Tips and success stories from NetGalley’s marketing experts
Every day, NetGalley’s marketing team works with publishers and authors to help put their books directly in front of the NetGalley members who are most likely to read, review, and advocate for them. Through years of collaborating closely with clients of all types (from the “Big 5” houses to self-published authors, and publishers of all kinds of books–bestselling fiction to nonfiction and academic, religious, graphic novels, children’s and YA, cookbooks, and beyond) our marketing team has seen first-hand which strategies have worked to engage different kinds of readers.
Dedicated eBlasts are extraordinarily successful and NetGalley’s most popular promotion. Clients see outstanding results with a custom, highly targeted email campaign to meet their goals. The success of any email can be measured by both the Open Rate and the Click Through Rate (CTR). The Open Rate is determined by how many people open the email, and the CTR is determined by how many people click on a link within the email–for example to Request, Read Now, or Wish.
Today’s Proven Strategies post will focus on the first step to a successful eBlast: A strategic subject line. Remember that the subject line is your chance at a strong first impression, and it will determine whether the recipient will either open the email to find out more, or ignore it (or worse, mark it as spam). Here are some crucial tips:
Think about the recipient: Why are they receiving this email? Think about what your recipient is looking for, and use that to guide your messaging to ensure it resonates. Does it give them what they want?
Be clear and concise: The subject line should be 10 words or 50 characters max. This helps ensure that the subject line won’t get accidentally cut off on specific browsers or mobile devices.
Stand out: Inboxes are cluttered! Be sure your subject linecatches a reader’s eye with an emoji or first name personalization.
If you can’t decide, test: Torn between two subject lines and unsure which will perform better? Run an A/B Test on a small percentage of the overall recipient list to see which subject line yields a higher open rate, and then use that as your subject line for the rest of the recipients.
Target strategically: Make sure the email is being sent to the right people.NetGalley can target specific member types, preferred categories and genres, comp titles and authors, and more. Our marketing team can help you determine which of our members will be the best fit for your book, your goal, and your budget.
Now, let’s see some of these tips in action with some recent successful subject lines. According to Mailchimp, a marketing email from a media or publishing company will have an average open rate of 21.92% (which is slightly higher than what Mailchimp sees as an overall average of 20.81%). Keep that baseline in mind as we look at these examples:
This custom eBlast for Berkley’s Those Peoplehad an open rate of 51%! The knife emoji adds drama and flair to an inbox, and the question is engaging. This concise subject line also immediately gives the reader a clear idea of what kind of book this is. This eBlast was targeted to a highly engaged, genre-specific recipient list who had already interacted with the author’s previous book.
This subject line for NetGalley’s Spring Young Adult Newsletter used a bit of reverse-psychology as a result of an A/B test. Our marketing team first tested this subject line against “YA books to add to your TBR right NOW” and found the “DO NOT OPEN” subject performed better in the test. It’s no surprise–it was attention-grabbing with that emoji, too! This newsletter ended up with a 46% open rate, and was sent to a highly engaged list of members who had previously interacted with similar emails.
This concise, compelling, and slightly mysterious subject line for I Am Yoursfrom Amberjack resulted in a whopping 55% open rate! It responds to a recipient’s desire to connect in a meaningful way with a compelling new voice. The custom targeting for this eblast reached fans of comp titles, and readers who had interacted with promotions in the same genre.
Bonus Tip: Consider using a preheader, which is the preview text that follows the subject line in the inbox display. This can be just as important as the subject line! Make the preheader a call to action or use it as a short summary of the email content (we recommend a 35-50 character limit).
Have questions or need advice? Ask NetGalley’s marketing team – firstname.lastname@example.org! We’re here to help, and want to help your book succeed. And, stay tuned for more best practices and success stories in our next Proven Strategies post.
By: Kristina Radke, VP Business Growth & Engagement
“Innovation” was the theme during last month’s Book Industry Study Group (BISG) Annual Meeting, an inspiring day of conversation where panelists discussed everything from metadata to sales, to rights, and fostering innovation as a company culture. It was validating to hear about all the ways publishers, distributors, agents and suppliers approach technology and data—especially in simplifying workflows and driving decision-making.
