How Authors Budget for Their Books

Results from a NetGalley & IBPA joint survey

For independent authors who are publishing your own work, it can be hard to know how much to spend, and where to spend. Can you publish a book using only free tools and services? Do you need to make a serious dent in your savings account to get your book into the world? 

NetGalley and the IBPA worked together to gather information from an engaged and thoughtful group of authors about how much they budget for their books, where that budget gets allocated, and where they find the most value. We hope that this information can help other authors strategize for their own books, getting the most value out of their budgets.

These authors understand that they need to invest in their book, and that the biggest and most valuable expenses will be editing, design, and advertising & marketing in order to give their books the most professional launch possible. 

Thank you to the thoughtful authors who shared their budgets, strategies, and lessons learned about the finances of independent book publishing. 

Only 11% of respondents reported spending less than $1,000 on their books, indicating that the most active authors understand that they need to invest at least a bit in their books. The majority of authors spent between $1,000 – $6,000 on their books, with the $1,000 – $3,000 bracket accounting for 28% of the overall responses. 

Across budgets, most authors spend the bulk of their budgets on a combination of marketing & advertising, editing, and design. 

You can see how authors allocated budgets within different budgeting ranges here: 

As authors’ budgets went up, they increased the amount that they spent on marketing and advertising. Other line items – print distribution, proofreading, and ebook distribution – stayed relatively stable across budget brackets. 

Editing was the most valuable line item to 41% of respondents, followed by marketing and advertising (26%), then design (21%). We’ve broken down how they valued these three categories by budget spend below. 

Editing was the most valuable line item to 41% of respondents, followed by marketing and advertising (26%), then design (21%). We’ve broken down how they valued these three categories by budget spend below. 

As an author’s budget goes up, marketing & advertising became more valuable to them. And for the respondents with more limited budgets, they found the most value in first editing, then design

We also asked how authors determined what made a line item valuable to them. Surprisingly, it wasn’t always sales. Only 17% of respondents used sales as their primary marker of value. Instead, 31% of respondents found value when they could see that an expense had made their book a higher quality product. We can see this correlated to the value found in design and editing. Authors were most interested in making their book look – both inside and out – professional and polished, and then putting eyes on it. 

When asked what they would spend less money on in the future, 17% or respondents said marketing & advertising and 15% said printing. But, even in a question about spending less, 12% responded to a question about lowering their budget by saying it would stay the same, 7% said they would spend more. We see again that authors understand that they will need to invest in their books in order to make them the best product that they can be, and to then help their books find readers.   

NetGalley and the IBPA are both dedicated to helping author-publishers. Through NetGalley’s partnership with the IBPA, as well as through direct work with independent authors, we help author-publishers reach our engaged NetGalley community. Plus, authors find many tips and author-focused case studies here on NetGalley Insights. The IBPA has programs, events, webinars, and resources for author-publishers, as well as other segments of the industry. Learn more about the IBPA here, including special NetGalley packages available to IBPA members.

Survey collection: NetGalley and the IBPA collected survey responses from 137 author-publishers between May-June 2019. 

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Inform Timing and Strategy with Google Trends

During Tech Forum in Toronto this spring, we were thrilled to hear Jordyn Martinez of Simon & Schuster Canada encouraging the audience to dig into data available to them to drive their sales tactics. One of the tools she recommended is Google Trends, a free service that allows anyone to look at Google search trends over time. 

Google Trends plots search interest over time on a graph with the x-axis as time and the y-axis as overall interest.* In this example, we can see that most people are searching for summer reading in early June. A marketer looking at this data might see that she should use “summer reading” as an advertising hook beginning in late spring, and tapering off as summer continues. 

Google Trends also allows you to compare search terms against one another. 

You can see how many people are searching for different genres, and when. 

In this example, you can see that people are searching for romance novels and nonfiction titles at mostly comparable rates – they have similar same peaks and valleys, except for a spike in nonfiction searches in mid-December. This is likely a result of last-minute holiday shopping. Romance searches are fairly steady, with small peaks around the holidays and in late summer. When compared to one another, this shows us that interest in nonfiction fluctuates more seasonally, while romance remains steady. It also might indicate that people are buying romances for themselves and nonfiction for others. 

