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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Remember the pure, bookish joy of a middle school book fair at PRH’s Book Fair for Grownups
On Saturday, November 23, Penguin Random House is bringing bookish nostalgia to life in a Book Fair for Grownups. Attendees will be able to relive their school book fairs in the 80s and 90s, browse books curated by the PRH team, take pictures in a school photo booth, peruse retro crafts by Glue, and see special appearances from PRH authors.
Penguin Random House warns that attendees might experience “Severe middle school flashbacks! Tables stacked with books! Pencils! Mr. Sketch Markers! Erasers! Cubbies! Pins! Patches! Spin art! Snap bracelets! Custom Interactive Mad Libs!”
We heard from members of the cross-departmental team that created this Book Fair about how this event was born, how they are working with partners and sponsors like Belletrist, Urban Outfitters, and Out of Print, and how they are using it to connect with their readers.
Thanks to Alison Rich & Rachael Perriello, PRH Author Platforms, and Carly Gorga, RH Events & Partnerships, who gave us an inside look at the creation of this event.
What’s the origin story behind the Book Fair for Grownups?
The idea of Book Fair for Grownups has been floating around Penguin Random House for a while because for so many of us, the book fairs of our youth are what first got us excited about reading (not to mention all of the super cool pencils, markers, Trapper Keepers, etc). By the time this summer rolled around, we believed we had enough excitement among our staff that the time was right to make it happen for the fall.
There’s been a lot of collaboration across various PRH teams including author platforms, consumer marketing, sales, events, and our publishing divisions to bring this event to life, which has been really fun.
Who is the audience for the Book Fair?
There is no one archetypal “student” at Book Fair. Whether you are a millennial, a mom, or a millennial mom – if you grew up loving book fairs, watching Reading Rainbow, and getting lost in the stacks, this event is for you.
Why this particular era of Book Fair? What are you hoping it evokes for the attendees?
We focused on an 80s / 90s-era book fair because that’s when a lot of us were in school, and also because there’s a lot of nostalgia for that time. That’s definitely the feeling we’re hoping to evoke for guests – the magic of being back in school, shopping for books and school supplies, trading stickers, tie-dying t-shirts, wearing scrunchies, doing Mad Libs. Life gets complicated as you get older and we want to bring people back to a lighter, less complicated time in their lives . . . if only for an afternoon.
How does this event fit into PRH’s larger strategy for reader outreach?
Penguin Random House’s mission is to foster a universal passion for reading by partnering with authors to create stories that inform, entertain, and inspire, and connect them with readers everywhere. Given that reading is such a passion point, it made sense to us to try to capture some of that passion offline with an experiential format that would bring our childhood love of books to life, embrace the bookish lifestyle, and create a sense of community around our books and authors.
It’s unique for a publisher to have public-facing events like this. Most consumers tend to think about buying books from bookstores or online retailers. How are you hoping this event will influence consumer perception of PRH?
Our booksellers and online retailers are invaluable partners. Consumer-facing events like Book Fair (among many others hosted by various divisions of Penguin Random House) are simply one of the many ways we can connect directly with readers: To meet them. To talk to them. To hear directly from them what they’re loving, what they’re reading, and how we can better serve them. It’s important for us as a business to know our audience, and events like Comic Cons, book festivals, and now Book Fair make that possible. Books serve so many purposes – they start dialogues, bridge gaps, connect individuals and communities, transform lives – but they also bring people so much joy. We took a playful approach with this event format to inject a bit of that joy into all our lives and to celebrate book nerds everywhere.
How did you decide what kinds of activities or giveaway items the audience would be most interested in?
This was really a collaborative effort from our team. We have a Book Fair brain trust of folks from across Penguin Random House, and we did a lot of brainstorming, reminiscing and laughing, and that’s where we came up with most of the ideas and activations you’ll find at Book Fair. We also worked with a host of amazing partners and sponsors including Office Depot, Urban Outfitters, Glue, Tiger Beat, Mrs. Grossman’s, Lip Smacker and our colleagues at Out of Print.
Tell us about the partnership with Belletrist for this event. Why did you choose to work with them and what does that partnership look like?
Belletrist has been a fantastic partner for PRH since its inception. When we realized we both had the same instinct to bring readers back to the book fairs of their youth we immediately knew we had to partner with them on it. They’ve had a hand in inspiration, in bringing in sponsors, in promotion, and sheer enthusiasm.
What kinds of books can we expect to see at the Book Fair?
Because this event is for those 21 and over, there will be a wide assortment of books for grownups for sale (including YA!). The title selection was curated by Abbe Wright from Read it Forward. Some tables of our titles you can expect to see are “Brand Spankin’ New,” “Munchies,” “Heartthrobs,” and “TBT,” to name a few.
Can you give us a hint about any of the authors who will be there?
Addison works with both individuals and companies to help them get the most out of LinkedIn and shared some of her best practices with the members and guests of Women’s Media Group. And we’re happy to pass along a few of her tips!
Find the right photo
If you don’t currently have a photo associated with your LinkedIn, now is the time to change that! According to Addison, LinkedIn members with photos on their profile receive 9x more connection requests, 21x more profile views, and 36x more messages. And for everyone wondering exactly what kind of photo they should be using, it depends on your industry and your role. An investment banker will need to present a very different kind of professional image than a freelance children’s book illustrator. It also depends on your role. If your work is creative or visual in nature, let that shine through in your photo. And, finally, it depends on the kind of company that you work for or want to work for. Do you work for a fully remote tech company or a traditional corporation with over 100 years of storied history? Match the tone of your photo to the tone of the company you work for (or are hoping to work for).
If you’re not sure exactly what kind of photo is best for your industry or your position, you can always search for other people in your same industry or in your same role on LinkedIn to see how they are presenting themselves.
Profile photos should show the human behind the resume. Use discretion, but don’t be afraid to be a bit playful. And, of course, make sure it actually looks like you!
Tell your story
LinkedIn allows you to fill in a brief “About” section in your profile. Second only to having a picture in your profile, Addison told the WMG audience that this section is the most important part of your profile. It is your opportunity to weave together your experience and interests into a coherent narrative; an elevator pitch for yourself. It’s where you can show off your individuality. If you’re actively searching for a new job or looking to change industries, the About section is the place to say so. And, especially important for the publishing industry, it’s where you prove your writing chops. Can you condense your whole work experience – plus indicate how you want to grow – into a handful of sentences?
