Case Study: 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons

How an indie author and online writing coach kept engagement high for her debut novel across platforms, turning her audience into a launch team

By the time Abbie Emmons was ready to publish her first book, she had built up an audience as a blogger, YouTuber, and Bookstagrammer. But having an audience doesn’t automatically mean success; eyeballs don’t equal engagement. So when Abbie Emmons was getting ready to publish her novel about two teens with disabilities who fall for each other, she knew she was going to have to work to turn her audience into her launch team.

Emmons strategically engaged with her audience across platforms during her pre-publication push for 100 Days of Sunlight. She kept her community in the loop through her writing process, with the cover reveal, and once she had review copies. As soon as 100 Days of Sunlight was available on NetGalley, Emmons brought her pre-existing community there, as well as finding a new audience of NetGalley members browsing for their next read.

As a writing coach, Abbie Emmons has thought a lot about strategies that independent authors can use to launch their books with limited time, budgets, and resources. And as an author, she was able to put those strategies into practice.

What was your path to becoming an author? What about a writing coach/educator/resource? Which came first and how did you make the pivot to the other?

I fell in love with stories at a very young age. My mom introduced me to the world of reading, and I was enraptured by the magic of storytelling. I started writing stories of my own as soon as I learned how to hold a pencil, and I haven’t stopped since.

Becoming a creative writing coach was a natural “next step” for me – it blossomed out of my passion for storytelling. In 2016 I started blogging about writing, which turned into creating videos, and it’s been about one year since I launched my YouTube channel. It’s been amazing to connect with other writers all over the world and share my insight and my authoring journey.

I mostly provide coaching through my video content, but I’m in the process of creating digital products to provide my community with the opportunity to go deeper and learn more. WritersLife Wednesday also has a Patreon community, which allows me to connect more personally with committed writers and offer them a one-on-one experience. Within the Patreon, there’s a private Facebook group where I connect personally with followers and also a monthly podcast where I answer specific story questions real-time.

Tell us a bit about your YouTube channel. How does it intersect with your work as an author?

My YouTube channel, WritersLife Wednesdays, is all about making your story matter. Through my videos, I teach writers how to harness the power and psychology of storytelling and transform their ideas into a masterpiece. I also share my experiences of the publishing process to help other authors take the next step with their book.

I love teaching about story because it intersects so beautifully with my writing. I’m constantly learning and improving my own writing processes, which helps me give better, clearer advice in my videos. It’s a journey of experience and growth, and I’m so thrilled that other writers are joining me in this pursuit of writing meaningful books.

In September, 100 Days of Sunlight was the #1 best seller in Teens & YA fiction about Disabilities and Special Needs on Amazon. What do you think resonates with readers about your representation of disability in the book? Did you focus on reaching audiences who might be interested in narratives about disability? If so, how?

I wrote 100 Days of Sunlight in hopes that it would resonate with every reader – whether they have a disability or not. That’s the reason why I focus so much on my characters’ emotional journeys in the book; because even if you’re not going through a physical challenge like Tessa and Weston, you might be very familiar with the feeling of fear, despair, or helplessness when life takes an unexpected turn.

My research process involved tons of reading and investigating. Not only did I reference experts for medical details, I consulted real-life accounts and experiences of people with the disabilities I wrote about. I read lots of blog posts, articles, watched videos, asked questions, read more, and constantly referenced true experiences throughout the writing and editing process. Researching this book was a fascinating and educational journey, and I’m humbled and honored to be able to include representation of these disabilities in 100 Days of Sunlight.

After the publication of 100 Days of Sunlight, I did actively target readers who are interested in the Special Needs genre and who love comparable titles and authors. I was so thrilled to see 100 Days reach #1 best seller in its category on Amazon!

How did NetGalley fit in with the rest of your launch plan for 100 Days of Sunlight?

I found NetGalley at just the right time – about 4 months before my release date. I was seeking a way to efficiently deliver my book to my ARC team, with as little back-and-forth communication as possible. As an indie author, I have to manage a lot on my own, and I knew my ARC team was going to be sizable.

