Case Study: From Chernobyl with Love: Reporting from the Ruins of the Soviet Union by Katya Cengel

How University of Nebraska Press uses NetGalley for their trade titles

Academic presses face unique challenges and opportunities in the publishing landscape. Their connection to universities, university funding, and grant funding is a great support as they often publish in more niche areas, but because of this they can’t always count on a built-in audience the way a big romance or YA publisher can. Plus, their books target a range of readers – from academics researching incredibly specific topics to a general trade audience. Because of the particularities of academic publishing, the way that they market books is slightly different from general trade marketing. 

Here, University of Nebraska Press shares their NetGalley strategy – from how they decide which of their titles to make available to the NetGalley community, to how they help authors promote their own books, and how they capitalized on a surprise cultural zeitgeist months ahead of the publication of the memoir From Chernobyl with Love

As an academic publisher, what is your overall NetGalley strategy? 

We are an academic publisher and university press. However, we are lucky to have two trade imprints (Bison Books and Potomac Books) as well as a robust list of Nebraska books that are truly for general readers, i.e. creative nonfiction, poetry, sports history, and much more. Because of our unique list, and limited profile on NetGalley, we tend to make books available that we feel appeal to the larger NetGalley audience or books with authors who are well-connected, active on social media, and ready to promote their forthcoming book.

NetGalley widgets have been most helpful when a contact is overseas or they need the book asap for an interview or short deadline. I also love the feedback activity snapshot, along with the reviews. It’s so encouraging to see a cover that’s been “liked” 52 times or that a description is really resonating with readers.  

How do you think about promoting titles to both academic audiences and to commercial ones? How do you encourage your authors to promote their books? 

Each of our books are important, but not every book has the luxury of multiple audiences. The fact is, some academic books are meant for scholars in their respective fields and not for the casual reader interested in the subject. And that’s ok! NetGalley users can expect our digital review copies to be readable, different, and occupying an area where perhaps larger publishers wouldn’t publish. Those who Favorite our page will see trade books of Western fiction, memoir, poetry, and sports (usually baseball!).

Know your authors’ strengths (and weaknesses). If an author isn’t comfortable doing speaking engagements, set them up for success with an op-ed opportunity to share their expertise with a larger readership that normally wouldn’t come across their book.

I always encourage authors to talk about their book in public spaces. Whether that’s online or at a bookstore or library event; if an author is engaging with their potential audience their book will likely have more success. My advice for academic publishers is to know your authors’ strengths (and weaknesses). If an author isn’t comfortable doing speaking engagements, set them up for success with an op-ed opportunity to share their expertise with a larger readership that normally wouldn’t come across their book.

What are some of the unique challenges you face as an academic press competing with big trade publishers for reader attention? 

It is a challenge going “up against” the big houses. I can’t count the amount of times we’ve had a very similar book set to publish and then a big house announces their title publishing right before ours. Usually their book will drown out our own because of the sheer volume of resources they have compared to ours. But on the other hand, sometimes those situations benefit us because our book will get grouped in with a bigger title’s national review. We also offer books that bigger houses are simply not publishing. That fact alone makes our list unique and hopefully intriguing to our readers.

How do you engage your authors in the pre-publication process?

Katya Cengel is a repeat author of ours. She’s a journalist and no stranger to how difficult it is to promote a new book. We wanted to give her the tools she needed when promoting her work and having the digital galley available [via NetGalley] was a part of that plan.

Katya’s previous books are Bluegrass Baseball: A Year in the Minor League Life (Nebraska, 2012) and Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back (Potomac Books, 2018). The former was published just as I was beginning my career at Nebraska but the book’s topic came up years after when one of the baseball players, Jose Altuve, was named the American League MVP in 2017. For the latter, the focus for Exiled began as regional California but soon became a more national story as immigration and refugees dominated national headlines. She writes about that experience here. For her Chernobyl book, we knew there was interest surrounding the show, so even though it wasn’t to be published until November 2019 – we worked together to get coverage beforehand (Cengel wrote an essay called “Doing Homebrew Vodka Shots in the Shadow of Chernobyl” for the Daily Beast in May 2019, for example).

It seems like there’s a big surge of interest in Chernobyl lately, in part due to the HBO show, Chernobyl. And maybe a general anxiety about climate disasters. How does From Chernobyl with Love fit into this trend?

The interest in Chernobyl and the publication of Katya Cengel’s book was sort of fortuitous. She writes about it eloquently in a blog post here.

She writes, “I was counting on interest in Russia and the region [after the 2016 election] to help sales of my next book, From Chernobyl with Love: Reporting from the Ruins of the Soviet Union, but I didn’t expect the younger crowd to recognize Chernobyl. I had learned this the hard way while lecturing college students about Chernobyl—considered the world’s worst nuclear accident—and being met with blank stares.

Then the summer before From Chernobyl with Love [published], HBO released Chernobyl, a television miniseries starring Emily Watson that dramatizes the 1986 nuclear plant disaster. Suddenly Chernobyl was all over the news. There were stories in USA Today, the New York Times and Vanity Fair. A generation born after the explosion suddenly was interested in what happened more than three decades ago.”

You left From Chernobyl with Love on NetGalley through its publication date and into its post-pub phase for a month. Why is that the right timing for you?

We left the book available through its publication month because often times, that is when interview requests come in. It gives us and the author a bit more time to provide quick and easy access to the book. The extra time also gives NetGalley readers a chance to finish the book and post a review if they haven’t already.

