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Blog – Posted on Wednesday, Oct 23

NetGalley: How Does It Work for Reviewers?

If you’ve ever wondered how to snag an ARC of a much-anticipated book, or enviously browsed Goodreads reviews of as-yet-unreleased titles, then you may already be familiar with NetGalley. Now over a decade old, this well-known platform lets authors lend new books to readers “in exchange for a fair and unbiased review,” as the ubiquitous disclaimer goes.

But how does NetGalley work exactly, and is it worth signing up as a reader and reviewer? Everything you could possibly want to know about using NetGalley, you’ll find right here in this post.

What is NetGalley? 🤔

NetGalley is a service that provides digital advance copies — aka “galley proofs” — of books for members to read and review. Authors use NetGalley to obtain reviews for upcoming releases, while reviewers get to be the first to read and comment on them.

Founded in 2008, NetGalley began gaining serious traction a few years later, buoyed by the rising tide of Goodreads and similar review sites. It was around this time that both self-published and traditionally published authors came to recognize the importance of reviews, especially of the very first write-ups that a book receives.

NetGalley built its business on authors wanting early reviews to: a) solidify their books’ reputations, and b) help them stand out from the pack. It’s also bolstered by the fact that advance reader copies, or ARCs, are like catnip to readers — after all, who can resist the chance to read tons of exciting new books before anyone else?

Thousands of authors and publishers use NetGalley, and hundreds of thousands of reviewers. Many of these reviewers are experienced professionals such as journalists, bloggers, and educators. And while this doesn’t mean you need to be a seasoned reviewer to sign up, you may still want to build your portfolio a bit first (more on that later).

How much does NetGalley cost? đź’¸

NetGalley is technically free to join as a reader/reviewer. However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch — NetGalley members are expected to provide frequent reviews to retain access to its titles. Inactive reviewers won’t be deleted, but low activity will severely damage one's chances of picking up first-choice proofs.

As for authors and publishers, there is an actual monetary cost. Independent authors can choose between two six-month promotional packages, priced at $450 and $849 respectively. Both offer a standard listing and email support, and the latter includes a slot in the NetGalley newsletter, which goes out 6-7 times a month. Publishers pay even more to list multiple books, including a set-up fee and a monthly subscription fee.

How does NetGalley work for reviewers?

To become a NetGalley member, all you have to do is sign up. The registration form is pretty standard: username, password, email, etc. However, you also have to fill out your company (presumably helpful if you work in publishing or for a magazine/newspaper) and your role.

These roles include bookseller, educator, librarian, media, or reviewer; you can choose to provide more specific details as well. So as a reviewer, you might be a blogger, consumer reviewer, book trade professional (like an agent), or traditional reviewer who works for a publication.

Once you’ve registered with NetGalley and filled out your profile, you can start discovering books right away. Simply click “Find Titles” at the top of the page and you’ll be taken to a dashboard of recently added titles, as well as dozens of categories to choose from. You can also search by title, author, or ISBN to find a particular book.

When you’re ready to request a title, click the green “Request” button next to the book in question. You’ll be asked what appeals to you about this book: author, cover, description, or “I just keep hearing about it!”

Once you’ve selected all that apply, your request shoots off to the author or publisher. You’ll receive an email when your request is approved or declined, which usually happens within a few days. After being approved for a book, you can either download a protected PDF or send the galley proof to your Kindle. You’ll then be expected to read the book and provide feedback before the publication date — so take note of this deadline when requesting.

As soon as you’re ready to share your thoughts, navigate back to the book’s NetGalley page and click on the purple “Give Feedback” button in the upper-right corner. From there you’ll be able to write a review, leave a brief opinion, or (in rare instances) note why you didn’t finish the book. Once you’ve submitted your feedback, you can request more proofs, and the whole cycle begins anew. 

5 tips to make the most of NetGalley âś…

If you’re an experienced reviewer, you likely know what it takes to be successful on a site like NetGalley, and have an advantage purely by virtue of your professional associations. On the other hand, if you’ve never reviewed books before, you’ll have your work cut out for you. Though it’s true anyone can sign up to NetGalley as a “consumer reviewer,” priority book selection is given to bloggers, industry pros, and traditional reviewers… at least at first.

So if you want to get your hands — or your eyes, rather — on these in-demand digital galleys as a new reviewer, you need to do everything just right. Here are a few tips to help you optimize your NetGalley reviewer experience.

1. Write before you join

To maximize your chances of picking up good titles right off the bat, there’s one thing you need to do: write some other stuff before you join. It doesn’t even have to be book reviews! Any kind of cohesive, thoughtful article that shows you can evaluate and articulately comment on a given issue will serve you well in authors’ and publishers’ eyes.

Of course, if you can swing some book reviews, all the better. You may not have a designated blog or publication that assigns you books, but you can still post literary thoughts on Twitter or Tumblr. You can also scout out some book review blogs to see if anyone’s looking for freelance pieces. Having your work on another person’s blog lends you social credit that will impress people looking for reviews, especially if they’re familiar with that blogger.

