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’ll be sharing the events we’re most excited for on a monthly basis.
“The past 20 years have ushered in considerable changes in the
world of publishing. Today, publishers and writers face urgent questions
about how to create connections with readers and how to authentically
represent the full range of human experience.
Kickstarter and Fireside invite the many stakeholders in the
world of publishing to contemplate these big questions and begin to
consider what the next decade of publishing will look like. This
pioneering digital conference will be streamed live for free so anyone
with an internet connection can watch and join the conversation about
how to create a more inclusive and vibrant publishing landscape.
Panel topics will include:
Connecting the Future: Technology and Publishing
Radically Inclusive Publishing
Cultivating Community in Publishing
Paying the Way: Economic Sustainability in Publishing”
“Humor + Cocktails (or Mocktails) + Friends = Fun! We all need a good laugh right about now, so come out and have lots of them as 8 amazing authors/comedians take the stage for a rare WMG evening event in support of our fellowship/scholarship program. The night starts with a networking cocktail hour that includes 2 drinks and delicious passed hors d’oeuvres. Then we’ll sit back in a room to ourselves and enjoy tons of fresh comedy from [a] super lit line-up…”
“For the past year, BISG has worked with the University of Michigan, the University of North Texas, and Knowledge Unlatched to explore ways to improve what we know about the specification and use of open-access monographs. The project was sponsored by the Mellon Foundation and included a summit held in December 2018. This webinar provides an update on the project and an introduction to a white paper published by BISG.”
“Your metadata is the message you send to consumers. With radical changes happening in the Christian retail marketplace, your metadata is becoming even more important than before. Join Joshua Tallent, the metadata master at Firebrand Technologies, as he talks about the metadata revolution, and how the Eloquence on Demand system can help you solve modern publishing problems.”
“Shaping the Status Quo: Global Perspectives in Scholarly Publishing. The Society for Scholarly Publishing heads back to the west coast for its 41st Annual Meeting. Looking out into the vast Pacific in San Diego will be a good opportunity to reflect on the (literal) wide world of publishing. Scholarly publishing is flourishing in new and exciting ways across the world, including Asia, India, and the Global South. As we move together into new eras of sharing research, it is important to make efforts to shrink the distance among stakeholders in publishing, enabling coordinated discussion and problem solving.”
“Publishing industry’s leading trade event, where Booksellers, Librarians, Publishers and Tastemakers gather to discover the latest titles, authors, distribution channels, technology and trends. At BookExpo you can get an edge in your business by attending cutting edge education sessions, and making new connections to help you grow your business.”
“Transform your career with this one-day hands-on practical course which will guide you through designing, creating and editing flyers, leaflets, posters and other sales and marketing materials in Adobe InDesign. There is no prior experience of InDesign assumed. The professional techniques taught during the day also serve as an ideal introduction to confidently working with book files.”
“Publishing has a problem with tech. Everyone is talking about it and many want to learn to code, but if you don’t know what you don’t know, you can’t do it, right? Well, we’re here to help. A panel of tech champions will explain exactly what different terms are and how you can get started with them. They’ll boost your tech literacy by explaining:
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) – what they are and how they can make ebooks more beautiful.
Ruby – not just a sparkling jewel but also the perfect first step into coding.
Apps – where to start and what not to worry about.
Want to be a tech-savvy publisher? Then this is the event for you.”
“Do you want to be an ebook expert? Do you want to thoroughly understand the market? Plus have the practical skills to code your own books? Join industry expert Ken Jones for this two-part one-day course.”
While many publishers and authors are already using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads, Reddit should also be on your list of go-to social media platforms for connecting with enthusiastic readers.
Reddit, the self-described front page of the internet, is a website where members submit all sorts of content, from aggregated news to kitten videos. It operates by using subreddits. Subreddits are communities within Reddit for members to share information or discuss news and opinions related to that subreddit. Content is up-voted, and the most popular content makes it to r/all, which is one of the early places for content to appear before it goes viral.
Reddit’s most vibrant book conversations happen around personal recommendations. Subreddits like r/SuggestMeABook concentrate explicitly on personal recommendations rather than formal reviews (although a recommendation is, in part, a review). Book clubs are also a strong organizing principle for book talk on Reddit. Some subreddits are specifically designed as book clubs (like r/The Betterment Book Club) and some have a book club component (like r/Urban Fantasy).
Unlike many other popular social media platforms, including the ones with the strongest bookish presences, Reddit skews male. According to Pew, approximately 67% of Redditors are male.
For more demographic insight, the subreddit moderators for r/Fantasy have been running a census of their members for the past few years. You can see census results here. Included are self-reports from Reddit fantasy readers about where they buy books, how much they spend on books annually, plus other genres they read in.
Like any other reading community, the moderators on Reddit want to learn more about their communities so that they can provide content that their community will be most excited for. For r/Fantasy, some of this content takes the form of AMAs (“Ask Me Anything”), Writer of the Day, Group Reads, and Book Bingo. All subreddit moderators are listed on the right-hand side of a subreddit’s homescreen.
NetGalley member and moderator of r/Fantasy, MikeOfThePalace describes the origins of r/Fantasy’s Writer of the Day program. “The self-publishing boom is one of the best things to happen to publishing in decades, and finding those hidden gems is always amazing (plus hipster bragging rights for reading someone before they were cool, of course). [So] we have our Writer of the Day program specifically for the not-yet-famous. The community knows that Writer of the Day is someone they won’t have heard of, and generally approach them with an attitude of looking for something new and supporting aspiring authors.”
MikeOfThePalace told NetGalley Insights that he and his fellow moderators are already being pitched new authors and titles from publicists across sci-fi publishing to increase visibility for their newest books.
While engaging with Redditors is a bit more convoluted than simply asking for a review, Reddit engagement has the capacity to reach new audiences and to filter up to a much broader audience through up-voting. Publishers could consider submitting their authors for an AMA, sending relevant subreddit mods a NetGalley widget or collaborating on unique ways to boost visibility for their titles for an eager audience.
We hope more publishers will keep Reddit on their radar in the future for social media influencer outreach.
