Let’s examine where professionals from different areas of the audiobook industry see us being in the next 3-5 years. We will ask specialists in the areas of production, consumer sales, independent authors, to forecast the future. Joining us are Kevin Fecu of John Marshall Media, Darren Speers of Authors Republic, and Tarah Theoret of NetGalley.
The ability to consume more, faster, while multi-tasking will continue to help with consumers, but also book reviewing of all formats. We’ve heard anecdotally from reviewers that they specifically request books in the audio format because they know they’ll be able to listen to it faster and sooner, and fit it into their schedule… this quick turnaround helps ensure that the marketplace is already being populated with early enthusiasm for this format specifically, which will boost pre-orders and sales.
– Tarah Theoret, Senior Director, Community Engagement at NetGalley
Formed in 1986, the Audio Publishers Association (APA) is a not-for-profit trade association that advocates the common, collective business interests of audio publishers. The APA consists of audio publishing companies and suppliers, distributors, and retailers of spoken word products and allied fields related to the production, distribution, and sale of audiobooks.
In Part I of our Member Survey overview, we saw that 49% of the nearly 10,000 respondents consider themselves to be Audiobook listeners. It was important to us to gain more knowledge about their listening preferences and habits, so we asked Audio-specific questions to those members who favor the format. We’re excited to share even more of what we learned!
Librarians, Educators and Reviewers are the biggest listeners of Audiobooks on NetGalley, though all member types show significant interest in the format! Once we narrowed down those members who consider themselves Audiobook listeners, we asked even more specific questions about their listening habits. The following charts include responses from only those members who indicated that they listen to Audiobooks.
Across all member types, most survey respondents listened to between 1 and 9 Audiobooks in the past year. But a significant portion (20.5% on average) indicated that they listened to 10-19 Audiobooks. Educators in particular fall into this range. As we saw in Part I of our Member Survey overview, NetGalley members are voracious readers and listeners who consume multiple books per year, across formats.
Most members indicated that they listen to Audiobooks daily:
With only one exception, all member types listen to Audiobooks daily. Only Booksellers are slightly more likely to listen on a weekly basis instead.
Since NetGalley members read and listen across all formats, it was important to us to understand why someone might choose an Audiobook over the print or digital format. 58% of respondents explicitly said they choose Audiobooks because they are already a fan of the narrator. This is not surprising, as we’re seeing elevated profiles for narrators online, where they are building loyal followings on social media.
To escalate this growth, Audiobook publishers can strategically include prepub access as part of their marketing strategy, and coordinate even more closely with the marketing and publicity teams who are working on the other formats. This will ensure that important audio-specific info—like narrator or cast—are included in those efforts, and that prepub access is granted to NetGalley members who are likely to access and review both formats. This will help build more buzz and momentum for the Audiobook at on-sale, and it will empower narrators to build their own platforms and following—a similar process that authors have traditionally benefited from.
Did you know . . . Audiobooks on NetGalley currently generate a higher rate of return for Feedback when compared to Digital Review Copies. The Feedback rate for Audiobooks averages about 46%, compared to 33% for DRCs, since January 2021.
When we asked members why they love listening to Audiobooks, they told us that the audio format allows them to multitask. Nearly all of the top five reasons they listen to Audiobooks have to do with this broadest motive:
The top five activities that members participate in while listening to Audiobooks include:
So, where do these listeners discover Audiobooks?
NetGalley is a top source for Audiobook discovery for most members, with Librarians slightly favoring discovery within a library. We’ve only shown the top five responses for each member type in the chart above, but other sources include Libro.fm and Social Media Influencers.
Nearly all members selected Goodreads as their preferred social media platform for Audiobook discovery, with Instagram as a close second. The one exception was Media, who favor Instagram over Goodreads. Facebook is the third choice for all member types.
We also provided a write-in option to tell us specifically who their favorite narrators were, and over 400 individual narrators were mentioned, many of whom were frequently repeated by multiple members. Julia Whalen was named over 100 times!
NetGalley is the top source for Audiobook discovery among survey respondents. On average, 64% indicated they discover Audiobooks on NetGalley.
Additionally, 74% of survey respondents said NetGalley Promotions influence their decision to request or download books and audiobooks! Did you know that Audio publishers can take advantage of any of the NetGalley Promotions found in our Media Kit? Explore our Audiobook-specific Recently Added Spotlights and seasonal Audiobook-specific Newsletters—both with special pricing!
We have been so thrilled to work with publishers to promote their Audiobooks. Since NetGalley introduced the audio format on our platform in 2020, over 45,000 members have expressed interest in Audiobooks within their NetGalley Profile and have submitted over 100,000 Feedback and Reviews.
These survey results reinforced how valuable NetGalley can be for Audiobook publishers, so we’re offering new clients a FREE 2-month subscription*—if you sign up by December 31, 2021. Existing clients can get FREE placement in our next Audiobook Newsletter on January 13, 2022 (a $500 value).
Email concierge [at] netgalley.com before the end of the year to take advantage of either offer!
Over the past two years, NetGalley has recorded unprecedented growth. Since 2019, the NetGalley community has grown by 50%!With so many new members, we knew it was important to gain more knowledge about their reading preferences and habits to ensure we understand how and why they interact with books, whether on NetGalley or elsewhere.
This summer, we launched a survey and nearly 10,000 active NetGalley members in the U.S. answered our call. We’re excited to share what we learned!
49% of all survey respondents consider themselves audiobook listeners, and that’s still just a fraction of the over 45,000 members who have expressed interest in Audiobooks within their NetGalley Profile. Keep an eye out for more insights about Audiobook listeners in the coming weeks—we’ll have more to share about the audio-specific questions from this survey in Part II of our Member Survey overview! Keep an eye on your NetGalley publisher dashboard to be alerted about it!