Addison suggested a length of 1-2 short paragraphs and using the STAR format: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Be sure to hit what industries you’ve worked in (Situation), your responsibilities in those industries (Task), how you get your work accomplished (Action), and your successes (Result). She recommended including relevant metrics for your roles. For example, if you worked on the publicity team for 10+ bestsellers in the past 2 years, if you are a publishing industry veteran with over 15 years of experience, if you exceeded your growth goals for 5 consecutive quarters, etc. She did, however, note that while many industries value years of experience, ageism in the workplace is real and advised discretion when talking about how many years you’ve been in a field.
Make it media rich
There are several opportunities within a LinkedIn profile to add media like photos, videos, articles, or your portfolio. After encouraging the audience to add in a profile photo, Addison also recommended adding in any other relevant links to make your profile more engaging and to give anyone looking at it a fuller picture of your work. This is most intuitive for professionals whose work is already visual; graphic designers, illustrators, etc. But, Addison reminded the audience that all kinds of professionals have materials that they can – and should! – add to their LinkedIn profile. For example, articles you’ve written, links to presentations you’ve given, big media coverage that you earned for a project, and more.
If you are sharing articles or writing articles on LinkedIn, include images or videos when applicable.
Give endorsements and recommendations to get them
LinkedIn connections can endorse one another for relevant skills, plus provide written recommendations that are available on their profile. Recommendations and endorsements are great ways to demonstrate that, not only do you think you’re a whiz at developing strategic partnerships, for example, but your peers and colleagues think so, too. The best way to encourage your contacts to endorse you or give you a recommendation is to first endorse or recommend them. Addison suggested first making your recommendation or endorsement for a contact, then reaching out to them to ask if they would be willing to do the same for you. She told the audience not to be shy about asking colleagues to cover specific topics or skills in a recommendation, especially if they are in a more senior position.
But, you’ll need to keep these skill endorsements fresh. Your skillset when you first got a LinkedIn account might have changed as your career has grown and changed. You’ll want these endorsements to reflect your current skills. Addison recommended going through your LinkedIn connections every six months or so to endorse them for the most relevant skills to their current positions and asking them to do the same for you.
Share your voice, build your audience
LinkedIn is a powerful platform for building your voice as a thought leader in your chosen field. The simplest way to start sharing your perspective on LinkedIn is to share articles, links, or quotes on your profile as status updates. But, whenever you do post content you find elsewhere, make sure that you’re making it clear to your followers exactly why you’re posting it. Frame any shared quote, or article, or tip with your own viewpoint and your own voice so that everything you share becomes a part of your own branding on the site. The other option for sharing your opinions and building an audience on LinkedIn is through their in-site publishing platform. You can publish an article on LinkedIn directly, which will then be promoted to your followers as an update, rather than just as an item in their newsfeed if they happen to be scrolling. These articles are opportunities for you to reflect more deeply on something you’re interested in. For example, Addison wrote an article called “Silent Reflection” about losing her voice. It was more personal than professional, but positioned her as someone who thinks deeply about communication, accessibility, and interpersonal skills needed to succeed at work.
Use your posts to start conversations – if someone comments, respond! This is how you demonstrate that you are engaged in a conversation and invested in moving discussions forward. Engaging actively in the comments on posts – yours or others – creates an opportunity for reciprocity between you and whoever you are in communication with.
Use hashtags to reach a broader audience. Hashtagging is still relatively new on the platform, so some of the more general hashtags (#marketing, #professionaldevelopment, etc.) are able to broaden your reach without getting entirely lost in the shuffle. Once you’ve started to share content on your profile, start to think about scheduling it so that your followers know when to expect regular updates from you. For example, every Tuesday afternoon. It’s best to stay away from posting on Fridays, but a surprising number of people are active on LinkedIn during the weekend, so feel free to post on Saturday or Sunday! The whole audience was surprised to learn that LinkedIn is not just for Monday-Friday, but Addison explained that because so many people are using LinkedIn to find a new job, they might not want to be on it while at their current job.
Check in on your security preferences in case you want to be able to look at other members’ profiles without them being notified. Check this by going to your Account, then Privacy, then How Others See Your LinkedIn Activity.
Unless you are in a very public-facing role or give lots of workshops or talks where you are meeting new people and inviting them to connect with you, Addison recommends keeping your LinkedIn contacts just to people you’ve actually met or corresponded with.
Include your Volunteer experience. It’s a great way to show who you are holistically. Plus, you might find that you share non-career interests with a hiring manager or recruiter.
Use the first person in your profile. Third person tends to read as awkward and too formal for the platform.
How NetGalley uses data to frame decision-making and help books succeed
One of the core principles at NetGalley is our focus on data. We give publishers the tools to help them understand and use their data as strategically as possible, and we use data to guide the development of our service.
When we work with publishers on a strategic level, and as we continue to build new features in NetGalley, we are thinking about what data is most valuable to publishers. When we meet with publishers, we hear that you would like more ways to correlate your marketing efforts with activity, or better understand your audience. It’s important for us to know which metrics are most important to you in the pre-publication phase, and how you’re using your results to understand what’s working for your books.
And as much as we are encouraging publishers to look at their own data, we are doing the same for ourselves.
Since early 2019, NetGalley has been working closely with Mandy Fakhoury, our on-staff data scientist, to delve into our own data. She has helped us examine how publishers are using the site, which tools are most used (and how effectively), and how industry trends are manifesting on NetGalley.
Mandy shared a bit about her work as a data scientist for NetGalley and Firebrand, plus a tip about how lay people can become more comfortable using hard metrics to guide their decision-making.
What is the role of a data scientist?
The role of a data scientist is extracting meaningful information from data. My job is focused on data management, modeling, and business analysis. The process for any data scientist is defining the problem, collecting the data, understanding and exploring the dataset, and analyzing and communicating the results and findings. Ultimately there’s a question to be answered or a problem to be solved, therefore the majority of my time is spent making sure the data is ready to be analyzed. The remainder of my time is spent on creating models or analyses that give insightful meaning or show certain trends that answer or solve the problem.