For more on industry best practices, subscribe to our weekly newsletter. And, stay tuned for more Reddit coverage. We’ll be talking about the most powerful tool for publishers and authors on Reddit, the AMA.
How Sourcebooks used data from NetGalley & BookishFirst campaigns to land this debut novel on “Best of 2018” lists
When Sourcebooks brought Stuart Turton’s The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastleto the U.S., they knew they would have to make a splash with early readers to get this debut novel the attention it deserved.
On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of our publishers and share some of their strategies with you in case studies. Today, we’re bringing you an inside peek at how one of the most data-centric publishers uses early metrics to turn their books into successes, first on NetGalley and then in the market. By using data to activate an advanced-reading audience, Sourcebooks turned 7 ½ Deaths into one of the most successful titles on NetGalley in all of 2018 in addition to landingit on multiple year-end lists. It’s due out in paperback on May 7.
Valerie Pierce, Marketing Director at Sourcebooks, shares her strategies below:
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a debut novel. How did that factor into your overall marketing strategy?
Because The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was a debut, we knew that we needed to launch this title in a very visible way, and we needed to do it very early on. The book came out in September , and as many of us know, that is a very busy month with lots of book releases! Our plan hinged around breaking through the noise by building excitement amongst the industry (media, booksellers, librarians, and bloggers) as well as creating direct-to-consumer engagement. We were able to use strategic trade and consumer advertising campaigns that drove people to sign up for the galley (digital and/or print), and this really helped us create a database of people who were interested in the book. We were able to then go back and retarget those people.
We were very fortunate with this debut because we had an intriguing title, an incredibly unique premise, and an amazing cover. We were conscious of using all of those elements in every piece of marketing. When you ask any reader if they’re interested in an Agatha Christie mystery, with a Groundhog Day loop and a dash of Quantum Leap, you get the reader’s attention 99.9% of the time!
How did your data-driven framework guide this campaign and put The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle on best-of lists from the Guardian and Harper’s Bazaar?
The most important element of a marketing campaign is ensuring that your messaging is on pointe. We did start with great messaging, but we also tested a variety of other options, and then constantly looked back to see what performed at the highest level. Honing in on what worked and dropping what didn’t work was key to helping us create success for The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.
Which metrics were most important to you and your team, and why?
We have a few key lists that we look at to determine how the pre-publication promotions for a book are performing:
Number of leads we capture from advertising campaigns
Number of clicks our ads receive
Number of NetGalley requests
Number of NetGalley cover votes
Number of Goodreads to-reads
Number of Edelweiss downloads
Number of reviews
Indies: Indie Next nominations
Libraries: LibraryReads nominations
Advertising early on is really important because it shows us how much interest the publishing industry and consumers have. We set a goal for the total number of clicks and number of leads we hope to get from each ad. Once the ad has deployed, and we have our results, we compare them to:
Our goals for the book
Past performance of our in-house comp titles
The average CTRs the advertiser generally receives for specific ad spots
If the number is low, we know we have to stop what we’re doing and completely re-strategize. If the number is average, then we look at ways that we can improve them. And if the number is higher than we anticipate, then it not only means that we’ve got a winning strategy – it also means that this might be a title to pour additional resources into. This could include going back to the sales team and asking them to go back out to their accounts, reallocating budget money so that we can fund more advertising, and going back out to media.
How did you use NetGalley reporting during and after the campaign for 7 ½ Deaths? How did you engage with members who requested access?
We love using NetGalley reporting as an early indicator for the success of titles! First off, when you see a really high number of NetGalley requests, you know that you’ve captured the readers’ attention, which is always the first hurdle. The second metric you look at is the number of downloads vs. the number of reviews, Once people downloaded the book, did they actually go and read it? Did they feel compelled to leave a review? And how much time elapsed between the initial download and the review?
The next thing we do is we look at the language that people use in their reviews. If there are terms that are being used by multiple reviewers, then we look at incorporating that into our marketing messaging.
We absolutely engage with members who requested access. For booksellers and librarians, if we’ve noticed that they have downloaded the galley but not reviewed it, we’ll send them a quick email with all of the great blurbs/reviews we already have and ask them if they’ve had a chance to read the book yet.
For consumers who submitted positive reviews, we’ll ask them to post their reviews anywhere and everywhere they can around pub day.
Which segments of the NetGalley community have been most important to you and why? How do you go about reaching them?
Honestly, I think each segment is important, but each book and each campaign is just a little bit different. Depending on the campaign you’re running, the segment that will have the most impact might change. For The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, booksellers and librarians were a huge part of the initial push. We always include NetGalley links in all of our B2B newsletters. It’s absolutely vital that we give bookseller and librarians an opportunity to click over and download a galley right away.
We put this eGalley up extremely early so that we could reach them first, and use their amazing reviews to go back out to media and consumers.
How did your NetGalley marketing strategy differ from other marketing or advertising efforts you put forward?
The biggest difference is the way that NetGalley is structured. They have a list of dedicated readers, and they have an online platform that allows those readers to easily download a digital galley and then review it. A lot of our other marketing and advertising efforts involve driving readers to a landing page that we’ve created, or a page that the advertiser created.
NetGalley is also great because you can see an immediate result once you’ve sent out any advertising through them. Either you significantly increased your number of downloads, or you didn’t!
You ran a raffle on BookishFirst for The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. What insights did you learn from or about the consumers who participated in that raffle?
I did learn that there were definitely some librarians on that list, which is great! I had a couple of librarians approach me at a trade show and tell me that they’d tried to get a copy of 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle through the raffle, and that they were disappointed when they didn’t win. It’s great to see how excited readers are to win a book through this offering.
Overall, I think the raffle is really brilliant. Since readers have to read an excerpt of the book before they request to enter the raffle, you know that you’re reaching the right reader for your book. The raffle is also especially helpful because BookishFirst really makes sure that the people who receive the books go and send in a review, which we love.
The reporting we received from BookishFirst was very helpful. It was great to know that more than half of the people who participated bought more than 20 print books per year, which tells you that BookishFirst has tapped into avid readers. And most avid readers are mini-influencers; they tend to be the people who tell their friends what books to read next, For this book in particular, a lot of readers had a very strong interest in YA, which is not something we would have thought about on our end. It’s always fantastic to learn information that can help you target a new audience.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
Read the rest of our case studies here for more successful strategies.
