Dispatch from Digital Book World

“You don’t have to do anything the way you’ve been doing it”

Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation opened Digital Book World with a keynote about innovation and experimentation, backed by practical takeaways for attendees. She told the audience, “You don’t have to do anything the way you’ve been doing it.” 

Lisa Lucas’s keynote was emblematic of most of the conversations at Digital Book World. Panelists and presenters explained their projects, companies, and initiatives while also sharing the practical tools and processes that they used to accomplish their goals. 

Tools 

Margot Atwell, winner of the DBW’s Outstanding Achievement Award and Head of Publishing at Kickstarter,sang the praises of Airtable to NetGalley Insights during a coffee break. She told us that the combination spreadsheet and database was indispensable for her when putting together the inaugural The Next Page: Creating the Future of Publishing, a full day of conversations shared digitally and available for free to foster a more inclusive, fair, and vibrant publishing landscape.

Margot Atwell presenting at Digital Book World

Amy Metsch and Dan Zitt of Penguin Random House Audio are expanding PRH’s audio offerings by going after new genres. They are transforming theater productions like Angels in America, graphic novels like Roller Girl, and Spanish language books like La primera regla del punk into audiobooks. Like any team going through a growth period, the PRH Audio team needed to develop a more streamlined and centralized ways of casting these audiobooks, many of which feature a full cast. To support their audio expansion, PRH developed an audio talent database called Ahab, which now has the profiles of 3,000 actors all over the world. They’ve used Ahab to match narrators and voice actors to their increasing roster of projects, plus expand their pool of talent beyond the actors that they already know. And soon other publishers will be able to use Ahab to find the right audio talent for their projects. 

Eleanor Long and Trevor Young, co-founders of indie animation studio Tapocketa, showcased their interactive children’s book Galdo’s Gift (which won multiple awards at DWB 2018, including Best Overall Book) and gave a sneak preview of their new interactive storytelling project, The Locksmith. They also shared the tools that they use to get this work done – from communication and productivity tools like Slack and Teux Deux (both of which are beloved by the NetGalley team) to animation software like Affinity and Hype.

Process 

Bluefire founder and CEO Micah Bowers shared the winding journey of the Bluefire Reader. We were surprised to learn that one of the earliest prototypes was an EPUB 2 compliant e-reader for a Sony Playstation device. The audience also learned that Bluefire was originally intended to contain both an e-reader and a virtual bookstore, plus the original conception of Adobe Digital Editions was an in-browser reader rather than a desktop app.
Bowers shared the roadblocks, surprises, and coincidences in Bluefire’s history, including the recent removal of Bluefire from the Android store (although it is still in the iOS store, and anyone who already has it on their device can still use it). In addition to providing the audience with a unique vantage point to think about the history of e-reading, Bowers’s talk was a lesson in how companies can respond to the unexpected with agility and creativity. Bluefire’s journey was full of iterations, failures, and pivots, all of which are crucial for anyone looking to be at the edge of technological innovation. 

Charlotte Abbott, founder of FutureProof Content Strategy, gave the audience a framework for thinking about creating brand stories that drive results. For Abbott, these stories “spark direct, ongoing connections with your customers, build community with customers and stakeholders, and drive revenue on a platform you own.” She used Berrett-Koehler’s 2017 online Servant Leadership Summit as a case study to demonstrate a simple framework for building those stories. Clear articulation of mission, goal, and story are the key to creating compelling narratives that bring in audiences and keep them engaged with your work. Seeing some raised eyebrows, she made it plain that even for for-profit companies, everyone has an overarching mission, even if it’s as simple as “produce world-class books and make a profit.” Abbott reminded the audience that publishers are “storytelling natives,” and advised us not to forget our storytelling skills when we are building our own brands. 

Charlotte Abbott presenting at Digital Book World

Audible’s Strategic Content Partnerships Manager Shira Schindel also gave a step-by-step structure, but for partnerships between companies and organizations. She instructed the audience to think of partnerships like stories; complete with plot, characters, goals, and challenges. Plot encompasses your company’s history and the history of a potential partner, plus the new directions for both of those companies. Character helps you figure out if you are connecting with the right person at another company. The goal crystallizes your objectives and your counterpart’s mandate from their company. And then the challenge helps you address potential limitations. She gave examples of recent Audible partnerships with Minetta Lane Theater and Alaska Airlines to show how this story-centric partnership structure lets both parties find meaningful and effective collaborations.