What have you observed about how publishing engages with data, compared to other industries?
Publishers require data to make clear decisions to innovate and better serve their customers. Like other industries, data is a crucial part of the decision-making process. As an example, most industries use historical trends which allows them to identify which areas have been successful and which ones need improvement. In the publishing world, historical trend is about identifying which genres yielded the most sales and which titles sold the most.
Any favorite project you’ve worked on for either Firebrand or NetGalley?
I can definitely say I have learned more about natural language processing (NLP) and text analysis within both Firebrand and NetGalley. I have become more familiar with the data that goes into the publishing world. On the Firebrand side I have learned the trend of publishers owning or losing a buy button, as well as whether a sale price is different than the list price provided by a publisher among other insights. On the NetGalley side I have created a Word Cloud based on reviews from members [now live for NetGalley Advanced clients!]. Doing the Word Cloud, I got more comfortable using Flask as well creating applications in R Shiny. I have also gotten a deeper understanding of sentiment analysis as well as text classification and the quality of a text. Overall, every project teaches me something new and that is my favorite part; with data science you never stop learning.
Any advice for non-data scientists to become better at using hard metrics to guide decision-making?
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.
A dedicated data scientist is invaluable to the growth of NetGalley for Kristina Radke, VP of Business Growth & Engagement.
“Mandy is dedicated to helping us understand all of the activity on NetGalley and find real answers about the use of our site, both by publishers and members. It’s so important to how we plan NetGalley’s continued growth. A gut feeling just isn’t enough to make business decisions! I don’t want to just think about data and activity–it’s critical to my role to understand it and use it to get better and better. I love working closely with Mandy as she collects and analyzes our data, and making space to consider what that data means to us going forward.”
Lindsey Lochner, VP of Marketing Engagement, explains that publishers benefit from our increased investment in data analysis.
“Lately we’ve been hearing more about data analysis from many of the publishers we work with, whether they have an official data scientist (or team) in-house, or their individual marketers have an increased focus on the data available to them. As our clients dig even further into their own data, it’s our goal to help provide some of the missing puzzle pieces that fit into the entire picture of how a book is performing. Mandy helps us visualize and analyze the specific activity and review data that we gather from our platform, so that we can present that back to publishers to help widen their scope.”
When we launched NetGalley Advanced in January 2019, we did so to give publishers even more early data. And as we continue to build out new features and functionality within NetGalley Advanced, every update we are releasing is to help publishers discover a deeper understanding about how you (and any associated imprints) are using the site. Publishers can see how members are interacting with their titles, and how their actions (both on and off NetGalley) affect NetGalley activity, and more.
How an indie author and online writing coach kept engagement high for her debut novel across platforms, turning her audience into a launch team
By the time Abbie Emmons was ready to publish her first book, she had built up an audience as a blogger, YouTuber, and Bookstagrammer. But having an audience doesn’t automatically mean success; eyeballs don’t equal engagement. So when Abbie Emmons was getting ready to publish her novel about two teens with disabilities who fall for each other, she knew she was going to have to work to turn her audience into her launch team.
Emmons strategically engaged with her audience across platforms during her pre-publication push for 100 Days of Sunlight. She kept her community in the loop through her writing process, with the cover reveal, and once she had review copies. As soon as 100 Days of Sunlight was available on NetGalley, Emmons brought her pre-existing community there, as well as finding a new audience of NetGalley members browsing for their next read.
As a writing coach, Abbie Emmons has thought a lot about strategies that independent authors can use to launch their books with limited time, budgets, and resources. And as an author, she was able to put those strategies into practice.
What was your path to becoming an author? What about a writing coach/educator/resource? Which came first and how did you make the pivot to the other?
I fell in love with stories at a very young age. My mom introduced me to the world of reading, and I was enraptured by the magic of storytelling. I started writing stories of my own as soon as I learned how to hold a pencil, and I haven’t stopped since.
Becoming a creative writing coach was a natural “next step” for me – it blossomed out of my passion for storytelling. In 2016 I started blogging about writing, which turned into creating videos, and it’s been about one year since I launched my YouTube channel. It’s been amazing to connect with other writers all over the world and share my insight and my authoring journey.
I mostly provide coaching through my video content, but I’m in the process of creating digital products to provide my community with the opportunity to go deeper and learn more. WritersLife Wednesday also has a Patreon community, which allows me to connect more personally with committed writers and offer them a one-on-one experience. Within the Patreon, there’s a private Facebook group where I connect personally with followers and also a monthly podcast where I answer specific story questions real-time.
Tell us a bit about your YouTube channel. How does it intersect with your work as an author?
My YouTube channel, WritersLife Wednesdays, is all about making your story matter. Through my videos, I teach writers how to harness the power and psychology of storytelling and transform their ideas into a masterpiece. I also share my experiences of the publishing process to help other authors take the next step with their book.
I love teaching about story because it intersects so beautifully with my writing. I’m constantly learning and improving my own writing processes, which helps me give better, clearer advice in my videos. It’s a journey of experience and growth, and I’m so thrilled that other writers are joining me in this pursuit of writing meaningful books.
In September, 100 Days of Sunlight was the #1 best seller in Teens & YA fiction about Disabilities and Special Needs on Amazon. What do you think resonates with readers about your representation of disability in the book? Did you focus on reaching audiences who might be interested in narratives about disability? If so, how?
I wrote 100 Days of Sunlight in hopes that it would resonate with every reader – whether they have a disability or not. That’s the reason why I focus so much on my characters’ emotional journeys in the book; because even if you’re not going through a physical challenge like Tessa and Weston, you might be very familiar with the feeling of fear, despair, or helplessness when life takes an unexpected turn.
My research process involved tons of reading and investigating. Not only did I reference experts for medical details, I consulted real-life accounts and experiences of people with the disabilities I wrote about. I read lots of blog posts, articles, watched videos, asked questions, read more, and constantly referenced true experiences throughout the writing and editing process. Researching this book was a fascinating and educational journey, and I’m humbled and honored to be able to include representation of these disabilities in 100 Days of Sunlight.
After the publication of 100 Days of Sunlight, I did actively target readers who are interested in the Special Needs genre and who love comparable titles and authors. I was so thrilled to see 100 Days reach #1 best seller in its category on Amazon!
