The Human+ Future of Automation in Book Publishing

Michelle Vu, Director of Business Intelligence & Data Management at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is implementing automation at HMH while keeping humans front-of-mind

Automation in publishing, as in any other industry, can seem risky. Workers wonder what will happen when their job can be done – in part or in full – by a computer program. For example, how will interns break into the industry if there are no galley envelopes to stuff and send? 

But where some see cause for concern, Michelle Vu sees opportunities. In her role as Director of Business Intelligence & Data Management at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Vu is working across divisions at HMH see how automation could make workflows smoother and more effective. She is fostering honest dialogue about pain points throughout the book publishing process. Vu is using automation to give her colleagues more space to do the creative and thoughtful work that humans are uniquely good at, and that is required to shepherd great books into being. 

She recently gave NetGalley Insights an inside look at how she thinks about automation and how she is implementing it at HMH. 

How do you define automation?

Automation takes a process typically performed by a human being and uses technology to either remove the human element completely or create a hybrid of the two. We’ve seen many forms of automation throughout history, mass production and the assembly line, chat bots, Alexa and Siri, and the thermostat in our homes. It is easy to forget modern conveniences are the result of some form of automation.

I see automation as an opportunity to improve employee satisfaction by reducing the amount of boring but necessary tasks we each do every day. 

Photo via Yotel

One of my favorite hotels to stay at in Boston is the Yotel in the Seaport District. Walking into the lobby, you check in at a kiosk with the credit card used to book the room, the machine creates a security card for entry to your room and prints a receipt with your room number. Automating tasks like check-in and setting up room access frees up the concierge to do the very human work of making a visit special through personalized recommendations.  If I need recommendations for things to do, there is a human being at the concierge desk whose time was not spent processing my stay but rather guiding me to the exciting things Boston has to offer. I realize this type of interaction (or non-interaction) may not work for everyone, but I find the experience very liberating.

You use the framework of Human+ to think about incorporating automation. Tell us what that means to you.

Human+ is building a digital workforce of software bots, machine learning, and artificial/augmented intelligence to work alongside and complement our human workforce. Identifying and segregating tasks that robots excel at with speed and accuracy (processing invoices, sifting through reams of financial data) from tasks that humans do best, especially those requiring subjective reasoning and creativity. To me, this means recognizing there really is a way to do more with less. By offsetting our talent with the aid of technology, we could invest more of our time with innovation.

By offsetting our talent with the aid of technology, we could invest more of our time with innovation.

How are you integrating automation into workflows at HMH? How and why did you take on this role?

We have been using software bots in the HMH trade division for the past six years on a much smaller scale and only within the data group. Our bots function to automate the retrieval, manipulation, and ingestion of data from external sources (think point of sales, daily ebook sales, etc.). It was not until recently that HMH implemented an enterprise level RPA (robotics process automation) program. Recognition of and support of RPA organization-wide has not only helped us ramp up automation projects; it has given us the visibility needed to expand beyond data ingestion into business processes.

Last year, our corporate automation team reached out to me to become a member of the advisory board for the RPA initiative. As the head of data and analytics for the trade division, RPA has been an area I have been wanting to explore for several years. To be perfectly honest, I knew very little about automation, but since I already work closely with our Publishing Operations team on workflow and processes, this was the perfect opportunity to dive right in!

What are the psychological, cultural, or social implications of integrating automation into publishing? 

Evangelizing automation from an empathetic perspective is the most important thing for a successful RPA implementation. 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.

Evangelizing automation from an empathetic perspective is the most important thing for a successful RPA implementation.

I think of automation as a shift in our culture and rethinking the way we work and what we call “work” from a holistic point of view. It is not biased toward return on investment or reduction in staff, but rather a long-term approach for employee engagement and innovation. Traditional publishing is often hierarchical in structure with divisions and imprints focusing on each of their own 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.

What responses have you been getting from colleagues when you are automating parts of their workflow?

I am fortunate to be working with such a wonderful group of people at HMH, who have reacted to my questioning and probing into their work with curiosity and excitement. My role is to foster discovery sessions where we uncover and unravel processes, asking why we are doing something and what kind of results are expected. I’ve received positive feedback even during the discovery phase where we are stepping back and breaking down tasks. Not all projects are good candidates for automation, but the conversation itself has had a positive impact in people’s work in an empowering way. Having the support of upper management is key. I am grateful to have a management team that understands and realizes this is an opportunity to create powerful changes in our definition of work.

Which kinds of jobs have already been affected by automation? Which roles do you anticipate will be impacted next? How will it change entry-level positions?

