As we begin a new year, it’s always fun to look back on all the great things that happened in the last year. The needs of our clients have always led the evolution of the NetGalley service, and I’m proud that our conversations with various types of publishers continue to drive our development.
Through these conversations, it has become apparent that publishers of all sizes are relying on data to assess how their strategies are working, and if they’re reaching their goals for engagement. More and more of you are employing data scientists, or are analyzing data yourself. Numbers from all across the industry come together to reveal the story about a book’s success. You’re tracking and analyzing results that range from engagement with your social media platforms and click-throughs for your digital advertising, to sales numbers and rankings.
One of the purposes of NetGalley has always been to give you more insight into the success of your pre-publications efforts. Many reports in NetGalley (including Feedback, Opinions, Snapshot, and Detailed Activity) already offer a deep dive into the specific activity your titles are seeing on the site.
During the Firebrand Community Conference this year our CEO and Chief Igniter, Fran Toolan, mentioned the DIKW hierarchy–a model that emphasizes the relationships between data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. The idea is that each level of the pyramid is reached through analysis that adds context to the level below. So data will lead to information, which will lead to knowledge, which will lead to wisdom. Once you reach wisdom, all of that learned experience can guide your actions.
In 2019 we’re excited to bring you even more tools to drive targeted activity on NetGalley, and to display valuable data and information to help you reach those levels of wisdom that can inform your strategies. When you analyze the activity happening in your NetGalley account, it can help you identify early trends so you can anticipate them as your books go on sale, or give you evidence that support a change in strategy.
We are committed to continuing to build tools that will reduce manual effort and time for your staff, and give you more space to gain knowledge about your strategies and the activity they’re generating. It’s our New Year’s Resolution to continue to help you attain wisdom about your strategies, and strive for it ourselves, too.
To learn more, join our webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 30 all about NetGalley Advanced–our new, premier level of service.
Since NetGalley Insights launched in July 2018, we have published nearly 40 articles about the publishing industry – interviews, industry trends, best practices for using social media, case studies from successful book marketing campaigns, and more.
We are looking forward to continuing to leverage NetGalley’s unique place within the industry to provide creative marketing ideas, to highlight the great work that’s being done across the publishing world, and to help our readers keep up with new tech and trends.
We are grateful to our community of publishing industry professionals for sharing their expertise and experience with our audience. And, of course, to you, our readers.
Here’s what we’ve been up to in 2018!
NetGalley has unique access to different members of the publishing industry – we work with authors, publishers, and publicity and marketing services. By sharing their successes and strategies with you, we hope you’ll find new, creative ideas that you can implement, too. In 2018, we interviewed members of the publishing industry at all levels; from interns to senior account executives. We even tapped our own team for their experiences finding and keeping mentors.
We know how valuable it is for authors, marketers, and publishers to learn from each other’s successes. That’s why we feature case studies from our NetGalley clients. We’ve shared the strategies that made Glimmerglass Girl, a debut poetry book, one of the Most Requested poetry titles on NetGalley, how NYU Press successfully engaged with NetGalley members, and North South books used availability settings and timely subject matter to create pre-publication interest for a children’s book.
Readers looking for their next pick tend to trust recommendations from content curators in their communities and online . With that in mind, we talked to librarians, podcasters, and a BookTuber to help publishers better understand these influencers’ communities, what kinds of books they are looking for, and how they find them.
We know that you can’t be everywhere at once, so we’re doing our best to be there for you. NetGalley Insights attended conferences for the ECPA, Firebrand, and for BISG. We listened to book club gatekeepers, including the books editor at O: The Oprah Magazine and the founder of Well-Read Black Girl, talk about what’s important to them as they make their influential book club picks.
With a dedicated NetGalley UK site and partner sites in Germany, France, and Japan, NetGalley is a part of the global book industry. With our global perspective, we featured stories about the German book market and recapped the first year of NetGalley.co.uk.
Subscribe to our weekly digest so that you can stay tuned for everything that NetGalley Insights has in store for 2019. You can expect articles on blockchain and metadata, interviews with content creators and curators, case studies from successful marketing campaigns, tips for authors, and more coming to you in the new year.
It’s been a year since we launched NetGalley.co.uk – our dedicated UK platform, showcasing all the best in British books – and so it feels like the right time to give an overview of all that’s been happening on the site. We’ve been delighted by the response from readers and publishers alike, and are proud of the new ways we’ve been able to highlight titles to prospective new reviewers.
New promotions, new views
With Netgalley.co.uk, one of the main aims was to find new ways for members to find titles – and to show a distinctly British slant on the site. Now members can see only the books for which they are likely to be approved, and British titles are always front and centre on the site. The introduction of featured titles and category spotlights has been hugely successful, boosting impressions, discoverability and requests for all titles included.