How did NetGalley fit in with the rest of your launch plan for 100 Days of Sunlight?
I found NetGalley at just the right time – about 4 months before my release date. I was seeking a way to efficiently deliver my book to my ARC team, with as little back-and-forth communication as possible. As an indie author, I have to manage a lot on my own, and I knew my ARC team was going to be sizable.
I was able to send everyone from my YouTube channel over to NetGalley to request the book, and that first rush of requests helped me to rank high in my category [appearing in the Most Requested section], which in turn gave my book more exposure to new ARC readers. I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out!
How did you determine the right timing for 100 Days of Sunlight‘s time on NetGalley with regards to its pub date and your other marketing and publicity efforts?
Every author has a different publishing timeline that best suits their schedule, but mine is roughly 6 months – starting the moment my book returns from my editor, and ending on the pub date. Of course, there’s post-release marketing, but that’s another animal.
Because of my shorter timeline, I decided that 3 months pre-publication would be a perfect amount of time. I wanted the book to still be fresh in my ARC readers’ minds when the release date rolled around, to create more buzz and conversation around the book launch.
100 Days of Sunlight has nearly 400 reviews! How did you get the word out about it once it went live on NetGalley?
I told all my people, multiple times. I made kind of a big deal out of the announcement – posting on my blog, YouTube channel, social media, and contacting all my email lists. I also continued to remind my followers on social media, urging them to go to NetGalley and request to read my book if they hadn’t already.
I received a lot of requests and happily accepted most of them. The result was a huge, fabulous ARC team who was excited to share their reviews of my book. I think it’s also worth noting that I had built up the hype for this novel long in advance, teasing it on my blog and YouTube channel – which made my audience all the more excited when it came out.
How have you kept momentum up for 100 Days on NetGalley throughout its time on the site?
Throughout the book’s listing on NetGalley, I continuously reminded my followers and fans to request to read the book. I also created an ad campaign on Facebook directly targeting librarians and teachers, sending them to NetGalley request my book. A book launch is really all about conversation – the more conversation you can create about your book, the more people will pay attention.
I worked hard every day to keep that conversation going, and it paid off. The number of requests I received for 100 Days helped move it up in the rankings in both the Women’s Fiction and YA Fiction categories. I couldn’t have been more thrilled!
How have you engaged with members who have requested or reviewed? Have you followed up with them or shared their reviews?
I personally reached out to readers who loved the book and asked them to share their reviews on Amazon and BookBub, as well as NetGalley. They were happy to crosspost their reviews, and it greatly helped the book’s early days on Amazon. I also continue to share excerpts from reviews in outreach and marketing campaigns for 100 Days of Sunlight.
We love that you have a dedicated website for your press kit and for supplemental material. Tell us why this digital presence is important to you and how you went about building it.
We live in an age of immediate access to all the information we need – and I knew that my book and author presence had to meet that standard. If someone comes to my website looking for specific information and materials, I want them to be able to find what they need as quickly as possible. It’s one of those small things that can make a huge difference.
How have you been leveraging your reviews outside of NetGalley? Have you been sharing them on social media or elsewhere?
Reviews are social proof, and nothing is more powerful when you’re trying to get people to pay attention to your book. I share reviews on my social media, my blog, my website, and in all the marketing campaigns I produce, such as Facebook ads and influencer outreach.
Positive reviews are invaluable and I have NetGalley to thank for connecting me with so many amazing readers, as well as librarians, educators, and booksellers.
What is your top tip for authors listing their books on NetGalley?
Send as many of your people as you possibly can to request your book on NetGalley as soon as it’s available! That first rush of requests is vital to rank higher in your category, and thus gain more visibility on the site. New readers will discover your book and the word will continue to spread organically – and, I hope, exponentially. I recommend NetGalley to all my author friends and followers – it’s an absolute necessity if you want to make your book launch successful. Best of luck, fellow authors!
Abbie Emmons has been writing stories ever since she could hold a pencil. What started out as an intrinsic love for storytelling has turned into her lifelong passion. There’s nothing she likes better than writing (and reading) stories that are both heartrending and humorous, with a touch of cute romance and a poignant streak of truth running through them. Abbie is also a YouTuber, singer/songwriter, blogger, traveler, filmmaker, big dreamer, and professional waffle-eater. When she’s not writing or dreaming up new stories, you can find her road-tripping to national parks or binge-watching BBC Masterpiece dramas in her cozy Vermont home with a cup of tea and her fluffy white lap dog, Pearl.
*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
How Janna Morishima and Misako Rocks! turned rejections from editors into an opportunity and an experiment
Publishing is a challenging industry. In order to be successful, you need to be able to take changing trends in stride, turn failures into opportunities, and be brave enough to try new approaches. Publishing strategist Janna Morishima and manga author Misako Rocks! have been able to do just that with Misako’s newest manga project, Bounce Back.
Both Morishima and Misako have had winding paths in publishing, pivoting when their own interests or the market dictated.
Morishima began as an assistant to Scholastic trade publishing’s Creative Director, David Saylor. After reading about graphic novel Blankets by Craig Thompson, she saw an opportunity for children’s books to be graphic novels. She and Saylor created a proposal for a new imprint and began Scholastic’s Graphix for children’s graphic novels. Next, she moved to Diamond Book Distributors, to cut her teeth on the business side of the industry as Director of the Kids Group during the financial crisis in 2008. But, after a few years, she missed working directly with creatives, and ended up walking away from publishing altogether to help her husband run his photography business. Several years ago, Morishima combined her experience in editorial, in corporate publishing, and in the world of freelance art to start Janna Co. Now, she works as a consultant, helping visual storytellers like Misako to build their careers and navigate the publishing industry.
When Misako moved from Japan to the United States, she got a job working at the Madison Children’s Museum. She became a manga artist once she saw how interested kids were in manga and anime. After sending around her portfolio to publishers, she published three middle grade graphic novels in 2007 and 2008. Unfortunately, the financial crash plus disappointing sales meant that she wasn’t able to get a new contract. So she changed her focus. She wrote books for a Japanese audience about learning English and finding an American boyfriend and started to teach manga to students, both in the classroom and in private lessons.
Now, she’s getting back to the world of middle grade manga with Bounce Back with Morishima’s help.