Joshua Tallent, Firebrand’s Director of Sales and Education, as he is wont to do, was sharing metadata best practices. And in addition to reminding publishers how crucial it is to fill in even the most basic metadata fields, he made some practical suggestions for how teams can best ensure that their metadata is being refreshed regularly and successfully sent to the appropriate retail partners. He advised publishers to have a dedicated position on staff for metadata. While editorial, marketing, legal, and other departments have a vested interest in metadata changes, he encouraged publishers to designate a point person. Then, he suggested scheduling regular metadata updates, monthly if possible. That way, publishers can have a built-in structure to check that their data is current, and can quickly see if anything has gone amiss. Plus, he also noted that Eloquence on Alert is a powerful tool to monitor any changes to books’ metadata across retail providers.


We’re leaving Digital Book World 2019 with our heads buzzing with new ideas and with some concrete strategies to implement more experimentation, more collaboration, and more innovation. 

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Mark your calendars: September 2019

Upcoming conferences, panels, webinars, and networking opportunities 

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

As soon as fall starts, publishing kicks into high gear again. That means a month full of events about the big picture – digital and technological innovation, broad overviews of a book’s lifecycle, inside looks at publishing houses, and events that bring together readers, authors, and industry professionals. 

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

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Digital Book World

Conference – Strategy

Sept. 10-12, Nashville

“Thought leadership, best practices, and the gathering of community across the wide world of publishing.”

IBPA: “Ask an IBPA Board Member” Webinar Series: Robin Cutler, Ingram Spark

Webinar – Professional Development

Sept. 10

“During IBPA’s monthly “Ask an IBPA Board Member” speaker series, IBPA members meet and discuss book industry trends with a member of IBPA’s Board of Directors. The series features a different IBPA Board member each month, ensuring that IBPA members receive a unique point of view each time they join. Robin Cutler is committed to helping independent publishers easily get their content into the hands of readers around the globe. To help make this happen, Robin Cutler leads the development of IngramSpark and continues to support and refine the platform to better serve independent publishers around the world. Robin has broad knowledge of indie, academic and trade publishing and is an expert in content creation and distribution, on-demand models, marketing and author strategies. Robin is a leader in the independent publishing space, and when not developing new programs and services for IngramSpark, she can often be found sharing her expertise at industry events around the world.”

BISG: Book Publishing from Concept to Consumer

Conference – Professional Development

Sept. 16, Chicago

“Book Publishing: From Concept to Consumer” serves entry-level and mid-level professionals working across the book publishing supply chain. This career-development opportunity provides anyone interested in book publishing with a broader look at the life cycle of a book, from conception, development, and manufacturing to retailing and libraries. With detailed sessions on acquisition, editorial, production and design, distribution, returns, retailing, and libraries, this full-day event will build your understanding of book publishing as a whole. Topics covered will be more ‘how-to’ than ‘what-if,’ with practical advice and instruction provided by industry veterans.” [Check out our recap of last year’s Book Publishing from Concept to Customer].

Brooklyn Book Festival

Book Fair – Literary Event 

Sept. 16-23, NYC

Open to all, “the Brooklyn Book Festival is one of America’s premier book festivals and the largest free literary event in New York City. Presenting an array of national and international literary stars and emerging authors, the Festival includes a week of Bookend Events throughout New York City, a lively Children’s Day and a celebratory Festival Day with more than 300 authors plus 250 booksellers.”

Audio Publishers Association: Fall 2019 Social

Networking – Audio

Sept. 17, NYC

“Join us for ​2 hours of networking and fun with fellow APA members.”

BISG: Market Opportunities: Rights & Technology

Panel Program – Rights

Sept. 26, NYC

“This BISG series aims to demonstrate areas of potential growth, as well as cutting edge trends that could signify where the industry is heading.” This month the focus is on rights and technology.

Society for Scholarly Publishing: Early Career Edition: Falling into a Scholarly Publishing Career

Webinar – Academic Publishing

Sept. 26

“Are you just dipping your toes in the publishing world, or are you here for the long haul? What does a career in publishing mean in 2019, now that the digital transformation has finally taken hold? Wondering how to find the best fit for your background and skill-set? Join us to hear from an exciting slate of publishing professionals about the highlights, challenges, and responsibilities of their own roles, as well as the routes they took to get there – in just a few minutes each. A Q&A segment will follow the lightning presentations.”