2. Create a specific, detailed profile

If there’s anything NetGalley drives home to their reviewers, it’s that a strong profile is essential. To that end, fill in your bio with past experiences and accomplishments that demonstrate both your enthusiasm and qualifications as a reviewer. This bio is sent alongside every single request you make on NetGalley, so it needs to make a very good impression!

You can also connect social accounts to your NetGalley profile, which may be a boon if you’re active in the reading/publishing communities on Twitter and Instagram. If you do have a website — even if it’s just to host the main pieces of your portfolio — add a link to that too. Individual writing samples on different sites can be linked here as well.

Finally, set your reading preferences on NetGalley, i.e. which categories you prefer. While you may think that selecting more categories will increase your chances of picking up books, resist the urge to do so. Instead, carefully choose 3-4 categories that you really enjoy, maybe 5 if you’re truly passionate about all of them. Narrowing it down shows publishers you’re serious, and improves your own experience as well; this way, you’ll only read genres you actually like!

3. Never dip below 80% feedback

Now let’s talk about what’s expected of you as a reviewer. Once you start picking up books, you have to provide feedback for most of the titles you read. NetGalley recommends a “feedback ratio” of 80% or above, meaning that for every 10 proofs you receive, you should give feedback on at least 8 of them.

While you should try to write full book reviews for most of your NetGalley titles, you can also provide feedback in the form of an “opinion” or “note” to author/publisher, as well as information about how you might promote the book yourself. For example, if you’re a blogger with your own regular newsletter, you might mention a relevant book to your own subscribers.

Regardless of what level of feedback you offer, consistency and timeliness are key. That 80% figure is no joke; authors and publishers rarely approve reviewers with spotty feedback histories. So for every book, carve out some time to read write up your feedback on it. Set your own deadline a week before the publication date if possible, so you won’t be scrambling to write a review at the last minute.

4. Aim for quality, not quantity

On the note of “scrambling,” another separate-but-related point for reviewers is to not request too many books at once. As with your preferred categories, it might seem like you should hedge your bets by “going big,” but it’s actually better to be selective — yes, even as a new reviewer.

Taking on more titles than you can handle may cause you to miss deadlines and degrade your feedback ratio. It’s also just a guaranteed way to suck all the fun out of NetGalley! If you’re picking up ten new books a week and rushing to review them, you might build up a decent reputation — but you’ll soon find yourself hating the work, and your reviews will start to sound churned-out and dull.

So aim for quality, not quantity. This may be frustrating to hear when you’re eager to pick up tons of books, but believe this: authors and publishers care way less about the numbers than they do about the reviews themselves. Check out this post for examples of what they want, and the level of quality you should aspire to in your own reviews.

5. Cross-post to Amazon and Goodreads

One of the top complaints from NetGalley authors is that giving away tons of free copies often only results in NetGalley feedback — which may be useful to authors on a personal level, but not so much on a promotional level. Most authors and publishers who put books on NetGalley are after one thing (well, two things): reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, where other readers actually spend their time.

Despite the vastness of the NetGalley community, these other sites are much better-known mainstream hubs. So if you want authors and publishers to like you, make sure you cross-post your NetGalley reviews to Amazon and Goodreads! The upshot is that you’ll start to gain a respectable reputation on those platforms as well, which in turn makes you even more sought-after on NetGalley.

You may even reach a point of being “auto-approved” by certain authors and publishers, which means you can read their titles straight away. However, if this is your goal, know that it will take some time (months or even years) to establish yourself as a reliable, auto-approval-worthy reviewer.

Should you sign up for NetGalley?

So following all that, the question is: should you sign up to NetGalley as a reviewer? Well, it all depends on what you want, as well as what you can realistically expect. It’s true that NetGalley is one of very few publicly accessible routes to those precious ARCs (i.e. there’s no need for industry connections). It can also be a good opportunity for reviewers who already have a platform and want to bolster their reputation even more.

However, if you sign up for NetGalley with no reviewing experience whatsoever, it’s going to take a LOT of work to acquire the books you really want. First, you’ll need to wade through a deluge of other titles — some interesting, some not-so-much — to prove you’re a committed and high-quality reviewer. Maintaining the 80% feedback ratio can also get pretty tiring, especially if you already have a busy schedule.

And even when your NetGalley status starts ascending the ranks, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be approved for all the books you want. You’ll still have to go through the anxiety-inducing request process every time, and some people may take weeks to respond.

Is there an alternative?

If you’re a new reviewer who’s apprehensive about the scale and competitiveness of NetGalley, we’d recommend starting a bit smaller. As mentioned, you could try your hand at your own review blog, offer your work to other sites, or sign up as Reedsy Discovery reviewer and start picking up new titles right away!

With Discovery, unlike on NetGalley, you don’t have to wait for your requests to be dealt with; once your reviewer application is approved, you can pick up whichever books you’d like. Also unlike NetGalley, reviewers on Discovery have the opportunity to receive monetary tips from readers — though of course, it’s still free to sign up.

All that said, only you can decide which reviewing platform is best for you. If you feel NetGalley and its (admittedly impressive) big-name titles are your jam, have at it! And if you find yourself craving indie books and a little less pressure, Discovery will be waiting right here.

***

Curious where else you can flex your mad reviewing skills? Check out our list of 17 sites where you can get paid to read and review.

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