Case Study: Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay

How runaway NetGalley success shaped the launch strategy for this Alice in Wonderland retelling

H.J. Ramsay had modest expectations for her first novel, but with over 175 NetGalley reviews and a 4-star average rating, Ever Alice has been a huge success. The pre-publication attention Ever Alice has been getting on NetGalley gave Ramsay some insight into how her title might fare once it hits its on-sale date, and helped her reshape her whole launch plan.

How has your NetGalley listing shaped how you think about your strategy for launching Ever Alice?

NetGalley has given me the confidence to really go after Ever Alice and seek outside sources to help promote it. Publishing Ever Alice started out as almost a pet project just to see what kind of reception it would have and to experience what it was like to have a published book. Not only did NetGalley provide a testing ground, but it also gave me the opportunity to access reviewers in a way that I don’t think I would have had otherwise. It’s a great platform that all self-published authors should utilize.

What aspects of the NetGalley community came as a surprise to you?

I’ve been blown away at the response I’ve received from the NetGalley community. I’ve had people from all over the world ask to read the story. I mean, how awesome is that! Up until now, I’ve mostly just had my critique group and/or publishing professionals like agents and editors read my work so the fact that I’ve had one of my novels read as far as Argentina, England, and India is like a dream come true. I’ve appreciated all the feedback on Ever Alice, and I’ve really been paying attention to what everyone has had to say. I haven’t done any promotion for Ever Alice outside of listing it on NetGalley so I’ve been very lucky that the reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and media professionals have been able to find me and are interested in my book.


When I listed [Ever Alice] on NetGalley, I told myself that I’d be elated to receive 100 requests in six months. That happened in 24 hours.

We noticed that you aren’t on social media. How do you connect with your readers both for this specific book campaign and as part of your overall strategy as an author?

Honestly, I had no idea that Ever Alice would have the kind of response it did. When I listed it on NetGalley, I told myself that I’d be elated to receive 100 requests in six months. That happened in 24 hours. Needless to say, it’s been a little overwhelming and I’ve been caught up in the excitement of it all, but I’ve been getting more serious about promotion, especially regarding social media. Readers who’d like to connect should be able to find me very soon.      

My NetGalley success did encourage me to become more active with social media. Plus, I have friends who are published, and they’ve been urging me to get on there. My plan is to be more accessible to readers, such as through Twitter and Instagram. I love books and writing so that’ll probably be the running dialogue of both platforms. I’m not sure if I’ll purchase ads. Maybe I will when Ever Alice is published so that I can look at promoting its publication date and where readers can purchase a copy.  

Once Ever Alice started gaining traction on NetGalley, how did you leverage the interest?

Before NetGalley, I had looked at PR companies as a possibility but wasn’t really serious about it. It’s expensive, at least the good ones with track records are, and I wasn’t sure if I’d need it. That changed after I saw the response Ever Alice was having. I felt like this was an opportunity and if I didn’t take advantage of it, then I’d forever regret it. At the end of the day, what I really want is to have a career as an author. I love writing and the writing community. I’ve been active in writing groups. I’ve gone to conferences and retreats. I’ve received an MFA in Creative Writing. I’m the Editor-in-Chief of a literary journal, Gold Man Review. All that’s missing is having my own published work out there. I’ve had small successes with journals and small publishers, but ultimately, I’d like to see my novels that I love so much out in the world and to have readers love them too.  

Promotion and all its various avenues is still a very gray area for me, but I’m learning quickly. Since it isn’t my strong suit, I’m very excited to be teaming up with Smith Publicity and we’re creating a plan to really dive into promoting Ever Alice, which will include using the NetGalley listing.

Half of the members requesting access to Ever Alice say that they are drawn to the description of the book. Tell us about how you created such compelling copy, or what you think is resonating with the members requesting access.

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s a retelling… and particularly a retelling of a popular story: Alice in Wonderland. Retellings are amazing because they bring readers from different genres together. For instance, someone who primarily reads mystery, might be open to a retelling because they are already familiar with the story. They read the original when they were (most likely) a child. It’s familiar. It brings up memories for them so they’re drawn to it even when a similar story in that genre might not have had the same effect. I know my interest is always piqued when I find out that something is a retelling. For instance, I’ve been seeing the House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig up on NetGalley and it’s a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I loved that story as a kid when I read [the Brothers Grimm version} so I’m instantly drawn to that book.

Members also love the cover! This is one of the other popular reasons noted for why they’re requesting the book. What message did you want to send to potential readers when you were designing the cover?

My husband did the cover and, I agree, he did a fantastic job!