BIGNY: Basically Books: Fall 2019

Workshop – Professional Development

Sept. 27, NYC

“We will cover: 

  • Manuscripts, Editing and Design: the first steps in “making a book”
  • Prepress: what you need to do to get ready for press, including a look at color, color management and proofing
  • Paper: all you need to know about paper
  • P&Ls: an overview
  • Printing and Binding
  • Digital Printing: a primer on the process                                          

There will be guest speakers for each step in the process. This program is absolutely free and is sponsored by the Book Industry Guild of New York. For more information or to sign up, please contact: Steve Bedney / 516-650-5251 / sbedney@gmail.com

UK


Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers: ALPSP Annual Conference & Awards 2019

Conference – Academic Publishing

Sept. 11-13, Old Windsor

“Our conference is a key date in the scholarly publishing calendar and attracts an audience of over 300 people from all sectors and levels of the scholarly communications industry. Spread over three days, the event provides a relaxed and friendly environment in which to share information and knowledge, learn about new initiatives, as well as engage in open discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing publishing today. Our expert speakers and the wide ranging programme ensure that our annual conference remains a must attend event for everyone involved in the scholarly publishing community. We also provide ample opportunity for networking with fellow delegates during coffee breaks, lunch and in the evening at our two social events (Welcome Reception and Awards Dinner).”

BookMachine: BookMachine Meets Bloomsbury

Panel Program – Strategy

Sept. 19, London

“Step inside Bloomsbury Publishing as we go into their London headquarters for a closer look at how they stay creative and strive to push the boundaries of publishing. For one night only, we’ll bring together four of Bloomsbury’s most energetic staff members to talk about how they stay creative in their roles in Editorial, Marketing and Sales and engage with colleagues, retailers and book lovers around the world. This unique event at the Bloomsbury Institute – Bloomsbury’s public events series – will feature exclusive stories and experiences from the team. Join them for a lively discussion on everything you need to know about publishing right now.”

BookMachine: Audio Across Publishing: How to Deliver More Bang for Your (Audio) Buck

Panel Program – Audio

Sept. 25, London

“Audio isn’t just about one format of a publishing programme. It has the potential to enhance your list as well as the publishing industry as a whole. It’s not just about a product revenue stream. Audio can boost marketing and publicity, enhance an author’s relationship with their readers, and encourage more people to listen then read. Join our panel of passionate audio publishers for an insightful look at how far audio publishing can take your business in 2019.”

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6 Places to Look to Keep Up With Voice Technology

Voice technology is a rapidly growing field, and it has been changing publishing for some time now. According to Voicebot’s 2018 Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Report, a combined 135.8 million U.S. adults use voice assistants every month – both on their smartphones and smart speakers, with 66.4 million of those incorporating a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Home in their house. 

Most publishers are already aware of some ways that voice technology can be a new way to connect with readers. For instance, Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant, can play you an Audible audiobook or read you a Kindle book. Beyond simply playing audiobooks, some publishers are going even further, and using Alexa Skills to enhance the reach of their content. For example, Penguin Random House told NetGalley Insights about their Alexa Skill, Good Vibes, which lets a user ask Alexa to read them inspiring quotes from the PRH catalog. Capstone has bundled interactive stories by adding 50 different You Choose books, previously published as print books, to Amazon, where Alexa can then serve the new interactive content in an audio format. These are placed into 12 themed bundles, helping   young readers listen to and engage with stories like “Justice League Adventures” and “Scooby Doo Mysteries.”

Are you keeping up with the trends in voice technology? Publishers should stay up to date in order to remain competitive in a shifting industry. But it can be hard to know where to look. We’ve rounded up some of the most important resources for keeping track of changes in voice technology and its implications for the publishing industry.

Voicebot.ai & Voice Tech Podcast

If you’re looking for inspiration, Voicebot.ai is the go-to place for research on voice technology and news from the people on the cutting edge. Their research section includes reports on everything from Voice Assistant SEO to In-Car Voice Assistant Adoption. The tone is very pro-voice technology and pro-startup culture. Its audience appears to be voice industry professionals who want to give their voice tech a fighting chance in a changing and growing industry. They have a weekly newsletter that you can subscribe to for roundups of their latest news and data.

Editor and publisher of Voicebot.ai Bret Kinsella also hosts the Voice Tech podcast where he interviews leaders in the field of voice technology. Guests are usually founders and CEOs of voice tech-based startups. To get started, check out episode 105, where panelists discuss their favorite moments from Voice Tech’s first 100 episodes. It’s a great introduction to the kinds of guests that appear on Voice Tech and what sort of perspectives you can expect to hear.

Hot Pod

To learn more about trends and predictions in podcasting and on-demand audio, check out Hot Pod. Hot Pod is a weekly newsletter run by Nick Quah that details this news in the audio and voice-tech world.If you attended this year’s APA Conference, you likely heard Quah give the breakfast keynote. Subscribe to this newsletter to keep up with how major audio players like Spotify are developing their audio strategy, Apple’s entrance into unique audio content, plus Quah’s predictions about the future relationship between podcasts and audiobooks. Hot Pod combines both news and analysis, making it a useful resource for keeping up with new audio companies, acquisitions, partnerships, and more. 