Any academic press wanting to utilize NetGalley should! My advice is to be honest and realistic about your books – what titles cross into the trade market? If you are promoting a book on NetGalley, have a purpose or plan behind it.

How do you grant access to your books? 

We tend to be pretty liberal when accepting requests to download our books. If you’re a reviewer for a widely known media outlet, ALA librarian, or a bookstore owner or employee, you’ll likely be Auto-Approved. But we love to see readers with blogs or book clubs as well. Some of the best reviews have been from dedicated readers and I’ll try to share those with the authors when we receive them. It’s always nice to hear someone has read and enjoyed your book whether they work for the New York Times or are an avid reader.

How important are consumer reviews to your trade books?

Speaking only for myself here, I think consumer reviews are so important for our books! With all the never-ending-online chatter thanks to social media, it makes it more difficult to promote a book. I think a lot of people are more likely to get a book from a friend’s recommendation. So when I see a bunch of Goodreads reviews that came from NetGalley users, it makes me happy! We normally wouldn’t see that kind of response without engaging in a readerly community.

We love that so many NetGalley members are posting to Goodreads! [As of Jan 28, 2020 52% of the reviews on Goodreads mentioned that they received the book via NetGalley.] Typically those are all organic reviews. For From Chernobyl with Love, I did follow up with users who hadn’t posted a review yet to let them know that the digital galley would be archived by the end of the month. And for users who did, I simply thanked them for their reviews, whether they enjoyed the book or not. All feedback is useful.

What advice do you have for academic presses on NetGalley? How can they get the most out of their title listings? 

Any academic press wanting to utilize NetGalley should! My advice is to be honest and realistic about your books – what titles cross into the trade market? If you are promoting a book on NetGalley, have a purpose or plan behind it. Maybe the author is well connected and willing to share widgets often, maybe you expect a ton of review copy requests and can’t send physical review copies, or maybe you want to experiment and see what the NetGalley community is interested in. Whatever the reason, just have one!

Rosemary Sekora is the publicity manager at the University of Nebraska Press. She is on the board of the Nebraska Literary Heritage Association and coordinated the Nebraska Book Festival for four years. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is currently working on her masters in creative writing. You can follow her on Twitter at @rasekora.

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Mark your Calendars: February 2020

Upcoming conferences, panels, webinars, and networking opportunities 

In February, the publishing industry really gets into the swing of the new year. We’ve caught up on our inboxes, recovered from our holiday breaks, and have hit the ground running! At NetGalley Insights, we’re looking forward to learning more about production and accessibility (including audio production!), marketing, and overall industry innovation. 

If you are hosting or attending an event in March or after, email insights@netgalley.com so we can feature it.

US


Book Manufacturing Institute: Book Manufacturing Mastered

Conference – Manufacturing

Feb. 10-12, NYC

“The conference, hosted by the Book Manufacturing Institute, will bring together publishers, manufacturers, printers, binders and other pieces of the value chain to help educate those involved in making the printed book. This conference is for anyone involved in the creation of the printed book. Publishers, manufacturers, binders, distributors and others will learn the foundations as well as current trends in book manufacturing. Session Topics will cover the following areas: Pre-press and workflow, paper and other materials, print processes (Offset, Toner, Inkjet), finishing and binding, distribution and logistics, as well as other trends and issues facing the book industry today.“

BISG: Innovations in On-Demand Book Publishing

Panel Program – Technology

Feb. 10, NYC

“The marketplace for short-run and on-demand printing solutions has expanded significantly in the past several years. This program will address where the industry is, how it may evolve, and what you can do now to take advantage of this important manufacturing option. This event is co-located with the Book Manufacturers’ Institute’s “Book Manufacturing Mastered” event, for which a separate registration is available.”

NYUSPS Media Talk: Passionate Readers, Powerful Publishing: Reaching Niche Audiences in New Ways

Panel Program – Authors & Audiences

Feb. 12, NYC 

“Please join us to hear four bestselling authors talk about the importance of genre fiction and connecting with readers through unique vantage points. Whether you love reading mysteries, romance, dystopian fiction, or sci-fi, or simply enjoy exploring literary styles and categories, this will be a night to remember. Learn how Sarah MacLean, described as the “queen of historical romance,” links gender and cultural studies in works translated into more than 20 languages. Find out how current events inspire Tochi Onyebuchi (War Girls, Beasts Made of Night) to write science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. Get the inside story on how Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series and Carve the Mark duology, weaves her cautionary tales. Hear internationally acclaimed mystery writer Karin Slaughter discuss her latest bestseller, The Last Widow. Moderator Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review and all book coverage at the paper, will guide the conversation into exciting new directions.”

Kids Comics Meetup NYC: How to Start a Kids Graphic Novel Publishing Company

Panel Presentation – Children’s 

Feb. 12, NYC

“Join professionals in kids comics for this presentation and informal networking event. We will start by chatting with entrepreneur Manuel Godoy about how he started publishing company Black Sands Entertainment from scratch, and has grown it to more than 25,000 books sold, 10,0000 customers, and $500K in gross revenue in less than three years. Then we’ll hang out and talk comics together while enjoying Resobox’s tea and Japanese snacks.Anyone who works in children’s graphic novel publishing or promotion is invited to attend, including artists, writers, editors, librarians, agents, book designers, booksellers, reviewers, etc.”

BIGNY: Publishing Romance 

Panel Presentation – Editorial

Feb. 18, NYC

“Redefining what love looks like. A panel discussion featuring Adriana Herrera, Author and President of NYC chapter of Romance Writers of America, Cindy Hwang, VP and Editorial Director of Berkley Publishing Group, Kim Lionetti, Senior Literary Agent at BookEnds Literary Agency, Kristine Swartz, Senior Editor at Berkley Publishing Group.”

