August 4, 2012

Pajama Musings - How to (ab)use NetGalley

Once upon a time eGalleys were the new thing in town aka the blogosphere. We (that is: book bloggers) were in awe when we first came across the NetGalley site. Oh the thrill of requesting books aplenty and the glorious feeling when we found the e-mail that informed us of having been approved for them *sigh*. But times have changed and maybe not for the better ...

When I first started requesting books on NetGalley, back in late 2010, I really had to restrain myself from letting my mouse have a field day and click on everything even remotely interesting. Of course the temptation was ginormous and during the first few months I requested more than I could chew, uhm, review. Good thing that you can download titles again in case you don't manage to read them in time. Though, let's face it, the usual period of 55 days, before the eBook will expire, isn't exactly short in the first place. Yet I managed to have to download some books more than just a second time around. Sometimes, though that was certainly the exception, I managed to miss the date when a title was archived and I never got around to read that particular book.

Soon I had to admit to myself that even if I could request books on end, that I can only read so much. Thus I got way pickier when browsing through new books available on the site, and late last year I even decided that I'd never wanted my review pile grow larger than ten books, including eGalleys. I admit, this is a plan that sounds hard to stick to, but apart from that one time when I had lost all hope of being approved for several books I had requested weeks if not months ago got approved after all, I never crossed that 10-books-line. Not as though the 12 books for review I was suddenly confronted with would have been that hard to tackle.

Anyway, I should probably get to the point. 

As is evident from the first few paragraphs in this post I am a happy user of NetGalley. I know that many of us book bloggers are. Then there are the black sheep. The abusers.

A little while ago I read the status update from a fellow blogger on Facebook and she made a remark about needing to catch up with her NetGalley books. Nothing strange about that, really. Then she said that she had so many lined up that now she'd just get rid of those already published and would only keep those that aren't out yet. Looks like someone has been going a little overboard when requesting. And wouldn't you know it, another blogger commented by saying she might have to do the same thing as she's got 60 (sixty!) eGalleys to be read and she had no idea when she'll ever get around to read them all.

WTF!?

Publishers are up to their noses in review requests from greedy little brats who think that as it's free they can harvest the whole field just to let the crop spoil after they stacked it up high to the roof of the barn. I bet a lot of publishers wish for some kind of "disconnect" button to sort out all requests from compulsive requests-but-never-reviews-folk ... kinda like an auto-decline button, click it once and you'll be free of that particular book hoarder for good. Now there's an idea!

What many don't realize is that publishers do have to pay for using NetGalley. It's not free! They pay a one-time set-up fee based on the number of titles they publish, along with a monthly fee based on the number of titles on NetGalley’s site. Granted, this is still a lot cheaper than sending out ARCs by mail, but either way - publishers let you read their galleys for one reason alone, so that they be reviewed on your blog. End of story.

I realize that the lag some of us have already experienced when it comes to getting requests approved may have many reasons and cannot necessarily be blamed on some bloggers requesting every single book available, but no matter what the real reasons are, I find it highly unprofessional to act like a book hoarding toddler instead of a responsible book reviewer.

How about me then?

Since I started requesting books on NetGalley in December 2010 I reviewed a total of 50 books through them (as of the end of July 2012). Of all the books I was approved for there were only 6 which I never reviewed - 2 simply weren't up my alley, 2 got archived before I finally came around reading them (mea culpa), and 2 were approved yet publishers had already archived the title before I even had the chance to download the book (so I'm hardly to blame for those).

50 (reviewed) vs 4 (not reviewed)

I must be every publishers dream reviewer, ha. But joking aside. I know that those greedy bloggers are in the minority and I have no idea how far we are from "them" giving "us" (aka the book blogging community) a bad name, but still. And I'm fairly sure if one of those unbridled request-whores (pardon me, but that's what they are IMHO) happened to end up here and read this post they would probably scowl at me for the impertinence of questioning their behavior. Or maybe they do reconsider their ways and start acting a bit more responsibly. You never know, do you?