Edison Research

For digital media consumer behavior, you can’t beat Edison Research, a marketing research firm that works with clients like NPR, Sirius XM, and others. Their Infinite Dial survey has been tracking consumer behavior since 1988. Here are the 2019 Infinite Dial survey results. While Edison Research isn’t as news-based as other resources, it’s an industry standard for data and statistics and to chart change over time. Check out their Smart Audio report in partnership with NPR or subscribe to their Podcast Consumer Quarterly Tracking Report to start. 

What’s New in Publishing

What’s New in Publishing, like many other media trade publications, covers news, advice, and trends across the industry. While not specifically book-publishing focused, they cover digital innovations and technology that affects publishers of all kinds. To start, check out their guide to different voice interfacesand a warning about ignoring voice technology.

TechCrunch

For a broader look at consumer concerns and interests, TechCrunch offers a wide range of information. While TechCrunch is a general interest website that covers the tech industry more broadly, rather than a specific voice or audio focus, it is still an important source of voice and audio news. Because it reaches a general population rather than a specific industry audience, you can use it to keep up with consumer concerns, rather than just those from the publishing industry or the voice tech industry. For example, concerns about privacy and security in voice assistants,news about voice tech and children’s entertainment, and the latest updates from audio heavyweight Spotify.We recommend either signing up for their newsletters or following them on Twitter.

The Verge

For general news about privacy, updates in voice assistant technology, and voice assistant integrations into other technologies, check out The Verge. Owned by Vox Media, The Verge began with the belief that “technology [has] migrated from the far fringes of the culture to the absolute center as mobile technology created a new generation of digital consumers.” Like TechCrunch, the Verge is designed for a popular audience rather than one of industry insiders. You can sign up to receive one of their newsletters or follow them on Twitter.

As NetGalley explores its own future with audio, we’ll be covering the most important changes in audio and voice technology here on NetGalley Insights. And, if you are also interested in the future of publishing and technology, find us at Digital Book World. Reach us at insights@netgalley.com to set up a time to talk.

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Maximizing Category Interest on NetGalley

You already know that NetGalley is a data-driven service. But did you know that in addition to giving publishers access to book-specific information about performance and member interest, we are also working with our own data scientist to dig into site-wide activity? We’re looking at data across publishers, categories, and years to examine trends and help publishers capture NetGalley members’ attention.

In this article, you’ll learn about opportunities you may be overlooking to reach readers interested in some underserved categories on NetGalley.

As a general rule, NetGalley functions as a microcosm of the book retail market. The titles and categories that perform strongly on NetGalley tend to also sell the most once they go on sale. This means that publishers can use NetGalley as an early indicator of success. The top 5 most popular categories on NetGalley are Teens & YA, Mystery & Thrillers, General Fiction, Romance, and Sci Fi & Fantasy. But there are plenty of other categories where you’ll find an enthusiastic readership on NetGalley!

While looking at this data, we discovered several categories with high median impressions (lots of views), but a relatively low number of books in the category. This means that there is less competition for more views!

Our data scientist helped us compare median impressions versus number of titles in each category on NetGalley, and we were able to discover which categories have a hungry audience and opportunity to expand the number of available books. 

The data set includes all books on NetGalley.com that were published between January 1 – December 31, 2018. We looked at the median impressions (views of the title details page) to ensure that extreme outliers of activity would not skew the data too much in one direction or another. The median number refers to the midpoint of the observed values, meaning that there is an equal probability of falling above or below it.

While looking at this data, we discovered several categories with high median impressions (lots of views), but a relatively low number of books in the category. This means that there is less competition for more views! Here are a few examples:

By comparison, some of the very popular categories like Romance and Mystery & Thrillers included many more titles, making the competitive field more challenging. (Romance: 706 median impressions and 2,224 titles. Mystery & Thrillers: 748 median impressions and 1,523 titles).

Keep in mind that some of the highest performing titles within these underserved categories are cross-listed in a second category. While this does mean that some of the impressions for these titles likely came from members browsing other categories, the success of cross-listed titles indicates the effectiveness of the strategy. Publishers can assign two different categories for each book on NetGalley, which we always recommend for increasing discoverability. 

For example, Bad Man (which was one of the top-performing Horror titles of 2018) is listed in both Horror and General Fiction. This means that members who were browsing in either Horror or General Fiction were able to discover Bad Man, and request it if it piqued their interest. If they browsed in both categories, they saw it twice! In total, only 13 books were cross-listed in these two particular categories in 2018. Similarly, Honeybee was one of the top-performing New Adult titles in 2018, and was cross-listed with Poetry. Some of the most common category combinations include General Fiction + Mystery & Thrillers, Romance + LGBTQIA, and Teens & YA + Sci Fi & Fantasy. 