The types of automation we’ve looked at have been administrative type tasks that are being done by non-admin people. For example, an editor submitting author advance payments or accounts payable invoices or a production manager tracking the status of shipments from freight carriers. We are looking at tasks and not necessarily entire jobs. For entry-level positions, I expect automation could potentially mean fewer admin duties and more meaningful work.

In the case where entire jobs are being eliminated, some companies transition and train the people affected by automation to manage and even build the actual bots. It makes sense since they know the process best and can troubleshoot and fix issues.

What hopes or plans do you have for the future of automation in publishing, either at HMH or across the industry?

I would like to see vendors of publishing software integrate automation features into their applications by improving the management of production schedules and having a more targeted approach to workflow based on user profile. From a contracts, permissions, and sub rights perspective, using NLP (natural language processing) for semi-structured data in managing contracts and royalties would improve accuracy of data management and tracking of licenses. It would be interesting to integrate bots into the manuscript editing process that could potentially reduce the number of passes and streamline the workflow. One of our next big projects at HMH is to automate certain parts of metadata management to resolve data discrepancies, missing data and potentially even have bots create new data.


Michelle Vu is the Director of Business Intelligence & Data Management at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, where she heads the data and analytics team for the HMH Books and Media division. In her thirteen years of experience in trade publishing, she has led many metadata initiatives to improve workflow efficiency and generate product discovery. Michelle is passionate about delivering insights in meaningful ways, facilitating increased productivity and driving effective decision-making. Most of her free time is spent baking, cooking, eating, talking about food, and all things cats. 

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Coping with Critical Reviews

When you put your book out into the world you are hoping to find its biggest champions and most devoted fans. But, of course, no one book will appeal to everyone. Especially for first-time authors, receiving critical reviews and feedback can be frustrating and disheartening. It never feels great to read a critical review of your work, but there are some important things to keep in mind to help you consider critical reviews in a constructive and level-headed way.

Look at reviews for similar titles

Photo via Unsplash

If you want to get a sense of what kind of feedback you can expect for your book, take a look at how NetGalley members and consumer reviewers have responded to similar books. Browse the catalog to find these and you’ll start to get a qualitative idea of the spread of opinions when looking at comparative titles to your book. Make sure that when you are looking at reviews of comp titles – either on NetGalley or elsewhere – that you are looking at books in a similar genre and from a similar author or publisher. For example, if you are a debut thriller author working with an indie publisher, try looking at thrillers from other indie publishers rather than books written by well-established authors at the biggest publishing houses. Plus, for an extra reminder that even the most beloved books still get critical reviews, check out these one star reviews of The Great Gatsby

Remember that star ratings are relative

Star ratings are entirely subjective. For some reviewers, a 5 star review might be reserved for their absolute favorite books – the ones they’d bring to a desert island and the ones that they give as gifts to friends year after year. For others, the same star rating might that a book was an enjoyable afternoon diversion. The same general principle should be applied to lower star ratings, as well. A 3-star review might be a positive review in the eyes of the reviewer, full of thoughtful and useful observations about your work. 

We know it’s hard not to get hung up on these numbers when ratings may affect algorithms for discovery on certain platforms (this is not the case on NetGalley), but keep in mind that reviews and ratings are not something you can police. Since they are subjective, each reviewer has to make this decision for themselves. 

Resist the urge to respond

When you read reviews, you might be itching to reach out the reviewer and tell them why their interpretation is misguided or to defend your book. This is a perfectly natural desire, but we recommend resisting the impulse. We all know that tagging authors in critical reviews is poor internet etiquette, but it does happen. If you get tagged in a negative review on social media, the reviewer who is tagging you is more likely to be looking for some social media attention rather than providing you with meaningful feedback. Don’t feed the trolls. Plus, when authors try to defend their work on social media, it often ends up reflecting poorly on the author, rather than prompt a thoughtful consideration from the reviewer. This urge affects established authors as well as debut authors. Even Zoë Heller, author of Notes on a Scandal wrote in the New York Times that she has mentally composed replies to the critics who she feels have slighted her. But, crucially, she has never sent them. 

Glean valuable data in critical reviews

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. 

DNF reviews contain valid feedback

NetGalley Sales Associate Katie Versluis works with our community of self-published authors. She has seen first-hand how authors have responded to DNF reviews (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.”

At NetGalley, we recognize that DNF reviews can be valuable, but that they don’t always provide the same kinds of intel as regular, full reviews. That’s why if a NetGalley member does not finish a book, they can close the feedback loop by selecting the Will Not Give Feedback option. This allows them to move a title off their Shelf and give authors and publishers the reasons why they did not finish a given book.