At NetGalley, it has been our mission to be innovative in the way we help publishers collect early data about their titles. NetGalley Advanced is our latest step in that mission. I’m proud that this premier service is at the cutting edge of what publishers seek. Let me share a few examples:
“Transparency focuses attention”
During the “Innovations in Workflow” panel, moderator Carolyn Pittis (Managing Director at Welman Digital) remarked, “transparency focuses attention.” She was referring to how on-site dashboards keep actionable data top-of-mind by combining historical trends and real-time information. NetGalley Advanced offers publishers a new data-driven dashboard, including a number of charts designed to increase transparency so publicists and marketers can focus their attention on strategies that are successful.
Transparency of activity and use:
Activity by Member Type chart – understand which members you engage with the most
Top Performers list– see your top-performing titles based on various metrics and within specific categories
Your Promotions – identify your NetGalley promotions and see resulting activity
Title Activity chart – correlate engagement generated from promotions and understand trends in activity
Custom Title Summary Report – gain knowledge from detailed information about a specific set of titles that you choose
Types of Access charts (total and over time) – pinpoint successful strategies
New Titles Added chart – discern seasonal fluctuations and recognize when new content should be added
Company Admin Dashboard – assess NetGalley use across various imprints
NetGalley Advanced offers publishers even more data as early and efficiently as possible, to help you shape strategic decision-making.
Michelle Vu (Director of Business Operations at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) reminded the BISG audience that automation is designed to reduce painful manual efforts and create space for us to do more meaningful work. She is experimenting with ways to automate data collection to free up her colleagues for more strategic work, overcoming trepidation about automation.
With NetGalley Advanced, we’ve introduced automated delivery of title-activity data, in addition to new ways to cut down on the effort needed to execute strategies. Our goal is to help you use these tools and data to refine your strategies so they’re as effective as possible.
Title Timeline – pre-schedule title availability, including multiple phases to encompass your title’s lifecycle on NetGalley
Read Now limits – implement a cap on the number of downloads, or limit access by time
Marketing promotions – added to your Timeline by NetGalley’s marketing team, with pre-scheduled relevant availability
Automatic delivery of title reports – receive important reports to your inbox at the right time, to the right people
“Innovation means trend-setting between business and technology”
In the panel “The Innovative Workforce,”Maja Thomas (Chief Innovation Officer at Hachette Livre) said, “Innovation means trend-setting between business and technology.” Initiating a trend is no easy task; however, armed with data, and with a willingness to be experimental and agile with your strategies, you will discover that the technology and information that you use can drive your business. NetGalley Advanced helps marketers and publicists draw a line between the work that they do and the results they see.
How else we can facilitate innovation for YOU? Please let us know at email@example.com.
LEARN MORE! NetGalley Advanced is designed to help you innovate—to give you the tools to be data-driven and create effective strategies backed up by real results. Come learn more about this premier service, see these features in action, and let us know how you’d like NetGalley to continue evolving to meet your needs.
How runaway NetGalley success shaped the launch strategy for this Alice in Wonderland retelling
H.J. Ramsay had modest expectations for her first novel, but with over 175 NetGalley reviews and a 4-star average rating, Ever Alice has been a huge success. The pre-publication attention Ever Alice has been getting on NetGalley gave Ramsay some insight into how her title might fare once it hits its on-sale date, and helped her reshape her whole launch plan.
How has your NetGalley listing shaped how you think about your strategy for launching Ever Alice?
NetGalley has given me the confidence to really go after Ever Alice and seek outside sources to help promote it. Publishing Ever Alice started out as almost a pet project just to see what kind of reception it would have and to experience what it was like to have a published book. Not only did NetGalley provide a testing ground, but it also gave me the opportunity to access reviewers in a way that I don’t think I would have had otherwise. It’s a great platform that all self-published authors should utilize.
What aspects of the NetGalley community came as a surprise to you?
I’ve been blown away at the response I’ve received from the NetGalley community. I’ve had people from all over the world ask to read the story. I mean, how awesome is that! Up until now, I’ve mostly just had my critique group and/or publishing professionals like agents and editors read my work so the fact that I’ve had one of my novels read as far as Argentina, England, and India is like a dream come true. I’ve appreciated all the feedback on Ever Alice, and I’ve really been paying attention to what everyone has had to say. I haven’t done any promotion for Ever Alice outside of listing it on NetGalley so I’ve been very lucky that the reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and media professionals have been able to find me and are interested in my book.
