How a debut author found her fans on NetGalley
Waitlyn Andrews’ Yes, Chef received nearly 400 reviews in less than three months. Read on to hear her journey from writing 3,000 words per day, to learning about book-specific marketing and engaging with her reviewers—even going so far as to change the ending of the book!
Your debut romantic comedy, Yes, Chef, was self-published August 3rd, 2023. What role did NetGalley play in your early promotion of this book?
NetGalley has been my favorite pre-launch promotion tool, so I’m happy to gush all about it. I did a little research on YouTube to find best practice advice from other authors, and in the process found a lot of native content by NetGalley explaining the whole thing! I was several videos deep and convinced I needed to try it out.
Since this is my debut, I started from ground zero. I knew in order to build an audience from scratch, I had to invest in intentional marketing. My day job is in the digital marketing world, but the book world is a whole new industry, so I had a lot to learn. I make most of my personal reading choices based on reviews and ratings, so I chose that as the most important social proof to invest in pre-launch. I went from zero people knowing about my book to an email list of 1,300+ all because of NetGalley, and I’m not even mad about having to upgrade my free mailchimp account because of it!
Yes, Chef is described as “an upbeat, closed-door sizzling-with-chemistry, romantic comedy that will have you believing in the magic of a 90’s Rom-Com again.” What about ’90s rom-coms appeals to you? How do they influence your work?
There’s an inherent optimism in 90’s rom coms that I wanted to dwell in. It’s not that they’re without drama, but I grew up on the idea of strong female leads in occupations that I wanted falling in love with the right guys who support them in that journey.
I’m a huge, huge Nancy Meyers junkie, and one of the things she does best in her movies is plant the audience in a lifestyle so immersively that you become a mini expert in random fields and locations, so much so that you find yourself suddenly wanting to wear only linen or become a wedding dress designer, and I attribute that to her attention to detail in the setting. Based on the reviews I received from NetGalley readers, that seemed to be the case in Yes, Chef. Those were definitely my favorite reviews to read because it means that those readers got it, and those are my people!
Yes, Chef saw thousands of impressions on NetGalley, even before your planned Featured Title promotion. To what do you attribute this immediate success?
Based on the stats (which my husband and I watched like hawks because it was all so exciting) the top two reasons people selected the book were the cover and the blurb. And can I just say, that was a MAJOR sigh of relief on both accounts!
I dabble in illustration, but I know my own limits and when my version of the cover somehow included comically over-proportioned cheesy chef hats and hands that looked nothing like hands, I knew I needed to hire it out. The cover artist I worked with was a gem and she took my talking points and RAN with them. The result is something that I frequently just sit and stare at in disbelief.
As for the blurb, I went a little against the grain in the standard back-cover description, but I felt like the internal dialogue that happens in a single-POV book can quickly introduce the readers to the writing style and thought process of the character they’re about to invest their time in. Apparently it resonated well because it received high stats across the board. That had me grinning from ear-to-ear for weeks. I can get away with a lot because I’m in the indie space, but that also means I don’t have a sounding board to run these things by (other than my sweet, patient, husband and my kind, kind editor who answered my midnight emails). NetGalley ended up being the vote of the people and becoming that sounding board for me, so those early impressions validated a lot of the risks I took.
As of this writing, 18 out of 21 Librarians who have submitted Opinions on NetGalley indicated they would order Yes, Chef for their library! In your experience, in addition to Reviews, how do NetGalley members’ Opinions help you as an author?
Each category of opinion helped tell me a different story from a different perspective. The reviews helped me look critically at the content of the book based on people’s personal preferences. But, the opinions from Librarians helped me get a pulse on the perception of the book from people who are professionally in the space, and what they know from their experience with library patrons. Ultimately, getting the Opinion of one Librarian felt like getting a rating from 100+ reviewers all in one. Seeing the 18/21 result net so far beyond the positive spectrum of what I expected, I was genuinely shocked for this debut. I very much expected to be in a niche category, so I prepared myself for niche stats, but those Librarian stats exceeded my expectations.
I hear you have history with the prolific author Marie Force! Could you tell our audience a bit about that?
Oh, she’s the best! I’ve grown up watching her lifestyle and author journey on social media (she hosted my baby shower for my parents, so when I say my whole life, I mean it!) and I’ve always thought being an author was the ultimate occupation. She’s also an educator and ring-leader in the space, so her content frequently has an educational element that I’ve been gobbling up for years.
She came down to visit my parents a few years ago and we all went to dinner. She talked about her 3,000 words a day rule, and I thought surely I could try that. But the post that ultimately got me started was her recounting what her dad said to prompt her to start writing herself: She had two young kids and wanted to start her first novel but felt she didn’t have the time. Her dad asked her, “Well, what are you doing between the hours of 12pm-2am?” Now, with small kids of my own, I get it. My kids are in-and-out awake anyways, so why not start now?
Yes, Chef was born in those hours, and the sum of 3,000+ words a day eventually added up to a book, just like she said! When I told her I published a book she was wildly supportive, and having someone to watch do the actual thing throughout my life made me feel like I could jump in and try it out myself.
You’re a savvy social media marketer; even just glancing through your Instagram and TikTok, that much is apparent! What are some of your strategies for using social media to engage your audience? What have you learned works best for you and your book?
