NetGalley – A Writer’s Point of View

Until a few months ago, I’d never even heard of NetGalley. But when one of my author friends mentioned it, I soon figured out it was huge.

Basically NetGalley is a place where readers, librarians, book buyers and reviewers can go to download free copies of e-books. The way it works is, authors and publishers pay a fee to list their books. Members of NetGalley then look at the site and request the titles that interest them. These requests are either approved or denied by the authors/publishers. If the request is approved, the requester gets a free, digital copy (either epub or mobi file from what I understand) of the book in exchange for an honest review. If you want a better explanation, you can check out How It Works on NetGalley.

Sounds like a fantastic system that’s advantageous for all parties, right?

My answer to that would be yes and no.

In theory, I think NetGalley is an awesome idea. It’s quite expensive to list books on the site, so when my author friend organised a group of us (Indie Inked) to go in together, I jumped at the chance. The price divided between 12 of us, brought the cost down to about $165 USD per title, for a 6-month subscription (including the start up fee). In that time, we can list, as a group, up to twenty titles. I paid for my one title slot and have so far listed two of my books on the site (one title at a time).

Once my title was up I could log on to the Indie Inked NetGalley page and approve or decline the requests. Each requester has a profile with important information on it – the date they joined up, the amount of requests they’ve made and how many have been accepted or declined, plus the amount of feedback they’ve left. There is also space for them to leave social links, a paragraph about themselves and the genres that most interest them. It gives the author an idea of what the reviewer can offer and I do like the way it’s up to the author’s/publisher’s discretion who will get a copy the book.

As you can imagine, checking out each request can take a very long time. In fact it’s become so time consuming, I’ve had to ask my PA to help me out. She now logs on once a week and goes through them for me.

So far, between my PA and myself, I’d say my two titles have been approved to nearly 200 members of NetGalley. I guess my expectations were way too high, but I was assuming in the two months since I’d joined, that I’d be seeing a fair share of reviews posted on either NetGalley, Goodreads or Amazon. But no such luck. I think I’ve had about 4 NetGalley reviews come in and I can’t deny I’m disappointed.

I do admit that one NetGalley reader loved Unknown (The Elements Trilogy, #1) so much she asked if I would be happy for her to feature it on her blog. Yes please!!!

She ended up doing a feature on the entire trilogy and gave me three separate posts, which was wicked. I was really happy with that. But other than that one awesome incident, my reviews from NetGalley have been few…as well as pretty harsh.

Now, I’m not complaining about honest reviews. I’d rather readers tell me what they’re really thinking, but some of them can be very cutting. A few of the Indie Inked girls have had to endure some pretty scathing reviews along with the good ones. That’s a risk I was aware of beforehand, so I’m not too fazed by this. I guess my main disappointment is the fact I was hoping for more for my money. I think 4 reviews from 200 requests is really low and I think when that six month deadline comes around, I won’t be signing up for a second stint.

I don’t want to be really negative about NetGalley, because I do think there are some really positive aspects for both readers and writers. It’s a great chance to discover new authors and for authors to be discovered by new readers. It’s technically a great way to build up reviews around your books and get some buzz going. Also, because NetGalley is so huge, your books are getting listed next to some pretty big name titles and that can sometimes do wonders at getting your book noticed.

But from my perspective, it’s a pretty pricey way to do things. I have run giveaways on my blog and handed out Advanced Reader Copies of my books on my Facebook Page in exchange for reviews and had a much higher return rate. Those two things have cost me nothing.

Maybe I need to give NetGalley a few more months to really prove itself or maybe I need to be fussier over which requests I approve. If you are considering checking out NetGalley, I encourage you to investigate it thoroughly before paying. It might be just the thing for your books, or you might have other strategies that will be more effective…like I did.

Are you a NetGalley user? If you are, what do you like about NetGalley? Are you glad you signed up?

Author: Melissa Pearl

Melissa Pearl is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of multiple novels spanning a variety of genres, from YA fantasy and paranormal to romantic suspense, including award-winning novel, BETWIXT. For more on Melissa, visit her blog or her Amazon author page.

