Case Study: Thick: And Other Essays by Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom

How The New Press used NetGalley to engage Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom’s fanbase, while finding new audiences

The New Press publishes books that straddle the lines between academic and mainstream. Often, they publish works by academic authors geared towards a popular audience. This means that their marketing strategy needs to appeal to several kinds of readers – academic readers need to be assured of the intellectual rigor, while mainstream readers need to feel invited to engage in complicated discourse. 

Thick: And Other Essays by Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom, published in January 2019, exemplifies this dynamic between the academic and the mainstream. For Thick, The New Press was working with a professor of sociology who also happens to have a significant Twitter following and co-hosts a podcast with Roxane Gay.

Brian Ulicky, Director of Marketing and Publicity at The New Press, used early NetGalley reviews to demonstrate the effectiveness of pre-publication marketing efforts to Dr. McMillan Cottom. Seeing these early reviews encouraged her to share the NetGalley listing on her own social media platforms, engaging an audience that already loved her, whether or not they were on NetGalley. As NetGalley reviews rolled in, buzz for Thick really picked up, resulting in editorial attention from Goodreads and inclusion in a Kindle Gold Box deal (not to mention reviews from the New York Times Book Review and Los Angeles Review of Books). 

Thick comes out in paperback on October 1.

How does NetGalley fit into the workflow at a small indie publisher like The New Press? 

For a good number of our authors, their first book with The New Press is their first book period (or at least their first non-academic book) and I think for any new author their book may not start to feel truly real until they see reviews of it in the world. Sharing NetGalley feedback with authors is a particularly gratifying part of the run-up to the publication date and has become really important to us in garnering early consumer reviews for our path-breaking works of nonfiction. We are particularly proud of our bestselling progressive education list (a very different subject area from my previous houses), and we wouldn’t be so successful at this publishing area without the support of teachers and librarians who adopt our books into their work and communities. I have loved connecting with educators and librarians on NetGalley for books such as on Monique Morris’s Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues or James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me: Young Readers Edition. The latter has been a particular hit for NetGalley users putting together home-school curricula. 

In the past, I worked on quite a bit more fiction than I do these days, and fiction is clearly a large part of the NetGalley community and a big part of my past experience with the platform. The New Press publishes select works of fiction, much of it in translation from the French, and we’ve had some great success with our fiction on NetGalley, like last year’s Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau or this year’s Minutes of Glory by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o..

What were your goals for Thick on NetGalley? 

Our goals were to build word-of-mouth buzz among booksellers, librarians, and book buyers on Goodreads, Amazon, and other consumer reading sites and social media. We felt from day one we had a very special book in Thick and I couldn’t wait to see that gut feeling confirmed with as-early-as-possible reads. And it paid off when, for example, Goodreads selected it for one of their spring editorial newsletters based on the strength of its reader reviews (which also led to a Kindle Gold Box deal over the summer).

You ran a homepage title promotion for Thick in the week after Thanksgiving. Tell us why that timing was the right choice for you.

The book went on sale the first week of January 2019 – this can be a sort of tricky spot as the big fall publishing season winds down and people tune out a little during the holidays. We had review copies landing in the world right after Thanksgiving and so I also wanted to make sure we had a stream of consumer reviews coming in shortly thereafter, just as we were doubling down lining up author media appearances first thing in the new year. Also that cover is pretty iconic and appealing – I just wanted to see it everywhere.

Thick was listed as a Read Now title. Tell us how you came to that reading option and what benefits it gave. 

Thick definitely has an intriguing package and title if you already know the author’s work, but if you don’t know it, I didn’t want there to be any friction or hesitation if someone came across an essay collection by a new author and had the impulse to check it out. Listing it as Read Now meant that anyone who was even a little intrigued could check it out and fall in love with Dr. McMillan Cottom’s voice.

I didn’t want there to be any friction or hesitation if someone came across an essay collection by a new author and had the impulse to check it out.

How do you handle the challenges of promoting a book that might seem inaccessible or academic to a broad audience? 

The core of The New Press’s mission and publishing program is to bridge the gap between a broad reading audience and new ideas and voices in the academic and social change worlds. We try to make sure our titles, subtitles, and jacket designs are appealing and put you in the picture without requiring too much prior knowledge from a reader; we work hard to get blurbs from recognizable names; and we aim for as much mainstream media coverage as we can get. We know there are readers out there who are hungry for books that challenge and inspire – it’s our job to find them – and sometimes on NetGalley, they reveal themselves!