Google Trends also allows you to look at top locations for searches, showing publishers where interest is, in addition to when. 

Google Trends’ location map can help you learn where your target audiences really are. In this search for “Best Romance Novels,” we can see that most searches are in Massachusetts, Colorado, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Virginia. You can also drill down to find the metro areas where your chosen search terms are most popular. Publishers looking to make a splash with a new and steamy debut romance novel should make sure to target these states and cities with advertising and/or book tour stops. This tool can help publishers break out of a static approach to regional marketing, where the same roster of cities and states get standard amounts of marketing energy. Instead, publishers can start to develop a more dynamic and data-driven regional strategy. 

Some advertisers use Google Trends to capitalize on brief viral spikes in public interest by creating of-the-moment ad campaigns. In this example, we can see a sharp increase in interest for “Old Town Road,” the viral song originally by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. An advertiser might note during the uptick that they can tie in a product to the hit song, or the flash of interest in cowboys. We recommend using this strategy sparingly. It is time consuming to chase trends effectively, plus audiences can tell if a company is more interested in riding waves of buzz than in building lasting, trusting relationships with consumers.

For publishers, Google Trends is best thought of in the long-term. It can show you whether your genres are getting seasonal, cyclical attention or a steady thrum throughout the year. You’ll know whether you should be pitching your books as holiday picks if interest in their genre spike around December. Plus, you’ll be able to better focus your attention beyond the major markets; how to truly cater to your audience wherever they are. 

Jordyn Martinez of Simon & Schuster Canada told NetGalley Insights, “Google Trends is really useful for any department, particularly acquisitions, sales, and marketing. In terms of sales, I use it to see what the Canadian population is searching for, to see if there’s room for growth or if what I’m selling is tapping into a trend. It’s especially useful if I want to know whether a trend has shifted at all, whether there seems to be more or less demand. It’s information that I can bring to my buyers, so that we can make educated decisions on how to position the book.”

*The data in GoogleTrends is all indexed to 100, meaning that whenever the line reaches 100, it represents the moment in time when there were the most people searching for that term. It does not refer to a percentage of overall Google searches or number of users. This also means that the max interest will represent numbers of people. The peak for “Game of Thrones” searches will cover a wider swath of the population than the peak for “Spring Book Club Picks,” although both will be indexed to 100. Google News Lab gave a nice overview here.

Check out more tips and news for data-driven decision making from NetGalley Insights here.

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The 7 Best Marketing Strategies from BookExpo and BookCon

In the midst of a very busy week full of meetings, parties, and panels, we got a chance to see how publishers were engaging audiences at BookExpo and BookCon. In addition to the many totes, pins, bookmarks, and ARC drops, we saw some unique marketing strategies, including quizzes, photo opportunities, and even live animals! Here were some of our favorite creative ways that exhibitors got the attention of BookExpo and BookCon attendees.

Adorable, Adoptable Pets – National Geographic

To promote Dr. Gary Weitzman’s The National Geographic Complete Guide to Pet Health, National Geographic partnered with a local animal shelter to bring pets to the show floor. Attendees cuddled well-behaved kittens and puppies, who were handling the stresses of BookExpo better than many attendees! The dogs and cats were available for adoption, which only added to the warm and fuzzy feelings at the National Geographic booth.

Sharing Author Love – Penguin Teen

Penguin Teen tapped into the resonant emotional connections that readers build with authors to promote Looking For Alaska, the upcoming Hulu show based on John Green’s 2005 novel. Attendees filled up the “Share your love for John Green’s books” display with heartfelt and vulnerable notes about Green’s books and his advocacy around mental health, grateful for the chance to share their experiences with an author who had impacted their lives. The Penguin Teen wall was a great break from branded swag, and place for readers to remember how powerful it is to be seen by an author who helps you understand yourself, and be more understood in the wider world.

Live Illustration – Scholastic

To promote Elisha Cooper’s upcoming children’s book about a canoe trip, River, Scholastic sat Cooper down at their booth with pen and paper. He worked on an illustration of the New York skyline while attendees watched. They could even get a closer look at Cooper’s illustration process via a camera and a monitor that projected his detailed work. The Scholastic team told NetGalley Insights that they wanted to give attendees a more intimate glimpse into Cooper’s work process, rather than simply providing an opportunity to meet the author and illustrator. We certainly appreciated the inside look!

