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

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

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

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

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

Thick comes out in paperback on October 1.

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

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

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

What were your goals for Thick on NetGalley? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Read the rest of our case studies here!

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Divider

Case Study: Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest by Lauren McDuffie

How Chronicle is using NetGalley to promote their most anticipated cookbooks

We love when publishers experiment with their titles on NetGalley, especially to try new categories, expand the tools they use to promote their titles on and off the site, and how they involve the authors in the process. That’s why when we saw how Chronicle promoted Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest by Lauren McDuffie, we knew we wanted to share their strategies. 

Chronicle recently started putting cookbooks up on NetGalley, using Read Now availability to save time and ensure the widest possible reach. They are using NetGalley data and reporting to guide internal strategy and to equip their sales teams with early analytics. And, in the case of Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest, involving the author in creating special multimedia extras like a Spotify playlist, and encouraging her to share member reviews on her popular Instagram page.

Cynthia Shannon, Food and Lifestyle Marketing Manager at Chronicle shares the steps behind Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest’s success: 

What were your goals for Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest on NetGalley? 

We wanted to drive early awareness of this debut cookbook by getting reviews in advance of publication. NetGalley is a great way to distribute the eARC of the book among readers who talk about books, whether on NetGalley, Goodreads, Twitter, or their personal blog. It was a key tent pole in our early marketing strategy, which also included the author producing a video trailer and creating a Spotify playlist.  

What did you learn about how cookbooks are received by the NetGalley community?

There is a lot of potential to sharing cookbooks on NetGalley and we are looking forward to exploring more ways to further optimize our NetGalley strategy. Adding cookbooks to NetGalley was a new strategy for us for Spring 2019, and I was pleased to see the overwhelmingly positive response. We saw many NetGalley reviewers commenting on the beautiful photographs and the level of complexity of the recipes or ingredient procurement, and how much they were inspired to try some of the recipes. More importantly, they’d comment about how they can’t wait to get a print edition of the cookbook so that they can add it to their collection. Chronicle Books prides itself on creating beautiful, physical objects that people will want to buy for themselves or as a gift, so having these endorsements helps customers make their book buying decisions.

We’ve increased the number of cookbooks we share on NetGalley in advance of publication for our Fall 2019 list—for example, we have Tartine, Ama, and American Sfoglino, three of our most anticipated upcoming cookbooks, available for review on NetGalley now—and we’re exploring the many tools and services that NetGalley offers to further connect with reviewers.

How important is it for you to have reviews that address the recipes in addition to the other aspects of this book (or other cookbooks)? 

We were curious to see how readers would respond to the unique structure of the book, which is organized by seasons and weaves personal stories and anecdotes about growing up in the Appalachian South with modern recipes and cooking techniques. Reviewer response was overwhelmingly positive—the average rating for the book is 4.3 stars—with many also commenting on the beautiful photography that make this cookbook stand out from the rest. While it’s very regional, we were happy to see that it appealed to readers all over the country.

We loved that Lauren McDuffie created a special Spotify playlist to go along with her book! Tell us how and why you chose to include the playlist in your launch strategy. 

The book was inspired by a song (Emmylou Harris’s version of “Country Roads”) so it seemed like a natural way to evoke the feeling of Appalachia through another medium that could be used in tandem with the book. After all, it’s not unusual to listen to music while cooking, or creating a playlist for a dinner party! It also provides further connection with the author, who took the lead on compiling her favorite songs. We shared the link to the playlist wherever we could incorporate it online, and it provided the author with another way to talk about the book on her blog, Harvest and Honey, and on social media in an authentic and charming way


We ultimately received more than 1,500 impressions and nearly 50 reviews, much more than if we had limited the accessibility.

Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest was available as a Read Now title. Tell us why that was the right availability setting for this book. 