While BookTok continues to turn backlist titles into bestsellers, at this moment TikTok is relatively low on our members’ social media priorities. For Booksellers, it was the 5th top social media platform (after Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). For Reviewers, Educators and Librarians it came in as 6th. Although social media trends ebb and flow, if Bookstagram and BookTube are anything to go by we’re sure to see BookTok continue to gain traction among NetGalley members. We’ll be paying close attention to their habits in this space.
It’s probably no surprise that Goodreads is among the top platforms for talking about books, and Bookstagram continues to be a popular and powerful platform for NetGalley members. As you can see above, it is among the top social platforms for nearly all members. This is especially true for Audiobook discovery, which we’ll share more about in Part II of our Member Survey overview.
When you are working on social campaigns for your books, be sure to include NetGalley in those plans! Customize the hashtags you’d like members to use when they’re talking about a book, and consider a Sponsored Social Package with shareable posts and interactive content. (See page 18 of our 2022 Media Kit.)
74% of survey respondents said NetGalley Promotions influence their decision to request or download books and audiobooks!
Perhaps no surprise, but in addition to posting reviews on Goodreads, NetGalley members also use that platform to discover new titles as well. Friend and peer recommendations remain high.
As a resource for discovering new books, Publishers remain high on the list for all member types! All of your efforts to invite members using the NetGalley widget and approving requests are working–we’ve seen an average of over 230,000 monthly approvals in 2021.
As you can see, even aside from NetGalley our community is very active in the bookish world. We know that NetGalley members are avid readers, and it was important to us to gain a greater understanding of their habits even outside of our own system. Demonstrated in the charts below, NetGalley members are definitely reading both print and digital.
NetGalley members are voracious readers–consuming multiple books per year, across formats. In addition to Print and Digital formats, Audiobooks continue to grow in popularity among our members. On average, 20.5% of survey respondents said they’ve listened to 10-19 Audiobooks in the past year. We’ll go into more detail about this in Part II of our Member Survey overview!
It’s clear that NetGalley members favor the digital format, but they are very driven to consume book content in any form and continue to read and purchase books beyond their activities on NetGalley. Remember to follow up with approved NetGalley members at the pub date to remind them to share their reviews, as well as offer them retail links to share with their audiences (or use themselves!).
Finally, here’s a look at the full, 650k-strong NetGalley.com member community today. We are proud to work with these highly engaged and supportive reviewers, educators, media, librarians, and booksellers. They’re here to help your books succeed!
257k unique users monthly 409k avg Requests each month for Books & Audiobooks 87% approved books are downloaded 82k avg Feedback each month for Books & Audiobooks
Part II of our Member Survey overview will be released soon, all about the NetGalley community’s Audiobook listening preferences. Keep an eye on your NetGalley publisher dashboard to be alerted about it!
All data taken from NetGalley’s 2021 Member Survey (conducted from August 14 – 31, 2021), and/or from member stats and activity on the NetGalley.com platform as of September 2021.
Get smarter about your books! The BookSmarts podcast features discussions about publishing data and technologies and interviews with industry experts, deep thinkers, and doers, bringing you insights that will help you sell more books.
Ep 2: Brian O’Leary on the Future of Publishing
In this episode of the BookSmarts Podcast, Joshua interviews Brian O’Leary, Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), the US book industry’s trade organization. Brian and Joshua talk about three areas where Brian sees the industry struggling now and with space for continued growth in the future.
First, Book Publishing is a small industry, so it is important that we leverage our collective strengths to solve problems and become more forward-thinking, using standards and other technological investments to do so.
Second, we are seeing a growing emphasis on rights sales and information sharing, but there are some large technological limitations that still need to be overcome in that area.
Third, the “last mile” of publishing is shifting, both for retail and for libraries, but the industry does not yet have enough data about how books are found, evaluated, and purchased. We need to better understand our market and the path book readers and consumers take.
Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.
Get smarter about your books! The BookSmarts podcast features discussions about publishing data and technologies and interviews with industry experts, deep thinkers, and doers, bringing you insights that will help you sell more books.
Ep 1: Publishers Are in a Moneyball Situation
In this episode, Joshua discusses how he sees some similarities between the state of the publishing industry and the story of the Oakland A’s baseball team as told in the movie Moneyball. Competition is fierce, and solid data practices can be the key factor between success and failure.
Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.
In many ways, 2020 is a year that we’re all ready to put in our rear-view mirrors. In spite of the challenges we have all faced, it’s been inspiring to be reminded of the resilience and creativity that imbues our publishing industry. From Big 5 publishers who suddenly found themselves without access to their warehouses, to independent authors who embarked on digital marketing for the first time, we at NetGalley are proud and thankful to be a trusted partner to so many.
Despite the global pandemic, it’s clear that readers continue to turn to books in all formats. NetGalley’s member community grew by 23% in the US (now over 550,000 members!) and 16% in the UK, where we’re on track to break 100k members in 2021. This growth equates to more eyes on your books, which results in even more early Feedback! We are thrilled to report a 30% increase in Feedback/Reviews when compared to last year. Across NetGalley.com and NetGalley.co.uk over 960k Feedback/Reviews were submitted for over 25,000 books and audiobooks.
NetGalley experienced record-breaking traffic and engagement in 2020, especially after the launch of the NetGalley Shelf app and Audiobooks. The NetGalley Shelf app is a simple and streamlined experience for members, making it easier than ever to access the books and audiobooks they’re approved for. In 2021, we will introduce streaming audio to ensure an even more seamless listening experience!
Publishers are approving requests from Librarians and Booksellers at a very high rate–over 90% of requests are approved. This may be because you can easily auto-approve ALA librarians and ABA booksellers from your Settings page. In 2020, these members alone left over 110k Feedback/Reviews!
We know how influential Librarians and Booksellers are, especially when they are nominating books for LibraryReads and Indie Next, in addition to making recommendations to their patrons and customers. If you’re looking for ways to connect with Librarians and Booksellers, consider our monthly Librarian Newsletters or ABA Digital White Box services.