We noticed that you aren’t on social media. How do you connect with your readers both for this specific book campaign and as part of your overall strategy as an author?
Honestly, I had no idea that Ever Alice would have the kind of response it did. When I listed it on NetGalley, I told myself that I’d be elated to receive 100 requests in six months. That happened in 24 hours. Needless to say, it’s been a little overwhelming and I’ve been caught up in the excitement of it all, but I’ve been getting more serious about promotion, especially regarding social media. Readers who’d like to connect should be able to find me very soon.
My NetGalley success did encourage me to become more active with social media. Plus, I have friends who are published, and they’ve been urging me to get on there. My plan is to be more accessible to readers, such as through Twitter and Instagram. I love books and writing so that’ll probably be the running dialogue of both platforms. I’m not sure if I’ll purchase ads. Maybe I will when Ever Alice is published so that I can look at promoting its publication date and where readers can purchase a copy.
Once Ever Alice started gaining traction on NetGalley, how did you leverage the interest?
Before NetGalley, I had looked at PR companies as a possibility but wasn’t really serious about it. It’s expensive, at least the good ones with track records are, and I wasn’t sure if I’d need it. That changed after I saw the response Ever Alice was having. I felt like this was an opportunity and if I didn’t take advantage of it, then I’d forever regret it. At the end of the day, what I really want is to have a career as an author. I love writing and the writing community. I’ve been active in writing groups. I’ve gone to conferences and retreats. I’ve received an MFA in Creative Writing. I’m the Editor-in-Chief of a literary journal, Gold Man Review. All that’s missing is having my own published work out there. I’ve had small successes with journals and small publishers, but ultimately, I’d like to see my novels that I love so much out in the world and to have readers love them too.
Promotion and all its various avenues is still a very gray area for me, but I’m learning quickly. Since it isn’t my strong suit, I’m very excited to be teaming up with Smith Publicity and we’re creating a plan to really dive into promoting Ever Alice, which will include using the NetGalley listing.
Half of the members requesting access to Ever Alice say that they are drawn to the description of the book. Tell us about how you created such compelling copy, or what you think is resonating with the members requesting access.
I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s a retelling… and particularly a retelling of a popular story: Alice in Wonderland. Retellings are amazing because they bring readers from different genres together. For instance, someone who primarily reads mystery, might be open to a retelling because they are already familiar with the story. They read the original when they were (most likely) a child. It’s familiar. It brings up memories for them so they’re drawn to it even when a similar story in that genre might not have had the same effect. I know my interest is always piqued when I find out that something is a retelling. For instance, I’ve been seeing the House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig up on NetGalley and it’s a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I loved that story as a kid when I read [the Brothers Grimm version} so I’m instantly drawn to that book.
Members also love the cover! This is one of the other popular reasons noted for why they’re requesting the book. What message did you want to send to potential readers when you were designing the cover?
My husband did the cover and, I agree, he did a fantastic job!
The style of the novel itself is very Wonderland-ish and I tried to stay as true as possible to Carroll’s original work. Because the setting and characters are so topsy turvy, I wanted to keep the cover simple, almost like a juxtaposition of what awaits the reader within. I was really inspired by the cover of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I just love its minimal use of color and illustration. There’s something about it that makes it even more mysterious and intriguing. It’s the understated that makes a statement, at least to me. After some trial and error, my husband came up with this cover of Ever Alice and I knew it was “the one” the moment I saw it.
What’s your top tip for other debut independent authors?
Be patient. I decided that if I was going to self-publish Ever Alice that I’d give it its best possible chance by modeling the practices that traditional publishers use. There are a lot of steps publishers take before a book is sent out in the world, which doesn’t only included editing, but also getting advanced reader reviews. All those steps take time, but they’re essential. With so many options available to self-publish its very easy to complete a story, upload it, and press click. Instead of rushing to do that, take the time to make sure your novel is as ready as you can possibly make it.
Bio: H.J. Ramsay has loved fantasy ever since she was a child. Growing up, she was influenced by movies such as the Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and Legend as well as books and short stories, such as The Collected Works of Brothers Grimm. As such, she is drawn to fantasy with a darker side to its glittery world and the idea that things are never what they seem. Ever Alice is her first published novel.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
Read the rest of our case studies, featuring authors, trade publishers, and academic publishers here.
