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.


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: https://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.


Audio Publishers Association Webinar: The Future of Audiobooks

Presented November 10, 2021

Let’s examine where professionals from different areas of the audiobook industry see us being in the next 3-5 years. We will ask specialists in the areas of production, consumer sales, independent authors, to forecast the future. Joining us are Kevin Fecu of John Marshall Media, Darren Speers of Authors Republic, and Tarah Theoret of NetGalley.

Watch the webinar here.

The Future of Audiobooks Webinar

The ability to consume more, faster, while multi-tasking will continue to help with consumers, but also book reviewing of all formats. We’ve heard anecdotally from reviewers that they specifically request books in the audio format because they know they’ll be able to listen to it faster and sooner, and fit it into their schedule… this quick turnaround helps ensure that the marketplace is already being populated with early enthusiasm for this format specifically, which will boost pre-orders and sales. 

– Tarah Theoret, Senior Director, Community Engagement at NetGalley

Visit the Audio Publishers Association at audiopub.org

Formed in 1986, the Audio Publishers Association (APA) is a not-for-profit trade association that advocates the common, collective business interests of audio publishers. The APA consists of audio publishing companies and suppliers, distributors, and retailers of spoken word products and allied fields related to the production, distribution, and sale of audiobooks.


2021 NetGalley Member Survey, Part II

All About Audio

In Part I of our Member Survey overview, we saw that 49% of the nearly 10,000 respondents consider themselves to be Audiobook listeners. It was important to us to gain more knowledge about their listening preferences and habits, so we asked Audio-specific questions to those members who favor the format. We’re excited to share even more of what we learned!

Librarians, Educators and Reviewers are the biggest listeners of Audiobooks on NetGalley, though all member types show significant interest in the format! Once we narrowed down those members who consider themselves Audiobook listeners, we asked even more specific questions about their listening habits. The following charts include responses from only those members who indicated that they listen to Audiobooks.

Across all member types, most survey respondents listened to between 1 and 9 Audiobooks in the past year. But a significant portion (20.5% on average) indicated that they listened to 10-19 Audiobooks. Educators in particular fall into this range. As we saw in Part I of our Member Survey overview, ​​NetGalley members are voracious readers and listeners who consume multiple books per year, across formats.

Most members indicated that they listen to Audiobooks daily:

With only one exception, all member types listen to Audiobooks daily. Only Booksellers are slightly more likely to listen on a weekly basis instead.

Since NetGalley members read and listen across all formats, it was important to us to understand why someone might choose an Audiobook over the print or digital format. 58% of respondents explicitly said they choose Audiobooks because they are already a fan of the narrator. This is not surprising, as we’re seeing elevated profiles for narrators online, where they are building loyal followings on social media.

To escalate this growth, Audiobook publishers can strategically include prepub access as part of their marketing strategy, and coordinate even more closely with the marketing and publicity teams who are working on the other formats. This will ensure that important audio-specific info—like narrator or cast—are included in those efforts, and that prepub access is granted to NetGalley members who are likely to access and review both formats. This will help build more buzz and momentum for the Audiobook at on-sale, and it will empower narrators to build their own platforms and following—a similar process that authors have traditionally benefited from.

Did you know . . . Audiobooks on NetGalley currently generate a higher rate of return for Feedback when compared to Digital Review Copies. The Feedback rate for Audiobooks averages about 46%, compared to 33% for DRCs, since January 2021.

When we asked members why they love listening to Audiobooks, they told us that the audio format allows them to multitask. Nearly all of the top five reasons they listen to Audiobooks have to do with this broadest motive:

The top five activities that members participate in while listening to Audiobooks include:

So, where do these listeners discover Audiobooks?

NetGalley is a top source for Audiobook discovery for most members, with Librarians slightly favoring discovery within a library. We’ve only shown the top five responses for each member type in the chart above, but other sources include Libro.fm and Social Media Influencers.

Nearly all members selected Goodreads as their preferred social media platform for Audiobook discovery, with Instagram as a close second. The one exception was Media, who favor Instagram over Goodreads. Facebook is the third choice for all member types.