It’s worth noting that the Reviewers on NetGalley have submitted nearly 380k Feedback/Reviews! Reviewers are the largest portion of our community, making the most requests–so even though the approval rate is a little lower than other member types, they are the most significant in terms of overall approvals and Feedback/Reviews.
When approving requests, keep an eye out for members’ individual feedback ratio and remember that you can click through to see all of the reviews they’ve submitted on NetGalley. Here’s more about what you can see in members’ profiles.
In the UK, even though approval rates across both the DRC and audiobook format are extremely similar, it’s clear that UK members (Librarians in particular) are responding very strongly to the audiobook format. Be sure that you are associating your DRC and audiobook formats when both are available on NetGalley! This will ensure that members can request the most relevant format for their interests, and is likely to result in a higher rate of return for Feedback/Reviews.
NetGalley members are always curious about how they can get publishers to approve more of their requests. That’s why We Are Bookish’s Kelly Gallucci interviewed Estelle Hallick, Publicity and Marketing Manager at Forever, about her process for managing requests, and her advice to members looking to improve their profiles. In addition to giving members an inside look at how a publicist is looking at their profiles and their NetGalley activity, Hallick also provides other publicists and marketers with a template for managing requests systemically.
In this interview, Hallick shares the metrics she considers when approving Reviewer requests, how she treats new NetGalley members, and why a critical review doesn’t mean that she won’t approve another request from that same member.
Read the interview below! Plus, if you have a book or an author that you think would be a great fit for We Are Bookish, pitch them here.
Take us behind the curtain: What does the NetGalley request approval process look like for Forever?
I always start by looking at the Feedback Ratio; I sort the reviewer requests and start the approval process with the highest numbers. Since we get so many requests every day, 80% Feedback Ratio is a benchmark number for me.
When I start to get below 80%, I begin reading through bios. I tend to give more attention to the people under 80% because I’m genuinely interested to know why they are requesting the title or what brings them to NetGalley. I hope to see that bios are updated recently, or within a year (to me, it’s an indication that they are active reviewers) and to see if they have a list of authors they enjoy. This helps me decide if they are a good fit for our titles. While Feedback Ratio is important to me, I remember what it’s like to be a new reviewer and try to consider newer members whenever I can–but it starts with a detailed Profile.
What are three common missteps that can lead to a declined request?
I look for Feedback Ratio, correct member type, and updated bio with working links. I see so many Profiles with inspirational quotes or information that feels a little like a dating profile. I love personal details, but, in order to catch my eye, the combination of personal and professional information is important.
Do you look for different information in NetGalley Profiles based on member type?
Every member type should be as detailed as possible.
Bookseller: Where do you work? Are there book clubs at your store?
Librarian: What department do you work in? Are there any programs you run that would be of interest to publishers?
Traditional reviewer: What outlets have you written for?
Blogger: What street teams are you on? Do you organize any annual events on your platform? Do you cross-post? What are your stats?
Traditional reviewers and bloggers should absolutely include links to recent reviews or author interviews that they’ve done.
How often should members be updating their Profiles?
My hope is that reviewers are seeing continual growth on their platforms and want to communicate those updated stats with us. A good rule of thumb is to update whenever there’s something new to add–think of it a bit like a resume in that you want to provide your best and most up-to-date information. Put your best and most accurate foot forward.
We know publishers rely on member stats included in NetGalley Profiles when making approval decisions. Are there any specific stats you personally look for? (Psst, members: To find a publisher’s approval preferences, visit theirPublisher page!)
For bloggers, I do look at social media platform growth. While I look at follower count, someone with a following of less than 500 (just as an example) won’t deter me from approving them. To me, it’s about engagement on the platform and how well posts perform.
Let’s talk about review etiquette. In your opinion, what are three important things members should think about when writing reviews? What do you recommend members do when faced with reviewing a book they didn’t enjoy?
First, I want our reviewers to be honest. Giving a book a critical review won’t mean you aren’t qualified to receive other books for review; if anything it makes it easier for us to understand what kind of books you do enjoy. (Reading is an extremely personal experience.)
Second, the most helpful reviews give a sense of the story but do not give away the entire plot. As a bonus, I love when you share if you personally identified with something in the story.
Third, timing. As a NetGalley member, you’re often able to read books well before they’re in stores or libraries. If you love something, don’t wait to share it! Early buzz is so important to authors and publishers. It also alerts other reviewers about the book. The one thing we ask you to keep in mind is remembering to share again on release day.
As an added note, please do not tag authors in critical reviews. Reviews are for other readers, and authors do not need to be alerted of them by a tag.
What can newer members, who may not have a high Feedback Ratio or strong blog/social stats yet, do to stand out to publishers?
New members should take advantage of “Read Now” books to grow their Feedback Ratio, and also give us a better idea of the books you like. Listing authors you enjoy (so we can think about comparable authors we have) and not overdoing the category/genre options would be a great help. I’d also love to see new reviewers share where they read reviews and their hopes for their review life–all great places to start.
Is there anything we didn’t cover here that you’d like to add?
As a NetGalley member, please be sure to read over the decline email you receive before contacting the publisher. A good letter will tell you why you didn’t meet the qualifications for this particular book. If you are still unsure, definitely reach out for specifics.
VP of Podcasting at Macmillan Kathy Doyle shares an inside look
2019 marked a watershed moment for spoken-word audio. For the first time ever, more than 50% of the U.S. population reported listening to podcasts and 50% reported listening to audiobooks*. Macmillan has spent years developing a robust podcast network to build and then capture that interest in audio content. On their podcast network Macmillan Podcasts they feature podcasts hosted by their authors like Astro Poets, companion podcasts to books like The Girls: Find Sadie, or as completely unique content like Steal the Stars.