Bio: Valerie Pierce is the marketing director, retail marketing and creative services, at Sourcebooks, an independent publishing company. For the past 8 years she has helped lead the Sourcebooks marketing team, doubled the size of the retail marketing staff, worked directly with Indie booksellers, initialized email marketing campaigns, helped relaunch imprints, created trade show strategies, and managed title plans across all imprints. She has worked on bestsellersand Indie Next Picks such as The Readers of Broken Wheel, The Paris Architect, The Only Woman in the Room, and The Radium Girls. When she is not promoting books, Valerie can most likely be found reading them.
Andrews McMeel Publishing is a major player in poetry’s resurgence with a new generation of readers. Their list includes bestselling poets like Rupi Kaur and amanda lovelace (whose most recent title, the mermaid’s voice returns in this one has over 400 reviews on NetGalley). With a focus on young, digitally-engaged poets from all over the world drawing upon their diverse backgrounds and experiences, they connect with audiences who may never have seen themselves reflected in poetry before.
In honor of National Poetry Month, we sat down with Kirsty Melville, President & Publisher of Andrews McMeel. In this interview, she tells us what she thinks is behind poetry’s current boom, where she’s looking for new voices, and what trends she sees on the horizon. She describes how the publishing industry is becoming more responsive to what readers are looking for, and how booksellers can use poetry to engage with new customers.
What do you think accounts for some of the popularity behind popular poetry from a diverse group of poets, especially among millennials?
The impact of technology, really. The ease of being able to connect and communicate online has opened up sharing. The ability for people to share their work online, and to share their books. And then for the books to be available at retail so that [readers are] having an experience online and then able to buy a physical book. Poetry lends itself to the experience of reading in short form online. You have that short, shareable mechanism that something like an Instagram distribution platform provides. It also provides building awareness. People want to read poetry privately and it’s a form of reflection, so you see them purchase the same poetry in a book so they can experience the same work.
One of the things that I’ve found most exciting about the poets that we publish is that it’s a global phenomenon. Lang Leav was this poet we published. She was born in a Thai refugee camp — she’s Cambodian originally, raised in Australia. She started posting her work on Tumblr. I saw that she had this fan base in Asia; young women in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines were reading her work. I saw this community of young women who were totally involved and interested in what Lang had to say.
Young women see themselves reflected in [these] poets. So, you have someone like Rupi who is Punjabi-Canadian and she’s a brown woman. So suddenly brown women are seeing themselves reflected in the work of poets and spoken word artists. And then you have someone like K.Y. Robinson who’s from Houston and who’s African-American. She’s writing work and young women are seeing themselves reflected in her work. Or you have Upile Chisala who’s from Malawi; she’s speaking to African women. I think what’s happening is that the internet is facilitating young people seeing themselves reflected in the writers of today and responding to that.
People can finally have poets who are not dead white men writing about things that are relevant to them. Poetry has always been the form of talking about the meaning of life and expressing emotions around life and loss and trauma and understanding the world. All that’s happened is that the Internet’s facilitated that sharing.
Where are some of the places that you and your team are looking to keep up with emerging voices, emerging trends, or communities that you hadn’t known about before?
I think because I’m Australian, I’ve always had a global outlook. Last year I went to the Sharjah International Book Fair in the United Arab Emirates. One of our authors, Najwa Zebian, who is Lebanese, was on the panel there. I was fascinated to see the Arab world responding to poetry. Rupi had been there 2 or 3 years ago and had a similar response.
I was in Sydney in Australia and we are publishing a young aboriginal boy who is 13 years old who won the Australian Poetry Slam a year ago called Solli Raphael. And he writes about some of the issues that he, as an aboriginal and indigenous young man growing up in Australia [deals with]. Environmentalism, for example.
I think a lot of young people see the world as a place they communicate, so I’m looking everywhere. And I’m looking in communities who haven’t had their worlds expressed. amanda lovelace, the author of the princess saves herself in this one, she has a strong feminist orientation and LGBTQ fan base.
What’s your strategy for moving poetry away from its reputation of being intentionally oblique or rarified, broadening the perception of poetry as something that is for a lot of different kinds of people?
This resurgence in poetry is providing an awareness of the power of poetry in people’s lives. I actually think that we as a culture are committed to poetry as a genre. At Foyles in London you can see Rupi Kaur next to John Keats in the poetry section. It’s bringing more people to poetry, bringing them more to discovery. Once you’ve read one type of poetry it can lead you to another.
Rupi recently wrote an introduction to a Kahil Gibran edition of The Prophetthat Penguin Random House is publishing. [Young people are] interested in the genre and people want to write poetry. So there’s this great canon. [But] there’s room for everyone.
What trends do you see emerging in poetry for the rest of 2019 and beyond?
I think a lot of the themes that we’ve seen around feminism and self care and personal expression and identity and immigration.
We’re publishing a book next year with Ahmed Badr who was a refugee who started a platform called Narratio, which is about helping refugees write poetry about their experiences. He’s worked with the United Nations and so he’s been working with refugees to help them express their experiences through poetry. He was an Iraqi refugee who wrote a poem about the experience of having a bomb dropped on his house. He read it at the United Nations. He’s a student at Wesleyan, actually. He had launched this website in part because he wanted to be able to help others write about [the refugee] experience.
Greenpeace has enlisted Solli Raphael to be a spokesperson for their latest video. It’s pretty amazing how young people are embracing spoken word poetry as a means of communicating.
Anything else you’d like more people to know about poetry publishing?
One of the things that I have always been passionate about advocating for is booksellers to bring poetry out front. Young people are going into bookstores and buying poetry. So, poetry in the front. Put it on the cash rack. Have a display! It’s National Poetry Month now, so there probably is. But make poetry relevant again. Bring it back. I think it’s a way of bringing more young people into the stores.
It sounds like what you’re saying is that it’s less about booksellers making poetry relevant, but booksellers realizing that poetry is relevant and that it is what the next generation wants.