Publishers also took advantage of on-site marketing to give their titles a boost in these categories. For example, The Kill Jar benefited from Category Spotlights in both Nonfiction and True Crime while it was active for requests, as well as a Dedicated eBlast targeted to members interested in True Crime and a list of comp titles—all of which helped it to become one of the most successful True Crime books on NetGalley in 2018. 

If you ever have questions about how to best position your titles on NetGalley in order to connect with readers who are most likely to advocate for your books, email concierge@netgalley.com

We are continually working with our data scientist to delve deeper into publisher and member activity, and will be sharing more of our findings here on NetGalley Insights. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter so that you don’t miss any upcoming data-driven strategies.

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Sona Charaipotra is bringing joyful and organic diversity to publishing

How CAKE Literary makes space for new voices and untold stories, “baking” diversity into every book. 

According to the most recent statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin Madison, there are more children’s books about animals than there are about African, African Amerian, Asian Pacific Islander, Asian Pacific Islander, Latinx, American Indian, and First Nations children combined

Sona Charaipotra is one of the many people in the publishing industry whose work is changing those statistics. As an author and co-founder of CAKE Literary, she is bringing more diverse books into the world. She recently told NetGalley Insights what kinds of stories she is passionate about sharing with the public, how it feels to be making room for underrepresented voices in publishing, and what’s on the horizon for CAKE Literary through 2020 and beyond.

What is the origin story behind CAKE Literary? 

Dhonielle and I met the first day of class in our MFA program in Writing for Children at the New School. We bonded pretty quickly — talking about our favorite books and TV shows and sharing our work over pepperoni pizza at Patsy’s. One of the things that always came up in our conversations was how rarely we got to see ourselves as the hero of the story as kids, a fact that held true for my own kids even back in 2012. So we decided to do something about it, both with our own stories and eventually in founding CAKE Literary, which is a boutique book packager with a decidedly diverse bent. Like Alloy or Glasstown Entertainment, we’re not a publisher or an agency, but specifically a packager, which means we come up with fun, creative, big concepts, find the right voice to tell the story, then walk the writer through the publishing process. 

What need does CAKE Literary serve in the industry? What problem does it address or what hole does it fill?

A lot of times with publishing, especially when it comes to stories by people of color, it’s easy to presume that pain is what sells. But I think recent successes have shown time and again that we are also allowed to celebrate the joy in our communities. Our focus is on lifting marginalized voices and showing that we, too, can be the ones to save the day, to find love, to become heroes of our own joyful stories. I think the joy part of it is so critical. Yes, our stories tackle meaty, real issues, but they also put fun front and center. 

How are diversity and inclusion “baked in” to CAKE Literary as a central part of its business model & vision?

We envision the diversity of our stories to be organic, in the sense that it’s ever-present, but it’s not the main thrust or plot of the story. It’s in the very bones of the world building, and it helps shape and define every part of the character and point of view. It’s truly baked in, in the sense that it sort of disappears the way an egg does when you bake a cake — it’s necessary and ever-present, and you can’t really remove it. You wouldn’t have the same cake if you did. Our first series, Tiny Pretty Things, is pitched as Pretty Little Liars at a cutthroat Manhattan ballet conservatory — completely high concept and fun, right? But it’s got three very different POVs, and each is grounded in who the girls are as people. Gigi is black, from California, and the new girl. June is half-Korean, from Queens, and struggling with both food and family issues. Bette is white, blonde, and the classic legacy. These cultural, socio-economic, and racial factors define the very different experiences each of these three girls have in the very same setting. The diversity is organic and inseparable, a big part of the story without becoming the whole story. 

What does it mean to you to be a spacemaker – shepherding unrepresented voices into the mainstream?

It is honestly my favorite part of the job. Only now am I beginning to see representations of something akin to my experience on the page, but my kids will have so many more options. That’s astounding. They are devouring all these stories that serve as reflections, but also all the stories that offer them windows into other experiences. And it’s a profound thing to find a voice that needs to be lifted, to be heard, and help them navigate the publishing process, to share both the highs and the lows with them, because, let’s face it, publishing can be a very rough ride, especially for marginalized writers, and you need that safety net to fall into. There are people who held the door open for me and Dhonielle, and we are thrilled to pull others through it, too. Because as the latest CCBC numbers show [seen below] there’s still so much work to be done.


Huyck, David and Sarah Park Dahlen. (2019 June 19). Diversity in Children’s Books 2018. sarahpark.com blog. Created in consultation with Edith Campbell, Molly Beth Griffin, K. T. Horning, Debbie Reese, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and Madeline Tyner, with statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp. Retrieved from https://readingspark.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/picture-this-diversity-in-childrens-books-2018-infographic/

Who else is doing work to make publishing a more equitable and diverse industry?