I was able to send everyone from my YouTube channel over to NetGalley to request the book, and that first rush of requests helped me to rank high in my category [appearing in the Most Requested section], which in turn gave my book more exposure to new ARC readers. I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out!

How did you determine the right timing for 100 Days of Sunlight‘s time on NetGalley with regards to its pub date and your other marketing and publicity efforts?

Every author has a different publishing timeline that best suits their schedule, but mine is roughly 6 months – starting the moment my book returns from my editor, and ending on the pub date. Of course, there’s post-release marketing, but that’s another animal.

Because of my shorter timeline, I decided that 3 months pre-publication would be a perfect amount of time. I wanted the book to still be fresh in my ARC readers’ minds when the release date rolled around, to create more buzz and conversation around the book launch.

100 Days of Sunlight has nearly 400 reviews! How did you get the word out about it once it went live on NetGalley?

I told all my people, multiple times. I made kind of a big deal out of the announcement – posting on my blog, YouTube channel, social media, and contacting all my email lists. I also continued to remind my followers on social media, urging them to go to NetGalley and request to read my book if they hadn’t already.

I had built up the hype for this novel long in advance, teasing it on my blog and YouTube channel – which made my audience all the more excited when it came out.

I received a lot of requests and happily accepted most of them. The result was a huge, fabulous ARC team who was excited to share their reviews of my book. I think it’s also worth noting that I had built up the hype for this novel long in advance, teasing it on my blog and YouTube channel – which made my audience all the more excited when it came out.

How have you kept momentum up for 100 Days on NetGalley throughout its time on the site?

Throughout the book’s listing on NetGalley, I continuously reminded my followers and fans to request to read the book. I also created an ad campaign on Facebook directly targeting librarians and teachers, sending them to NetGalley request my book. A book launch is really all about conversation – the more conversation you can create about your book, the more people will pay attention.

A book launch is really all about conversation – the more conversation you can create about your book, the more people will pay attention.

I worked hard every day to keep that conversation going, and it paid off. The number of requests I received for 100 Days helped move it up in the rankings in both the Women’s Fiction and YA Fiction categories. I couldn’t have been more thrilled!

How have you engaged with members who have requested or reviewed? Have you followed up with them or shared their reviews?

I personally reached out to readers who loved the book and asked them to share their reviews on Amazon and BookBub, as well as NetGalley. They were happy to crosspost their reviews, and it greatly helped the book’s early days on Amazon. I also continue to share excerpts from reviews in outreach and marketing campaigns for 100 Days of Sunlight.

We love that you have a dedicated website for your press kit and for supplemental material. Tell us why this digital presence is important to you and how you went about building it.

We live in an age of immediate access to all the information we need – and I knew that my book and author presence had to meet that standard. If someone comes to my website looking for specific information and materials, I want them to be able to find what they need as quickly as possible. It’s one of those small things that can make a huge difference. 


Reviews are social proof, and nothing is more powerful when you’re trying to get people to pay attention to your book. I share reviews on my social media, my blog, my website, and in all the marketing campaigns I produce, such as Facebook ads and influencer outreach.

How have you been leveraging your reviews outside of NetGalley? Have you been sharing them on social media or elsewhere?

Reviews are social proof, and nothing is more powerful when you’re trying to get people to pay attention to your book. I share reviews on my social media, my blog, my website, and in all the marketing campaigns I produce, such as Facebook ads and influencer outreach.

Positive reviews are invaluable and I have NetGalley to thank for connecting me with so many amazing readers, as well as librarians, educators, and booksellers.

What is your top tip for authors listing their books on NetGalley?

Send as many of your people as you possibly can to request your book on NetGalley as soon as it’s available! That first rush of requests is vital to rank higher in your category, and thus gain more visibility on the site. New readers will discover your book and the word will continue to spread organically – and, I hope, exponentially. I recommend NetGalley to all my author friends and followers – it’s an absolute necessity if you want to make your book launch successful. Best of luck, fellow authors!


