Sessions Announced! Firebrand Group Community Conference

Join us for a very special opportunity to connect with the NetGalley team and your peers from across the publishing industry!

We are thrilled to announce some of the sessions that will be presented at the Firebrand Group Community Conference, September 26- 28 in Baltimore! Experts from across the publishing industry will be speaking about topics critical to your work. This track is dedicated to book marketers and publicists, including NetGalley users, and is specifically designed to help you connect with your audience.

Building & Scaling Influencer Programs Effectively: TikTok, Instagram, & More

Presented by: Emily Lyman, CEO & Founder, Branch & Bramble

Activating social media influencers is one of the fastest and most effective marketing tools to drive awareness—but it can also be one of the most time consuming and challenging. This session will focus on the tactical elements of building influencer programs based on individual titles as well as entire genres across TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Learn how to scale collaborations and maximize budgets with long-term partnership advice, negotiation tactics, and efficiency ideas.

Insights Into Action: The Making of a Bestseller

Presented by: Andrea DeWerd, Senior Marketing Director at Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins

The Harvest lifestyle marketing team at HarperCollins has adopted a unique MarTech stack to streamline and scale campaigns in a traditionally very old-fashioned industry. Please join us for this session with Senior Marketing Director Andrea DeWerd and learn how this team adopted new technology to launch a New York Times bestseller and leads the organization in marketing experimentation driven by audience insights and data synthesis.

Key Takeaways:

  • Becoming a data-informed marketing organization
  • Soliciting buy-in for new technology at every level of the organization
  • Creating a culture of teaching, training, and learning for new tech adoption
  • The path to a New York Times bestselling cookbook

Finding Your Audience/Growing Your Community

Presented by Tarah Theoret,  Senior Director, Community Experience, and Kelly Gallucci, Executive Editor, We Are Bookish

Join the NetGalley Member Experience team to learn how targeted acquisition efforts can help expand your audience. This session will explore using data (from NetGalley as well as external sources like Google Analytics, social media platforms, & newsletter subscribers) to identify product/brand champions and inform your community engagement and retention strategies. 

Discussion: Maintaining Momentum Beyond the Pub Date

Book publishers know that they have a wealth of IP in their backlist, but what is the most effective way to mine it? In this session, we will explore creative ways to surface the most relevant backlist titles of the moment, in order to drive their momentum when the time is right. For this group discussion, we hope attendees will come ready to share their concerns, ideas, and successes!

NetGalley 101 

Rediscover the roots of your NetGalley publisher account! Kristina Radke, VP of Business Growth & Engagement, will guide you through each important moment of a book’s life on NetGalley. We’ll cover everything from creating new titles, setting Availability, incorporating the Widget in your day-to-day efforts, managing requests, building your Auto-Approved List, as well as looking at and using the robust reports available to you. 

NetGalley Promotions Overview

Learn how publishers use NetGalley Promotions to launch their frontlist and leverage their backlist to reach trade professionals and early influencers, generate reviews, run giveaways, collect pre-orders, advertise around the pub date, and connect directly with their audience. With advertising options for every budget, goal, and type of book, NetGalley’s popular programs are highly valued for their strong engagement rates—delivering outstanding results while remaining at a competitive price. 

More sessions will be announced as they are finalized! While you wait, be sure to talk to your colleagues about attending the Firebrand Group Community Conference. Each track focuses on different aspects of the publishing process.

  • Connect the Dots with Data | Sessions for data analysts, business ops, and marketing teams, including Eloquence on Alert and NetGalley users.

Register today to ensure your space and take advantage of the Early Bird Discount rate! A Group Discount is available for multiple team members attending from one company. Please email us for details.

NetGalley is a member of the Firebrand Group, which provides leading software and services to help publishers achieve success. In addition to sessions geared toward marketers and publicists who use NetGalley, the Firebrand Group Community Conference will include tracks dedicated to users of Firebrand’s Title Management and Eloquence services, as well as Supadu’s website and ecommerce solutions.

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Cory Verner on the Growth of Audiobooks

BookSmarts Podcast

Get smarter about your books! The BookSmarts podcast features discussions about publishing data and technologies and interviews with industry experts, deep thinkers, and doers, bringing you insights that will help you sell more books.

Episode 24: Cory Verner on the Growth of Audiobooks

Cory Verner is the CEO of ONE Audiobooks, a publisher of audiobooks and a turnkey audio services provider. Cory has been working in the audiobooks industry for over 20 years, and has seen the changes in technology, the changes in focus, and the growth in sales as the format has taken off in the last 6-7 years. Cory and I talk about some of the reasons for that growth, the demographics of listeners, and some specific differences between the Inspirational Books market that he is closely connected to compared to the general audiobooks market.

Transcript available here.