The cover art for Thick received overwhelmingly positive feedback. How do you use Cover Ratings data internally?

Covers are one of the most important pieces of marketing any book gets and if the NetGalley community loves our designs, we must be doing something right. It’s helpful to have early feedback inform and confirm our very involved, iterative process of designing and choosing covers.

24% of members with access clicked to read Thick because they were familiar with Dr. McMillan Cottom’s work and 40% were drawn in by the book description. How did you think about connecting with these two different groups – the ones that were already fans of Dr. McMillan Cottom and those that were taking a chance on a new-to-them author? 

The recipe for success varies from author to author. We knew that Thick gave us an opportunity to publish a book by an author with both a substantial following and the potential to reach many, many more readers with her sharp mind and her signature dexterity on the page. The marketing, title, cover, positioning are key to reaching new readers, and for a book as smart as Thick, getting early reads and reviews from NetGalley users plays an important role in spreading the word.

Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom has over 90k Twitter followers and made a point to let her Twitter followers know that Thick was available on NetGalley. How did you work with her to help bring new readers to NetGalley to access Thick? 

We want our authors to see how much we’re doing to promote their books and we always point out NetGalley as one of our tools. I think Tressie saw the power in early reads pretty soon after the manuscript was done. We posted the final pass as soon as we could, shared with her a few of the first positive reviews we got, and the rest is history.

How did you use the positive reviews you received on NetGalley? Did you share them internally, use them in your pitches or press materials? 

All of the above. We shared them with the author (fair to say Tressie loved seeing them roll in), with media, and with our sales reps and bookstore partners. It’s always great to have fresh material and feedback in your third or sixth or fifteenth conversation about an upcoming book.

NetGalley members shared their reviews of Thick to social media over 700 times! What did you do to encourage that social engagement or what do you think inspired members to share their feedback so broadly outside of NetGalley? 

I think one of the things Tressie is uniquely brilliant at in Thick and on social is connecting the big picture with the personal in a way that clarifies both vantage points. When she’s talking about structures she’s talking about herself, and she inspires (and encourages) her readers to do the same. So it was rather organic. Her readers clamor to spread the word about her writing.


Brian Ulicky is the publicity and marketing director for The New Press, an independent not-for-profit publisher of books to build social change, where he oversees publicity, marketing, advertising and digital strategy plus institutional development partnerships and strategic communications initiatives. Before that he was in the publicity department at Simon & Schuster and was publicity director at Blue Rider Press, where he planned and executed campaigns for multiple New York Times bestsellers. He lives in New York City.

Read the rest of our case studies here!

*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Case Study: Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest by Lauren McDuffie

How Chronicle is using NetGalley to promote their most anticipated cookbooks

We love when publishers experiment with their titles on NetGalley, especially to try new categories, expand the tools they use to promote their titles on and off the site, and how they involve the authors in the process. That’s why when we saw how Chronicle promoted Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest by Lauren McDuffie, we knew we wanted to share their strategies. 

Chronicle recently started putting cookbooks up on NetGalley, using Read Now availability to save time and ensure the widest possible reach. They are using NetGalley data and reporting to guide internal strategy and to equip their sales teams with early analytics. And, in the case of Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest, involving the author in creating special multimedia extras like a Spotify playlist, and encouraging her to share member reviews on her popular Instagram page.

Cynthia Shannon, Food and Lifestyle Marketing Manager at Chronicle shares the steps behind Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest’s success: 

What were your goals for Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest on NetGalley? 

We wanted to drive early awareness of this debut cookbook by getting reviews in advance of publication. NetGalley is a great way to distribute the eARC of the book among readers who talk about books, whether on NetGalley, Goodreads, Twitter, or their personal blog. It was a key tent pole in our early marketing strategy, which also included the author producing a video trailer and creating a Spotify playlist.  

What did you learn about how cookbooks are received by the NetGalley community?

There is a lot of potential to sharing cookbooks on NetGalley and we are looking forward to exploring more ways to further optimize our NetGalley strategy. Adding cookbooks to NetGalley was a new strategy for us for Spring 2019, and I was pleased to see the overwhelmingly positive response. We saw many NetGalley reviewers commenting on the beautiful photographs and the level of complexity of the recipes or ingredient procurement, and how much they were inspired to try some of the recipes. More importantly, they’d comment about how they can’t wait to get a print edition of the cookbook so that they can add it to their collection. Chronicle Books prides itself on creating beautiful, physical objects that people will want to buy for themselves or as a gift, so having these endorsements helps customers make their book buying decisions.