Yes, exactly. Poetry has always been there but for some reason gets a bad rap. But if all booksellers could treat poetry the way they treat fiction bestsellers… Put the poetry up front and see what happens! They might sell more than they realize. I think a lot of people are looking to break away from their digital lives and poetry is a form of self-care. I think that the things a lot of people are looking for are for nurturing and reflection and time for themselves. And reading a book of poetry is the way to do that. To be more human again.
Bio: Founding publisher of Simon & Schuster Australia, Kirsty moved to the U.S. in 1994 as Vice President and Publisher for Ten Speed Press and led in its transformation from a niche publisher into an internationally recognized, award-winning company. She subsequently departed Ten Speed to work as Publisher for San Francisco’s University Games, was appointed Publisher and Executive Vice President of Andrews McMeel Publishing in 2005, ultimately being named President and Publisher in 2009.
Known for best-selling humor, poetry, inspiration, entertainment and children’s books, Andrews McMeel is home to an extraordinary and vibrant selection of writers, artists, poets and comic storytellers. A global, independent, and integrated media partner, Andrew McMeel distributes creator content through global syndication; book, calendar and greeting card publishing; digital consumer experiences; and entertainment licensing. Under her leadership, Andrews McMeel has published many #1 New York Times bestsellers including Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur, with more than 7 million copies sold, How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman, more than 1 million copies sold, the Big Nate children’s series by Lincoln Peirce, over 5 million copies sold, and Posh puzzle and coloring book program with more than 10 million copies sold. Since 2013 she has been at the forefront of changing the way poetry is perceived and marketed, helping grow and expand the poetry category for readers worldwide.
How Authors, Publishers and Agents are Developing New Revenue Streams
To help their authors make a splash and to stay financially viable, publishers are on the hunt for additional revenue streams. They’re launching ad-supported podcasts with authors as experts, teaching online courses, partnering with brands, and more. And last week in Penguin Random House’s Maya Angelou Auditorium, Women’s Media Group gathered several heavy hitters who have track records helping authors in this arena. The panelists discussed developing content that audiences want while maintaining an authentic feeling of connection. Here’s a taste of what they covered:
Pay attention to your audience at all stages
Christy Fletcher, founder of Fletcher & Company, described her approach to creating new revenue streams for her author clients as creating a “noisy, robust launch while listening closely to the audience.” This means paying attention to what platforms they are using, what questions they are asking, and what other media they are consuming. Then, she is better able to amplify the work her authors are already doing and give that audience new material that they will enjoy.
Kathy Doyle, VP of Podcasts at Macmillan rigorously researches before committing seriously to a new venture. Before she started working with Ellen Hendricksen on what would become The Savvy Psychologist, Doyle and her team had already conducted a study to determine that psychology was of interest to their pre-existing audience. With that audience insight in place, she was able to confidently launch a new project with the assurance that there was an audience waiting for that content.
But the research doesn’t stop there. Doyle advised the audience to keep track of podcast appearances or online tutorials in a marketing and publicity calendar so that when publishers see a spike of interest, they can better trace it back to specific timing and strategy and replicate it in future efforts.
During the Q&A, audience member Leah Siepel, founder of Leah Siepel Courses asked the panel about scaling intimacy with larger online courses. She told the audience that in her own work building online courses for clients, courses with higher degrees of contact between the educator and the audience led to higher course completion rates. She wanted to know how to build bigger audiences without sacrificing the personal attention that leads to greater end-user satisfaction. The panelists all agreed that this is a challenge when growing audiences, and that successful online courses must be more engaging than a video of someone talking for 30 minutes.
Christy Fletcher described how she and Gretchen Rubin tackled this issue for The Happiness Project Experience, an immensely popular year-long course with a waiting list. They created smaller groups of participants within the wider course, using a cohort-based model with monthly modules and live call-ins to help members feel more connected to each other and to Rubin. Moderator Stephanie Bowen suggested filming lessons in front of a live audience to help viewers feel more like a part of an active learning community. Bowes suggested working with a company like Creative Live. Joan O’Neil, Vice President at Skillsoft Books, incorporates visuals to give online courses more of a Ted Talk feel. With options like live call-ins, production companies creating live lessons, and more, it’s possible to create truly dynamic and engaging online courses that resonate with viewers.
Podcast revenue model changes
Kathy Doyle described the changes that are happening in podcast advertising. Currently, most podcasts use live-read ads where hosts read ad copy for a product. This method capitalizes on the intimacy that podcast listeners feel when they hear a host speaking directly into their ears. Ads read by hosts feel like recommendations from a friend. However, as Doyle noted, the process of matching podcasts to products to create natural-sounding ads is both highly manual and highly time-consuming. Plus, podcast listeners are quick to recognize when an ad doesn’t sound natural or doesn’t fit with the host’s brand. Podcasts are beginning to go the way of digital advertising more broadly, which is to say programmatic. Increasingly, brands will be able to buy podcast audiences rather than listeners to a specific show. Programmatic advertising is show-agnostic, meaning that it will be able to, for example, target young urban parents who are likely to purchase a meal kit subscription rather than all listeners of The Racist Sandwich.
With any effort to build in new revenue streams or platforms for authors, the key is to listen to what their audience wants and to provide an engaging and authentic experience.
Moderator: Stephanie Bowen, Senior Manager, Publishing Development & Author Platforms, Penguin Random House
Women’s Media Group, founded in 1973, is a New York-based nonprofit association of women who have achieved prominence in many fields of media. Their 250-plus members, drawn from book, magazine, and newspaper publishing; film, television, online and other digital media, meet, collaborate, inform and support one another as well as mentor young women interested in publishing careers. They seek to advance the position of all women through the power of communication and media. Find out about their upcoming events here.
NetGalley Insights chats with writer and publishing professional Preeti Chhibber on her career path, her mentors, and the other people making publishing a more inclusive industry.
There’s a lot of talk in the publishing industry about efforts to address diversity and inclusivity. We’ve listened to panels all year long from Tech Forum to London Book Fair. Preeti Chhibber is one of the people doing the work to make it happen.
Frankly, she does it all! She points out where the publishing industry is falling short in terms of representation, both at a systemic level and in the titles that are being published. She produces content to make the industry more diverse, like her contribution toA Thousand Beginnings and Endingsand her podcast Strong Female Characters. And with her Marginalized Authors & Illustrators database, she is giving publishers no excuse for a lack of diverse hires.