They sent out their first round of proposals, but frustratingly only received rejections or nothing at all. Instead of shelving Bounce Back, they took that failure and used it to re-strategize. The pair enlisted the help of beta readers and found themselves with a stronger story and a community of readers who are invested in the project – in part because they helped shape it!
What is the origin story between you and Misako?
I met Misako for the first time soon after I started working at Scholastic. One of my tasks, as assistant to the Creative Director, was to review artist portfolios. In those days, we had a certain day every month when artists could drop off their portfolios for review. This was in the time before Dropbox and online portfolios!
One day, a young Japanese artist who was living in Wisconsin called me to ask about our portfolio review procedures.
She dropped off her work and I wrote her a detailed editorial letter, explaining how she could improve it. Whenever I thought an artist had potential, I tried to give them some concrete tips on how to keep making progress with their work. The surprising thing is how few artists actually followed up and reached out to me a second time with revised work.
Misako was one of the exceptions. About a year after I met her for the first time, she reappeared on another portfolio day, with brand new sample art. I was impressed with her enthusiasm and persistence. I gave her the names of some other people in the industry she could talk to — and before long, she had a book contract with Henry Holt!
Misako eventually moved to NYC and we became friends. She would ask me for advice about her publishing career, and I always enjoyed helping her out.
When I started my consulting business a couple of years ago, it took me a few months before I asked her if she wanted to work with me formally. In my head, I was thinking, “What is she going to say? I’ve been giving her advice as a friend for so long — is she going to think it’s weird when I suggest that we start a business relationship?”
Once I did finally ask her, though, she didn’t bat an eyelash. “Let’s DO IT!” she said with her usual exuberance.
How did you arrive at your beta reader project for Bounce Back?
The first thing that Misako and I worked on together was a book proposal for Bounce Back. I helped her write a detailed synopsis and develop several pages of sample art. Then I submitted it to a handful of publishers.
Four editors got back to us with rejections. We didn’t hear from the rest of the people I had submitted it to.
In the past, those rejections might have stopped me in my tracks. But being older and wiser, I knew I should listen to my gut instinct. I still had a good feeling about the project. I decided that we should keep moving forward with the intention of self-publishing, maybe doing a Kickstarter campaign. So I said to Misako, “Write the first book in full. I’ll edit it, and we’ll see where it goes.”
Misako went right to work and churned out the first draft in record time. I edited the first draft and she revised it. Once we had a revised second draft, I wanted to get feedback from the target audience before deciding on our next step. I just had a strong intuition that showing the manuscript to outside readers would provide the compass we needed to determine the next step in our path.
That meant that we needed to find beta readers.
Who are your beta readers? How did you find that group and determine the right mix of students, librarians, and educators?
Luckily, both Misako and I had plenty of people we could ask in order to find beta readers.
First of all, Misako teaches manga art to kids all over New York City. She knows their teachers and parents. And I was working as a consultant with the NYC Department of Education School Library System, so I knew school librarians.
Both of us made a list of everyone we could think of who works with or might know kids between the ages of 10 and 13 who like manga and graphic novels. Then we emailed them to describe our project, and included the link to a Google Form where people could apply to be a beta reader. Misako also posted a call for beta readers on her Instagram page.
(We made a sample beta reader application form based on the form we used; you can find it at http://bit.ly/sample-beta-form. Feel free to make a copy of the Google Form and adapt it for any project!)
We didn’t have any “right number” of beta readers in mind. We honestly had no idea how people would respond. We were a bit shocked by the number of people who submitted applications! It ended up being more than 100 people – about half kids and half grown-ups (mainly teachers and librarians).
What have you learned from the beta readers?
When I mentioned to a few industry friends that we were sending the manuscript as a Google Doc to about 100 beta readers, some of them thought we were crazy. “You’re going to have 100 people leaving comments in the same manuscript?!” they said. “It’s going to be a mess!”
They might be right, I thought to myself, but we’ll never know until we try! I was also encouraged by Guy Kawasaki’s description of the beta reader process he used for writing APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. [Kawasaki used NetGalley when launching APE, and wrote about it as a publicity and marketing tool in the book itself.] He also let a very large number of people read his manuscript and writes in detail about what a significant contribution they made to the development of the book.
After sending the Google Doc link to our full list of beta readers, about 65 of them actually read the manuscript and left comments (more than 700 comments, to be exact!). We were thrilled with that follow-through rate.
The first thing we learned was that following your gut instinct and experimenting is a very good thing! We got so much useful feedback and Misako significantly revised the manuscript based on specific suggestions from beta readers. For instance, she amped up the budding romance between main character Lilico and her love interest Noah — apparently middle graders like a little romance almost as much as young adults!
One point which many people asked about was how we would differentiate between times when Lilico is speaking Japanese (with her parents and when she’s alone with her cat Nicco, for instance), and when she’s speaking English. After that, Misako did a lot of research to find specific fonts to use in the lettering of the graphic novels: one for English, and a different one for Japanese.
We were also surprised by how strongly people reacted to “mean girl” Emma. They thought she was terrible, but at the same time they seemed to be fascinated by her, and couldn’t get enough of her obnoxious behavior. This made us happy… because the sequel to volume 1 is all about Emma.
At its heart, though, the experience with beta readers underscored a basic principle of 21st century marketing: the more you let people behind the scenes and get them involved in the creative process, the more invested they are and the more they want to help you succeed. We were amazed by how carefully our beta readers read the manuscript and by the level of detail in their comments — and even by the back-and-forth discussions that they had with each other!
As one beta reader commented at the end, “Hope all of this feedback will turn this book from an amazing book to an AWESOME book!” The help they gave us was invaluable.
What other benefits have you gotten from your beta reader experiment?
Simply that it gave us confidence in the project! Before showing the manuscript to beta readers, I had a feeling that it would appeal to middle grade readers — but of course, I’m not 11 years old myself anymore, so I couldn’t be sure! Once we got the comments from the beta readers, we knew that they had become thoroughly emotionally involved in the story.
That was a huge relief.
How are you planning on keeping beta readers engaged throughout the publication process?
Misako is launching a brand new website for Bounce Back, and on that website people can sign up to get updates about the process of getting Bounce Back published and other behind-the-scenes details. Our beta readers are the first people to be on that mailing list!