That’s why we asked Kathy Doyle, VP of Podcasting at Macmillan, to share her perspective on audio in publishing. She describes Macmillan’s podcasting content strategy – how they design podcasts to best support their authors as well as the collaborative process that brings those podcasts to life. She pulls back the curtain on how Macmillan works with distribution platforms, as well as how she and her team think about creating mutually beneficial advertising relationships.
Plus, whether indie publishers or self-published authors should get in the podcasting game, and what big changes in the industry she’s excited to see in 2020.
What is your history with audio and podcasting?
I joined Macmillan at the end of 2011. I was hired as the director of what was already a podcasting network at that time – called Quick and Dirty Tips. QDT had already been around for 3 or 4 years by the time I joined, but it was a dual platform. It had this major website, which it still has today, and it had a podcasting arm. I was hired to run the collective – the entire network. I have run websites almost my entire career. I started in digital at the Wall Street Journal back when the internet was emerging as a format and already had some familiarity with podcasting in 2011, so I was hired by Mary Beth Roche to take on the entire business unit as its director.
Tell about your role in developing audio strategy at Macmillan
I’m primarily responsible for the podcast networks. We now have two networks, [one of which is] QDT. From QDT we learned a lot about format and what we were finding was that we were trying to put authors of all types into that “quick and dirty” format of providing actionable, interesting information in 8 mins or less. We were finding that we had an opportunity because podcasting was starting to emerge as a bigger, bolder format for media consumption. We had the opportunity to start a second network, which we called Macmillan Podcasts. That really enabled us to strategically use authors of all types from some of the best imprints in the world – Henry Holt, St. Martin’s Press, Flatiron Books – and allow those authors to come onto the platform. We worked with them to develop various types of programming, which was not as contained as the QDT model. We’ve been able to do some fiction, some audio drama, we’ve done a lot of interview format. We’ve really expanded our capabilities from a strategic standpoint on the podcasting side.
What do you think about the relationship between podcasts and audiobooks? Are you both competing for the same ear time?
There’s definitely some crossover. APA came out with a study earlier this year that said 55% of people who had listened to an audiobook have also listened to podcasts. We’ve just seen an absolute explosion in audio as a form of consumption for media. It’s shifting paradigms. It’s really powerful. We don’t feel as though it’s competitive in nature at all. It’s strategic for us. We used to say that podcasts were audiobooks-lite — they were for someone who wanted to dabble in the format or hadn’t listened to spoken word audio before and this gave them a free and somewhat frictionless way to dabble in that media. But I think what we’re seeing is that people who want information via audio want all kinds of information via audio whether it’s short format or long format, book or podcast. Whether it’s because they’re driving or they’re exercising or making dinner, whatever it is, they can do other things while they’re consuming spoken word audio.
So you’re seeing this audio boom as a result of multi-tasking from the listener standpoint?
It can be. It’s not always. I mean, some people are very content to just listen and absorb the content the way they would if they were nose-deep in a book. I can just speak to the fact that we see a lot of research and hear from our listeners very specifically about how they listen to podcasts and audiobooks — what they’re doing at the time of consumption. I had an Uber driver in L.A. say something to me that I hear all the time, “I listen to podcasts to learn. I don’t always listen to podcasts when I’m in the gym. I want music to give me motivation, but when I’m doing housework or when I’m driving my Uber and I don’t have a patron in the car, I want to learn. And that’s when I turn to podcasting.” I hear that all the time.
Let’s turn to Macmillan podcasting specifically. Macmillan Podcasts are divided into two groups – Bold Voices and Addictive Stories. Tell me more about how you developed those two areas of focus.
It definitely happened organically. What happened was we found that we were being approached by editors, we were identifying talent on our own, and it just felt like the right way to start the process early on of developing a catalog — a podcast catalog — in ways that we could define categories.
The Bold Voices really are author-hosted shows where there’s someone with authority — who has something to say — typically nonfiction. All the QDT shows fall into that format to some extent. We have shows like I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics which is [hosted by] Jeanne Safer who wrote a book about how to navigate politically troubled times when you have a partner, a colleague, a family member who you don’t see eye to eye with.
The Addictive Stories, that’s the very elusive driveway moment we’re all looking for. [A driveway moment describes audio that keeps you in your car to listen, even after you’ve arrived at your destination.]
Those are stories that capture you emotionally and you don’t want to let go. So that’s Steal the Stars, our audio drama which we described as Arrival meets Ocean’s Eleven. It had everything – it had heist, it had romance, it had crime, it had all kinds of elements that comprised a very engaging, richly entertaining story that you wanted to binge. But That’s Another Story is our narrative book podcast hosted by Will Schwalbe who is an executive here and also a bestselling author. He talks to people in a very powerful way about a book that changed their life. He’s spoken to everyone from Jodi Foster to Min Jin Lee. he just had the hilarious macmillan author Gary Janetti.
How do you learn about your audience?
There’s a variety of things that we can do. Podcasting is a deeply engaged medium, so we get a lot of listener feedback. We have voice mailboxes set up for every show where people can call in and leave feedback or, in the case of some of the Bold Voices shows or QDT shows, leave a comment or question. We very carefully monitor ratings and reviews, we can learn a lot there. We’ve done some work with little focus groups where we bring people together and do listening parties to see what kind of reaction we get. We’ll get some from our ad broker; that helps give us demographic and other details about the listeners. The other thing we can do is on the backend of some of the distributor platforms, we can actually see things like what we call retention. If you have a 40 minute episode and you see that 60% or higher are dropping off after 20 minutes, [you can learn] about what listeners are staying tuned for, what adjustments we might need to make to the format or the approach to better serve the listening community. The platforms do not have the same consistent information from platform to platform but we sort of know what elements we want to look for.
What factors are you keeping in mind when developing a new podcast?