Abbie Emmons has been writing stories ever since she could hold a pencil. What started out as an intrinsic love for storytelling has turned into her lifelong passion. There’s nothing she likes better than writing (and reading) stories that are both heartrending and humorous, with a touch of cute romance and a poignant streak of truth running through them. Abbie is also a YouTuber, singer/songwriter, blogger, traveler, filmmaker, big dreamer, and professional waffle-eater. When she’s not writing or dreaming up new stories, you can find her road-tripping to national parks or binge-watching BBC Masterpiece dramas in her cozy Vermont home with a cup of tea and her fluffy white lap dog, Pearl.

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

*Read the rest of our author case studies here!

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Case Study: No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll

How an activist fantasy writer used xer own experiences as a reviewer to get 80+ NetGalley post-pub reviews for a short story collection

As a reviewer as well as author and indie publisher, Ana Mardoll has a unique perspective about what gets a person excited about a new book. For xer*, it’s instant access, plus concrete information about a book’s content – including possible triggers. Knowing xer own likes, dislikes, and habits as a reviewer helped Mardoll optimize the timing, availability, and Title Details copy for No Man of Woman Born. And xer strategy worked – during its time on NetGalley, No Man of Woman Born earned over 80 reviews, with an average 4-star rating. 

*Xie/xer/xers are the gender neutral pronouns that Mardoll uses. 

As both an activist and a writer, how does writing fantasy provide a platform to explore issues that are important to you, especially around queerness & disability?

The great thing about fantasy is that you have the total power to create your world from scratch. You don’t have to add hatred for queer people and disabled people into your world; that hatred isn’t some mandatory state that all civilizations reach in the journey from fire and the wheel to airplanes and cellphones. You can choose what challenges your characters face and aren’t constrained by the real world. There’s a lot of power in that!

What were your goals for No Man of Woman Born on NetGalley?

My goal was to get reviews and reach a wider audience. As an indie publisher, my marketing budget is extremely low, so book blogs and word-of-mouth sharing from reviewers is very helpful to me. Having been a reviewer myself, I know all too well that we rarely have the time to review everything we request. That helped me set realistic expectations for what to expect, since I knew that a request didn’t equal an eventual review. I was a reviewer for many years and I understand the importance of reviews on a book–and I respect how much work and labor goes into that effort! I’ve always had wonderful experiences with the NetGalley team as a reviewer, so I trusted them to put my book in the hands of reviewers in a respectful, thoughtful manner. I believe they did well.

No Man of Woman Born became available on NetGalley after its publication date. Tell us how you came to use NetGalley as a post-pub tool and why that works for you.

I have ADHD and whenever people hype books in advance of pub date, I get all excited, and then I never end up buying the book because by the time it becomes available I’ve already had my interest snagged by some new shiny thing! (I have the same problem with movie trailers!) So I’m very much about post-publication hype. It doesn’t help your first week sales, true, but as a smaller-name indie that first week isn’t as important to me as the long haul. If I can get people excited about a book that they can then immediately one-click read, review, and buy that very day, that’s a big win for me.

I’m very much about post-publication hype. It doesn’t help your first week sales, true, but as a smaller-name indie that first week isn’t as important to me as the long haul.

No Man of Woman Born was available to any interested member as a Read Now title. Tell us about why you chose that availability setting.

I want to read a book when I request it, not two days later when the publisher clicks the “Approve” button. It’s just an attention span issue–any delay between “I want the thing” and “I get the thing” means I’m less likely to do the thing. Additionally, as the publisher in question I didn’t really want to have to log in and press the approval button; it seemed like my time could be better spent writing.

In your Title Details you note “…these prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character’s gender, even when others do not. Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story.” Tell us why this is important information to include and what you hoped it would tell NetGalley members about your perspective as an author?

