As a reader, librarian, and sometime-book blogger, I live for NetGalley. I have often requested advanced copies of books from publishers to review. When I started promoting Phi Alpha Pi I made the decision to invest in getting reviews and giving readers advanced copies. Here’s what I learned and how it ended.
What is NetGalley?
Imagine a world where book bloggers, book reviewers, librarians, and even bookstore owners can read your book before it’s released. That world has existed for years. Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) are a staple of the publishing industry. As a librarian, I get sent books by publishers or go to conferences and grab these copies for my own pleasure. In the last 10 years, the publishers have increasingly recognized the value of these ARCs being available as ebooks and to more potential reviewers. This is when NetGalley was born. You can create an account and request ARC books from authors and publishers (mostly the later). They approve or deny you. Yes, I’ve been denied books. Each publisher sets their own criteria for who can be given these copies. Some are very generous, while others are focused on the return on investment (ROI).
As an author/publisher
While users see free books, the publishers see the cost. Yes, once you have an ebook it doesn’t cost to distribute it, unlike print books, but the service still has a fee. For an indie/ self-published author or small publisher, the basic package is $450 to have your book available for 6 months. The hope is that the readers will review the book somewhere like GoodReads or a retailer. A number of publishers keep the books available a little after publication to continue to build goodwill and get more reviews. You put up MOBI and EPUB version of the ebook, the cover, the blurb, dates, genre, notes, any advance praise, and even your marketing plan. You can personalize emails for approval or decline. You can require the approval of requests or you can make it so people can download the book without approval. You want to create a complete profile so that you entice potential reviewers.
NetGalley vs. GoodReads Giveaways
Right before I started promotion for my second book, GoodReads shared the news that they were changing the giveaway program to require a fee. For $119 I could give away about 100 ebooks. This is just a giveaway. Winners are under no obligation to review or even read the book. They will not be penalized for failure to do so. For printed books, even reselling the book won’t hurt them. Authors are told to expect nothing other than some exposure. I knew if I was going to spend money on the book, then I wanted a higher chance of getting some reviews. While NetGalley doesn’t require a review, it is highly encouraged. In fact, publishers see data on all those who request the book. I can see how many times someone downloads a book, how often their requests are approved, and how often they give feedback (in system). The reviews in NetGalley don’t go up outside NetGalley, but many do post reviews to GoodReads and Amazon on their own. After a month I had four mixed reviews, two of which had also been posted on GoodReads.
I love metrics. I love setting up how I know the investment has been worth it. The return on investment (ROI) is important when your paying for everything out of pocket. I knew I needed to have at least 100 people get approved to download the book by release day and within the first month, I had 50 people request the book. I knew I wanted to get 25 reviews on GoodReads by the release day. Why not Amazon? Well, Amazon doesn’t allow reviews before release day, but GoodReads does. Reviews were priceless for promotion, especially ones that clearly aren’t from my friends and family. If they were bloggers who posted the review on their blogs, then new people would discover my book.
How Did I Do?
This isn’t an investment I’m going to make again. As far as metrics go, I fell just shy of my goal. I got 96 readers to download and there were 23 reviews of Phi Alpha Pi on GoodReads by release day. Compared to a GoodReads giveaway, it was a better use of my money, but there ended up being another factor that I had not considered before I started: my newsletter list and the blog tour. To accommodate those readers, most of whom are not on NetGalley, I set up another system to get them a free copy: BookFunnel. It turned out to be a far smaller investment and blended what I needed from NetGalley and what I was also doing with InstaFreebie (giveaway groups). I’ll be posting another article about InstaFreebie vs. BookFunnel and comparing them to my NetGalley experience.
In the end, NetGalley just wasn’t the right tool for me and my budget. Yes, it was a better investment than a GoodReads giveaway, but it still wasn’t a good investment for my budget. There are ways to get some discounts on the price. For example, the Independent Book Publishers Association offers members a $150 discount. That one does require that you join the IBPA (and that has another fee). You can even look for some networking groups that might allow you to add your book with them. There are other ways to give away ARC copies (BookFunnel, Instafreebie, or just emailing people the files).
Do you have experiences with NetGalley? Tell me in the comments!