We also talk about how the audiobooks industry has changed over time, including technology changes that have driven much of the recent growth, and we discuss the risks publishers take on when they create their own audiobook program.

You can learn more about ONE Audiobooks at oneaudiobooks.com (corporate site) and oneaudiobooks.app (customer engagement tools).

Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.

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Sustainability – a challenge for all.

At the 2022 London Book Fair there were four separate sessions devoted to sustainability in the industry, making it one of LBF’s most debated topics. At the start of the second panel discussion, Stephen Lotinga, CEO of the Publishers Association, summed up the common theme that bound them all: “We want our industry to be around for as long as possible,” he said. “This is clearly the challenge of our time.” The question is, how do we all rise to meet it?

Open book with a tree growing from its pages

The answer, as those LBF panels attested, is complex, and comprises a huge range of potential initiatives and strategies. The one thing that everyone seems to agree on, however, is the importance of taking action now. As EJ Hurst and Julie Raddysh from New Society Publishers said in a recent interview, “It is imperative. Business will only thrive on a stable, healthy planet”.

Where once sustainability might have been primarily a moral or ethical consideration, or something multinationals might add to their Corporate Social Responsibility statements, it is now a commercial imperative too: consumers are demanding ‘greener’ products, just as much as environmental groups are urging root-and-branch changes to the way products are made and distributed. This means sustainability is no longer something to be deferred: everyone, from boutique house to corporate monolith, is implicated and impacted.

In software company knk’s Publishing and Sustainability 2022 whitepaper, two key areas of concern were identified: one, the polluting nature of physical book fulfilment; and two, the problem of power consumption from data centres. While the latter can be mitigated by using providers who provide more renewable energy and better systems, industry responses to how best to print, store and ship books will come to define how sustainable the publishing world really can be.

There are many disparate factors that need to be addressed here – from paper stock to print on demand; from where books are printed to more effective warehousing and distribution channels – but for many, the decisions taken on a daily basis are the ones which will ultimately shape the future. One of the most important of these is pre- and post-publication reading copies.

Exact figures are hard to come by, but, were publishers in the UK and US to produce the same number of physical ARCs as they made digital copies available on NetGalley, this would equate to around 3 million books*, the vast majority of which are packaged and mailed to individuals around the world. Notwithstanding the huge cost of printing, then sending these books, the ‘book miles’—the environmental impact of their shipping—accrued by this strategy are staggering. Reducing the number of ARCs produced and sent is a quick and easy way to increase sustainability—but at the same time, it requires a mindset shift from all stakeholders in the process. Publishers must reiterate to influencers that physical ARCs are not the norm, while authors will have to understand why only a small number of ARCs are being printed. Influencers might need to accept that they need to read at least some of a book digitally before requesting a physical ARC, while publicists might have to change the decades old practice of stuffing envelopes with books and press releases. It is a small part of the puzzle, but one that will reap huge benefits if taken seriously by all players.

*Total number of digital review copies approved on NetGalley.com and NetGalley.co.uk from March 2020 to February 2021

A former bookseller, editor and marketer, Stuart Evers is Director of NetGalley UK. He is also an award-winning writer of short fiction and novels. 



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Mark Herschberg How Books Might Escape the Page

BookSmarts Podcast

Get smarter about your books! The BookSmarts podcast features discussions about publishing data and technologies and interviews with industry experts, deep thinkers, and doers, bringing you insights that will help you sell more books.

Episode 23: Mark Herschberg How Books Might Escape the Page

In this episode we are joined by Mark Herschberg, publisher at Cognosco Media, author of The Career Toolkit, Essential Skills for Success That No One Taught You, and the developer of a new app that is attempting to promote a new take on reader interaction with book content.

Transcript available here.

I was a bit skeptical of Mark’s approach from the offset, having seen so many ebook apps and new ideas about digital engagement flame out over the years. However, Mark and I had a great conversation about how the relevant content in a book might be more or less than the actual page count, how so many new technologies are just like sticking a fake horse head on the front of an automobile, and more. Mark shared some of the ideas behind his app, most notably the notifications feature that can help readers recall key points from books they have read.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out Mark’s publishing company, Cognosco Media (https://www.cognoscomedia.com) and take a look at both his book and the related app (https://www.thecareertoolkitbook.com).

Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.

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Industry Spotlight: Cynthia Shannon on Book Marketing, Early Reviews, and Cookbooks

Originally Posted on We Are Bookish.
Visit We Are Bookish for more industry interviews!

NetGalley members don’t just love books, they’re fascinated by all aspects of the publishing industry. That’s why in our Industry Spotlight series, we’re asking publishing professionals to tell us more about what a day in their life looks like and to share invaluable tips for members who interact with them through NetGalley. Cynthia Shannon, the Senior Marketing Manager of Food and Lifestyle at Chronicle Books, discusses the importance of early reviews, what her team looks for in member Profiles, and how to best review lifestyle books.