Give yourself time to develop a thick skin

Receiving critical reviews are always challenging, but it will get easier over time. Be patient with yourself when you find yourself dwelling on critical reviews. Talk to your editor, agent, publicist, and fellow authors to get tips on how they recommend handling critical reviews, and learn from their experiences. Remember, you are looking to build a community of readers who love your work, not convincing people that their opinions are mistaken. Try to focus on the positive reviews!

Stuart Evers, author and Assistant Director of NetGalley UK keeps in mind a quote from Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi. Martel made a distinction between good-bad reviews and bad-bad reviews. Good-bad reviews point out genuine flaws and can be useful, if uncomfortable to receive. 

Evers told NetGalley Insights, ”I found this very helpful when dealing with negative reviews – and also helpful when reading any review I receive. A good bad review essentially says, I understand what the author was trying to achieve, but I don’t think they managed it. These can be difficult to read, but ultimately they can offer some insight into your work you hadn’t seen before. Use this to improve your writing; don’t sit there and mope about it. Better a good-bad review than a bad-bad review…A Bad-bad review is when a critic doesn’t get what you are trying to achieve, measures it against the wrong criteria, or fundamentally doesn’t engage with the text. You’re going to get some of these, and these are the most hurtful. However, they can be dismissed precisely because your book is not at fault. It might seem unfair, it might seem vindictive, but you just have to remind yourself: this is a bad bad review and I can dismiss it.”

Above all, professionalism is key

Remember to treat anyone you encounter during the publication process as a fellow publishing-industry professional. This includes the editors, designers, and beta readers you work with before your book is finished, as well as any reviewers or media who you encounter in the pre-pub or post-pub phases. Reagan Rothe of Black Rose Writing works with over 500 authors and shared this framework, “Try to take a professional approach and keep your choice of words constructive. Think about how you would speak to a coworker, your boss, an employee, or even a respected family member.” 

Even if you are frustrated or feel that you have been treated unprofessionally, keep an even tone in any communication you have about your book. As an author, you have now joined the publishing industry as a whole, which means that everyone from your publicist to book reviewers and even booksellers are, in a sense, colleagues. Be sure that all of your communication with them reflects that understanding.


How have you learned how to handle critical reviews? Did you receive some crucial advice early in your career that has helped you? Share your strategies with us at insights@netgalley.com.

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Career Advice for Publishing Students from the NetGalley Team

Last month several members of the NetGalley team sat down with NYU Summer Publishing Institute students. Nina Berman, Associate Editor at NetGalley Insights, Amanda Delatorrre, QA Manager, and Kristina Radke, VP of Business Growth & Development described their career paths, answered student questions, and shared the advice that helped each of them get to where they are in the publishing industry. 

The Summer Publishing Institute (SPI) is a six-week study of books and digital/magazine media in the heart of the publishing world. The program combines workshops, strategy sessions, presentations, hands-on projects and dynamic networking events. Learn more about SPI, plus NYU’s MS in Publishing.

The NetGalley team offered advice about how to network, how to position non-publishing skills and experience for the publishing world, how to carve a niche for yourself in a team as an assistant or intern, and assured the students that there are other creative positions beyond the Editor role.

You can see their nontraditional paths to NetGalley at the end of the article.

Network for the long haul, not just the job hunt

NB: When you’re making those connections, thinking about what you really want to get out of it. In part, it’s obviously that you want to be on their Rolodex so when they’re hiring or their friends are hiring they remember you. But there’s a lot of other information you can learn. And also, keep up with them! Let them know when you get a job, even if they didn’t directly help you do it. People like to feel like they’ve helped you even if just what they did was give you a few pointers generally. Because your first publishing job will not be your forever-job in the world. All of us have been helped by someone along the way. There’s a real sort of pay it forward sensibility.

Let [professional contacts] know when you get a job, even if they didn’t directly help you do it. People like to feel like they’ve helped..

AD: Networking is scary, but it’s so important. Connections that you make from here [at SPI], the speakers, including us, who come here and talk to you guys want to help, we want to give back. Taking advantage of that is really important.

KR: And if these contacts you make see that your momentum is building – that you got a job, and continue to express an interest in them and in the work that they’re doing, you’re going to stay at the top of their mind if they hear about something else that they think you’d be right for. Just sharing your interests with those people goes a long way towards helping others do some work for you and open up opportunities that you might otherwise not have heard of.