She spoke with NetGalley Insights recently about how her career path evolved, her mentors and collaborators, and the other players who are making publishing a more inclusive and dynamic industry.
Tell us about your career trajectory: What was your path from children’s publishing to being a professional cultural critic and enthusiast, a podcaster, and all-around advocate for a more inclusive pop culture?
It wasn’t so much a path as it was something that happened side by side. My work in children’s publishing inspired my advocacy because I was noticing a trend of our kid lit to be very monochromatic. It was rare to see books by and about people of color. Then I started realizing that we work in an industry where we can affect what is and isn’t published, and if I was going to be vocal about books, why not look at the rest of the media landscape as well? I had a vested interest, after all. In terms of the criticism and podcasting, I’ve always written about pop culture on my own time – I grew up on the internet and in the era of blogging and WordPress, so when I realized I could get paid to do this, I had a portfolio ready to go when I started pitching.
What brought you to book publishing and what were your early days in the publishing industry like? What piqued your interest? What challenges did you face?
Book publishing sort of happened by accident. I don’t mean that in a “I fell into this job” kind of way but rather “I can’t believe this is a real job.” I was, as so many young South Asian American students are, pre-med when I was in undergrad. And I was struggling because I am terrible at math and science. I’ve always been more of a reader. My brother was in New York at the time, and he met a woman who worked at Tor and he facilitated a phone call between us where she told me about her work, and I was flabbergasted. This isn’t an industry discussed in the Indian community at all. We get doctors, lawyers, engineers. Publishing? What is that. But as soon as I realized that I could be a part of something that got books into readers’ hands… that’s all I wanted.
Early days were interesting. I got my start in kid lit at Scholastic in 2008, and it was just when the industry was starting to think about how we were being impacted by the Internet. I saw the rise and fall of several e-readers and e-reading apps in the span of four or five years. It was so frustrating to watch as an entry level position without the power to say anything!
It’s always a challenge in publishing to disrupt the status quo. The industry is so old and so slow to change, but it needs to change. When I started, it was so difficult to get noticed without knowing someone (I only got my job by meeting someone at NYU who put my resume in for her position when she left). Publishing is not an equitable industry, and it’s something that needs to be addressed. The pay is low, the work is intense, and you have to come from some kind of privilege to be able to afford to work. I heard an HR rep on a panel once brag about an entry level assistant who had to work an extra job in addition to her work at the publishing house in order to afford to live in the city. I’m… still mad about it.
Who were mentors and colleagues who inspired and encouraged you along the way? How did they help you find your path?
In 2015 I started working for a woman named Ann Marie Wong, who was the boss that I think people dream about. She was so supportive and encouraged new ideas – together, we started the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) partnership with Scholastic Book Clubs as well as a Young Adult initiative. I also want to shout out Sona Charaipotra, who co-founded Cake Literary, a book packager for commercial, diverse children’s literature. She, as a fellow desi woman in publishing, has always been available for conversations about new jobs, or negotiating, or in my case, quitting the industry to write full time for a year. It can be difficult to navigate the business side of some of these old companies, and having women of color around who have done the Thing and can use their experience to help guide you is invaluable.
What has it been like to go from working on behalf of other people’s books to being a writer yourself? Was this always the goal or was it something that developed along the way?
Writing is definitely a goal that developed along the way. It was just so far out of my understanding as something that I could do. Growing up, I had Arundhati Roy or Jhumpa Lahiri as examples of Indian women who were writing for a living. And… I am not either of those women, who are literary bastions of excellence. Early on in my career, an executive said that it was so important to understand the line between Writer and Publisher, and knowing what side you stood on. I know now what a ridiculous thing that is to say, especially considering how many of my colleagues are incredible writers… but when I heard it at the time, it stuck with me for years.
But, as I started noticing what books were being published, I thought I had something to say, a book to write for the kid I’d been. The kind of stories I wished I’d had. So here we are.
It’s been an interesting experience, because I know the publishing side so well, but I’m not as familiar with being a writer… and none of those writerly insecurities are stymied by knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. They might actually be exacerbated by the fact? Like, I can imagine what the meetings are like discussing a book which is not helpful, ha!
We know that moving forward is a collective effort–who have been your biggest supporters? Who are some others that are doing important work to make publishing more inclusive?
I already mentioned Ann Marie Wong and Sona Charaipotra above—but I’ll add women like Dhonielle Clayton, Ellen Oh (who were our colleagues on the side of WNDB when we launched the SBC partnership). In terms of who is doing good work right now to make the industry more inclusive? Patrice Caldwell and her People of Color in Publishing organization, Alvina Ling was an inspiration when she started the diversity committee at Little Brown. And honestly, every single publishing professional who speaks up about the inequity of the industry, many of whom I’ve had the privilege to work alongside like Kait Feldman, Celia Lee, Cassandra Pelham, Trevor Ingerson, Eric Smith, Jennifer Ung, Cheryl Klein, Nancy Mercado, Namrata Tripathi, Zareen Jaffrey. And so many writers (including the aforementioned Ellen, Dhonielle, and Sona) who won’t let publishing coast, like Daniel José Older, Justine Larbalestier, Laurie Halse Anderson, Heidi Heilig, Kayla Whaley—I could go on and on and on, this list is by no means exhaustive, but there are so many incredible people doing the work. We’d be here for hours!
Tell us about the efforts you have made to create communities in publishing, like your Marginalized Authors/Illustrators Database.
Yes! I created the marginalized authors/illustrated database because there is a thing in publishing called IP (intellectual property) – where the publisher will come up with an idea and then hire an author to write the book. I was noticing that editors tended to keep going back to the same list of cis, straight, white authors and I wanted to do what I could to equalize the playing field as much as I could… so I created a resource for editors to find a more diverse group of possible creators. It throws the excuse of “Well, I just can’t find any” out the window. Here! They found themselves for you!
[To request access to the database, fill out this form!]
