What is NetGalley? What is the Patchwork Press Co-Op?
About five months ago now (wow! that’s scary), Patchwork Press teamed up with 18 other authors and took on the pretty momentous task of creating a NetGalley co-op. I had first come across the concept on KBoards, where I was following the progress of other indie co-ops (read Susan Kaye Quinn’s NetGalley post). I kept trying to get involved, but was never quite catching a group at the right time. Eventually, I offered to take on the waiting list from another group and create a new group, and so the Patchwork Press NetGalley was born.
Since that fateful day in May, our group has expanded in ways I couldn’t have imagined back then, and it has been a fantastic experience so far. We’re also always open to taking on new authors, so if that’s what you’re looking for you can head over to this page.
What exactly is NetGalley? NetGalley is an online review copy catalog, used by publishers (and now indie authors) to distribute review copies of their books to “professional readers”. These readers consist of reviewers (mainly bloggers), media professionals, educators, librarians, and book sellers. There are also a lot of “avid readers” who mean well, but are essentially just looking for free books.
What’s a NetGalley co-op? Initially, NetGalley wasn’t available to self-publisher or indie authors. Then came NetGalley’s one title option–for $400, you could put one title into NetGalley’s catalog for 6 months. A great opportunity, but a bigger investment than most of us could reasonably budget for, especially to promote just one title. Eventually, someone (I have no idea who, but I’d love to shake their hand) thought of creating groups of indie authors who would band together to form one entity, and splitting the cost of a year-long subscription to NetGalley’s catalog. These groups are usually about twenty authors strong, as that is the minimum number of active titles that NetGalley allows at one time, so each author has their one slot in the catalog that they can use however best makes sense for them. One person would be the touch point for communicating with NetGalley, and would also be responsible for making payments. Fun! Okay, not fun, but the NetGalley team was fantastic both in helping our group get setup, and in helping us expand since then.
The Patchwork Press group has already evolved a few times as we learned the ropes and expanded the number of authors included in the group. Now the Patchwork Press team handles everything from title uploads, to review requests, to review forwarding. As a bonus, because of the size of our co-op, we’re now able to offer short-term spots as well as the normal one year spots that are the backbone of most co-ops. For more information, you can visit this page, but that’s not what today is about. Today is all about what we’ve learned so far!
How does it work?
Once a new author is signed up with our co-op, the next step is to send out what I call the “setup sheet”. This is a fairly basic questionaire that gives me all the info I need to upload a title to NetGalley. When an author sends this back to me, they also include their books files to be uploaded via FTP. The files (book file and cover file) are both labled with an ISBN so that the system knows to link them together. Uploading a file can take up to eight hours.
Once a new book chugs through NetGalley’s system, I’m able to see them from our Dashboards. At this point, I go in and include all of the information from the setup sheet. Everything from a blurb, to price, to what categories the book will be included in. Then, with the press of a button, the book is live and accepting requests. It will be listed in up to two categories for NetGalley’s readers to explore and request.
One thing I know I’d like to change–NetGalley sends me an email nearly ever time someone requests one of our titles. Only auto-approved requests are excempt from this. Even then, that’s over 10,000 “review request” emails I’ve received in less than six months. Ack! I’d love the opportunity to turn that feature off. I’ve since created a seperate email address just for those, but since submitted reviews are automatically sent to the same account, we still need to rifle through that disaster of an inbox every day.
Almost every day, myself or someone on the PWP team goes in and reads through the requests for the titles we’re responsible for. This includes visiting profiles, twitter accounts, blogs, GoodReads accounts, library websites, and whatever else has been included on the requester’s page. Thankfully, NetGalley has a feature that allows us to auto-approve the reviewers we know we want to work with on a regular basis, which saves a lot of time. Auto-approved reviewers can also be removed, if for some reason they end up not being a great fit. Most days, there are anywhere from 40-400 new requests, but after awhile it becomes fairly straightforward to know what you’re looking for. NetGalley also provides reviewer stats such as a feedback score, to help publishers decipher readers who genuinely want to read and promote titles. Most of the authors in our group tend to switch out titles at the beginning of a new month, so things can get pretty nuts between the 31st and 4th.
Once a reviewer is approved for a specific title, they have the option to download the book from NetGalley to their e-reader. There are a few different features in place to prevent book thievery, but I won’t even pretend to understand the technical side of all that. I know when I download books to my tablet, they expire after a month or two.
Then, when reviews are submitted to us (unfortunately, not all reviewers take the time to submit reviews to NetGalley, so we haven’t been able to track that information), they end up in our inbox, as well as under the FEEDBACK panel for that titles listing. My team and I forward reviews directly on to the author.
We’ll get to some numbers shortly, but for now let’s start with a quick rundown of the process involved in getting a title up on NetGalley.
Results so far.
Since mid-May, we’ve had more than 100 different titles active in the NetGalley catalog. Some titles go up for only a month, and a few have been active since the beginning. This has allowed us to gather a pretty broad range of information about how well NetGalley really works for indie authors and small presses.
Short answer: It’s not for everyone. Results are not guaranteed. BUT, when it works, it works really well.