We also provided a write-in option to tell us specifically who their favorite narrators were, and over 400 individual narrators were mentioned, many of whom were frequently repeated by multiple members. Julia Whalen was named over 100 times! 

NetGalley is the top source for Audiobook discovery among survey respondents. On average, 64% indicated they discover Audiobooks on NetGalley.

Additionally, 74% of survey respondents said NetGalley Promotions influence their decision to request or download books and audiobooks! Did you know that Audio publishers can take advantage of any of the NetGalley Promotions found in our Media Kit? Explore our Audiobook-specific Recently Added Spotlights and seasonal Audiobook-specific Newsletters—both with special pricing!

We have been so thrilled to work with publishers to promote their Audiobooks. Since NetGalley introduced the audio format on our platform in 2020, over 45,000 members have expressed interest in Audiobooks within their NetGalley Profile and have submitted over 100,000 Feedback and Reviews.

These survey results reinforced how valuable NetGalley can be for Audiobook publishers, so we’re offering new clients a FREE 2-month subscription*—if you sign up by December 31, 2021. Existing clients can get FREE placement in our next Audiobook Newsletter on January 13, 2022 (a $500 value).

Email concierge [at] netgalley.com before the end of the year to take advantage of either offer!

For more information about the NetGalley community as a whole, in particular their habits with digital and/or print formats, please see Part I of our Member Survey overview.

*This free 2-month offer allows for up to 5 active audiobooks on NetGalley, a value of nearly $800. If you’re interested in adding more than 5 audiobooks, please let us know!

All data taken from NetGalley’s 2021 Member Survey (conducted from August 14 – 31, 2021), and/or from member stats and activity on the NetGalley.com platform as of September 2021.


2021 NetGalley Member Survey, Part I

Over the past two years, NetGalley has recorded unprecedented growth. Since 2019, the NetGalley community has grown by 50%! With so many new members, we knew it was important to gain more knowledge about their reading preferences and habits to ensure we understand how and why they interact with books, whether on NetGalley or elsewhere.

This summer, we launched a survey and nearly 10,000 active NetGalley members in the U.S. answered our call. We’re excited to share what we learned!

49% of all survey respondents consider themselves audiobook listeners, and that’s still just a fraction of the over 45,000 members who have expressed interest in Audiobooks within their NetGalley Profile. Keep an eye out for more insights about Audiobook listeners in the coming weeks—we’ll have more to share about the audio-specific questions from this survey in Part II of our Member Survey overview! Keep an eye on your NetGalley publisher dashboard to be alerted about it!

While BookTok continues to turn backlist titles into bestsellers, at this moment TikTok is relatively low on our members’ social media priorities. For Booksellers, it was the 5th top social media platform (after Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). For Reviewers, Educators and Librarians it came in as 6th.  Although social media trends ebb and flow, if Bookstagram and BookTube are anything to go by we’re sure to see BookTok continue to gain traction among NetGalley members. We’ll be paying close attention to their habits in this space.

It’s probably no surprise that Goodreads is among the top platforms for talking about books, and Bookstagram continues to be a popular and powerful platform for NetGalley members. As you can see above, it is among the top social platforms for nearly all members. This is especially true for Audiobook discovery, which we’ll share more about in Part II of our Member Survey overview. 

When you are working on social campaigns for your books, be sure to include NetGalley in those plans! Customize the hashtags you’d like members to use when they’re talking about a book, and consider a Sponsored Social Package with shareable posts and interactive content. (See page 18 of our 2022 Media Kit.)

74% of survey respondents said NetGalley Promotions influence their decision to request or download books and audiobooks!

Perhaps no surprise, but in addition to posting reviews on Goodreads, NetGalley members also use that platform to discover new titles as well. Friend and peer recommendations remain high.

As a resource for discovering new books, Publishers remain high on the list for all member types! All of your efforts to invite members using the NetGalley widget and approving requests are working–we’ve seen an average of over 230,000 monthly approvals in 2021.

