Starting to review books can be a bit daunting, and so I thought I might impart a bit of wisdom that I’ve gained during my time as a book blogger. I may actually make this into a series, focusing on a different aspect in each post.
Today I thought I would cover Netgalley, the website that bloggers use to obtain ARCs from publishers. It can be a bit confusing, and I’m still not completely fluent in their ins and outs myself, but here are some things I’ve noticed.
Netgalley is probably the most frequented site by book bloggers to obtain their ARCs. Netgalley has an extensive catalogue of books available for review. Some are openly available (you can find these by selecting the ‘Read Now’ filter). Read Now books are great for someone just starting out because they don’t require approval. To gain access to most books available on Netgalley you will need to be approved by the publisher. Once you obtain a book from Netgalley, you simply read it, review it, and send your feedback to the publisher.
While it’s fairly easy to use, it does have some annoying features one should be aware of before diving in.
1. Your profile – Don’t be modest.
To optimise your chances of being approved for a particular title you’re going to need a really good profile. But what does a good profile contain? you ask. Well, it took me a long time to figure out what was needed, and I’m sure there is still stuff I’m missing. But the main thing is that you need to make publishers want their book on your blog, and this is no time for modesty.
Firstly you will need a little blurb about yourself and your blog including your area of interests and your audience (i.e. YA or Adult fiction etc.). Some publishers even like an indication of the frequency of posts.
Secondly you will want to include your blog stats. As I run two semi-connected blogs, I include both in my profile. As for the stats you will need, I’m sure there are a range of stats you could include but there are three main ones that publishers will be interested in:
- Follower count – I provide a rough combined follower count (which I update frequently as I gain new followers).
- Pageviews – This is the total number of pageviews, and this is usually displayed as per month.
- Unique Pageviews – This displays the number of individuals who accessed your site, and is also usually displayed per month.
These stats are probably enough, but don’t be afraid to include any other stats that make you look impressive. For example, I also include the number of notes (reblogs/likes) my tumblr account receives each month.
Thirdly, and this is probably the easiest part, you will want to include all your contact information. This should include an email address (it’s best if it looks like a semi-professional), and links to your social media accounts associated with your blog, eg. Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc.
So there you go. Now you have a nice profile, what are some of the other things you need to consider?
2. The dreaded approval/feedback ratio
One of the most frustrating things with Netgalley is that once you’ve requested a book, and you have been approved you are expected to read and review it. Netgalley has what they call the 80% Approval/Feedback ratio, but what bloggers tend to call THAT F*@%ing SON OF A B*!*# STUPID A*$ BLOODY BANE OF MY EXISTENCE RATIO.
Now, you may think, “Oh, you’re only expected to read 80% of the books you request. That’s not too bad. That’s fine.” But it’s actually extremely difficult to maintain. I have never been able to maintain this ratio for more than a few days.
Why? you ask, thinking I must just be some kind of slacker, but it is actually really difficult as you cannot change your mind between request and download and numerous things can go wrong:
- The Disappearing Download – Books are only available on Netgalley for a limited amount of time before they are Archived, and you can only download books during this window (and in adobe digital editions they are only available for 50 days). This can cause all sorts of issues.
For example, I had my ereader stolen (possibly lost, but I think stolen) and I was unable to read three books, and by the time I replaced my ereader, these titles had been archived and couldn’t be re-downloaded. So now those books are just sitting there, mocking me.
I have also had issues with being approved for a title the day before the archive date, and having it no longer available the next day when I go to download it. But there is a way around this.
TIP: If this happens to you, you can simply put that the title wasn’t available for download in the “Notes to publisher” section of the feedback form. This will count as feedback sent.
- The Surprise Sequel – it does pay to check the books you plan to request on Goodreads before doing so.
I have been caught out before where I have requested a title only to find out later it was the second book in the series. Being more than slightly pissed off and thus not wanting to purchase the first books myself, I simply didn’t review it. I strongly believe this is one of the biggest downfalls of Netgalley, and you definitely need to be aware of it.
- The Incorrect Format Gamble – PDFs. Man do I hate books provided in PDF format. It infuriates me because you cannot find this out prior to requesting the book.
If you’re someone who can read just fine off a computer screen, this probably wont concern you, but I am a 100% eInk person (or paper of course, but no computer screens!). It’s not just that I want to be difficult, it’s that reading off a computer screen makes me feel like I’m going to vomit. And we all know that electronics and vomit don’t mix. Anyway, PDFs are terrible to read on ereaders.
Now, I am a rather spoiled person who has both a Kobo Aura and a Kindle Voyage, so if the Kindle version is available, I will usually choose this option as I know they will be in Mobi format. But not all books are available for Kindle. For the non-kindle variety you will need to take the epub or PDF gamble, and more often than not you will find yourself with a PDF copy.
And these PDFs cant be simply converted to epub using Calibre as they contain DRM. You can strip off the DRM with designated software, but trusting software designed to do something illegal can be a bit dicey.
So you can choose not to read these books, but then you are going to take a hit in your ratio.
- The Netgalley Newbie Rampage – It is completely unavoidable for any Netgalley Newbie to not go and request a bucket load of books as soon as they set up their account.
In an free-book induced haze they rampage through the catalogue downloading anything that vaguely looks interesting in an absolute frenzy, and then later, in the light of day, when the haze has cleared from their eyes they look at their now unmanageable TBR pile with horror, as all those books that looked so interesting to their frenzied mind now look actually kind of boring and not that great and you now have absolutely no desire to read them. And you are stuck with them. There is no changing your mind.
- The Pesky Preview – some books on Netgalley actually aren’t full books at all and are in fact, only previews.
This has happened to me twice now. I am the kind of person who tends to hit the Request button before reading the entire blurb on the book, and twice I have been so over excited that I failed to realise that I was actually only downloading a preview. It may not actually be at the top and may be underneath the synopsis. And this is a problem you see, as I refuse to review half a book on my blog. I just wont do it. So the only option really, is to then buy the book. This is particularly annoying with ARCs as you then need to wait for them to be released. So that book sits on your shelf, dragging down your approval ratio until the book actually comes out, which can be months. So before downloading previews, decide whether or not you are willing to post a review of half a book. It’s actually a really weird thing for publishers to expect.
- Great Expectations of Publishers – Some publishers have specific requirements for reviews and they are not always available before you request the title.
Some publishers not only expect a review, but they expect it in a certain time frame, usually one week on either side of the release date. Now when that release date is right upon you it can be a struggle to get that book read and reviewed in time. But what if that release date is months away. That is months of that book sitting on your shelf dragging that ratio down to the depths of Hell.
TIP: Send feedback early. Now this may prohibit you from including a link to your review on your blog but it will get it off your unread shelf and allow you to increase your ratio in the meantime. Include a note to the publisher with the date your review is scheduled for posting. You can also go back once the release date rolls around and edit your feedback to include the link.
So there are so many things that can prevent you from achieving that coveted 80% Approval/Feedback Ratio. And let’s not forget that even if you do manage to reach that ratio, the next book you request will drag that ratio back down again until it is also reviewed.
We have all suffered a myriad of rejection from Netgalley, and sometimes it can be difficult to figure out why you were rejected. There are all sorts of reasons why publishers will reject you. Most often it will be because you are simply in the wrong region. Sometimes it might be that there were only a certain number of copies available and you simply got in too late. Try not to take rejection from publishers too harshly.
So have you guys had any other problems with using Netgalley? Or do you have any other tips you would like to share? Leave a comment below, lovelies.