Rant over. Finally.

What's your take on NetGalley and its (ab)users? Are you more of a hoarder or more like me, trying to keep your request behavior on a decent level. Spill ... I promise I will judge you! *wink*

28 comments:

  1. I don't use NetGalley, since I don't have an ebook, but I am aware of the hundreds of books that could invade me, should I buy one, so that is rather scary for me, being at the point where I have about 50 books waiting to be read... BUT I do understand those who want more and more books. I want more and more and I actually buy them, so imagine me being "allowed' to order free books :))

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    1. Oh the initial excitement is perfectly understandable! Still it wouldn't hurt some bloggers to show a bit of willpower and NOT download everything that looks even remotely interesting. I mean, you can only read so many books, right? While my TBR piles show how "greedy" I can be, at least I am on very good behavior when it comes to my review pile.

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  2. I've got 19 outstanding on NG at the moment. And although I do agree that 60 is CRAZINESS, and I'm not offering excuses, but the set up of NetGalley makes it quite difficult to keep things realistic. I can guess which titles I'll be approved for, and which ones I'm probably going to be rejected for, but it doesn't always play out that way.

    I'm sure that publishers can see our review stats - if not, there's a major issue with NG - so in part, they are responsible for making sure that the people they are giving access to galleys have realistic 'review piles'.

    And it's not like you can 'reject' the galley (as far as I know), if all those pie in the sky requests you made actually ARE approved.

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    1. You have a valid point there - you can never be sure which books you'll be approved for, or when (sometimes I got approved months after my request and I basically didn't expect to be approved at all in these cases). I'm not sure whether it's got to do with reviewing mostly non fiction, but I'd say on average I get approved for roughly 90% which isn't all that bad.

      I have no idea whether publishers can view our stats either. Maybe they only get numbers on how many books someone has already reviewed? Either way, I recently got approved for books where the publisher made it very clear that unless you review the book within the next three months you shouldn't bother requesting again (well, they put it more politely). I say three months are a generous time frame, but if you request SIXTY galleys you better skip sleeping for the next three months, hahaha!

      Apropos rejecting galleys. When you upload your review you also have options including "Accepted" and "Declined", but I don't know how well that goes down with some publishers if you decline all the time.

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    2. I think the Declined option is for invites sent directly by the publisher without you requesting them - but I could be wrong.

      I know there are a few books that I just couldn't review because I didn't like them, so I told the publisher - one of them has never approved me again. Oh well, plenty more to choose from!

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  3. I totally agree with you, Birgit. And I want to add that no matter how easy NG makes it to request books (always with the hope to be approved) we are all adults and should be able to know how much we can read in a realistic time frame and what is just mere greediness.
    I don't know my stats, but now you made me curious. I need to go and check.

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    1. Yes, we should know how much is enough, but nevertheless some continue to act like kids in a candy store!

      Sooo ... how about your stats then?

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  4. I've been on NetGalley for almost exactly a year now. I used to be soooo greedy. But I was A) new to book blogging and B) new to review copies. So because of my initial craziness and tendencies to go overboard, my starts are sort of skewed, and definitely not in my favor. But I've been being much more careful, practical, and realistic with the titles I request.

    I've also declined a fair number of reviews, too. With NG titles, I try to read at least 50% before I decline the review, though. I hate having to do it, but it happens sometimes. I haven't seen that negatively affect my approval ratio though. If anything, it's gotten better since I discovered I could decline. At the very least it shows I'm paying attention to my NG TBR.

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    1. I guess it's a fair guess that when we first discovered NetGalley we all went a little crazy with requesting :-D but the point is to learn to request more responsibly. And having to decline a book can happen to everyone. After all you can never be sure whether a book which sounds amazing might not put you to sleep.