Cynthia Shannon, the Senior Marketing Manager of Food and Lifestyle at Chronicle Books

Meet Cynthia

Years in the industry: 15 (OMG)

First book you worked on as a publicist: The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. Working on it provided me with a great foundation right as the traditional media industry was getting disrupted. Pitching a journalist via Twitter was a novel concept at the time!

Current (or most recent) book you’re working on: Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow 

An indie bookstore you love: Omnivore Books in San Francisco

What does the role of a senior marketing manager entail? What’s your favorite part of your job? 

Marketing is about making sure the right message gets to the right people at the right time, and everything I do comes down to optimizing those three aspects for our food & lifestyle products. I love working with the creative and talented authors and my co-workers at Chronicle Books. I’m inspired every day to think differently about what we can do to improve our marketing efforts and raise awareness of all our amazing products.

People outside of the industry can have some funny or odd assumptions about our jobs. What do your friends and family think you do, and what do you wish people knew about your job? 

I think many people—including some authors—don’t realize why it takes so long to publish a book when many self-publishing platforms make it seem so simple. So many people are involved in bringing a book to market, and there’s a lot of expertise that goes along with it. I love reading the acknowledgments section of a book to be reminded of everyone who made a book happen: the editor and agent, designers, photographers, stylists, copy editors, operating managers, sales, marketing, and publicity staff. I’m always touched when I see my name listed there.

Help us take NetGalley members behind the curtain: What does the NetGalley request approval process look like for Chronicle Books? What should members keep in mind when making requests? 

This might be somewhat unique, but I set most of my books as available to Read Now. I have never seen an issue with getting our books into the hands of more people, especially pre-publication. The NetGalley community is made up of trusted readers and influencers, and their feedback—good and bad—is incredibly valuable as we gear up toward launch.  

How do the reviews that are published by members on NetGalley impact the pre-publication marketing you work on?

The pre-publication reviews are helpful in a number of ways:

1) They’re the first honest reviews we get from outside our publishing team, which helps us gauge actual consumer interest in the title and confirms our hunch in identifying an emerging trend from years ago.

2) They surface key aspects of the book that resonate the most with consumers, which helps us adjust the messaging and emphasize those aspects in media pitches.

3) They can flag mistakes in our messaging, which helps us pivot while there’s still time. 

For example, a few seasons ago there were some early reviews of a cookbook where reviewers were disappointed to see recipes that included meat. They had thought that it would be a vegetarian cookbook based on the cover, title, and description. While it was too late to change the cover or title, we were able to update the description to clarify that the cookbook contained recipes with meat. We also made sure to emphasize it in media pitches. Reviews improved after that, and it was a good lesson to learn internally as well.

What’s the most common misstep you see from NetGalley members that leads to a declined request?

While I set most of my titles as available to Read Now, my colleague Carrie Gao, School and Library Marketing Coordinator, says that having high approval and feedback percentages are certainly advantages and will usually lead to automatic approvals for any requested title. We will decline requests when we suspect the reviewer is probably not the right audience for the book: For example, when we see someone who mostly reviews Adult thrillers requesting a middle grade contemporary title about a pet shop. 

What advice do you have for members who are unsure of the best ways to review nonfiction books such as cookbooks or lifestyle books?

Anyone can Google a recipe for a dish that they feel like making. Good cookbooks will inspire you to try new dishes and build your confidence in the kitchen. Reviewers don’t need to make sure the recipes work—we have actual recipe testers for that—but they should scan the table of contents, read through the recipes, and follow the urge to run to the kitchen to see if they already have the ingredients on hand. Depending on what kind of cook you are, you may gravitate towards recipes that are quick, easy, and practical (like from the upcoming book A Dish for All Seasons by Kathryn Pauline) or specialized and time-consuming like perfecting your own bagels or masa (thinking of those in Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow and the forthcoming MASA by Jorge Gaviria). 

Lifestyle books range from the quirky to the practical and should be approached with that type of mindset. Discover books that speak to you, whether in parenting, astrology, or self-help. Also ask yourself, would you buy this book as a gift for yourself or a friend? 

What can newer NetGalley members, who may not have a high Feedback Ratio or strong blog/social stats yet, do to stand out to publishers? 

I would recommend having a full and complete profile. My colleague Carrie agrees, adding: Include any link to external sites you might own, including blogs and social media, as we’ll check them out to see how consistent of a reviewer you are or what your social platform might look like elsewhere. Be as accurate in your profile as possible. Make sure your member type is correct. We’ll take into account how long you’ve been a NetGalley member, as being relatively new could explain a low ratio and wouldn’t necessarily cost you any points.

Who are some book influencers you think are doing really cool things in online book reviewing spaces?

