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.
In October, publishers all over the world will be gearing up for Frankfurt Book Fair. We wish everyone safe travels and the NetGalley and Firebrand teams look forward to seeing you there! (Reach out if you’d like to schedule a meeting!) But whether or not you’ll be making your way to Frankfurt, there are still plenty of opportunities to get together over a few drinks, tune in to a webinar about emerging technology, and celebrate excellent book craftsmanship.
If you know of an upcoming event for November or after, email email@example.com so we can feature it.
“Ease yourself into the weekend with friends and colleagues at Café Serai at the Rubin Museum! The Rubin presents art that traverses Asia’s diverse cultures, regions, and narratives. Its special exhibitions celebrate art forms that range from ancient to contemporary, including photography and multimedia, while its permanent collection galleries are focused primarily on art from the Himalayan region. WMG members and their guests will enjoy complimentary wine and appetizers with their registration, converse against the backbeat of DJ David Ellenbogen, and explore the museum’s exhibits to their hearts’ content. This informal mixer is a great opportunity to introduce other outstanding women in your orbit to WMG, so give some thought to your contacts—and have them join us, too.”
“The New York Book Show offers publishing and printing professionals an opportunity to mingle while honoring the best examples of quality book design and production from the previous year. In 2019, we invite you to join us in celebrating the Book Show’s 33rd anniversary with a beautiful evening at Battery Gardens.”
” Lit Crawl NYC is a literary bar crawl where the cerebral meets the madcap with themed readings, trivia, and much more, all to celebrate the New York literary community. This year, PEN America and Books Are Magic present Lit Crawl NYC in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, on Saturday October 12!”
“This session will update all attendees any progress or changes in publisher’s investing trends in regards to technology. Stay tuned for more information on what BISG has been doing to stay involved with technology advancement in the publishing sphere.“
“In the last few years, a number of companies have come on the scene to tout new or better AI technology and propose new ways of using AI in scholarly communications. This webinar will cover real world use cases of publishers and AI technology, exploring what’s working and what, if anything, one should be aware of when considering an implementation.”
“Join the Society of Young Publishers for our Freelancing in the Publishing event taking place on Tuesday 3rd October at Gullivers, Manchester! Hear freelancers speak and learn more about what freelancing can offer in the publishing industry. Our first speaker is Jordan Taylor-Jones. Jordan Taylor-Jones is a freelance publicist, currently working on publicity and events for Bluemoose Books, Dead Ink Books, Influx Press and Peepal Tree Press.”
“Frankfurter Buchmesse is the most important marketplace worldwide for printed and digital content and a great social and cultural event. In October, publishing experts, writers, players from the creative industry and culture enthusiasts from across the world will meet here to network, discuss, negotiate, make decisions, to marvel and celebrate. Frankfurt becomes the worldwide hub of the media and publishing industry in October, with ground-breaking contracts, innovative technologies and world literature you can touch.”
*Let us know what else we should have on our calendar! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with events so that we can feature them.
How The New Press used NetGalley to engage Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom’s fanbase, while finding new audiences
The New Press publishes books that straddle the lines between academic and mainstream. Often, they publish works by academic authors geared towards a popular audience. This means that their marketing strategy needs to appeal to several kinds of readers – academic readers need to be assured of the intellectual rigor, while mainstream readers need to feel invited to engage in complicated discourse.
Brian Ulicky, Director of Marketing and Publicity at The New Press, used early NetGalley reviews to demonstrate the effectiveness of pre-publication marketing efforts to Dr. McMillan Cottom. Seeing these early reviews encouraged her to share the NetGalley listing on her own social media platforms, engaging an audience that already loved her, whether or not they were on NetGalley. As NetGalley reviews rolled in, buzz for Thick really picked up, resulting in editorial attention from Goodreads and inclusion in a Kindle Gold Box deal (not to mention reviews from the New York Times Book Review and Los Angeles Review of Books).
Thick comes out in paperback on October 1.
How does NetGalley fit into the workflow at a small indie publisher like The New Press?
For a good number of our authors, their first book with The New Press is their first book period (or at least their first non-academic book) and I think for any new author their book may not start to feel truly real until they see reviews of it in the world. Sharing NetGalley feedback with authors is a particularly gratifying part of the run-up to the publication date and has become really important to us in garnering early consumer reviews for our path-breaking works of nonfiction. We are particularly proud of our bestselling progressive education list (a very different subject area from my previous houses), and we wouldn’t be so successful at this publishing area without the support of teachers and librarians who adopt our books into their work and communities. I have loved connecting with educators and librarians on NetGalley for books such as on Monique Morris’s Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues or James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me: Young Readers Edition. The latter has been a particular hit for NetGalley users putting together home-school curricula.
