Pre-Publication Tips for Authors: Sending Out Review Copies

Getting people talking about your book before it goes on sale is crucial to a book’s success. But, without a professional publicity team, it can be hard to know where to begin. Galleys are a perfect place to start to get your book into the hands of people who will build its pre-publication buzz.

Publishers can always attach PDFs to emails, but this tends to look less polished than sending along a digital galley or a printed galley Plus, PDFs are not trackable or secure, which means that they can be shared widely without your knowledge. The industry standards for sending review copies are to send either printed galleys or digital galleys through a secure site, like NetGalley.

Digital Galleys via NetGalley

Listing your title on NetGalley lets you make your title available for request to our community of hundreds of thousands of  book influencers (including librarians, educators, and media). You can also use tools like the widget to include pre-approved links to your title via NetGalley. With NetGalley, you have control over who has access to your title, and reports available to you within your account to title activity and history. Digital galleys tend to be quite cost-effective once you have committed to them. They can be sent to as many people as you like, meaning that you can send your title to a wider pool of reviewers and influencers than you could with just printed galleys. Plus, they are environmentally conscious!

Physical Galleys

Sending out printed copies of your book is a classic and effective way to build pre-publication buzz. Reviewers or media professionals might prefer printed galleys if they work in an office that is more traditional, where an editor may be assigning the book to the final reviewer, or if they just prefer reading printed books rather than digital ones. Printed galleys are particularly helpful when submitting to literary awards. However, printing costs, packaging materials, and shipping costs are important factors to take into consideration when thinking about how you will incorporate printed galleys into your marketing strategy. They can be quite expensive, so it’s important to be strategic when thinking about who should receive a printed galley. For the budget-conscious, printed galleys should only go to readers or awards who have specifically requested printed galleys, and who are likely to review your title.

Most review sites and reviewers have specifications for how they would prefer to receive galleys, which we advise you to consult before submitting your titles to them for consideration.

However you choose to get the word out about your book pre-publication, make sure that you are giving your book the best possible chance to succeed by providing advanced copies to reviewers and influencers.

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Pre-Publication Tips for Authors: Selling Your Book to Bookstores, and Beyond!

Getting your book sold into a bookstore can be one of the most daunting parts about being an independent author, but also potentially the most gratifying. Seeing your book in a brick-and-mortar store, next to a curated inventory of other books is an accomplishment for any author.

Booksellers are pitched thousands of titles per year, so the competition to get your book carried by a store can be fierce. But, with some forethought, you can set yourself up to meet this challenge head-on.

Make sure to schedule an appointment with a book buyer rather than showing up to a bookstore unannounced, with copies in hand. Booksellers will appreciate your professionalism and the respect for their time. Plus, it gives you both an opportunity to prepare. These meetings tend to be short, so prepare a succinct pitch for your title. Give a quick introduction to your book (no need to give a full synopsis, just enough to pique their interest), and three good reasons why your title is a good fit for their bookstore and clientele.

Let the bookseller know what kinds of promotions you are doing, either in your local area or online. If you have reviews or feedback, be sure to leverage that as an indicator of enthusiasm for your work.

Hopefully, the bookseller will be impressed and take a few copies of your title to sell in their shop. But, if not, gracefully accept their decision. You’ll want to leave a positive impression on them so that you can hopefully build a strong working relationship in the future.

In addition to selling your title to bookstores, consider other places who might be interested in buying some copies of your book. Local museums, libraries, archives, and record stores are great places to start. Be creative!

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Case Study: The Trans Generation by Ann Travers

How NYU Press used strategic timing, leveraged comp titles, and engaged with NetGalley members to make The Trans Generation a success

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Betsy Steve, publicity manager at NYU Press about how she used NetGalley to ensure that The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution got the enthusiastic launch it deserved.

Published on June 5, 2018, The Trans Generation uses interviews with trans children and their parents to explore gender in the 21st century, and the experiences of navigating schools, healthcare, and society as a trans youth. Written by trans activist and advocate, Ann Travers, The Trans Generation is designed for both academic and popular audiences.

Our audience is always eager to learn more about how others are planning their publicity and marketing efforts on NetGalley. Where did NetGalley fit into the overall strategy and timeline for The Trans Generation?

At NYU Press, we find that NetGalley exposure plays an extremely important role in elevating the titles that we believe have potential for a more general readership. These are also titles that we want on librarians’ and booksellers’ radar as soon as possible.  We pay close attention to early feedback from users as it helps us position our books in the marketplace.