Results have been amazing, with an increase in requests for featured titles on the previous two week period varying anywhere from 150% up to 8800%!
Eblasts – more popular than ever
Our dedicated eblasts are sent to all UK members opted into marketing communications, and have become the most popular way of marketing to members. It’s the digital equivalent of a Super-Proof, showing members just how excited you are about a particular title.
We still only ever send one eblast a day to our members, which means that we’ve been fully booked for almost every day – week and weekend – for the whole of 2018. As many of you know, spots are now at a huge premium, so in order to get the date you want, don’t forget to book well in advance. Booking forms for 2019 are here.
2018 has been a brilliant year for NetGalley UK, and we’re very much looking forward to the New Year, and helping publishers really boost the performance of their titles!
For ten years, the ALA initiative I Love My Librarian has been recognizing the best librarians in the country. Communities nominate the librarians who are best supporting their patrons, providing creative programming, increasing intellectual curiosity, and bringing resources to those who need them. Because we also love librarians, NetGalley attended the award ceremony for the ten winners of the 2018 I Love My Librarian Award at the Carnegie Corporation of New York on Dec. 4.
Winners thanked their colleagues for their support and their patron communities for letting them do what they love for a living. They affirmed libraries as places for patrons to explore their own identities and for marginalized groups to find acceptance and support.
One of the patrons who nominated Lindsey Tomsu, a teen and YA librarian from the Algonquin Area Public Library District, described the work she does to create an inclusive atmosphere. “She creates a haven for…teens questioning their identities and orientations, diverse teens, rich and poor alike…” Stephanie H. Hartwell-Mandella, head of Youth Services at the Katonah Village Library thanked the librarians who didn’t bat an eye when she was a curious adolescent who started checking out romance novels. Paula Kelly, library director at Whitehall Public Library, is committed to keeping her diverse community’s needs at the forefront of her programming. She sends a bus every month to pick up patrons (mostly elderly members of immigrant families) to transport them to and from the library. Her library also partners with its Bhutanese community to preserve their shared history and stories, and to share those stories with other Pittsburgh residents. Learn more about all of the 2018 winners here.
Librarians are an important part of the NetGalley community, so we are always curious to learn more about what makes their communities and their libraries unique. And we know that this information is valuable to publishers, as well! Check out our Ask a Librarian series to read more.
Congratulations to the 2018 I Love My Librarian Award winners from all of us at NetGalley!
NetGalley operates all over the world, serving the needs of global publishers. With dedicated NetGalley sites for Germany,France, and Japan, as well as the U.K., we are proud to support many different publishing ecosystems, all with their own unique characteristics. Today, we’re hearing from Karina Elm, who heads up customer relations and community management for NetGalley Germany. Below, she gives an overview of the German publishing landscape and book market.
Germany, well known to some for its great poets and thinkers (to others for its sausages, beer, football and the Autobahn), owns the largest book market in Europe. Struggling – just like in many other countries – with the rise of strong competitors called Netflix, Facebook, Instagram and others, the book is not yet forgotten. On the contrary: Even though the number of people buying books has decreased, individual people actually read more and the amount of titles published per year is still rising. Let’s have a closer look at some facts and figures from the year 2017 as well as some specialties of the German book market!
Bookselling: Bookstores and Fixed Prices
6,000 bookstores are selling books to readers, employing a total of 27,800 booksellers. 3,500 are small independent bookshops and 1,200 are part of bookstore chains. Berlin has the most bookstores in German – 236 stores for its 3.5 million inhabitants.
Many bookstores meet the challenge to compete with online sales platforms by selling coffee, hosting events (like public readings) and turning their shops into cultural meeting points. Since 2015, the German Ministry of Culture honors the most innovative bookshops with the German Bookshop Award.
Germany has fixed book prices. This means that publishers set a price for each book which is then mandatory for retailers. Only a limited number of discounts are allowed. Publishers can change the price, and the price for a different edition may vary. The tradition of fixed book prices goes back to the 19th century, the current law was introduced in 2002. Fixed prices are widely seen as a strong advantage of the German book market since they have benefits for both the industry as well as from a cultural perspective.
Booksellers of all sizes profit from a calculable margin on bestsellers, retailers compete not just with their prices but also with their service. It is beneficial for brick & mortar booksellers in the often destructive competition with online retailers and vendors outside the book industry. For publishers it means that they can cross-subsidise bestselling books with other works, allowing publishing decisions to be made on other aspects than just the selling potential sometimes. This helps support the work of lesser-known authors, as well as titles with complicated or expensive layouts. For readers, the fixed price system results in a large variety of books as well as publishing houses with different profiles. It also allows for a very efficient distribution system: If you order any book at your favorite bookstore you’d most likely be able to pick it up the next day. Last but not least, a strong network of bookshops offering a diverse and colorful range of books is an important part of a diverse and colorful society!