In the past, I worked on quite a bit more fiction than I do these days, and fiction is clearly a large part of the NetGalley community and a big part of my past experience with the platform. The New Press publishes select works of fiction, much of it in translation from the French, and we’ve had some great success with our fiction on NetGalley, like last year’s Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau or this year’s Minutes of Gloryby Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o..
What were your goals for Thick on NetGalley?
Our goals were to build word-of-mouth buzz among booksellers, librarians, and book buyers on Goodreads, Amazon, and other consumer reading sites and social media. We felt from day one we had a very special book in Thick and I couldn’t wait to see that gut feeling confirmed with as-early-as-possible reads. And it paid off when, for example, Goodreads selected it for one of their spring editorial newsletters based on the strength of its reader reviews (which also led to a Kindle Gold Box deal over the summer).
You ran a homepage title promotion for Thick in the week after Thanksgiving. Tell us why that timing was the right choice for you.
The book went on sale the first week of January 2019 – this can be a sort of tricky spot as the big fall publishing season winds down and people tune out a little during the holidays. We had review copies landing in the world right after Thanksgiving and so I also wanted to make sure we had a stream of consumer reviews coming in shortly thereafter, just as we were doubling down lining up author media appearances first thing in the new year. Also that cover is pretty iconic and appealing – I just wanted to see it everywhere.
Thick was listed as a Read Now title. Tell us how you came to that reading option and what benefits it gave.
Thick definitely has an intriguing package and title if you already know the author’s work, but if you don’t know it, I didn’t want there to be any friction or hesitation if someone came across an essay collection by a new author and had the impulse to check it out. Listing it as Read Now meant that anyone who was even a little intrigued could check it out and fall in love with Dr. McMillan Cottom’s voice.
How do you handle the challenges of promoting a book that might seem inaccessible or academic to a broad audience?
The core of The New Press’s mission and publishing program is to bridge the gap between a broad reading audience and new ideas and voices in the academic and social change worlds. We try to make sure our titles, subtitles, and jacket designs are appealing and put you in the picture without requiring too much prior knowledge from a reader; we work hard to get blurbs from recognizable names; and we aim for as much mainstream media coverage as we can get. We know there are readers out there who are hungry for books that challenge and inspire – it’s our job to find them – and sometimes on NetGalley, they reveal themselves!
The cover art for Thick received overwhelmingly positive feedback. How do you use Cover Ratings data internally?
Covers are one of the most important pieces of marketing any book gets and if the NetGalley community loves our designs, we must be doing something right. It’s helpful to have early feedback inform and confirm our very involved, iterative process of designing and choosing covers.
24% of members with access clicked to read Thick because they were familiar with Dr. McMillan Cottom’s work and 40% were drawn in by the book description. How did you think about connecting with these two different groups – the ones that were already fans of Dr. McMillan Cottom and those that were taking a chance on a new-to-them author?
The recipe for success varies from author to author. We knew that Thick gave us an opportunity to publish a book by an author with both a substantial following and the potential to reach many, many more readers with her sharp mind and her signature dexterity on the page. The marketing, title, cover, positioning are key to reaching new readers, and for a book as smart as Thick, getting early reads and reviews from NetGalley users plays an important role in spreading the word.
Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom has over 90k Twitter followers and made a point tolet her Twitter followers know that Thick was available on NetGalley. How did you work with her to help bring new readers to NetGalley to access Thick?
We want our authors to see how much we’re doing to promote their books and we always point out NetGalley as one of our tools. I think Tressie saw the power in early reads pretty soon after the manuscript was done. We posted the final pass as soon as we could, shared with her a few of the first positive reviews we got, and the rest is history.
How did you use the positive reviews you received on NetGalley? Did you share them internally, use them in your pitches or press materials?
All of the above. We shared them with the author (fair to say Tressie loved seeing them roll in), with media, and with our sales reps and bookstore partners. It’s always great to have fresh material and feedback in your third or sixth or fifteenth conversation about an upcoming book.
NetGalley members shared their reviews of Thick to social media over 700 times! What did you do to encourage that social engagement or what do you think inspired members to share their feedback so broadly outside of NetGalley?