We’ve tried some Instagram Live and Skype “Ask Us Anything” sessions to keep Misako’s fans in the loop. But we haven’t started doing that sort of thing on a regular basis yet — we want to!
What’s next for Bounce Back?
We’re in search of a publishing deal. I just submitted Bounce Back to a new round of editors and we’re waiting to hear back from them. If we can’t find a traditional publisher for the book, we will consider self-publishing. But our first choice would be a traditional publishing deal, because full-color middle grade graphic novels are very expensive to produce.
Misako is also going to be a special guest at several comics and book shows this fall. October 19-20 we attended Baltimore Comic-con, and on November 15-17 we’ll be at Anime NYC. January 25th, 2020, Misako will be at Teen Bookfest by the Bay in Corpus Christi, TX.
Those shows are another chance for us to speak directly with fans and learn what they’re most excited about.
You’ve said that you think that traditional publishing has a lot to learn from self-publishing, and vice versa. Can you give a few examples?
I think they are learning from each other now. The stigma attached to self-publishing is eroding a little bit because of some high profile successes.
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.
It seems like the story of you and Misako and the story of Bounce Back are stories where you were able to turn failures into opportunities. How do you think about the relationship between failure and the creative process?
Yes, I certainly felt a bit like a failure when I initially left publishing. I know Misako was very disappointed when her first graphic novels didn’t sell very well in the early 2000s.
But I think failure is critical to growth for any human being. The key is to be clear-eyed about the reasons for your failure, while at the same time forgiving. Any time you try something and it doesn’t work out the way you wanted or the way you expected, give yourself a high five. Because you tried it! That’s huge! By trying something and failing, you now have useful data. You can review what happened and find the things to improve or do differently next time.
Basically, failure is inextricably involved in the creative process. If you really want to get better and achieve something big, you’ve got to embrace the fact that there will be failure along the way.
Developing the right mindset to be able to use your failure rather than get paralyzed by it is critical. I read tons of self-help books, started practicing meditation, and have given a lot of dedicated thought to this subject! One of my favorite people who writes about failure is Seth Godin. He sums up everything you need to know about failure in 372 words.
Janna Morishima is a publishing strategist and literary agent specializing in graphic novels and visual storytelling for kids. She was one of the co-founders of Scholastic’s Graphix imprint and the director of Diamond Book Distributors’ Kids Group and has worn almost every hat in publishing, from art and editorial to marketing and sales. Find out more at http://jannaco.co.
*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
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.
This November, there are quite a few conferences, mostly focused on specific regions or niche areas of interest. Plus, NetGalley Insights Associate Editor Nina Berman will be making her way to speak at the IPNE Annual Conference. If you’ll be attending, be sure to say hello! And in the UK, Futurebook and Day of Code will have audiences thinking about 2020 and beyond.
If you know of an upcoming event for December or after, email email@example.com so we can feature it.
“Our program includes experts and leaders from across the industry, sure to educate and inspire. This year’s program will focus on industry direction and trends, sales and marketing, and organic growth.”
“The Charleston Conference is an informal annual gathering of librarians, publishers, electronic resource managers, consultants, and vendors of library materials in Charleston, SC, in November, to discuss issues of importance to them all. It is designed to be a collegial gathering of individuals from different areas who discuss the same issues in a non-threatening, friendly, and highly informal environment. Presidents of companies discuss and debate with library directors, acquisitions librarians, reference librarians, serials librarians, collection development librarians, and many, many others. Begun in 1980, the Charleston Conference has grown from 20 participants in 1980 to thousands in 2018.”
“WMG is pleased to have Afiya Addison the Education Lead, The B2B Institute @ LinkedIn, present all you ever wanted to know about LinkedIn, arguably the most import platform for your professional life. You’ll learn: How to optimize your personal profile, Best practices for brand pages, The art of engaging content, Effective advertising solutions, What LinkedIn analytics can teach you about your campaign.”
Moderated by Anne Twomey of Celadon Books and She Designs Books, a panel of New York Book Show award–winning designers will discuss what goes into a book’s design. Presenters include adam b. bohannon, NYU Press and adam b. bohannon design; Nicole Caputo, Catapult and Counterpoint Press and She Designs Books; Richard Ljoenes, Richard Ljoenes Design; Jen Wang, Clarkson Potter. The event will be held at Penguin Random House, located at 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. Program begins at 6:30 P.M.; a professional networking event will precede at 5:15 P.M.
“Back in the days of recess, snap bracelets, and Dunkaroos, life was simpler, wasn’t it? When your biggest fear was getting detention, and your best days were when you had the luxury to spend an hour picking out which book(s) to read next? We miss that, too—so we decided to bring it back for an afternoon.
Join us on Saturday, November 23rdfor Penguin Random House’s first-ever Book Fair. All afternoon, we’ll have 60-minute sessions where you can browse the latest and greatest books and merchandise, participate in throwback activities, and get schooled by our beloved authors.”
“Designers as creative thinkers are powerful problem solvers. But traditionally, colleagues in finance, editorial, sales or marketing are promoted to the top publishing jobs. What is lost without the transformative effect design thinking can add to strategy and leadership? How can design thinking enhance management decisions? What can publishing learn from our own and other sectors’ creative leaders?
Join our panel for an intriguing discussion on how design thinking can transform a business. Hear from an organisational behaviour expert on the theory, as well as a Creative-turned-board-member on the practice. And get inspired by the insights from a Creative Director who will show how design thinking really does make a huge difference.”
“As one of 40 bookselling and publishing delegates from across the book trade, supported by ~15 coaches, you will build a real website on your laptop using free technology showcasing your own selection of book data provided by Nielsen. You will publish your website to the web and can continue to develop it after the workshop. The results will be showcased the following Monday at FutureBook 19, to inspire and motivate your peers. This exclusive course, created especially for FutureBook 19 by publishers who code, is included in the price of your FutureBook 2019 ticket. But you must apply separately after buying your FutureBook ticket: space is strictly limited to 40 delegates. “
“For 10 years FutureBook, The Bookseller’s annual publishing conference, has tracked, interrogated, and challenged the way the international book business has embraced (and rebuffed) the digital content revolution. Today the event remains the stand-out gathering for smart thinkers, creatives and innovators across books, with FutureBook Live 2019 offering the most ambitious and far-reaching programme so far, with executives from Pearson, Hachette, Waterstones, Bonnier, Springer Nature, Faber, Booker, the BBC, Penguin Random House, Blackwell, and Lonely Planet, confirmed as speakers.