Pub West

Conference – Independent Publishers

Feb. 20-22, Portland, OR

“The theme for this year’s conference is “Publishing in the Clouds: Practical Solutions for Big Ideas” PubWest 2020 will feature keynotes by Charlotte Abbott, founder and director of FutureProof Content Strategy; Laura Brief, CEO of 826 National; Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, project lead, Panorama Project; and Andrew Proctor, executive director, Literary. Pre-conference intensive sessions include (now included free for PubWest members with conference registration): “From Start-Up to a Sustainable Business” and “The Art of Literary Publishing.” The PubWest 2020 Conference will include: Intensive sessions with leading industry experts, lively panel discussions that present new perspectives, informative peer-to-peer seminars, inspiring keynote speakers, fun and valuable social and networking opportunities.” 

BISG: ONIX Training 2020

Workshop – Metadata

Feb. 21-26, NYC

“ONIX Pricing Workshop, ONIX Essentials Training, Using ONIX to Better Market Books, Thema Workshop, and Advanced ONIX training”

UK


BookMachine: BookMachine Unplugged – Talking Production: The New Tools for Modern Book Production

Panel Program – Production

Feb. 12, London

“Most book publishers are still producing books in the same way they did five or even ten years ago. Anyone starting a new publishing company in 2020 could do well to challenge how things are done by not simply accepting ‘this is the way we’ve always done it.’ But what can established publishers learn from this fresh approach? Ken Jones invites us to rethink how we work by looking at some of the new and emerging tools and services that can help book publishers today. From cloud storage and better communication to ideas and new methods for document creation; from page layout to image manipulation and illustration though to proofing and commenting. Even sharing of advance copies, exporting and publishing can be refreshed.”

BookMachine: Understanding Accessibility in EPUB

Workshop – Production & Accessibility

Feb. 25, London

Currently less than 8% of the world’s books ever make it into accessible formats. Making our books, ebooks and other content accessible is crucial, both from an ethical standpoint and as a legal requirement. This presentation is aimed at digital publishing professionals wanting to improve their publishing practices using EPUB in 2020. The training plan: Adding accessibility within InDesign, extra Recommend tools (Sigil, Brackets, GreenLight), EPUB types, ARIA Roles & semantics, image descriptions and alt text -Structure, TOCs, Page Lists, Landmarks and supplemental lists, language declarations and shifts, adding Schema.org Metadata, checking accessibility with ACE, modern ebook reading software for accessible EPUB content, Stop Press! Also to include a look at the brand new format recommended by W3C for Audiobooks. 

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The Importance of Early Data

Using NetGalley tools as a centralized hub for your data

We believe in the power of data. Publishers tell us all the time that they’re looking for more ways to use the data that’s at their fingertips, and we are always happy to work with publishers to help you develop your own unique strategies to use data to target followup, track where reviews are being shared, and to build an even more engaged community on NetGalley. But it’s also important to take a step back and look at the big picture. Early data across titles, imprints, and time can give you real wisdom about what’s working, how you can expect your books to perform, and how to give every book its greatest chance of success.

So, we’re reinforcing that bigger picture–why you should be looking at your early data, plus some ways that you can use both NetGalley Classic and NetGalley Advanced as a centralized hub for data collection and analysis. 

Create benchmarks

Understanding likely results is a crucial part of setting expectations and creating new goals. In NetGalley, you can compare historical data to see how other similar titles have performed in the past, helping you more easily develop those benchmarks and expectations. 

Understanding likely results is a crucial part of setting expectations and creating new goals.

“There is never a one-size-fits all marketing plan,” says Kristina Radke, VP, Business Growth at NetGalley. “Publishers have a lot of considerations when building their strategy — genre of book, debut versus established author, marketing budget, pub season, etc. — and they should also be thinking specifically about what they’ve learned from past performances.”

The Title Summary Report shows side-by-side NetGalley activity for a custom group of titles to help you understand standard performance as you’re setting new goals. The report includes Impressions, Requests, Approvals, Downloads, and amount of Feedback, among other data points. You can choose to view a list of titles based on pub date and category, and even narrow based on imprint or whether the books are still active on NetGalley. 

The Title Summary Report is available on NetGalley Advanced.

For instance: If you’re curious how your Science Fiction titles performed this year compared to last year, use this report to see all of those titles together to understand how that category is trending. Or, if you have a forthcoming book from an established author, you can use this report to find all of your titles from that author in order to see how the previous books performed on NetGalley. This report helps you to more easily set expectations for the new book, or come up with a plan to outperform the previous titles. 

One of the important ways that publishers are setting benchmarks is by looking at an author’s previous books or relevant comp titles. The Title Summary Report makes this research easier for you. You can generate NetGalley reports based on specific authors or ISBNs.  

This type of reporting centralizes a number of different data points that you can use when planning acquisitions or identifying new market trends. For instance, if activity for a book series is decreasing with each new title, a publisher might consider updating the cover design or re-engaging fans with a promotion. If cookbooks are consistently outperforming expectations, you might bring that information to your acquisitions team looking for the next big thing. 

Set your goals before looking at data

Once you have a good understanding of the expectations for a particular type of book, the next step is to clarify your specific goals for the new title. After identifying which metrics are most important to you and what kinds of numbers you’re looking to achieve, you have a better framework for engaging with the data you’ll receive from a new promotion. 