I think one of the things Tressie is uniquely brilliant at in Thick and on social is connecting the big picture with the personal in a way that clarifies both vantage points. When she’s talking about structures she’s talking about herself, and she inspires (and encourages) her readers to do the same. So it was rather organic. Her readers clamor to spread the word about her writing.
Brian Ulicky is the publicity and marketing director for The New Press,
an independent not-for-profit publisher of books to build social change,
where he oversees publicity, marketing, advertising and digital
strategy plus institutional development partnerships and strategic
communications initiatives. Before that he was in the publicity
department at Simon & Schuster and was publicity director at Blue
Rider Press, where he planned and executed campaigns for multiple New York Times bestsellers. He lives in New York City.
“You don’t have to do anything the way you’ve been doing it”
Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation opened Digital Book World with a keynote about innovation and experimentation, backed by practical takeaways for attendees. She told the audience, “You don’t have to do anything the way you’ve been doing it.”
Lisa Lucas’s keynote was emblematic of most of the conversations at Digital Book World. Panelists and presenters explained their projects, companies, and initiatives while also sharing the practical tools and processes that they used to accomplish their goals.
Margot Atwell, winner of the DBW’s Outstanding Achievement Award and Head of Publishing at Kickstarter,sang the praises of Airtable to NetGalley Insights during a coffee break. She told us that the combination spreadsheet and database was indispensable for her when putting together the inaugural The Next Page: Creating the Future of Publishing, a full day of conversations shared digitally and available for free to foster a more inclusive, fair, and vibrant publishing landscape.
Amy Metsch and Dan Zitt of Penguin Random House Audio are expanding PRH’s audio offerings by going after new genres. They are transforming theater productions like Angels in America, graphic novels like Roller Girl, and Spanish language books like La primera regla del punk into audiobooks. Like any team going through a growth period, the PRH Audio team needed to develop a more streamlined and centralized ways of casting these audiobooks, many of which feature a full cast. To support their audio expansion, PRH developed an audio talent database called Ahab, which now has the profiles of 3,000 actors all over the world. They’ve used Ahab to match narrators and voice actors to their increasing roster of projects, plus expand their pool of talent beyond the actors that they already know. And soon other publishers will be able to use Ahab to find the right audio talent for their projects.
Eleanor Long and Trevor Young, co-founders of indie animation studio Tapocketa, showcased their interactive children’s book Galdo’s Gift (which won multiple awards at DWB 2018, including Best Overall Book) and gave a sneak preview of their new interactive storytelling project, The Locksmith. They also shared the tools that they use to get this work done – from communication and productivity tools like Slack and Teux Deux (both of which are beloved by the NetGalley team) to animation software like Affinity and Hype.
Bluefire founder and CEO Micah Bowers shared the winding journey of the Bluefire Reader. We were surprised to learn that one of the earliest prototypes was an EPUB 2 compliant e-reader for a Sony Playstation device. The audience also learned that Bluefire was originally intended to contain both an e-reader and a virtual bookstore, plus the original conception of Adobe Digital Editions was an in-browser reader rather than a desktop app. Bowers shared the roadblocks, surprises, and coincidences in Bluefire’s history, including the recent removal of Bluefire from the Android store (although it is still in the iOS store, and anyone who already has it on their device can still use it). In addition to providing the audience with a unique vantage point to think about the history of e-reading, Bowers’s talk was a lesson in how companies can respond to the unexpected with agility and creativity. Bluefire’s journey was full of iterations, failures, and pivots, all of which are crucial for anyone looking to be at the edge of technological innovation.
Charlotte Abbott, founder of FutureProof Content Strategy, gave the audience a framework for thinking about creating brand stories that drive results. For Abbott, these stories “spark direct, ongoing connections with your customers, build community with customers and stakeholders, and drive revenue on a platform you own.” She used Berrett-Koehler’s 2017 online Servant Leadership Summit as a case study to demonstrate a simple framework for building those stories. Clear articulation of mission, goal, and story are the key to creating compelling narratives that bring in audiences and keep them engaged with your work. Seeing some raised eyebrows, she made it plain that even for for-profit companies, everyone has an overarching mission, even if it’s as simple as “produce world-class books and make a profit.” Abbott reminded the audience that publishers are “storytelling natives,” and advised us not to forget our storytelling skills when we are building our own brands.