The conference will once again examine the burgeoning audiobook and podcast markets, the academic and educational sectors, and will also tackle the big themes dominating the book business right now, including the globalisation of platforms and audience, the threats to freedom to publish, the cultural importance of books and renewal of physical bookselling, the rise and fall (and rise) of female leaders, and the challenges (or opportunities) posed to reading by other entertainment sectors.
The prestigious FutureBook Awards will return, including BookTech Company of the Year, Podcast of the Year, and the FutureBook Person of the Year, who will once again deliver the closing keynote.”
“BookMachine Works is running a training session for publishing professionals who need a deeper Understanding of Facebook Ads, either for managing a team/agency; or for setting up your own campaigns. Understanding Facebook Ad Options, Building Facebook Advertising Content, Measuring your Facebook Ads Success.”
“Featuring more than 400 literary events and a stellar line-up of authors, this annual book fair is one of the world’s largest. Returning for the 37th year, the Sharjah International Book Fair features 11 days of writing workshops, poetry readings, book signings, cookery demonstrations and children’s activities. The prestigious fair attracts more than two million book lovers and 1,420 publishing houses to the Expo Centre, with great discounts on books available in 210 languages. Entry is free and the fair is open daily from 10am-10pm (from 4pm on Fridays).” -via Visit Sharjah
“The American Library Association (ALA) provides leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. The Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) is one of the largest book fairs in the world, the most prestigious in the Arab world and home to the most exciting literary event in the region. ‘For the love of the written word’ is its inspiration, passion and reason for being.”
How the biggest library system in the country meets patron needs, and how publishers can better connect with libraries at all levels
The more that publishers know about their audience and their industry partners, the better able you are to meet their needs and build lasting and mutually beneficial relationships. That’s why NetGalley Insights recently spoke with New York Public Library staffers from the branch level to operations.
We heard from
Lynn Lobash: Associate Director, Readers Services
Brandy McNeil: Associate Director of Technology, Education & Training
Brian Stokes: Library Manager, Mulberry Street Branch
They gave us an inside look at how they learn about their patrons’ interests and needs, how librarians find out about new books, and how publishers can best engage with their librarians and community, and more.
After hearing from Lobash, McNeil, and Stokes, we encourage you to consider that in the bigger library systems, you should consider reaching out to various departments and outreach should look different for different types of contacts you’re talking to. Consider reaching branch librarians through social media influencers (for example, the vibrant Librarian Twitterverse) or pitching author visits. For the more technologically-minded publishers, consider a workshop partnership. And be sure to share larger trends you’re seeing across the industry with your library partners at the operations levels!
Branch librarians in the NYPL system are plugged in to their patrons’ interests, even though collection development happens through the BookOps team. At the branch level, staffers tend to use anecdotal experience and personal relationships as their data points. Brian Stokes, Library Manager at the Mulberry Street Branch told NetGalley Insights, “Most of our awareness of what’s new and popular simply comes through personal interest and observation of what’s circulating.” To see first-hand what the patrons at the Mulberry branch are interested in, Stokes spends a few hours each day at the public desk.
The staff at Mulberry Street are, unsurprisingly, book-centric people. According to Stokes, they are already accessing publisher resources about new releases or industry tools without any prompting or encouragement from management.
For example, the YA librarian at Mulberry Street uses NetGalley to submit LibraryReads nominations. And Stokes relied heavily on NetGalley and Edelweiss when he co-chaired the NYPL’s Best Books for Teens committee in 2017 and 2018.
Most of his direct communication with publishers comes from organizing author talks, which he considers to be one of the most effective ways to engage his librarians and the community of patrons. Librarians are hungry for more author visits!
In between individual library branches and the BookOps team is Reader Services, who often act as liaisons. They train staff to think about the needs of their particular communities and to provide readers advisory, both in-person and through displays and shelf-talkers. They hear from branch librarians and pass recommendations to the selection teams. Reader Services also recommends books directly to patrons via Twitter, Facebook, email, and best-of lists.
Lynn Lobash, Associate Director of Readers Services, told NetGalley Insights that she thinks of her job as “raising the profile of librarians as book experts.”
She works more directly with publishers, bringing her staff together for publisher book buzzes several times a year. Lobash appreciates publishers’ willingness to provide galleys and their contact information during these buzzes. She emphasizes that librarians are proud to work on behalf of all their books, not just the biggest and buzziest.
“I’d like them to know how hard librarians work to get their books into the hands of patrons who will love them, and not just the big literary fiction books they are putting money behind, but all the books from DIY to urban romance. Some people in publishing feel that libraries are a detriment to book sales and that is a shame. They show this resentment in their mark-up on ebooks in particular.”
Lobash is also open to more industry-centric communication from publishers. She’s interested to hear what trends publishers are seeing in the overall market so that she and her team can build more engaging displays and collections to help patrons find what they want.
While the Readers Services team doesn’t provide their internal data to publishers, she considers purchase orders to be the best indicator of what the NYPL is interested in.
In addition to responding to patron needs in collection development, the NYPL is dedicated to making sure that its patrons have access to digital tools that are increasingly required in jobs and to accomplish basic necessities of life. Brandy McNeil, Associate Director of Technology, Education & Training counts this as the library’s biggest asset, but acknowledges that encouraging technological education can be tricky because patrons don’t always know which skills they need.
One of the ways that the library system addresses these needs is through innovative pilot programs. These programs introduce patrons to new skills while also gauging general interest in these topics to see which should be expanded more broadly. McNeil told NetGalley Insights that every workshop or class starts out as a pilot, whose success is measured by attendance and patron assessment scores via surveys. Some recent pilot programs have included Project Code, Make It Print It Sell It and Office Readiness. While they do not share this information with publishers as a default, they are open to sharing attendance numbers and relevant demographic information with publishers on a case-by-case basis.