Frame your experience for the job you want

KR: Talk about your previous experience in a way that makes it relevant for the job you’re applying for. I had a friend who was interested in a career change, to get into publishing. She asked me if I would sit down with her and look at her résumé because she was applying for a marketing job. She had done work in retail and office admin. I literally just tweaked a couple of words to use publishing lingo to really draw the line between what that experience was and how it applies to book publishing. I think that was one of the most helpful things for her to get her foot in the door. And then once your foot is in the door, the interview is easy. So make sure that you’re really taking the language that you’re using in these classes and insert it into those résumés.

NB: I interned at a place called Chicago Ideas Week and wrote for their blog. Which was fun and something that kept me busy because they didn’t always have a ton of work. Eventually I realized that I needed to get on my own insurance, so I ended up getting a job as a sales assistant at iHeartMedia, which is the company that owns the radio stations that you listen to. It was in no way a good fit for me in terms of culture or the nature of the work, but I learned a lot of 9-to-5 kinds of office skills – emailing, organization, dealing with agency people, things like that. And later on, I was able to turn a part-time opening at NetGalley into a full-time job because I had a combination of editorial experience, from writing for this blog, and account management from this sales job that had been so taxing on my spirit. It was a lot of bouncing around but I found connections where I didn’t expect them, which ended up helping me. And in retrospect, finding things I didn’t think were valuable about old jobs actually ended up helping me be here at NetGalley.

Think about what matters to you in a job


Think about what your values are, what makes you feel like you can get up and go to work everyday and hold onto that as you go into job-hunting.

NB: Working at NetGalley has helped clarify what I care about in a job, which is important when you’re job hunting. Think clearly about what kind of work you’re willing to do, what are the quality-of-life things that are important to you, what size of company do you want to work for, etc. Publishing jobs are so competitive and – especially if you’re working in editorial – you know you’re signing up for what might end up being fairly grueling work, and it might be hard to make rent.

I know for me, it’s really important to feel like I have some kind of ownership over the work that I do. It’s valuable for me to see the impact of my work, and I think that is really possible at a smaller, scrappier organization. But, for a lot of other people, working at a real legacy publisher is hugely important and makes you feel like you’re in a grand lineage. I feel like I have a lot of freedom with NetGalley Insights – to develop it in the way that I want, to interview whoever I’m interested in. 

At NetGalley, our workplace culture is great. We all maintain good boundaries about working and not working, which is really important because we’re remote. We have set hours, which I think is really valuable. And I think there’s a lot of trust. And I’ve never worked with a more competent team in my life.

Think about what your values are, what makes you feel like you can get up and go to work everyday and hold onto that as you go into job-hunting.

AD: I always thought I wanted to work in editorial and, through SPI, I got an internship at Wiley that eventually ended up being my first job as an editorial assistant. When I got the title “Editorial Assistant” at Wiley, which has been a publisher since the 1800s, I was so excited, even though I had no idea what that actually meant. For me, the work there was not rewarding and I was struggling. I knew I wanted to stay in some kind of publishing house and I wanted to stay in the industry, but I was nervous to leave even though I knew I was unhappy. Eventually, I found myself in a more technology-focused role, which ended up suiting me much more!

KR: For my particular role, the fact that I have many things going on – from new product development and sales to managing my team and being an extra set of eyes for NetGalley Insights – sometimes makes it difficult to prioritize. As soon as I get really excited and focused on one thing, there’s all of this other stuff that I need to be thinking about, including what’s next for the company. But that’s also what I love about it. Our team is phenomenal, our work life balance is really great as a company, and for my particular job, every day is different. I never find myself in a rut, because as soon as I’m done focusing on something, there’s five other things that I could be looking at. Staying excited about my position has helped me stick with NetGalley for over eight years!

Explore beyond editorial

AD: When I realized that I wasn’t happy as an editorial assistant, I moved within Wiley to become a Learning Design Assistant. Learning Design is how people learn online, other than just reading your text. A lot of ebooks, a lot of dynamic stuff like that. It was a very good mixture of both editorial and technology, and I ended up naturally falling more towards the technology side. I’ve always been the person who is good at computers. I think having that job where I got the best of both worlds really pushed me to identify what was best for myself. I went back and got my masters degree in educational technology around that time, which drove my desire to change my position forward. Making that final jump from leaving everything editorial behind into this more tech-focused role at NetGalley was super scary but super rewarding. I think I get the best of all worlds now.