German Readers: Who they are and how they read
Just like in many countries, book bloggers are on the rise in Germany. By 2018, thousands of blogs about books, reviews and other bookish topics can be found online – the actual number is difficult to establish. The blogosphere is very active, well connected and spanning all genres and formats. Booktubers and Bookstagrammers are on a strong rise, too. By now, many publishers are working closely with individual bloggers, some even launched unique platforms for bloggers to read and review their titles. In 2017, the first German Book Blog Award was initiated by NetGalley Germany in cooperation with the German Publishers & Booksellers Association and rewarded the best German-language literary blogger as well as one booktuber. In 2018, the prize was given out in 9 categories, among them Romance, Literary Fiction, Suspense, Children’s Literature, Newcomers and Other Formats.
The Tolino is Germany’s own reading device for ebooks, competing with Amazon’s Kindle – and rising above it with a market share of 40% in 2017. Tolino is a strategic alliance between biggest German retailers to offer and produce e-readers and tablets. In January 2017, the Japanese Rakuten Kobo took over the shares of their former technical partner Deutsche Telekom. 2,000 bookstores sell books through the Tolino system and many independent booksellers are connected to it as well. Contrary to the Kindle, Tolino is an open system which means ebooks can be bought at any participating shop and read on any other device as well.
Book Industry Events, Awards, and Associations
Two book fairs are the German publishing industry’s yearly highlights and every book lover counts the days between them. The big one, Frankfurt Book Fair, is actually the world’s largest trade fair for books and has a long tradition, rooting back to 1454. Every year in mid-October, publishers, agents, tech companies, and content providers meet for business, trading, and international rights deals. Over the weekend, the fair opens for the public. More than 7,300 exhibitors from over 100 countries and more than 286,000 visitors took part in 2017.
In comparison to this, Leipzig Bookfair and it’s 208,000 visitors in 2017 is like a younger sister. It’s history goes back to the 17th century and it is a fair for the public: Visitors can attend all 4 days in order to discover new books and meet their favorite authors. There are hundreds of public readings at the fair but also throughout the whole city of Leipzig which transforms into a huge festival of reading during this time in March.
Germany has numerous literary awards for books and authors. The most famous of them is probably the German Book Prize which can be compared to the Man Booker Prize. Launched in 2005, it honors the best novel written in German in each publishing year and is awarded at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. Most of its winners have already been translated into English, you can find a list here.
The most prestigious literary award in Germany is the Georg Büchner Prize which honors an author’s lifetime of work and was, for example, given to later Nobel Prize winners Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, Elias Canetti and Elfriede Jelinek. A very atypical literary award is the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize. It honors an author for an unpublished literary excerpt only and is very publicly awarded during the Festival of German-Language Literature where the texts are read out loud and the jury comments directly, often very critical, while the audience watches in the room as well as in front of the TV across the whole county.
The German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels), founded in Leipzig in 1825, represents all sectors of the book industry: Publishers, Retail Booksellers, Antiquarians and Wholesalers. They also organize – among other things – the Frankfurt Book Fair and the German Book Prize, and they are custodian of the fixed price system.
NetGalley.de was launched in March 2016 (just in time for the Leipzig Book Fair!) and by now has more than 11,500 members, The first ones to adopt the platform were of course book bloggers who had already used NetGalley.com and were very excited to finally also find German publishers and titles available for them.
German publishers by then were working with their own bloggers already and saw NetGalley as a platform to use it in their communication with those bloggers, and to widen th
eir network. However, a few adventurous German publishers started sending the NetGalley widget to their network of booksellers, as well. It was a big transformation of workflows that have existed for many, many years (and we all know
how painful this can be) but it was worth it: We now receive excited and very happy feedback from both publishers who followed this example, as well as from booksellers, telling us how much easier their daily work has become.
The growing implementation of NetGalley in publishers’ work with booksellers has resulted in the following division of member types, very special for the German market: As of October 2018, 47% of the German speaking members are reviewers, 43% booksellers, 5% media and 5% librarians and educators. Their favorite genres are Fiction (45%), Teens and YA (40%), Thrillers & Crime (37%), Fantasy & Sci-Fi (35%) and Romance (25%). During an average month in 2018, more than 26,000 galleys were sent out through NetGalley.de, and members provided over 5,000 pieces of Feedback.
Do you publish in German? Use NetGalley.de to reach out to our avid community of professional readers, promoting your tiles to German readers! I would be very happy to hear from you via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karina Elm is Customer Relations and Community Manager at NetGalley Germany – and a huge bookaholic. After studying Comparative Literature, she worked for Ullstein Publishers as part of the team around digital imprints Midnight and Forever, and as the online marketing manager at Clear Canvas, an online marketing agency in Berlin. Karina Elm is initiator and driving force behind the German Book Blog Award which launched in 2017 and has been teaching a class at the Free University of Berlin about online reading communities in 2018.