At NetGalley Insights, we have our eyes on internet platforms where we see community, enthusiasm, and fandom. In addition to coverage of YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, we’ve explored Wattpad and Reddit. Today, we’re looking at Twitch and its possible use for publishers.
Twitch is the premier platform for video gamers. Primarily, Twitch users stream live videos of themselves playing video games. Then, other Twitch users watch those streams and chat with each other in the sidebar.
While most of Twitch is devoted to gaming, there are categories on Twitch for non-gaming content. And its non-gaming community is growing. As of late 2018, Twitch created new content categories to better meet the needs of its non-gaming streamers. Twitch streamers can now upload videos or livestream in categories like Food & Drink, Sports & Fitness, and Talk Shows & Podcasts.
Like Reddit, Twitch skews both millennial and male. According to internal Twitch data, 81.5% of Twitch users are male, with 55% between the ages of 18-34.
Twitch is full of opportunities for publishers and authors to connect to a massive community of pop culture and nerd culture enthusiasts. If your author loves connecting directly with readers, Twitch is a great platform to speak to them.
Some Twitch streamers are already using their accounts to talk about books in their livestream. Often, these videos will end up categorized under Talk Shows & Podcasts, but can also be searched for using keywords in the search bar.
The format of a livestream makes it easier for streamers to connect to their audiences and to foster a real-time conversation. LegendofLorie, NetGalley member and Twitch streamer, told NetGalley Insights that she values “the fact that it is primarily a live platform, so you can quickly interact with your community instead of responding to comments after the fact. You can really incorporate your community into the discussion instead of focusing on one topic of a prerecorded video like YouTube.”
The most popular genres tend to be Science Fiction and Fantasy, which is unsurprising given the fantastical nature of many popular video games. But streamers are not exclusively interested in speculative or fantastical genres. For example, Twitch streamer ChrisChanTor hosts a book club on his channel that has included The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, and more.
Bexyish, a Twitch streamer and NetGalley member, mostly uses Twitch for gaming, but does also incorporate book reviews into her stream. She told NetGalley Insights that she tends to stream herself talking about recent reads over a morning coffee. And her followers are paying attention. After hearing her talk about The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James, one of her followers picked it up. He’s since gone on to read another Lauren James book, The Quiet at the End of the World. Her viewers have also told her that her endorsement of V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic encouraged them to start reading the trilogy.
Twitch streamers are also interested in growing book content on the site.
Vesper Dreams, another Twitch streamer, fantasy fan, and NetGalley member, already uses her Twitch channel to talk about books, but wants to do more.
“I’m hoping to find a way to bring bookworms into the Twitch community and open a way to be able to have live discussions, book clubs, and interviews with authors through social media marketing. I really think it’s time for readers to be able to find a place that they can go to and talk live with people who have the same interests in the same genre as them. I haven’t had a chance to interview any authors yet, but I’m really hoping to find a way to set that up especially live on Twitch instead of the usual text interviews or recorded interviews.”
In addition to providing publishers with an enthusiastic influencer community, Twitch also offers the chance for creative collaboration and building brand awareness. For instance, publishers could work with streamers to host author interviews, organize readathons, or preview unreleased new content from a hotly-awaited title. Or, if an author is a gamer, publishers could consider working with a streamer to have the author as a “guest star” on their stream, playing one of their favorite games while talking about their next book.
Gamers are happy to support sponsored content like this, or streamers partnering with companies. According to a 2017 Momentum WorldWide We Know Gamers study, the world of gaming and the world of Twitch is open to influencers partnering with companies. 82% of survey respondents said that sponsorships were good for the industry.
To find Twitch streamers who might be interested in reviewing your books or working with your authors, use keyword searches to see which Twitch streamers are already interested in or talking about relevant genres on their streams. Most streamers have contact info easily visible in their account, including links to social media, if you want to get in touch directly. And if you have a specific kind of game you’d like your author to play as a guest stream, browse the categories to find influential streamers who play that specific game. Books are a growing category on Twitch, and so finding the right partnerships will take some creativity in these early stages, but it’s clear that many streamers are looking to better integrate books into their channel.
Twitch isn’t a platform for every book or every genre. But for the books that intersect with gamer or geek culture, or will resonate with millennial male readers, it is rapidly becoming a powerful resource for finding devoted fans.
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.