top of page

Thinking About NetGalley? Small Press And Indie Authors Don’t Bother - The Problem With NetGalley Reviews 

This is blog post 1 about NetGalley: Reviews 

It seems when it comes to getting readers for your book, NetGalley is the biggest name in town. All of the mainstream publishers are using it. So as a small press we thought well, it’s expensive, but considering all the time and networking it takes to get reviews, maybe it's worth it…? After all, no one likes to buy anything these days unless people have already vouched for it. 

Well, we are about 3 months into this grand experiment and let’s say, we have our answer, don’t bother. NetGalley isn’t just expensive, but despite what it looks like from the outside 99% of readers just want to get free books from big publishers and therefore are somewhat coerced into giving glowing reviews of books so they can continue to get approved for ARC copies in the future. As for the small guys, you can either

  • A) Approve every single reader or allow only certain groups and then approve others etc

  • B) Not be a snob and open up your books to all readers. 

We chose to open up our books to all readers. So how’s it going several months in?

Netgalley claims to deliver reviews from readers. Has it? 

An example: One book has had 134 borrows since January. 19 actual reviews. That’s about a 14% return. Keep in mind these books are not long reads. We have 5 books available there at the moment and they are novellas, a book of short stories, and a book of poems. Thankfully we had also independently compiled an ARC reader list and have scooped up several more reviews from that as well. 

We’ll go into pricing for small presses in the next blog but keep in mind with our current contract we’re paying just under $400 a month to have 5 books on the site. The books are going to be up for 6 months at a time which is good at the rate reviews are coming in. 

Before you ask, yes, NetGalley does offer additional services to help get your books noticed in a sea of big-name publishers…. For a price.

  • $700 Regular Placement (Request, Read Now, or Retail CTA)

  • $500-700 Banner Ad Placement (Request, Read Now, or Retail CTA)

  • $200 Bonus Section (cover image links to NetGalley title record)

are netgalley reviews worth it

But we'll go into overall account pricing/contract stuff in another post later on.

Now, were we hoping for thousands of reviews? No.

Did we expect reviews from the readers who chose to borrow our books? By all accounts, NetGalley presents itself in a way that yes, you will get a large review return otherwise it affects a reader’s score. On average readers are given around 55 days to read a borrow otherwise it can downgrade their score. This doesn’t seem to bother many readers apparently.

Then there is the quality of the review. Hint: there is no quality control. 

Reviews can be as simple as listing a few trigger warnings the reader personally found offensive or a reader giving it one start and saying ‘It’s weird. Like, I don’t know… ” and that’s it. 

So if you think, well, a few thoughtful reviews are better than a dozen crap reviews, it’s a toss-up which ones you’ll get from NetGalley readers. You can get really badly written nonsensical 5-star reviews and really thorough 1-star reviews, and vice versa.

There seems to be no character minimum a reader can simply say ‘I didn’t like this’ but not have to explain why, which is kinda the point of a review so other people can read them and see whether or not it’s a book they would enjoy picking up. 

And what about influencers?

 No. Most readers have no social media presence, no Goodreads friends, etc. So don’t expect a review to make your book viral. Again, it seems like the really active social readers are the ones who go for the big-name books or the ones who are experiencing FOMO.

No one cares about small press/indie work these days except for a very few. Reading is more of a weird hobby some influencers pick up as their niche and they want to review the trad pub books other people don’t have so they can feel ahead of the curve, etc. Let me tell you, most of the mainstream publications are pretty garbage these days so I can understand why they would rather get them for free instead of paying some ungodly amount in a bookstore. 

When you first load your book on the site you see a jump in borrows for the first few weeks, that’s because your book is at the top of the pile.

When the next month rolls around expect that to somewhat slow down as more and more new books are added. And reviews? They start out trickling in a few each day and then drop to nothing, once a week or so. 

netgalley reviews
activity of 1 book of the course of 3 months

Keep in mind we’ve had 5 books on there for around 60-80 days in a variety of genres including horror, humor, poetry, crime thriller, and LGBTQ+  so they are for the most part fairly mainstream popular genres. Though I have read in multiple articles one of the best genres is romance, of which we don’t have any so I can’t testify to that. 

Who can review on Netgalley?

 Anyone can open an account. There is no quality control. 

So in conclusion, is NetGalley worth it for reviews?

 No. Readers are not obligated to give a review despite borrowing the book/risking their score. And on the occasion you do get a review (rather low or high) there is no guarantee it’s going to be useful.


bottom of page