Once you have a good understanding of the expectations for a particular type of book, the next step is to clarify your specific goals for the new title.

Success on NetGalley looks different for different publishers, different authors, different books. It might mean a specific conversion rate from Impressions to Feedback, number of nominations for LibraryReads and Indie Next, or reaching a certain threshold of reviews on retail platforms around the pub date. 

Valerie Pierce, marketing director, retail marketing and creative services, at Sourcebooks told NetGalley Insights that when she and her team measure success, they look at a number of different factors. She said, “We have a few key lists that we look at to determine how the pre-publication promotions for a book are performing.” This includes NetGalley requests, cover votes, Indie Next and LibraryReads nominations. She and her team set goals based on past performance of in-house comp titles. “If the number is [below target], we know we have to stop what we’re doing and completely re-strategize. If the number is average, then we look at ways that we can improve them. And if the number is higher than we anticipate, then it not only means that we’ve got a winning strategy – it also means that this might be a title to pour additional resources into. This could include going back to the sales team and asking them to go back out to their accounts, reallocating budget money so that we can fund more advertising, and going back out to media.”

NetGalley reporting provides relevant information for a variety of different metrics and goals to help you get the information you are looking for in a streamlined way. 

Measure ROI on marketing and publicity efforts

We know that when you invest time, energy, and marketing dollars into a promotion, you want to know whether that investment was effective. By looking at the Title Activity Chart, you can see spikes in impressions, requests, and other activity, and easily correlate them to campaigns both on and off NetGalley. This line chart visualizes information to show you the impact of your marketing. 

When you invest time, energy, and marketing dollars into a promotion, you want to know whether that investment was effective.

“Why wonder, when we can know without a shadow of a doubt, how a campaign performed?” asks Lindsey Lochner, VP, Marketing Engagement at NetGalley. “Having the Open Rate for an eBlast is valuable, but actually seeing the direct result that eBlast had on your book’s overall activity, over the course of its life on NetGalley — that’s powerful. Experimenting with various promotional tools and tracking the results will allow you to determine which efforts are worthwhile for particular types of books and goals.”

Here are some real-life examples of how the Title Activity Chart shows the effects of publishers’ marketing and publicity efforts on and off NetGalley:

Example 1 

Coordinated NetGalley marketing opportunities boosted activity for this Nonfiction book several months after the book initially went live on NetGalley.

Example 2 

The spikes of activity in August for this Fiction book were not coordinated through NetGalley’s email or on-site promotions, showing that the publisher successfully increased activity through their own efforts.

Example 3

Inclusion in a NetGalley Newsletter boosted activity for this YA book, far exceeding even the initial excitement when it first went live for members to request.

Example 4

Small spikes of activity throughout this timeline demonstrate consistent successful efforts to drive audiences to this Children’s book on NetGalley.

Be willing to pivot

Data can show you when you should abandon your current path and pivot to something new.

Data can show you when you should abandon your current path and pivot to something new. If you’re disappointed with the response you’ve gotten, whether that’s a low number of requests, critical feedback about the cover image, or poor reviews of the book, use that information to adjust your strategy.

Look at the Reason for Request section (on the Title Feedback page, or the downloadable Snapshot PDF report) to understand if your book description is effective. This area can also demonstrate if your overall brand and author awareness is high, depending on how many members respond that they “keep hearing about this book.” You might boost your social media efforts, or encourage your author to pitch essays related to their book to news outlets to increase word-of-mouth if the responses are lower than you expected. 

Also consider the Cover Ratings on this page to understand how early readers are reacting to the cover art. 

We all know the old adage, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that people DO judge books by their covers. The NetGalley community is overall very positive: when it comes to covers – they rarely click the thumbs down button unless they feel particularly strongly. So if you notice a lot of dislikes on a cover, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with the design team about reworking the art. 

Cover Ratings are also an indicator when strategies are working. Brian Ulicky, publicity and marketing director for The New Press uses feedback from the NetGalley community to confirm that he and his design team are on the right path. “Covers are one of the most important pieces of marketing any book gets, and if the NetGalley community loves our designs, we must be doing something right. It’s helpful to have early feedback inform and confirm our very involved, iterative process of designing and choosing covers.”

The Top Performers chart is an easy way to see comparative performance for any active titles on NetGalley, filtered by type of activity and by category. For example, publishers can compare performance across all of their Nonfiction titles, based on which have the highest star ratings. This will help you predict what will happen with these books once they go on sale, or indicate where you need to boost your efforts.

When considering the Top Performers, take note of the conversion rate. First filter to view books with highest Impressions, and then switch to view books with the highest number of Requests. This can be extremely telling! If you have a book with a lot of Impressions, but comparatively low Requests, you’ll know that members decided against requesting the book after reading the description and looking at the cover. The question then becomes: Why?

You might try to optimize this conversion by revising the book description, or adding any missing information to the title record. If you can identify these necessary changes pre-publication and work to increase the NetGalley conversion rate before pub date, you can expect that the conversion from impression to sale will be easier to get once the book hits shelves.

Courtesy of Smith Publicity – Top Performers, sorted by Impressions. The Top Performing Active Titles list is available on NetGalley Advanced.
Courtesy of Smith Publicity – Top Performers, sorted by Feedback. The Top Performing Active Titles list is available on NetGalley Advanced.

The NetGalley Advanced Word Cloud can help you identify the strongest ways to talk about your book. Publishers already look at reviews to see what is resonating with readers, but the Word Cloud makes the process less manual and more visual. It’s created from the actual reviews that members submit for that book, making it a powerful tool to quickly identify readers’ sentiment beyond a star rating, and give you a better idea of what words are most relevant for the book’s marketing efforts. 