The style of the novel itself is very Wonderland-ish and I tried to stay as true as possible to Carroll’s original work. Because the setting and characters are so topsy turvy, I wanted to keep the cover simple, almost like a juxtaposition of what awaits the reader within. I was really inspired by the cover of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I just love its minimal use of color and illustration. There’s something about it that makes it even more mysterious and intriguing. It’s the understated that makes a statement, at least to me. After some trial and error, my husband came up with this cover of Ever Alice and I knew it was “the one” the moment I saw it.

What’s your top tip for other debut independent authors?

Be patient. I decided that if I was going to self-publish Ever Alice that I’d give it its best possible chance by modeling the practices that traditional publishers use. There are a lot of steps publishers take before a book is sent out in the world, which doesn’t only included editing, but also getting advanced reader reviews. All those steps take time, but they’re essential. With so many options available to self-publish its very easy to complete a story, upload it, and press click. Instead of rushing to do that, take the time to make sure your novel is as ready as you can possibly make it.   


Bio: H.J. Ramsay has loved fantasy ever since she was a child. Growing up, she was influenced by movies such as the Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and Legend as well as books and short stories, such as The Collected Works of Brothers Grimm. As such, she is drawn to fantasy with a darker side to its glittery world and the idea that things are never what they seem. Ever Alice is her first published novel.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Read the rest of our case studies, featuring authors, trade publishers, and academic publishers here.

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Indie author success with the IBPA’s NetGalley Program

How working with the IBPA boosted Rebecca Rosenberg’s historical novel, Gold Digger

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today we’re talking to Rebecca Rosenberg, an independent author and member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). She takes advantage of the IBPA’s NetGalley program, which manages her title on NetGalley on her behalf, giving her even more time to think strategically about her ongoing promotional efforts.

What was your experience like working with the IBPA to list your title on NetGalley?

I enjoyed working with the IBPA to list my title on NetGalley and I appreciated their help and guidance. Their response time was great for sending me monthly reports, submitting promotions, forwarding reviews and posting featured reviews. When I was worried I was not getting enough reviews on Gold Digger, they gave me knowledgeable input that Gold Digger was doing quite well!

It is very helpful that IBPA handles all of the technical aspects of posting my book and making updates to the page so that I don’t have to do it myself. I feel that having my book listed under the IBPA umbrella offers prestige for my book.

Tell us why listing the book on NetGalley through the IBPA program was the right choice for you.

I learned from my first novel, The Secret Life of Mrs. London, that NetGalley is the professional hub of bloggers, librarians, Goodreads, Bookbub and Amazon reviewers, and avid readers who love to share their reviews. The more buzz the better when launching a novel, and NetGalley makes that possible.

We encourage professional reviewers to use the NetGalley link as well as bloggers, Facebook group moderators, Goodreads and Bookbub reviewers. In my opinion, if a reviewer gets the book from NetGalley, they are readers who take the reviewing experience seriously. They usually share the review in at least five places: NetGalley, Goodreads, Bookbub, Amazon, Facebook Groups, Twitter, Instagram, and their own blogs. NetGalley reviewers are connected and powerful influencers. I often use reviews in my marketing, and I feel that NetGalley reviewers carry more credibility.

You ran several marketing campaigns with NetGalley – a Category Spotlight in February and a Featured Title placement in March. Tell us about your strategy and unique goals around these promotions.

First of all, I took a six-month run on NetGalley (instead of three-months) before my launch date in order to reach as many reviewers as possible. When I saw the great marketing opportunities NetGalley offered, it made sense to support my listing with the Category Spotlight and Featured Title placement early on to get attention.

I am hoping to reach different segments of readers in different months with different promotions.

There are many marketing opportunities available through NetGalley, and (if I had the budget) I would use them all throughout the six-month listing! I ran a Category Spotlight in the “Historical Fiction” category, in February, and Featured Placement for “Women’s Fiction” in March and again in May. I did another Featured Placement for “Summer Reads” in June, and am waiting to hear if Gold Digger will be included in an upcoming Cover Love post.

How have you been leveraging your NetGalley listing and reviews to increase discoverability?

To expand the reach of my NetGalley listing, I posted the NetGalley link to my book on my Facebook page, Facebook reading groups, Bookbub, LinkedIn, Goodreads and to my mailing list.

I’ve also featured some great NetGalley reviews for Gold Digger on Facebook, Instagram, in my newsletter, and with my Review Crew. I use these reviews in my newsletters and social media to whet readers’ interest and add credibility for my books. We take 5-star reviews and make colorful, eye catching posts.

We love the blog on your website. You’ve been posting lots of great supplementary information about Baby Doe Tabor. Tell us a bit more about how your blog fits into your strategy as an author.

My blog serves to interest readers in my books, whether they’ve read my books or not. As with The Secret Life of Mrs. London, I like to use my two decades of research by creating background stories and character sketches and trying to interest readers in different aspects of the story. I share my blog across all platforms, from Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads, and newsletters, and guest hosting other blogs.