We needed to get the book into the hands of as many readers as possible since the NetGalley audience was going to be critical in driving awareness in advance of publication. We were not concerned about it cannibalizing sales. By allowing readers to access the book as Read Now, it minimized the impact on our limited bandwidth to approve each and every interested reviewer. We ultimately received more than 1,500 impressions and nearly 50 reviews, much more than if we had limited the accessibility. 

How did you use the data and reports available for Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest

We included the link to the NetGalley listing and highlights of reviews in reports to the sales team. This helped shed insights into how customers were responding to the book, so that they could share those insights with their buyers.

Did you share the NetGalley listing for Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest outside of NetGalley? 

We were pleased to see more than half of NetGalley reviewers cross-posted their reviews to Goodreads, which the author in turn shared on Instagram stories. [Learn more about how publishers are using Instagram stories here]. This is a great example of how one marketing activity can be repurposed across multiple platforms to appeal to different audiences

We’re still exploring the many ways to utilize NetGalley in our marketing campaigns. We definitely recognize the value of getting those early reviews to inform our strategies; in fact, we’ve increased the number of books we’re sharing on NetGalley this Fall and will continue to look for new ways to engage with the audience. I have some ideas, and am looking forward to trying them out! 


Cynthia Shannon oversees the marketing for the Food & Lifestyle products at Chronicle Books. Prior to this she worked at Goodreads, Berrett-Koehler, John Wiley & Sons, and Other Press. She was named a 2016 PW Star Watch Honoree and is a graduate of the Stanford Professional Publishing Program as well as New York University. She lives in San Francisco. 

Read the rest of our case studies here, and subscribe to the NetGalley Insights newsletter so that you never miss a post.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Divider

Case Study: No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll

How an activist fantasy writer used xer own experiences as a reviewer to get 80+ NetGalley post-pub reviews for a short story collection

As a reviewer as well as author and indie publisher, Ana Mardoll has a unique perspective about what gets a person excited about a new book. For xer*, it’s instant access, plus concrete information about a book’s content – including possible triggers. Knowing xer own likes, dislikes, and habits as a reviewer helped Mardoll optimize the timing, availability, and Title Details copy for No Man of Woman Born. And xer strategy worked – during its time on NetGalley, No Man of Woman Born earned over 80 reviews, with an average 4-star rating. 

*Xie/xer/xers are the gender neutral pronouns that Mardoll uses. 

As both an activist and a writer, how does writing fantasy provide a platform to explore issues that are important to you, especially around queerness & disability?

The great thing about fantasy is that you have the total power to create your world from scratch. You don’t have to add hatred for queer people and disabled people into your world; that hatred isn’t some mandatory state that all civilizations reach in the journey from fire and the wheel to airplanes and cellphones. You can choose what challenges your characters face and aren’t constrained by the real world. There’s a lot of power in that!

What were your goals for No Man of Woman Born on NetGalley?

My goal was to get reviews and reach a wider audience. As an indie publisher, my marketing budget is extremely low, so book blogs and word-of-mouth sharing from reviewers is very helpful to me. Having been a reviewer myself, I know all too well that we rarely have the time to review everything we request. That helped me set realistic expectations for what to expect, since I knew that a request didn’t equal an eventual review. I was a reviewer for many years and I understand the importance of reviews on a book–and I respect how much work and labor goes into that effort! I’ve always had wonderful experiences with the NetGalley team as a reviewer, so I trusted them to put my book in the hands of reviewers in a respectful, thoughtful manner. I believe they did well.

No Man of Woman Born became available on NetGalley after its publication date. Tell us how you came to use NetGalley as a post-pub tool and why that works for you.

I have ADHD and whenever people hype books in advance of pub date, I get all excited, and then I never end up buying the book because by the time it becomes available I’ve already had my interest snagged by some new shiny thing! (I have the same problem with movie trailers!) So I’m very much about post-publication hype. It doesn’t help your first week sales, true, but as a smaller-name indie that first week isn’t as important to me as the long haul. If I can get people excited about a book that they can then immediately one-click read, review, and buy that very day, that’s a big win for me.

