The eco- and reader-friendly way to manage proof copies

Susan Ruszala • 19 April 2012

Susan Ruszala explains the advantages of using digital galleys to distribute advance reading copies and proofs to reviewers.
Like so many people in book publishing, I entered this industry because I love to read. So imagine my delight when after many years of marketing publishing technology solutions, I was asked to launch a site dedicated to "professional readers". (Professional reader, noun: A person whose job it is to read, review and recommend books, primarily new books, to consumers.) Professional readers are reviewers, critics, media, booksellers, librarians, bloggers and educators, to name just a few, and there are more than 53,000 of them already using NetGalley for free to access digital proofs from publishers.

Digital proofs are eco-friendly, fast, and cost-effective. Galley distribution is one of the key publicity and marketing activities performed by publishers and media agencies, but the process of distributing print proofs is cumbersome, expensive and inefficient. At its simplest, NetGalley helps to simplify and speed up that process by substituting secure digital galleys for print.

Communities of influence are larger than you think. One of the difficulties with print proofs is that their distribution is often limited by budget, and limited to a perceived "A-list" of influencers. We have often heard from publicists, marketers, digital marketers, library marketers, sales reps and even authors that they'd like to broaden the number of people who can preview their content before it is published, and that they'd like to know with more certainty the influence and reach of those broader communities. Today's web technology makes this possible.

The largest segment of our current community is reviewers, comprising just over 50%. Librarians make up 19%, with the remainder split evenly between booksellers, media and educators. Our UK member-base is growing more rapidly as UK publishers begin making content available, and we're working closely with those publishers to introduce their contacts to NetGalley. We also hope to work with other member organisations as we do with the American Library Association.

Request and invite
New books have a better chance of commercial success when they're launched into dedicated communities of interested readers. When publishers list their titles in the NetGalley catalogue, allowing members to request access, they are identifying and cultivating new influencers as well as connecting with existing contacts.

Publicity is also about pitch; publishers use our tools to incorporate digital proofs into all they already do for their titles, including pitch emails, giveaways, bookseller marketing, author events, social media marketing and more.

We support DRM (or not). Despite many industry debates about the pitfalls of Digital Rights Management, an overwhelming 89% of titles we handled in NetGalley last year had security applied to prevent unauthorised sharing or distribution. It's our opinion that publishers have the right to protect their content as they (and their authors) see fit; but we also offer a DRM-free option for publishers who are interested in making their content more widely available.

NetGalley members read on all major devices and tablets; right now the split is about even between Kindle and all other Adobe DRM-compatible devices (iPad/iPhone, Kobo, Nook, Sony Reader and Android phones/tablets).

We help navigate the digital landscape. Customer service - to publishers and especially to readers - has grown to be a key piece of our business. Though unfortunate, accessing a protected proof on a device is more confusing than it should be. Our team of concierges is made up of former book publicists or marketers who understand that a timely, professional response is essential, particularly when dealing with a media contact. With publishers, that same team provides creative examples of how to incorporate digital proofs into specific campaigns, launches new initiatives such as NetGalley at the Library, and helps generate “invite widgets” for publishers to use when inviting their own contacts to view a title on NetGalley.

Digital is global
There are no boundaries when it comes to information, and this is just one of the many reasons we're so pleased to be launching officially into the UK publishing market. It's been our pleasure to work with early adopters such as Bloomsbury, Faber and Faber, Harlequin, HarperCollins and Penguin, and we're looking forward to expanding the number of titles, readers (and local staff) in 2012 and beyond.

Susan Ruszala is the President of NetGalley