How NorthSouth Books used timely subject matter, modern visuals, and Read Now availability to give pre-publication buzz to the story of an inventive penguin
On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Heather Lennon, managing director at NorthSouth Books.
Below, learn about how she used NetGalley to gather over 100 pre-publication reviews for Chilly da Vinci by Jarrett Rutland. Chilly da Vinci tells the story about a young penguin inventor, tapping into current trends in STEM education for young readers, as well as the maker movement, all with a modern and appealing visual style.
The market for children’s books is especially hot right now. What do you think is unique about this particular segment of the publishing industry, as it relates to marketing and publicity?
Picture book publishing is very interesting in that it’s a visual medium, art and story together. We highlight the illustrations and the story in every book. Right now, I think that is a huge positive as far as coverage in blogs, Instagram, online and in print review journals. For Chilly Da Vinci, Jarrett Rutland’s artwork is so fun and striking–it just pops off the page, so I think it’s very appealing to reviewers.
Where does NetGalley fit into the overall strategy and timeline for Chilly da Vinci?
NetGalley is very important to NorthSouth Books! We always offer our lead titles on NetGalley. We aim to offer them 3-6 months in advance of publication. It’s really helped us reach readers, grow our brand recognition, and amass reviews online.
Which segments of the NetGalley community were most important to you? How did you go about reaching them?
Asking who is most important is like asking my mom to name her favorite child! We love them all. I will say….librarians have been a big part of our publishing program forever. Booksellers are enormously important in the life of a book–we are small enough that we never take a book being in-store for granted. Bloggers, tweeters, instagrammers help us get out the word! This is our world, and we’re lucky to be a part of it.
Chilly da Vinci is a Read Now title. Tell us why that was the right decision for making the title available widely to NetGalley members.
I don’t set a lot of hoops to jump through to get to our titles on Netgalley. I am thrilled that NetGalley members want to open the book. I truly believe, if you read our books, you will enjoy them, you will recommend them and review them. So Read Now is always my preference.
Most NetGalley members who clicked to read Chilly da Vinci listed the cover and the description as the reason for their interest. It comes as no surprise, given that the author is also the illustrator! Tell us about how you created compelling copy for the Title Details page.
It was important to everyone at NorthSouth that we convey that Chilly is a do-er, that this book would appeal to the maker movement. And that Chilly never gives up. And then in general, I think one of the most important things is clean, readable copy, especially online. It’s so basic, but it’s important to make sure that your info has uploaded correctly–not doubled or tripled or cut off in some weird way!
Tell us more about strategies you used to leverage your NetGalley listing outside the site.
Every book has a tip sheet that is fed out online. The sales reps use it to sell the book, and it gets uploaded to Edelweiss–which lots of bookstore buyers use for their job. Whenever we upload one of our books on to NetGalley that is a sales bullet that’s fed out to the world.
How will NetGalley be incorporated into your post-pub strategy?
We will be following up with everyone who reviewed Chilly with a pre-on-sale newsletter with activities and info about Jarrett Rutland’s events. The book launch will be held at an ice cream shop in Asheville on Saturday, Dec. 8. We hope that NetGalley members who loved the book will attend.
What is your top tip for publishers to use NetGalley to its full potential?
Download the reviews and keep those members in mind as you work on future books. It’s not just seeing what people think about this book, it’s being able to reach out to them for the next book as well.*
BookTubers are enthusiastic readers who share their enthusiasm with their audience, which often range in the tens of thousands or more. They recommend new titles, post reviews, unpack boxes of books, show off their bookshelves, participate in interactive reading challenges, and more. In our Ask a BookTuber series, we hear directly from these influencers about their platform of choice, their audiences, and the kinds of books they are most interested in reading for their channel. Plus, they tell us which BookTubers they are watching!
Cece is “23, super gay, and a lover of all things bookish.” She reviews all genres of books, but heavily promotes any and all LGBTQIA+ fiction. Her channel features reviews, recommendations, bookish songs, unboxings, fandom discussions, and the occasional vlog. Here’s a video where she describes herself through books that she loves and identifies with.
I love their support. No matter what I create, there is always a support base there. They rally me on when I’m unable to make as much content, when I make content that is unusual for my channel, and honestly whenever I post. [They] mainly support me through comments on videos, but their support isn’t limited to that. I have a lot of viewers who reach out through Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr to send me messages. Especially if I have posted on Twitter that a video has gone up recently, or that I might be delayed in posting, I get responses and direct messages that let me know people appreciate what I do. Sometimes I get video suggestions, or messages from people letting me know I should put my mental health first. But the comments on videos are where the bulk of information from my [YouTube] subscribers comes from.
