use NetGalley, they use it to broaden their reach to new audiences and engage more deeply with the readers who are already following their work. Claire Contreras did something completely different. She didn’t make any announcements to her social following or newsletter subscribers about her latest book being on NetGalley – instead, she’s using it exclusively to find new readers. 

In this case study, Contreras shares her unique NetGalley strategy, plus her perspectives on self-publishing versus traditional publishing and how she uses social media to connect with her audience.

This is the first time you’ve listed a book on NetGalley. What inspired you to list Half Truths on NetGalley

I’d seen my friends who are published traditionally on NetGalley in the past and figured the publishing houses must have a good reason for using NetGalley, I just didn’t think it was something available to me. I spoke to a friend of mine who’s hybrid (traditionally and self-published) and she told me a lot of librarians read her books via NetGalley and that sold me on it. Before that conversation, I didn’t know how to reach librarians. Once I got on [NetGalley], I realized it wasn’t only librarians, but also media and educators as well as bloggers I wouldn’t normally have reached. That was when I realized NetGalley was a brilliant concept.

I spoke to a friend of mine who’s hybrid (traditionally and self-published) and she told me a lot of librarians read her books via NetGalley and that sold me on it. Before that conversation, I didn’t know how to reach librarians.

How did you get the word out to your audience about your NetGalley listing?

I didn’t. I used NetGalley solely for people I couldn’t reach myself. I feel it really puts the book in front of people who otherwise wouldn’t have seen it. I wanted to get more attention from librarians, media specialists, editors, and [other] people who don’t normally read me.

One of the reasons I didn’t announce to my readers that my book was on NetGalley was that I wanted to see how many new readers I would gain from the site. I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of the members had never read me before, as that was one of my initial reasons for turning to NetGalley. I have incredible readers, but there’s always room for more. I think in this particular case, the cover drew a lot of attention.

[I was most surprised by] the amount of people that requested the book. I was in complete shock to see Half Truths on the front page of most requested for weeks!

Half Truths is going to be part of a series. How are you using NetGalley to build anticipation?

With Half Truths specifically, I knew from the start that I would turn it into a series of standalones (standalone books in the same “world” – academia, different secret societies).

Because I’m using it as a promotion tool for the series, I’m approving a specific group of people. When I get closer to releasing information about book two, I’ll give away a lot more copies to readers (non-librarians/media) for reviews. I like to test things out and give it time to settle so I can see what’s working and what’s not.

I [also] have a mailing list – a snail mail list – that I put together when I was promoting the first book and I fully intend to use it again to send clues out in the mail to my readers as to what they can expect.

I believe pre-marketing and post-marketing are both powerful. However, I hope to have my next book in this series up on NetGalley a lot sooner than the first.

You are both a self-published and a NYT-bestselling author. Tell us a bit about why self-publishing is right for you. 

When I first decided to publish, I fully intended to go the traditional route. My college professors and mentors were completely against me self-publishing, and I understood why. It was frowned upon and not something we completely understood. I decided to take a chance and self-publish my first book on a whim, just to see what happened. I figured if no one read the book, I could always take it down and query agents. The book did better than I anticipated and I gained a pretty steady readership, so I stuck to it. It was unexpected, but so far the control and freedom [I’ve gotten from] being self-published has been great. That’s not to say I wouldn’t go the traditional route. I would definitely love to work with traditional editors and be with a traditional publisher when the time is right.

The control and freedom [I’ve gotten from] being self-published has been great. That’s not to say I wouldn’t go the traditional route. I would definitely love to work with traditional editors and be with a traditional publisher when the time is right.

You have a very active social media presence with 11k+ followers on Twitter and almost 22k followers on Instagram. How do you use social media? 

I use social media as a get-to-know-me tool. I find that a lot of people follow me there because they want to know what I’m doing or what my thoughts are on certain things (as random as they may be). I’ve also built a following from my cancer journey, which I shared from the time I was diagnosed in 2014 to today. I keep them up to date with my health and some of my personal life because I think it’s important for people to know that they’re not alone. Sometimes it’s hard to conceive that others are going through struggles when you see them smiling all the time in pictures, so I keep it real with them.

View this post on Instagram

It’s October 1st, which means it’s officially breast cancer awareness month. In a lot of states, clinics will perform free mammograms for women. In case you haven’t been here long enough, I’ll recap: I have no family history of breast cancer. No known risks. I was healthy, had maybe one cold in my entire life before I was diagnosed. I wish I could tell you this grandiose story, but I’d forgotten to put a loofa in the shower the day I found my lump & instantly knew it was cancer. I acted quickly and I have no doubt that if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here today. In this first picture, where I’m rocking my Mohawk, I’d gone through two sessions of chemo. I gained 30lbs in less than one month (you read that correctly). Most days, I was miserable. There’s dark, and then there’s dark. I was in the abyss of the latter. Most days, I wanted to die, yet I smiled and carried on. I’m often asked “how?” & by chemo patients, “why?” You see the how in these pictures, but those amazing little boys aren’t the why. I lost a lot of people I loved during those years and since then. I lost a lot of friends who fought alongside me and they didn’t go down gracefully. They fought hard. As hard as me. Life had other plans for them though, just as it had other plans for me. So, I smile and I hold my head high because I’m still here. Despite the pain. Despite the hurdles. Despite the shit life has thrown at me. I’m here. So why not smile? I’m one of the lucky ones. You can be too. Please get checked. Early detection is everything. *The surgery where I’m not bald is two years later, when I was diagnosed again and also amongst them, the series of surgeries I’ve needed throughout. Life likes to knock me down. I like to get the f back up.

A post shared by Claire Contreras (@clairecontreras) on

What (or who) are the resources you go to to keep up with industry trends and to make your books as polished and professional as possible without the infrastructure of a traditional publishing house? 

I don’t follow trends. I write things that I can’t stop thinking about and try to package them in a way that’s appealing to the masses, but as far as trends go, they are constantly changing and I can’t keep up with most of them so I try not to pay attention to them. I pay attention to the things I can control, which means making sure I have good editors, proofreaders, and cover designers.

When can members expect to see the next book in the series on NetGalley? 

I don’t want to say much because I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say . . . You’ve been summoned 😉


Claire Contreras is a New York Times bestselling author who traded her psychology degree to write fiction. Don’t worry, she still uses her knowledge on every single one of her characters. She’s a breast cancer survivor (x2), who was born in the Dominican Republic, raised in Florida, and currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her husband, two adorable boys, and French bulldog.

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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