KR: I had an internship at HarperCollins in the editorial department at Ecco. This was a very strategic goal of mine at the time, as it is many of yours. It’s challenging to get into an editorial role. It’s really competitive and it’s a whole lot of work. I encourage you to keep pursuing that! For me, once I really experienced the editorial work, I found that it was less rewarding than some of the publicity work that I was previously doing for Hal Leonard. When a job opened up in marketing at HarperTeen, I jumped on it. I submitted my résumé, I got all of the recommendations in. And I ended up there for two years in the marketing department. That was a great way to exercise my creativity – I was writing a lot of copy for ads, back cover copy, social media posts, text that appeared on dedicated book websites, and things like that. 

At that time, and still today, HarperCollins was using NetGalley. I learned about this digital resource that would save so much time – especially thinking back to my time in the publicity department, manually stuffing envelopes and putting the labels on and stacking them so the UPS guy could come pick them up. I was intrigued by the ability to take something that had been such a manual process and make it really digital. It appealed to me in a way that sparked another type of creativity – how can we be using this better? We were [using NetGalley] kind of minimally, but it seemed like we could be doing so much more and connecting with so many more people. These questions led me to apply for a position at NetGalley in a role I never would have predicted for myself!

See yourself as a peer

KR: I interned at Foundry Literary + Media, a literary agency. I did a lot of slush pile reading for them, writing summaries and recommendations to the agents, and writing rejection letters. But what I found most interesting was that the agents were most impressed with the way I could sit in a meeting with them and have a conversation. I heard various comments from them like, “It’s really clear that you’re not right out of college like some of the other interns.” What they were really commenting on was not my age, but the way in which I was able to talk with them confidently as a peer. This is something I would impart to you. Remember that your ideas and opinions are valuable and think of yourself as an equal to all of the people you’re meeting and talking to.

Find opportunity in data & strategy

No matter what your job is, the data is really important. If you know what indicators of success you’re looking for, you can have a better idea about what’s going to work the next time.

KR: Data is something you should be thinking about, even – especially! – those of you who are interested in editorial. No matter what your job is, the data is really important. If you know what indicators of success you’re looking for, you can have a better idea about what’s going to work the next time. Or, if you tried something and it didn’t reach the goals you were trying to reach, data helps you to assess why and try something else. We live in an age now where you have to do that to stay competitive. 

Strategy is one of those things that I think is undersold. A lot of authors especially are still figuring it out. The marketers and publicists at publishing houses often fall into the trap of, “Well this is the way we’ve always done it.” Or, “Sure, somebody told me I should try this thing and I’m going to do it, but in a really minimal way.” One of the biggest challenges of our job at NetGalley is to help people think about their job in a way that really is data-driven, that helps them be a little more agile in the way that they are considering the audiences that they’re reaching and things like that.

NB: A lot of the publishers we work with, especially those that are smaller or run a tighter ship, say that they always wish they were able to spend more time with NetGalley data. That’s an opportunity for those of you who end up in smaller publishing houses. Whether it’s NetGalley that you’re working with or something else; whatever else it is that other people are too busy to work on, make that your thing. Get really good at it, learn a lot about it, be able to incorporate it into your work, and be able to build yourself a little niche that’s really valuable. We’ve seen people start as an assistant who is clicking buttons within the publisher’s account to approve NetGalley requests, then get really interested and becoming great users of the service. They’re then able to leverage that in their own careers to demonstrate that their understanding of this data is valuable in a higher position, or bringing NetGalley wherever they move next.

It’s a good lesson that the things that people generally know that they should be doing, but might not have the resources to do, can be great opportunities for you as an assistant or intern to find something and make it your own.


Thank you so much to NYU’s SPI students for their thoughtful questions. We wish them all the best of luck as they finish out their program and get started in the industry! We are more than happy to speak to more student groups and consider other speaking engagements. To inquire, email insights@netgalley.com.

Transcript has been edited for clarity & length.

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Mark your calendars: September 2019

Upcoming conferences, panels, webinars, and networking opportunities 

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

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

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

US


Digital Book World

Conference – Strategy

Sept. 10-12, Nashville

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

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

Webinar – Professional Development

Sept. 10

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

BISG: Book Publishing from Concept to Consumer

Conference – Professional Development

Sept. 16, Chicago

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

Brooklyn Book Festival

Book Fair – Literary Event 

Sept. 16-23, NYC

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

Audio Publishers Association: Fall 2019 Social

Networking – Audio

Sept. 17, NYC

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

BISG: Market Opportunities: Rights & Technology

Panel Program – Rights

Sept. 26, NYC

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

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

Webinar – Academic Publishing

Sept. 26

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

BIGNY: Basically Books: Fall 2019

Workshop – Professional Development

Sept. 27, NYC

“We will cover: 