There is a real loyalty that I never expected from the viewers of my channel, which is why I’m always motivated to come up with new ideas and read as often as I can. They support me, which makes me eager to create content for them in return.
What should book publishers know about your audience?
The majority of my viewers are between 18-35, despite the fact that I read and review mostly YA. They are eager to learn more about unusual and less publicized books, and especially about diverse releases. They want to be as knowledgeable as possible about which books contain what kind of representation. I can’t count the number of times that I have comments from people about how if they had known a main character was a person of color/queer/dealt with mental illness, they would have read a book so much sooner. Knowing these details is important for my audience; [it] helps to sell them on a book.
What do you think is unique about video as a medium and about YouTube as a platform for book lovers?
I think there is a certain energy when you can actually see a person who is excited or let down or angry about a book. I love reading written reviews, but I really appreciate the spontaneity and extra visual layer of YouTube as a reviewing platform. I think it showcases books in a new way, and as a person who has always loved to read, I adore the different ways readers adapt to sharing their passion.
Describe your tone as a BookTuber: What is it about that tone that resonates with your audience?
I attempt to be positive and uplifting in every video. I think that upbeat aspect of my content resonates with people because they feed off the energy that I put in. I am excited and I don’t hide it, and people appreciate that realness from the YouTubers they watch.
[But also], my tone is determined based on the content I am producing. I think when it comes to books I keep a pretty standard, upbeat tone unless I am doing reviews for standalone books. There are book reviews I have done that are about more serious topics (I did a video reviewing The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas when it was originally released, and there is also my stand alone review of We Are Okay by Nina LaCour) and I think I am a bit more serious in those videos in order to better represent the tone of the [books themselves]. When I’m doing videos where I talk about books I didn’t like, or [sharing] unpopular opinions about books, I still try to be upbeat but it becomes a bit more sarcastic and teasing than in other videos…I never want those videos to feel like downers. [Also,] There are times when I am talking more specifically about my life or specific mental state (as in a recent video I did about my hair and how it affects how I see my sexuality).
I also think that genuine positivity is something that I have needed more and more from the content I have consumed in recent years, so I always want to be that positive voice that others might need as well. Plus, it helps that I am frequently talking to queer viewers about queer stories. So often queerness is turned into tragedy in popular media, so I view my place as a happy lesbian as being important for others to see– it is important for queer viewers to find stories about happy queer people.
Why is video the right platform for you?
Video captures my feelings better than any other medium. I have a degree in English, so there is always this assumption that I must be an effective writer, but I can never quite get across my feelings in writing as well as I do in a more visual medium. When I was a kid, I was a visual comedian. I am a visual learner. I just think that conveying emotion, for me, is largely linked to my physicality, which is why YouTube works more for me than any other medium.
How do you pick books and authors to feature on your channel?
I use a variety of sources, for sure. My anticipated releases almost always come from Goodreads lists and Barnes & Noble’s upcoming releases posts. Other books come largely from recommendations by other BookTubers, but also through announcements on Publishers Weekly and Twitter. My favorite places on Twitter for book recommendations are @LGBTQReads, @bookvvitch, @SaundraMitchell, @romweasleys, @sapphicsolace, @yabookscentral, @prideathon, @bbliophile, and through following lots of big name and indie publishers online. I keep up with release announcements as they come through publishers and authors.
When I pick which books I really want to talk about, though, it is mostly reliant on what I loved most or am most excited to read, while also being influenced by what I think my audience will want to know about. If there is a book I’m not particularly excited about, but it features some form of representation that is harder to find, I will work in ways to discuss that book because I want my viewers to have the easiest access possible to books they may be interested in.
What strategies do you use on NetGalley to find books to request?
I rely very heavily on searching through specific categories. My most searched category is, of course, the LGBTQIA section (pictured left), since that is what my channel’s primary focus is. But often books are not cross-referenced [with other] categories, so there are queer books listed in other places that I don’t find in that LGBTQIA category.* That’s usually when I search through the Teens & YA and, sometimes, the Literary Fiction sections. I will say that, often, digging through the literary fiction books leads me to discovering books I want to read that I had never heard of before. Requesting those books is something I do more sparingly, since I know less about them, but it has led to me finding a variety of books I never would have read otherwise. Beyond that, I sometimes find and request books through NetGalley after an author or another blogger lets me know that a book is available on the site.
*NetGalley recommends making sure that your titles are listed in two categories to increase visibility
What trends in the book industry are you most excited by?
I think there is definitely a trend next year that I’m thrilled about, and that is more f/f romances than I have ever seen through a publishing year. 2019 queer releases are looking incredible, varied, and full of stories and representation that I know my audience has been searching for. I have also been excited about what seems to be a growing number of short story collections and novellas. The changing landscape for format is really thrilling to me, and I am eager to see how that changes the types of stories we are seeing published.