Testing Audiobook Knowledge – Penguin Random House Audio

PRH Audio engaged audiobook listeners with audio themed quizzes during BookCon. Attendees listened to audio clips and answered questions about Harry Potter, movie tie-ins, Stranger Things, and fierce female characters for their chance to win a free button. Many other booths didn’t make their visitors work as hard to get a button, but judging by the PRH line, attendees enjoyed this chance to test their expertise.

Totes on Demand – Riveted by Simon Teen

Tote bags are some of the most standard swag items at any book-related event. After all, everyone needs something to put their new books in! Riveted, Simon Teen’s online platform for YA fiction, partnered with local independent screen print shop Bushwick Print Lab to give attendees a unique, high-quality tote. After braving a very long line, the attendee could choose between several different design options for their free on-the-spot screen printed tote bag. The Jenny Han quote, “It’s the imperfections that make things beautiful” (pictured here) was a particularly popular option.

Recommendation Quizzes – Penguin Random House

In addition to their audio quizzes, Penguin Random House used a short quiz to help recommend their new books to BookCon attendees. Readers filled out a short quiz that resulted in a recommendation for an upcoming PRH book, which they then received as a free giveaway. Audiences loved the Buzzfeed-style quiz and, of course, getting to walk away with the recommended book!

Book Wings Photo Wall – Bookish

Bookish gave readers a chance to spread their literary wings with a photo opportunity. They created giant wings out of books both beloved and not yet published. While they waited in line, readers talked to each other about which books in the wings they had read, which were their favorites, and which were on their TBR list. Plus, authors and publicists stopped by to find themselves or their authors in the wings. Check out some of the tagged photos here!


We left BookExpo and BookCon exhausted but inspired by the new ways that publishers are engaging readers, and the enthusiasm of attendees who will break into a run for a new book and wait for hours to meet their favorite authors. Until next year!

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Proven Strategies: Strong Subject Lines in Email Campaigns

Tips and success stories from NetGalley’s marketing experts

Every day, NetGalley’s marketing team works with publishers and authors to help put their books directly in front of the NetGalley members who are most likely to read, review, and advocate for them. Through years of collaborating closely with clients of all types (from the “Big 5” houses to self-published authors, and publishers of all kinds of books–bestselling fiction to nonfiction and academic, religious, graphic novels, children’s and YA, cookbooks, and beyond) our marketing team has seen first-hand which strategies have worked to engage different kinds of readers.

Dedicated eBlasts are extraordinarily successful and NetGalley’s most popular marketing program. Clients see outstanding results with a custom, highly targeted email campaign to meet their goals. The success of any email can be measured by both the Open Rate and the Click Through Rate (CTR). The Open Rate is determined by how many people open the email, and the CTR is determined by how many people click on a link within the email–for example to Request, Read Now, or Wish.

Today’s Proven Strategies post will focus on the first step to a successful eBlast: A strategic subject line. Remember that the subject line is your chance at a strong first impression, and it will determine whether the recipient will either open the email to find out more, or ignore it (or worse, mark it as spam). Here are some crucial tips:

  • Think about the recipient: Why are they receiving this email? Think about what your recipient is looking for, and use that to guide your messaging to ensure it resonates. Does it give them what they want?
  • Be clear and concise: The subject line should be 10 words or 50 characters max. This helps ensure that the subject line won’t get accidentally cut off on specific browsers or mobile devices.
  • Stand out: Inboxes are cluttered! Be sure your subject line catches a reader’s eye with an emoji or first name personalization.
  • If you can’t decide, test: Torn between two subject lines and unsure which will perform better? Run an A/B Test on a small percentage of the overall recipient list to see which subject line yields a higher open rate, and then use that as your subject line for the rest of the recipients.
  • Target strategically: Make sure the email is being sent to the right people. NetGalley can target specific member types, preferred categories and genres, comp titles and authors, and more. Our marketing team can help you determine which of our members will be the best fit for your book, your goal, and your budget.