In most cases, the information below is in general terms, citing only genres and numbers, but in a few cases you can see specific examples, either from my own books, or with permission from the author. If you have any questions about any of this, our NetGalley email address is listed at the bottom of this post.
Review submission rate– Most of the authors who have submitted a title to NetGalley through PWP so far have been looking for reviews. I know of at least four of our authors so far that have been able to get BookBub listings since taking part in our co-op, while others have been understandably disappointed with the lack of reviews that have come in for their books. We’ve also been pretty surprised at the low rate of return between approved requests and submitted feedback. I have a few theories on this based on my own experience in the book blogger community, but this post is already a lot longer than planned, so I’ll try to stick to the numbers for today.
Also, while the main goal for many is accumulating reviews, not all “professional readers” on NetGalley are reviewers, in the traditional sense of the word. A signifigant portion of review requests come from librarians and educators. These readers are looking for titles to add to their own collections/classrooms, and are not concerned with providing feedback to the publisher. Personally, I’ve had three librarians submit “reviews” through NetGalley that are just notes saying they’ll be purchasing my book for their systems. I think it’s safe to assume that not all librarians take the time to do this, so there may be other requests that result in sales rather than submitted reviews.
The specific numbers vary title to title, but to give you an idea…
Of our auto-approved reviewers: 3% are booksellers, 1.5% are educators, 1.5% are media professionals, 15% are librarians. The remaining 78% are reviewers*.
*Reviewers can mean anything from journalist to blogger to something more unusual, as it’s used as a catch-all term. The group is mostly made up of bloggers, though.
From my own title, MORTALITY, the breakdown of manually approved requests was: 4% booksellers, 5% educators, 13% librarians and 2% media professionals. The rest classified themselves as reviewers. It varies title to title.
There will never be a set answer I can give on the issue of how many reviews you can expect from posting your book on NetGalley. It’s difficult to give a range or an average of reviews submitted at this point because there are very few books with comparable upload dates, and even if there were, the range is pretty drastic between genres. Everything from the genre, to the cover of a title, to how many other books were uploaded at the same time factor in to how many requests a title will receive on NetGalley.
NetGalley’s professional reader base is undeniably skewed in favor of specific genres. The YA reviewer community is massive, and that’s reflected on NetGalley, with romance reviewers being the second most prevalent group. Since a lot of New Adult titles straddle both of these genres, it’s easy to see why New Adult is our most requested genre right now. Erotica titles are also getting consistent responses from reviewers, but we’ve had runaway hits in most genres. Like in sales, a professional cover and a great blurb go a long way toward getting a book noticed on NetGalley.
From there, it’s even more difficult to guess when reviews will come in.
Review timeline- One question I get pretty often is: “When will reviews start coming in?” Unfortunately, in most cases, I can’t even begin to guess. For titles in popular genres, it’s likely that you’ll see reviews come in within a few days, though that’s not always the case. From there, reviews will keep coming in for months, sometimes even long after a title has been archived.
For my own book, MORTALITY, which went live on 05/17, I had approved 355 requests. So far, I’ve had 59 reviews submitted. The first came in on 05/20, the most recent on 09/11, two months after the book was no longer available in NetGalley’s catalog.
Another Patchwork Press title, IGNITE, went live in early June and archived yesterday, Ignite had 242 approved requests, and so far has had 32 reviews submitted. The first came in on 06/08, the most recent on 09/10.
Other review submission stats for archived titles
Young adult – archived June 12th – 8 reviews submitted so far between 05/31 and 09/05
Mystery/ Thriller – archived September 11th – 2 reviews submitted so far on 06/27 and 08/31
New Adult / Romance – archived August 20th – 33 reviews submitted between 06/28 and 08/23
Poetry – Archived July 4th – 6 reviews submitted between 06/21 and 09/13
Mystery / SciFi – Archived September 11th – 3 reviews submitted between 07/01 and 07/21
Most reviews can eventually be found on Goodreads, a smaller percentage of those are cross-posted to Amazon/B&N/etc. We also see review requests coming from local papers, library journals, and book clubs. These reviews are rarely posted online, and as a result they are almost never submitted to NetGalley. It’s hard to even say how many of these promised reviews are ever written–but I remain cautiously optimistic.
Review Quality- This is one area where there is less variety between the genres. High quality reviews are as likely to be submitted for an erotica short as a YA fantasy or a mystery. All genres are also just as likely to have dummy reviews submitted as reviewers try to bolster their own feedback numbers. These range from “not for me” to “I liked it” to submitting the same two sentence review across multiple titles, not realizing they all go to the same place. In the future, I would love to see NetGalley implement an auto-decline feature in order to weed out those caught doing this, as there is currently just no way to realistically block anyone beyond memory. Even just having the ability to auto-decline a reviewer for a three month period would be fantastic.
So… good reviews? Bad reviews? They don’t just range in quality. While some of our authors have had consistantly good reviews, others have mentioned that they’ve found NetGalley to have harsher reviewers than what they’ve experienced in soliciting reviews themselves. Below, I’ll include some review examples, that show a range of possible reviews coming from NetGalley. The included snippets come from reviews that range from 300 to 800 words, but you’ll also see some complete, shorter reviews as well.
