NetGalley: The Ultimate Guide for Indie Authors
NetGalley is a platform aimed at the distribution of digital galleys, otherwise known as ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) or Proofs. It’s a great way for authors to get their work in the hands of potential readers. However, like any service, there are pros and cons that are good to be aware of before you decide whether it’s the right tool to use as part of your book marketing plan.
What is NetGalley?
NetGalley is a service that allows authors and publishers to send digital books to readers for review. It works just like a regular book sales platform, but instead of readers buying your books, they receive a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Many of the top Publishers and indie presses list advance digital copies of their upcoming releases on NetGalley, but it can also be a great way for self-published authors to drum up publicity and interest for their forthcoming titles. It gives authors the opportunity to promote their titles to readers of influence. Over 650,000 members make up this community of booksellers, librarians, professional reviewers, educators and more.
Pro: NetGalley gets your book into the hands of readers
As a self-published author, you know how important reviews are to growing your audience. NetGalley is a great platform to increase your reach both through people who request it and by leveraging the followers of those who take the time to review your work.
NetGalley gives you access to a whole host of readers and industry professionals. Every bookseller who requests your book opens the door to their customers. Every BookTuber or BookTok content creator provides you potential access to their followers. The people actually requesting your book are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your potential reach, and the best part is that, once you’re on the platform, NetGalley reviewers come to you!
Advance reviews are a great way to get a head start on your marketing. Some consumer websites like Amazon and book review sites like Goodreads allow you to accumulate book reviews before your release date—which means more potential readers coming into contact with your work before launch day. On the day of release, if potential readers can already see a bunch of reviews, it acts as social proof making them more likely to take a risk on your work.
Con: Can be expensive
Like any marketing tool listing on NetGalley is a paid service, so you’ll need to budget for it in your marketing plan. Thankfully, NetGalley is quite upfront about its costs so you won’t have any hidden expenses that you haven’t budgeted for.
Listing a digital galley at a pay-per-title rate for six months costs about $499 and listing an audiobook for 2 months costs about the same. You can also combine eBooks and Audiobooks into a single bundle for around $750.
You can also pay extra for additional promotions like getting a featured spot on NetGalley’s home page or being featured in their promotional emails. Extra promotions vary in price so you’ll need to do some research into what promotions are right for you.
There are schemes to help reduce the costs, however. NetGalley co-ops are a great way to make it more affordable. You pay them an annual membership fee and receive a reduced title listing rate. It’s a great option if you plan to list several titles over the course of a year. The drawback of the co-op route, however, is that you don’t have the same control over who reads your book and your marketing options as you would through your own author listing as they will have control over the approval process.
NetGalley also has official programs through writers orgs to help make listing your titles more accessible. The IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) and SWFA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association) also have NetGalley services with reduced rates. They are only available to association members, however, and often have limited spaces.
Pro: Pre-release reviews can dramatically improve sales
A great benefit of NetGalley is that they provide analytics on which reviewers are requesting your books. This means you can use this information to find out exactly who your ideal reader is and tailor your future book marketing accordingly.
But the real thing that makes NetGalley stand out is the fact that it provides social proof of your book’s value. It’s simple: people will be more likely to buy something when they know others have already enjoyed it. Giving out copies to receive (mostly) positive feedback from readers who take the time to finish, review, and rate your book lets potential buyers know that other people have already given your work their stamp of approval.
Most NetGalley users take pride in their reviews. I’ve been a NetGalley reviewer for years and I only request titles I’m genuinely interested in and try to provide feedback on every title where possible. Reviewers on NetGalley read lots of books so tend to provide detailed feedback and often have some clout in the book world. This means if you manage to snag even just one positive review from someone with a large following or with buying power in a book store or library, you’ll have the chance to increase your book’s reach and exposure.
Con: Not all reviews will be positive
The flip side of increased exposure is that unfortunately, not all reviews will be positive. For every 5-star review, there’s always going to be someone who wasn’t satisfied. This is the nature of the platform and how it works—when people request a book via NetGalley they’ll give an honest review. They’ve put in time and effort to read it, and if they didn’t like it, they’ll often be quite vocal about it.
Because NetGalley reviewers often have purchase power or influential followings, bad reviews can feel like an especially tough blow. For this reason, it’s important that if you decide to use the platform as part of your pre-release marketing strategy, you ensure your book is in the best shape it can be. It’s not a way to get beta readers. You’ll want to ensure your book is fully edited, with a strong summary, and finished cover design or you’ll be courting negative reviews that will ultimately affect your sales.
While negative reviews are not ideal, so long as your book is in good shape, it’s unlikely you’ll only get bad reviews. For this reason, it’s important that you don’t get discouraged if not every review is full of glowing praise. Negative reviews mean you have valuable data available to you that will help narrow down your audience for future marketing. They can also be great discussion starters on review platforms, so don’t be afraid to use them to your advantage.
Pro: NetGalley’s analytics let you know who is reading your book
NetGalley provides robust member analytics that allows you to see how many people are reading your book and who they are. This is essential information for any book marketing as it will furnish you with all the tools you need to create your ideal reader.
Through NetGalley’s analytics, you’ll be able to see the number of requests for your titles to gauge general interest. At this level, NetGalley also has a feedback mechanism that asks what drew readers to request the title. This feedback usually includes whether they liked the cover or not, whether they’ve heard of the author, and if the description sounded appealing. While not every reader will respond to this, those who do will provide valuable information.
Not everyone you approve to read your book will provide feedback, so even comparing request numbers to completed reviews gives you valuable stas. If you’ve listed on NetGalley yourself, and not through a co-op scheme, you’ll also be able to manually approve and decline reviewer requests which will give you additional reader information. You’ll be able to see the books those requesting your title have enjoyed in the past and also whether they have a good review ratio to give you the best chance of success.
Analytics will also include feedback from different types of NetGalley members, which is also important to remember when approving readers. For instance, when they submit reviews, booksellers are asked whether they would be likely to stock your book, handsell it to customers, and whether they would be interested in hosting book signings. Librarians are asked whether they would order it for their libraries, recommend it to book groups, or recommend it for the LibraryReads list.
Knowing who your readers are and why they were drawn to your book is absolutely essential information for any book marketing, and it’s one of the things that makes NetGalley such a valuable tool for indie authors.
Con: Approving readers can be time consuming
One of the toughest things about being an Indie author is finding the time to do the same marketing job that a traditional publisher usually does for you. Once your book is on NetGalley, it can be a time-consuming process to vet all your readers and manually approve them. It’s especially important that you make sure you’re approving the right readers for your book because once they get access to your work, there’s no way of getting it back if it turns out they’re not the right reader.
Because readers come to you, it’s vital that you are approving the right readers to give your book the best chance at a positive review. Taking the time to vet your readers before approval is worth it. You don’t want someone who usually reads romance novels giving your sci-fi epic a bad review because it wasn’t what they were expecting.
Self-publishing a book is an exciting time for any author. There are more options than ever to get your work into the hands of readers, and NetGalley is just one piece of the puzzle. There are lots of things to consider when starting on your book marketing journey, but NetGalley can be a helpful step if it aligns with your goals.