In Praise of Net Galley

In this week’s Coode Street the boys talk about the burgeoning phenomenon of eARCs. Given what we know of the B Ark, I’m not sure of the terminology, but unlike Jonathan I like them a lot. You see, if you are Locus, even the dimmest publicist knows that you are important and will send you books. Also you cover a wide range of material, so there’s little chance of being sent a lot of books you don’t want.

My situation is somewhat different. I do have a small say each year in what books get on the Locus Recommended Reading List, and in the Crawford Award, but most publishers don’t send me books. The main reason for that is that I don’t want them to. I had some deeply unpleasant experiences with publicists when I was running Emerald City, and I don’t want to have to go through that again. In any case, there’s only one of me. I can’t possibly read the quantity of books I’d get sent, and have nowhere to put them.

For me, eARCs are a perfect solution. They take up no space, and with Net Galley I need only request the books I want. Mostly they seem to come in epub format, so there’s no problem wrangling them. I could probably do with better sorting and selecting facilities on their website, but the only major problem is that not all publishers use them. From Wizard’s Tower’s point of view that’s because they are absurdly expensive. It would cost me more to put a WTP book on Net Galley than I expect to make from it in a year. I suspect that if more big publishers used them they’d be able to bring the price down.

Of course I’d love to have actual paper copies of books that I really love. But as I buy most of my paper books anyway that’s not an issue. And Net Galley helps me decide which ones I want to buy.

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12 Responses to In Praise of Net Galley

  1. I’m a fan of them too. It’s made it much easier for us to get review copies of books from the US. The only problem I’ve had is that a lot of the comics I’ve requested have been too low resolution to read, and I’ve had to decline them.

  2. Hi Cheryl

    Glad you enjoyed the podcast, and thank you for your response on eARCs. As I said on the podcast, my own experience with them is distinctly varied. As a former book reviewer, I quite reasonably don’t get many review copies of books these days. I also don’t get many ARCs. I find publishers are reluctant to send them to me, or make them available to me. I’ve had a number of requests for ARCs rejected on Netgalley, presumably for this reason. This is only a problem because I do allocate books for review for Locus, and it helps to have some familiarity with the books you’re about to send out to reviewers or to assess to see if you want to get them reviewed if you can actually see them (I actually regularly download samples from Amazon for this purpose). I do stand by my thoughts that it’s easy to overlook electronic review copies once downloaded, though I suspect ultimately that is a management issue that will be overcome. Certainly, I think publicists might derive some value from following up eARCs, just to make sure they’re not forgotten or accidentally overlooked.

    I would disagree with one assumption in your post. You write: “You see, if you are Locus, even the dimmest publicist knows that you are important and will send you books.” This is sadly untrue. With fewer and fewer ARCs and books being sent out at all, and with regular turnover in publicity staff at publishing houses, it’s very easy for Locus to be overlooked. Also, with more and more important books being published by smaller and smaller houses, it’s quite easy for books not to reach us because the publishers have no PR budget or have never heard of us. I would stress, Locus has no automatic entitlement to review copies (and is very grateful for those we do get), and it’s completely reasonable that we should have to request them like anyone else (and we do), but it can be disappointing to be criticised occasionally for not reviewing titles that we simply were unable to get copies of from a publisher. I know you weren’t doing the latter, but it is a problem for us.

    Finally, I’m glad that Netgalley works for you. I simply find it a very unfriendly service to use that doesn’t make my job any easier. From a personal perspective this is less important because I too end up buying most of the books I’m interested in.

    Best
    Jonathan

    • Cheryl says:

      Hi Jonathan, thanks for responding.

      I’m saddened, though not surprised, that some publishers don’t send their books to Locus. I send all of mine (though I note that, being ebooks, they tend to get ignored). I am absolutely staggered, however, that publishers are declining your requests on Net Galley. It doesn’t cost them anything, and presumably your profile says you are reviews editor for Locus. It just goes to show how poor many publicists are.

      I’m afraid I dread the day that publicists start following up on eARCs, because that follow-up is likely to be of the form of, “You haven’t reviewed X yet, unless you do so we won’t approve any further requests.”

  3. As someone who was, for a long time*, dependent only on physical copies of books, since I made the switch to digital very late (or early, or at the right time depending on how you look at it), NetGalley has made requesting books really easy. I no longer have to hunt down marketing/publicist emails on publisher websites and then wait days, weeks, even months for a response.

    However, the question of having your cake and eating it whole arises too. I initially requested far too many books and my feedback couldn’t match up anywhere close to that (It hovers between 18-20%) at the moment. Part of that is my overeagerness, and partly that there is so much exciting stuff to read there!

    Honestly speaking, the only good switch from their old site is that it loads a whole lot faster. Otherwise, they’ve made the UI a bit more complicated and their search/sort is almost always borked. They could really work on that.

    They also no longer let you rerequest a book, which is a big problem I think.

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