Snippet- “Mortality was your typical post- apocalyptic book and that’s why it lose 0.25 points from me. But oddly enough I love this post-apocalyptic romance book. I especially love when the female character in the book is a bad ass girl who can handle her own in any type of situation. It kind of reminded me of Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger games and Cole reminded me of the smarter version of Peeta.”
Snippet- “It is a rare treat when a zombie novel can not only thrill me but also get me emotionally invested. I was moved to tears twice in this incredible story. The ending kicked me hard – right in the feels – and even though I was sobbing “Undo it! Undo it!” I really respect an author who makes such courageous decisions in their story. Ms. Sheridan breathes new life into a theme that is currently all the rage.”
Complete review– “I’m really sorry, but I have not been able to read and review this book. I tried to read it, but the writing were just not for me. I’m sorry. I’m sure lots of other people will enjoy this book, though 🙂 I did love the cover and I thought the summary was awesome. This book just didn’t work out for me. I’m sorry.
Thank you for the chance to read and review it early.”
Snippet- “I remember reading a review, which stated how Pen as a character was difficult to relate to. It wasn’t so for me. I found, though a fictional character, Pen’s hazy mindset was true to life. Her fear to even set apart from Azael for a short time, made her uneasy and I understood at that moment her worries – stepping out of what you believed to be the right path, is it wrong, or is it right – walking away from your comfort zone. Have I mention how badass she can be? The girl can really hold her own brawl, and that is awe-worthy. Also, closing the end of the book, you’ll also be able to witness the bravery in our leading lady.”
Complete review- “This is so poorly written that I wonder where the editor was not demanding at least another rewrite and perhaps several more – having taught high school English for years this ranks as among the poorest writiing I ever saw from my high school students – I would not have accepted something so poorly written.”
Snippet– “In the end, I’d say this was a decent zombie book…with an awesome cover. If you’re new to the genre, I wouldn’t start here, there’s better stuff out there to cut your teeth on. However, if you’re already addicted to rabid flesh-eaters, then this will probably satisfy your craving for braaaaains!”
Complete review- “Positive points:. The story is original and well-developed. – Nice references to modern culture. – Good writing. Negative points: – The protagonist and the relationships were hard to relate to. – The book was a bit slow-paced. Overall good, but I missed connection to the characters.”
Number of requests- The following numbers represent a snapshot of currently active titles across various genres. While YA/NA and Erotica/Romance continue to be the most popular genres, you can see that even within those same genres, there is a pretty huge range in number of requess. Keep in mind that a signifigant portion of requests come within the first two days.
Genre – Date Activated – Requests so far
SciFi/Fantasy – 09/4 – 66 requests
SciFi – 07/07 – 53 requests
Memoir – 7/20 – 15 requests
Non-fiction – 07/18 – 31 requests
Mystery / Romance – 09/5 – 41 requests
Mystery / Thriller – 6/27 – 61 requests
Mystery/ Thriller – 07/03 – 105 requests
Young Adult / Fantasy – 08/15 – 33 requests
Young Adult / Fantasy – 06/6 – 101 requests
Young Adult/ Fantasy – 05/17 – 385 requests
Young Adult / Literature – 05/17 – 700 requests
New Adult / Romance – 09/01 – 368 requests
Erotica – 07/ 01 – 158 requests
Erotica / Romance – 6/20 – 467 requests
Request approval– For each month, the NetGalley dashboard tells you what our current approval rate is. Initially, we were sitting in the mid seventies, but since July, we’ve been holding steady around 64%-67% approval rating. Two things have factored into this. The main reason, I’m guessing, was summer vacation. We saw a huge upshoot of “casual readers” requesting review copies. There are a lot of profiles on NetGalley made up of little more than “avid reader, mother of three, happily married.” These requests are, of course, declined.
Also, at the beginning of July, our group opened up to a second wave of authors, many of whom wrote New Adult and Erotica (our first group was about 80% YA authors). Not only are these genres insanely popular, but they seem to be a more likely target for people looking for freebies or the chance to read something that didn’t necessarily relate to their field (middle school librarians reading erotica). As a result, more declines.
While we do have a standard guidelines we use for review requests, authors can set their own guidelines. For some books we’re more likely to approved educators, while others want only the blogs with large followings.
Requests over time- This is something I wish I’d tracked more closely as there are fairly obvious patterns in how request numbers decline over time, but I only have one example with numbers to show as an example. The rate of decline is usually steady and similar across most titles, even when there is a drastic difference in number of requests.
SIA by Josh Grayson
Requests over time–note that these numbers are cumulative, not new requests per week.
8/22: 367 Total Requests
8/31: 373 Approved Requests (Declined requests weren’t included this week for whatever reason)
9/6: 628 Total Requests
9/14: 704 Total Requests
It’s also worth noting that in less than a month, SIA became our new most requested title, overtaking a book that had been up for four months.
That’s all for now.