Now, let’s see some of these tips in action with some recent successful subject lines. According to Mailchimp, a marketing email from a media or publishing company will have an average open rate of 21.92% (which is slightly higher than what Mailchimp sees as an overall average of 20.81%). Keep that baseline in mind as we look at these examples:

This custom eblast for Berkley’s Those People had an open rate of 51%! The knife emoji adds drama and flair to an inbox, and the question is engaging. This concise subject line also immediately gives the reader a clear idea of what kind of book this is. This eblast was targeted to a highly engaged, genre-specific recipient list who had already interacted with the author’s previous book.

This subject line for NetGalley’s Spring Young Adult Newsletter used a bit of reverse-psychology as a result of an A/B test. Our marketing team first tested this subject line against “YA books to add to your TBR right NOW” and found the “DO NOT OPEN” subject performed better in the test. It’s no surprise–it was attention-grabbing with that emoji, too! This newsletter ended up with a 46% open rate, and was sent to a highly engaged list of members who had previously interacted with similar emails.

This concise, compelling, and slightly mysterious subject line for I Am Yours from Amberjack resulted in a whopping 55% open rate! It responds to a recipient’s desire to connect in a meaningful way with a compelling new voice. The custom targeting for this eblast reached fans of comp titles, and readers who had interacted with promotions in the same genre.

Bonus Tip: Consider using a preheader, which is the preview text that follows the subject line in the inbox display. This can be just as important as the subject line! Make the preheader a call to action or use it as a short summary of the email content (we recommend a 35-50 character limit).


Have questions or need advice? Ask NetGalley’s marketing team – marketing@netgalley.com! We’re here to help, and want to help your book succeed. And, stay tuned for more best practices and success stories in our next Proven Strategies post.

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Twitch – an untapped opportunity to connect with fervent fans

At NetGalley Insights, we have our eyes on internet platforms where we see community, enthusiasm, and fandom. In addition to coverage of YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, we’ve explored Wattpad and Reddit. Today, we’re looking at Twitch and its possible use for publishers.

Twitch is the premier platform for video gamers. Primarily, Twitch users stream live videos of themselves playing video games. Then, other Twitch users watch those streams and chat with each other in the sidebar.  

While most of Twitch is devoted to gaming, there are categories on Twitch for non-gaming content. And its non-gaming community is growing. As of late 2018, Twitch created new content categories to better meet the needs of its non-gaming streamers. Twitch streamers can now upload videos or livestream in categories like Food & Drink, Sports & Fitness, and Talk Shows & Podcasts.

Like Reddit, Twitch skews both millennial and male. According to internal Twitch data, 81.5% of Twitch users are male, with 55% between the ages of 18-34.

81.5% of Twitch users are male, with 55% between the ages of 18-34

Twitch is full of opportunities for publishers and authors to connect to a massive community of pop culture and nerd culture enthusiasts. If your author loves connecting directly with readers, Twitch is a great platform to speak to them.

Some Twitch streamers are already using their accounts to talk about books in their livestream. Often, these videos will end up categorized under Talk Shows & Podcasts, but can also be searched for using keywords in the search bar.

The format of a livestream makes it easier for streamers to connect to their audiences and to foster a real-time conversation. LegendofLorie, NetGalley member and Twitch streamer, told NetGalley Insights that she values “the fact that it is primarily a live platform, so you can quickly interact with your community instead of responding to comments after the fact. You can really incorporate your community into the discussion instead of focusing on one topic of a prerecorded video like YouTube.”

Affiliate links for ChrisChanTor’s Twitch book club

The most popular genres tend to be Science Fiction and Fantasy, which is unsurprising given the fantastical nature of many popular video games. But streamers are not exclusively interested in speculative or fantastical genres. For example, Twitch streamer ChrisChanTor hosts a book club on his channel that has included The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, and more.

Bexyish, a Twitch streamer and NetGalley member, mostly uses Twitch for gaming, but does also incorporate book reviews into her stream. She told NetGalley Insights that she tends to stream herself talking about recent reads over a morning coffee. And her followers are paying attention. After hearing her talk about The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James, one of her followers picked it up. He’s since gone on to read another Lauren James book, The Quiet at the End of the World. Her viewers have also told her that her endorsement of V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic encouraged them to start reading the trilogy.

Twitch streamers are also interested in growing book content on the site.