What are some tips you have for other independent authors?

Get involved with readers and other authors of your genre by joining Facebook Reader groups, Goodreads groups, Bookbub, Instagram, your creating own blog and newsletters. My specific Facebook groups would not work for everyone–authors need to search Facebook groups for those that discuss books in their genre. It is important to read the group rules and observe them. For example, a group may only allow promotion on certain days. Become a contributing member first and contribute to the group as a reader of other books, before posting about your own book. Review other books similar to yours and become an information source for great books.

Often, a person posting about your book will tag you. When that happens, be sure to thank them, or engage in an appropriate way. There are also companies that track mentions of your book on social media: Google Alerts, Talk Walkers, Mention. Find out who is talking about your book and thank them for spreading the word. Enthusiastic readers spread the word about your books! In addition to thanking them, ALWAYS ask readers to: “Please read and review Gold Digger on NetGalley!”

Bio: California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband founded the largest lavender product company in America, Sonoma Lavender. Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Writing Certificate Program. Her upcoming novel is Gold Digger, The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor. Other works include: The Secret Life of Mrs. London, her debut novel and her non-fiction, Lavender Fields of America.

Rebecca Rosenberg’s next novel is Champagne Widows, the story behind Veuve Clicquot and Lily Bollinger.

Find and follow Rebecca on her website, Amazon, Bookbub, Facebook, and Goodreads.


IBPA’s MISSION is to lead and serve the independent publishing community through advocacy, education, and tools for success. Learn more about how IBPA can can meet your specific needs here.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Pre-Publication Tips for Authors: Choosing a Marketing Service

Independent authors have the option to sign up for a huge number of services to help them get their books out into the world. Authors can work with companies on jacket design, promotion, editing, distribution, and more.

While each individual author’s goals and budget will determine which services are most important to invest in,there are still some best practices for authors to figure out which company or service is worth their investment.

Before signing up for any service, ask plenty of questions. Feel free to request case studies or examples of previous work the service has rendered. Then you’ll be able to get a better sense of what you can expect for yourself.

Read online reviews. If it’s a well-known company, other authors will be talking about their experiences using it somewhere online. While there are always going to be some outliers, you will be able to see broad trends or early warning signs from these reviews.

Before hiring services to help manage certain parts of your book’s publication, think about your skills and your network. Maybe you don’t need to hire a company to run social media for you, for example. You might find that you can do it yourself, or that you already have someone in your personal or professional network who you can work with. However, remember to think strategically about your time.

Consider your bandwidth. While you might have the ability to manage your own social media accounts, will the time it takes be time better spent on other tasks?

And finally, remember that no publishing or marketing service is a magic bullet. No single service will turn your book into a bestseller or land it a movie deal, but it will hopefully make it a better product available to a greater number of readers.

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Case Study: Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen

Multi-tiered marketing, strategic cover design, and Read Now access helped readers find this debut novel

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re hearing from Jayne Allen about her debut novel, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted.

Allen used a multi-tiered, timely marketing strategy to help Black Girls Must Die Exhausted keep finding new NetGalley readers throughout its lifecycle on the site. An intriguing title and visually enticing cover helped the book find an audience looking to see themselves reflected in the characters they read about — including book clubs whose members became some of her biggest advocates!

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted became available on NetGalley shortly before its pub date and stayed up after it went on sale. Tell us how you came to use NetGalley primarily as a post-pub tool and why that works for you.

Allowing the book to be offered for sale during the NetGalley window worked best for me because it allowed NetGalley reviewers to post directly on the Amazon sales page as a consumer review, which meant more early reviews for the book, and it allowed us to start recouping the editing and production investment much earlier. At first, I was concerned that being on NetGalley might somehow erode sales, but the simultaneous window actually served to increase sales and start Black Girls moving up the charts much more quickly.  

Additionally, Jayne Allen is a new pen name for me for fiction. I truly started fresh with this book. I had no email list and told none of my personal network about my novel. On Instagram, @JayneAllenWrites started with not even 30 followers, and there was no website and no Facebook page. All of the early momentum was about the substance of the book itself and the strength of the honest reader response. Thankfully, the NetGalley community responded positively to the work and passion that went into Black Girls Must Die Exhausted and created the early lift that has allowed this project to fly forward.

You ran several marketing campaigns with NetGalley – two Category Spotlights in September, when the book published, a Featured Title placement the next month, and then two more Category Spotlights in February. Tell us about the strategy behind your on-site NetGalley marketing. Why was this combination and timing the best fit for your unique goals?