I’m very much about post-publication hype. It doesn’t help your first week sales, true, but as a smaller-name indie that first week isn’t as important to me as the long haul.

No Man of Woman Born was available to any interested member as a Read Now title. Tell us about why you chose that availability setting.

I want to read a book when I request it, not two days later when the publisher clicks the “Approve” button. It’s just an attention span issue–any delay between “I want the thing” and “I get the thing” means I’m less likely to do the thing. Additionally, as the publisher in question I didn’t really want to have to log in and press the approval button; it seemed like my time could be better spent writing.

In your Title Details you note “…these prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character’s gender, even when others do not. Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story.” Tell us why this is important information to include and what you hoped it would tell NetGalley members about your perspective as an author?

A lot of trans literature is inaccessible to a lot of trans readers because a LOT of it is about trans people facing hatred and trauma, even up to and including their own deaths. Trans characters on television are usually victims in crime dramas. There’s effort to change this and broaden the scope of how we’re allowed to see ourselves, but it’s still something to be wary of when approaching a trans book. I wanted to let readers know that wasn’t going to happen here; that no trans characters would be killed, and that any traumas they engaged in would be appropriately trigger warned in advance so they could choose whether they wanted to read that or not.

Where did you leverage your NetGalley listing outside of the site? 

Twitter mostly – that’s where the bulk of my audience is these days. Twitter has been a good platform for me simply because that’s where my audience already is. If I had 20,000 Facebook followers, I’d be sharing there instead or in addition to Twitter. 

 What’s your top tip for authors listing their title on NetGalley?

Make sure your readers know what they’re getting; the majority of my lower-star reviews were from people who didn’t enjoy short stories and hadn’t realized my book was a collection–that’s fair and a good note to me that I need to market the book more clearly in that regard!


Ana Mardoll is a writer and activist who lives in the dusty Texas wilderness with two spoiled cats. Xer favorite employment is weaving new tellings of old fairy tales, fashioning beautiful creations to bring comfort on cold nights. Xie is the author of the Earthside series, the Rewoven Tales novels, and several short stories.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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

Divider

Case Study: The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara

How Harlequin used NetGalley tools to give targeted access to NetGalley members and customize followup for a nonfiction book that combines memoir and history

Harlequin’s publicity manager Laura Gianino knew that there would be plenty of interest for The Lady from the Black Lagoon, which tells the story of the woman who created Gil-Man, the monster from Creature from the Black Lagoon…and then never got the credit for it. This hybrid memoir/history has plenty of contemporary cultural relevance, released during a time when there is extra attention being paid to gender dynamics in Hollywood, in the workplace, and beyond. Gianino used NetGalley tools to give access to the most influential and active members, and to target her followup accordingly.

How does your strategy for launching new nonfiction titles differ from the trade fiction titles you work on?

With fiction, it helps to have as many people as possible read and share a story, especially for a debut title. With nonfiction, I found that I had to be a little bit more protective over the content, so that readers would feel like they were still learning something new when they did have a chance to read. Because The Lady from the Black Lagoon had some never-before-revealed information about Milicent Patrick and what the author learned about her, I was more guarded in approving requests.

What were your goals for Lady from the Black Lagoon on NetGalley?

With The Lady from the Black Lagoon, Mallory O’Meara was telling a compelling story about a woman no one had ever heard of before. Being able to launch the book on NetGalley before physical galleys were even printed allowed me to get the word out about Milicent Patrick—the subject of the book—early enough to help create some pre-publication buzz and raise awareness about this previously unknown figure.

It’s helpful when you’re building a campaign months out (sometimes almost a year out) to be able to see who is downloading or requesting a title, and to have that ability—through the NetGalley platform—to follow up and engage with them. My goal was to raise awareness for The Lady from the Black Lagoon, so that as we got closer to launch date, consumers and media alike would have already begun to hear about the book, even if it was just through whispers.

