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.

Divider

Pre-Publication Tips for Authors: Ensure Your Book is Ready for Publication

As an author, you have likely spent more hours than you care to count dreaming up your story, imagining the inner workings of your characters and working through plot structure. And now that your manuscript is ready, your book is almost ready to meet the world! In order to help your book make a positive first impression, here are some ways to make sure that it’s ready for publication.

You’ll want to do everything in your power to make sure that it grabs a potential reader’s attention right away… and holds it. This means a strong cover design, editing with a fine tooth comb, and adhering to publishing standards and deadlines.

Book cover inspiration from @perfectbound_

Readers are inundated with books to choose from, at their libraries –on retail websites, and in brick-and-mortar bookstores–which means that your cover matters. Make sure that it looks professional and eye-catching, and pay attention to what other books look like in the category or genre you’re writing. For inspiration, check out perfectbound_ or  She Designs Books. You might end up shelling out for a professional book design, but a compelling cover makes a big difference for readers in a crowded marketplace.

Once you have a reader’s attention with an enticing cover, one of the quickest ways you could lose that attention is with typos and grammatical errors. A book might be full of the most fascinating characters and original worldbuilding, but if the apostrophes are always in the wrong place and commas are running rampant on the page, the reader will be quickly distracted and turned off. Make sure that you are sending your book out into the world in its very best possible state, with a comprehensive line edit. Your book gets one first impression with readers, so make sure it’s as strong as possible by sorting out any wayward spelling or grammar issues.

If you intend for bookstores and libraries to carry your book, make sure to set a realistic pub date and stick to it. Most bookstores, libraries, and even “long lead” review outlets, need significant time to plan what new books will be added to their store. Setting your pub date at least six months in the future will give you time to share it with book buyers at stores, librarians in charge of collection development, and traditional review organizations. Additionally, it’s important to  ensure that any digital files you have are formatted correctly, and that you have an ISBN number.

While graphic design, line editing, and ISBNs might not seem like the most important part of publishing your book, these are the details that will help your book stand out for readers, reviewers, and retailers.

Divider

Pre-Publication Tips for Authors: Know Your Book

The beauty of a bustling bookish marketplace is that there is a book for every reader; a lid for every pot. This also means that not every book is for every reader. For an author, it means that not everyone will love your book. And that’s ok! The best way to make sure that your book makes it into the hands of the readers who will love it as much as you do, who will buy copies for their friends, nominate it for prizes, and review it for their audiences, is to know your book. Sounds easy, right? Not quite.

Hollywood writers, Madison Avenue advertisers, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are well-versed in the elevator pitch; the sentence or two that summarizes the scope of a project and piques the listener’s attention. One of the most famous examples is Alien. Pitched as “Jaws in Space,” it generated huge studio interest and went on to become a classic. As an author, you don’t need anything quite so short or quippy, but you do need to know how to talk about your book in a way that will entice your audience, and give them a sense of whether they are going to like it.

The best way to start thinking about the elevator pitch for your title, as with many things, is to read more. Read the blurbs for the books you love. How do they describe themselves? What details do they highlight? How do they describe the plot and its characters? How do they condense hundreds of pages in to just a few lines?

Ultimately, you should be able to explain what your book is about quickly and succinctly. Feel free to compare it with other books, but remember, if you’re comparing it to Harry Potter, Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, or Fifty Shades of Grey, these are some of the most popular books, and many new titles compare themselves to them. So readers might feel a bit jaded when they see these same titles mentioned again. Try comparing your book to a slightly lesser known, though still beloved title, which might resonate with a more niche audience. If your book is about a young wizard learning the ropes, consider comparing it to Wizard of Earthsea rather than Harry Potter.

Thinking carefully about what makes your book unique, and distilling its unique characteristics into a quick elevator pitch will help you find the right target market for your work.

Divider

A Writer’s Schedule: Stuart Evers

Today we’re talking to Stuart Evers, former bookseller and editor, and acclaimed author of Ten Stories About Smoking, which won the 2011 London Book Award, the novel If This is Home, and Your Father Sends His Love. He lives in London. He is also the Assistant Director of NetGalley UK.

Photo Credit: Pan Macmillan

How do you set your writing goals? Are they daily, weekly, etc?

The ideal is for there to be no goals or targets at all; to be writing with a complete ignorance of such outside-the-text pressures. Just picking up from where you left off: The words, the shape, the tone and the timbre so entwined that’s the only thing on which you concentrate. These moments are few and far between, however. Mostly I give myself long deadlines – a story, a chapter, a section finished by some time in the near future – and try to adhere to them. This has a moderate success rate. Otherwise, goals are sharp sticks with dubious carrots at the end – get a thousand words down and you can bathe the kids before their bedtime, get five thousand done by the end of the week and you can go to the pub. These goals are easily achievable – I always want to see my kids, I always want a beer on a Friday – but whether the work that stems from them is usable is something of a moot point.

Describe your routines as a writer and how they help you stay on track with your goals:

My routines are shaped by two vital factors, my job and my children. I write around these – before work,  when the kids are eating, and after they have gone to bed. I sometimes do an hour just before bed, and a few hours on the weekend while my wife looks after the boys. These twin commitments allow me to write, so they have to be treated with respect and priority, even if characters are screaming at me for some attention.

Photo Credit: Pan Macmillan

How did you develop your writing routines?

I’ve always had a job, so it’s always been the same for me: Snatched hours here and there; concentrating for short periods at a time; blocking out time on weekends and holidays. It is a necessity and I have got used to it. I’d love to be able to take the time to spend a day honing a sentence, but I suspect that even if I had that space, the sentence would be the same as the one I wrote originally.

What routines have you tried that didn’t work for you? Why didn’t they work?

I found that any very strict deadlines I set myself, I became resistant to. If I said that I absolutely had to finish a piece by a particular date, I would fail. A more generous deadline and I would beat it handsomely.

What do you do when you feel stuck?

I walk. Sometimes for some hours. I usually end up in a pub of some kind. Sometimes I just go off and write something else, other times I revisit writers I love to remind me that it can be done.

What compromises have you had to make in order to have time for writing?

I am less sociable than I once was. I once met David Mitchell and his advice to me was to halve my social life and buy a teapot. I already had the teapot.

Photo Credit: Pan Macmillan

Describe the balance between having a full-time job, family, and writing. How do you manage both?

They are all fun, all frustrating, all important – and they are all interdependent. The difference is that, for the most part, writing can wait. It is a kind of vital luxury – but it’s like some people are with exercise, if you’re not doing it, it can impact on other aspects of your life. So you always find the time.

How do you think about finding a job that supports you financially and supports your writing? Do you need something that leaves room in your mind for creative work, something that keeps you in the habit of deep thinking and frequent writing, something else altogether?

Most writers – certainly those who are in their forties like me – need a job. Even Zadie Smith has a day job. That means you need something that works for you. That can be something flexible, something stretching, or something that you hate, but gives you impetus. You’ll know the fit when you find it.

Tell us a little bit about the New Year’s resolution you made at the beginning of 2018 to help you keep on track with your writing goals.

My wife and I resolved to make Monday to Wednesday no television days, so I would write in the living room as my wife read on the sofa. It’s been a success – I’ve read more and written more than I’d expected and it’s been a very easy transition. It’s the kind of joy – having a partner who likes to read like you – that’s easy to take for granted.

Divider