I follow several NetGalley members who cross-post their reviews to Goodreads, as it’s always interesting to see what other books they choose to review. I also queried my colleague Ailyn Pambid, Marketing Assistant (and respectable book reviewer in her own right: @wheresdabooks). Ailyn noted how there are some great book influencers on YouTube (such as Regan from @PeruseProject, Adri from @perpetualpages, and Cindy form @withcindy) and Instagram (Sol from @thesolreader, Oscar from @booksteahenny, Angela from @baosbooks, Hayle from @bookishbluebird, and Esther from @estherhfung). 

Is there anything we didn’t cover here that you’d like to add?

I rely on NetGalley to start the flywheel of pre-publication buzz. I’ve noticed that approximately half of my NetGalley reviews show up on Goodreads, and the Goodreads ratings feed into Edelweiss, giving sales reps some built-in support when meeting with booksellers and librarians. NetGalley also helps raise awareness with a core and influential readership. 

Thanks for chatting with me, Cynthia! 

​​Editor’s note: The above opinions represent the specific viewpoint and strategy of one particular publisher. Publishers and authors use NetGalley to help accomplish a variety of goals, and incorporate NetGalley into their overall marketing and publicity efforts in different ways. 


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How to Stay Informed and Push Back Against Book Bans

Originally Posted on We Are Bookish.
Visit We Are Bookish for more Bookish Lifestyle content!

Book bans and attempts at censorship are currently spreading across the U.S. and are disproportionately impacting diverse titles and authors from historically marginalized communities. Both as publishing professionals and as readers ourselves, the NetGalley team stands against book banning and wants to ensure our members have tools at their disposal to fight back against censorship in their communities. Book banning touches every member of the NetGalley community from library workers and educators to authors and readers, and all can use these tips to work together to protect intellectual freedom.

Listen to those most affected
The impact of a book ban is far-reaching and touches different communities in unique ways. It’s important to listen to those affected in order to put your own efforts towards making a positive change. 

Although not exhaustive, here’s a short list of places to start listening and learning: The Stacks Podcast has an excellent series of interviews—featuring authors, students, educators, politicians, and booksellers—that explore everything about book banning from a legal standpoint to activism. Former librarian Kelly Jensen’s coverage of the ongoing bans is incredibly informative and packed with resources and action items. Penguin Young Readers put together this document of resources for educators and library workers.

Request books from your library
If you see certain books or authors missing from your branch’s shelves, ask your local librarian about submitting a request for the library to acquire them. This not only helps put those books on your library’s shelves, but it’s a trackable measurement of community interest that library workers can use if a certain book is challenged.

Show up
Find out when your local city council, library board, and school board meetings are being held. Attending these meetings allows you to stay informed and gives you the opportunity to not only speak out against book bans but to voice support for the library workers, educators, and politicians in your community who are working to protect intellectual freedom. Your voice can be a source of much-needed support to those who are pushing back against censorship.

As you begin to attend meetings, you may find yourself wanting to take an even more active role. Consider joining your town’s council, library, or school board.

Vote
In the upcoming elections, use your vote to support candidates who are actively working against censorship. Pay close attention to local elections, which have a major impact on your community. If you notice that a candidate doesn’t have information available regarding their stance, ask!

Keep your community informed
Chances are that your friends, family, and coworkers care about these issues as much as you do. Invite them to attend board meetings with you, or if they can’t attend, update them on what you learned. Talk together about candidates you think will make a difference in the community and make a plan to go vote together.

Follow and support those making a difference
Whenever you find yourself frustrated and wanting to help make a change, first look to those who have already been hard at work making a difference. Organizations such as the National Coalition Against Censorship have valuable resources for readers, library workers, educators, and students to use when facing censorship in their community.

You can also look to organizations such as We Need Diverse Books, a non-profit that advocates for inclusive changes to the publishing industry. They’re currently offering grants to educators who need financial support for diverse literature programs, as well as those impacted by COVID. You can donate to support those here.

Donors Choose allows you to help specific educators in need. Teachers share what their classrooms and children require—including many requests for donations that will go towards stocking classroom libraries.

These tips are just a starting place—help us share more!

What advice do you have to help stop book banning in your community?

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George Slowik, Jr. on the 150th Anniversary of Publishers Weekly

BookSmarts Podcast

Get smarter about your books! The BookSmarts podcast features discussions about publishing data and technologies and interviews with industry experts, deep thinkers, and doers, bringing you insights that will help you sell more books.

Episode 22: George Slowik, Jr. on the 150th Anniversary of Publishers Weekly

In this episode of the BookSmarts Podcast, Joshua interviews George Slowik, Jr., the Chairman and Owner of PWxyz LLC, the parent company of Publishers Weekly, who joins us to discuss the magazine’s history, the digital archive, and more.