We knew in the early stages of planning for The Trans Generation that NetGalley would play pivotal role in its success. Last year, we had a separate book dealing with issues affecting the transgender community that was hugely popular with NetGalley readers, so we knew that there was a strong interest in the topic. As soon as we were ready to make ARCs, which for us is about 4-5 months ahead of publication, we posted the materials to NetGalley. We were able to use the widget in our ARC follow up and also email reviewers that we work with who primarily use digital galleys. The book’s publication month was during Pride month, so we also wanted to do a push with readers during that time.

Tell us a little about the various communities you focused on to promote The Trans Generation.

Outside of the academic community, we definitely wanted parents and caregivers of trans or gender fluid children to be made aware of Ann’s work. The book also has important information that can help teachers, social workers, community organizers, LGBTQ activists, even lawyers and medical providers.

With so much interest from a wide variety of readers, how did you use NetGalley to access these different readers?

Our previous success with Beyond Trans by Heath Fogg Davis helped inform who in the NetGalley community might be interested in The Trans Generation, so we targeted those same users. We were thrilled by the response from parents, many of whom I think were drawn to our book because of the title and cover. We also made mention of the author’s deep involvement with the trans community in our marketing copy to highlight that they are more than just an academic researching this area. Ann is deeply committed to the improving the lives of anyone who identifies as trans.

In what ways were these specific communities important to the success of the book?

Many of the reviews left on Goodreads, NetGalley, and Amazon were from parents or general readers interested in learning more about the trans community. It was fascinating to read that they learned so much from Ann’s work and that they would recommend the book to friends, their local libraries, and community outreach groups. We are thrilled that the book carries a 4.3-star rating on both Goodreads and Amazon, which we believe has helped in the book’s success.

What about the trade community on NetGalley? Were Reviewers, Librarians, Booksellers, Educators or book-trade media especially important to you? Why, and how did you go about reaching them?

The trade community is very important to us. Though we are an academic press, the titles we choose for NetGalley are accessibly-written on topics that appeal to a broad readership. We have cultivated an extensive list of auto-approved librarians and media that regularly check on our listings. We also notify users when we have a book they may be interested in because of their previous activity.  When we see that a user posted a review to a blog or website, we make sure to tweet out the link.

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

For this, we made sure to add all the excellent advanced coverage the book received in the “Advance Praise” section. We find that endorsements from library pre-publications and other long lead media appeal more to general readers than praise from academics and scholars. We also added to the title page all the amazing reviews users submitted.

Which NetGalley marketing tools did you take advantage of? How and when did you use them to increase interest?

NetGalley offers some excellent marketing opportunities that I take advantage of whenever they fit with our titles. For The Trans Generation, we nominated it to appear in the “Featured on NetGalley” promotion that coincided with “GLBT Book Month,” which was a perfect and timely tie in.  We definitely saw an uptick of requests once that ran.

How did you engage with members who requested access? How did this fit into your overall timeline for marketing and/or publicity?

We create a personalized approval email for each title that encourages members to leave reviews on sites such as Goodreads, Amazon, B&N.com and their independent bookstores’ website. We rely on their positive feedback on these platforms to boost our titles’ visibility.  For The Trans Generation, we did a promo push to celebrate both pub and Pride month with all members who requested access. This was a follow up email that encouraged members, if they hadn’t already, to please leave a review of the book as a way to celebrate Pride. We did see an increase in engagement after we sent that campaign.

How has NetGalley been incorporated into your post-pub strategy?

For our more popular titles, like The Trans Generation, we often leave them up for a few months after pub. We definitely want to leave enough time for users to leave reviews with Amazon.  National and local review coverage plus radio interviews often provoke members to look up a book and it’s important to us that everyone who is interested in our titles have an opportunity to download them. We also will use the widget in course adoption campaigns that may go out after the pub date.

What are your top tips for academic publishers and nonfiction publishers listing titles on NetGalley?

  • For academic publishers, try to post titles that are accessibly-written and would appeal to a general reader. This definitely helps with relationship building.
  • Take advantage of the NetGalley marketing programs.  They do an excellent job making readers aware of books they might be interested in.  It’s a great way to boost your visibility on the platform and gain some new readers.
  • NetGalley is a process.  The more you take the time to engage with users, the stronger your following becomes.

Betsy Steve is the Publicity Manager at NYU Press.

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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.

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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.

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