There are so many people who continue to push. First and foremost, I have to point to the inimitable Ellen Oh and the whole We Need Diverse Books team, which includes Dhonielle and Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, as well a slew of amazing volunteers who have been working tirelessly now for five years and counting. The change that they’ve affected is profound — as others have said, this has become a movement, rather than a moment. And then there are the #diversityjedi teachers, educators and librarians, who keep the critical conversations going, like Dr. Debbie Reese, Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen, Cheryl Willis Hudson, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and others. And there are editors, publishers,  who have been championing change for years — Andrea Davis Pinkney, Alvina Ling, Zareen Jaffrey, Namrata Tripathi, Beth Phelan, and others. And of course storytellers, booksellers, and book champions, like Glory Edim, Saraciea Fennell, Hannah Oliver Depp, Preeti Chhibber, Renee Watson, and others. [Check out Preeti’s interview with NetGalley Insights here!] The voices are there, and they’re doing the work. 

How does your work as an author influence your work with CAKE, and vice versa?

I think it goes hand in hand. Dhonielle and I had to use our own work — our first series, Tiny Pretty Things — to launch the company before anyone would begin to take us seriously. We had to go through the process and experience ourselves, and bring the lessons that we learned from it with us. Luckily, we had some great mentors along the way, and a strong community of fellow authors who were super-supportive too. Hopefully we can give back in the same way, by being there as mentors to new writers as they make their way in publishing, too. 

Your new YA book, Symptoms of a Heartbreak comes out on July 2 through Macmillan/Imprint . What qualities make it a CAKE book?

Symptoms of a Heartbreak is a classic CAKE project. It’s fun, high concept and hopefully a delicious read, and the organic diversity informs every part of it. I pitch it as Doogie Howser meets The Mindy Project — it’s about a 16-year-old girl genius doctor who’s doing her first real medical internship — and falls in love with a patient. It’s got a classic romantic comedy structure, but Saira’s background as an Indian-American teen informs so much of her family life, her work ethic, her point of view, the micro and macro aggressions she faces in her work and life. It also informs the way she views love and romance. You can’t take that out of the character or the story itself and have it remain the same. 

What’s next for CAKE, through 2019 and beyond?

Ah! We are so excited about what’s cooking! This year alone, CAKE has six books landing on shelves, including the second installment of the Love Sugar Magic series by Anna Meriano (Harper/Walden), The Battle by Karuna Riazi(Simon & Schuster/Salaam Reads), The Trouble With Shooting Stars by Meg Cannistra (Simon & Schuster), A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai (Little Brown), and Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia (Disney/Rick Riordan Presents)! Several of these titles are available on Netgalley now, by the way! 

We’ve got a lot of amazing things lined up for 2020 and beyond, and everyone should definitely stay tuned for lots of TV and movie news coming up, too! Plus, our next venture is into the realm of adult fiction with our LayerCAKE imprint. But we’re always on the lookout for amazing, unique voices. That’s the best part of this job, really — getting to find these astounding new voices and then share them with the world. 

Keep up with CAKE Literary on Twitter and at CAKELiterary.com. Follow Sona Charaipotra on Twitter or at SonaCharaipotra.com


Bio: The author of the YA doc dramedy Prognosis: Love And Death, Sona Charaipotra is not a doctor — much to her pediatrician parents’ chagrin. They were really hoping she’d grow up to take over their practice one day. Instead, she became a writer, working first as a celebrity reporter at People and (the dearly departed) TeenPeople magazines, and contributing to publications from the New York Times to TeenVogue. These days, she uses her Masters in screenwriting from NYU and her MFA in creative writing from the New School to poke plot holes in her favorite teen TV shows, like The Bold Type — for work of course. She’s the co-founder of CAKE Literary, a boutique book packaging company with a decidedly diverse bent, and the co-author (with Dhonielle Clayton) of the YA dance dramas Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces, as well as the upcoming psychological thriller Rumor Game. She’s also the interim editor of the Barnes & Noble teen blog.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Subscribe to the NetGalley Insights newsletter for more interviews, case studies, and best practices!

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Mark your calendars: June 2019

Upcoming conferences, panels, webinars, and networking opportunities

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

Even though summer hours are in effect for many in the publishing world,  there are still opportunities to connect with your peers and learn new skills in July!

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

US


Thrillerfest

Conference – Networking

July 9, NYC

Annual conference for International Thriller Writers.

Romance Writers of America

Conference – Networking

July 24-27, NYC

“Join Romance Writers of America for RWA2019 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City, July 24–27, 2019. At the conference, career-focused romance writers can anticipate education and information, networking with fellow writers, interaction with editors, agents, publishers, vendors, retailers, and other romance publishing industry professionals.”