As you can see, even aside from NetGalley our community is very active in the bookish world. We know that NetGalley members are avid readers, and it was important to us to gain a greater understanding of their habits even outside of our own system. Demonstrated in the charts below, NetGalley members are definitely reading both print and digital.

NetGalley members are voracious readers–consuming multiple books per year, across formats. In addition to Print and Digital formats, Audiobooks continue to grow in popularity among our members. On average, 20.5% of survey respondents said they’ve listened to 10-19 Audiobooks in the past year. We’ll go into more detail about this in Part II of our Member Survey overview!

It’s clear that NetGalley members favor the digital format, but they are very driven to consume book content in any form and continue to read and purchase books beyond their activities on NetGalley. Remember to follow up with approved NetGalley members at the pub date to remind them to share their reviews, as well as offer them retail links to share with their audiences (or use themselves!).

Finally, here’s a look at the full, 650k-strong NetGalley.com member community today. We are proud to work with these highly engaged and supportive reviewers, educators, media, librarians, and booksellers. They’re here to help your books succeed!

650k NetGalley.com members as of November 2021

NetGalley.com Activity

257k unique users monthly
409k avg Requests each month for Books & Audiobooks
87% approved books are downloaded
82k avg Feedback each month for Books & Audiobooks

Part II of our Member Survey overview will be released soon, all about the NetGalley community’s Audiobook listening preferences. Keep an eye on your NetGalley publisher dashboard to be alerted about it!

All data taken from NetGalley’s 2021 Member Survey (conducted from August 14 – 31, 2021), and/or from member stats and activity on the NetGalley.com platform as of September 2021.


Brian O’Leary on the Future of Publishing

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.

Ep 2: Brian O’Leary on the Future of Publishing

In this episode of the BookSmarts Podcast, Joshua interviews Brian O’Leary, Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), the US book industry’s trade organization. Brian and Joshua talk about three areas where Brian sees the industry struggling now and with space for continued growth in the future.

Transcript available here.

First, Book Publishing is a small industry, so it is important that we leverage our collective strengths to solve problems and become more forward-thinking, using standards and other technological investments to do so.

Second, we are seeing a growing emphasis on rights sales and information sharing, but there are some large technological limitations that still need to be overcome in that area.

Third, the “last mile” of publishing is shifting, both for retail and for libraries, but the industry does not yet have enough data about how books are found, evaluated, and purchased. We need to better understand our market and the path book readers and consumers take.

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.


Announcing NetGalley’s 2022 Promotions

View the 2022 Media Kit here!

Hundreds of publishers use our powerful platform to launch their frontlist and leverage their backlist. Whether your goal is to reach trade professionals and early influencers, generate reviews, run giveaways, collect pre-orders, advertise around the pub date, or connect directly with your audience—we have options for every budget, goal and type of book.

74% of members said NetGalley Promotions influence their decision to request or download books and audiobooks!*

These popular programs continue to deliver outstanding results while remaining at a competitive price—even while NetGalley has sustained record-breaking traffic over the past two years. NetGalley.com continues to average nearly 7 million pageviews each month, and our promotional programs are highly valued for their strong engagement rates.

Our dedicated team is committed to meeting the increased demand, so we’ve expanded our inventory for 2022—including brand-new offerings, too!

It is our sincere pleasure to be part of the success of your books, and we look forward to working with you on great campaigns in 2022.

*per August 2021 Member Survey with nearly 10,000 respondents


BookSmarts: A New Podcast from Joshua Tallent

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.

Ep 1: Publishers Are in a Moneyball Situation

In this episode, Joshua discusses how he sees some similarities between the state of the publishing industry and the story of the Oakland A’s baseball team as told in the movie Moneyball. Competition is fierce, and solid data practices can be the key factor between success and failure.

Transcript available here.

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.


Case Study: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

How Penguin General (UK) used NetGalley to create positive word of mouth before publication, as well as making sure there were an unmissable number of reviews when the book was finally released.