Bio: Preeti Chhibber is a YA author, speaker, and freelance writer. She works as a publishing professional. She has written for SYFY, BookRiot, BookRiot Comics, The Nerds of Color, and The Mary Sue, among others. Her short story, “Girls Who Twirl and Other Dangers” was published in the anthology A Thousand Beginnings and Endings (HarperCollins, 2018), and her first book, Peter and Ned’s Ultimate Travel Journal comes out this year (Marvel Press, June 2019). You can find her co-hosting the podcasts Desi Geek Girls and Strong Female Characters (SYFYWire). She’s appeared on several panels at New York Comic Con, San Diego Comic Con, and on screen on the SYFY Network. Honestly, you probably recognize her from one of several BuzzFeed “look at these tweets” Twitter lists. She usually spends her time reading a ridiculous amount of Young Adult but is also ready to jump into most fandoms at a moment’s notice. You can follow her on Twitter @runwithskizzers or learn more at PreetiChhibber.com.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
How working with the IBPA boosted Rebecca Rosenberg’s historical novel, Gold Digger
On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today we’re talking to Rebecca Rosenberg, an independent author and member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). She takes advantage of the IBPA’s NetGalley program, which manages her title on NetGalley on her behalf, giving her even more time to think strategically about her ongoing promotional efforts.
What was your experience like working with the IBPA to list your title on NetGalley?
I enjoyed working with the IBPA to list my title on NetGalley and I appreciated their help and guidance. Their response time was great for sending me monthly reports, submitting promotions, forwarding reviews and posting featured reviews. When I was worried I was not getting enough reviews on Gold Digger, they gave me knowledgeable input that Gold Digger was doing quite well!
It is very helpful that IBPA handles all of the technical aspects of posting my book and making updates to the page so that I don’t have to do it myself. I feel that having my book listed under the IBPA umbrella offers prestige for my book.
Tell us why listing the book on NetGalley through the IBPA program was the right choice for you.
I learned from my first novel, The Secret Life of Mrs. London, that NetGalley is the professional hub of bloggers, librarians, Goodreads, Bookbub and Amazon reviewers, and avid readers who love to share their reviews. The more buzz the better when launching a novel, and NetGalley makes that possible.
We encourage professional reviewers to use the NetGalley link as well as bloggers, Facebook group moderators, Goodreads and Bookbub reviewers. In my opinion, if a reviewer gets the book from NetGalley, they are readers who take the reviewing experience seriously. They usually share the review in at least five places: NetGalley, Goodreads, Bookbub, Amazon, Facebook Groups, Twitter, Instagram, and their own blogs. NetGalley reviewers are connected and powerful influencers. I often use reviews in my marketing, and I feel that NetGalley reviewers carry more credibility.
You ran several marketing campaigns with NetGalley – a Category Spotlight in February and a Featured Title placement in March. Tell us about your strategy and unique goals around these promotions.
First of all, I took a six-month run on NetGalley (instead of three-months) before my launch date in order to reach as many reviewers as possible. When I saw the great marketing opportunities NetGalley offered, it made sense to support my listing with the Category Spotlight and Featured Title placement early on to get attention.
I am hoping to reach different segments of readers in different months with different promotions.
There are many marketing opportunities available through NetGalley, and (if I had the budget) I would use them all throughout the six-month listing! I ran a Category Spotlight in the “Historical Fiction” category, in February, and Featured Placement for “Women’s Fiction” in March and again in May. I did another Featured Placement for “Summer Reads” in June, and am waiting to hear if Gold Digger will be included in an upcoming Cover Love post.
How have you been leveraging your NetGalley listing and reviews to increase discoverability?
To expand the reach of my NetGalley listing, I posted the NetGalley link to my book on my Facebook page, Facebook reading groups, Bookbub, LinkedIn, Goodreads and to my mailing list.
I’ve also featured some great NetGalley reviews for Gold Digger on Facebook, Instagram, in my newsletter, and with my Review Crew. I use these reviews in my newsletters and social media to whet readers’ interest and add credibility for my books. We take 5-star reviews and make colorful, eye catching posts.
We love theblog on your website. You’ve been posting lots of great supplementary information about Baby Doe Tabor. Tell us a bit more about how your blog fits into your strategy as an author.
My blog serves to interest readers in my books, whether they’ve read my books or not. As with The Secret Life of Mrs. London, I like to use my two decades of research by creating background stories and character sketches and trying to interest readers in different aspects of the story. I share my blog across all platforms, from Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads, and newsletters, and guest hosting other blogs.
What are some tips you have for other independent authors?
Get involved with readers and other authors of your genre by joining Facebook Reader groups, Goodreads groups, Bookbub, Instagram, your creating own blog and newsletters. My specific Facebook groups would not work for everyone–authors need to search Facebook groups for those that discuss books in their genre. It is important to read the group rules and observe them. For example, a group may only allow promotion on certain days. Become a contributing member first and contribute to the group as a reader of other books, before posting about your own book. Review other books similar to yours and become an information source for great books.
Often, a person posting about your book will tag you. When that happens, be sure to thank them, or engage in an appropriate way. There are also companies that track mentions of your book on social media: Google Alerts, Talk Walkers, Mention. Find out who is talking about your book and thank them for spreading the word. Enthusiastic readers spread the word about your books! In addition to thanking them, ALWAYS ask readers to: “Please read and reviewGold Digger on NetGalley!”
Bio: California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband founded the largest lavender product company in America, Sonoma Lavender. Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Writing Certificate Program. Her upcoming novel is Gold Digger, The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor. Other works include: The Secret Life of Mrs. London, her debut novel and her non-fiction, Lavender Fields of America.
Rebecca Rosenberg’s next novel is Champagne Widows, the story behind Veuve Clicquot and Lily Bollinger.
Independent authors have the option to sign up for a huge number of services to help them get their books out into the world. Authors can work with companies on jacket design, promotion, editing, distribution, and more.
While each individual author’s goals and budget will determine which services are most important to invest in,there are still some best practices for authors to figure out which company or service is worth their investment.
Before signing up for any service, ask plenty of questions. Feel free to request case studies or examples of previous work the service has rendered. Then you’ll be able to get a better sense of what you can expect for yourself.
Read online reviews. If it’s a well-known company, other authors will be talking about their experiences using it somewhere online. While there are always going to be some outliers, you will be able to see broad trends or early warning signs from these reviews.