37 thoughts on “NetGalley – A Writer’s Point of View”

      1. Hey Rich I look forward to reading Friday’s post. I was under the impression I and to write a review at Net Galley for the Publishers as well as posting links to your blog, Amazon UK, Amazon US and Goodreads. I do all of this

        1. So far as I understand the feedback is just copy the review associated with the link. You are not required to post/review everywhere. They like a blog post & the more places you review the happier a publisher/author will be. But I can assure you as someone who has been approved for hundreds of books and mostly only reviews on Goodreads this only means that occasionally I get a rejection of my request. The publishers/authors must love you πŸ™‚

  1. It sounds a tad elite. The cost alone and the scathing remarks would make me run the other way. However, the concept is good if handled properly. Thanks for giving us a heads up.

  2. Thanks for your report, Melissa. I haven’t done NetGalley because that means giving out ARCs and I usually can’t wait that long πŸ˜€ Good to know I”m not missing too much.

  3. I think I’ll weigh in here. I have a colleague who subscribed to Netgalley–paid the entire subscription herself. Her title pulled above fifty reviews–nine of the Netgalley reviews came in at three stars. The rest at 4 and 5 stars. Published in July, the title has about 85 reviews total. But how does one make that investment generate sales? The book hasn’t yet made it to any Amazon 100 Paid or Free list. It hovers between 165,000-159,955 on AZ Paid Best Seller Paid list. A Bookbub promotion would have been a better bounce for the buck. Two weeks ago I had a title on Bookbub–paid $250 for the slot. The title has pulled 85 reviews in ten days and sold more than enough books after it reverted to regular price to pay the cost of promotion. Since it went off FREE it is holding steady in 3 sub genre categories on those all important first and AZ second pages which is generating more sales. My understanding is almost every major publishing house subscribes to Netgalley–which means Netgalley reviewers are reading and reviewing terrific books by best-selling authors whose names we all know. Very few on-line publishers subscribe to the service. I am not a best selling author–indie or otherwise. However much I love my books and try to make them a pleasure to read, my titles are are not in that league and I wouldn’t want to put them there.

  4. I’m a netgalley reader/reviewer. I’m sure I’ve disappointed many a publisher/author as I’ve asked and been approved for more books than I can read and review. I have read and reviewed but not gotten around to providing feedback on netgalley for a number of books (bad me). I’ve also talked about and recommended books I’ve not gotten around to reviewing something that many publishers/authors may not see.

    Possible advantages: Your name gets seen and bloggers who normally won’t touch indie books may choose to review your book as they see indies who use netgalley as “more serious”. Yes I’ve heard this from a number of bloggers. However it may take having several books up over time (not at the same time) for the name recognition and “more serious” to kick in. Once one blogger talks about your book more may follow. I know several of my suggestions have led to purchases but have no idea if those people left reviews. I know books I’ve recommended have also become group reads where others have left reviews while my review is still pending. If the requester is good they add the book to their TBR on Goodreads and shelve it as netgalley which may lead to more request and hopefully reviews as well as possible purchases by non-netgalley friends who notice the book.

    Disadvantages: Price is the big one. There are a number of organizations that have discounts on netgalley as well as a few indie groups. The biggest organization with discounts is Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). Bloggers and people like me (prolific readers) tend to request more books than we can read and may not get to your book or may not get to it in a timely fashion. Some of the reviews may be negative and even harsh. Some may give you direct feedback rather than leave a review and that feedback can be very harsh.

    I think netgalley is best if you have a number of books for sale and are getting some good reviews already just not as quickly as you’d like. I think netgalley is better for series (reviewers who liked the 1st book may buy or contact you for rest if series). Look at who is requesting your books – do they have a good feedback ratio? 80% is considered good according to netgalley. I’d say 70% is acceptable (mine is way lower because I forget to provide feedback). Check out peoples links, look at their average rating, within your genre do they read a lot of books & how do they rate them? Yes this takes time but if you weed out people who don’t have a good average rating, feedback ratio, are really into your genre you are likely to get more and better reviews IMHO.

    1. Thanks, Tasha for your explanation. I have over 200 reviews in combined Amazon and Goodreads, both with 4+ average. And it was all free πŸ˜‰

      It’s funnyβ€”but very humanβ€”to see label assigned to books/authors based on perception (writers on NetGalley are ‘more serious’ πŸ˜‰ )

      1. Massimo I have to move the books of yours up on my TBR list.

        Tons of ways to get reviews. Many of them free. My most recommended suggestion is to be friendly on social media & write good books, rinse and repeat. πŸ™‚ my 2nd recommendation is usually to get actively involved in 1-3 “right” group(s) for your books on Goodreads and over time have your book added to the groups R2R program.