Which BookTubers do you watch?
There are so many, oh wow. I think Adriana from perpetualpages is and has been doing incredible things with their channel. They are thoughtful and critical in equal measure, and always discuss books I was previously unaware of. BooksandLala has been doing creative stuff with her channel for years, and I think this year has been an amazing leap for her in that creativity. I’m constantly impressed by the content she comes up with. There is Monica from shemightbemonica, who is such an advocate and a positive voice within our community. I love Joseph from The Boy Who Cried Books, Nicole from WoolfsWhistle, Kristin from Super Space Chick, Joce from squibblesreads, and Marines from mynameismarines. I think they all do creative and fascinating things to promote books, and there is so much work and care put into all of their content.
The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) works to create a more informed, empowered and efficient book industry. Their membership includes trade, education, professional and scholarly publishers, as well as distributors, wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, service providers and libraries.
Throughout the day, seven different presenters described their jobs – their workflow, the challenges they face, and where their work fits into a book’s lifecycle.
Most of us only see books during a relatively small part of their lives. The details and strategy that consume our workdays are only a fraction of the work that goes in to bringing a book to the public. Acquisition editors see books when they are just manuscripts and ideas. Printers shepard books into the physical world and then pass them along. Library marketers are thinking about how books will live in communities years after their pub date, when the pages are soft and earmarked. This overview of what our colleagues are doing across the industry was a welcome reminder that we all depend on each other’s work to bring the best books to the readers who will love them.
For those who weren’t able to attend, here is a bit of what was covered:
Publishing is beyond personal taste
Contrary to popular conception, Todd Stocke described his role as SVP and Editorial Director at Sourcebooks as less about his own inimitable tastes and more about analyzing data and looking for spaces in the market to tell new stories. For him to be successful at his job, he needs to be able to think outside of his personal preferences and the demographic details that have given rise to his interests and tastes. He has to have an idea of what people of different backgrounds are interested in, and to have access to the writers telling those stories. He described the necessity of having a pipeline that is both broad and deep. A broad pipeline means getting manuscripts from a variety of sources and a deep pipeline means developing relationships with the people providing those manuscripts so that, for example, an agent will know immediately if the manuscript in their hand is the perfect book for the Sourcebooks nonfiction editor.
All stages of book publishing are about the audience
This was the overarching theme of the day. It was not a shock to hear audience as the focus for acquisitions, bookstores, or libraries. These are the parts of the industry that we know need to be responsive to what readers are looking for. But we were surprised to hear how much audience fits into how other players in the industry do their jobs. As Judine O’Shea described the design process for a book, she made the point that a big driver for her is audience-appropriateness. If she’s designing the title and page layout for a children’s book, how many colors will be too busy for young eyes? Will the font be easily legible for early readers? Michael Shea from LSC Communications pointed out that audience use determines the physical form of a book, too. Different binding styles are better for the different ways books live in our lives. For example, an art book that is meant to lay flat on a coffee table will be bound differently than a trade paperback meant to be read on the subway. The glue used on a technical textbook that will be out of date in a few years will be different from the glue used on a book that might be passed down from generation to generation.
Know your local, professional community
Suzy Takacs chalked up some of her success at the Book Cellar to her close relationships with local players of the book industry. She described her warm relationships with other booksellers, and how she has called upon stores like Women & Children First to help her stock titles in advance of events. She even described visiting IPG’s warehouse for a last-minute pickup. She is able to quickly respond to inventory needs and meet consumer demand because she has positive relationships with other booksellers and with distributors. Stephen Sposato of the Chicago Public Library expressed a desire to work more closely with booksellers. He suggested sharing data about which titles have long hold lists, so that bookstores will know what readers are asking for and can make sure to adjust their inventory to align with demand.
Last week, NetGalley joined 230 other attendees from 90 companies in Nashville to attend ECPA PubU. It’s a chance for members of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association to learn from one another, to think creatively about how to market their titles, and to brainstorm ways to expand their audiences. Many publishers and authors who use NetGalley are also members of the ECPA, so we at NetGalley Insights were grateful for the opportunity to hear more about the attendees’ unique needs, goals, and challenges.
Over and over, we heard attendees talking about how publishers and authors can put their readers first: By making it easier for readers to find the books they are looking for in a keyword search, by being experimental and responsive with the implementation of new platforms, by curating content for them in an overstuffed marketplace, and by making sure that marketing emails provide information of real interest and value.