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

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

UK


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

Conference – Academic Publishing

Sept. 11-13, Old Windsor

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

BookMachine: BookMachine Meets Bloomsbury

Panel Program – Strategy

Sept. 19, London

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

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

Panel Program – Audio

Sept. 25, London

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

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

How Chronicle is using NetGalley to promote their most anticipated cookbooks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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6 Places to Look to Keep Up With Voice Technology

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

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

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

Voicebot.ai & Voice Tech Podcast

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

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

Hot Pod

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

Edison Research

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

What’s New in Publishing

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

TechCrunch

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

The Verge

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

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

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Authentic Interactions with Reddit AMAs

Reddit, the self-described front page of the internet is a powerful platform for connecting with enthusiastic and vocal readers. For a primer on Reddit and some ideas for engaging with its communities, check out our recent introductory article. Like any online community, Reddit has its own norms, its own lingo, and its own unique forms of communication. One of the most influential forms of Reddit-specific communication is the AMA. 

AMA, which stands for Ask Me Anything, has its roots in early online forums like AOL chatrooms, Slashdot, Something Awful, and others. But it was on Reddit that the form was codified, popularized, and brought into the mainstream.

To conduct an AMA, a user will offer a brief description of themselves, and then open themselves up to a barrage of questions by writing “AMA.” Then, the floodgates open for any user to ask a question. One of the most commented-on AMAs from 2018 was from a Reddit user receiving Universal Basic Income. (UBI is a guaranteed stipend given to every citizen within a governed population.) They wrote “I am receiving Universal Basic Income payments as part of a pilot project being tested in Ontario, Canada. AMA!” 

Unlike other forms of interviewing, AMAs tend to have an informal tone, giving Redditors a peek behind the curtain into the lives of either very famous people, or people with unusual lives. They can let authors and fans relax around one another, giving conversations a more casual tone, as opposed to a formal book talk Q&A.  For example, in Bill Gates’s 2018 AMA, he answered Redditor questions from “What’s your favorite prime number?” to “What’s the most “treat yo self” rich guy thing that you do?” The answers were “2” and “having a nice house with a trampoline.” The thread contains over 10k comments. 

To date, Barack Obama, Keanu Reeves, Andy Weir, and Chuck Tingle have all done popular AMAs. 

 Redditors discover these on dedicated AMA subreddits like r/IAmA or r/AMA, or as a feature on a subreddit dedicated to a different topic. For publishers and authors, relevant places to look for AMAs are r/books, r/writing, or genre-specific subreddits like r/fantasy or r/unresolvedmysteries.

AMAs let authors connect with readers to talk about a new book, answer questions about an older book, or talk about favorite characters. Plus, they are more convenient and less costly than a traditional book tour. For shy authors, an AMA can offer a way to speak authentically with fans while remaining in their own homes. They are not only more intimate than other kinds of interviews, but also more democratic. Readers don’t have to live in a major city or buy an advance ticket. All they have to do is be online at the right time to get a chance to talk to an author whose work they love. 

There are a number of ways that publishers and authors can use AMAs to connect with Redditors.

Inspiration and Fan Appreciation

Beloved YA fantasy writer, Tamora Pierce went on Reddit to do an AMA under the r/books subreddit, answering questions about the inspiration behind favorite characters and listening to Redditors who have been reading her work for years. This AMA happened a few months after the US release of Pierce’s most recent book, Tempests and Slaughter

Demonstrating Subject Expertise

Another way to use AMAs is to focus on yourself as an industry expert, to grow your own brand presence by offering advice. Eric Smith, literary agent and YA author took to Reddit to answer questions about everything from querying to MFA courses, to balancing his “agent brain” and his “writer brain.” While offering up some free advice, he was able to successfully position himself in front of Redditors as an expert in the industry, raising both his own profile and that of his agency, P.S. Literary. 

Similarly, Lori Gottlieb, bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone hosted a recent AMA on r/books, answering questions about psychotherapy and relationship patterns. 

Writing Tips

Authors can also give writing tips during an AMA, both giving a behind-the-scenes look at their own process, and letting them give aspiring writers useful tips.

USA Today bestselling author Penelope Bloom answered questions about her writing process, in addition to book-specific questions during a 2018 AMA. She gave advice about balancing romance and plot, writing a sex scene, and how she manages her prolific career alongside parenthood. 

Redditor, moderator of r/fantasy, and NetGalley member MikeOfThePalace describes the benefit of AMAs to authors. “We [are] offering them a chance to talk about their books to thousands of potential new readers, and they could do it at home in their pajamas instead of having to go traveling to a convention or a book tour. It made for an easy sell…As long as they’re ready to answer questions, it’s fine. If they come into it ready to have fun, it’s great.”