While I am a passionate advocate for an increase in the volume of diverse and multicultural books in the publishing landscape, the lower number of books in the category as compared to “mainstream” fiction did work to my advantage for visibility on NetGalley. Based on the early response, it was clear that NetGalley readers are hungry for more fresh perspectives and cultural narratives. Still, the NetGalley platform is a popular destination, with new titles being added regularly to all categories. After the initial arrival of Black Girls Must Die Exhausted, the title wasn’t as prominent as before.  

I used the Category Spotlight at the beginning to ensure visibility because I felt that the uniqueness of my protagonist and the diverse character mix would be a strong draw for people looking for something new and different in the realm of multicultural narratives. The early reviews were positive, [so] I used the Featured Title placement to expand to a broader range of readers. As February is Black History Month, I felt that there would undoubtedly be many more readers looking for black cultural perspectives, and I wanted to make sure that they saw Black Girls Must Die Exhausted and had the opportunity to make it part of their Black History Month experience.

Reviews are really the gold bullion currency of book sales. Nothing beats social proof other than direct word of mouth endorsement. NetGalley’s community of avid and engaged readers provided that during the critical post-publication period. The first four months of the marketing plan and budget for Black Girls Must Die Exhausted solely focused on NetGalley and Amazon advertising, nothing more than merely soliciting reviews and point-of-sale exposure. Until the reviews reached a critical mass, I did no author platform building and was not active on social media.

Reviews are truly the most vital asset to have. As an independent publisher, you have to be careful to do things in the correct timing and order so as not to waste precious resources by starting promotions or marketing efforts that are premature, especially as a debut author.

Which segments of the NetGalley community have been most important to you and why?

I knew that the uniqueness of the Black Girls Must Die Exhausted title would allow the audience for the book to define itself. The readers interested in multicultural works were the most active, but at its base, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is very much chick lit, albeit with a social conscience. You have a typical 30-something professional woman who just wants what we all do at the root of things – to be loved. Only in this book, she also happens to be black with a cultural perspective not often seen in chick lit. As I observed from the reviews and response on NetGalley, black female readers were so happy to finally see themselves reflected in such a multi-layered way in fiction, with their “blackness” written into the experience without overpowering it. Non-black readers were excited to find that they could relate to a story that was culturally authentic but not exclusionary. It was a beautiful thing for me to read many of the reviews from both of the segments that Black Girls Must Die Exhausted reached – Multicultural Interest and Women’s Fiction.

We heard that you’ve been working with book clubs. How has NetGalley fit into your book club outreach?

The book clubs found me! Several book club representatives accessed the title for evaluation over the period that Black Girls Must Die Exhausted was on NetGalley.  It appears that book clubs use NetGalley to source new and interesting titles for their groups. I had no idea that my book had been selected until I received the emails asking for discussion questions, and one asking if I would participate in their meeting to discuss my book via live stream.  Since then, several of the book club members have become some of my most engaged connections on social media.

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted was available to any interested member as a Read Now title. Tell us about why you chose that availability setting.

At first, I was concerned that the Read Now setting would lead to a “free for all” without quality reviews from engaged readers who were genuinely interested in reading the book … It worked out wonderfully, and I was happy to give newer reviewers the opportunity to build their reviews on the platform as well.

This was my first experience using NetGalley directly. The prior time, my nonfiction book Regroup was managed by my PR representative, Smith Publicity. At first, I was concerned that the Read Now setting would lead to a “free for all” without quality reviews from engaged readers who were genuinely interested in reading the book. Ultimately, I decided that it was more important, at least at first, to reach more readers than less, especially with a debut novel from a new voice in fiction. I told myself that if there seemed to be an issue, I could always quickly change the setting. Over the course of the entire NetGalley window, I never did. It worked out wonderfully, and I was happy to give newer reviewers the opportunity to build their reviews on the platform as well.

38% of members with access to the title listed the cover as a reason for request. What message did you want to send to potential readers when you were designing the cover?

My professional background is in branding and marketing.  It was essential to me to design a cover that was as delicious as possible to the eyes. I wanted to send a signal of the deliberate quality that went into every nook and cranny of the work. As a visual symbol, I wanted to represent the vibrancy and the richness of life, which is one of the underlying themes of the book – living life to the fullest. The title Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is a little cheeky, so I let the cover tell more of the actual story. Perhaps most important, I wanted the cover to make women feel gorgeous holding the book and for them to feel proud of what they were reading.

46% of members with access said that the description was their reason for request. How did you think about drawing in readers with your copy?

For black women, I just knew instinctively that the title would speak a truth to them that they would want to explore within themselves.  For non-black women and men, I believed that the title would signal an honesty and depth of perspective that would be a rare opportunity to experience outside of one’s own culture.

It was all a bit of a risk, but I’m glad that I took it.

How have you been interacting with members who have access? Have you followed up with them via email?