The Word Cloud is available on NetGalley Advanced.
The Word Cloud is available on NetGalley Advanced.
The Word Cloud is available on NetGalley Advanced.

“Audience language has been proven to be the most effective source of keywords for titles,” says Joshua Tallent, Director of Sales and Marketing at Firebrand Technologies. “How your reviewers think about your books, and the language they use when describing them, will correlate well with how new customers search for your books.” The NetGalley Word Cloud is a great way to understand your audience better, supplement your book description for SEO, or add keywords to your metadata. Plus, if you’re looking for even more quality keywords for your books, Firebrand’s Keywords service uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to generate keywords from multiple sources of audience language. (Including NetGalley!)

Understand your audience and how you connect with them

Are you reaching your target audience on NetGalley? If you’re working to connect with librarians or booksellers specifically, the Activity By Member Type chart will show you how well you’re doing. Not only can you see how approvals for these members compare to others, you’ll also see their follow-through, including whether they downloaded the book and if they provided Feedback.

The Activity by Member Type Chart is available on NetGalley Advanced.

On NetGalley.com in 2019, NetGalley members provided nearly 612,000 Reviews and Feedback! Reviewers provided Feedback for 41% of the titles they were approved to download, while Educators shared Feedback for 30%, Librarians shared for 23%, Booksellers for 20%, and Media for 19%. 

In 2019, NetGalley members provided nearly 612,000 Reviews and Feedback! Reviewers provided Feedback for 41% of the titles they were approved to download, while Educators shared Feedback for 30%, Librarians shared for 23%, Booksellers for 20%, and Media for 19%. 

It’s natural that Reviewers submit the most Feedback, whereas Educators, Booksellers, and Librarians tend to use NetGalley to consider new books to purchase for their classrooms, stores, or libraries, and Media use NetGalley to prepare for interviews and to be better informed about which new books are forthcoming. 

When looking at these charts, remember to consider your benchmarks as you set expectations.Determine how many new Bookseller requests you are hoping to receive, and then look to see if you reached that goal after the promotion. If you didn’t hit your mark, adjust your strategy as necessary. 

Early Data in Action

In our case studies, publishers and authors tell us about how they use the early data from their NetGalley accounts to drive their actions.

Jess Bonet from Random House uses NetGalley reviews to see what is resonating with readers and to adjust her marketing language accordingly. She said, “The Feedback Report is the tool we most commonly use. It’s so helpful to see what’s resonating with readers before a book goes on sale, so we can adjust our messaging accordingly. Around 3 months before a book goes on sale, our team will meet and discuss review feedback, largely from NetGalley, and adjust copy as necessary. We came to realize that readers were really responding to Taffy’s raw honesty about dating and marriage in the 21st century, so we played that up in our ad copy and our copy feeding to retailers.”

Laura Gianino at Harlequin looks at who is downloading their books so she can pay attention to what types of members are interested, and to drive very targeted follow-ups for reviews and media coverage. She said, “The data was one of the first indications about who was interested in the book.” It helped her to identify the media she pitched, and who followed through to access the book, indicating that they may be planning coverage of this title.

Cynthia Shannon from Chronicle shared early reviews with her sales team so they could show them to book buyers and make the case for carrying in-store. She said, “This helped shed insights into how customers were responding to the book.”


We want to hear which data points are most important to you and how you are using NetGalley to access that data. We’re also always here to help you strategize about developing benchmarks and data-driven goals. Drop us a line at insights@netgalley.com

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Guest Post: 6 Resolutions to Make 2020 Your Best Year Ever on NetGalley

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 II by 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.

To connect with Sarah or another publicist at Smith Publicity, contact them at www.SmithPublicity.com or find them on social media @SmithPublicity on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Check out her tips on pitching here.

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7 Popular Book Cover Design Trends

Darkly gothic and brightly illustrated book covers ruled 2019

Competition is tough to catch a reader’s eye as they browse at their local bookstore or library, or as they click through pages from an online retailer. A compelling cover can make a huge difference for drawing in new readers. 

In 2019, we saw book publishers lean into both moody, nature-inspired covers as well as bright and graphic covers for their books. To inspire you and your design team in 2020, we’ve rounded up some of the biggest book design trends we saw in 2019. 

Snakes! 

Snakes were top-of-mind for design teams in 2019. Snakes give these book covers an eerie sensibility, an association with forbidden knowledge, the natural world, and, in the case of The Undying, a medical edge.

Pastel Color Blocks

Pastel purples, oranges, yellows, greens, and blues drew attention when they appeared on bookshelves in 2019. Téa Obreht and Jacqueline Woodson hit bestseller lists with Inland and Red at the Bone, respectively. The pastel colors are bright and engaging without being overwhelming and the collage aesthetic gives the books an intimate feeling.  

Moody, Overgrown Vegetation

In 2019, books across genres looked more and more like gothic gardens.The lush, overgrown look could indicate a dense plot, full of secrets and mysteries like Tell No One or sprawling fantasies like The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

Repetitive Geometric Shapes

Some of the buzziest books of the year incorporated geometric repetition, including You Know You Want This, the debut short story collection from “Cat Person”  author Kristen Roupenian and Miriam Toews’ Women Talking, inspired by real-life events. The repetition of these shapes suggests behaviors repeating, shared experiences, and a hypnotic reading experience. 