MikeOfThePalace also notes that AMAs are best used with authors who already have an established presence. If an author’s platform isn’t strong enough to have a fan base eager to ask them questions, an AMA risks getting very little traction. 

Before hosting an AMA, make sure to promote it so that your audience will see it. Unless your author is so famous that they will immediately go viral if spotted on Reddit, make sure to tell the fans to be on Reddit at the appointed time  so that they can join in on the limited-time conversation.

For authors and publishers interested in hosting an AMA, the first step is to contact AMA@reddit.com and send a short pitch about the author and the book. The Reddit team will be able to help you figure out which subreddit is the best fit for a potential AMA and help prep for it. You can learn what you need to set up an AMA and use this sign as a template for a proof photo to demonstrate that you’ll be doing an AMA. Then, once you’ve contacted Reddit to help schedule your AMA, they recommend getting in touch with the community moderators of the subreddit where the AMA will take place. 

Cassidy Good, Reddit community manager told NetGalley Insights, “The most important factor in having a successful AMA is good prep work. This includes crafting a good title and thoughtful introductory text, which will encourage people to join in and ask questions. It also includes considering the best placement for the AMA. For example, an author who writes true crime would be very popular in r/UnresolvedMysteries as the community is already devoted to discussing crime. The more aligned the AMA topics is with the discussion themes of the community, the more successful it will be. This is why niche and specific communities often have very thoughtful AMAs.”

While Reddit AMAs might not be the right fit for every author, their success represent the ways that author reader interactions are being reshaped in the digital age. These interactions are increasingly happening on digital platforms, through social media, and with the expectation of deeper intimacy or honesty than a reader might expect to find in a traditional reading and Q&A. Whether or not AMAs are a good fit for your authors or your goals, it’s important to remember what makes AMAs resonate, and to take those lessons into your marketing strategy sessions. 

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Proven Strategies: Compelling eBlast Copy and Design

Tips and success stories from NetGalley’s marketing experts

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

Our first Proven Strategies post covered how to grab a reader’s attention with a strategic subject line. Now, our marketing team is sharing tips for the next step: optimizing the design and content of a dedicated eBlast, one of NetGalley’s most popular marketing programs. 

Design

Not every publisher or author has the budget or bandwidth to create unique eBlast designs in-house. That’s ok! You don’t have to design an eBlast in order for an eBlast to succeed. NetGalley’s marketing team has a standard eBlast template that can easily incorporate any art or assets. For example,  images you’ve used as Facebook or Twitter covers (like The Bromance Book Club), or graphics from your website or from the jacket art itself, to match the book’s overall branding and achieve a more cohesive look.

The call to action (CTA) should clearly tell the recipient what to do next—and should fit your goal for that campaign. Before creating your eBlast, think about what you want from the recipient: requests, limited-time downloads, wishes, reviews, pre-orders, purchases? Highlight the CTA with color, placement and text treatment. We use standard “button” images that mirror the recognizable action buttons of the NetGalley site, so that recipients can easily spot where to click in the email. 

Plus, make sure to preview your email design across multiple devices and email clients, so you know how it will render for recipients who are reading your email on mobile devices, on their computers, or elsewhere. Our team will help test, too!

Content

Remember that, like all of us, the recipients of your eBlast  are busy and have short attention spans. It is highly likely that they won’t spend very long on your email, so it’s key to design that email with efficiency and readability in mind. Keep the CTA “above the fold” so the recipient can see it without having to scroll too much. Can the recipient answer what, why, and how after just a few seconds of looking at the email? 

And, be sure to include the book’s pub date prominently so they know the best time to submit and post their review. Bookish’s Executive Editor Kelly Gallucci told NetGalley Insights: “My pet peeve is definitely when emails don’t contain enough information. It’s most helpful for me when the author, book title, genre, and pub date are as up-front and clear as possible.”

When writing the content of your eBlast, keep in mind that 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?

Don’t forget to leverage high-profile relationships. Highlight if your author is already a bestseller, or if there are any exciting crossovers into television or film. And if you have quotes from industry professionals or big-name authors, include those but keep blurbs brief

We also recommend considering your secondary goals for the campaign, in addition to the main CTA. For instance, in addition to driving requests on NetGalley, do you also want the book to get more nominations for LibraryReads and the Indie Next List? Include a nomination reminder with deadlines (but only if the eBlast is being targeted to librarians and booksellers). Or, in addition to driving Pre-Orders, do you also want to build an author’s brand and social following? Consider including a short author bio, plus a photo and social media links. Do you want to increase brand awareness for your company or imprint? Make sure to highlight your logo and link to your publisher page on NetGalley so members can “favorite” you. 