I try to be extra judicious with my email communications and only send a message when I have something positive and important to share. For example, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted had been on NetGalley for a couple of months already when we finally received the Kirkus review.  Even though it was favorable and exciting, I didn’t share the news via email until Kirkus informed me that their editors selected their review of the book for inclusion in the print version of Kirkus Reviews magazine, a distinction that less than 10% of independently published books receive. That was email-worthy!  Still, I waited until it was also a reasonable time to remind the readers of the NetGalley window to make sure they didn’t miss the book in their long queue of reading.

The average publishing industry email open rate is around 14%, and mine was 51% for my first email and 38% for the second. That is a pretty favorable demonstration of the overall engagement and enthusiasm of the NetGalley community for books and the publishing industry as a whole.

How have you been leveraging your NetGalley listing outside of the site? Have you been including it in emails, newsletters, or trade ads?

NetGalley has been an excellent avenue for providing review copies of Black Girls Must Die Exhausted to fulfill media and book club requests.

It was so much more efficient and secure than blindly emailing copies.  Also, for many of the requesters, referencing NetGalley seemed to send an additional signal that Black Girls Must Die Exhausted was a book to be taken seriously and be meaningfully considered.

What’s your top tip for other independent debut authors?

I would advise making sure that you have a substantial base of reviews before moving on to other marketing efforts, ideally at least 25 to 30.  It is ok to focus 100% of your efforts on garnering reviews at the beginning to ensure that you get the performance and return you’re hoping for when you do eventually direct resources toward other paid marketing efforts.

Bio: Jayne Allen is a black girl from Detroit who smiles widely, laughs loudly and loves to tell stories that stick to your bones. Her debut novel, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted touches upon contemporary women’s issues such as workplace “impostor syndrome,” race, fertility, modern relationships, and mental health awareness, echoing her desire to bring both multiculturalism and multidimensionality to contemporary fiction with dynamic female protagonists who also happen to be black. When she’s not writing “chocolate chick lit with a conscience,” you can find her discussing the publishing business at Book Genius, hosting the Book Genius Meetup in LA or simply spending time with her colorful friends and family, keeping one ear open for her next saucy tale.


Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Read the rest of our case studies, featuring authors, trade publishers, and academic publishers here.

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7 Tips on Polishing Your Query from a Senior Literary Agent

As a Senior Agent at the Nancy Yost Literary Agency, I’ve read and reviewed thousands of queries. Yes, thousands, and possibly tens of thousands! Since my query inbox first opened, I’ve had the opportunity read some amazing queries, and some that could have benefitted from the following these tips on polishing and personalizing your query.

1. Send individualized queries

It will take more time, but this is an important relationship. You are hopefully going to be partnered with an agent for years, so just like with any other long term relationship you want to build strong foundations. This means at the very least addressing the agent by their name with the correct spelling and with the correct title if you choose to [address them by their] surname.

Additionally, if you happen to typo, that’s okay, it happens! Feel free to follow up with a quick correction after you hit send. Or if you’re querying via a portal, you should have the ability to withdraw your submission and then re-submit with the corrected form of address.

I promise you it will be worth it.

2. Read lots of query letters

To the Google!! Authors writing in all kinds of genres have shared their query letters, and agents have also shared sample query letters. Find them. Read them. The more you read the more you’ll be able to sort out what format would work best for your book and your genre.

Also note that while their are similarities between fiction and nonfiction queries, they are different.

3. Query letters are like the writer’s version of the middle school five-paragraph essay Here’s a quick cheat sheet of what each of those five paragraphs can contain. Remember, you can shorten as you see fit and [be sure] to personalize it.

Introductory Paragraph: This should introduce yourself and your work. Be sure to include genre and word count.

Three Body Paragraphs: You don’t have to have three, but I find it’s a solid set of paragraphs for you to talk about your book. Try to hone this “about section” think of it as similar to the text you can find on the back of a book’s cover or on the flap of a dust jacket.

Conclusion Paragraph: This closing paragraph is where you can share a bit about yourself. Think of it as your bio. Feel free to include any accolades for your writing that you might have, any professional writing organizations, or fun facts. Also include how you can be contacted if you haven’t included that info in a signature block, or some submission form.

4. Less is more

I know it may be tempting to share as much as possible about your work, but I always say that if an author could share everything they wanted in a pitch about their book then why would they then write an 80,000 word novel? So, know that we want to get to your book and your pages. Don’t keep us hostage in your query letter! Instead, use your query letter as a springboard for us to dive into your book and/or submission materials. Your pitch should pique interest and lead the reader (agent or editor) to you pages! Ultimately your book, your work, your story is what’s most important.