Here are some of the ideas and lessons we’re taking away with us from ECPA PubU:
Better cross-departmental communication is key to making the most out of your metadata
During his talk about metadata, Firebrand Director of Sales & Marketing Joshua Tallent made the case that marketing and data departments should be working together much more closely. He suggested not only that there should be cross-training, but that in an ideal world, these departments would share staff. Metadata is fundamentally a marketing tool, helping with algorithmic discovery. As you might expect, titles with basic metadata (author, title, ISBN) have 75% higher sales than titles without that information. It only stands to reason that data and marketing should be more closely linked at an institutional level. For example, data teams can use keywords to see how audiences are searching for your books and then marketing departments can include that in their copy and as keywords in the metadata feeds that they are sending out to retailers. This way, data insights are made actionable during a book’s lifecycle. Publishers across the industry know that they need to incorporate data into their decision-making process, and creating better cross-departmental collaboration is a great place to start.
Experiment as you implement new channels and platforms
When the Rabbit Room began in 2007, it was a blog for Christian writers, pastors, musicians, and fans to gather together. Now, in 2018 it is a conference, a publishing house, a live music series, and a podcasting network. In his talk, “Building a Community of Readers,” Pete Peterson, Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press, described how Rabbit Room experimented with different ways to connect with their community as it grew and changed. One of those ways was podcasting. At first, they just had The Rabbit Room Podcast, but realized that they were better served by hosting multiple podcasts that could better target the specific interests of their community. They are currently in the process of building the Rabbit Room podcast network with multiple programs geared towards specific interests. This lesson reminded us that when publishers and authors are finding new ways to engage their audience, it’s ok to experiment and pivot to best suit your needs.
Curation is crucial for publishers and retailers of all sizes
In her opening remarks about the future of faith and the future of retail, NPD’s Kristen McLean suggested that the future of retail is a mix of high-touch and convenience. Brands (including publishers and retailers) will have to be both personable and easily accessible if they are going to succeed. Several panelists during the conference described their successes with curation as a strategy for becoming high-touch, but without coming across as overtly sales-y. Stacy Kennedy of Red Bird Social noted the success of Patsy Clairmont’s Patsy Box as a way to connect authentically with fans. David Barker of Readerlink highlighted how Amazon is getting into the curation game as well. Amazon is now offering a podcast full of personalized picks from the Amazon staff, to put a warm human face behind the convenience and the algorithm. Curation is something that can be implemented at an author level (what would your protagonist put on a Spotify playlist?) or at a company level (here’s what our team is reading).
Encourage authors to create around their book topic
Authors need to get the word out about their titles around pub date, but it isn’t effective to just blast out “pre-order/buy my book” emails or social posts. Instead, authors should create content that’s related to their book or to the writing process to build excitement. This should all be done in order to provide something of real value to the audience. For example, author of the Left Behind series Jerry Jenkins described the Facebook group he runs for aspiring writers. He is able to connect authentically with an audience by providing value in the form of writing advice. Then, when he has a book coming out, he has an audience that’s actively engaged with him both as a person and as a writer. He also noted that, as a writer, he’s not inclined towards self-promotion, but this writing group on Facebook feels authentic rather than gimmicky. Additionally, outside of the ECPA ecosystem, Ling Ma did a terrific job with this strategy by writing about crying at work for Buzzfeed News before her novel Severance pubbed.
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Podcasts are an important part of the cultural criticism and influencer ecosystem for books, and beyond. And because audio is such an intimate medium, with hosts speaking directly into the ears of their audience, podcasts develop particularly dedicated fanbases and engaged communities. In Ask a Podcaster, we hear directly from different book-related podcast hosts to help you learn more about their community, what they are interested in featuring on their podcasts, and how they find their next book picks.
Now Now, I’m Reading is a bi-weekly podcast where hosts Chelsea & Kay discuss what they’re reading and loving. Their guiding principle is that they want to read things that make them happy. From comics to romance, through science-fiction, young adult, crime, or fantasy. If it can be classed as genre fiction, it’s something they’ll gush about.
Chelsea & Kay aim to be critical media consumers, but strive to make Not Now, I’m Reading a space for positivity and celebration of media that gets it right.
What do you love best about your audience?
Kay: Personally, I love how excited they are to hear about what we’re reading and that they’re just as happy to share their current media favorites with us. Our listeners tend to be heavy social media users and we interact with quite a few of them through Twitter and our Patreon.
Chelsea: Similar to Kay, I love the fact that our audience feels so much like family. Whenever they reach out over Twitter to discuss an episode, give their feelings about a rec we gave, or to recommend us something in return, it feels like such an equal exchange for love for a thing!
What should book publishers know about your audience?
Kay: Our listeners skew heavily female, which makes sense given how much airtime we devote to romance and fanfiction. Our listeners are also more likely to pick up ebooks and audiobooks, at least the ones who’ve reached out to us. Accessibility is important, for us and for them. We provide full transcripts for every episode of our podcast, so we actually have a fair number of ‘listeners’ who read instead of listen as their primary means of consuming Not Now, I’m Reading. We embed links in the podcast transcript and show notes, too, which makes it very easy for our listeners to click on whatever we’re talking about and snag a copy while they’re still listening to the episode!