Have questions or need advice? Ask NetGalley’s marketing team – marketing@netgalley.com! We’re here to help, and want to help your book succeed. And, be sure to subscribe to NetGalley Insights so that you don’t miss our next Proven Strategies post.

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Stephen Sposato: Curating for 1.7 million patrons at Chicago Public Libraries

Anyone who works in the book industry is, in a sense, a content curator. But a curatorial eye looks different for different segments of the industry: for agents, marketing departments, booksellers, critics, and influencers. 


Chicago Public Library – Harold Washington Library Center

Stephen Sposato, Manager of Content Curation at Chicago Public Libraries told NetGalley Insights how he and his team think about their roles as curators for their community, and which resources they use to make sure that they are best meeting their patrons’ needs. 

Unlike an independent bookstore, which caters to the current interests of a neighborhood, librarians need to consider a wider demographic and a different set of needs. With 80 locations, over 2.6 million books in circulation, and 1.7 million patrons, Sposato and his team are curating for a massive and diverse community.  

Sposato told Insights, “We’re expected to provide access to books for a lot longer (sometimes even after they’re out of print). We also tend to offer materials people need for short term help but don’t particularly want to own, such as resume books, SAT prep books, or books on dieting and fitness. The public expects us to offer access to all books in perpetuity, but the reality is we have limited resources and must make choices every day about the collection, and so librarians are curators in this sense.”

Here are the resources that Sposato and his team use to curate the offerings for Chicago Public Libraries.

Data

“We actually order most new mainstream books because we serve a large city and we can count on wide demand. For us the trick is to correctly anticipate the level of demand and to order the right number of copies. We check the previous track record of the authors of new books and look at the performance of similar books. We are committed to stocking a collection that is “current, diverse and responsive,” as it states in our library’s most recent strategic plan, and at the same time we need to be fiscally responsible with our funding.”

Industry recommendations

“We stay on top of the coverage of forthcoming and new books pretty well. Aside from the opportunities I just mentioned, publishers work with library distributors like Ingram and Baker & Taylor who helpfully create lists of forthcoming titles each month. And librarians across the country also discuss forthcoming titles on social media and contribute to the monthly LibraryReads list of the top 10 titles recommended for readers each month.”

*Librarians from NetGalley can nominate books for LibraryReads directly within their account!

Library Marketing teams 

“We don’t have as much direct contact as we could ideally, but the bigger publishing houses and some of the mid-size publishers have staff devoted to library marketing, and we receive regular email newsletters from them, as well as notices about forthcoming books, including some access to advance copies. When we can attend professional conferences, there are often opportunities to see them present forthcoming books in person and meet with them in exhibitor booths. We also receive some catalogs by mail. Our publisher reps also tend to be extremely helpful when we contact them with requests by email.

We’ve had great success with publishers sponsoring author visits, and we’ve even started experimenting with “book buzz” events for the public as when Penguin Random House came and pitched new books directly to our patrons or we invited smaller local publishers to showcase their newest titles. We also had the opportunity to partner with Macmillan recently who worked with a mystery book club at one of our branches to promote some new mystery titles.”

Sposato hopes to expand his collaborations with publishers. “With the demise of some big [bookstore] chains over the last couple decades, there are fewer physical places for people to discover new books, movies and music.  We see libraries playing an increasing role in discovery, and we think that’s of long-term benefit to publishers, so more dialogue would be great. I’d also like to see more proactive inclusion of libraries when launching books of local appeal: we need to know about big Chicago books before anyone else. And while book stores tend to be found in the wealthiest neighborhoods in order to have the best chance of survival, we have a presence in more diverse neighborhoods. We love it when publishers are open to discussing the needs we see throughout our entire society.”


How do you or your marketing team work with regional librarians? Email us at insights@netgalley.com. We’d love to feature your strategies!

Stephen Sposato is the manager of Content Curation at Chicago Public Library, overseeing selection and readers’ advisory. He has over fifteen years of experience in collection development and readers’ advisory. He has written for Library Journal as a reviewer and as a contributor to the Reader’s Shelf column. He has provided extensive RA training, given presentations at BookExpo, the Illinois Library Association and the American Library Association, and currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for LibraryReads. You can find him on Twitter at @stephensposato.

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Maximizing Category Interest on NetGalley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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