There’s still this perception that I think is shifting as competition increases and the industry learns more about podcasting, but there’s definitely this perception that it’s really easy to pull off a podcast. And it is incredibly difficult and challenging work. It takes a lot of different people in the mix. We look at talent holistically. We want to make sure that we’re making choices that serve our publishers, that serve our talent, that serve the listening community for our podcasts. It’s all of those things. We get together with potential talent, we talk about an arc or a creative approach to the show. Then, we’ll do a creative brief where we talk about who the audience is just like a book – what are the comps that are out there that we can use as comparisons for how the show might do or the kind of approach we might take? We talk about the creative process, we talk about the workflow and make sure everybody’s on the same page. We talk about the schedule, which is really important. We talk about the business arrangement, which is also really important. We sort of work all that through and then we might do a pilot or a trailer or talk to our distributors about relationships for the show. It’s a really elongated process. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s very collaborative.
Who makes up the team that brings a podcast together?
One of the best things about working at Macmillan is how incredibly collaborative we are. Everyone from the marketers to the publicists to the editors, we’re all involved in the decision-making process. This is an organization that cares deeply about its authors and takes very good care of their authors. so we want to make sure that we’re making the best possible decisions both for our organization and for the talent.
We will work with the editor to develop the relationship with the author or the host. When we get ready to launch the podcast, we’ll work with the marketer and the publicist from the imprint to make sure we’re all in sync in terms of who we’re pitching to, what kind of work we’re going to do on the marketing side. And then we just make sure that the editors get to listen to stuff before it goes out. We stay in very close touch throughout the entire process. Most communication happens up front but it is a true collaborative effort from start to finish.
Are you proactively approaching talent?
It’s all over the place. We do spend some time identifying talent. We [also] work within our imprints to try and find talent who would make good podcast hosts or guests. On the QDT side we will often bring up an emerging talent who is starting to grow a platform. We will work with them to grow their podcast and then work to help them secure a book.
What makes for a good podcast host?
I think it has to be someone who listens to podcasts — someone who embraces and understands the medium and what the pros and cons of the medium are. I think it’s someone who has to be willing to work and not just sit in a studio and read a script that they just wrote. For us, it’s about the collaborative nature of podcasting, and making sure that everyone is in tune and in sync with the goals and the objectives that we work toward in terms of developing and launching a podcast.
[For new hosts] we will do some training. We had a conversation this morning about one of the QDT hosts who was interrupting a guest with “uh huh” and making auditory affirmations as you would in a normal conversation. In podcasting we tell our hosts, “Tell your guest up front that you won’t be acknowledging them because you might not be in the same room.” If it’s a Skype interview or done via the studio, they can’t always see the person they’re communicating with. So it feels very natural to want to say “uh huh” or “yes, I agree” but you’re interrupting the flow of your guest’s statement in a way that’s going to make it difficult for the producer to put it out there as great-quality content.
That’s just one kind of small example but I think people who aren’t used to working in an audio format definitely need to be trained and educated on what suits the format best in terms of developing and creating and releasing the best possible experience for the listener — the highest quality for the listener.
We have such incredible guests — a lot of them are authors also, sometimes they’re outside experts. [Hosts] get involved in these really deep, interesting, engaging conversations and they’re so excited about the content they’re getting they forget that they have to be mindful of the format and the experience.
What about distribution? Which platforms do you use, and what benefits do you see from distributing your podcasts on multiple platforms?
I would say one of the advantages we bring to the table is our longevity because we’ve been podcasting for over a decade, we have great relationships with the long-standing distributors like Stitchers, Apple Podcasts and the new players that have come into the space. We’ve worked hard to develop those relationships over time — Spotify, Pandora, iHeart. We have great relationships with all of those teams. We’re not one-off shows just looking to boost our downloads. We are looking to build sustainable, long-term relationships with these partners.
One of the distributors came in recently with some back-end features and functionality that they wanted to test. They wanted to get our opinion; how would we use this data and how would we use these features. So our team got together in a conference room and we went through it with them step by step and we provided them with feedback about how we would use those features. It’s a two way street. Every conversation we have with our partners, we always make an ask — we might be asking for something whether it’s a promotion or for them to entertain a pitch, but we will not get off that call or leave that meeting without saying “How can we better serve you as well?”
What about podcast advertising? How is advertising on the medium changing?
There are two different camps on the ad side. There are branded campaigns which are general awareness and brand lift, so there’s nothing specific the listener has to do except retain that information the next time they’re in the drug store and need to buy moisturizer. There’s also what we call direct response which is really what grew the industry. The Squarespaces and the Mailchimps — they built this space for many podcasters.
Direct response is really labor intensive on our end because we have to make sure the talking points are correct, we have to make sure the promo code works, we have to make sure the URL works. A lot of the times [a promo code will be] mailchimp.com/grammar. Well we have to make sure that page exists before we have our host record that ad and put it out in the feed because we’re protecting our listeners. We want to make sure the ads are as accurate and as compelling and as engaging as the rest of the content. It’s hard work to deliver an ad well and sound genuine.
We also have requirements. A lot of times we turn away from advertisers if our host can’t support their product in a way that is genuine and viable and will make for a good ad read. I hear a lot of hosts on other shows — you can tell they just have the ad points in front of them and they’re literally just reading them with no emphasis with no personal experience with no integrity. We strive to make sure that doesn’t happen. As a result we leave some money on the table. If you’re a big listener, you know.
Not everyone obviously has the capacity of Macmillan or a big publisher to develop such a robust audio strategy. Do you recommend that indie presses or indie authors get in the game of podcasting or audio content?
There’s a lot of debate in the industry right now. I was just on a panel at Digital Hollywood and this was one of the premises of the panel – Do you need a network? Networks bring a lot of great support. They bring resources, they bring manpower, they bring history and experience. All of that said, it’s very competitive.