Which NetGalley members were most important to you? How did you go about reaching them?

I was most focused on bookstore owners, librarians, media professionals and seasoned bloggers who I knew would talk about their passion for the book without giving anything away.

I was able to filter the requests to only those who I wanted to approve, which was instrumental in allowing me to reach the appropriate contacts for the book.

I also tend to focus on the requestors who give the most feedback (you can sort requests to easily view members who give most feedback) and I’ve found that those contacts are truly the most likely to review a book once they’ve requested it, which saves me the hassle of chasing someone down for a review.

The data was one of the first indications about who was interested in the book, and allowed me to do really targeted follow up knowing who had already requested and potentially started reading, in a way that I’m typically unable to do.

You had over 130 accepted widget invitations for Lady from the Black Lagoon. How did you use NetGalley proactively to reach important contacts or find new audiences?

I was able to use NetGalley widgets to offer The Lady from the Black Lagoon to interested media who reached out to me before we had physical galleys in house, or in cases where I was trying to preserve physical galleys. I was able to see Auto-Approved members who downloaded the widget through the History tab on NetGalley, including reviewers from some of the major media outlets who ended up covering the book. The data was one of the first indications about who was interested in the book, and allowed me to do really targeted follow up knowing who had already requested and potentially started reading, in a way that I’m typically unable to do.

40% of members with access noted that the description was the reason they were interested in the book. What was the strategy behind the Title Details copy?

Mallory O’Meara’s book is about a little-known, fascinating subject—the woman who designed Gil-Man, the monster from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, whose legacy was stolen by a jealous male co-worker at Universal. The movie is a horror classic, and Mallory O’Meara’s book offers the unknown story behind it about a trailblazing woman in a post #MeToo world. The book is full of fascinating details—with the copy, we were able to pull them out.

How did you engage with members who had access to Lady from the Black Lagoon? Did you follow up with them before pub date or after? Did you encourage them to share reviews?

I followed up with bookstore owners, librarians and media once I approved them for a copy. Seeing a name or an outlet indicated interest, which allowed me to follow up in a targeted way. I was able to coordinate events and press this way. Whenever I approve someone I always suggest they review, but I never had to chase anyone down for a review.

How does the success of Lady of the Black Lagoon fit in with other trends you’re seeing across nonfiction? What does its success say about what kinds of stories readers are looking for?

I think readers are looking for more stories about women. Especially women who didn’t receive the recognition they deserved, whose legacies have been or are being erased by men. This is happening across all industries, not just Hollywood. Mallory’s book is unique in that it’s a biography, but it’s also part memoir. She reaches across time and shows how Milicent’s story is her story too, and, in some ways, every woman’s story. The more stories we have and share like Milicent’s and Mallory’s, the closer we are to preventing this from happening to other women.


Laura Gianino is a publicity manager at Harlequin/HarperCollins.

Interview has been edited for clarity and length.

For more successful marketing strategies, read our case studies from Sourcebooks, Berkley, and Penguin Random House.

Divider

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.

Divider

Case Study: The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

How Sourcebooks used data from NetGalley & BookishFirst campaigns to land this debut novel on “Best of 2018” lists

When Sourcebooks brought Stuart Turton’s The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle to the U.S., they knew they would have to make a splash with early readers to get this debut novel the attention it deserved.

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of our publishers and share some of their strategies with you in case studies. Today, we’re bringing you an inside peek at how one of the most data-centric publishers uses early metrics to turn their books into successes, first on NetGalley and then in the market. By using data to activate an advanced-reading audience, Sourcebooks turned  7 ½ Deaths into one of the most successful titles on NetGalley in all of 2018 in addition to landingit on multiple year-end lists. It’s due out in paperback on May 7.

Valerie Pierce, Marketing Director at Sourcebooks, shares her strategies below:


The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a debut novel. How did that factor into your overall marketing strategy?