5. Have a friend, family member, or colleague read your query

Be open to editorial feedback. It is helpful to have someone familiar with the querying process to proofread your query letter. But, no matter what, another set of eyes will help catch the small things like the typos that our brains like to gloss over. And then, thoughtfully consider their feedback. Ultimately, you have to make the final decision on what you are going to send out, but most of the people you ask for help aren’t making suggestions just for the sake of it. Really consider their edits, and be sure to appreciate and value the time they’ve taken out of their day to spend on reviewing your query letter.

6. Ask a critique partner to help you draft a query letter

Oftentimes it’s difficult for an author to synthesize their work into a one-page pitch. If you have a trusted critique partner, they can sometimes help draft a few paragraphs to get you started. Of course, you might then owe them chocolate or whatever delicious treat they might desire. But this is an option I’ve had several of my authors mention they used when querying me! Seeing how others frame your work after reading and working on it with you might be helpful. You should never pressure or guilt critique partners or beta readers into helping you draft your query. Ask. And if they decline, that’s okay!

There are also freelance editors out in the world that might also offer these services, and you can totally pursue those options as well. But when money is involved and exchanging hands that’s a personal choice. And always make sure you vet any freelancers you might choose to work with. Do your research, folks!

7. Make sure that when you’re submitting to an agent that they do indeed work with the type of projects that you’re sending

While an agent might seem really cool in interviews or on social media, you’ll be wasting their time and your time by querying them with a project that they do not work on. Save yourself!

Good luck!

Sarah E. Younger, Senior Agent, at the Nancy Yost Literary Agency began her career in publishing at Press53 in Winston Salem, N.C. after receiving her undergraduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. She later attended the University of Denver’s graduate publishing program where upon completion she moved to New York City.  Sarah joined the Nancy Yost Literary Agency in the fall of 2011 and has since cultivated a diverse and talented list of authors including a variety of commercial fiction and select non-fiction titles. She is specifically interested in representing all varieties of romance, women’s fiction including chicklit and romantic comedies, adult science fiction and fantasy, and very select non-fiction. You can find her on her personal Twitter @seyitsme. Learn more about the Nancy Yost Literary Agency including how to query Sarah by visiting the NYLA website.

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Case Study: Pisces Hooks Taurus by Anyta Sunday

How Anyta Sunday incorporated NetGalley into her post-pub strategy to give her astrological romance a longer tail

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Anyta Sunday about her 2018 MM romance Pisces Hooks Taurus, currently available on NetGalley.

Learn why Anyta Sunday lists her titles on NetGalley after they publish, how she generates keywords for her books, and why it’s important to tell romance readers exactly what kinds of tropes they can expect in one of her books.

Our audience of publishers and authors is always eager to learn more about how others are planning their publicity and marketing efforts on NetGalley. Your current title listed on NetGalley, Pisces Hooks Taurus, began its lifecycle on NetGalley at its pub date. Tell us how you came to use NetGalley as a post-pub strategy and why it works for you.

I work with a PR agency to organize blog tours around the release of my books, also handling distribution of ARC copies to interested bloggers and reviewers. These bloggers typically already know me from previous books, while NetGalley allows me reach new audiences.

Using NetGalley starting with the pub date helps me to spread reviews and buzz over a longer time period. [Here are] two reviews [that came in] in over a month after release: Reviews for Those Who Love a Good Book and Amy’s MM Romance Reviews.

Which segments of the NetGalley community have been most important to you and why? How do you go about reaching them?

Most requests for my books come from Reviewers. I post about new titles available on NetGalley via social media and in my newsletter. [You can see an example of this] for my older release, Scorpio Hates Virgo and on my website.

On your Title Details page for Pisces Hooks Taurus, you list the tropes (friends-to-lovers, slow burn, will-they-or-won’t-they) and genres (new adult, light-hearted contemporary gay romance). It’s a great way to give prospective readers a quick snapshot into what the can expect from the book. Describe your strategies for your Title Details page to drive requests and reviews.

I try to optimize the NetGalley Title Details page in the same way as the sales page for my book on retail channels like Amazon; a snappy blurb in the same style and voice as the book, followed by a clear description of what the reader will get. This is particularly important in the romance genre where readers are often looking for specific tropes (and trying to avoid others). Romance is a big genre with many new publications, so communicating clearly what readers can expect helps a book to stand out. Also, if the book is part of a series, I mention whether you need to know the previous books or if it can be read as a standalone.

How did you engage with members who requested access? Did you follow up with them via email?

I make use of the Approval Email feature on NetGalley to engage with members who requested access. In this mail, I thank the reader and encourage them to crosspost their reviews. If the book is part of a series, I also offer the other books for review.

Tell us more about how you leverage your NetGalley listing outside the site.

I mention the availability of the NetGalley listing in my release publicity, and feature it on the book’s detail page on my website.