Transcript available here.

Publishers Weekly was launched in 1872 as a bibliographic source for all publishers to list forthcoming titles. Over its 150 year history, the magazine has continued to provide news and features about the publishing industry, and has even expanded to provide over 9,000 new book reviews every year.

George gives a brief overview of the magazine’s history, discusses the development of the digital archive, the special anniversary edition to be released in April, and his thoughts about the future of publishing. 
You can learn more about Publishers Weekly and sign up for their free email newsletters, at their website, https://www.publishersweekly.com/.

Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.

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Industry Spotlight: Sydney Tillman on Picture Books, NetGalley Tips, and Life in Publicity

Originally Posted on We Are Bookish.
Visit We Are Bookish for more industry interviews!

NetGalley members don’t just love books, they’re fascinated by all aspects of the publishing industry. That’s why in our Industry Spotlight series, we’re asking industry professions to tell us more about what a day in their life looks like and to share invaluable tips for members who interact with them through NetGalley. Here Sydney Tillman, the Publicity Manager at Hachette’s Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, discusses the art of a picture book review, what she looks for in member Profiles, and her favorite parts of being in publicity.

Sydney Tillman, the Publicity Manager at Hachette’s Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Meet Sydney

Years in the industry: Going on five years!

First book you worked on as a publicist: The Purrmaids series–the pun options were endless! 

Book you’re currently working on: Strong Mama by Robin Arzón

An indie bookstore you love: Cafe con Libros in Crown Heights, NY! It’s a cozy, very well-curated Afro-Latinx-owned bookstore and coffee shop with a focus on community and intersectional feminist reads. It is also home to my favorite bookish tote bags!

What does a day in the life of a publicity manager look like? What’s your favorite part of your job?

I start every morning reading through newsletters, media alerts, and scanning through my inbox. A big function of our jobs as publicists is to be effective communicators and a hub for information—for authors, editors, booksellers, and media/journalists—and emails are a big part of our job. The sheer volume of emails that we receive has increased in this virtual world, so I always prioritize the day’s tasks based on what is currently in my inbox. My day-to-day is often a mix of communicating with authors, pitching media for book coverage (my favorite part of the job!), and working with booksellers and/or book festivals to plan events or school visits. 

People outside of the industry can have some funny or odd assumptions about our jobs. What do your friends and family think you do, and what do you wish people knew about being a publicist?

Publishing is such an insular industry and a lot of folks outside of it don’t see all the different stages of the process. Despite knowing that I work in publicity, most people assume I have editorial responsibilities—which I think is a common misconception for folks outside of editorial. 

Publicity is a behind-the-scenes job. A big difference between marketing and publicity is that publicists are working to secure earned media (review coverage, interviews, etc.) while marketers secure paid media (ads/sponsored posts, etc.). For publicists, there can be a lot of work (research outlets, building media relationships with journalists/bloggers, crafting pitches) that goes into securing one media hit. We can spend hours building a list, crafting a pitch, and having a back-and-forth with a media contact, but at the end of the day there’s no guarantee that coverage will be secured. However, when it is, it is the best feeling!

Your passion for picture books shines through even on your social media. What do you recommend reviewers focus on when writing about picture books, particularly when it comes to balancing who the book is intended for compared with the person likely to be purchasing it?

I. love. picture. books. And I love reading picture book reviews. I think it’s important to keep in mind that the art and text work together to create the story. I love a picture book review that is balanced in its examination of both. While it’s important to call out those special elements of the read that will engage young readers—maybe it’s a great read-aloud or inspires imaginative play—I think that picture books are for everyone. I love, love, love reviews that call this out. The adult reading the review and purchasing the book is oftentimes also the person that will read the book to the child, and so a successful picture book review should also compel the adult to want to buy or read the book.

Help us take NetGalley members behind the curtain: What does the NetGalley request approval process look like for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers? 

Publicists are responsible for routinely checking NetGalley to manage incoming requests for their assigned titles. I go through the requests for my titles on a weekly basis and approve or decline requests. It’s also important to note that Publicists are only approving requests on NetGalley for members who identify as “Media Professionals” and “Reviewers” while marketing handles “Bookseller,” “Librarian,” and “Educator” requests. 

What’s the most common misstep you see from NetGalley members that leads to a declined request?

There are two common missteps I often see. The first is someone who clearly has requested a title for a library or educational purpose, but who has mislabeled their member type. A request for anything outside of a consumer review or media purpose will often be declined by publicity.

The second is an incomplete profile. The more you build out your profile, the better. I personally immediately look for the links included. If a request has links to an active blog, bookstagram, or other platform then I’m most likely going to approve that request. If the request doesn’t include any links or it has links to inactive accounts, then that request will likely be declined. We want to see that you’re actively reviewing and engaged—that’s more important to me than stats or follower count.

What can newer NetGalley members, who may not have a high Feedback Ratio or strong blog/social stats yet, do to stand out to publishers?

Don’t be discouraged! Continue requesting books and posting reviews online. The more you continue to build out your platform(s) and engage with the community, the better. Regularly posting content shows us that you are consistent, which is something that we prioritize when going through requests.

Who are some book influencers you think are doing really cool things in online book reviewing spaces?

Maya Lê known as @maistorybooklibrary on Instagram is such an incredible champion for picture books. She goes above and beyond to create engaging, original content for young readers.

Thanks for chatting with me, Sydney! 

​​Editor’s note: The above opinions represent the specific viewpoint and strategy of one particular publisher. Publishers and authors use NetGalley to help accomplish a variety of goals, and incorporate NetGalley into their overall marketing and publicity efforts in different ways. 

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Takeaways and Trends from 2021

We’ve all learned a lot over the past couple of years, and 2021 has taught us some especially interesting things. Here are a few takeaways and trends from 2021 that we’ll carry with us as we continue to grow, evolve, and serve the book publishing industry!

Book publishing is in a period of renewal

Often, the things that challenge us the most also create great opportunities. The world has nearly two years of this pandemic behind it, and many publishers have seen surprising gains as consumers turn to books to fill their hours at home. On the BookSmarts podcast, Michael Cader, Founder of Publishers Lunch and PublishersMarketplace.com had this to say about additional opportunities the industry has at this moment:

“As we go through this COVID transition [we] redefine what work looks like and how work becomes meaningful….In the pandemic, people stopped going to book fairs and they stopped touring authors, and a lot of them stopped sending out [printed] galleys, and cut back on marketing expenses and did all kinds of things, some out of necessity, some because those things just didn’t exist, and some for ease, and some because they wanted to conserve. So, there’s this really interesting chance to rethink: Where are we spending our dollars? How are we spending those dollars consciously? And what’s driving ROI?

“There’s an interesting opportunity to rethink every role within the organization. What have people actually done during COVID, when they’ve been working with less direct supervision more on their own at home? And how has that worked well? And how can we enfranchise people to keep doing more of that, and less of what they didn’t like doing? 

It’s this really interesting reset moment. The good news is that publishing is coming at it from a position of strength.

– Michael Cader, Founder of Publishers Lunch and PublishersMarketplace.com

“We’re also in this interesting moment of the industry finally reckoning with diversity in a more meaningful way. Part of diversity means having an industry that’s not just centered in New York. Only certain types of people can afford to live and work in New York, and New York has all sorts of different people and viewpoints in it, but it’s not the nation at large. 

“I think writ large it’s this really interesting reset moment. The good news is that publishing is coming at it from a position of strength… the sales are there, the readers are there. The retail channels have been resilient… So there’s a really strong foundation to build from. So, where people go from there, I think will determine a lot of what the trajectory of the business looks like, over the next few years.”

Listen to Michael Cader on the BookSmarts podcast.

Book discovery is context agnostic

We know that NetGalley is just one of many ways that readers discover books. According to our 2021 NetGalley Member Survey, Goodreads, Friends/Peers, and Amazon also top their list for finding new books. For audio listeners, the library is also a very important means of discovery.

In the Panorama Project’s Immersive Media & Reading Consumer Survey, Dr. Kathi Inman Berens (Associate Professor of Book Publishing and Digital Humanities, at Portland State University) and Dr. Rachel Noorda (Director of Book Publishing and Assistant Professor in English) conducted a consumer behavior study focused on how book discovery works and how libraries fit into the book discovery ecosystem. In April, they spoke about their work on the BookSmarts podcast.

Dr. Berens notes, “In roughly equal numbers, people find a book online and then buy it in a bookstore, or discover a book in a bookstore and then buy it online. It’s actually far more fluid than just looking at sales data would suggest.

“The diversity of ways that people discover books suggests that there’s no one formula for discovery. We do know that people have multiple touch points… We also know that people are largely unaware of how metadata works, how algorithms and recommendation algorithms work. So a question that would be super hard to capture in self-report data would be: How many times did you encounter this book before you finally decided to open your wallet? Or you finally decided to check it out from the library? That’s hard for consumers to be aware of.”

Immersive Media & Books: Consumer Behavior and Experience with Multiple Media Forms, Portland State University 2021, Published by Panorama Project

Dr. Norda adds, “Our study was a cross-media one, and what we found is that avid readers are also avid media consumers in other categories. They’re gaming, they’re watching TV and movies. And there is a really high discovery rate cross-media. About 60% of people are going from engaging with a book to then finding a new TV series, or movie, or game. 61% are going from TV or movie to then finding a book or a game. Games was the lowest [category for cross-media discovery]—but still, about a third, 33% [are] engaging with a game and then finding other media like a book or TV/movies. Cross-discovery is something I don’t think we engage enough with in the industry, to think about readers as cross media consumers.”

