NetGalley is a wonderful resource for readers and bookbloggers: early and free access to your favourite books? Who wouldn’t want that?
I used to see the “Many thanks to the publisher for a free ARC” disclaimer on the top of their reviews and wonder how on earth people manage it. It seemed arcane and strange and elite. The answer, my friends (and it is not arcane, strange or elite) is often NetGalley.
So, for this How To… post, I am going to give you five tips on how to win at NetGalley, by which I mean how to get more books for free.
And I am no expert! No wizard. This is a list of things I have learned from failing to get books and being rejected – which I found an oddly upsetting and personal experience – how very dare they! I am sure there are a thousand other more experienced bloggers and reviewers out there who have many more tips.
Tip #1: Be Part Of it
It’s obvious, but you cannot win at NetGalley if you are not part of NetGalley!
What do you need to join? An interest in books, an e-reader and some connection to the internet.
That is it, really and I guess that if you are reading this blog post on The Book Lover’s Sanctuary, then you already have both! There are various forms of reviewer that NetGalley are interested in:
- Blogger – This is me, posting reviews on my own blog
- Consumer Reviewer – Don’t have a blog? Review on Goodreads and Amazon and you can still get ARCs
- Book Trade Professional – Agents and publishers
- Traditional Reviewer – Reviews for a publication
Now, I’m only really talking about the first two reviewer categories – the amateurs in the best possible sense, those of us who are offering these reviews simply because we love books and sharing our thoughts on them.
Important for Kindle Email users:
When you sign up, make sure that the details of your kindle email address are correct, and that you have set up NetGalley as an approved email address on your kindle.
Tip #2: Own Your Profile
No one likes writing these. I hate it. It feels a little seedy, uncomfortable… like a dating profile. Urgh.
But do take the time to really craft your profile when you sign up. I remember when I first joined I kind of just left it almost blank and wondered why I was being rejected! Publishers do seem to read them – like real people who think and consider and make subjective decisions.
So what do you include in it? For me, I have included:
- What I am currently reading, which I update regularly;
- My preferred genres (which for me is very wide) and some of my favourite authors within those genres;
- Statistics: how long my blog has been running for, how many views per month (for me, currently, about 3,000), how many followers on Twitter;
- A little relevant biography: I believe that my background as a Literature student and my current job as an English Teacher is relevant information for implying (rightly or wrongly) that my views are fair and considered and knowledgeable; less important that I am five foot seven and have brown hair!
The other issue is tone. This is the first example of your writing that publishers will see so my advice is to aim for a personal, authentic, tone. And don’t be afraid to gush about your favourite books: that is the excited engaged style that the publishers want to see reviews written in!
Critically, ensure that the link to your blog is included, visible and working. The publishers do check it!
Tip #3: Know Your Publishers
It is the publishers who approve or reject you, so get to know them! Fortunately, NetGalley has two key things you can do when you click on a publishing house: click the heart to favourite them – which makes it easier to make sure that you don’t request books unavailable in your country, if nothing else – and check their approval preferences.
Some publishers also prefer to limit the publication date of the review on your blog – forewarned is forearmed!
Tip #4: Build Your Followers – and brag about them!
Twitter seems to be a key statistic and I have had some rejections citing the fact that the publisher only accepts requests from people with 1,000 followers on Twitter! At that point I think I had about 250 followers and that figure of 1,000 seemed like an unattainable monolith!
It is not an absolute bar at all – I received a number of approvals prior to reaching that milestone – but it might reduce the number of approvals you get.
And with effort, it is achievable – and achieving it has deepened and enriched my online experience too! – so brag about it on that profile! Use the hashtags that NetGalley give you.
And don’t forget that Goodreads and LinkedIn are also connectable to NetGalley so use them too, even if you need to create an account just for that purpose! The more exposure you can offer, the more tempting you will appear.
Tip #5: Own your Rejections
Yes, it hurts.
More than I expected.
But read those rejection messages. Why did you get rejected? How can you change your profile to meet the needs of that publisher? This is a rejection I received and it is constructive advice so use it!
Tip #6: Don’t Get Overwhelmed
The temptation (at least for me) when I began was to adopt and all-out scattergun approach, firing off requests left, right and centre in the hopes that some would get approved. And they did. Not a huge percentage but a number of books were sent to me. Hooray!
Some I liked. Others I didn’t and couldn’t get into. Genres I didn’t enjoy.
And then life happened: work commitments, family, children, illness… and to be honest the release of other books that I knew I did want to read. Things slipped. My feedback rate plummeted. I felt disheartened and disenchanted and NetGalley started to feel like a chore and another pressure in life.
So streamline it: only request books that you are genuinely interested in, whether it be because of the genre, author, cover or blurb and reviews. Yes, you will still find some stinkers; yes, there will be times when life happens because it always does!
And if your feedback ratio drops beneath 80%, now that becomes a serious barrier to approval from many publishers.
This is a serious issue when you start out: if you are approved for two books and you review one, you still only have a 50% feedback rate so will find it hard to get another approval.
At the moment, I can have a number of un-reviewed books and still be above that 80% line but I still try to limit myself to three or so a month, two that I positively want and one wild card because the other great thing about NetGalley is picking up books for free that you might not have chosen had you been paying on the high street.
This way, when an email pops through saying, for example, that your favourite author has just offered their book…
Other small tips
- Accept that what you are receiving are not the finished product: spellings, formatting, technical issues will often (usually in my experience) be absolutely fine, but some will be still going through the process and have issues. Try to overlook them: you are reviewing the characters, plot, story telling, pacing, world building; you are not an editor.
- Keep an eye on publication dates and use it to prioritise your reading.
- Find some way to keep track of a publishing schedule as well: I run my blog through WordPress and the scheduling option is my friend! I can write a review in April for a book due to be published in September and schedule it to be published two weeks before the publication date. And then forget about it and it’ll publish automatically on the right date.
- Time your requests: some publishers only offer a certain number of approvals and you want to be in there first not last! Also – and I don’t know the answer to this – I wonder how weekends and bank holidays affect the process. I requested Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz – sequel to Magpie Murders – on Friday not realising that it was a bank holiday and that request will have been sitting on a server somewhere for three days…
- Download the book quickly, even if you keep it on your tbr list for a while: if you pass the archive date, even though you have been approved, I don’t think you’d be able to download it. And I assume that that feedback ratio takes a hit. I may be wrong about that, but is it worth the risk? So, ideally, request when you are likely to have the time coming up to read the book!
So, there we go. I am not an expert, I am no “winner” (yet) on NetGalley but I am working on it, keeping up with it, and enjoying a range of great books from it. I hope you can too,
Again, a David Mitchell book is an event, and a thing of beauty! But the music industry is not my natural setting and again I was caught between this and another book – Daisy Jones and the Six in this case – and Daisy Jones was read first. This time, because it was nominated on a book club I was part of.
Bonus: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he’s part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.
Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich – they’re the only ones worth stealing from – but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.
This one has been on my TBR for years. Literally years. I have heard nothing but praise for it, but so far have never quite got around to reading it! Go figure!
So, there we go: a range of books that I got in 2020 – save for the Scott Lynch – and do regret not reading during the year. Is regret the right word? Probably not to be honest: I do not regret the reading that I did do last year at all. But these are books that I would like to find time to catch up with this year – before prize season hits us again!
Pop in the comments below your thoughts on these – maybe let me know which I should read first!