A lot of trans literature is inaccessible to a lot of trans readers because a LOT of it is about trans people facing hatred and trauma, even up to and including their own deaths. Trans characters on television are usually victims in crime dramas. There’s effort to change this and broaden the scope of how we’re allowed to see ourselves, but it’s still something to be wary of when approaching a trans book. I wanted to let readers know that wasn’t going to happen here; that no trans characters would be killed, and that any traumas they engaged in would be appropriately trigger warned in advance so they could choose whether they wanted to read that or not.

Where did you leverage your NetGalley listing outside of the site? 

Twitter mostly – that’s where the bulk of my audience is these days. Twitter has been a good platform for me simply because that’s where my audience already is. If I had 20,000 Facebook followers, I’d be sharing there instead or in addition to Twitter. 

 What’s your top tip for authors listing their title on NetGalley?

Make sure your readers know what they’re getting; the majority of my lower-star reviews were from people who didn’t enjoy short stories and hadn’t realized my book was a collection–that’s fair and a good note to me that I need to market the book more clearly in that regard!


Ana Mardoll is a writer and activist who lives in the dusty Texas wilderness with two spoiled cats. Xer favorite employment is weaving new tellings of old fairy tales, fashioning beautiful creations to bring comfort on cold nights. Xie is the author of the Earthside series, the Rewoven Tales novels, and several short stories.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Read the rest of our case studies, featuring authors, trade publishers, and academic publishers here.

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Case Study: Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay

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.


When I listed [Ever Alice] on NetGalley, I told myself that I’d be elated to receive 100 requests in six months. That happened in 24 hours.

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.

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Indie author success with the IBPA’s NetGalley Program

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 the blog 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 review Gold 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.

Find and follow Rebecca on her website, Amazon, Bookbub, Facebook, and Goodreads.


IBPA’s MISSION is to lead and serve the independent publishing community through advocacy, education, and tools for success. Learn more about how IBPA can can meet your specific needs here.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Case Study: Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen

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.

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 … It worked out wonderfully, and I was happy to give newer reviewers the opportunity to build their reviews on the platform as well.

This was my first experience using NetGalley directly. The prior time, my nonfiction book Regroup was 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.

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Case Study: Pisces Hooks Taurus by Anyta Sunday

How Anyta Sunday incorporated NetGalley into her post-pub strategy to give her astrological romance a longer tail

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Anyta Sunday about her 2018 MM romance Pisces Hooks Taurus, currently available on NetGalley.

Learn why Anyta Sunday lists her titles on NetGalley after they publish, how she generates keywords for her books, and why it’s important to tell romance readers exactly what kinds of tropes they can expect in one of her books.

Our audience of publishers and authors is always eager to learn more about how others are planning their publicity and marketing efforts on NetGalley. Your current title listed on NetGalley, Pisces Hooks Taurus, began its lifecycle on NetGalley at its pub date. Tell us how you came to use NetGalley as a post-pub strategy and why it works for you.

I work with a PR agency to organize blog tours around the release of my books, also handling distribution of ARC copies to interested bloggers and reviewers. These bloggers typically already know me from previous books, while NetGalley allows me reach new audiences.

Using NetGalley starting with the pub date helps me to spread reviews and buzz over a longer time period. [Here are] two reviews [that came in] in over a month after release: Reviews for Those Who Love a Good Book and Amy’s MM Romance Reviews.

Which segments of the NetGalley community have been most important to you and why? How do you go about reaching them?

Most requests for my books come from Reviewers. I post about new titles available on NetGalley via social media and in my newsletter. [You can see an example of this] for my older release, Scorpio Hates Virgo and on my website.

On your Title Details page for Pisces Hooks Taurus, you list the tropes (friends-to-lovers, slow burn, will-they-or-won’t-they) and genres (new adult, light-hearted contemporary gay romance). It’s a great way to give prospective readers a quick snapshot into what the can expect from the book. Describe your strategies for your Title Details page to drive requests and reviews.