We’ve increased the number of cookbooks we share on NetGalley in advance of publication for our Fall 2019 list—for example, we have Tartine, Ama, and American Sfoglino, three of our most anticipated upcoming cookbooks, available for review on NetGalley now—and we’re exploring the many tools and services that NetGalley offers to further connect with reviewers.

How important is it for you to have reviews that address the recipes in addition to the other aspects of this book (or other cookbooks)? 

We were curious to see how readers would respond to the unique structure of the book, which is organized by seasons and weaves personal stories and anecdotes about growing up in the Appalachian South with modern recipes and cooking techniques. Reviewer response was overwhelmingly positive—the average rating for the book is 4.3 stars—with many also commenting on the beautiful photography that make this cookbook stand out from the rest. While it’s very regional, we were happy to see that it appealed to readers all over the country.

We loved that Lauren McDuffie created a special Spotify playlist to go along with her book! Tell us how and why you chose to include the playlist in your launch strategy. 

The book was inspired by a song (Emmylou Harris’s version of “Country Roads”) so it seemed like a natural way to evoke the feeling of Appalachia through another medium that could be used in tandem with the book. After all, it’s not unusual to listen to music while cooking, or creating a playlist for a dinner party! It also provides further connection with the author, who took the lead on compiling her favorite songs. We shared the link to the playlist wherever we could incorporate it online, and it provided the author with another way to talk about the book on her blog, Harvest and Honey, and on social media in an authentic and charming way


We ultimately received more than 1,500 impressions and nearly 50 reviews, much more than if we had limited the accessibility.

Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest was available as a Read Now title. Tell us why that was the right availability setting for this book. 

We needed to get the book into the hands of as many readers as possible since the NetGalley audience was going to be critical in driving awareness in advance of publication. We were not concerned about it cannibalizing sales. By allowing readers to access the book as Read Now, it minimized the impact on our limited bandwidth to approve each and every interested reviewer. We ultimately received more than 1,500 impressions and nearly 50 reviews, much more than if we had limited the accessibility. 

How did you use the data and reports available for Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest

We included the link to the NetGalley listing and highlights of reviews in reports to the sales team. This helped shed insights into how customers were responding to the book, so that they could share those insights with their buyers.

Did you share the NetGalley listing for Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest outside of NetGalley? 

We were pleased to see more than half of NetGalley reviewers cross-posted their reviews to Goodreads, which the author in turn shared on Instagram stories. [Learn more about how publishers are using Instagram stories here]. This is a great example of how one marketing activity can be repurposed across multiple platforms to appeal to different audiences

We’re still exploring the many ways to utilize NetGalley in our marketing campaigns. We definitely recognize the value of getting those early reviews to inform our strategies; in fact, we’ve increased the number of books we’re sharing on NetGalley this Fall and will continue to look for new ways to engage with the audience. I have some ideas, and am looking forward to trying them out! 


Cynthia Shannon oversees the marketing for the Food & Lifestyle products at Chronicle Books. Prior to this she worked at Goodreads, Berrett-Koehler, John Wiley & Sons, and Other Press. She was named a 2016 PW Star Watch Honoree and is a graduate of the Stanford Professional Publishing Program as well as New York University. She lives in San Francisco. 

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Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Authentic Interactions with Reddit AMAs

Reddit, the self-described front page of the internet is a powerful platform for connecting with enthusiastic and vocal readers. For a primer on Reddit and some ideas for engaging with its communities, check out our recent introductory article. Like any online community, Reddit has its own norms, its own lingo, and its own unique forms of communication. One of the most influential forms of Reddit-specific communication is the AMA. 

AMA, which stands for Ask Me Anything, has its roots in early online forums like AOL chatrooms, Slashdot, Something Awful, and others. But it was on Reddit that the form was codified, popularized, and brought into the mainstream.

To conduct an AMA, a user will offer a brief description of themselves, and then open themselves up to a barrage of questions by writing “AMA.” Then, the floodgates open for any user to ask a question. One of the most commented-on AMAs from 2018 was from a Reddit user receiving Universal Basic Income. (UBI is a guaranteed stipend given to every citizen within a governed population.) They wrote “I am receiving Universal Basic Income payments as part of a pilot project being tested in Ontario, Canada. AMA!” 