Before hiring services to help manage certain parts of your book’s publication, think about your skills and your network.Maybe you don’t need to hire a company to run social media for you, for example. You might find that you can do it yourself, or that you already have someone in your personal or professional network who you can work with. However, remember to think strategically about your time.
Consider your bandwidth. While you might have the ability to manage your own social media accounts, will the time it takes be time better spent on other tasks?
And finally, remember that no publishing or marketing service is a magic bullet. No single service will turn your book into a bestseller or land it a movie deal, but it will hopefully make it a better product available to a greater number of readers.
Multi-tiered marketing, strategic cover design, and Read Now access helped readers find this debut novel
On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re hearing from Jayne Allen about her debut novel, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted.
Allen used a multi-tiered, timely marketing strategy to help Black Girls Must Die Exhausted keep finding new NetGalley readers throughout its lifecycle on the site. An intriguing title and visually enticing cover helped the book find an audience looking to see themselves reflected in the characters they read about — including book clubs whose members became some of her biggest advocates!
Black Girls Must Die Exhausted became available on NetGalley shortly before its pub date and stayed up after it went on sale. Tell us how you came to use NetGalley primarily as a post-pub tool and why that works for you.
Allowing the book to be offered for sale during the NetGalley window worked best for me because it allowed NetGalley reviewers to post directly on the Amazon sales page as a consumer review, which meant more early reviews for the book, and it allowed us to start recouping the editing and production investment much earlier. At first, I was concerned that being on NetGalley might somehow erode sales, but the simultaneous window actually served to increase sales and start Black Girls moving up the charts much more quickly.
Additionally, Jayne Allen is a new pen name for me for fiction. I truly started fresh with this book. I had no email list and told none of my personal network about my novel. On Instagram, @JayneAllenWrites started with not even 30 followers, and there was no website and no Facebook page. All of the early momentum was about the substance of the book itself and the strength of the honest reader response. Thankfully, the NetGalley community responded positively to the work and passion that went into Black Girls Must Die Exhausted and created the early lift that has allowed this project to fly forward.
You ran several marketing campaigns with NetGalley – two Category Spotlights in September, when the book published, a Featured Title placement the next month, and then two more Category Spotlights in February. Tell us about the strategy behind your on-site NetGalley marketing. Why was this combination and timing the best fit for your unique goals?
While I am a passionate advocate for an increase in the volume of diverse and multicultural books in the publishing landscape, the lower number of books in the category as compared to “mainstream” fiction did work to my advantage for visibility on NetGalley. Based on the early response, it was clear that NetGalley readers are hungry for more fresh perspectives and cultural narratives. Still, the NetGalley platform is a popular destination, with new titles being added regularly to all categories. After the initial arrival of Black Girls Must Die Exhausted, the title wasn’t as prominent as before.
I used the Category Spotlight at the beginning to ensure visibility because I felt that the uniqueness of my protagonist and the diverse character mix would be a strong draw for people looking for something new and different in the realm of multicultural narratives. The early reviews were positive, [so] I used the Featured Title placement to expand to a broader range of readers. As February is Black History Month, I felt that there would undoubtedly be many more readers looking for black cultural perspectives, and I wanted to make sure that they saw Black Girls Must Die Exhausted and had the opportunity to make it part of their Black History Month experience.
Reviews are really the gold bullion currency of book sales. Nothing beats social proof other than direct word of mouth endorsement. NetGalley’s community of avid and engaged readers provided that during the critical post-publication period. The first four months of the marketing plan and budget for Black Girls Must Die Exhausted solely focused on NetGalley and Amazon advertising, nothing more than merely soliciting reviews and point-of-sale exposure. Until the reviews reached a critical mass, I did no author platform building and was not active on social media.
Reviews are truly the most vital asset to have. As an independent publisher, you have to be careful to do things in the correct timing and order so as not to waste precious resources by starting promotions or marketing efforts that are premature, especially as a debut author.
Which segments of the NetGalley community have been most important to you and why?
I knew that the uniqueness of the Black Girls Must Die Exhausted title would allow the audience for the book to define itself. The readers interested in multicultural works were the most active, but at its base, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is very much chick lit, albeit with a social conscience. You have a typical 30-something professional woman who just wants what we all do at the root of things – to be loved. Only in this book, she also happens to be black with a cultural perspective not often seen in chick lit. As I observed from the reviews and response on NetGalley, black female readers were so happy to finally see themselves reflected in such a multi-layered way in fiction, with their “blackness” written into the experience without overpowering it. Non-black readers were excited to find that they could relate to a story that was culturally authentic but not exclusionary. It was a beautiful thing for me to read many of the reviews from both of the segments that Black Girls Must Die Exhausted reached – Multicultural Interest and Women’s Fiction.
We heard that you’ve been working with book clubs. How has NetGalley fit into your book club outreach?
The book clubs found me! Several book club representatives accessed the title for evaluation over the period that Black Girls Must Die Exhausted was on NetGalley. It appears that book clubs use NetGalley to source new and interesting titles for their groups. I had no idea that my book had been selected until I received the emails asking for discussion questions, and one asking if I would participate in their meeting to discuss my book via live stream. Since then, several of the book club members have become some of my most engaged connections on social media.
Black Girls Must Die Exhausted was available to any interested member as a Read Now title. Tell us about why you chose that availability setting.
This was my first experience using NetGalley directly. The prior time, my nonfiction book Regroupwas managed by my PR representative, Smith Publicity. At first, I was concerned that the Read Now setting would lead to a “free for all” without quality reviews from engaged readers who were genuinely interested in reading the book. Ultimately, I decided that it was more important, at least at first, to reach more readers than less, especially with a debut novel from a new voice in fiction. I told myself that if there seemed to be an issue, I could always quickly change the setting. Over the course of the entire NetGalley window, I never did. It worked out wonderfully, and I was happy to give newer reviewers the opportunity to build their reviews on the platform as well.
38% of members with access to the title listed the cover as a reason for request. What message did you want to send to potential readers when you were designing the cover?