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  5. WHAT THE

    LIKE WHAT

    I often see a title on Netgalley that I WANT SO BADLY and... Publisher had only a few copies to share. Oh... I was too late.
    If those people were like that, I'm going to kill them.

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    1. Before you do anything that involves sharp objects and fellow bloggers, do keep in mind that you probably won't have the chance to continue blogging from a prison cell! ;-)

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  6. I can't remeber how long I have been on Netgalley but I had the same problems at the beginning. Too many books! I hated the time limit and was really happy when I got my Kindle and I could read the galleys on there. No time limit. It didn't make me feel as stressed and I hated reading the books on the computer.

    Anyway, I have learnt to limit myself. Only request the books from authors I know and like. Maybe the odd new author now again when it something I have had my eye on. Maybe try something new because I haven't got many reviews to do. However I can understand how easy it can be to just click and click.

    A few times I have been rejected. 'We are not allowing bloggers to review this title' - Ok thanks...don't mind me...a fan...someone who has been buying books from your author/publisher for years. Sometimes I get a note about checking my info and maybe trying again. Uhmm just tell me what you want! I am not a mindreader...these are again usually from authors/publishers I have been following for a while. It is pretty annoying.

    So to think I may get rejected because others are being greedy annoys me. To think that these people have better 'info' than me and get books is very frustrating. It is bad enough that the majority of ARC's will never get offered to me because I am in Europe but to think that the one place I know and love is being taken advantage of is pretty sad and makes me mad.

    Why are there always people who have to ruin it for the others?

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    1. Ohhh ... I didn't know that with Kindle there's no time limit! I only got my Kindle recently, so I might use it from now on for galleys too. Then again, maybe not, because the time limit does keep me from procrastinating (well, more or less).

      The reasons why requests are sometimes rejected is also a miracle to me. I have put every possible detail into my profile and the e-mails we receive usually don't specify why the request has been declined. I do remember one incident were I requested and was declined and I then saw they had added that only UK requests would be approved. Couldn't they have added that right away? I mean, seriously!

      And yes, I am fairly certain that too many greedy requesters are at least partly responsibly why publishers won't continue approving after a certain limit has been reached.

      In a way I'm glad that I review non fiction as people apparently don't fight over those galleys as much as they seem to do over fiction titles. Not to say I get approved for everything I request, but like I mentioned in a previous comment I believe in 90% of all cases I get approved.

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  7. I've only requested 7 books on netgalley and was approved for 6. I've already reviewed three of them. I try not to request more than one a month and make sure I have them spaced out throughout the year to have them reviewed before publication/re-release.

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    1. I admire how you didn't fall into the initial request frenzy most of us did! You're not just a good example when it comes to the Tea & Books Reading Challenge, I dare say! :-)

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  8. I'm a bit like you Birgit. I keep my Netgalley pile down to 6-7 at most. Considering that now a lot of books are available on Edelweiss, that pile will go down even more. I love both websites and I think it's a fabulous service provided by publishers. I also know that one of my favorite publishers, for example, - Random House only approves 50% of my requests because I often request a book I really want too late when they reached their quota, so people who let egalleys sit on their shelves for ages just make me upset.

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    1. I've heard so much about Edelweiss, but so far I steered clear of it. Too much temptation and it's not as though NetGalley would be running out of interesting books to request.

      And apropos requesting books directly form publishers ... just think of all those book bloggers who present a whole stack of ARCs every single week!? Now THAT makes me even angrier than the whole NetGalley thing ... how could anyone read that many books in a lifetime, not to mention review them, grrr!

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  9. Oh and does anyone know if there is a filter on Netgalley?

    Some other sites have said they got certain books via Netgalley but I never saw these books on the list.

    Or maybe there is a private area?

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    1. I once heard that publishers sometimes send invitations to review certain books directly to people, but I only ever received one of those myself and it was nothing I was interested in. I also didn't check whether it was generally available on NetGalley.