Thursday Murder Club 
by Richard Osman

Richard Osman made his name as a television producer and performer, but his high profile did not necessarily guarantee his debut novel would be a success. Penguin General therefore created a stand-out campaign that blended celebrity-style publicity (television, radio, print interviews) with a more traditional crime fiction promotion, of which NetGalley was an integral part.

Georgia Taylor, Senior Campaigns Manager, and Ellie Hudson, Campaigns Officer, from Penguin General share how they helped make The Thursday Murder Club the bestselling fiction title of 2020.

What were the key goals for The Thursday Murder Club?

Our key NetGalley goals for The Thursday Murder Club were reaching a core bookish audience; building buzz and excitement pre-publication, and accumulating a large number of consumer reviews to confirm the book’s quality.

Richard Osman already had an existing fan base, but we also wanted to reach a general fiction reader – and we know NetGalley is a great way to do this. The Thursday Murder Club is an uplifting, funny, brilliant novel that matches Osman’s quintessentially British brand and reads like Agatha Christie meets The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. We knew we had a fantastic debut novel and we wanted to ensure that general readers weren’t put off from what they might perceive as “celeb fiction” so building reviews pre-publication was a key aim from the very beginning of the campaign.

It is often tempting to keep a title ‘exclusive’ when you have a big book. Why did you decide to proactively look for reviewers and other influencers?

We were confident that we had a brilliant novel and we wanted the online bookish community to fall in love with The Thursday Murder Club as much as we had. We also knew that this was the beginning of a series and one of our campaign goals was to establish Osman as a brand author. It was therefore important that we introduced as many readers as possible to The Thursday Murder Club. We didn’t want the book to feel exclusive or elitist – we knew that NetGalley members who read and enjoyed the book would then go on to champion it online and that was far more valuable to us.

We knew that NetGalley members who read and enjoyed the book would go on to champion it online.

Did you coordinate the NetGalley campaign with a physical proof mailing? Or was that complicated by the pandemic?

NetGalley became a lifeline during the first lockdown when our warehouses were closed and we were unable to send out physical proofs for a while. During this time, we used NetGalley to send DRCs out to press and media, but we kept the title private until later in the year. We wanted to wait until the eBlast in July before we made the title available to Request to make as big a ‘moment’ of it as possible. We wouldn’t normally run an eBlast just 2 months before publication date, but we suspected demand would be high and waiting would allow us to work the eBlast into the buzz-building campaign we were running in the lead up to publication.

Your eBlast featured links to request and to pre-order. What was the thinking behind this?

We ran the eBlast for The Thursday Murder Club in July, following lots of buzz and excitement for the title online (film news and lots of endorsements from respected authors) so we suspected that there would be some NetGalley members who would want to order a physical copy as well as request to read a digital version. We therefore linked to the Waterstones special edition, which also allowed us to support an important retailer.

To entice NetGalley members to request the book, we used a creative that highlighted the numerous, amazing endorsements from big-name, well-respected authors, which highlighted its quality and portrayed our confidence.

After our dedicated eBlast, we received 1,064 requests to read the book in under 24 hours, which was greater than we could have hoped for!

How did you go about managing requests for such a popular title? 

After our dedicated eBlast, we received 1,064 requests to read the book in under 24 hours, which was greater than we could have hoped for! We wanted the novel to be widely available to all bloggers and reviewers, as previously stated, but in order to manage such demand for a title, we raised our usual benchmarks for approval, granting access to those who had a higher feedback percentage. For those whose requests were therefore declined, we created a sampler of the first few chapters and included a link to this in our Decline Email.

New requests as a result of Dedicated eBlast

Which NetGalley reports or analytics are most important to you and your team? How do you use them?

Ellie and I work on commercial fiction at Viking, Penguin General, so NetGalley is always a key tool in our campaigns. Reader reviews are incredibly important to us and the reach of the NetGalley platform allows us to engage with the wider book blogging community.

