NetGalley and the endless quest for reviews

51JOhwjp8pLWith the release of Jack Gilmour: Wish Lawyer looming, I thought I’d do something sensible and try and get some reviews for it.

Enter NetGalley, the online service promising to connect authors to bloggers, librarians and booksellers. Did it prove to be the panacea of quality reviews , or a giant ripoff not really suitable for self-publishers? Read on to find out!

Show me the money!

Before we start, a word of warning. NetGalley is really expensive if you go it alone. It’s not really designed for self-pubs, and is priced accordingly. A minimum six-month stint will set you back $450, or $699 if you also want a spot in their newsletter. It’s going to take a lot of sales to make back that investment.

Fortunately, help is at hand. I signed up for the BooksGoSocial NetGalley scheme, which charges by the month, and also promotes your book through Twitter and Facebook. This cost me $89, with a ‘one month extra free’ promotion. They have since reduced their prices to $49 for a month, and $80 for two. If you live in the UK, expect to add VAT on top of that.

I present here the results of the first month.

First impressions

NetGalley puts your book on its own page and invites readers to apply to review it. The requests can then be filtered to weed out obvious freeloaders who just want something for nothing. With the BGS service, however, everyone who applies is automatically accepted. My end-of-month headline numbers are shown below.

Netgalley - stats

So, from 535 page impressions (a percentage of which was probably me checking to see if I had any reviews), 80 downloads were recorded. From the summary file BGS send you, 66 of those were from individual users.

From the graph below, after an initial surge on day 1, there was still a steady trickle of requests throughout the month, with an odd boost on 22nd June.

requests per date

So, who downloaded my book?

requests per user

60% (40/66) of the requesters were from reviewers, but there were some booksellers and librarians in there too.

In total, out of those 66 downloads I’ve so far got five reviews, which is about a 7.5% hit rate. That’s not to say that additional reviews from these requesters won’t come later, just not in time for this blog post. To put it in context, from an Amazon giveaway with extra third-party promotion, you’d be lucky to get a 0.5% review rate.

But is my book any good?

I had what I thought was a decent cover, the 320px-Schroedingers_cat_film.svgtext was professionally edited with positive feedback, and I was feeling pretty good about my story. But until the reviews started to come in, I had no idea if the whole thing sucked or not. Kind of like a review version of Schrödinger’s cat.

Some people don’t care about reviews (or, at least, they say they don’t), but for new authors they are one of the few ways to legitimise yourself as someone who can tell a story, especially if the reviews are completely independent. Here are the results!

Netgalley - details

As well as the number of reviews, the BGS NetGalley report also gives you a summary of if people liked your cover, and why they requested the book in the first place. My cover rating was very high (~95% approval) and the majority of users were swayed by either the description or the cover.

The good news is that so far Jack Gilmour: Wish Lawyer is getting some pretty good feedback! Here’s an example!


From the five reviews received so far, four were 5* and one was 4* (although the reviewer gave it 4.5 in their text).

Where the wild reviews are

NetGalley publishes the reviews on their own site but apart from that it’s up to the reviewer where they end up; be it on a blog, Goodreads or nowhere else.  There’s no guarantee that these will end up on Amazon, where they’re possibly most needed. So far none have made it across for me, but that may be due to the pre-order status of my book.

Is NetGalley worth it?

That depends very much on your point of view. As with all things, individual mileage may vary. For every one author who gets a bumper crop of dozens of great reviews, there’ll be several more who get very little back and wondered where all the money went. The latter option is what usually happens to me, so I was pleasantly surprised to get some results for this promotion.

If nothing else, it’s given me some ammo for advertising purposes, and there’s nothing that potential readers like more than social proof…


Next steps

My book is up on NetGalley for another month, designed to span across the release date. I’ll write up how the rest of the promotion went in a future post. Since I started writing this one, the total review number has gone up to seven.

Ed Ryder is a research scientist by day and writes in the evening when he can fit it in.

Pre-order Jack Gilmour: Wish Lawyer on Amazon for only $0.99! 

In Vitro Lottery is out now on Amazon and other retailers


4 thoughts on “NetGalley and the endless quest for reviews

  1. Interesting results, Ed. It’s a minefield for indie authors knowing how best to spend on advertising so thanks for sharing the results. Looking forward to reading about Jack Gilmour.


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