Unlike other forms of interviewing, AMAs tend to have an informal tone, giving Redditors a peek behind the curtain into the lives of either very famous people, or people with unusual lives. They can let authors and fans relax around one another, giving conversations a more casual tone, as opposed to a formal book talk Q&A.  For example, in Bill Gates’s 2018 AMA, he answered Redditor questions from “What’s your favorite prime number?” to “What’s the most “treat yo self” rich guy thing that you do?” The answers were “2” and “having a nice house with a trampoline.” The thread contains over 10k comments. 

To date, Barack Obama, Keanu Reeves, Andy Weir, and Chuck Tingle have all done popular AMAs. 

 Redditors discover these on dedicated AMA subreddits like r/IAmA or r/AMA, or as a feature on a subreddit dedicated to a different topic. For publishers and authors, relevant places to look for AMAs are r/books, r/writing, or genre-specific subreddits like r/fantasy or r/unresolvedmysteries.

AMAs let authors connect with readers to talk about a new book, answer questions about an older book, or talk about favorite characters. Plus, they are more convenient and less costly than a traditional book tour. For shy authors, an AMA can offer a way to speak authentically with fans while remaining in their own homes. They are not only more intimate than other kinds of interviews, but also more democratic. Readers don’t have to live in a major city or buy an advance ticket. All they have to do is be online at the right time to get a chance to talk to an author whose work they love. 

There are a number of ways that publishers and authors can use AMAs to connect with Redditors.

Inspiration and Fan Appreciation

Beloved YA fantasy writer, Tamora Pierce went on Reddit to do an AMA under the r/books subreddit, answering questions about the inspiration behind favorite characters and listening to Redditors who have been reading her work for years. This AMA happened a few months after the US release of Pierce’s most recent book, Tempests and Slaughter

Demonstrating Subject Expertise

Another way to use AMAs is to focus on yourself as an industry expert, to grow your own brand presence by offering advice. Eric Smith, literary agent and YA author took to Reddit to answer questions about everything from querying to MFA courses, to balancing his “agent brain” and his “writer brain.” While offering up some free advice, he was able to successfully position himself in front of Redditors as an expert in the industry, raising both his own profile and that of his agency, P.S. Literary. 

Similarly, Lori Gottlieb, bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone hosted a recent AMA on r/books, answering questions about psychotherapy and relationship patterns. 

Writing Tips

Authors can also give writing tips during an AMA, both giving a behind-the-scenes look at their own process, and letting them give aspiring writers useful tips.

USA Today bestselling author Penelope Bloom answered questions about her writing process, in addition to book-specific questions during a 2018 AMA. She gave advice about balancing romance and plot, writing a sex scene, and how she manages her prolific career alongside parenthood. 

Redditor, moderator of r/fantasy, and NetGalley member MikeOfThePalace describes the benefit of AMAs to authors. “We [are] offering them a chance to talk about their books to thousands of potential new readers, and they could do it at home in their pajamas instead of having to go traveling to a convention or a book tour. It made for an easy sell…As long as they’re ready to answer questions, it’s fine. If they come into it ready to have fun, it’s great.”

MikeOfThePalace also notes that AMAs are best used with authors who already have an established presence. If an author’s platform isn’t strong enough to have a fan base eager to ask them questions, an AMA risks getting very little traction. 

Before hosting an AMA, make sure to promote it so that your audience will see it. Unless your author is so famous that they will immediately go viral if spotted on Reddit, make sure to tell the fans to be on Reddit at the appointed time  so that they can join in on the limited-time conversation.

For authors and publishers interested in hosting an AMA, the first step is to contact AMA@reddit.com and send a short pitch about the author and the book. The Reddit team will be able to help you figure out which subreddit is the best fit for a potential AMA and help prep for it. You can learn what you need to set up an AMA and use this sign as a template for a proof photo to demonstrate that you’ll be doing an AMA. Then, once you’ve contacted Reddit to help schedule your AMA, they recommend getting in touch with the community moderators of the subreddit where the AMA will take place. 

