Bethany House curates an engaged community of faith-based and general readers on NetGalley, earning impressive review counts and social share numbers
Sometimes at NetGalley, we field concerns from faith-based publishers that books with religious themes won’t perform well in our catalog. Publishers aren’t always sure that their books will find their readers if they have religious or spiritual underpinnings. But Bethany House demonstrates that with strategic use of NetGalley’s tools, faith-based books can become major successes on the site. Their contemporary romance Falling For You received over 75 5-star reviews and was named a 2019 Christy Award winner by the ECPA. The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White, historical fiction set in the world of WWII’s British code-breakers, earned 150 reviews, a 4.6 average star rating, and over 300 social shares.
Amy Green, Senior Fiction Publicist at Bethany House, shares how she used tools like the widget and the Auto-Approved list to build pre-publication buzz for the latest historical fiction from Roseanna M. White. Plus, how she thinks about the intersection between a faith-based readership and a general one.
As a Christian publisher, how do you think about promoting your titles to a general audience, as well as a faith-based one?
One of my favorite things to see as a publicist is a NetGalley review that starts something like, “I don’t usually read Christian fiction, but this book was amazing…” You’d be surprised how often we hear that sort of thing. Readers who might never wander into a specific genre’s section of a bookstore or library will see a stunning cover or compelling plot description on NetGalley and request to read it. The barrier to entry is pretty low, and oftentimes they end up loving the book and seeking out more from that author. Christian fiction (also called inspirational fiction) has changed a lot over the years, and many readers outside of a faith background tell us that the spiritual aspects of the stories feel natural to the characters and the development of the plot. We love granting requests from people outside of our usual readership!
How do you use NetGalley marketing?
We’ve used placement in NetGalley newsletters to launch debut authors in particular, especially ones with striking covers like The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright and Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes, which we had featured in the Mystery/Thriller and Summer Reads newsletters respectively. It’s a great way to get the names and work of authors just starting out in front of a wide range of influential readers.
What kinds of members are you most interested in connecting with on NetGalley?
We love the connections we’re able to make through NetGalley with collection-development librarians, bloggers, and media. The ability to zip a NetGalley widget off to a reviewer has made it much easier for me to schedule interviews and blog tours. Some contest coordinators even request NetGalley to send copies of entrants’ books to judges, giving them additional time to read and choose finalists—and eliminating the worry of copies getting lost in the mail. Most recently, we sent widgets to judges for the Realm Awards, a competition for speculative fiction books written by Christian authors.
162 members from your Auto-Approved List accessed The Number of Love. How do you build this list and engage with its members?
We want our Auto-Approved list to be a targeted group of readers and influencers with a high capacity for reading across multiple genres. These are the folks who aren’t just interested in the latest release from one favorite author, but who want to promote all subcategories of inspirational fiction. One way that we do that is by accepting applications from interested readers. They answer a few questions, like “Send us a link to a review you’re most proud of” or “What’s something unique you do to promote authors and their books?” If we like what we see, we’ll invite them to join the team. Other cases are even more specific. I saw a Bookstagrammer gushing online about being Auto-Approved for Bethany House—”It’s like I just won the reading lottery!” It was great to see someone excited about reviewing our books…and I took note of a few of the influencers who commented on that post to message them about joining our team of reviewers as well.
Some of the members of the Auto-Approved list are just added without much ongoing maintenance required (a reviewer for an online publication, for example). But we have a newsletter list for about 200 of the top influencers we’ve identified and Auto-Approved. We send them updates about new books added to NetGalley on a monthly basis along with our recommendations.
How did you incorporate the widget into your launch strategy for The Number of Love?
In our initial marketing strategy calls with authors, we always mention that their book will be available on NetGalley as soon as editorial approves a manuscript for us to use, often four to five months before release. That way, both the author and our marketing team can plan to have a standardized e-copy of their book ready to use for any initiatives where that would make sense. For The Number of Love, we planned to use the widget to send to advance endorsers, launch team members, and blog tour participants who preferred an ebook copy.
Tell us how you used NetGalley for The Number of Love‘s blog tour and to support Ms. White’s launch team?
Several of our authors, including Roseanna White, love to send physical books to launch team members, sometimes with notes and goodies. However, that takes time for shipping and packing, and often readers on their launch team want to read the book long before we can actually get a package to their doorstep. By using NetGalley, we’re able to catch that early “buzz” from some of the author’s biggest fans and make sure other readers think, “What’s this new novel we’re hearing about everywhere?” during pre-order season. It also helps the launch team members, many of whom juggle busy lives with their book blogging, podcasting, or Instagramming, to be able to work ahead of schedule and have a review ready by or before the release date of the book.
NetGalley members shared feedback for The Number of Love over 300 times. How did you encourage them to share their influence so widely?
Something I’ve been doing recently is reminding bloggers and influencers who use NetGalley that, at Bethany House, we often notice and pass along especially glowing reviews to our authors. It can be a huge incentive to review a book if the reviewers genuinely feel that their words aren’t just increasing their chances of being approved for future books (although that is true), but could also be encouraging to a writer who might be discouraged and under deadline for a future project.
Amy Green is the Senior Fiction Publicist at Bethany House Publishers, where she connects authors with readers by arranging interviews, sending out review copies, answering social media questions, and occasionally serving cake at authors’ launch parties. You can find her writing about all things bookish at bethanyfiction.com, or check out Bethany House Fiction on Facebook or Instagram.
*Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.