I try to optimize the NetGalley Title Details page in the same way as the sales page for my book on retail channels like Amazon; a snappy blurb in the same style and voice as the book, followed by a clear description of what the reader will get. This is particularly important in the romance genre where readers are often looking for specific tropes (and trying to avoid others). Romance is a big genre with many new publications, so communicating clearly what readers can expect helps a book to stand out. Also, if the book is part of a series, I mention whether you need to know the previous books or if it can be read as a standalone.

How did you engage with members who requested access? Did you follow up with them via email?

I make use of the Approval Email feature on NetGalley to engage with members who requested access. In this mail, I thank the reader and encourage them to crosspost their reviews. If the book is part of a series, I also offer the other books for review.

Tell us more about how you leverage your NetGalley listing outside the site.

I mention the availability of the NetGalley listing in my release publicity, and feature it on the book’s detail page on my website.

Your Signs of Love series, of which Pisces Hooks Taurus, is the fourth installment, taps into the current spike in public fascination with astrology. How do you use this to your advantage when finding new audiences?

I use astrology-related keywords in the advertising around the Signs of Love series to reach new audiences. I focus on Facebook and Amazon ads at the moment, and for both the targeting is key. Besides reaching fans of gay and MM romance by using related keywords, I do the same for astrology-related keywords.

What is your top tip for authors listing an individual title on NetGalley?

I find that customizing the approval email is a powerful way of following up with members requesting a book, so I would encourage using this to maximum effect: trying to connect with the reader, thanking them for requesting your book, and potentially offering other ARCs. For Pisces Hooks Taurus, I let readers that request the ARC know that there are three more books in the series and have received multiple requests for these older books as well.

Anyta Sunday is a BIG fan of slow-burn romances. She reads and writes characters who slowly fall in love. Some of her favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries. She writes a variety of stories: Contemporary MM romances with a good dollop of angst, contemporary lighthearted MM romances, and even a splash of fantasy. Her books have been translated into German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Thai.

Follow Anyta Sunday on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

See all of her titles on her website, including purchase links.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Read the rest of our case studies, featuring authors, trade publishers, and academic publishers here.

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Case Study: Glimmerglass Girl

How an indie author’s debut chapbook became one of the most requested poetry titles on NetGalley

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Holly Lyn Walrath. She is a poet and author whose work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Luna Station Quarterly, Liminality, and elsewhere. Glimmerglass Girl, published by Finishing Line Press, is her first chapbook, and is one of the most requested poetry titles on NetGalley.

Glimmerglass Girl is your debut book of poetry (on sale Aug. 3, 2018). Tell us a bit about your overall strategy for promoting your debut book. Some authors find it challenging to build a community of advocates and influencers before they are a well-established name.

When I set out to promote Glimmerglass Girl, my main goal was to get pre-orders, so my promotion period started sometime in April. I think that was very helpful because starting out that early meant I had plenty of time for outreach. Beyond reaching out to my existing network of friends and fellow writers, I spent a lot of time contacting poetry reviewers and booksellers. Since my book is short and illustrated, I focused on booksellers that were local to the Houston area or interested in indie and rare books or zines. Because my book is being published by a small press, they don’t have the resources bigger publishers have. It is quite a challenge when you’re just starting out. There were a few times when I felt overwhelmed by self-promotion! But, I was surprised by how kind and supportive the poetry community is.

How has your experience launching your own book differed from being published alongside other authors in collections?

When you’re publishing a poem or short story in a collection or anthology, you have the support of every author who’s been published alongside you. They all share the book with their network and that has an amplifying effect. But when you’re publishing your own book, it’s just you! (Or in my case, me and Finishing Line Press, my publisher.) You have to rely on yourself a lot more.

Our audience of publishers and authors is always eager to learn more about how others are planning their publicity and marketing efforts on NetGalley. Where does NetGalley fit into the overall strategy and timeline for Glimmerglass Girl?