Because The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was a debut, we knew that we needed to launch this title in a very visible way, and we needed to do it very early on. The book came out in September [2018], and as many of us know, that is a very busy month with lots of book releases! Our plan hinged around breaking through the noise by building excitement amongst the industry (media, booksellers, librarians, and bloggers) as well as creating direct-to-consumer engagement. We were able to use strategic trade and consumer advertising campaigns that drove people to sign up for the galley (digital and/or print), and this really helped us create a database of people who were interested in the book. We were able to then go back and retarget those people.

We were very fortunate with this debut because we had an intriguing title, an incredibly unique premise, and an amazing cover. We were conscious of using all of those elements in every piece of marketing. When you ask any reader if they’re interested in an Agatha Christie mystery, with a Groundhog Day loop and a dash of Quantum Leap, you get the reader’s attention 99.9% of the time!

How did your data-driven framework guide this campaign and put The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle on best-of lists from the Guardian and Harper’s Bazaar?

The most important element of a marketing campaign is ensuring that your messaging is on pointe. We did start with great messaging, but we also tested a variety of other options, and then constantly looked back to see what performed at the highest level. Honing in on what worked and dropping what didn’t work was key to helping us create success for The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Honing in on what worked and dropping what didn’t work was key to helping us create success for The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

Which metrics were most important to you and your team, and why?

We have a few key lists that we look at to determine how the pre-publication promotions for a book are performing:

  • Number of leads we capture from advertising campaigns
  • Number of clicks our ads receive
  • Number of NetGalley requests
  • Number of NetGalley cover votes
  • Number of Goodreads to-reads
  • Number of Edelweiss downloads
  • Number of reviews
    • Indies: Indie Next nominations
    • Libraries: LibraryReads nominations

Advertising early on is really important because it shows us how much interest the publishing industry and consumers have. We set a goal for the total number of clicks and number of leads we hope to get from each ad. Once the ad has deployed, and we have our results, we compare them to:

  • Our goals for the book
  • Past performance of our in-house comp titles
  • The average CTRs the advertiser generally receives for specific ad spots

If the number is low, we know we have to stop what we’re doing and completely re-strategize. If the number is average, then we look at ways that we can improve them. And if the number is higher than we anticipate, then it not only means that we’ve got a winning strategy – it also means that this might be a title to pour additional resources into. This could include going back to the sales team and asking them to go back out to their accounts, reallocating budget money so that we can fund more advertising, and going back out to media.

How did you use NetGalley reporting during and after the campaign for  7 ½ Deaths? How did you engage with members who requested access?

We love using NetGalley reporting as an early indicator for the success of titles! First off, when you see a really high number of NetGalley requests, you know that you’ve captured the readers’ attention, which is always the first hurdle. The second metric you look at is the number of downloads vs. the number of reviews, Once people downloaded the book, did they actually go and read it? Did they feel compelled to leave a review? And how much time elapsed between the initial download and the review?

The next thing we do is we look at the language that people use in their reviews. If there are terms that are being used by multiple reviewers, then we look at incorporating that into our marketing messaging.

We absolutely engage with members who requested access. For booksellers and librarians, if we’ve noticed that they have downloaded the galley but not reviewed it, we’ll send them a quick email with all of the great blurbs/reviews we already have and ask them if they’ve had a chance to read the book yet.

For consumers who submitted positive reviews, we’ll ask them to post their reviews anywhere and everywhere they can around pub day.

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

Honestly, I think each segment is important, but each book and each campaign is just a little bit different. Depending on the campaign you’re running, the segment that will have the most impact might change. For The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, booksellers and librarians were a huge part of the initial push. We always include NetGalley links in all of our B2B newsletters. It’s absolutely vital that we give bookseller and librarians an opportunity to click over and download a galley right away.

We put this eGalley up extremely early so that we could reach them first, and use their amazing reviews to go back out to media and consumers.

How did your NetGalley marketing strategy differ from other marketing or advertising efforts you put forward?