Reviews on NetGalley can often shape how we are positioning a title and in some cases, very early feedback has even prompted us to tweak the content of the book if there is a particular scene/plot point that readers are struggling with. The wider analytics are also helpful and we monitor them frequently, but we find that taking the time to read the reviews – good and bad – is most valuable. We gain a greater understanding of how consumers are responding to elements, which can then be utilised in our messaging, and we frequently use them as a gage of how successful we think the overall campaign will be.

Reviews on NetGalley can often shape how we are positioning a title and in some cases, very early feedback has even prompted us to tweak the content of the book if there is a particular scene/plot point that readers are struggling with.

Georgia Taylor is a Senior Campaigns Manager at Penguin General, delivering marketing strategies and campaigns for commercial fiction brands such as Richard Osman, Cara Hunter, Josie Silver, Tana French and more. In her spare time she writes and manages a bookish YouTube channel called Rose Reads.

Ellie Hudson is a Campaigns Officer at Penguin General, creating and implementing buzz-building marketing campaigns for debut and established authors including Richard Osman, Cara Hunter, Jane Corry, Lizzy Dent and more. In her spare time, she shares her love of books on her Bookstagram page @Ellie.is.reading.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length. Read the rest of the NetGalley case studies here!


10 Common Questions

NetGalley is a vital promotional service hundreds of publishers and authors use to enhance their marketing and publicity campaigns, but with so many ways to use NetGalley we know you may be wondering where to start! From widgets to wishes, promotions and reports, NetGalley offers tons of features to ensure your books get the enthusiastic launch they deserve. Whether you’ve just started with us or you’re a longtime user in need of a refresher: Hello, welcome, and read on for some NetGalley publisher must-have information!

1.  How do I invite contacts to view my title?

Seamlessly send pre-approved digital copies of your books to your own trusted contacts using the NetGalley widget. The widget can be used anywhere a link is used—just copy and paste it into an email with your custom pitch. YOU retain your personal connection with the recipient, while ensuring they can easily access the book on their preferred device.

Secure widgets use an email address or a list of emails to secure your title. Only recipients who log in to a NetGalley account with this pre-approved email address are authorized to use that widget.

You can also choose to create an Open widget, which is not assigned to any email addresses, and can be used by anyone who receives the link. We recommend sending open widgets to trusted contacts, like an editor who will assign the title to a reviewer. No matter what, you can always see who has accessed your titles in your NetGalley publisher account. 

Here’s some suggested language to use, which includes a link to our Device Guide and support team. We encourage publishers to customize the template language, but this should give you a strong foundation!

NetGalley Widget FAQs

2. How can I tell who has accessed my book?

Find this information by navigating to the Title Details page of your book and clicking on Approval History in the left-hand sidebar. This will take you to the Members with Access page, which breaks down these members into various categories—Approved, Auto-Approved, Read Now, Widget Invites, and Wishes Granted. You can see if a member has clicked to read or listen to your book. You can also find this information on your Detailed Activity report.

Request History FAQ

3. What is the difference between Private, Read Now, Available for Request? 

Publishers have complete control over who can access their books on NetGalley. You have a few different options: Private, Read Now, and Available for Request. 

Private: NetGalley members won’t know your title is available on the site unless you invite them to view that book using the widget, or if you use the book’s link to collect wishes.

Read Now: Members will have instant approval, so it’s best to use this option when you want to approve all requests automatically. Publishers often use the Read Now option for special promotions—like making a title available to Read Now for a limited time or number of downloads—or for special content like samplers, excerpts, catalogs, or backlist titles.

Available for Request: You will make the decision to approve or decline each member’s request to access that specific title. You can also allow requests from only certain member types for specific time periods—for more information, click here.

Title Availability FAQ

4. What does auto-approving a member do?

Many publishers have a VIP list of readers, like ALA-member librarians, trusted reviewers at media outlets, and bloggers who reliably provide great reviews for your titles. You can make their day by auto-approving them! Once a member is on your Auto Approved List, any requests they make for your titles will be automatically approved, so they don’t have to wait for you to see and approve them manually.