At first I wasn’t sure what NetGalley would do for my book, but I decided to try it out anyway. I work as a freelance editor, so I’ve seen clients use NetGalley to varying degrees of success. For me, listing my book on NetGalley was an extra push to get the word out about my book and a bit of an experiment. But I think that experiment has really paid off. It’s also been so much easier to get ARCs into the hands of folks who want to read the book—I just send them a link to NetGalley.

Which segments of the NetGalley community were most important to you (ie. Reviewers, Librarians, Booksellers), and why? How did you go about reaching them?

The biggest reward has been in receiving reviews on Goodreads, Blogs, and Twitter. Because I started early, I have a good amount of ratings on Goodreads and my book isn’t even out yet! It’s also very useful to have a list of reviewers that I can contact when the book comes out and ask them to review on Amazon and other retailers.

How did you optimize your Title Details page to drive requests and reviews for your book?

I included a short description with a few blurbs and an excerpt from an early review of Glimmerglass Girl by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. I was careful to link to my Instagram, Goodreads, and Twitter accounts with the #GlimmerglassGirl hashtag so readers could easily tag me online, allowing me to reshare their posts about the book. I also included a press kit from my publisher with additional information about the book.

We loved how you linked to Glimmerglass Girl’s Title Details page on Twitter, bringing attention to your title using NetGalley, for an audience that might not already be on NetGalley. Why was this audience important to you?

It’s pretty much ingrained in me that when I have news, I share it on Twitter (I’m addicted!). I noticed that any reviewers use the #NetGalley hashtag on Twitter when they review an ARC. So it made sense to me that that audience would also be scrolling through the hashtag to look for new books to check out. There’s also a fantastic audience of writers, readers, and fans of books on Twitter via the #amwriting, #amediting, and #amreading hashtags, who don’t know about NetGalley but would love to be a part of the community here.

*for more information about incorporating hashtags into your marketing strategy, check out this 3-minute video.

Tell us more about strategies you used to leverage your NetGalley listing outside the site.

One strategy that’s been super fun is reaching out to Instagram’s book community. There are readers who post beautiful, artful, enchanting posts with their current TBR pile or reading obsessions. I asked a few of them to check out my book on NetGalley and got a lot of responses back from people excited to be offered a free ARC. I think that’s a pretty unique way to reach readers. I’ve also added the NetGalley link to my website and Press Kit.

Which NetGalley marketing tools did you take advantage of, and how did you use them to leverage interest?

I’ll be ramping up my NetGalley marketing in August when the book comes out. Glimmerglass Girl was chosen as a featured title as part of the “debut authors” month so it will appear on the front page of NetGalley. I’m stoked for this opportunity and curious to see how it goes. I think this last burst of interest should help get the book in front of more readers.

How did you engage with members who requested access? Did you follow up with them via email?

I made sure to follow members who requested access to Glimmerglass Girl on Goodreads and Twitter and share any blog posts to my website. I plan on reaching out to all my members who requested access with an update when the book is live to let them know they can order it, review it on Amazon and other retailers, and thank them for reading. I’m grateful for this chance to get to know other lovers of poetry, but I didn’t want to bombard them with emails either.

How will NetGalley be incorporated into your post-pub strategy?

My book will be on NetGalley for about two months post-publication and my hope is that this will help garner some Amazon reviews . . . for the coveted algorithm! I’m also planning a Goodreads Giveaway during August and I’ll probably pair this with NetGalley to let anyone who enters know that they can also get a free copy while they wait (and vice-versa with members who’ve already requested my book and might want to enter the giveaway.)

What is your top tip for authors listing an individual title on NetGalley?

Make sure to check out the other titles in your category. Read their description and model your title page off the books that you love and that are successful. I think readers really rely on the description to know whether they’ll like a book, so having some comp titles (books similar to yours) is helpful. In the case of Glimmerglass Girl, I’d love to reach the audiences of authors like Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav—women readers who are sure of themselves and maybe a bit creative too. Don’t be afraid to name-drop similar authors!

Glimmerglass Girl comes out on August 3 from Finishing Line Press. You can pre-order it here.

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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