Vesper Dreams, another Twitch streamer, fantasy fan, and NetGalley member, already uses her Twitch channel to talk about books, but wants to do more.

“I’m hoping to find a way to bring bookworms into the Twitch community and open a way to be able to have live discussions, book clubs, and interviews with authors through social media marketing. I really think it’s time for readers to be able to find a place that they can go to and talk live with people who have the same interests in the same genre as them. I haven’t had a chance to interview any authors yet, but I’m really hoping to find a way to set that up especially live on Twitch instead of the usual text interviews or recorded interviews.”  

In addition to providing publishers with an enthusiastic influencer community, Twitch also offers the chance for creative collaboration and building brand awareness. For instance, publishers could work with streamers to host author interviews, organize readathons, or preview unreleased new content from a hotly-awaited title. Or, if an author is a gamer, publishers could consider working with a streamer to have the author as a “guest star” on their stream, playing one of their favorite games while talking about their next book.  

Gamers are happy to support sponsored content like this, or streamers partnering with companies. According to a 2017 Momentum WorldWide We Know Gamers study, the world of gaming and the world of Twitch is open to influencers partnering with companies. 82% of survey respondents said that sponsorships were good for the industry.

To find Twitch streamers who might be interested in reviewing your books or working with your authors, use keyword searches to see which Twitch streamers are already interested in or talking about relevant genres on their streams. Most streamers have contact info easily visible in their account, including links to social media, if you want to get in touch directly. And if you have a specific kind of game you’d like your author to play as a guest stream, browse the categories to find influential streamers who play that specific game. Books are a growing category on Twitch, and so finding the right partnerships will take some creativity in these early stages, but it’s clear that many streamers are looking to better integrate books into their channel.

Twitch isn’t a platform for every book or every genre. But for the books that intersect with gamer or geek culture, or will resonate with millennial male readers, it is rapidly becoming a powerful resource for finding devoted fans.  

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Putting Reddit on the Radar: Expanding beyond Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads

While many publishers and authors are already using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads, Reddit should also be on your list of go-to social media platforms for connecting with enthusiastic readers.

Reddit, the self-described front page of the internet, is a website where members submit all sorts of content, from aggregated news to kitten videos. It operates by using subreddits. Subreddits are communities within Reddit for members to share information or discuss news and opinions related to that subreddit. Content is up-voted, and the most popular content makes it to r/all, which is one of the early places for content to appear before it goes viral.

There are subreddits for everything, for birds with human arms, goats defying gravity, and just about anything else you can think of. But, there are also subreddits for the hundreds of thousands of book-loving Redditors, too: Books, YA Lit, Fantasy, and audiobooks to name a few of the most popular ones.

Reddit’s most vibrant book conversations happen around personal recommendations. Subreddits like r/SuggestMeABook concentrate explicitly on personal recommendations rather than formal reviews (although a recommendation is, in part, a review). Book clubs are also a strong organizing principle for book talk on Reddit. Some subreddits are specifically designed as book clubs (like r/The Betterment Book Club) and some have a book club component (like r/Urban Fantasy).

Unlike many other popular social media platforms, including the ones with the strongest bookish presences, Reddit skews male. According to Pew, approximately 67% of Redditors are male.

r/Fantasy moderators

For more demographic insight, the subreddit moderators for r/Fantasy have been running a census of their members for the past few years. You can see census results here. Included are self-reports from Reddit fantasy readers about where they buy books, how much they spend on books annually, plus other genres they read in.

Like any other reading community, the moderators on Reddit want to learn more about their communities so that they can provide content that their community will be most excited for. For r/Fantasy, some of this content takes the form of AMAs (“Ask Me Anything”), Writer of the Day, Group Reads, and Book Bingo. All subreddit moderators are listed on the right-hand side of a subreddit’s homescreen.

r/Fantasy AMA schedule

NetGalley member and moderator of r/Fantasy, MikeOfThePalace describes the origins of r/Fantasy’s Writer of the Day program. “The self-publishing boom is one of the best things to happen to publishing in decades, and finding those hidden gems is always amazing (plus hipster bragging rights for reading someone before they were cool, of course). [So] we have our Writer of the Day program specifically for the not-yet-famous. The community knows that Writer of the Day is someone they won’t have heard of, and generally approach them with an attitude of looking for something new and supporting aspiring authors.”

