This episode of On My Mind is brought to you by Netgalley: A Writer's Point of View .
I was googling Netgalley feedback-to-approval ratios because I was curious if there's information out there on what the average is for people who maintain an active Netgalley account - so not including people who request a ton of stuff, and then never come back to post reviews.
I found a lot of tips and suggestions for how to improve your ratio:
- Post feedback even if you DNF the title - especially if you DNF the title. These are the books that will linger and lower your ratio if you talk yourself into thinking you'll ever go back and complete the book.
- Post your review once you complete it, rather than holding onto it until your blog post goes live. If you wait, you're more likely to forget to do it, and you can always use the "Thoughts for the Publisher" section to indicate when the blog post will go live.
- Only request books that you're genuinely interested in reviewing. Yes, all new books have a certain shiny awesomeness to them, but if you've never read a science fiction book in your life, it's probably not a good idea to request a dozen of them right off the bat.
- Only request a few books at a time - it takes time for publishers and authors to get back to you so if you request in big batches, you may end up with more approvals than you know what to do with.
And my own additions:
- Do not browse the recently posted books if you've already got a full editorial slate. You know that your will to resist books, particularly after reading their blurbs, is low!
- Consider each request to review as a commitment to review in a timely fashion. Pretend that your review is *way* more important to everyone involved than it actually is so that you feel pressure to complete it.
- Schedule approved books into your blog posting schedule as soon as you receive the approval. This will both let you know where you have gaps for reviews and can seek out books to review, and also gives you a deadline for getting that book read and reviewed.
- Pay close attention to the date on which a book is going to be published. Ideally you want to post your review around that time, so be careful about, say, requesting five books that all release on August 5th.
- If you track how many books you've read in the year, consider this: if you've read, say, 136 books by July 30th, then you can estimate you'll read about 235 books in the year if you stay on the same pace. That means having 125 requested, unread books is unrealistic if you want to finish them by the end of December!
- Download all approved books immediately and then re-download everything at a set time each month (e.g. the last week of the month for those books you want to read for the month ahead/that expire sometime in the month ahead.) Nothing is more frustrating than going to read the next book on your review list, only to discover that it's already been archived and you can't get a copy anymore.
None of this gave me any idea of what the average active user is sitting at for an approval-to-feedback ratio, but I'm glad that I looked!
Aside from that, I want to address the post that I linked in a more direct fashion.
When I read Melissa Pearl's article, I thought first - oh, very informative for authors considering submitting to the site! And then I thought - oh dear lord, is she talking about me?
The gist of her post is that she found the rate of feedback to be quite low for the money she paid for the service and that of those, the negative responses were very harsh.
Now, if you follow my blog, you know that I don't write a *lot* of negative reviews, but I do write them. Different book review bloggers take different stances on this, but it's important to me personally that if I read a book intending to review it, that I do review it even if I disliked it. I also think that for readers of the blog, it's as useful to see what I don't like as what I do like to get a sense of whether or not our tastes in books might be similar (and thus you might trust my opinion on books that little bit more). Anyways, the blog post sent me into momentary collapse as I tried to figure out if:
a) I had ever requested a book put out by Indie Inked, the organization through which this author was submitting her titles
b) if any of those reviews were scathingly negative
c) if any of my negative reviews have been really harsh.
I already have a hard time writing negative reviews because I know that writing is very challenging. I feel quite strongly that if I don't like a book, then I need to be honest about that in my review, but at the same time, I realize that what might bug me about a book may not bug someone else, and that reading is often as much about what a reader brings to a book as anything else.
I always want to love the books that I'm reading. This is even more true when I receive a book direct from the author - first, because I appreciate that the author has put himself out there not only in the writing of the book, but also by asking me to read and review it. Second, once I've had any direct contact with an author, even if it's just a form request for review, I feel like we've made a tentative social connection and with that comes the standard, generic social contract of being polite and kind and nice. And finally, because I send reviews back to the source in advance of being posted, and directly delivering negative feedback makes me feel bad - I can imagine how it must feel to receive that negative feedback!
I have a lot of respect for authors: writing a book is hard work, and trying to push it out there into the public eye afterwards is even harder (imho).
Netgalley provides this barrier between reviewer and author. For one, a lot of the time, marketing people for a publisher seem to be the people you're interacting with and it seems like they should have a much smaller personal stake in the entire thing. But also, when I cut and paste my review into that "Your review here" box, I feel like I'm just sending off another internet survey form. It's feels much less personal than cutting and pasting into an email directly to the author (even if it amounts to the same thing!).
So. In the end, I really only want to say that if you request a book on Netgalley, please remember that you're not just sending it off into the ether. Just as if you posted your review publicly, be kind in your honesty.