Cassidy Good, Reddit community manager told NetGalley Insights, “The most important factor in having a successful AMA is good prep work. This includes crafting a good title and thoughtful introductory text, which will encourage people to join in and ask questions. It also includes considering the best placement for the AMA. For example, an author who writes true crime would be very popular in r/UnresolvedMysteries as the community is already devoted to discussing crime. The more aligned the AMA topics is with the discussion themes of the community, the more successful it will be. This is why niche and specific communities often have very thoughtful AMAs.”

While Reddit AMAs might not be the right fit for every author, their success represent the ways that author reader interactions are being reshaped in the digital age. These interactions are increasingly happening on digital platforms, through social media, and with the expectation of deeper intimacy or honesty than a reader might expect to find in a traditional reading and Q&A. Whether or not AMAs are a good fit for your authors or your goals, it’s important to remember what makes AMAs resonate, and to take those lessons into your marketing strategy sessions. 

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Twitch – an untapped opportunity to connect with fervent fans

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.

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.”

Affiliate links for ChrisChanTor’s Twitch book club

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.  

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Putting Reddit on the Radar: Expanding beyond Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads

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.

There are subreddits for everything, for birds with human arms, goats defying gravity, and just about anything else you can think of. But, there are also subreddits for the hundreds of thousands of book-loving Redditors, too: Books, YA Lit, Fantasy, and audiobooks to name a few of the most popular ones.

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.

r/Fantasy moderators

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.

r/Fantasy AMA schedule

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.

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Case Study: The Kiss Quotient

How Berkley turned a debut novel into a smash hit using social influencer marketing

On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Jessica Brock, Senior Publicist & Digital Media Strategist at Berkley about The Kiss Quotient.

Published in May 2018, this modern romance featuring a heroine with Aspergers has been both well-reviewed and enthusiastically embraced by readers. And, it even has a movie deal!

One place that The Kiss Quotient really resonated was on social media. BookTubers posted video reviews and Bookstagrammers placed it in aesthetically pleasing shots. Jessica knew that putting The Kiss Quotient into the hands of social media influencers was going to be an important part of building its buzz. And, she even used the campaign as an opportunity to build her network of social media influencers! Learn more about her strategy in the interview below.

Tell us about your strategy for getting influencers excited about The Kiss Quotient.

Immediately upon finishing The Kiss Quotient I knew it was going to be something special. The first step for me was determining how to shout “READ THIS BOOK!” to the widest audience possible. This story isn’t just for traditional romance readers and I wanted to make sure people knew that. The campaign began with a cover reveal and excerpt on Bustle, hitting a key, younger female demographic. The cover popped, Helen’s personal stake in the story intrigued readers, and the excitement began.

After that, my main goal was growing steady interest in the book among bloggers, Bookstagrammers, and bookish influencers. Providing early galleys and e-galleys was a big part of that, as well as continual coverage on Berkley Romance’s social media platforms. This is a perfect example of “Oh, I’ve seen that!” publicity awareness. In my outreach to influencers, I talked about The Kiss Quotient like I would with a friend, with delighted squeals, OMG’s, and BAE’s included. I also specifically asked that they “help me tell the world about this book” via Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Facebook. I didn’t have a platform preference because I wanted to reach as many readers as possible. I do think that Bookstagram played a major part though as the cover is quite ‘grammable. On a visually driven platform, The Kiss Quotient stands out beautifully.

How do you build relationships with influencers as a publisher?

One of my main responsibilities at Berkley is communicating and cultivating relationships with media contacts and influencers, in particular those who focus on romance. Romance bloggers are the backbone of the online romancelandia community and I absolutely love working with them. I send out two curated monthly newsletters to romance-focused bloggers and media contacts, chat with people on Twitter and Facebook, and generally try to keep up with what folks are reading, because romance bloggers are ravenous readers. We do our best to get them galleys as early as possible with the hope they will read and love our books and ultimately share reviews around the release dates.

Instagram – @book_junkee

How did you let influencers know about The Kiss Quotient and how did you give them access to read it? What was your balance between proactive outreach and responding to requests?

I sent pre-approved NetGalley widgets to a large list of media contacts and influencers. [Widget invites accounted for 26% of all members with access on NetGalley, so this strategy was highly effective!]. I also sent out a number of print galleys in fun packaging (I love color coordinating!) that I hoped would encourage them to share images immediately on their social platforms, mainly Instagram as it is so visual. I knew the “Look how pretty” appreciation at the beginning would morph into the “Omg this book is amazing” attention as soon as they began reading and that they would share those thoughts on their social media as well.


