Show me an author who isn’t eager—even desperate—for book reviews, and I’ll show you an author who doesn’t have a clue about book marketing.
This post covers one of the most established (and authentic) methods of securing reviews: tapping the NetGalley community of professional readers to consider reviewing your book.
Let’s first put NetGalley in perspective relative to the available methods for proactively seeking book reviews. I divide review outreach into three categories:
- Your addressable audience. People who have given you permission to contact them via email, or social media.
- Book bloggers
- Book review businesses
NetGalley fits in the third category along with other well-known names such as Kirkus. Scroll to the bottom to see how I classify review businesses into 4 groups.
How does NetGalley Work?
NetGalley works on a subscription model where publishers pay fees to make their book available to readers who have signed up to review books. They currently have about 430,000 members globally and about 2/3 are traditional reviewers. The other 1/3 are educators, the media, librarians and book sellers.
Reviewers join for free and are by definition motivated book reviewers. The publisher gets to choose who can access a book and they can do this based on the reader’s profile, and past book reviewing history.
Reviewers post reviews on NetGalley, Amazon, Goodreads, their blogs, media outlets, and otherwise spread the news about books via their networks (including social media).
No one pays a fee to access books, nor are they vetted as a reviewer. You are simply expected to review books.
As an aside, don’t think this is an opportunity for readers to get free books, at least for long. The public display of reviews and profiles is a powerful incentive for readers to contribute in an honest and fair manner. Publishers can simply withhold books from reviewers they feel are not qualified or unfair in their reviews.
Buy direct or through a NetGalley co-op
NetGalley’s bread and butter are larger publishers promoting scores of books. But they have created 2 programs to help authors with individual books.
Option 1 below is their own package—you buy this direct from NetGalley. A second option is to work through what is essentially a reseller of their service, sometimes called a NetGalley co-op.
PR firms, publishers, and notably the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA), buy regular NetGalley subscriptions to carve up and resell to individual authors.
These NetGalley co-ops are usually for shorter terms and/or combined with other marketing programs.
I’ve profiled three options below with prices ranging from $25 to $699 for a single book promotion.
Option 1: List on NetGalley with your own account
Choose from 2 packages, and both keep your book on NetGalley for a 6-month term.
- The $699 package includes a listing, email support, marketing in a scheduled newsletter, and full control over who can read your book.
- The $450 package offers the same features, except no marketing in their scheduled newsletter.
Option 2: The IBPA and SFWA
Associations tend to be more member benefit-driven and less profit focused and that appeals to many people. Plus you might already be a member, or want to join.
In the case of IBPA, you need to be a IBPA member but joining might pay for itself depending on the listing package you choose.
As an IBPA member you pay $50 less than in Option 1 above. But they have a second tier that is a 3-month listing and costs $449 with the marketing newsletter, or $199 for just the listing.
A key difference (shared by many resellers) is that you don’t have control over who reviews your book as all titles are posted as “READ NOW” (all NetGalley members have automatic approval). Learn more here.
Option 3: Other resellers
As I said in the intro, the IBPA and SFWA resell their NetGalley subscriptions and those are just 2 of many such programs.
I used Xpresso Book Tours to manage a one-month program for the Book Reviewer Yellow Pages and found it to be a great experience. I paid $65 for a single month program and opted to have Xpresso auto-approve all requests.
I was a little concerned that a nonfiction directory wouldn’t get much interest so 1 month was a good compromise to test the waters. I ended up getting 2 or 3 reviews and those reviewers shared it with their networks. I also feel I received some branding value by exposing my directory to NetGalley members, many of whom are authors that might buy the book.
Another key benefit: Xpresso promotes your book to their mailing list and social media network. This is huge if you don’t already have your own way of reaching potential reviewers.
Tips for getting the most out of your investment
You need to think of NetGalley as you do Amazon. Listing your book on Amazon is not the same as marketing your book. In other words, while it is possible to sell books this way, you’ll have far more success if you promote and tell people about your book and where to buy it.
Likewise for NetGalley. You can list your book and hope readers find it, but you will get lots more reviewers if you have a plan to promote your book.
NetGalley has marketing programs like newsletters, and a widget you can place on your website. You can email your contact list or reach out to book bloggers with a link to your book (many book bloggers are registered members of NetGalley).
And as I noted about my experience with Xpresso, some resellers also have ways to promote books available for review.
Keep things in perspective
If this is your first book then perhaps a shorter listing period (like one month) on NetGalley is all you need. You also probably want to approve all requests to review the book, if you implement any limitation at all. The point is no one knows you and this is a chance to build your platform.
On the other hand, you’d probably take the opposite tack if you are better known. Be selective about who you approve, list your book for a longer period well in advance of the pub date (3-6 months), and promote your book to key media contacts interested in your subject/genre.
Reviews before sales
Whatever NetGalley path you choose—direct or a NetGalley co-op—make it part of a broader review strategy. Spending money and effort to promote sales of a book with no reviews is a wasted effort. (Read my post on Jane Friedman’s blog about why, and what you should do.)
You might also want to click here to read the interview I did with NetGalley’s VP of Business Growth and Engagement, Kristina Radke.
The 4 types of review businesses
NetGalley is a book review service, one of 4 types of book review businesses that help self-publish authors get book reviews. The four types are:
- Traditional (no fee): This obviously sounds great, but these review organizations have the highest standards. Make sure your type of book fits their criteria, including their advance notice requirements. Only high quality books with broad appeal are considered.
- Fee-only: This is a crowded category with well-known names like Kirkus, but also smaller outfits who have reviewers posting their review directly on Amazon, complete with a star rating. Some may charge more for faster service, but all accept virtually any book you send them.
- Hybrid: The accessibility of self-publishing has created a flood of authors seeking reviews. The reviewers in this group have a traditional no fee option, and a paid option sometimes called sponsored reviews. Like fee-only, there is a wide range of names, some on par with Kirkus.
- Services: Those in this category are companies that help you connect with reviewers for a fee. For example, BookRazor will sell you a contact list of reviewers who have reviewed books similar to yours. It’s then your job to contact them. Then there are services like NetGalley and Edelweiss that operate a marketplace offering advance reading copies to a community of reviewers. It’s free for the reviewer, but the publisher/ author pays a listing fee to add the book.
(Some blog tour organizers offer a service similar to NetGalley and Edelweiss. Several are free.)
All 32 book review businesses are profiled in The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages, 9th edition. The directory also includes listings for 200 book bloggers and 40 blog tour organizers. Learn more here.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash