How Harlequin used NetGalley tools to give targeted access to NetGalley members and customize followup for a nonfiction book that combines memoir and history
Harlequin’s publicity manager Laura Gianino knew that there would be plenty of interest for The Lady from the Black Lagoon, which tells the story of the woman who created Gil-Man, the monster from Creature from the Black Lagoon…and then never got the credit for it. This hybrid memoir/history has plenty of contemporary cultural relevance, released during a time when there is extra attention being paid to gender dynamics in Hollywood, in the workplace, and beyond. Gianino used NetGalley tools to give access to the most influential and active members, and to target her followup accordingly.
How does your strategy for launching new nonfiction titles differ from the trade fiction titles you work on?
With fiction, it helps to have as many people as possible read and share a story, especially for a debut title. With nonfiction, I found that I had to be a little bit more protective over the content, so that readers would feel like they were still learning something new when they did have a chance to read. Because The Lady from the Black Lagoon had some never-before-revealed information about Milicent Patrick and what the author learned about her, I was more guarded in approving requests.
What were your goals for Lady from the Black Lagoon on NetGalley?
With The Lady from the Black Lagoon, Mallory O’Meara was telling a compelling story about a woman no one had ever heard of before. Being able to launch the book on NetGalley before physical galleys were even printed allowed me to get the word out about Milicent Patrick—the subject of the book—early enough to help create some pre-publication buzz and raise awareness about this previously unknown figure.
It’s helpful when you’re building a campaign months out (sometimes almost a year out) to be able to see who is downloading or requesting a title, and to have that ability—through the NetGalley platform—to follow up and engage with them. My goal was to raise awareness for The Lady from the Black Lagoon, so that as we got closer to launch date, consumers and media alike would have already begun to hear about the book, even if it was just through whispers.
Which NetGalley members were most important to you? How did you go about reaching them?
I was most focused on bookstore owners, librarians, media professionals and seasoned bloggers who I knew would talk about their passion for the book without giving anything away.
I was able to filter the requests to only those who I wanted to approve, which was instrumental in allowing me to reach the appropriate contacts for the book.
I also tend to focus on the requestors who give the most feedback (you can sort requests to easily view members who give most feedback) and I’ve found that those contacts are truly the most likely to review a book once they’ve requested it, which saves me the hassle of chasing someone down for a review.
You had over 130 accepted widget invitations for Lady from the Black Lagoon. How did you use NetGalley proactively to reach important contacts or find new audiences?
I was able to use NetGalley widgets to offer The Lady from the Black Lagoon to interested media who reached out to me before we had physical galleys in house, or in cases where I was trying to preserve physical galleys. I was able to see Auto-Approved members who downloaded the widget through the History tab on NetGalley, including reviewers from some of the major media outlets who ended up covering the book. The data was one of the first indications about who was interested in the book, and allowed me to do really targeted follow up knowing who had already requested and potentially started reading, in a way that I’m typically unable to do.
40% of members with access noted that the description was the reason they were interested in the book. What was the strategy behind the Title Details copy?
Mallory O’Meara’s book is about a little-known, fascinating subject—the woman who designed Gil-Man, the monster from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, whose legacy was stolen by a jealous male co-worker at Universal. The movie is a horror classic, and Mallory O’Meara’s book offers the unknown story behind it about a trailblazing woman in a post #MeToo world. The book is full of fascinating details—with the copy, we were able to pull them out.
How did you engage with members who had access to Lady from the Black Lagoon? Did you follow up with them before pub date or after? Did you encourage them to share reviews?
I followed up with bookstore owners, librarians and media once I approved them for a copy. Seeing a name or an outlet indicated interest, which allowed me to follow up in a targeted way. I was able to coordinate events and press this way. Whenever I approve someone I always suggest they review, but I never had to chase anyone down for a review.
How does the success of Lady of the Black Lagoon fit in with other trends you’re seeing across nonfiction? What does its success say about what kinds of stories readers are looking for?
I think readers are looking for more stories about women. Especially women who didn’t receive the recognition they deserved, whose legacies have been or are being erased by men. This is happening across all industries, not just Hollywood. Mallory’s book is unique in that it’s a biography, but it’s also part memoir. She reaches across time and shows how Milicent’s story is her story too, and, in some ways, every woman’s story. The more stories we have and share like Milicent’s and Mallory’s, the closer we are to preventing this from happening to other women.
Laura Gianino is a publicity manager at Harlequin/HarperCollins.
Interview has been edited for clarity and length.