The biggest challenge libraries face is to demonstrate to patrons that they are relevant and vital. That’s why McNeil and her team are staying up to date with AI and VR. “It will help show patrons that we are staying current with the technological changes they are experiencing…that we are readily equipped to answer their questions and guide them forward, proving that libraries will always be a need for communities.”
NYPL is uniquely positioned as a free community resource within a huge and expensive city. Brian Stokes told NetGalley Insights, “It’s virtually impossible to find somewhere in New York that doesn’t require any money from you to spend the day there. In any given week a parent could bring their baby to a professionally-run story time, check out a copy of NormalPeople, pick up a DVD to watch for Saturday night and send a few important work emails while their kids plays in our children’s room in 72 degree air conditioning while it’s 95 degrees outside. For free! That’s huge and something that’s definitely a rarity in 2019 Manhattan. The challenge is remaining present in the minds of people who are fortunate enough to not need the library that other people do need us. As such, we are still vital.”
Bethany House curates an engaged community of faith-based and general readers on NetGalley, earning impressive review counts and social share numbers
Sometimes at NetGalley, we field concerns from faith-based publishers that books with religious themes won’t perform well in our catalog. Publishers aren’t always sure that their books will find their readers if they have religious or spiritual underpinnings. But Bethany House demonstrates that with strategic use of NetGalley’s tools, faith-based books can become major successes on the site. Their contemporary romance Falling For You received over 75 5-star reviews and was named a 2019 Christy Award winner by the ECPA. The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White, historical fiction set in the world of WWII’s British code-breakers, earned 150 reviews, a 4.6 average star rating, and over 300 social shares.
Amy Green, Senior Fiction Publicist at Bethany House, shares how she used tools like the widget and the Auto-Approved list to build pre-publication buzz for the latest historical fiction from Roseanna M. White. Plus, how she thinks about the intersection between a faith-based readership and a general one.
As a Christian publisher, how do you think about promoting your titles to a general audience, as well as a faith-based one?
One of my favorite things to see as a publicist is a NetGalley review that starts something like, “I don’t usually read Christian fiction, but this book was amazing…” You’d be surprised how often we hear that sort of thing. Readers who might never wander into a specific genre’s section of a bookstore or library will see a stunning cover or compelling plot description on NetGalley and request to read it. The barrier to entry is pretty low, and oftentimes they end up loving the book and seeking out more from that author. Christian fiction (also called inspirational fiction) has changed a lot over the years, and many readers outside of a faith background tell us that the spiritual aspects of the stories feel natural to the characters and the development of the plot. We love granting requests from people outside of our usual readership!
How do you use NetGalley marketing?
We’ve used placement in NetGalley newsletters to launch debut authors in particular, especially ones with striking covers like The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright and Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes, which we had featured in the Mystery/Thriller and Summer Reads newsletters respectively. It’s a great way to get the names and work of authors just starting out in front of a wide range of influential readers.
What kinds of members are you most interested in connecting with on NetGalley?
We love the connections we’re able to make through NetGalley with collection-development librarians, bloggers, and media. The ability to zip a NetGalley widget off to a reviewer has made it much easier for me to schedule interviews and blog tours. Some contest coordinators even request NetGalley to send copies of entrants’ books to judges, giving them additional time to read and choose finalists—and eliminating the worry of copies getting lost in the mail. Most recently, we sent widgets to judges for the Realm Awards, a competition for speculative fiction books written by Christian authors.
162 members from your Auto-Approved List accessed The Number of Love. How do you build this list and engage with its members?
We want our Auto-Approved list to be a targeted group of readers and influencers with a high capacity for reading across multiple genres. These are the folks who aren’t just interested in the latest release from one favorite author, but who want to promote all subcategories of inspirational fiction. One way that we do that is by accepting applications from interested readers. They answer a few questions, like “Send us a link to a review you’re most proud of” or “What’s something unique you do to promote authors and their books?” If we like what we see, we’ll invite them to join the team. Other cases are even more specific. I saw a Bookstagrammer gushing online about being Auto-Approved for Bethany House—”It’s like I just won the reading lottery!” It was great to see someone excited about reviewing our books…and I took note of a few of the influencers who commented on that post to message them about joining our team of reviewers as well.
Some of the members of the Auto-Approved list are just added without much ongoing maintenance required (a reviewer for an online publication, for example). But we have a newsletter list for about 200 of the top influencers we’ve identified and Auto-Approved. We send them updates about new books added to NetGalley on a monthly basis along with our recommendations.
How did you incorporate the widget into your launch strategy for The Number of Love?
In our initial marketing strategy calls with authors, we always mention that their book will be available on NetGalley as soon as editorial approves a manuscript for us to use, often four to five months before release. That way, both the author and our marketing team can plan to have a standardized e-copy of their book ready to use for any initiatives where that would make sense. For The Number of Love, we planned to use the widget to send to advance endorsers, launch team members, and blog tour participants who preferred an ebook copy.
Tell us how you used NetGalley for The Number of Love‘s blog tour and to support Ms. White’s launch team?
Several of our authors, including Roseanna White, love to send physical books to launch team members, sometimes with notes and goodies. However, that takes time for shipping and packing, and often readers on their launch team want to read the book long before we can actually get a package to their doorstep. By using NetGalley, we’re able to catch that early “buzz” from some of the author’s biggest fans and make sure other readers think, “What’s this new novel we’re hearing about everywhere?” during pre-order season. It also helps the launch team members, many of whom juggle busy lives with their book blogging, podcasting, or Instagramming, to be able to work ahead of schedule and have a review ready by or before the release date of the book.
NetGalley members shared feedback for The Number of Love over 300 times. How did you encourage them to share their influence so widely?
Something I’ve been doing recently is reminding bloggers and influencers who use NetGalley that, at Bethany House, we often notice and pass along especially glowing reviews to our authors. It can be a huge incentive to review a book if the reviewers genuinely feel that their words aren’t just increasing their chances of being approved for future books (although that is true), but could also be encouraging to a writer who might be discouraged and under deadline for a future project.
Amy Green is the Senior Fiction Publicist at Bethany House Publishers,
where she connects authors with readers by arranging interviews, sending
out review copies, answering social media questions, and occasionally
serving cake at authors’ launch parties. You can find her writing about
all things bookish at bethanyfiction.com, or check out Bethany House Fiction on Facebook or Instagram.
*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.