Auto-Approved Members FAQs

5. What file types are best to upload to NetGalley? 

 NetGalley publishers can upload 3 different file types for digital review copies: ePub, mobi, and PDFs. Audio publishers can upload zipped MP3 files.

An ePub file is preferable for most books on NetGalley and, if an ePub is uploaded, there’s no need to upload a PDF– the ePub will always take precedence over a PDF file, because it provides a better reading experience for our readers. Our file recommendations can be found here.

Content File Troubleshooting and Optimization FAQs

6. How can I test my own files?

Testing files on your computer is simple; you can do so directly from your publisher account! 

To test the NetGalley Shelf app and Kindle app, you can begin by using the widget to grant yourself access to the book. Be sure you have a member account to test with! First, create the widget in your publisher account, then paste the link into a new window or tab. Please note that before navigating to the widget URL, you must sign out from your publisher account—or you may want to use a private/incognito window. Once you click the link, simply sign in to your member account and follow the next steps:

Recommended: To test on the NetGalley Shelf App, first download the app to your iOS or Android device, sign into your NetGalley reader account, and you’re done! If you’ve already accepted the widget you sent yourself, the book will automatically appear in your NetGalley Shelf App!

On a Kindle device: First, ensure that your Kindle email address is on your NetGalley member account in Settings, under Reading Preferences. Also be sure that kindle at NetGalley dot com is approved to send to your Kindle. You’ll only need to do this once.

After you’ve accepted the widget you sent yourself,  simply click “Send to Kindle” from the title details page for the book in question.

If you prefer to download to your computer or another Adobe-supported device, you will need to download Adobe Digital Editions on your computer and sign in using your Adobe ID. Afterward, go to the Title Details page of your book, where you’ll want to click the orange arrow next to Upload/Preview Files in the left sidebar. Click the file type you’d like to test (PDF or ePub), and your file will download.

Previewing Your Files FAQ

7. How can I use the NetGalley reports?

NetGalley reports are an incredibly useful tool for a publisher using the site. You can find them by navigating to a title’s Feedback page or by clicking the purple gear icon on the right-hand side of the Manage Titles page. We have five reports available on NetGalley: Detailed Activity Reports, Feedback Reports, Snapshot PDF Reports, Opinions Reports, and Active Title Reports. Whether you’re looking for consolidated information about reviews submitted for a title (try the Feedback Report!); want to see a summary of the activity for all your titles that are not archived (we’d recommend the Active Title Report!); or if you need to know about every interaction between a title and the NetGalley community (the Detailed Activity Report is perfect for this!), we’ve got you covered. Our reports can help you understand trends, identify media contacts interested in connecting with an author, and even show what your readers are most excited about regarding your titles.

Reporting FAQs and NetGalley Advanced Reports

8. How can I book additional marketing promotions?

NetGalley’s marketing promotions are extremely effective tools to highlight your titles on the site and to access our member community. There are many creative promotions you can book through NetGalley US, with options for any budget and type of book. View the 2021 Media Kit here.  (Our UK promotions are available here!) We encourage publishers to book promotions early, since dates are often booked months in advance. Please note: In order to participate in our promotions, your title must first be listed on NetGalley.

NetGalley Marketing FAQs

9. How do I receive/change email notifications?
To change the email address that receives all alerts, simply navigate to your account Settings, by clicking your publisher name at the top right of your dashboard. In the Email Alerts section, you can change the frequency of these email alerts, as well as who receives them.

If you’d like a colleague to receive the email notifications for a specific title, just go to the Title Details page of the book, scroll down to Settings in the sidebar, and look for “Email Alerts.” The email address you add here will receive request and feedback notifications for that title only.

Email Notifications for publishers FAQ

10. Can I override an approval/decline?

We—or our cats—all click something we didn’t mean to every once in a while! Though there is no way to undo an approval once it’s been made, you can override a decline. If you decline a request by accident, or if you change your mind, you can send the member a widget inviting them to view the title.

More in-depth answers to these, and more, questions can be found on our Publisher Knowledge Base. Pro tip: use the search bar to find the relevant articles to answer your specific questions!