Custom eblasts sent to NetGalley and BookishFirst members drew requests on NetGalley and previews on BookishFirst.

I also dedicated a lot of time to responding to requests for the book. There were numerous BookTubers and reviewers who requested The Kiss Quotient that I had never worked with before. Granting them access to the book and getting to know their channels and sites has been a great way to start successful working relationships with many of them. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the benefit of some light internet stalking! If someone posted about The Kiss Quotient on Instagram, I would check the comments to see if they were from other influencers that I could also approach for review or feature coverage and I did the same with Goodreads. Twitter searches also proved very useful as the title of this book is pretty unique so I could easily see who was talking about it without having to filter through a lot of non-book related posts.

Aside from working with social media influencers, what other strategies did you employ for The Kiss Quotient?

I secured a lot of mainstream media attention, including The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Buzzfeed, which piqued other outlets’ interest in the book and Helen’s personal story. I highlighted The Kiss Quotient’s strengths, joined the excited conversations with early reviewers, and reached out to other authors whom I thought would love Helen’s book as much as I did. Support from fellow authors can make a significant difference in reader awareness and publicity opportunities.

Jessica is a Senior Publicist and Digital Media Strategist at Berkley who manages the romance social media accounts and works with authors like Helen Hoang, Jasmine Guillory, Alexa Martin, Samantha Young, Uzma Jalaluddin, and more. A self-proclaimed Slytherpuffenclaw, she loves to read YA as well as romance and dark-and-twisty thrillers.


Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Check out the rest of our case studies here!

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BookTube Basics for Marketers

What is BookTube?

BookTube is the segment of the YouTube community dedicated to reading and reviewing books. Like any other community on YouTube (like gamers or beauty bloggers), BookTube has its own celebrities, norms, and unique quirks. The bulk of BookTubers read primarily YA novels, although not exclusively. BookTubers are enthusiastic, and tend to be quite high-energy.

According to YouTube, the BookTube community has over 200 million views of videos, and engagement is growing. Comparing July 2017 to 2018, engagement with BookTube videos is up 40%. This demonstrates both the reach of BookTube, and its effectiveness. Because of the intimate nature of these videos, reviews feel like recommendations from a friend rather than from an impersonal cultural gatekeeper.

Who are BookTubers and their audience?

Most BookTubers are millennials, and, like the rest of the trade fiction and YA market, skew female. The BookTube audience comprises primarily millennial and teen book enthusiasts. Marketing teams at children’s or YA publishers and imprints work with BookTubers to gain access to an audience of enthusiastic young readers who are already active on YouTube, as opposed to other media outlets, or even other social media platforms (i.e. Facebook or Twitter).

What is a BookTube video?

There are many different kinds of BookTube videos. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Book Haul: The BookTuber will go through the pile of books that they recently received, or purchased. It’s a roundup of what titles they are most excited to read.
  • Book Tag: Book Tag videos are centered around a specific theme or challenge, for example “Out of My Comfort Zone.” A BookTuber will respond to all questions in the tag, and then tag other BookTubers to participate as well to keep the conversation going.
  • Bookshelf Tour: BookTubers show their own collections of books. These videos show how a BookTuber organizes their books; by color, genre, To Be Read, and more.
  • Readathon: Readathons are interactive reading marathons hosted by one or more BookTubers. Often they have special challenges and rules, and integrations with other platforms, like Goodreads and Twitter. These readathons take place over set period of time The BookTubeAThon is an annual readathon hosted by multiple BookTubers.
  • Reviews: BookTubers give their impressions of a book, including a summary. Similar to any other kind of book review.
  • Unboxing: A popular style of YouTube video even outside of the BookTube community. BookTubers will open boxes of books, often sent to them either by a publisher or by a book subscription service.
  • Wrap Up: Wrap up videos are recaps of books that BookTubers have read during a given set of time. Often, these will be annual. They can function as a BookTuber’s “Best of” list.

How do I find the most relevant BookTubers for my titles?

Research BookTubers the same way that you can find relevant influencers on other platforms. Searching hashtags like #BookTube or #BookReview will give you a good overview of the community, but might be too broad for truly targeted searching. If you are publishing a YA dystopian title with a Latinx protagonist, try searching for BookTubers who have engaged with similar titles, or searching #YADystopia or #OwnVoices. Then, see who has high counts of followers and strong engagement from their audience in the comments section.