UK


Book Machine: Campaigns That Don’t Cost the Earth: Compelling marketing and publicity on a shoestring budget

Panel program – Marketing

July 3, London

“The majority of marketing and publicity departments work on very modest budgets. And while there are plenty of inspiring marketing and publicity campaigns that deliver great results, how many of them can you realistically expect to deliver? Even the ones that purport to be “low cost” are often not.

Our panel of experienced publicists and marketers will talk through three case studies of genuinely small or non-existent budgets. Each practical example will show how you can harness the latest techniques to boost the profile and sales of the books you publish, but without costing a fortune.”

Book Machine: Understanding Facebook: Ads Training for Publishers

Workshop – Marketing

July 9-10, London

“BookMachine Works is running two training sessions for publishing professionals who need a deeper Understanding of Facebook Ads, either for managing a team/agency; or for setting up your own campaigns. If you are familiar with Facebook, but lack confidence or understanding when it comes to running paid-for ads, then this is the course for you.”

Byte the Book: Breakfast Byte The Book Agent Tables – Speed Pitching to Agents

Speed pitching – Networking

July 10, London

“Eighteen authors, six agents plus a light breakfast at the Groucho Club, with each author submitting their work first and getting the opportunity to take two of the thirty-six slots on the day to meet privately with two agents each who have read their work.”

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Make it Personal, Online

PubTech Connect – Book Lovers on the Internet: Connecting with Readers in Digital Ways

In partnership with Publishers Weekly, NYU’s Center for Publishing hosted a night of discussion about online book communities and communications as part of their PubTech Connect series. These diverse panelists all agreed on one thing: When talking about books, they are all far more interested in personal, affective responses to books rather than in sweeping generalizations about whether a book is Good or Bad.

Panelists

Even though the panelists all represent different ways of engaging with online book discussions and different reading communities. They – and their audiences – are each looking for stories about how books influence us, how books help us relate to their own lives or to current events, and how books can foster a sense of interpersonal connection. As Jess Zimmerman of Electric Lit put it, they are all moving from focusing on whether a book is good or bad to how a book is functioning and with whom it is resonating.

NYU PubTech Connect Publishing Emma Straub Jess Zimmerman
Emma Straub (left) and Jess Zimmerman

They shared some of their digital content strategies with this personal touch in mind. For authors and publishers, knowing what kind of content is resonating online can help you to make stronger pitches to media outlets, and to produce the content yourselves that will help you connect directly with your audience.

Personal essays

Cristina Arreola, Senior Books Editor at Bustle told the audience that personal essays are always top performers for Bustle. Essays like “I Re-Read Big Little Lies Amid the #MeToo Movement – And It Changed the Novel Entirely for Me” and “I Grew Up in a Fundamentalist Evangelical Community. How I ‘Rewired’ My Brain with Poetry” resonate with readers because they demonstrate the emotional pull that books have, the ways that they can shape us and stay with us, and can help us understand our current cultural moments.

Jess Zimmerman also publishes personal essays. She noted Electric Lit readers respond positively to personal pronouns in headlines. For example, titles like “The Book That Defined my Teen Anxiety Turned Out To Be a Lie” or “The Book That Made Me a Feminst Was Written by an Abuser” promote identification with the author of the essay. Even if the readers don’t share these particular, unique experiences, the framing around “I” gives them a reason to click. And the personal focus of the essays resonate with readers who have also been shaped by their reading experiences, even if those experiences aren’t the same as the ones being written about.

Quizzes

We all click on quizzes more than we’d like to admit. It’s not that we really need to know what our taste in donuts says about our innermost souls, it’s that we like to see ourselves reflected. That’s why Jane K. Lee of Epic Reads gives her YA-loving audience plenty of quizzes. Some of them are about specific books, and some are about creating personalized recommendations. Lee uses quizzes to help her audience connect with themes of a book by placing them in it – by seeing which character they are most similar to or seeing how well they would fare in a dystopian future.

Bookish Executive Editor, Kelly Gallucci agrees about the importance of quizzes. She told NetGalley Insights, “Bookish quizzes all put the reader in control. In a way, our quizzes are like a choose your own adventure for book recs! With the reader at the helm, the results feel more personal and curated because their choices (whether its their Hogwarts house or favorite dessert) led them to the book in the results. It results in a recommendation process that’s surprising, fun, and engaging for both us and our readers.”

Faces (or hands!)

