About a week ago I posted my own personal guide to book reviewing and I got some pretty positive feedback from it. Other bibliophiles starting out with book blogging may need a lot of help getting up and running, but it can sometimes be embarrassing to ask. When I first started out, I had quite the learning curve (and I still do, because there’s always more to learn). I didn’t want to look dumb so I would often attempt to navigate the waters of book blogging without asking for help. This included trying to access ARCs, which can be tricky at times. I learned a lot of tips and tricks the hard way, so now I’m going to share them in hopes that it helps anyone interested in utilizing the NetGalley site in order to get ARCs but are unsure of how to get started! This is gonna be a long one, folks, but I hope you find it helpful!
What is NetGalley?
Some of you may have clicked onto this post with interest but have no idea what I’m actually talking about. It took me a couple months after I started posting my reviews on Goodreads to learn about NetGalley, so I understand. NetGalley is a site open to a wide array of people. This includes publishers, reviewers, librarians, etc. Once a member of the site as a reader/reviewer, you can request to read advanced reading copies of books (nicknamed “ARCs”). The publisher of the book will review your request and either accept or deny it. If you’ve been accepted, you’ll be given digital access to the novel. After reading, you post your review to the site. Sounds pretty simple, right?
Tip One: Do Your Research
As un-fun as it may sound, committing to anything like NetGalley should take a little research on your part. If you’ve decided that you want to take on ARCs, you have to be prepared for it. As silly as it may seem, there is such a thing as too many ARCs. It is easy to get overwhelmed and although NetGalley isn’t very strict, you do need to follow some set rules. So, make sure to go over everything before you sign up. Learning about the role you will play as a reviewer is important. A good place to start your research is the site itself. Their How It Works page gives you a brief overview of the site. Research is also vital because it gives you important information to consider before signing up. For example, it’s significant to note for international readers/reviewers that your access is (unfortunately & unfairly) limited with NetGalley, much like other ARC sites, programs, giveaways, etc. Not all publishing houses that use NetGalley to promote their books accept international reviewers. Since I am US based, I can’t speak to this experience, but this is something to consider because I have had bookish friends tell me that they were unable to be accepted for a specific title because they were international.
Tip Two: Give Plenty of Honest, Relevant Information
If you vetted the site and decided to move forward with signing up, then congrats! NetGalley can be a wonderful, easy to use site that can be super helpful. Now that you’ve signed up, it’s time to tell everyone about yourself. Publishers use your profile as a way to determine whether they want to accept your request. A lot of things can go into this, so share anything relevant. This includes linking all book related accounts (as well as your blog) and sharing your stats. Now, I know that sounds really daunting. “You want me to post my follow counts when I’m just getting started? No way.” I understand. I’ve been there. It may feel like a bad way to get started if you post that you only have 25-50 followers, but I’ve got tips for that, too, so just hold tight. In the mean time, get to making an appealing bio.
Now, at the risk of full transparency, here is my NetGalley bio. You can see at the top that it states that I am a reviewer on WordPress. Immediately after, I’ve stated that I am a blogger reviewing on my own site. We’re going to skip over the Feedback Ratio because that’s a discussion for another tip. Next, you see the address section. I have my full address hidden from my public page, but it shows that I am a reader/reviewer in the US. Then we’ve got the (arguably) most important part: Your bio. I’m cringing that you all can see mine right now, but I’m sharing it with you in hopes that it will help you build your profile as well. When I did the first step for myself (research), I read that what you share about yourself with publishers is really important. You are first going to want to say something about who you are as a reader. I shared some of my favorite genres because those are what I most often request on NG. You wouldn’t want to say, “I’m not a fan of YA Fantasy“, but then request a YA fantasy. Just be open about what you like to read. Next, I’ve stated where I share my posts.
I have also linked these accounts to my NG, so that not only have I stated in my bio where I review, but publishers can also check out my accounts themselves. Next, I talk about my follow counts. Like I said before, I know it may seem a bit hard to share something like that, but it’s important for publishers to know the reach you have. Because I still have a pretty low follow count, I chose to share my numbers as an across-platforms number. This means that I am still promoting my posts (and therefore their books) to all of these followers, though it is across all of my bookish sites instead of just my own blog. I also added that my counts are growing rapidly, and though this may seem like a bit of a vain thing to say, I found it important to add. I usually gain anywhere from 50-100 new followers a week across all of my platforms. There is no harm in letting publishers know that while your counts may still be low, they are growing. I then stated my Goodreads friend count because I do also review there. When I first started out with NetGalley, I was hesitant to share all of this information, and because of it, I got some rejections. That really sucked, but I took what the publishers told me and worked on it. Most often with rejections, in my experience, the publishing house will tell you why you’ve been rejected. It could be:
- No stats included in bio
- Low feedback ratio
- Limited copies
- More specific reasons
So, once I’d been told a couple of times that I wasn’t sharing enough, I went back to my bio and, much to my dismay, posted my follow counts. Lastly, I shared how often I post. My schedule here on this site is new posts on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. On an average week, I utilize Wednesdays for Top 5 posts and Sundays are often used for Down the TBR Hole posts or tags. Though I don’t always use the other three days for reviews, I do try to, so I let publishers know that on the average week, I’m posting 2-3 book reviews. Honesty in this section is key because you’ve linked your site, meaning that they can fact check everything themselves if they want to.
Tip Three: Maintain a Good Feedback Ratio
Finally, we’ve made our way back to the feedback ratio. If you don’t yet know what that means, let me fill you in. Because there are readers who may use the site for free books without actually reviewing, NG keeps up with how many books you’ve been granted access to vs. how many you’ve reviewed. Now, NG understands that we all have lives and can’t spend all of our time drafting reviews, so readers/reviewers are not expected to review every single book. Instead, NG recommends you maintain a feedback ratio percentage of 80%.
