Friday 6 February 2015

Introducing NetGalley

A few weeks back, I posted a link to NetGalley to the Australasian Christian Writers Facebook page, and someone responded, “What’s NetGalley?’ This post is for you (and anyone else who is wondering!).

What is NetGalley?

NetGalley is a service to provide “professional readers”, including book bloggers like me, with electronic versions of upcoming releases. Trade publishers have produced paper Advance Review Copies (ARCs) for years, mailing them to newspapers, magazines and key review sites and influencers in the hope of gaining favourable pre-publication reviews. Amazon led the rise of the customer reviewer, and the Kindle made expensive paper versions even more of a luxury. Why mail paper, when you can email a file?

This is where NetGalley comes in, providing secure electronic ARCs to over 215,000 booksellers, media, librarians, educators and reviewers who use NetGalley, with around 50% of users visiting the site more than nine times a month (I admit: I am one of those).

How Does it Work for Authors?

Publishers list titles with NetGalley and provide an electronic version of the book, the cover image, book description, and details such as price and release date. They also have the option of uploading social media links, a marketing plan, and advance praise (although most don’t. That’s why they’re on NetGalley: to garner advance praise). Publishers pay an initial set-up fee plus a monthly fee depending on the number of titles they offer. Each title gets its own page:

Self-published authors can also list through NetGalley, either individually or through a co-operative. An individual listing is $399 for six months for one book. A co-op listing will depend on the terms of the cooperative, but can be as little as $50 for a one-month listing for a single book, to an annual membership which allows for multiple books for around $350. Twenty authors are needed to form a co-op, with one person responsible for setup and administration.

Authors who are members of the Independent Book Publishers Association can get a $50 discount on the basic six-month listing, and $499 for a listing with some additional marketing. I suspect the additional fee might not represent good value for money—personally, I’ve opted out of the ‘push’ email list, as it was mostly advertising general market titles I wasn’t interested in. Before signing up for this service, I'd want to how many of the 215,000 users have opted in to receiving this, and how many of those regularly request Christian books.

In either case, publishers can choose whether to make their book available to anyone who requests it, or to screen requests. NetGalley shows publishers how many requests, downloads and reviews a title has, and publishers can vet each review request before making a decision (for example, to weed out reviewers who have a low average review rating, who have a low review-to-request ratio, or who don’t typically review in that genre). Authors can do this by checking out individual reviewer profiles:

How Does NetGalley Work for Reviewers?

I’ve been a NetGalley reviewer since late 2011, and have so far requested almost 350 titles and provided feedback on 88% of them (NetGalley keep good statistics!). I can search for books by title or author (for example, when I hear about a new release from one of my favourite authors), by publisher, or by genre (e.g. Christian). I can also select my “Favourite Publishers”, or “Auto-Approvals”, which is a list of publishers who have checked me out and now allow me to read any of their titles.

It’s easy to use: I request a title, and if I’m auto-approved, I’m immediately given the option to Send to Kindle, or download to another ereader (NetGalley supports all major ereaders). If I’m not auto-approved, the book goes to my “Pending” list, and I’ll get an email to advise me whether my request has been accepted or rejected. The longer I’m a reliable NetGalley reviewer, the more titles I am approved to read.

What Else do I Need to Know?

Getting your genre right is important: 

I search exclusively on my favourite publishers, and on “Christian” (which includes fiction and non-fiction). Authors can include more than one genre, so a Christian Romance should be categorised under both.

Listing with NetGalley isn’t paying for reviews: 

NetGalley doesn’t pay reviewers. What your fee is paying for is the online system which provides direct access to over 210,000 reviewers for a specified period of time.

NetGalley doesn’t guarantee results: 

It doesn't (and can't) guarantee a certain number of reviews, nor does it guarantee positive reviews. NetGalley acts as an intermediary between the author/publisher and reviewer, which means reviewers are less likely to sugarcoat their review of a book.

Authors have different experiences of NetGalley: 

Keary Taylor had over 1,200 requests for her novel, The Bane. This lead to over 400 reviews posted through NetGalley, and more posted on blogs, retail sites such as Amazon, and reader sites such as Goodreads. All reviews posted through NetGalley are also posted online in at least one other location (personally, I post reviews to between five and ten separate sites, if the book is listed on those sites).

