I’ve been a member of Netgalley as a reader for 2 years. A friend introduced me to the site as a way to save money on my book addiction by getting books for free in exchange for writing a review. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I would be accepted as a reviewer, I didn’t have a book blog or any sort of large following for my reviews. I would just post them to Goodreads as a way to exercise my analytical muscles and practice expressing my thoughts coherently.
But apparently, my Goodreads following met the standards, and I was accepted. Pretty soon, I was downloading books from the site directly to my Kindle and was well on my way to reining in my book budget.
When it came time to think about the launch strategy for my first novel, Netgalley seemed like an obvious choice. I’d discovered lots of great books there (and lots of not so great ones), but as a user of the site, I knew that it could be powerful.
I figured a lot of the reviewers would be like me—without huge, important book blogs or large followings but with a sincere love of reading. It seemed like a great place to try to find some “true fans.”
While doing my self-publishing research, I’d seen several authors lament the effectiveness of Netgalley. Results varied, but I still wanted to give it a try.
To submit your book as a single author is extremely expensive—$399 to list one book for six months expensive. However, they do offer a subscription service for publishers who list more than 10 books per year. So smart indie authors got together to create co-ops, pooling their funds to bring the cost down to something reasonable.
Indies can rent space on Netgalley from one of these co-ops, which often have more space than they need, or provide this service specifically. I went through Patchwork Press. I’ve also seen Netgalley space rentals from Xpresso Book Tours, Romance Beckons, and Book Review Buzz.
I spent $45 (their prices have since gone up, according to their website) to get my book listed during the month of December 2014. I kept my expectations low—I just wanted to gather some initial reviews and expose my book to the world.
It’s been about a month and a half since my Netgalley listing ended. It must be said that I have on my Kindle right now books I downloaded from Netgalley many months ago that I still haven’t gotten around to reading—that’s the danger of free books—so it’s possible that there could be more reviews coming in the future, but here’s where we stand today.
My book received 123 requests and 74 of those people were approved. The co-op managed all of this and had certain standards of who they would and would not approve to receive the books. You may want to check with your co-op regarding their criteria for acceptance before listing with them.
Officially, there have been 18 reviews submitted, however I could only verify 14. When a reviewer completes a book, they enter their rating in a form on Netgalley, along with an optional link to their review. Patchwork Press forwarded me these responses from Netgalley, however, since they didn’t all include links to where the reviews appeared (if anywhere) it made it hard to track and so the numbers don’t match. My assumption is that all the reviewers did not post their reviews publicly.
I verified 11 written reviews and 3 Goodreads star-only ratings. Virtually all the written reviews were also posted on Goodreads, plus some were also published on the reviewers’ websites.
Once the book was live on Amazon and it was possible to post reviews there, I had my critique partner email the reviewers and ask if they would cross-post to Amazon. Several people did.
As of this writing, I have a total of 23 ratings on Goodreads (technically 24, but one of them is me), 15 of which include written reviews. Since the book is now live and reviews are starting to come in from actual sales, I can’t say for sure how many of those are from Netgalley, but I suspect many are.
Would I do Netgalley again? Yes.
I think it’s an excellent way to gather reviews, especially for a first book or if you don’t have a large audience or author platform. 24% of those who received my book submitted a review, according to Netgalley. You can only expect 1-2% of book purchasers to review it.
I believe if I’d chosen a month other than December, I would have probably gotten even more reviews. I saw other authors who were on Netgalley during the same month remark on fairly low numbers. The holidays are likely to blame. Also, I suspect genre matters as well. Perhaps a YA title or a contemporary romance would have done better with the Netgalley audience. I haven’t seen any demographics of their site to prove this though.
Still, I was happy with the results for the cost. With millions of books in the marketplace, having people I don’t know read and review mine was gold. I recommend Patchwork Press, though I may do some more price shopping for co-op space in the future to get the best value for my dollar. Overall, Netgalley is something I’d recommend as a way to get those crucial early reviews.