Your Signs of Love series, of which Pisces Hooks Taurus, is the fourth installment, taps into the current spike in public fascination with astrology. How do you use this to your advantage when finding new audiences?

I use astrology-related keywords in the advertising around the Signs of Love series to reach new audiences. I focus on Facebook and Amazon ads at the moment, and for both the targeting is key. Besides reaching fans of gay and MM romance by using related keywords, I do the same for astrology-related keywords.

What is your top tip for authors listing an individual title on NetGalley?

I find that customizing the approval email is a powerful way of following up with members requesting a book, so I would encourage using this to maximum effect: trying to connect with the reader, thanking them for requesting your book, and potentially offering other ARCs. For Pisces Hooks Taurus, I let readers that request the ARC know that there are three more books in the series and have received multiple requests for these older books as well.

Anyta Sunday is a BIG fan of slow-burn romances. She reads and writes characters who slowly fall in love. Some of her favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries. She writes a variety of stories: Contemporary MM romances with a good dollop of angst, contemporary lighthearted MM romances, and even a splash of fantasy. Her books have been translated into German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Thai.

Follow Anyta Sunday on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

See all of her titles on her website, including purchase links.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Read the rest of our case studies, featuring authors, trade publishers, and academic publishers here.

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Pre-Publication Tips for Authors: Sending Out Review Copies

Getting people talking about your book before it goes on sale is crucial to a book’s success. But, without a professional publicity team, it can be hard to know where to begin. Galleys are a perfect place to start to get your book into the hands of people who will build its pre-publication buzz.

Publishers can always attach PDFs to emails, but this tends to look less polished than sending along a digital galley or a printed galley Plus, PDFs are not trackable or secure, which means that they can be shared widely without your knowledge. The industry standards for sending review copies are to send either printed galleys or digital galleys through a secure site, like NetGalley.

Digital Galleys via NetGalley

Listing your title on NetGalley lets you make your title available for request to our community of hundreds of thousands of  book influencers (including librarians, educators, and media). You can also use tools like the widget to include pre-approved links to your title via NetGalley. With NetGalley, you have control over who has access to your title, and reports available to you within your account to title activity and history. Digital galleys tend to be quite cost-effective once you have committed to them. They can be sent to as many people as you like, meaning that you can send your title to a wider pool of reviewers and influencers than you could with just printed galleys. Plus, they are environmentally conscious!

Physical Galleys

Sending out printed copies of your book is a classic and effective way to build pre-publication buzz. Reviewers or media professionals might prefer printed galleys if they work in an office that is more traditional, where an editor may be assigning the book to the final reviewer, or if they just prefer reading printed books rather than digital ones. Printed galleys are particularly helpful when submitting to literary awards. However, printing costs, packaging materials, and shipping costs are important factors to take into consideration when thinking about how you will incorporate printed galleys into your marketing strategy. They can be quite expensive, so it’s important to be strategic when thinking about who should receive a printed galley. For the budget-conscious, printed galleys should only go to readers or awards who have specifically requested printed galleys, and who are likely to review your title.

Most review sites and reviewers have specifications for how they would prefer to receive galleys, which we advise you to consult before submitting your titles to them for consideration.

However you choose to get the word out about your book pre-publication, make sure that you are giving your book the best possible chance to succeed by providing advanced copies to reviewers and influencers.

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Pre-Publication Tips for Authors: Writing Outside Your Book

In the book marketing world, getting your name out there is crucial. If someone casually browsing for their next read recognizes your name, they’re far more likely to take a closer look, and hopefully purchase.

Since writing is your craft, one of the best ways to get your name noticed is to write. So, write! It’s natural to want to write exclusively about your book as a way to promote it, but you should also consider writing about topics related to your book. For example, if you write Civil War romances, pitch a column on a women’s cultural interest website about the hidden histories of women in the United States in the 19th century. You can access a wider audience than you could otherwise, and demonstrate your expertise about your chosen field of interest.

You can also write in more casual settings; like a blog or a newsletter. Many authors and cultural critics send out periodic newsletters that describe what they are reading, listening to, and thinking about. Newsletters and blogs are a way to stay top-of-mind for your audience, and to help your readers develop a more personal relationship with you and your work.

This kind of tactical writing can increase your visibility and the visibility of your titles in the marketplace. But, as with all kinds of marketing efforts, quality is more meaningful than quantity. First and foremost you should write and pitch content that you would be interested in reading, and the readership will follow.

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How to Use Wattpad If You’re an Author

The Internet is a social place. It’s where readers find their next book, where authors stay connected to readers, where publishers keep abreast of new voices, and industry newbies hunt for their first jobs in the field. “How to use…if you’re…” breaks down best practices for literary social corners of the Internet for different players in the publishing industry.