Listen to Dr. Norda and Dr. Berens on the BookSmarts podcast!

Data is only as useful as its context

We at NetGalley firmly believe in giving publishers access to their data about NetGalley activity. Information like early impressions, numbers of requests and, of course, the Reviews and Feedback they receive give marketers and publicists the tools they need to analyze the effectiveness of their strategies. This early data helps build context for not only their NetGalley efforts, but their work as a whole. (Have you read our article, The Importance of Early Data?)

Earlier this year, Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Content Officer at LibraryPass spoke with the BookSmarts podcast, saying, “My issue with ‘data-driven’ is [that] it’s become kind of a buzzword that’s lost its original meaning. I compare it to the early days of GPS, where if you’re not paying attention, GPS will drive you off a cliff.

“Data is only as useful as the context you’re pulling it into, and the other insights you bring to it. Otherwise it can cause you to make some rather myopic decisions. [If] you’re getting all this sales data that says, 70% of our sales are from Amazon, a data-driven approach might say, ‘All right, we’re gonna put 70% of our resources and effort towards maximizing sales on Amazon.’ And data-informed says, ‘Okay, well, we know Amazon is a transactional point, for a lot of people, but it’s not necessarily the point of discovery. [There are] sites that include links to Amazon, social links…’ 


“Data is only as useful as the context you’re pulling it into, and the other insights you bring to it.“

– Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, Chief Content Officer at LibraryPass

“There’s a lot of reasons people go to buy a book on Amazon, and half of them have nothing to do with Amazon helping them discover that book. So if you decide to shift 70% of your resources towards Amazon advertising, and you’re only prioritizing metadata on Amazon, you potentially are losing all of the other touch points that drove those sales to Amazon and suddenly, your Amazon percentage may stay at 70% but your overall sales may drop. And that, to me, is one of the key differences between we’re data-driven versus data-informed. That’s where you really draw a line.”

Joshua Tallent, Director of Sales and Education at Firebrand Technologies and BookSmarts host, adds, “The amount of data you have and the type of data you’re pulling in…  if you’re only looking at a subset of real information, then you’re only going to have enough information to make a very narrow choice. But when it comes down to the data that publishers receive, a lot of times, they don’t get enough data to really be able to be data-informed in the first place. And so you feel like you have to be data-driven, and just make decisions based on what you’ve got.”

Data informed publishers constantly analyze their raw data from as many sources as they can find—from their own internal databases as well as data from their partners’, even beyond sales data. What data points do you use to inform your strategies?

Listen to Guy LeCharles Gonzalez on the BookSmarts podcast.

Backlist is the backbone

Although most titles available on NetGalley are pre-pub, frontlist books (“galley” is in our name, after all), we often work with publishers to promote backlist as well! Often, a publisher wants to promote an author’s previous works on the cusp of a new release, or an important current event may make an older book suddenly relevant to audiences again.

In his interview with BookSmarts, Michael Cader notes, “It’s sort of extraordinary that the business is doing so well given the depth of the real challenges we’re seeing. One is just the increasing difficulty of selling new books, right? You know, what we’ve seen during the pandemic is the backlist sales continue to rise. Backlist sales have been rising for years, which is in part a function of the increased percentage of book sales online, right? Because an online environment is less conducive to displaying new titles, and stacking them up and putting them in prime real estate [as happens in brick and mortar stores], and more conducive to people browsing or searching, or going to look for the book they want at the price or vendor they want to get it from.”

Chief Marketing Officer at Open Road Integrated Media, Mary McAveney, in a separate interview adds, “Lots of publishers saw great increases in revenue and in sales during that time when people were turning to online search, or browsing [retail sites], but a lot of what was happening is readers were gravitating to books they knew about. They either remembered, or they were classics or somehow the book had an audience.”

Referencing BookNet Canada’s study Aged like a fine wine: What’s the ideal age for a backlist title?, Joshua Tallent says, “When you get into two-to-five years, things really pick up. And so there’s an opportunity there for publishers to take advantage of that—especially with debut authors, or lesser known authors, or those midlist titles that aren’t necessarily the ones that are really going to push a ton of marketing on at the beginning, because they don’t have the time or the energy or the or the money for that. Hitting that middle time period, that two-to-five years, might be just a benefit to go back and say, Hey, let’s just put a little more at this, let’s think about these titles that really haven’t… they’ve kind of been selling a little bit here and there. Let’s put a little bit of effort behind them.”

In a few different conversations, Joshua wants to focus on practicalities. He notes the opportunity and asks, “Where do you think discovery comes from? What do you think that can be doing to really push more discovery?”