But if you are someone who has a story to tell, who has an experience to share, who has an expertise that will benefit, I’m all for developing an independent podcast. There are incredible resources out there to teach you how to do just that and the cost point — there’s very little barrier to entry. You need to buy a microphone; you need to buy some software. People can do it independently and some of the best and longest-running podcasts out there started out this way. It’s not as easy as it used to be to make that success happen. But, it’s also a great way to train and to test yourself on the medium before you have a big team behind you. You can try things out on your own that you wouldn’t be able to do if you were a part of a distribution platform or a big network. And I’m really impressed with some of the companies and people in the industry who have come forward to develop incredible training resources for anyone who independently wants to start a podcast. It is doable.
So it sounds like what you’re saying with the indies is that not everyone needs a podcast, but if you feel strongly that you have a unique perspective that fits in audio, and you have the bandwidth, you should learn how to do this and do it right.
Write it down, develop a plan — a full-blown plan that includes what you’d cover in the first 5-6 episodes. A plan that covers the format of the episode, how long you want them to be, how many voices will there be? Will it be just you behind a microphone or will you be having guests? you really need to think through strategically. Treat each episode as if it’s a separate project. Intertwined, but a separate project. And figure out how you want to approach those episodes so that you’re developing a curated collection of your best work.
What new developments are you excited for in audio?
Some of the platforms are developing really interesting social sharing and other kinds of features. Spotify, for example, has developed customized playlists which can be done in a variety of different ways. You can actually integrate a playlist that has music and podcast episodes and then you can share it to your audience. That’s really powerful. We’ve been having a lot of fun with that. QDT has so much great New Year, New You content, so we’ll be developing a variety of playlists that will tackle that topic in ways that nobody else can.
The other thing that I’m watching closely is data attribution. You often hear podcasting referred to as the wild west, which it’s not anymore.That may have been true five years ago but now I think it’s really grown up a lot. Ensuring that we are all reporting our listens accurately is critically important because we all want to monetize with advertisers and they need to be able to trust the data they are getting from us. The Interactive Advisory Bureau has gotten involved. They have developed standards and compliance [for podcasting]. We are compliant on the platforms that we’re on, but not all podcasters and not all platforms are yet compliant with these standards. [We want to be sure] that 500k downloads on this platform is the same as 500k downloads on that platform. There were a lot of discrepancies in the data. So that’s all being resolved and I think 2020 will be a big year in terms of seeing that into fruition.
As people have shifted to the compliant standards, and as the hosting platforms that these podcasts reside on have made changes on their backend to bring those systems up to full compliance, people have seen shifts in their download numbers. Sometimes quite dramatic! Consistency across the board is key and I think we’ll see that by the end of 2020.
One of the challenges on the content side is that of the top 200 podcasts on the Apple platform, 32% are now hosted by major celebrities or influencers. That’s huge. And it makes it really hard for the rest of us. That trend will continue – big name celebrities getting into the space. I think we’re going to see continued consolidation of some of the content providers as it makes sense for businesses to evolve and join forces together. We just saw Wondery and NBC strike a joint partnership. A year or two years ago, [a big trend] was VC money entering the space. That’s what everyone was following really closely. Now I think that’s shifting a little bit towards other kinds of partnerships.
In terms of genres, there’s opportunity and room for YA content. That’s changing a little bit, but there’s still opportunity there. And travel.
What podcasts are you listening to?
I love Dolly Parton’s America. It’s a brilliant new podcast that’s been getting a lot of buzz. I’ve also been listening to a show called The City which is from Wondery. This season focuses on the city of Reno and some aging strip clubs that are causing some issues with the city. I’ve only listened to one episode but it’s really interesting and I will definitely be continuing. There’s another season ofthe Jet Propulsion Lab’s podcast. My son is in aerospace so I follow that closely. And I’ve just become addicted to the daily news shows. I listen to Up First from NPR and I listen to The Daily religiously. I find that especially because I have a long commute those are great ways to stay informed.
At least two distribution platforms now have daily drive playlists that they are curating for listeners based on their listening habits. A lot of our shows are falling into those categories as well. The recognition that podcasting can be used as a means of entertainment and information for your full commute end to end is really becoming reality.
Kathy Doyle is the Vice President of Podcasts for Macmillan Publishers.
She runs the Macmillan Podcast Network, which produces popular podcasts
with the organization’s bestselling authors and book imprints. Current
podcasts range from sci-fi and true crime to literature and self-help.
She also oversees one of Macmillan’s largest digital networks, Quick and
Dirty Tips. QDT produces a dozen weekly award-winning audio podcasts
hosted by subject matter experts on a wide range of topics. Podcasts
include the long-running Grammar Girl and Savvy Psychologist. The
network has a large web presence, too, which features content from the
podcast hosts and a large variety of Macmillan authors.
By Sarah Miniaci – Senior Publicity Consultant at Smith Publicity, Inc.
With a brand new year (and for that matter, new decade) now upon us, why not bring the spirit of New Year’s resolutions into your NetGalley practices to create even better outcomes for your books in the months ahead?
At Smith Publicity, we’ve had the pleasure of working with NetGalley and its amazing community of members since 2012. We have discovered that one of the best ways of uncovering opportunities and opening doors for our authors and their books is through the careful and strategic use of NetGalley activity reports — or more specifically, careful and strategic follow ups and engagement with the contacts on your NetGalley reports, which provide you with all of the information and tools you need to get started.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of tips and tricks for making 2020 your best year on NetGalley yet, here are some examples of how we use NetGalley reporting to build relationships, boost pre-orders, and build buzz.
While looking at the NetGalley history for an upcoming nonfiction title, we discovered a librarian whose bio noted that she books authors and events for her library’s prestigious author talks program. Using that information, we were able to secure a sold-out ticketed book launch event for the author, generating hundreds of pre-order hardcover sales in the process.