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  10. Oh I totally understand what you say about Netgalley- it's too tempting. At the moment I only have 6 outstanding titles (to be read within the next 3 months) so I'm doing very well.

    But I find it hard NOT to click the Request button! I had a lot of requests outstanding earlier this year as I often didn't hear back, asked for other books, then was suddenly approved for the older requests... a mess!

    Anyway, with my spreadsheet I keep track of what I have to read per month and I do try and keep it realistic. I never ask for books that I might not read. In principle (and until now, in reality) I read them all and review them all.

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    1. I had that happen too - I had given up on quite a number of books, requesting new ones instead and suddenly they all got approved. I think I ended up with a total of 12 books for review, including physical copies, because of that. Of course that number really isn't bad, then again I try to keep my review pile under 10 at all times. This really takes away the pressure.

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  11. However, it's better for them to be approving egalleys that never get read than sending out expensive proofs? I get sent unsolicited copies now so I am resolute that I will not force myself to read books unless I'm in the mood. I have plenty of NetGalley books that I've downloaded and read a page or two and decided not to carry on at that moment. But my NetGalley books *do* get put on my sidebar widget and get free advertising for several months. My review rate is about 70% which is above average I believe. A lot of pro reviewers are even lower (as it's not just bloggers that use it).

    It's easy for publishers to see if people never review as they now get to see your stats (going back to last summer). I agree that you shouldn't request everything in sight but then not reveiwing everything doesn't mean we're bad bloggers. I just have a lot of people after my time and sometimes I don't feel like a certain book. I can send print copies out to guest reviwers but I cannot send egalleys out so they just get archived.

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    1. I think your review rate is pretty good and obviously you can't expect every book to be to your liking - I usually have a lucky hand in choosing books, but this doesn't mean I will never declined any.

      With publishers now getting stats on how much we review, I do wonder whether certain "greedy" requesters will be declined more often or not. I guess it depends on many things, eg have they posted a review for that publisher before, their Google Page Rank, etc. Ultimately though I think it's a shame if bloggers who're willing to review a book get declined while galley hoarders get approved.

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  12. I do love NetGalley, especially now that I have a Kindle and can read the galleys in bed.

    Despite the temptation, I try not to have more than a dozen or so books on my to-read pile. (I also review with Booksneeze, Tyndale, Handlebar, and Entangled.)

    Would hate to think that I'd miss a title that I really wanted to read because the publisher ran out of copies, while five galleys were sitting on computers being ignored.

    Brag Alert: Just got an auto-approval from Shambhala Publications, Inc. on NG - first time that ever happened. So excited.

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    1. What would the life of a book blogger be without NetGalley? I do struggle with temptation too, but I've also learned to only request so much and not get greedy.

      P.S.: Auto-approves are the best, yay!

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  13. I'm late to this discussion, but I'm one who has a pretty hefty baglog of Netgalleys. What I'd like to see is a "save to my list" type button. I tend to peruse by publisher but also by recently added. I see books that catch my eye. Right now the only thing I can do with them is either write down the title (not likely) or request it. If I could save it for later, then when I'm ready to acquire more books I could pick from that list (if they are still available).

    Publishers pay a fee to list titles on NetGalley but they do not pay per download.

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  14. Very nice post! I have started using NetGalley since last 2 months and I went through exactly the same euphoria you have described here: of being inundated by this sweet urge of free unpublished books giving one a sense of belonging to the upper class of book-readers. But alas, haven't been able to keep pace with them.

    And your post does drive home the point of more responsible behavior on the reader's side.

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  15. I know this is really old, but I wanted to thank you. Because of this post, and a few others, I didn't go crazy when I started using NetGalley last year (yep, I'm slow all the way around), and I review every book I request and am approved for. And I think that's why even though my blog reach is relatively small, publishers have started inviting me to review books, books I didn't even think to ask for because I assumed there was no chance, and once even for a book that wasn't on the public lists. At rest assured, your post store at least one person from being a greedy brat.

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