Brightly  Illustrated Romances

Some of the biggest romance novels in 2018 had illustrated covers (The Kiss Quotient, The Proposal) and we still saw that trend on the rise through 2019. Compared to the traditional, photo-realistic covers of historical romances and mass market romances, these illustrated romances tend to appeal to readers who might not consider themselves romance readers. Berkley is at the center of this trend.

Cindy Hwang, Vice President and Editorial Director at Berkley told NetGalley Insights,  “We wanted to showcase the modern, fun quality of some of our new contemporary romances, and the illustrated approach really stood out for its versatility and vibrancy. We keep things fresh by playing with different ideas and colors to suit the story and characters. We’ve now branched out into illustrating historical romance covers, something that hadn’t been widely done in the genre, and we’re thrilled by the positive early response.

Overlapping Words and Design

Like the gothic garden cover trend, we saw book covers where the design was integrated with the text – under waves for The Water Dancer and licked by flames in Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe? In addition to making a strong visual impression, overlapping words and text lets readers know that they can expect an immersive reading experience.

Hair

Titles were shaved into, braided into, and intertwined with hair on book covers in 2019. How we style our hair is one way that we express our unique personalities. Hairstyles, colors, and textures also have deep cultural resonances – cornrows, locs, buzzcuts, long braids, and bobs, to name a few. Books like Queenie and Juliet Takes a Breath used hair in their cover art to signify intimacy and the mix of personal and cultural. 


Make sure to subscribe to the NetGalley Insights newsletter for weekly updates about trends, best practices, industry news, and interviews through 2020 and beyond. 

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7 Strategies from Publishers, Authors, and Industry Insiders from 2019

Tips and ideas we’ll be thinking about in 2020 

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 insights@netgalley.com.

Traditional publishing and self-publishing can learn from each other

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.”

Automation can create a more engaged team 

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.”

Consider repackaging your deep backlist

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.”

Make decisions based on both data and experience

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.”

Keep your email marketing messaging concise

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 a prominent 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?

You can gain valuable information from critical or DNF reviews

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.

Experiment with new categories on NeGalley

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! 

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NetGalley Marketing is Holistic

NetGalley’s new promotions support publishers’ goals throughout a book’s lifecycle, including backlist and audio 

At NetGalley we always strive to meet publishers where they need us. We love listening to our customers and learning from their ever-evolving needs–from secure digital galley files, to marketing promotions that reach targeted audiences, to a desire for more data and reporting, and even into new formats like audiobooks.

Publishers often adapt NetGalley’s tools for their unique goals and, based on trends we see across all of our clients, we work to expand the breadth of the NetGalley service. In 2020 you’ll notice greater emphasis on a holistic approach to promoting books, across formats and beyond the pub date. As we continue to expand our offerings, we’re emphasizing a more comprehensive approach to book promotions across format and lifecycle.

NetGalley was originally designed to predominantly support books in the pre-publication stage, but our tools and promotions are flexible enough to help publishers and authors achieve a variety of goals throughout a book’s lifecycle. Publishers are increasingly taking advantage of that flexibility! While 44% of titles on NetGalley in 2019 were archived within 1 week of their pub date, 29% were available on NetGalley for at least 2 months after pub. 

Lately, our marketing team has received more questions and interest from publishers about promoting their books to members in new ways–and during new times: close to on-sale to drive pre-orders specifically, or post-pub to reignite activity for backlist titles.

We’re supporting this pivot by launching brand-new marketing promotions in our 2020 Media Kit, flexible enough to encompass a variety of goals, timelines, and formats.

Book Club Kits

Book clubs are a crucial audience for publishers, as they are often interested in backlist titles (especially when available in paperback, or have a movie tie-in). We’ve heard from many clients that they wish to interact more directly with book clubs, but don’t always have the bandwidth to create marketing assets in-house.  That’s why we’re introducing custom Book Club Kits: created especially for your book and promoted directly to book club members in the NetGalley community.

Each bespoke kit is crafted by our editorial team to be unique and fitting for the particular book. Book Club Kits contain, at a minimum, an Author Interview, Discussion Guide, Readalikes, Printables (such as bookmarks, decorations, etc.). Possible additions include quizzes, food and drink recipes, playlists, and more. See page 17 in our Media Kit for more info.

Dashboard Spotlight

The NetGalley member Dashboard receives an average of over 36,000 unique impressions each week, offering huge exposure for your book! Publishers can now showcase their books on all member Dashboards with the new Dashboard Spotlight promotion. The CTA is up to you, so consider using this placement to drive pre-orders, promote retail offers, or to boost a backlist title. See page 5 in our Media Kit for more info.

Sponsored Social

Our community engagement team has built a loyal and engaged following of book advocates across social media platforms: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. We are now offering publishers the opportunity take advantage of NetGalley’s influence to promote your book in a relevant, valuable way to our social audience. 

Audio Excerpts

With the introduction of Audio Excerpts on NetGalley, there are many opportunities to showcase these clips to our community across the site. Members will see a new, additional Featured carousel on the main Find Titles landing page which will highlight books with Audio Excerpts–free for publishers! Our marketing team can also include the audio icon in NetGalley Newsletters and Category Spotlights for books with Audio Excerpts.

And this is just the beginning: by BookExpo 2020, we will support full audiobooks in addition to Audio Excerpts! We’re thrilled to help audio publishers benefit from early feedback from the NetGalley community, and we aren’t the only ones… NetGalley members are already excited! We asked, they answered: check out hundreds of comments on our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts. 

As publishers start experimenting with these new promotions, we’ll be sharing their successes here on NetGalley Insights. Stay tuned!