For fiction releases — particularly genre fiction, i.e. romance, sci-fi, horror, and crime/thriller — identifying contacts on the Feedback Report who are consistently active and influential on Bookstagram and in the blogger community and reaching out to them to build rapport, offer physical ARCs or final copies (if/when applicable), and establish a plan for release-window coverage can make all the difference in setting the stage for a ‘splashy’ launch and building strong consumer market visibility for a new title. Check out these gorgeous #Bookstagram posts from our friends — and active NetGalley members! — @bookishbellee, @watchmereadingnerdy, @abduliacoffeebookaddict23, @booksandchinooks and @candice_reads in support of the fall 2019 release of Katherine Kayne’s debut novel Bound in Flame (The Hawaiian Ladies’ Riding Society, Book #1).
Keeping track of the NetGalley members who leave positive reviews for a title can pay off in the long-term. Near the end of 2019, we went back to a list of NetGalley contacts who had left passionately positive reviews for Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War IIby Robert Matzen — a historical biography title released in spring 2019 — to advise that the Goodreads Choice Awards had just begun accepting nominations and encouraging them to vote, if they felt so inclined. As a direct result of this effort, the book – which had not previously been listed among Goodreads’ category selections – made it to the Semi-Finalist round in the ‘History & Biography’ category of the Goodreads Choice Awards.
And so, without further ado, here are six NetGalley Resolutions for 2020:
Look at member profiles during periods of especially high activity. Carve out the time to take a look through not just your Detailed Activity Report, but also the Member Profiles that pop out when you click on a name within the Approval History > Members with Access section. These periods will typically be when you’ve recently uploaded a title to NetGalley, or you’ve nominated and it’s been selected by the NetGalley editorial team for a Homepage Feature or Category Spotlight. Often, you’ll find useful background information and secondary links in this section which will signal that it would be smart to make a personal connection with this contact beyond the automated Approval Email they got when they were given access to the book. And remember, you don’t need to make your first point of contact a robust pitch — a simple “Thanks for your interest and please feel free to contact me with any questions or requests!” will absolutely suffice if you’re still deciding how you want to maximize interest and what you’re able to offer to requesters.
Think about ‘extras’ or bonus content you can offer to NetGalley members whose interest in the book you want to make the most of. If you have extra paperback ARCs or even final copies on hand and are keen to drive early reviews on NetGalley, Goodreads, and Amazon, or to see the book gain traction with the #Bookstagram community, Facebook book club groups, etc., it may not be a bad idea to send an email around to the contacts on your Members with Access list who haven’t yet left a review, asking them if they’d be interested in receiving a physical copy or running a giveaway for their followers, which can be a great way to create exposure when the contact is interested in the book but doesn’t yet have the time to read and review it. Depending on the book, other ‘extras’ and bonus content you can include might be Q&As with or guest posts from the author, special ‘swag’ related to the book, and the list goes on. Ultimately this all serves as a way to build connections and rapport with your “warm leads” and make the most of the organic interest you received on NetGalley.
Target outreach by member type. Depending on the author’s location, and their ability and willingness to travel and attend events, do signings and speaking engagements, etc., consider fragmenting out relevant Bookseller and Librarian member types on NetGalley. You can easily sort the Members with Access page to this effect by clicking the little up/down arrow next to the ‘Member Type’ column. Make a dedicated outreach effort to open the door to conversation about opportunities for appearances and other collaborations.
Include helpful info in your follow ups. When following up with NetGalley members — especially Librarians and Booksellers — remember that it is essential that you include ISBN, publisher/publication date, and sales/distribution (i.e. how they can order the book) details in your pitch. Also: please don’t solely reference Amazon as the preferred retailer for purchases! As a general rule of thumb in any pitch you’re sending out, anywhere you have an Amazon link should also have Barnes & Noble and IndieBound links.
Keep track of the NetGalley contacts who leave passionately positive reviews While it’s something of a Golden Rule to not engage with or try to debate negative reviews (!!!), we have seen many benefits come from corresponding with NetGalley’s highly engaged, book-loving community of readers who have really enjoyed titles we’ve been able to provide. Some follow ups you might consider conducting with positive NetGalley reviewers include encouraging review cross-posts to Amazon, B&N, and other online retail sites after the book has officially released, advising of any special deals or promos (a reader who absolutely loved a book may be inclined to share news of a deal with their network), offering to send a special signed final copy of the book as a thank-you, establishing that they want to be on the ARC pitch list for the next book in the series, and more. This is as much about building relationships as it is about building visibility for your book! Which brings me to our next and final resolution…
Be gracious, be kind, be generous, and always try to give more than you get. In every area of life, it’s so important to recognize and appreciate that everyone is doing their best and while things aren’t always going to work out exactly the way you’ve planned for or anticipated, you’ll get a lot farther and feel a lot better by treating others with respect and kindness, and being generous of spirit wherever possible. Not everyone who requests and receives access to your book on NetGalley is going to be able to carve out the time in their busy life and TBR stack to read and review it — and that’s OK ! Not everyone who does so is going to love it (also completely OK, and to be expected)! Resolve to follow the ultimate Golden Rule when it comes to NetGalley etiquette and in any follow-ups or engagement you conduct, treat others as you would want to be treated. I will go so far as to guarantee that this, above all, will help to make 2020 your most productive, positive, and fun year on NetGalley yet.
And now for our own resolution! Now that we are using NetGalley Advanced, we have access to new tools and reports to help us look at our overall NetGalley usage. Firstly, we want to get more comfortable using all of our new capabilities, incorporating them into our NetGalley workflow. But beyond that, we want to carve out dedicated time every season to look at our overall NetGalley usage. We will make dedicated time to look at charts like the New Titles Created chart, the Types of Access Over Time chart, the Types of Access pie chart, and the Activity by Member Type chart to make sure that we are consistently uploading new titles, using all appropriate approval tools at our disposal, and engaging successfully with different member types.