Emma Straub, co-owner of Brooklyn’s Books are Magic noted that the bookstore’s Instagram followers want to see people. They love seeing authors, employees, and everyday readers in their feed. Through social media, audiences have increased access to authors, celebrities, and popular store owners. By showcasing the people behind the magic, and the ones who are enjoying it, Straub and her team create a feeling of intimacy online. That way, when people walk in to Books are Magic for the first time after following them online, they can already feel at home.

Moderator M. J. Franklin jumped in to agree that showing the person behind the online persona is crucial, but that he is often loathe to take a photo with his face in it. Instead he’ll show his hands in a photo so that readers know that there’s a flesh and blood person posting, but he doesn’t have to worry about catching his face at the perfect angle.

Through meaningful personal digital content marketing, you can help your audience connect with you at a deeper level. Audiences are hungry to know the people bringing them the books they love – whether those people are authors, publishers, booksellers, influencers, or reviewers.

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1 Year of NetGalley Insights!

Since our launch in June 2018, we’ve leveraged NetGalley’s unique position in the industry to share lessons from successful marketing campaigns, tips for connecting with influencers across platforms, interviews with industry changemakers, data-centric strategies, and plenty more. We’re looking forward to year 2!

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Giving Publishers the Data They Need: Developing Eloquence on Alert

Firebrand Technologies’s newest service, Eloquence on Alert, gives publishers more access to data about their titles across retail sites than ever before. Through EoA, publishers can keep tabs on any changes to their title information, including changes to sale price, product pages, buy buttons, and third-party seller activity.

Catherine Toolan, Director of Eloquence Services at Firebrand, gave us an inside look at how Eloquence on Alert developed, and some of the surprising ways that publishers are already using it.

What were the origins of EoA?

Eloquence on Alert came out of a simple need for publishers to determine if and how their products were being displayed on retail and reviewer sites. Publishers send out metadata to trading partners and there is very little feedback from those trading partners once the metadata is received. This simple mission planted the seed and from there we have discovered that there is a lot more information we can provide to make it easier for publishers to help their products succeed.

A lot of the impetus for EoA came from Eloquence on Demand users. Many of our clients were sending out the very best metadata that they could on the industry recommended schedule but they were still having issues with the data or the timing of updates on some sites. They also encountered situations where their titles did not appear on some sites at all. As you can imagine, publishers with a large list cannot check retail sites daily for the presence or absence of their titles. Eloquence on Alert grew out of a need to help publishers tackle these and similar problems.

Eloquence on Alert was conceived in 2016, with the first data collection in July of that year.  We released an “alpha” Title Management-dependent version of EoA in 2017 and quickly realized that we needed to pivot and build a SaaS model (software as a service) that would allow for independent product growth.

How does EoA interact with other Firebrand products like Title Management and Eloquence on Demand?

Eloquence on Alert is a standalone product and does not require the use of any other Firebrand products. We will be working to integrate EoA with Eloquence on Demand and NetGalley in the future.

How does EoA fit in with Firebrand’s overall vision around publishing and data?

Firebrand’s flagship products, Title Management and Eloquence on Demand encourage publishers to develop workflows and data management practices that help them to provide some of the best metadata in the industry. Eloquence on Alert takes this a step further and helps publishers fine-tune their practices by drawing attention to trading partner behavior in relation to their metadata content and delivery schedule. The best metadata in the world does not do much for you if your partners are not using it.    

What need does EoA meet for publishers?

Eloquence on Alert monitors critical factors such as fluctuating list and sale prices, changes in sales rank, missing product pages, missing buy buttons, third-party seller activity, marketing assets, review count growth, and audience sentiment. EoA is committed to continued product development and enhancement to meet emerging industry needs.

We know that a select group of publishers have been using EoA in beta. How have you seen them use EoA?

Each of our beta customers is using EoA in a different way. This was somewhat of a surprise! Some are using it primarily to monitor third-party seller activity, some are using it to track missing product pages or price data fluctuation, and some are using the data in their own Business Intelligence systems to augment their internal data analysis.

Did any of them use it in ways that surprised you?

Yes, there are several uses that have surprised me. One that seems obvious to me now but did not initially is the use of EoA to track products that should not appear on certain sites. When certain products appear for sale on a specific site it is a violation and their product management team is alerted so that they can contact the site to have the product(s) removed.

How do you hope publishers will use EoA now that it’s more widely available?

I hope that EoA will become a “first thing in the morning” activity. The EoA results can be used to let you know if there will be any burning issues to deal with today, if any of your products are on the move, or if all is status quo for the day. A simple check-in with EoA can do a lot to inform your priorities.

Where can readers learn more about EoA or see if it’s a good fit for their goals?

The best way to learn more about Eloquence on Alert is to see it in action – words cannot really describe it! Readers can contact our Sales and Marketing department at info@firebrandtech.com to schedule a demo.

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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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