The biggest difference is the way that NetGalley is structured. They have a list of dedicated readers, and they have an online platform that allows those readers to easily download a digital galley and then review it. A lot of our other marketing and advertising efforts involve driving readers to a landing page that we’ve created, or a page that the advertiser created.

NetGalley is also great because you can see an immediate result once you’ve sent out any advertising through them. Either you significantly increased your number of downloads, or you didn’t!

You ran a raffle on BookishFirst for The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. What insights did you learn from or about the consumers who participated in that raffle?

More than half of the people who participated bought more than 20 print books per year, which tells you that BookishFirst has tapped into avid readers.

I did learn that there were definitely some librarians on that list, which is great! I had a couple of librarians approach me at a trade show and tell me that they’d tried to get a copy of 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle through the raffle, and that they were disappointed when they didn’t win. It’s great to see how excited readers are to win a book through this offering.

Overall, I think the raffle is really brilliant. Since readers have to read an excerpt of the book before they request to enter the raffle, you know that you’re reaching the right reader for your book. The raffle is also especially helpful because BookishFirst really makes sure that the people who receive the books go and send in a review, which we love.

The reporting we received from BookishFirst was very helpful. It was great to know that more than half of the people who participated bought more than 20 print books per year, which tells you that BookishFirst has tapped into avid readers. And most avid readers are mini-influencers; they tend to be the people who tell their friends what books to read next, For this book in particular, a lot of readers had a very strong interest in YA, which is not something we would have thought about on our end. It’s always fantastic to learn information that can help you target a new audience.  


Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Read the rest of our case studies here for more successful strategies.

Bio: Valerie Pierce is the marketing director, retail marketing and creative services, at Sourcebooks, an independent publishing company. For the past 8 years she has helped lead the Sourcebooks marketing team, doubled the size of the retail marketing staff, worked directly with Indie booksellers, initialized email marketing campaigns, helped relaunch imprints, created trade show strategies, and managed title plans across all imprints. She has worked on bestsellers and Indie Next Picks such as The Readers of Broken Wheel, The Paris Architect, The Only Woman in the Room, and The Radium Girls. When she is not promoting books, Valerie can most likely be found reading them.

Divider

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.

Divider

Companion Audio Strategy for The Unwinding of the Miracle (Penguin Random House)

Julie Yip Williams, author of The Unwinding of the Miracle, knew she would never see whether readers liked her book. The Unwinding of the Miracle shares Yip Williams’s experiences and thoughts as she approached her death from colon cancer. Through the book she wonders about what the lives of her husband and daughters will look like, and finds the miraculous in the most universal human experience — death. Published posthumously on Feb. 5 by Random House, The Unwinding of the Miracle is a New York Times bestseller.

The team at Random House helped raise the memoir’s profile through a unique audio strategy. Beyond typical plans to advertise on podcasts, they decided to take it a step further for the release of The Unwinding of the Miracle. In collaboration with Pineapple Street Media, Random House created a 4-episode companion podcast, Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle.

The podcast featured audio interviews with Yip Williams as well as audio from some of the last visits her family had with her before her death. Listeners could hear Yip Williams talking about how she decorated her bedroom so that she’d have somewhere beautiful to die and making plans to haunt her family members. In the final episode, the surviving family members and friends talk about the ways that they feel Yip Williams’s presence after her death.

As of February 27, 2 weeks after the final episode was released, the podcast ranks number 51 for all Health podcasts on iTunes, with over 600 reviews and an average of 4.5 stars. The podcast was featured on Call Yr Girlfriend through a sponsorship from Pineapple Street Media and on All Things Considered.

Investing in a collaboration with expert podcasters resulted in a well-paced and compelling narrative with high production values. Pineapple Street Media is a well-established podcasting company. They produce, among other shows, Still Processing from the New York Times and were behind the chart-topping Missing Richard Simmons. Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle’s producer Eleanor Kagan comes from a well-established audio background, having worked previously for both NPR and Buzzfeed.