        It is sad that some indies behaving badly has affected many bloggers/reviewers attitudes. But it is what it is. I think the perception of indies who put books on netgalley is that they take writing seriously as a business and are less likely to turn into “raving lunatics” over bad reviews. So the book will be professionally formatted, not be full of typos/other basic problems because author hired an editor, and the author will behave professionally.

  5. I have requested and reviewed a few books on NetGalley (two reviews and two coming). I was a newspaper book reviewer for several years and have, god knows, a couple hundred reviews on Amazon and on my website, so that’s my bona fides.

    Some publishers don’t let you have an ebook file, but asks you to work with Adobe’s online reader. The Mark Twain Project is doing this with the second volume of the Autobiography (one of my requested reads) but this proved so annoying they would have gotten no review if my library hadn’t stocked the book. (I wasn’t informed that I wouldn’t get a file to read on my Kindle until after I had requested the book).

    Otherwise, it’s a nice service. Since I’m doing the requesting, I only ask for those I have the time to review. Back in the day, I would receive upwards of 30 books a week at the newspaper, a situation which broke my heart at times, because there were plenty of worthwhile books, but absolutely no time to review them.

    On the down side, the reviewer doesn’t profit financially from the review. Unlike movies, which could require at most a three hour commitment, reading a 300-page book and writing a half-decent review can easily take up an entire day (we’ll pass over quietly those writers who think a three-paragraph summary of the plot is considered a service to literature).

    With physical books, there’s at least a possibility of reselling the work or passing it along to a library for the tax credit (which boils down to earning one-third of the book’s cover price). With newspaper book reviewing, this amounted to earning several thousand dollars a year, which won’t make you self-sufficient, but at least made the job worthwhile.

    Online reviewing, however, pays nothing, and any writer worth their pen soon moves on to something that can put bread on the table.

    1. I dislike the adobe reader and many a book has gone unreviewed because I forget to check and see what books I have there.

      I’d be uncomfortable getting paid for reviews.

      Most major review sites have found ways to monetize the site by selling ad space as well as using affiliate links to books. Even smaller review sites can take advantage of affiliate links (books, web host service, premium template if you use, etc.) and put google Adwords or other appropriate ads on their site (authors can pay to advertise books for example)

  6. I’m a netgalley member as a reader, and considered joining as an author, but wasn’t sure how valuable it would be, given the cost. Thanks for sharing your experience, as this gives one set of results from NetGalley use as an author. I always love when people share, because so many people keep their learning experiences (and therefore their knowledge) to themselves.

  7. Thanks for the information, Melissa.

    I have to wonder if this is not equivalent to paying for reviews, except with no guarantees. It doesn’t seem worthwhile for self-published authors. I would imagine if an author approaches reviewers one by one, she will eventually have enough to advertise on one of the reputable sites.

  8. I listed two of my books with NetGalley to Very poor results. These are books that on their own garnered 487 reviews in one year (total of both books). I did not receive a single posted review. I paid $350 per book for 1 Year. It is my distinct impression that Indie Authors are looked down upon but they might as well make some money from us. Use them at your own risk. Bookbub is a more profitable way to go. I have had over 10,000 downloads on a free promo with 400 paid books sold for the rest of my 6 book series in the three weeks that followed. It only cost me $70. Lesson learned.

  9. Melissa, my NetGalley experience was the same as yours – even with a group splitting the fee it was pricey, very few reviews left, and those that were, were mostly unpleasant. (“scathing” pretty well sums it up.) Bookbub, PeopleReads, Kindle Books and Tips, and askDavid.com are much better promo/marketing choices for so many reasons. Thanks for sharing your experience with using NetGalley. Until I read your post, I thought it was just me…

  10. Top post, Melissa. My own experience with NetGalley is mixed. Many of the people who downloaded my books didn’t even review them but of those who did, some left super reviews that they posted on blogs and Goodreads. I can’t say for certain that those reviews generated any further sales.
    I don’t think I’d bother uploading another book there again. It isn’t rewarding enough, or indeed, it wasn’t rewarding enough for me.

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