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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!