We chatted with Leigh Marchant, Director of Marketing & Business Development at Random House about Julie: The Unwinding of the Miracle and their companion audio strategy.

How did you decide to create a podcast for The Unwinding of the Miracle?

Our Random House Editor-in-Chief, Andy Ward, and I had been talking about doing a podcast with our mutual contact, Max Linsky, from Pineapple Street Media. As all great projects start, we pitched him a few ideas over lunch and decided that Julie’s story would make for an incredibly compelling podcast. We thought having Julie’s story told in both book form and via podcast would be a really interesting project—that instead of being restricted by only telling this story in one format, we could have them complement and inform each other.

What kinds of audiences were you hoping to access with the podcast?

We think that podcast listeners are readers, and readers are podcast listeners. We have seen some consumer insights reports that show media affinities for some of our authors and titles, and podcasts are definitely included in there. Of course, certain podcasts appear more frequently in our data than others but we do think there is listener/reader overlap.

So we were hoping to draw attention to the book through the podcast audience – and vice versa. The two projects – the podcast and the book – are meant to be complementary. In other words, if you read the book, you will want to hear more from Julie and her family and friends through the podcast. And if you listen to the podcast, you’ll want more in the book. Both the podcast and the reading experience deliver in such a strong way. The content of the two projects is actually different but together provides an incredible understanding of what Julie and those who are terminally ill are grappling with.

Both the podcast and the reading experience deliver in such a strong way. The content of the two projects is actually different but together provides an incredible understanding of what Julie and those who are terminally ill are grappling with.

How is that audience different from — or the same as — the audience you were connecting with through other parts of the campaign?

We are always looking to reach readers through our campaigns and one of the ways we do that is actually via podcast advertising! So creating the podcast was a great way to reach some of our target audience. We were hoping to reach readers of books like When Breath Becomes Air, The Middle Place and The Bright Hour. Also we targeted readers of medical memoirs, followers of Julie’s blog, as well as parents.

But of course the goal for any book is to reach the right readers and we knew that if we could capture an expanded audience via the podcast, they would likely be interested in the book as well.

How did you balance creating a rich and emotionally resonant podcast with leaving enough unanswered for the listener so that they would want to read the memoir?

That was a main concern at the start of the project. We didn’t want to cannibalize either project so we were careful to keep the content different enough, yet complementary. In the podcast, you hear from Julie’s family and friends. The book is just Julie’s words and thoughts. The two forms work so well together though. Each project is so powerful, so moving, so compelling. But together they offer such a complete portrait of Julie’s incredible life and, later, her battle with cancer.

How does companion audio fit into your strategies for other titles?

We are always looking for new ways to reach readers – on whatever platform they are consuming content. Podcasts are a great way to do that and we will continue to explore opportunities in that space – when it makes sense. We have a number of other podcasts through our corporate group coming. But we’re also exploring other multi-media platforms, as well. We also just launched an Alexa Skill called Good Vibes. Our goal is to connect readers (and listeners) to great books via the platforms where they are already consuming content.


Be sure to subscribe to NetGalley Insights for more strategies from successful marketing campaigns, audio coverage, and more!

Divider

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.

Divider

Case Study: The Kiss Quotient

How Berkley turned a debut novel into a smash hit using social influencer marketing

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Jessica Brock, Senior Publicist & Digital Media Strategist at Berkley about The Kiss Quotient.

Published in May 2018, this modern romance featuring a heroine with Aspergers has been both well-reviewed and enthusiastically embraced by readers. And, it even has a movie deal!

One place that The Kiss Quotient really resonated was on social media. BookTubers posted video reviews and Bookstagrammers placed it in aesthetically pleasing shots. Jessica knew that putting The Kiss Quotient into the hands of social media influencers was going to be an important part of building its buzz. And, she even used the campaign as an opportunity to build her network of social media influencers! Learn more about her strategy in the interview below.