If you’re looking for more detail about post-pub strategies, check out our Case Studies on NetGalley Insights. Jayne Allen shared how listing Black Girls Must Die Exhausted on NetGalley after its pub date actually improved its sales numbers. She said, “Allowing the book to be offered for sale during the NetGalley window worked best for me because it allowed NetGalley reviewers to post directly on the Amazon sales page as a consumer review…At first, I was concerned that being on NetGalley might somehow erode sales, but the simultaneous window actually served to increase sales and start Black Girls moving up the charts much more quickly.”

If you want to discuss your own campaigns, please email marketing@netgalley.com. Our dedicated marketing team would be happy to help you strategize and find the right plan for your timing, budget, and goals. 

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Introducing Audio Excerpts on NetGalley!

“Promoting all book formats is good for all books”

The audio boom is finally coming to NetGalley! 

We are thrilled to announce that NetGalley is now supporting Audio Excerpts. 

Right now, publishers can add Audio Excerpts for any books listed on the site, regardless of publication date. 

“This is just the first step in our audio strategy,” says Kristina Radke, VP Business Growth and Engagement. “By summer 2020 NetGalley will also support full audiobook files so publishers can share their audiobooks with important publicity contacts, reach new, influential audiences who provide feedback and reviews, as well as track and report on access granted, feedback received, and trends in activity. Promoting all book formats is good for all books, and now audio publishers will have the same powerful tools that their print and digital counterparts have had for years.”

NetGalley members can browse for Audio Excerpts in the catalog and listen to them through an on-site, streaming player. As they listen to the Excerpt, they are then prompted to submit early feedback by responding to questions about their experiences. Publishers receive these aggregated responses, plus number of listens and average listening time, as part of the reports that already exist in their account. 

Members are just as excited as we are; they’ve been anxiously awaiting audio on NetGalley as much as publishers! Before launching Audio Excerpts, we asked our members via social media about their audio listening habits. Some of them hoped and guessed that we were going to be supporting audio soon. And once we announced the launch of Audio Excerpts on NetGalley, they weren’t shy when sharing their excitement

NetGalley clients can add their Audio Excerpts during this free trial period (until May 15, 2020). Just click “Upload/Preview Files” on any Title Details page. 

According to the Audio Publishers Association’s 2018 annual survey, audio is continuing to grow. And we’re happy to support that growth on NetGalley.

Image: Audio Publishers Association 2018 annual survey, illustration by Findaway

To see the new marketing programs designed to highlight audio on NetGalley, check out the 2020 Media Kit.

We look forward to promoting even more books, in every format!

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Books of the Year for NetGalley UK – and what you can learn from them!

At the end of each year, NetGalley UK puts forward our Books of the Year – the titles that have moved us, the books that have been at the forefront of our minds over the course of the last twelve months. It’s a great way for us to highlight the breadth of books on NetGalley UK and this year, for the first time, we’re going to be lifting the lid – exclusively on NetGalley Insights – on NetGalley UK’s Books of the Year, by the numbers. 

The following statistics are based on data for all books uploaded to NetGalley.co.uk in 2019.

Most Requested

Mystery & Thrillers dominated the most requested titles on NetGalley UK in 2019. Interestingly, these titles are not just the ‘you’ll never guess the twist’, or domestic terror genres that have been so prevalent over the last few years. The Holdout, The Chain and The Passengers, are a return to the classic thrillers, influenced by the early work of such writers as John Grisham, Michael Crichton and Thomas Harris.

Lisa Jewell had the most requested title this year with The Family Upstairs; while C.J. Tudor has made that much-vaunted supernatural thriller genre her own with The Other People.

At number 6, we see Our Stop – one of the books making the rom-com roar again. It’s been a while since this genre was pushing at the top of the charts but its success, and the success of other books like The Flatshare, shows that members are gravitating towards its undeniable charms.

Most Impressions

This category belongs to Rosamund Lipton’s Three Hours, which had more impressions than the second and third placed titles combined. This was a long campaign – Three Hours has been on NetGalley for the whole year! – but one that had a long-term strategy, well-adhered to by the publisher. Sustaining such a long campaign takes time, so if you’re considering it, do let us know in advance!

Most Reviewed

Unsurprisingly, a lot of familiar covers here! What really leaps out here, however, is how integral widgets were to the campaign for these titles. Widgets made up between 30 and 50% of approvals for the top five most reviewed titles, so do remember this important tool when you’re planning your NetGalley strategy.

Predictions for 2020

From our meetings with publishers over the last few months, and observing the levels of activity surrounding 2020 titles already, it seems clear that the coming year is going to be hugely competitive – with high expectations for so many books. Whether it’s debut authors, big brand names, or emerging talent, it seems readers will be spoilt for choice in all genres. 

And what do we see emerging as the themes of the new year? Well, the return of the rom-com, we believe, will continue into the new year; while historical fiction with a hint of the sinister (think Daphne Du Maurier or Patricia Highsmith) will again be hugely popular. The diversity of writers will also be a key development, with both fiction and nonfiction shining light on backgrounds and experiences that have been overlooked. This also means that literary fiction in 2020 will be about much more than just the final part of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy…

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little delve into the past and the future – and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for being NetGalley customers. Have a wonderful festive break and we’ll see you in the New Year. 

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The Grand Workflow

The lifecycle of a book, taking advantage of Firebrand and NetGalley

In every department in a publishing house, teams are working as hard as they can to publish books that they believe in. But sometimes we can get lost in the day-to-day and lose sight of the big picture. It can be hard to connect your daily work to the work your colleagues are doing, and to see yourselves as fitting into the same overall efforts. 