Sarah Miniaci is a Senior Publicity Consultant at Smith Publicity – one of the leading book publicity agencies in the world, with offices in Toronto and New Jersey. Founded in 1997, Smith Publicity has worked with more than 3,000 authors and publishers, from New York Times bestsellers to first time, self-published authors.
This year on NetGalley Insights, we’ve shared strategies, ideas, and best practices from across the industry. We’re honored to highlight the work of our industry partners, authors, and publishers of all sizes. Here are a few of the tips we’re still thinking about, and hope that you’ll keep in mind through 2020 and beyond.
If there’s ever a unique campaign, promotion, or industry perspective that you’d like to share with us and our audience, please let us know! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Janna Morishima, publishing strategist and literary agent, has been working with manga artist Misako Rocks! to launch Bounce Back! She suggests that traditional publishing and self-publishing should be looking at each other for inspiration.
“I think the biggest thing that traditional publishers can learn from self-publishers is the importance of connecting directly with your audience rather than relying on intermediaries to sell the book. The publishing ecosystem is complex, so there are always going to be intermediaries — reviewers and booksellers and librarians, etc. — but now it’s possible to build strong relationships both with those influencers and your actual readers. What I think self-publishers can learn from traditional publishing is the importance of having a well-rounded team contribute to the final book. All writers need editors. All books benefit from great design. All books, no matter how good they are, need strong marketing and sales plans in order to get found. If you’re going to publish on your own, it’s important that you find the right people to help you.”
Michelle Vu is bringing automation to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, with a human perspective. She is keeping the needs of human workers top of mind when incorporating automation – learning where their pain points are, and how to free up their time for more creative work.
“Ask a person at any level from various industries and they are sure to be overwhelmed, doing the job of two people or simply cannot find enough time in a day to finish their work. It’s important to remember that automation is not just a series of meetings to go over process improvements nor is it the new shiny IT project. A grassroots approach would be most effective, so people are less inclined to view automation as a mandate or a cost-cutting initiative. Having people create their own areas of efficiencies allows for greater ownership and accountability over their processes. Honest conversations between departments about automation can help break down the silo mindset and engage employees to think bigger picture where they can add the most value to the book production life cycle. For entry-level positions, I expect automation could potentially mean fewer admin duties and more meaningful work.”
Sarah Cardillo, Director of Publishing Operations at Sourcebooks gave us an inside look at how Sourcebooks uses sales numbers, comp titles, and audience responses to guide their redesign strategy. She recommended keeping an eye on the backlist, as well as more recent books.
“Sometimes we look at titles that were published 5-10 years ago (or more) and think about bringing them back out with new covers as a way to boost sales. Especially in the young adult and the romance space. Since those audiences (especially Young Adult) turn over to new people so regularly and trends change so quickly, a successful book with a fresh cover can easily find new readers, and the accounts are happy to take the book because it was successful in the past with the previous audience. We are seeing a lot of illustrated covers in the young adult space right now. 10 years ago covers were all photographic. So we are looking at our backlist and seeing what books sold well but could get new life with an illustrated cover direction.”
NetGalley’s own data scientist, Mandy Fakhoury, offered advice to publishers looking to become more data-driven in their decision-making. Surprisingly, she recommended remembering gut instincts and experience, and combining them with those hard metrics.
“Decision making is a critical aspect of success or failure. In this new era, data has become a key part of the decision-making process. Once a problem has been clearly defined, it’s a matter of collecting the appropriate data needed to answer our problem. Data provides us with the information that can be used and processed in different ways to make decisions. A big challenge is knowing how much to rely on the tools at your disposal and how much to rely on your instincts. An effective decision is made based on a blend of experience and data. The best approach is understanding your data, the behavior of trends, as well as your audience, and don’t let the data blindly drive your decision.”
Our marketing team shared tips for creating compelling eBlasts in our Proven Strategies Series. They advised that when writing the content of your eBlast, less is more. Including an entire book description will likely overwhelm a reader, or increase the chance they will lose interest before taking action. Readers scan emails quickly for info that is relevant to them, so divide text into short paragraphs. And remember that aprominent headline (at the top or center of your eBlast) is your second chance at a strong first impression (after the email subject line). Is your headline clear, impactful, intriguing?
NetGalley Sales Associate Katie Versluis works with our community of self-published authors. She has seen first-hand how authors have responded to critical reviews or DNF (Did Not Finish) reviews.
She told NetGalley Insights that while DNF reviews “may sting after the years of work you just put into this book, they can actually be quite useful to you as you position yourself in the book world.” She advises authors to think about why a reviewer decided not to finish their book. “[Your book] may simply not have been their cup of tea, but [a DNF review] may also bring an entirely new understanding to your book that you hadn’t thought of yourself. In the past, I’ve worked with an author who did a complete re-editing on their book because an early DNF review alerted them to language they didn’t realize was offensive. The review certainly wasn’t “nice” to receive, but it became a blessing in disguise.” Sometimes critical reviews can help you better target the right kinds of readers, or tweak your marketing copy. For example, if you have been promoting your book as YA, but critical reviews are saying that it’s too young for a teen audience, consider positioning it as a Middle Grade book instead. Or, if reviewers are expressing surprise at the content, consider revising the way you are describing your book. You want to entice readers, but you also want to find the readers who are most likely to enjoy your book as it is.
Publishers are always trying new strategies on NetGalley: Using tools in new combinations, putting new kinds of books on the site, changing how they grant access to their titles. Chronicle recently started sharing cookbooks on the site, which has been a successful experiment for the. Cynthia Shannon, Food and Lifestyle Marketing Manager at Chronicle, described their recent pivot to cookbooks on NetGalley.
“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.”
We look forward to sharing more new strategies from across the publishing industry with you in 2020!