At BookExpo, we sat in on the panel discussion “Industry Disruption and the Future of Finding Rising Stars.” During that panel, Lindsay Summers, Wattpad star, discussed how she used Wattpad first as a way to read new stories, then a creative outlet for her own storytelling, and eventually as a vehicle for a book deal.

So, today we’ll be looking at how independent authors can use Wattpad to sharpen their own storytelling skills, connect with other authors, and grow a community of dedicated readers.

Using Wattpad as an Author

Wattpad is a great place for authors to experiment with serial storytelling, and to connect with passionate readers from all over the world. Authors can use it to hone their voice, get immediate feedback from readers, and expand their audience.

What is Wattpad?

Wattpad is a socially engaged and enthusiastic community of writers and readers. With a global community of 70 million members, and over 565 million story uploads, the platform is a vibrant place full of passionate readers and emerging writers. Most of the stories on Wattpad are geared toward young women and tend toward YA, Romance, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy, although other genres have devoted followings as well. The website is free to use, for both writers and readers.

Some Wattpad authors have even transitioned their Wattpad stories into traditionally published novels, or turned into TV shows or movies. Others have worked with companies to create branded content on the site. Huge successes like this may be outliers, but even if Wattpad doesn’t turn into a star-making vehicle for you, it is a place to grow as a writer, and to connect with an audience that is invested in your voice.

Hone your voice

Because Wattpad writers publish their stories serially, you have some flexibility to play around with your style. If you realize after a few chapters that the way you’ve been formatting dialogues is clunky, shift gears. If you intended your story to end with the heroine falling for her shy best friend, but realize that the femme fatale is a better fit for the story arc, you can reshape the plot as you write. Wattpad lets you change direction without having to rewrite your whole story.

But as you experiment, don’t forget about the reader! If a reader is clicking through several chapters at a time, they will likely be frustrated if you are making huge structural changes, like switching from third person to first person or turning your dystopian YA story into a sweet teen romance. If you do decide that your story needs a dramatic change, try starting a new one entirely.

Be sure to check out Wattpad’s Writer’s Portal, for both inspiration and practical advice.

Get feedback from readers

One of Wattpad’s most exciting social features is the line by line commenting. Readers leave comments on Wattpad stories, and can even comment on a particular sentence, showing precisely where they are having an intense reaction. You can see what readers are loving and what is drawing them in. You can also learn if your writing is registering with readers in a way that you don’t intend.

Grow your audience

With Wattpad’s huge global community, you can find kindred spirits, both as readers and fellow writers. Joining message boards, called Clubs, can help you become more involved in the Wattpad community. Industry Insider is geared specifically towards authors, and full of threads about the nuts and bolts of the publishing industry (from copyright to cover art) and general community encouragement. You can also join communities of readers who are reading stories similar to the ones you write, or the ones you like to read. See what readers are saying, and jump in on the conversation!

You can also engage with readers and other writers on profile pages. All member profiles, both writers and authors, include a Conversation section for members to chat with each other. Get to know writers whose work you admire by commenting and striking up a conversation. And when readers comment on your profile, make sure to respond! It’s a great way to cultivate a dedicated community of readers.

Check out more tips and strategies for independent authors here, and be sure to subscribe to NetGalley Insights so that you don’t miss a post!

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Pre-Publication Tips for Authors: Selling Your Book to Bookstores, and Beyond!

Getting your book sold into a bookstore can be one of the most daunting parts about being an independent author, but also potentially the most gratifying. Seeing your book in a brick-and-mortar store, next to a curated inventory of other books is an accomplishment for any author.

Booksellers are pitched thousands of titles per year, so the competition to get your book carried by a store can be fierce. But, with some forethought, you can set yourself up to meet this challenge head-on.

Make sure to schedule an appointment with a book buyer rather than showing up to a bookstore unannounced, with copies in hand. Booksellers will appreciate your professionalism and the respect for their time. Plus, it gives you both an opportunity to prepare. These meetings tend to be short, so prepare a succinct pitch for your title. Give a quick introduction to your book (no need to give a full synopsis, just enough to pique their interest), and three good reasons why your title is a good fit for their bookstore and clientele.

Let the bookseller know what kinds of promotions you are doing, either in your local area or online. If you have reviews or feedback, be sure to leverage that as an indicator of enthusiasm for your work.

Hopefully, the bookseller will be impressed and take a few copies of your title to sell in their shop. But, if not, gracefully accept their decision. You’ll want to leave a positive impression on them so that you can hopefully build a strong working relationship in the future.

In addition to selling your title to bookstores, consider other places who might be interested in buying some copies of your book. Local museums, libraries, archives, and record stores are great places to start. Be creative!

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