Thank you! I’ve worked in the digital marketing space for almost ten years now, but as I mentioned before, the book industry is a whole new world, even in the social space! I have general best practices I like to follow, but for my author account I just decided to have a little fun with it. In my day job, I follow the consistency rule (I could spend way too many words elaborating here but ultimately “consistency > creativity” works for most companies) but for my author account, I decided to only speak when I had something to say, and use it as a place to show readers the settings they can expect to read about because I’ve been to them, insight in the the writing process, and then pepper in book promotion content. And my cat. He’s kind of the star of the show. I think I’ve only posted the cover of my book 11/90 posts and that is NOT what I’d ever recommend in any other company or brand, but it’s been fun for me to be much more fluid and organic in my author space.
But the place I’ve loved being a little more strategic is in Reels and TikToks. I have an embarrassing amount of short-form videos from other authors saved on my personal accounts. These stack up to be my own personal TBR list. Making my own version of those videos has been so fun. Those videos always seem to spike my Kindle Unlimited reads so I’ve taken the reviews from NetGalley readers who talked about their favorite book moments and turned those into short-form videos to share on both platforms.
What was an unexpected takeaway from your experience publishing your debut novel?
There were so many unexpected moments for me, but what really got me were the social shares from NetGalley readers! I expected reviews translating to GoodReads and my Amazon page, but seeing my book out “in the wild” on social media floored me! I’d squeal every time I saw one come in, and WAY more came in than I ever expected.
I had a feeling diving all-in to NetGalley would be the best way to grow from zero, and it surpassed all my expectations.
When your Featured Title Promotion ran the week of August 7th, Yes, Chef enjoyed dozens of requests each day. How impactful was this NetGalley Promotion for you and Yes, Chef?
The promotion was crucial in getting my book in an above-the-fold location. The timing of the promotions couldn’t have been better. It ran a week after my public launch and about a month after my original NetGalley launch, and my requests nearly 5x-ed daily for the week of the promotion.
The above-the-fold space also put me on the same landing page as some better-known authors with similar cover styles. So for a week I had the pleasure of seeing my book on the same page with “some of the greats,” as I’d put it, and that type of proximity was extremely helpful to getting adjacent author audiences aware of my book. Did I screenshot the page every time my book landed somewhere near an author I obsess over? Yes, yes I did.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to your fellow self-published authors using NetGalley?
I would say go all in with it! Take special note of the cover and the blurb. Since I found such success in those two elements I will definitely pay close attention to those for the next books I make available on NetGalley.
And then since I’m a chronic word vomiter (occupational hazard, I guess) I’ll offer the second piece of advice: Do not be afraid to be firm in your writing style while also paying attention to criticism that could ultimately be helpful.
I wrote a ridiculous happy ending. I knew it was a swept-up, tie-all-the-loose strings, leave-no-room-for-doubt kind of happy ending and that’s a writing style that I greatly enjoy because illogical third-act-breakups make me want to hurl my e-reader across the room (lovingly). That’s my writing style, and it’s a polarizing style, but I know there’s a niche of people like me out there that use books for escapism, and happy places are the nicest places to escape to. But I did notice that about 30% of the reviews that came in said the ending felt rushed. At first I thought, well, that’s just me! That’s how I’ll write! And then I marinated on it a little bit more and realized the people just wanted a bit more and, really, if that’s a criticism I’m working with, why not adjust? Before launching the book to the public I ended up adding two more chapters and about 12,000 more words because one of the best things I can take away from so many reviews is an open mind and ability to think critically about what’s being asked of me while not changing the foundation of what I create. When I emailed all of my reviewers that I’d updated the book with more content, I got an overwhelming amount of support (even from those who didn’t think it was rushed!) and at the end of the day I feel closer to my readers for understanding what they want and then acting on it.
What’s next for you? What do Wailtyn Andrews and Yes, Chef fans have to look forward to?
One of the reasons it took me so long to get into writing in the first place was the disbelief in my ability to think of scenarios, people and contexts different enough to produce more than one book. But once I opened that dam, things started flowing.
The next book on the horizon is about half way done. It’s a cowboy romance that my husband already says is his favorite (he says that about every book). My parents grew up in Northern Colorado, cowboy country, and my whole life I’ve grown up adjacent to the culture, so this has been a fun genre to work in.
Within the Yes, Chef world, Lucy is actually next up! Her MMC (male main character) is exciting for me because their meet-ugly will be the altered-just-enough-to-be-fiction version of the way I met my husband. Let’s just say he had to work hard to convince me he was actually interested in dating, and Lucy’s MMC will have quite the fun hill to climb.
After that I’ve got a few others in the works (like Evie and Gabe, I promise they’re coming!) but pacing-wise I think I’ll launch about two books a year—with a very large caveat that this year we have another member of our family joining in January, and he will likely be very demanding and require lots of attention if he’s like our first two kids.
Waitlyn Andrews is a pen name author who created an entire personality niched in the idea of fully diving into every reading-loving trope there is, unapologetically. Her books are built on the foundation that reading should be an escape that you walk away from having learned empathy for someone’s way of life and an inherent belief in the optimism of making your own life better.