Tell us about your strategy for getting influencers excited about The Kiss Quotient.

Immediately upon finishing The Kiss Quotient I knew it was going to be something special. The first step for me was determining how to shout “READ THIS BOOK!” to the widest audience possible. This story isn’t just for traditional romance readers and I wanted to make sure people knew that. The campaign began with a cover reveal and excerpt on Bustle, hitting a key, younger female demographic. The cover popped, Helen’s personal stake in the story intrigued readers, and the excitement began.

After that, my main goal was growing steady interest in the book among bloggers, Bookstagrammers, and bookish influencers. Providing early galleys and e-galleys was a big part of that, as well as continual coverage on Berkley Romance’s social media platforms. This is a perfect example of “Oh, I’ve seen that!” publicity awareness. In my outreach to influencers, I talked about The Kiss Quotient like I would with a friend, with delighted squeals, OMG’s, and BAE’s included. I also specifically asked that they “help me tell the world about this book” via Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Facebook. I didn’t have a platform preference because I wanted to reach as many readers as possible. I do think that Bookstagram played a major part though as the cover is quite ‘grammable. On a visually driven platform, The Kiss Quotient stands out beautifully.

How do you build relationships with influencers as a publisher?

One of my main responsibilities at Berkley is communicating and cultivating relationships with media contacts and influencers, in particular those who focus on romance. Romance bloggers are the backbone of the online romancelandia community and I absolutely love working with them. I send out two curated monthly newsletters to romance-focused bloggers and media contacts, chat with people on Twitter and Facebook, and generally try to keep up with what folks are reading, because romance bloggers are ravenous readers. We do our best to get them galleys as early as possible with the hope they will read and love our books and ultimately share reviews around the release dates.

Instagram – @book_junkee

How did you let influencers know about The Kiss Quotient and how did you give them access to read it? What was your balance between proactive outreach and responding to requests?

I sent pre-approved NetGalley widgets to a large list of media contacts and influencers. [Widget invites accounted for 26% of all members with access on NetGalley, so this strategy was highly effective!]. I also sent out a number of print galleys in fun packaging (I love color coordinating!) that I hoped would encourage them to share images immediately on their social platforms, mainly Instagram as it is so visual. I knew the “Look how pretty” appreciation at the beginning would morph into the “Omg this book is amazing” attention as soon as they began reading and that they would share those thoughts on their social media as well.


Custom eblasts sent to NetGalley and BookishFirst members drew requests on NetGalley and previews on BookishFirst.

I also dedicated a lot of time to responding to requests for the book. There were numerous BookTubers and reviewers who requested The Kiss Quotient that I had never worked with before. Granting them access to the book and getting to know their channels and sites has been a great way to start successful working relationships with many of them. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the benefit of some light internet stalking! If someone posted about The Kiss Quotient on Instagram, I would check the comments to see if they were from other influencers that I could also approach for review or feature coverage and I did the same with Goodreads. Twitter searches also proved very useful as the title of this book is pretty unique so I could easily see who was talking about it without having to filter through a lot of non-book related posts.

Aside from working with social media influencers, what other strategies did you employ for The Kiss Quotient?

I secured a lot of mainstream media attention, including The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Buzzfeed, which piqued other outlets’ interest in the book and Helen’s personal story. I highlighted The Kiss Quotient’s strengths, joined the excited conversations with early reviewers, and reached out to other authors whom I thought would love Helen’s book as much as I did. Support from fellow authors can make a significant difference in reader awareness and publicity opportunities.

Jessica is a Senior Publicist and Digital Media Strategist at Berkley who manages the romance social media accounts and works with authors like Helen Hoang, Jasmine Guillory, Alexa Martin, Samantha Young, Uzma Jalaluddin, and more. A self-proclaimed Slytherpuffenclaw, she loves to read YA as well as romance and dark-and-twisty thrillers.


Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Check out the rest of our case studies here!

Divider