MikeOfThePalace told NetGalley Insights that he and his fellow moderators are already being pitched new authors and titles from publicists across sci-fi publishing to increase visibility for their newest books.

While engaging with Redditors is a bit more convoluted than simply asking for a review, Reddit engagement has the capacity to reach new audiences and to filter up to a much broader audience through up-voting. Publishers could consider submitting their authors for an AMA, sending relevant subreddit mods a NetGalley widget or collaborating on unique ways to boost visibility for their titles for an eager audience.

We hope more publishers will keep Reddit on their radar in the future for social media influencer outreach.

For more on industry best practices, subscribe to our weekly newsletter. And, stay tuned for more Reddit coverage. We’ll be talking about the most powerful tool for publishers and authors on Reddit, the AMA.

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Developing a data strategy with the DIKW Model

We all know that data matters. But for publishers looking to become more data-savvy, it can be hard to know where to start, especially when we are often dealing with qualitative data. Which metrics are important? How do you incorporate data collection and analysis into your workflow? Finding yourself with a glut of data and no real way to interpret or incorporate it isn’t much better than no data at all.

Frameworks for data collection and analysis can help. They provide structuring principles to guide publishers who are developing a data strategy. One that we’ve been thinking about since we attended the Firebrand Community Conference is the DIKW model.

DIKW stands for Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom. The pyramid structure represents a process of refining raw data into actionable insight.

Data refers to information in its raw form. This broadest and lowest tier of the pyramid represents the whole glut of information that’s available to you. In this system, data has no context, but is readily available. It needs to be interpreted.

Information begins the interpretation process by putting that information in context. This might mean answering the who, what, when, where, and why’s of the data from the first block of the pyramid.

Knowledge puts the information you have in context. It might link the information you’ve already gained earlier in the pyramid to other pieces of information or take into account trends or events that happened around the same time as the pieces of information were gathered. This block of the pyramid looks at how the information you have fits into a more global view of a project or an industry.

Wisdom, at the top of the pyramid, is what you do with the knowledge you have. Wisdom determines the path forward given the ways you have interpreted the data. Ultimately, when publishers say that they want to be data-driven, they mean that they want to get to this point of the pyramid, where their next steps are guided by data insights.  

Let’s see this in action with a famous literary example.

  • Data: 031544
  • Information: This is a date – March 14, 44 BCE
  • Knowledge: There was a prophecy (at least in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) to “beware the Ides of March.”
  • Wisdom: If you’re Caesar, consider calling in sick to the Senate.

Now, let’s put it in terms of the information available to publishers within their NetGalley accounts.

  • Data: 589, 82018, 2304, 011819
  • Information: 589 and 2304 are impression counts for two different titles, Title A and Title B. 82018 and 011819 are the dates that each of the titles went live on NetGalley. Title A went live on August 20, 2018 and Title B on January 18, 2019.
  • Knowledge: Both titles were listed as Nonfiction (Adult) and Biographies & Memoir in NetGalley. The publisher booked an eblast for Title B that went out to all NetGalley members who are interested in the Nonfiction category.
  • Wisdom: By comparing two similar titles that fared differently on NetGalley, we can see two differences immediately. Title A was put on NetGalley in the end of summer when many members are on vacation, meaning that they might be less likely to be at their computer requesting new titles to read. The publisher might consider putting titles up earlier in the summer so that members can read them on vacations, or later in the fall when business-as-usual has resumed. Additionally, we can see that booking an eblast seems to have had a huge effect on impressions, which can help the publisher determine where to best spend ad dollars in the future.

The DIKW paradigm isn’t the end-all, be-all of data-centered decision making. Some critics have pointed out that the pyramid is too rigid and hierarchical. We certainly see their point, and recognize that flexibility is a crucial aspect to successful decision-making.

DIKW is best thought of a starting point – a structure that can be tweaked. It’s a way to begin to think about what data points you as a publisher need to be collecting, what context will help make those data points meaningful, and how you can take that information with you into the future. For publishers who are in the process of asking themselves what it means to be data-driven, the DIKW pyramid is a great place to start.