To refocus our attention on the big picture, Director of Sales and Education at Firebrand Joshua Tallent and VP of Business Growth and Engagement at NetGalley Kristina Radke gave a presentation at the Firebrand Odd Year Community Conference that demonstrates an overall workflow for a book through various Firebrand services, including NetGalley.

The goal of this workflow is to demonstrate departmental interconnectedness; how acquisitions, production, and promotion are linked — how one informs the other.

Tallent told the audience that he sees clients come to NetGalley and Firebrand to solve specific problems: To help them send metadata more effectively, to get more control over printing specs, to track P&Ls, to build pre-publication buzz. And while NetGalley and Firebrand can certainly provide tools and processes to fix these pain points, focusing on the individual issues can be limiting. 

“I’ve seen many clients lose the institutional awareness over time about the many ways we can help them solve new problems. That has led to companies looking at other solutions, not even knowing that the software they’re already using can do what they need.” 

Using Simon & Schuster imprint Gallery Books’s The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins, Radke and Tallent showed how a title might move through Firebrand and NetGalley services most effectively, from acquisition through publication, and even rejuvenate the backlist. Gallery used a number of these tools in their actual launch of The Book Charmer, and graciously allowed us to use their book to demonstrate how all of the Firebrand services can link together. This example includes recommended use of the Firebrand and NetGalley tools.

During the Acquisition phase of a project, Title Management provides publishers with robust tracking functionality, helping them manage submissions and ideas and plan for each project’s success. Title Management can help with budget planning utilizing a powerful Profit & Loss system and production planning templates.

For The Book Charmer, the Gallery team could create contracts and contract templates within Title Management and, once the acquisition was complete, use Title Management to start collecting metadata and assigning tasks across various teams. Getting the details right in Title Management is critical to everything that follows!

Around 5-6 months in advance of pub date, the team could send initial metadata feeds through Eloquence on Demand

Before the data was sent, Eloquence Verification ensured that the metadata met industry requirements. These metadata feeds ensure that the details consumers see about the book are consistent and correct.

Once the book was a few months away from its pub date, Gallery Books made it active on NetGalley, using metadata sent through Eloquence on Demand. This made title setup a breeze. NetGalley was used to garner early reviews and buzz, and generally raise the visibility of the book before it went on sale. Gallery Books could add NetGalley as a Marketing Campaign in Title Management, too, allowing them to keep track of this among the other efforts they were putting forth for this book.

Once the book was live in NetGalley, Gallery Books received requests and feedback, plus early data. To get the most out of NetGalley, Gallery Books used targeted marketing to drive requests. They made particular efforts to target librarians and booksellers through inclusion in the ABA Digital Whitebox and the Librarian newsletter. 

The Gallery team used consumer-facing platform, BookishFirst, to entice avid readers with a First Look at The Book Charmer, building pre-publication excitement through the use of a giveaway and gaining access to in-depth reporting through BookishFirst.

Through the launch process, the Gallery team updated their metadata and their keywords in Title Management, ensuring that the feedback they were receiving through NetGalley and Bookish First was informing the marketing copy. 

Both Firebrand’s Keywords service and the NetGalley Advanced Word Cloud allow them to add keywords that repeatedly pop up in reviews on NetGalley and beyond.  These keywords are important to discoverability across all retailer platforms, and using real audience-generated words ensures they’re as effective as possible.

At the same time as publicity and marketing teams were promoting The Book Charmer on NetGalley and BookishFirst, feeding the data they learned back into metadata, the production team was hard at work. Using Title Management, they managed printing specs, planned production costs, and handled inventory management, sending out purchase orders to their printer—all very critical details that affect the finished product and the publisher’s bottom line.

As the ebook file approached completion, the production team could load the file into FlightDeck through the Title Management interface. FlightDeck lets publishers check for any lingering issues with their ebook files before they send them to retail partners for fulfillment. 

As The Book Charmer grew closer to its pub date, the Gallery team could continue to track marketing promotions, including social media campaigns and printed promotional postcards, within Title Management. They kept track of tasks, specs, and design details.

Once The Book Charmer hit its pub date, the Gallery team could use the contact information they had gathered in the pre-pub phase from NetGalley and BookishFirst to re-engage their audiences on those platforms. Letting people know that the book they reviewed is now on sale is a great way to get these early fans talking about the book and to boost sales and reviews.

Plus, in addition to using Eloquence on Demand to distribute their metadata, Gallery could take advantage of Eloquence on Alert to track changes happening to their titles across retailer sites, including alerts if cover images don’t match across different retailers, if list prices or sale prices change, if a title’s sales rank increases, if the number of reviews or star rankings change, or if they lose their buy button to a third party seller on Amazon.

Through the journey from pub date to the backlist, the Gallery team can continue to update The Book Charmer’s metadata and feed it out to retailers, ensuring that the data is always relevant. They can create new or updated Keywords to see how that might impact sales for a backlist title, and test updated EPUB files in FlightDeck. They can use Express Purchase Orders within Title Management to create a single purchase order for an entire list of reprints. They can re-activate its NetGalley listing for a limited time when they publish a sequel. 

Every tool can be used in different parts of the publishing process, and the insights gathered in each stage and through each tool can be used to inform the others. 

If you have any questions about how to best streamline your NetGalley or Firebrand workflow – how to keep a wide perspective – please reach out to concierge@netgalley.com or joshua@firebrandtech.com

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