Chelsea: Our audience is always on the look for titles that are diverse, current, challenging takes on tropes or themes they love. We are proud of the fact, and our readers respond well to the knowledge that, in the history of our podcast, we haven’t had a book by a cis straight white man as our main focus. Our selections tend to skew heavily towards newer releases, with the exception of YA and middle grade titles, for which we tend to look more towards the backlist.
What do you think is unique about podcasting as a medium for book lovers/cultural commentary?
Kay: There’s something incredibly personal about book podcasts, and not just because there’s something personal about the human voice. Is that a creepy way of putting that? I’ve always felt a sense of intimacy with radio and podcasting. Especially when you have a very informal chatty format like ours, it’s really like you’re sitting down with a couple of your friends to talk about the things you’re enjoying. And while reading is most often a solitary pursuit, I think many book people love discussing what we’re reading and what we’re thinking of reading and how all of those things compare to things we’ve read. Sometimes you don’t have people in your daily life who are big readers, and that’s okay! But it’s nice to listen to other bookish people and media geeks enthusiastically discussing stuff they love. I mean, we love it so much we record ourselves doing it and then send it out into the world for other people to listen to!
Chelsea: Perhaps this feels a bit dramatic, but in a time when it feels like the educational fabric of our country is unraveling bit by bit, we love that we are able to provide a fun, welcoming, open discussion of books and reading in a way that addresses books as they interact with so many other aspects of our lives. Like Kay said, reading can be such a solitary activity, it can feel so good to feel a connection to other people who are reading, and to the world at large through the written word. We try our hardest to be open about our mental states and lives as they relate to the books and media we’re consuming, and that honesty and the personal and cultural overlap is what I’ve always loved most about book podcasts, especially more casual ones like ours.
How do you pick books and authors to feature on your podcast?
Kay: We exclusively feature genre fiction on the podcast, and mostly tend towards romance and SFF. We feature YA, mystery, women’s fiction, and other genres, as well, but romance and SFF are our big two. We also don’t feature any books by cishet white men. There are plenty of places their work is being featured, they don’t need our airtime, too. We also try to have the books and authors featured reflective of our person reading. Both of us set pretty high goals on the numbers of women/POC/LGBTQIA+ authors and characters we want to see in the books we’re reading. We also aim to talk about new releases within a month of launch date, but we pre-record episodes because of scheduling constraints, so it’s not always guaranteed. As far as authors we interview? At this point they’ve all reached out to us first, but we have a bit of a dream list of people we’d love to have on to talk with us.
Chelsea: Kay pretty much summarized it nicely, but I will also add that we run polls as part of our Patreon, which is where we try and feature more backlist titles and books that revolve around central themes or tropes, which our patrons can then vote on. We choose these titles by the same guiding principles Kay laid out, but this avenue also allows us to interact with our audience in a more engaged way!
If you use NetGalley, what strategies do you use to find books to request?
Kay: Is it awful to say I don’t really have a strategy? It’s not very Slytherin of me, surely. I’m usually already coming to the site with abbook or an author or very rarely a rough target release date in mind, on the off-chance we have an unexpected schedule gap for a specific air date. I do less browsing and more targeted searching.
Chelsea: Whereas, being the Hufflepuff in this scenario, I go entirely by window-shopping feel! I have most of the major publishers for our two biggest genres (SFF and romance) bookmarked and once every few weeks I’ll go and just browse by cover art, author familiarity, or just things that catch my wandering eye. In and of itself it’s not really much of a strategy, but the more browsing I do the better my gut intuition becomes.
What trends in the book industry are you most excited by?
Kay: I’m terrible about keeping track of trends! I tend to find new authors and subsequently binge their backlist titles, so I’m not always great at staying on top of new releases. I hope it’s not a trend (since that implies it’ll end relatively quickly), but I do love that even self-pubbed and small press books are starting to be more readily available on audio. At least 50% of the novels I read consumed in audiobook format. I’m also a big fan of how many ‘spinoff’ series are being picked up by mainstream publishers. For instance, Alisha Rai recently sold a spinoff series of her Forbidden Hearts books, which Chelsea and I adore. The first book in the new series will focus on the sister of a heroine from the previous series.
Chelsea: Like Kay mentioned, I am thrilled by the rise in audio consumption and availability. We consume so much of our own media in an audio format, and we know a great number of our listeners do as well, that it’s really exciting to see smaller presses get that audio treatment. On a smaller scale, I’m really excited in what seem to be trends towards musicians in romance and WAY less grimdark in SFF. I’m all about both of those things, very very much so!