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Making the Most Out of Conference Season

With London Book Fair around the corner, here at NetGalley we’re gearing up for weeks of plane travel, convention centers, and branded pens. Conference season is a crucial time for us to see our clients across the country, to check in about their needs, and to continue building the kinds of rich personal relationships that make this industry vibrant.

In order to make the most out of any conference, it’s best to arrive with a plan. Here’s how we’re planning on getting the most out of conference season.

View from London Book Fair 2018
Photo credit: LondonBookFair.co.uk

Identify your goals

What is it that you want to get out of a conference? Make your goals clear before you arrive, whether just to yourself or with your team. Then, with that in mind, you can plan how to best spend your time. Are you hoping to get an overall sense of industry trends at one of the big trade shows? Make sure to spend some time wandering through the booths to see what patterns you notice. Are you hoping to forge new connections? Make sure to take advantage of sponsored networking opportunities. If you are more junior at your company, use an event to demonstrate your value to your colleagues and learn more about the industry by offering to take notes in client meetings or by writing a conference recap for your team. Conferences can be overwhelming, but if you go in clear about what you are hoping to get out of the experience, you’ll be able to create some structure for yourself.  

Set realistic expectations

It’s unlikely for an indie author to land a whirlwind movie deal for their debut novel at London Book Fair (although it does sound like a meet-cute in a book we’d probably read). London Book Fair has around 25,000 attendees every year, which is quite a crowd. If you hope to land  your big break at a professional conference, you will likely end up disappointed. Instead, focus on smaller and more attainable goals, while remaining flexible enough for surprises. Consider each conference as a chance to grow your professional network by meeting new people who you will keep in touch with over the coming months and deepening your relationships with colleagues across the industry. Remember to do your research ahead of time, too–understanding the audience attending or exhibiting at each conference, and what the main focus of the event is goes a long way toward setting your own expectations and goals.

Go to the seminars and lectures

Take advantage of all the experts giving advice and talking about industry trends. Take a look at the schedule before you arrive at the conference to see which talks you’ll definitely want to attend, and schedule your other meetings around them. Seminars and lectures are perfect opportunities to get inspired by how other folks in publishing are handling the challenges of the industry in new and creative ways. Then, once you’re in the room with colleagues in your field, introduce yourself to the lecturers who you’d like to connect with and say hello to audience members who asked questions relevant to your work. Targeted seminars are great places to forge connections with people who might be working on similar projects. Last year at London Book Fair, there were over 220 programs to attend. This year looks to be just as jam-packed. There’s sure to be something tailored to your specific needs at any of the larger industry gatherings.

Meetings at BookExpo 2018
Photo credit: Bookweb.org

Put faces to names

One of the most important benefits of conferences, especially the huge ones, is that everyone will be there. Use these opportunities to meet people who you only communicate with via email or phone in person. A few weeks before the conference, start asking your colleagues and clients if they’ll be attending, and find the time to get together either for a formal meeting or a casual catch-up. And, even if they won’t be attending, they’ll certainly appreciate being asked. In-person meetings are one of the most important ways to strengthen your professional relationships.

Follow up

You’ll likely leave any professional conference with a stack of business cards. Rather than letting them wither in a filing cabinet, send a quick email introduction after the conference. That way, you’ll still be fresh in each other’s memory, and now you’ve established some digital communication.

Record your impressions

When you’re on the conference floor or talking with colleagues, your mind is likely to be buzzing with new ideas or busy making connections between different aspects of the industry. We recommend writing down these thoughts while you’re still at the conference, or very quickly thereafter. When you return to your regular daily activities, you’ll be able to refer to the inspiration you felt or the trends you saw when you need to zoom out and look at the big picture of your work. It’s worthwhile to revisit these notes throughout the year, too! You may have learned something new since then that casts those earlier experiences in a new light.

Plan your 2020 budgets

After you return from your conferences, keep track of which events were the best fits for your previously-established goals. Which ones were most worth your while and which ones did you go to purely out of habit? Then, when you are planning how best to allocate your budget for next year, you’ll have documentation to refer back to when deciding whether to budget in those same conferences next year.

We’re packing our bags for the next few weeks on the road. Stay tuned for our recaps from some of the conferences we’ll be attending. See you at the convention centers!

