January 10, 2016
Semi-annually, the NetGalley committee compiles the stats from BU's NetGalley account to help answer the the age old question, "Is NetGalley worth it (to authors)?"
Here's the stats, inception to date, excluding titles currently active on NetGalley:
122 total titles posted to NetGalley via Broad Universe.
On average, the books we posted to NetGalley receive:
- 405 impressions (people who clicked onto the book's page),
- 57 clicked to read (downloaded the book),
- 64 review requests,
- 49 approved review requests (76%)
- 10 reviews (16% non-adjusted rate* / 33% adjusted rate), and
- 3.7 average star rating
# of Impressions
In general, the books we post to NetGalley get seen by quite a few people - on average, 405 people see the book and click on it to read the blurb/details page. 30% of the books we posted had more than 500 impressions (people viewing the book's blurb/page), 10% had more than 750 impressions, and a 3% had more than a 1,000!
Only 5% of the books we posted to NetGalley had less than 100 impressions (6 books). The majority of these books had covers that were given a "thumbs down" vote by a large number of reviewers, which is what most likely led to the low # of impressions/people viewing the book's details. As we'll see reflected elsewhere in this report, covers matter on NetGalley.
# of Review Requests
Covers Matter - Given that the # of review requests is HIGHER than the # of people who "clicked to read," it's easy to see that people will request a book BASED ON THE COVER ALONE. This is a key fact - a great cover definitely contributes to one's success on NetGalley. NetGalley recently added a new feature that allows reviewers to "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" each book's cover. I believe this information is included in the feedback report that is sent to the authors by the BU NG Committee, and I would encourage authors and publishers to look at that data and make adjustments to a book's cover, if possible, if it's not resonating with readers.
Librarians, Booksellers, and Other Non-Reviewers - on average, about 38% of review requests come from librarians, booksellers, educators/teachers, and other people who are not classified as "reviewers" on NetGalley. This is an important statistic to remember, because these people generally do not leave public reviews of books. Instead, they are looking at books with an eye to stocking them in their library/book store.
# of Approved Review Requests
Not everyone who requests a book gets approved by the committee to receive that book. In general, the committee does not approve requests from reviewers who have very low rates of providing reviews and also does not approve reviewers who seem to leave negative feedback for every book they read (people who seem to be trolling). However, as you can see from the numbers above, we do approve, on average, 77% of the review requests we receive.
# of Reviews
41% of the books we posted had more than 10 reviews, 37% had more than 50 reviews, 10% of the books (12 books) had more than 100 reviews!
The 16% number is just the # of reviews divided by the # of review requests, which is misleading. This is misleading because, as stated above, not everyone who requests a book is approved for it (and therefore could not possibly leave a review). It is also misleading because some categories of requesters are not expected to leave a review (librarians and such). If we adjust the review rate to account for these two factors, the rate goes up to 33%.
The #1 reason why people categorized as reviewers don't leave a review: they didn't like the book. Many reviewers make it a policy not to review books they don't finish and to not leave a review if they are going to give a book less than 2 stars (and, quite frankly, this policy is, in and of itself, a review of a sort. If someone takes your book on NetGalley and doesn't leave a review, you can assume this means they didn't like it/it's a one-star rating (see next paragraph). The next most frequent reason is that the book expired off of NetGalley and the reviewer's e-reader before the reviewer could read/finish the book (the author choose "expiring DRM" in the NetGalley application) and they literally can't read the book to review it.
We do see reviews continue to come in for up to a year after a book has been on NetGalley, which tells us that reviewers do their best to review the books they accept - sometimes it just takes a while. In general, between the integrity of those who use NetGalley and the committee's efforts to ensure "book vacuums" (those who suck up a lot of free books without reviewing them) are not approved for books, we find that most reviewers on NetGalley do review the books they take.
Average Star Rating
And last, but not least, we find that on average, the books we posted to NetGalley receive 3.7 stars (and the mode/most frequently given rating is 4 stars). The #1 fear of using NetGalley we hear from authors is that NetGalley is full of trolls who just give low star ratings to all books. This is obviously not true. The reviewers on NetGalley are providing honest and thoughtful feedback, and, in general, most books we post there do very well, receiving a range of ratings (which can be expected). We've had authors complain to us that they felt their book was being targeted by trolls after they received 1 or 2 two-star or less ratings. We have NEVER had a situation where a book was targeted by trolls on NetGalley. In those instances where authors felt this way, their books had also received other, higher ratings, as well (and the higher ratings outnumbered the low ratings). The fact is, not everyone is going to love your book. Yes, you will most likely receive some low star ratings as well as high ones on NetGalley - THIS IS ENTIRELY NORMAL and not the work of trolls.
In short, is it worth it?
For $30 per book per month, you can increase the visibility of your book to reviewers, bookstores, and librarians, gain invaluable feedback about the effectiveness of your book's cover and description/back cover blurb, increase your number of reviews/get feedback on your book's content, and network with/create long-term relationships with book reviewers and bloggers who may help support and promote you and your books far beyond this one review.
Hell yes, it is very worth it.
Demand for NetGalley slots has once again increased, and we are now starting to sell out each month's slots and sell them out a month or two in advance, so, as always, we encourage you to sign up for desired slots as early as possible. Instructions and the application are on the Broad Universe website.
Terri Bruce on behalf of the BU NetGalley Committee