Once you have identified a few key BookTubers for your needs, consider looking at who they have listed under “My Favs” on their profile. Or, keep an eye on who BookTubers are tagging in their Tag videos. Learn who BookTubers are following and communicating with to gain a better grasp of the community landscape.

How can I engage with BookTubers to reach their audience?

Many major book publishers are already working with BookTubers to meet an enthusiastic market of young readers where they already are, with popular BookTubers receiving many requests from publishers and authors. WhittyNovels offered some tips about how publishers and authors can increase their chances of having their titles reviewed by a BookTuber.

Publishers should send print or digital galleys to BookTubers as they would to any other influencer (most BookTubers post contact information in the About section of their page) but the video format does offer some unique opportunities that publishers can take advantage of to drive creative strategic marketing decisions.

Publishers (or retailers) can also work with BookTubers to sponsor unique content. For example, Barnes and Noble sponsored a book haul with Linh Truong. Publishers can send galleys in special packaging to encourage BookTubers to feature their titles in unboxing videos, as Simon & Schuster did for the release of Lady Midnight. Or, work with BookTubers directly to create an unboxing video, as Penguin Teen did with JesseTheReader for A Map of Days (see right). Consider asking BookTubers to feature your titles for a readathon to boost awareness and enthusiasm, or work with multiple BookTubers to create a themed Tag video around your upcoming title. BookTubers grow their audience by consistently providing entertaining and creative content. Offer something new and exciting that will keep their fans engaged, and build a mutually beneficial partnership.

Stay tuned for more BookTube coverage!

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Up Your Instagram Game with Stories

Most publishers already know that they need to be on Instagram. It is a thriving platform for businesses. There are 1 billion active accounts on the site, per month. And of those accounts, 80% follow at least one business.

After you’ve mastered the basics of the perfectly arranged photo of your book surrounded by aesthetically pleasing and thematically appropriate props, #bookfacefriday, and engaging your followers by asking questions for them to answer in the comments, it’s time to use some of Instagram’s other features to engage your audience and build enthusiasm for your list and for your brand as a whole.

Instagram Stories let users post disappearing slideshows of both photos and videos. Stories are visible on a profile for only 24 hours, unless the user decides to pin them to their profile as a “highlight,” in which case they will be available indefinitely. In a story, a user can create a temporary post, ask a question, create a poll, and more.

Many brands and companies are already using Instagram Stories as part of their overall strategy. According to Instagram, 50% of businesses on the site create a story within a typical month. And members are engaging with these stories. Over 400 million members use stories every day and 1/3 of the most viewed stories on Instagram are from businesses.

Take a look at some creative ways publishers (and a library!) are using Instagram stories to share updates, highlight their offerings, and grow their brand.

Engage your audience with quizzes and questions

Dutton took advantage of some nasty winter weather to post a timely quiz as a story, featuring their titles. They asked their audience what kind of survivalist personality they identified as, and showed stacks of books with the different character archetypes represented. Quick yes or no quizzes are low-impact ways for your followers to engage with you. Ask questions, and post the results! Posting responses signals that your audience is engaged. The audience will instantly see the results of the poll once they have responded. You can see who has responded and how by swiping up on your story post.

Grow your newsletter list

Penguin Random House uses stories to invite their audience to receive customized book recommendations from their list. Followers who click for recommendations are brought to Penguin Random House’s website and invited to fill out a brief profile with genre preferences. They are given recommendations by genre and added to Penguin Random House’s newsletters. It’s a quick way for PRH to move their audience from Instagram to their website and to put them on their mailing lists for relevant releases, all the while offering something of interest to their followers.

Offer a sneak peek

Verso Books teases new releases, like Jenny Hval’s forthcoming Paradise Rot, in their stories. They give followers a little taste within the Instagram story itself, and also a link to read a fuller excerpt on Verso’s website. Like Penguin Random House, they are using stories to drive traffic to their website by providing interesting content.

You can also consider taking a page out of New York Public Library’s book and post whole texts (or maybe just a chapter). Consider using this as a special time-based promotion. For example, read the first few chapters of an upcoming title for one week only.