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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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Connecting with Bookstore Book Clubs

One of the most powerful ways that a bookstore can compete with digital retailers is by providing something that the algorithm can’t – community. Bookstores host author talks, children’s storytime, and more. Many bookstores also host book clubs as a way to bring in new customers and to cultivate a vibrant atmosphere.  

Some publishers are already working with bookstore-based book clubs and learning about their needs, but we hope that more will take the time to cultivate relationships with indie bookstores through their book clubs.

These bookstore book clubs draw in new readers who become regular customers and active members of the community. Book clubs help readers find out about new genres and new authors that they may not have been previously exposed to, with picks curated by experienced readers. For example, Bella De Soriano joined City Lit’s Graphic Content book club in Chicago because she saw a flier while she was shopping. She wasn’t a big graphic novel or comic reader before but saw it as an opportunity to expand her reading horizons and get connected to some of her neighbors.

When indie bookstores have to compete with the ease and convenience of online retailers, being able to create in-person points of connection is crucial. According to City Lit owner Teresa Kirschbraun, the bookstore’s book club programming has resulted in not only friendships outside of the clubs, but an engagement!

In addition to fostering community, these book clubs help stores gain more loyal customers and build a more dynamic events calendar. Some of the other book clubs at City Lit include the Wilde Readers Book Club for LGBTQ lit, Found in Translation, Women Write Books, Weird and Wonderful Book Club for speculative fiction and fantasy, the Subject to Change Book Club featuring coming-of-age stories, and more. City Lit encourages book club members to purchase through their store by providing a discount to members who have an account with the store.

While many privately-run book clubs function as social gatherings as well as literary ones, book clubs that operate in bookstores are a different beast. Often, they have clear leaders and facilitators who are, in most cases, booksellers themselves. Since joining the Graphic Content book club, De Soriano has taken over some of the organizing of the club. This includes purchasing copies for the book club members and working with City Lit to schedule meeting dates.

Book club leaders think and talk about books for a living, so their relationship to book club picks looks a little different from “civilian” book clubs. They are more plugged into the wider publishing industry, with better understanding about trends that readers are enjoying and knowledge of new titles on the horizon.

Book club leaders at City Lit find titles using industry tools like book awards, as well as keeping tabs on releases from publishers whose work they already like. Kirschbraun explains, “For Found in Translation, [the leader] will review information from publishers of translated books, [like Open Letter Books and New Directions Publishing]. She also looks at other translations by favorite translators. Other booksellers rely on lists of books that have been longlisted or won awards.  Some review modern canon lists. For Women Write Books, the book club leader finds lists of diversity such as women of color or queer women authors.”

Additionally, bookseller-led book clubs tend not to use reading guides. Book club leaders at City Lit look for interviews with the author, book reviews, and find coverage from news media such as Bustle or Huffington Post.

Cosmo Bjorkenheim, who leads the NYC History Book Club at McNally Jackson’s Williambsurg location, agreed. “Mostly any outside material has been supplemental, like an exchange of letters between Robert Caro and Robert Moses right after the publication of The Power Broker, an open letter from Jane Jacobs to Michael Bloomberg from 2005, some maps, some movie clips… Bibliographical information is often useful, as are footnotes and indices. These are helpful for digging deeper into topics mentioned in a book but not elaborated upon.”

While Bjorkenheim does not currently work with any publishers directly for his book club, he hopes to do so for the next book club that he and his colleague will host, the Movie Adaptation Book Club. Interested publishers can email him at Cosmo@mcnallyjackson.com. “We plan on structuring this club a little more carefully, with screenings scheduled between meetings and some kind of thematic arc guiding the readings. There will be more of an emphasis on supplemental materials and something like a “lesson plan” for each meeting.”

Kirschbraun has made a point to tell her reps from publishers about the book clubs at City Lit so that the reps can suggest upcoming books that might suit the booksellers’ and the clubs’ interests.

Check out these other bookstores with robust bookclub programming:

We hope that more publishers will make an effort to get to know the book clubs that exist in the bookstores they work with. Talk to the leaders, learn what kinds of titles their members are most interested in and what sorts of supplemental information would make for a richer discussion.

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