This percentage is public to publishers considering you so it’s really important that you maintain your percentage as much as you can. You’ll see that mine is currently 97%, but you can also see that I haven’t gone too wild with my requests. As a general rule of thumb, I try to refrain from going on request sprees. I’ve been fortunate enough to see other bloggers talk about their low feedback ratios due to a bit of over excitement with the request button when they first started using NG, and I learned from their mistakes. It’s smart to request only a couple books at a time. There is always a chance of rejection, but you don’t want to request 5 books assuming that you will only be accepted for 1 or 2, because you may end up surprised and overloaded when you log back in and have 4 new titles on your shelf!
Now, you may be asking yourself a very important question: How do I get started building my ratio if I’m not getting accepted for titles because my follower numbers are on the lower side?
That was my first big question personally. It seems a bit hard to build that ratio up without any books to review… and it’s hard to get any books to review when you’re not getting accepting because you don’t have a lot of followers… right? But there is a way, and it is in the form of “Read Now” books. You’ll see here that under “Find Titles” there are a few different options. When you’re first starting out with NG, the Read Now section can be your best friend!
Once you’ve clicked that tab, you’ll be presented with lots of options that are already available for you to read; no request necessary! It may be a bit difficult to weed out books that you’re interested in, but don’t settle and accept a book that you’ll end up marking as a DNF because these books still go towards your feedback ratio. If done right, it can really help you. My advice to you would be to access one Read Now title at a time, read it, and then review. Once you’ve gone through a couple and built your ratio up, you have better chances of getting accepted when requesting other titles!
Tip Four: Review on Time
Here is the only book that I currently have on my shelves on NG. See that you’re given the publishing date? Since these are advanced reading copies, a lot of publishers will want you to review the book before the publish date. This generates talk about the book before it’s set to release and builds anticipation. I have personally been accepted by some books that directed me not to review the book or post about it publicly until a very specific date due to promotional reasons. Honestly, just follow the publishers lead! I try to post reviews for the books before the publish date if I can so that other book lovers get a chance to learn about the book before it comes out and they spend their hard earned money on it!
Tip Five: Stick to Your Comfort Zone
At least in the beginning. As I said earlier, you don’t want to request a bunch of Sci-fi books if you don’t actually enjoy sci-fi. It’s really important to give good, honest, and constructive feedback with ARCs, so there’s really no need to request books you know you won’t like, because you may already have a preconceived notion towards the book.
NG actually allows you to select categories of genres that you favor most, which can really help you when you’re trying to find new titles to request. This allows you to go straight to novels that may be of higher interest to you instead of having to shuffle through genres you’re not interested in in order to find something you want to request. As you can see here, I’ve got 5 categories selected for my own preferences, but you can always add more or change them later. NG can be a great site to branch out of your comfort zone once you’re ready, so if you want to take a few steps out, go for it! You can likely find some awesome books that may change your entire perspective on a genre. Just make sure you don’t set yourself up for a bad reading experience! No one enjoys those.
Tip Six: Hold Yourself Accountable
Really, this can be associated back to maintaining your feedback ratio, but it is also more than that. I know that it can be really fun and exciting to request a ton of new books. How cool is it that we get to read books for free before they even come out!? It never fails to amaze me how lucky I am to be apart of something like that. But, please keep in mind that you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew! Publishers are going to notice if they’ve given you access to several of their books and you haven’t posted reviews for any of them. That could easily deter them from approving you in the future. When you give timely, honest feedback to publishers, they are far more apt to accept your request.
They may even, in fact, put you on their auto approval list, which gives you access to all of their titles currently on NG without having to request. I’ve only been auto approved by one publisher but it felt awesome.
Another reason to hold yourself accountable goes back to limited acceptances. If a publisher is planning to accept 20 people for an ARC and you were one of those 20 people but don’t review the book, then someone else could’ve been included in that 20 who would’ve loved to review it. This isn’t to put anyone down who struggles with getting all of their reviews done: I totally get it and I’m not berating you whatsoever. It can be hard to keep up! But a great way to combat it is to really keep your request amounts in check. I just started using NG last year, which is where the bulk of my 36 reviewed books came from. This year, I decided to request no more than 1-2 books a month from NG. It hasn’t been a very easy challenge, but it helps me keep what I have to review in order and I don’t feel like I’m wasting anyone’s time (mine or the publishers).
If you’ve done a good job keeping up your responsibilities on NG, you’ll likely receive some badges! They are fun to get and you can display them on your own personal blog or Goodreads as a way of showing your progress. As you can see, I only have a few myself (and I’m entirely unsure of why I’ve never received my 80% or 100% badge because I’ve achieved them both but we’ll save that for another conversation), but there are a lot you can earn.
Tip Seven: Don’t Get Discouraged
My last tip for you is to not give up on the site immediately if you’re struggling to get accepted for review requests. As fun as it would be for us to be able to read every book on NG that we wanted, it isn’t realistic for publishers. Smaller reviewers can sometime be over looked because in all honesty, publishers want to generate talk about their new book. Publishing houses like Random House, Macmillian, Simon & Schuster, or any of those really big, popular houses want to give their books to big reviewers who get a lot of views. That’s how they get the most publicity out of the whole interaction. I’ve personally been rejected enough times by those publishers to know that I need to wait until I build better numbers before requesting from them again. It can be a little saddening and more than a little discouraging, but I promise you, you will get accepted for a book, so don’t give up too easily!
Alright, I think that pretty much covers everything I could think of. I hope this was helpful, and if you’re a NG user and have any additional tips to add, please do!! The more information, the merrier!