Share your list

Grove Atlantic uses their stories to showcase their most current titles. Followers can click through their highlighted stories to see what titles are currently or recently pubbed. Effectively, it’s a catalog on Instagram, full of well-composed photos, reveal videos, and blurbs. For your audience who might not spend the time to go to your website to look at your most current releases, Instagram stories is a great way to keep them informed about your most important titles.

Use stories to highlight events without distracting from your grid

One of our favorite publisher Instagram accounts, Graywolf Press, has a visually pleasing grid full of bright colors and clean lines. They use their highlighted stories to keep their audience aware of upcoming events while maintaining their Instagram’s overall aesthetic.

 

 

 

 

How have you used Instagram stories? Let us know in the comments. We hope to feature your success stories in future posts.

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Social Sharing on NetGalley is Buzzing!

Make the most of NetGalley’s social integrations

Word-of-mouth is one of the most effective ways to increase book sales. Whether this chatter happens face-to-face with friends, or digitally through online reviews or social media shares, the earlier audiences are talking about your book, the better! In order to facilitate this digital word-of-mouth, NetGalley introduced simplified social sharing in November 2017, to allow NetGalley members to connect their NetGalley profile with their Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn accounts to share their reviews with just one click.

This is great news for your titles! Reviews of your books are being seen on more platforms by broader audiences. You can track where reviews are being shared by checking the book’s Feedback Report in NetGalley. Plus, it’s easier than ever for publishers to encourage more cross-posting and successfully leverage the buzz. Here are some ideas and best practices we’ve observed in action:

Incorporate hashtags: Publishers can add a custom hashtag for any title on NetGalley. This helps to focus the buzz around a title, and can make members feel like they are joining a rich conversation online. Ask members to share their reviews on social media with the hashtags when you follow-up with them, and then use those hashtags to identify your most vocal pre-publication advocates. Retweet them, favorite them, and consider auto-approving those members in NetGalley! For more information about including hashtags in your NetGalley marketing plan, check out this 2-minute video.

Share the shares: If NetGalley members are sharing reviews on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere, consider using those reviews in your own social strategy. Retweet or re-post the reviews you see, and be sure to thank the member. Everyone loves a shoutout! Use screenshots or quotes of these shared reviews to demonstrate the word-of-mouth energy behind your titles and include them in sales presentations. They are visible proof of early consumer interest.

Learn more about your audience: In addition to watching your hashtags, you can use your NetGalley Feedback Report to see who has shared their reviews online. Digging into your data, including the social media presence of members who are talking about your book online, can give you some powerful demographic information about your audience. Are they mostly millennials who post on Instagram? Are they primarily baby boomers who use Facebook to stay in touch with their friends and family? Use this insight to guide your marketing messages and to determine which platforms are worth your investment of time or advertising dollars.

How have you successfully leveraged social media sharing in your marketing campaigns? We love to feature case studies from our community of publishers and authors.

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Pre-Publication Tips for Authors: Build Your Social Media Presence

Personal branding is an important part of the success of any author, and social media is a strong place to develop and grow that brand. Your tone as an author, your field of interests, and how you communicate with the world should all be considered as your develop your voice on the Internet. While Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter might not be for every author, savvy users of these sites can grow your community of dedicated fans. So, how to begin building a successful social media presence?

Start by looking at social media as a way to connect with your potential audience, not as a marketing tool. Authenticity will help you genuinely connect with the kinds of readers who will be your be among your best advocates and fans, which will also help your online presence grow organically.

Think about which platforms are best suited to your own instincts and talents. Have a knack for funny or insightful quick turns of phrase? Try Twitter. Are you a visual thinker? Get on Instagram. Once you’ve established which platform(s) you will use, make sure that your tone fits with your audience. If you are a middle-grade author, it’s best to avoid filling every tweet with the most colorful swear words you know. On social media, you are your brand and everything you put online goes toward building that brand.

Be a part of larger conversations and get yourself noticed online by using hashtags, sharing articles, replying to other authors, and engaging with your followers. Communicating directly with your followers is a great way to strengthen your online presence and bond you to your audience. Engaging in conversations that relate to specific topics in your book will attract a like-minded social media following. If you as an author are posting about something that’s interesting to a community, the community will take notice.

Check out the rest of NetGalley Insights to learn more about getting the most out of social media: Which book industry Instagram accounts to follow, using Twitter to learn more about librarians, and how an independent author used NetGalley to boost her title on Twitter.

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