Drive discovery by joining communities

Connecting directly with readers has long been at the forefront of publishers’ efforts. Within NetGalley, we see publishers directly invite important media contacts, reviewers and influencers, and use their reports to follow up directly with them. As you can imagine, a number of the people who Joshua interviewed spoke about direct-to-reader efforts as well.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez says, “A lot of the practicalities come from a direct connection to readership. One of the first things I look at is: if you’ve got a clear vertical that you serve, you’ve got opportunities to capture data beyond just the sales data that gets fed to you from your partners.

“…There is a community for everything on the internet, you can get a pretty clear sense of how big it is and how engaged they are. And you can build a business model around that, if you can develop the right content or services—you know, it’s not just about books—for those communities. But it starts with really understanding those communities. And to do that, you got to be a part of them. So you can’t just go buy, you know, Reddit’s mailing list, or do an ad buy on Reddit, and think you’re engaging with the community, you’re just, you know, shifting traditional marketing approaches to the internet.”


“It’s critical to make sure that you’re thinking about the consumer more than you’re thinking about the book.”

– Mary McAveney, Chief Marketing Officer at Open Road Integrated Media

Mary McAveney adds, “If you have a media hit around a book, it’s like manna from heaven…. but you know, what you have to do is actually build your own verticals, to build your own content sites, because there are people looking for books, and they may only know Dan Brown’s name. They don’t know anybody else in that genre, but they know they like that book. It sounds sort of simplistic, but you want to bring in those people who like that book, and it’s really important to make sure that the [next] book you’re putting in front of them when they’re doing that search is something they’re going to enjoy just as much as that book. 

“Authors spend their lives writing [fantastic books] and they shouldn’t be punished just because the demand isn’t evident. You should be able to build that. But it’s work. It’s really creating your own owned media through funnels and content verticals and articles. And if you can harness those readers and really continue that relationship and build it. If you become like a hand-seller you know what [anyone] likes to read, right? Because they’re clicking pretty consistently on the books that they like to read. And as that reader stays in your system for years, you become even more and more familiar with what they’re looking for. And you can really segment the titles well for them, and so that becomes really critical.”


Presented by NetGalley, We Are Bookish is an editorial blog, presenting an independent voice to highlight books and a bookish lifestyle. Recurring features include: book recommendations, author interviews & guest posts from publishing professionals, cover and stepback reveals, gift guides, book club resources, NetGalley member spotlights, and more.

“I know that so many publishers, of all different sizes, are building mailing lists and really trying to develop that one-to-one relationship with the consumer. And it’s critical, but it’s also critical to make sure that you’re thinking about that consumer more than you’re thinking about the book. You have a book you spent a lot of money on to purchase, and you want to push that book out to every consumer you can think of, but that isn’t necessarily going to win the day at the end. You want to really cultivate those customers.

“It’s not an easy proposition. It’s extremely costly to do that. But the way we [at Open Road] started, is really to start with demand. What are people currently searching for? How does that map to the kinds of books that we have available to put in front of them? It starts there, and then you can use those audiences to build—it becomes sort of a pyramid, you get your base of consumers, and then you use those to build on top of it more, more and more. Whether you’re using social channels, or you’re using external newsletter ads, or you’re using just your content and your search engine optimization, or you’re using search engine marketing, there are a number of tools. And they all require a good amount of expertise to function well.”

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

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Robin Whitten on Audiobook Demographics and Quality

BookSmarts Podcast

Ep 18: Robin Whitten on Audiobook Demographics and Quality

In this episode, Robin Whitten, editor & founder of AudioFile Magazine, joins us to discuss audiobook listener demographics and performance quality. Audiobook sales have grown significantly in a short amount of time. With that growth, we have also seen an increase in the number of available audiobooks and a revolution in audiobook production.

Transcript available here.

Robin expounds on some of the major advances in the audiobook world, how the demographics of audiobook listeners are changing, and the genres that are the most popular. She also talks about how important the sound design and narration are to the success of an audiobook, and explains how AudioFile Magazine does its reviews.

Be sure to Check out part two of the NetGalley Listener Survey, which focuses on audiobook reviewers and their listening habits: http://insights.netgalley.com/2021-netgalley-member-survey-part-ii/

Getting started (from the APA): https://www.audiopub.org/industry/getting-started

AudioFile Magazine: https://audiofilemagazine.com

Audiobook Break Podcast: https://audiofilemagazine.com/audiobook-break/

Behind the Mic Podcast: https://audiofilemagazine.com/podcast/

Joshua Tallent is an acclaimed teacher and guide on the role of data in publishing, and a vocal advocate for high quality book metadata. In his spare time, Joshua enjoys playing complex board games, playing Minecraft, and fiddling with his 3D printer.

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