My professional background is in branding and marketing. It was essential to me to design a cover that was as delicious as possible to the eyes. I wanted to send a signal of the deliberate quality that went into every nook and cranny of the work. As a visual symbol, I wanted to represent the vibrancy and the richness of life, which is one of the underlying themes of the book – living life to the fullest. The title Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is a little cheeky, so I let the cover tell more of the actual story. Perhaps most important, I wanted the cover to make women feel gorgeous holding the book and for them to feel proud of what they were reading.
46% of members with access said that the description was their reason for request. How did you think about drawing in readers with your copy?
For black women, I just knew instinctively that the title would speak a truth to them that they would want to explore within themselves. For non-black women and men, I believed that the title would signal an honesty and depth of perspective that would be a rare opportunity to experience outside of one’s own culture.
It was all a bit of a risk, but I’m glad that I took it.
How have you been interacting with members who have access? Have you followed up with them via email?
I try to be extra judicious with my email communications and only send a message when I have something positive and important to share. For example, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted had been on NetGalley for a couple of months already when we finally received the Kirkus review. Even though it was favorable and exciting, I didn’t share the news via email until Kirkus informed me that their editors selected their review of the book for inclusion in the print version of Kirkus Reviews magazine, a distinction that less than 10% of independently published books receive. That was email-worthy! Still, I waited until it was also a reasonable time to remind the readers of the NetGalley window to make sure they didn’t miss the book in their long queue of reading.
The average publishing industry email open rate is around 14%, and mine was 51% for my first email and 38% for the second. That is a pretty favorable demonstration of the overall engagement and enthusiasm of the NetGalley community for books and the publishing industry as a whole.
How have you been leveraging your NetGalley listing outside of the site? Have you been including it in emails, newsletters, or trade ads?
NetGalley has been an excellent avenue for providing review copies of Black Girls Must Die Exhausted to fulfill media and book club requests.
It was so much more efficient and secure than blindly emailing copies. Also, for many of the requesters, referencing NetGalley seemed to send an additional signal that Black Girls Must Die Exhausted was a book to be taken seriously and be meaningfully considered.
What’s your top tip for other independent debut authors?
I would advise making sure that you have a substantial base of reviews before moving on to other marketing efforts, ideally at least 25 to 30. It is ok to focus 100% of your efforts on garnering reviews at the beginning to ensure that you get the performance and return you’re hoping for when you do eventually direct resources toward other paid marketing efforts.
Bio: Jayne Allen is a black girl from Detroit who smiles widely, laughs loudly and loves to tell stories that stick to your bones. Her debut novel, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted touches upon contemporary women’s issues such as workplace “impostor syndrome,” race, fertility, modern relationships, and mental health awareness, echoing her desire to bring both multiculturalism and multidimensionality to contemporary fiction with dynamic female protagonists who also happen to be black. When she’s not writing “chocolate chick lit with a conscience,” you can find her discussing the publishing business at Book Genius, hosting the Book Genius Meetup in LA or simply spending time with her colorful friends and family, keeping one ear open for her next saucy tale.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
Read the rest of our case studies, featuring authors, trade publishers, and academic publishers here.
We all know that data matters. But for publishers looking to become more data-savvy, it can be hard to know where to start, especially when we are often dealing with qualitative data. Which metrics are important? How do you incorporate data collection and analysis into your workflow? Finding yourself with a glut of data and no real way to interpret or incorporate it isn’t much better than no data at all.
Frameworks for data collection and analysis can help. They provide structuring principles to guide publishers who are developing a data strategy. One that we’ve been thinking about since we attended the Firebrand Community Conference is the DIKW model.
DIKW stands for Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom. The pyramid structure represents a process of refining raw data into actionable insight.
Data refers to information in its raw form. This broadest and lowest tier of the pyramid represents the whole glut of information that’s available to you. In this system, data has no context, but is readily available. It needs to be interpreted.
Information begins the interpretation process by putting that information in context. This might mean answering the who, what, when, where, and why’s of the data from the first block of the pyramid.
Knowledge puts the information you have in context. It might link the information you’ve already gained earlier in the pyramid to other pieces of information or take into account trends or events that happened around the same time as the pieces of information were gathered. This block of the pyramid looks at how the information you have fits into a more global view of a project or an industry.
Wisdom, at the top of the pyramid, is what you do with the knowledge you have. Wisdom determines the path forward given the ways you have interpreted the data. Ultimately, when publishers say that they want to be data-driven, they mean that they want to get to this point of the pyramid, where their next steps are guided by data insights.
Let’s see this in action with a famous literary example.
Information: This is a date – March 14, 44 BCE
Knowledge: There was a prophecy (at least in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) to “beware the Ides of March.”
Wisdom: If you’re Caesar, consider calling in sick to the Senate.
Now, let’s put it in terms of the information available to publishers within their NetGalley accounts.
Data: 589, 82018, 2304, 011819
Information: 589 and 2304 are impression counts for two different titles, Title A and Title B. 82018 and 011819 are the dates that each of the titles went live on NetGalley. Title A went live on August 20, 2018 and Title B on January 18, 2019.
Knowledge: Both titles were listed as Nonfiction (Adult) and Biographies & Memoir in NetGalley. The publisher booked an eblast for Title B that went out to all NetGalley members who are interested in the Nonfiction category.
Wisdom: By comparing two similar titles that fared differently on NetGalley, we can see two differences immediately. Title A was put on NetGalley in the end of summer when many members are on vacation, meaning that they might be less likely to be at their computer requesting new titles to read. The publisher might consider putting titles up earlier in the summer so that members can read them on vacations, or later in the fall when business-as-usual has resumed. Additionally, we can see that booking an eblast seems to have had a huge effect on impressions, which can help the publisher determine where to best spend ad dollars in the future.
The DIKW paradigm isn’t the end-all, be-all of data-centered decision making. Some critics have pointed out that the pyramid is too rigid and hierarchical. We certainly see their point, and recognize that flexibility is a crucial aspect to successful decision-making.
DIKW is best thought of a starting point – a structure that can be tweaked. It’s a way to begin to think about what data points you as a publisher need to be collecting, what context will help make those data points meaningful, and how you can take that information with you into the future. For publishers who are in the process of asking themselves what it means to be data-driven, the DIKW pyramid is a great place to start.