Susan Quinn had equally impressive results for the romance co-operative she organised. She uploaded eleven titles when the co-op first went live, and within the first day had 446 approved requests, 286 downloads and one review. After a week, they had nineteen titles uploaded, 2,216 approved requests and 36 reviews.

In contrast, Heather Day Gilbert didn’t find it useful. She only got a few reviews, perhaps because she listed through a co-op that primarily offers romance novel (she describes God’s Daughter as a love story rather than a romance). Melissa Pearl had a similar experience, with only four reviews from 200 approvals.

Reviews won’t come in immediately: 

It can take me anything between one and four months to post a review, depending on my blogging schedule (and some have taken me much longer, for various reasons). I believe authors should list their book three months before release, as this maximises the chance of getting reviews at or around release date.

Overall, NetGalley is about getting reviews, not selling books. 

However, getting reviews is an important aspect of a marketing strategy, especially for ebooks. Amazon users are more likely to purchase books with significant numbers of reviews, especially when they can see a range of reviews, including some with low star ratings. It’s not cheap and the results can vary, but it is a marketing tactic worth considering.

For readers, it's great. Most of my favourite publishers are on NetGalley, which means I get first look at their new books, and am able to find and recommend new books and new authors.


  1. Thank you for giving us this information. If you are interested in being a reviewer do you have to have a blog? Will posting on various review sites, Pinterest, Twitter, and message boards be acceptable?

    1. No, you don't *have* to have a blog to use NetGalley, but you will probably find it easier to get your review requests approved if you do review on a blog. Without a blog it might depend on your reviewer ranking on review sites, or number of followers on Twitter.

  2. Whew! To review or not to review. I shall gladly leave it to those like yourself who act with professional chutzpah!

    1. Thanks, Rita!

      Whether or not you choose to review, I think it's good to know about NetGalley as an author, because it can be a good way of getting reviews.

  3. Iola, great post! Thanks for sharing how NetGalley works and how it can benefit both authors and readers.

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  5. I like Netgalley also. the one thing I have to remember there may be some errors as the final book may change slightly. I am on a few auto approve lists.

    1. True, Jenny. I've found several publishers make it clear at the beginning that it's not the final version, but I don't usually find major errors although there is the odd typo.

  6. I love NetGalley. I've been with them since about mid 2013.

    1. They're great, aren't they?

      What I hadn't realised before was how easy it is for a self-published or small press author to be listed.

  7. Iola, thanks so much for this great recap of our service! We appreciate your support of the site and are glad we've helped so many authors and books find an audience.

    One additional (and important) tool we offer: in addition to receiving requests, authors and publishers can also invite their own contacts to view titles using our email invitation widget. The widget is like having an unlimited stack of digital galleys at your disposal, and is an indispensable tool for pitches, marketing and outreach.

    Thanks again!

    Susan Ruszala
    President, NetGalley

    1. Thanks for visiting, Susan, and thanks for that additional point about widgets.

      I've received several books through the email widget, mostly from Liftuse Publicity, as I sometimes get review copies through them. From my point of view as a reader, it's seamless: I click on the email link and I'm taken straight to the NetGalley page where I can download immediately.

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  8. I've been with Netgalley for about two-and-and-half years, generally love it- and try to be a good girl by always reviewing everything I request-even if its months later. I had a blog before Netgalley, but really wanted to be able to read newer titles and authors without having to shell out lots of money for a book I might not be very keen on. I would say, it helped me become an established reviewer- and I now request non-fiction as well as fiction titles.

    However, when considering listing on the site, the cost was prohibitive- in that way, individual requests for reviews from Indy writers is probably a better option.

    1. I agree the cost is out of the budget of most indie authors, but it's much better value than paying $425 for a single review from Kirkus Indie ...

      I still think NetGalley is good option, especially for those who don't have the time to make contact with dozens of reviewers.

      Thanks for visiting!

  9. Thanks, Iola. I've always wondered how NetGalley works, both as an author and reader. And now I understand how you get early access to so many novels. Sounds like a great service for all parties: pubs, authors and readers (who review).

    1. My secret is out! Yes, sometimes I get books up to four months in advance of release date. However, most publishers ask that reviews aren't posted until one month before, at the earliest.

  10. I’m just starting out with reviewing book. I review on Amazon, Goodreads, and occasionally Bookbub. I don’t know the first thing about blogging. Is it even worth it to get netgalley?

  11. If you're a blogger, then there is no charge to use NetGalley, so there's no reason not to use it :)


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