Case Study: A Perfect Vintage by Chelsea Fagan

Using authentic, creative enthusiasm to connect with new audiences

Having previously published nonfiction, Chelsea Fagan knew she’d need to tap into a new audience with her novel. Creating an author platform is no easy feat, and in this interview Chelsea shares more about how she pivoted to reach fiction audiences with organic, authentic efforts.

What were your initial goals in listing A Perfect Vintage on NetGalley? Did those goals change or evolve over time, and if so, how?

My initial goal was to reach a wider audience with my novel – since my previous books and current platforms are in the nonfiction space, I wanted to find new readers in my new genre (romance) in an organic and mutually beneficial way. This didn’t particularly change with time.

A Perfect Vintage is your debut novel, but it’s not your first book. How did your prior experience inform your independent publication process this time around?

I’m very familiar with the publishing process, and have always been extremely hands-on with my other books, even when traditionally published. So I basically knew how I wanted to do everything, and really enjoyed the ability to have control over the creative and marketing decisions.

A Perfect Vintage was named a 2023 Harper’s Bazaar Best Beach Read, received praise from bestselling authors like Ashley C. Ford and ST Gibson, and was covered in BookRiot and The Skimm, among others! What role did you as an independent author play in securing media coverage for A Perfect Vintage?

I’m lucky that I’ve worked in media essentially my entire career, and I have a fabulous marketing partner with whom I’m profit sharing on the book, so between the two of us we were able to secure a lot of really organic, authentic media coverage between people we knew or had worked with over the years. I took a lot of care in sending out galley mailers with personalized notes and ribbons, even doing themed gift boxes for some recipients – and though that whole process took a lot of time and energy (and standing in line at the post office), it was hugely worth it. People respond to authentic creative enthusiasm.

What strategies, tools, or features in your NetGalley client account did you find most useful in turning NetGalley members’ impressions and requests into Feedback and reviews?

I found it to be quite seamless all around, but I did like being able to see a bit about the profiles of people requesting – if they’re someone who doesn’t at all read my genre typically, that person might be a lower priority than someone who is a big fan of the space.

Now that A Perfect Vintage is published and out in the world, do you have new or additional goals while you continue using NetGalley as your title is still active on the platform?

Making sure it has as wide a level of visibility as possible with booksellers and librarians!

As we alluded to earlier, in addition to your work as a novelist, you are the founder and CEO of The Financial Diet. How did founding and running your own business prepare you for your debut novel’s publication?

I’m very organized, thorough, and single-minded when it comes to pursuing professional and creative projects I’m passionate about. I understand media, I understand creating healthy business models, and I know what I can afford to invest (both in terms of time and money). I also enjoy a four-day workweek at my primary job, so I was able to dedicate regular time to this project without overwhelming myself.

On a personal note, I am obsessed with your cover image! Could you tell us a bit about it? Who was the artist? Did you go through multiple drafts?

Thank you! It’s an original oil painting that I commissioned from the artist Elizabeth Lennie (whose work I love, and whose paintings have previously been licensed for books such as Every Summer After). I hope to continue working with her throughout my romance career, as the cover has been such an integral part of this book’s success!

A Perfect Vintage was selected for free Homepage Placement on NetGalley about a month and a half before its publication. Two weeks later, it was a Featured Title on NetGalley in the Beach Reads (Fiction) theme. What effect did NetGalley Promotions have on your book’s performance?

It automatically reached a much wider audience – when I began this process, I was very reliant on my own platforms, which luckily are sizable. But those features especially allowed me to meet readers who weren’t previously aware of my work.

I understand music was a key influence for A Perfect Vintage — it has its own playlist! How has music shaped your writing?

In every way! As my primary work is more serious, educational content about finance, I want my romance work to be purely about vibes! Enjoying myself while writing is of the utmost importance, and having a fabulous playlist to accompany the process is essential to maximizing the joy. (And people have really loved it, about 1,500 people have saved it on Spotify alone and a lot of people have told me it’s been their favorite summer playlist – I’m honored!)

What’s next for you? What do your readers have to look forward to?

Really exciting things are happening over at The Financial Diet – a fall tour (the theme will be money & love, tying together my two big focuses this year), a totally revamped video series, etc – and then I’m starting work on my next summer romance, which I’m excited to place on NetGalley as soon as it’s ready!

Chelsea Fagan, author of A Perfect Vintage

Chelsea Fagan is a writer, home cook, and the co-founder and CEO of The Financial Diet. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and dog.