Audible’s Strategic Content Partnerships Manager Shira Schindel also gave a step-by-step structure, but for partnerships between companies and organizations. She instructed the audience to think of partnerships like stories; complete with plot, characters, goals, and challenges. Plot encompasses your company’s history and the history of a potential partner, plus the new directions for both of those companies. Character helps you figure out if you are connecting with the right person at another company. The goal crystallizes your objectives and your counterpart’s mandate from their company. And then the challenge helps you address potential limitations. She gave examples of recent Audible partnerships with Minetta Lane Theater and Alaska Airlines to show how this story-centric partnership structure lets both parties find meaningful and effective collaborations.
Joshua Tallent, Firebrand’s Director of Sales and Education, as he is wont to do, was sharing metadata best practices. And in addition to reminding publishers how crucial it is to fill in even the most basic metadata fields, he made some practical suggestions for how teams can best ensure that their metadata is being refreshed regularly and successfully sent to the appropriate retail partners. He advised publishers to have a dedicated position on staff for metadata. While editorial, marketing, legal, and other departments have a vested interest in metadata changes, he encouraged publishers to designate a point person. Then, he suggested scheduling regular metadata updates, monthly if possible. That way, publishers can have a built-in structure to check that their data is current, and can quickly see if anything has gone amiss. Plus, he also noted that Eloquence on Alert is a powerful tool to monitor any changes to books’ metadata across retail providers.
We’re leaving Digital Book World 2019 with our heads buzzing with new ideas and with some concrete strategies to implement more experimentation, more collaboration, and more innovation.
NetGalley provides every publisher with a wealth of early data and analytics about each of your titles to bolster your marketing efforts and inform your overall strategy, including easy ways to follow up with approved members using the Detailed Activity Report and Feedback Report.
Today we’re focusing in on the Snapshot PDF Report, which is available for every title listed on NetGalley. It contains data points that can assist publicists, library marketers, social media teams, and others, as well as high-level decision-makers looking at overall trends.
The Statistics section of the Snapshot PDF shows a title’s general performance (Impressions, Reviews) as well how members are following through. You can look at the relationship between Impressions, Clicked to Read, and Feedback to see how your pipeline is working. And if you aren’t converting as much Feedback as you’d like, consider how you are communicating with those members who Clicked to Read. Are you following up with them and enticing them to read and review? Or, if your conversion rates are high, analyze what you are doing right and apply that method to other titles.
Reasons for Request provides early indicators about what aspects of your books are resonating with readers. You can use this information in two ways – both to see what is working, and to see where there is room to try a new strategy. If, for example, most NetGalley members are requesting access to a book based on the description, you know that copy is effective and catchy. If most members are requesting based on the author, you can capitalize on that personal connection in your ongoing marketing and outreach. On the flip side, if only a few NetGalley members are telling you that they’re requesting a book because they keep hearing about it, you can tell that you might need to be showing that book in more places and more proactively building word-of-mouth buzz.
NetGalley members can express an opinion about a book’s cover design, whether or not they request it. If you see plenty of thumbs up in the Cover Rating in your Snapshot PDF, you know that you have an especially compelling cover. Consider using it – rather than, say, author photos – in marketing campaigns and social media posts. If a NetGalley member is only lukewarm on a cover design, they won’t usually downvote it, so consider downvotes to be strongly held opinions. If you find yourself receiving more downvotes for a cover than you’d prefer, consider repackaging the book if there’s time. If you don’t have time to redesign your book’s cover, you can still take that intel into your design meetings for future books.
The Opinions section of the Snapshot PDF, downloadable as the Opinions Report, can guide your targeted followup and help you curate a list of the NetGalley members who are most engaged in your books. When members submit feedback for books on NetGalley, they are asked questions specific to their member type. For example, booksellers are asked if they are likely to handsell the title, if they would suggest that their store purchase the title, if they are interested in the author visiting their store, plus given the opportunity to nominate the book for the Indie Next list. You can read all about our member-specific questions here. After looking at this information, you might consider reaching out to interested booksellers to arrange author visits, or offer to connect media to the author for an interview. You might Auto-Approve every librarian or bookseller who nominates your book for LibraryReads or the Indie Next List.
For more ideas about how to use NetGalley data and reports, reach out to us at email@example.com. We’d be happy to chat!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 Scandalwrote 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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
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
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 email@example.com.
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.
“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.”
“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].
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.”
“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.”
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 / firstname.lastname@example.org
“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).”
“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.”
“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.”
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
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.