Do NetGalley's reviews provide a return on investment

Cost-Benefit scalesTravis Neighbour Ward posted a question on the Independent Publishers of New England google+ page as to whether anyone who used Netgalley to post books before they're published felt it was worth the money? And how many reviews had it generated per book for you on average? NetGalley provides digital review copies to professional readers, including booksellers, librarians, media, bloggers, reviewers and educators. The cost to list a title with them for 6 months is $400, or $300 if you are a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and do it through them. As others might be interested in my response I thought it would be useful to put an edited version of my reply out to a wider audience.

We're using Netgalley for the third time at the moment for Janis Hills' Isis, Vampires and Ghosts - Oh My!. We used IBPA for our second book Shelley Davidow's Lights Over Emerald Creek. While listing with IBPA is cheaper, and it also gets you a mailout which you would have to pay for separately if you don't list with them, the level of information you get about those downloading the book isn't as useful (although IBPA will provide you with detailed information on request). As I am interested in building up our own email list of past reviewers I've reverted to listing seperately. 

Overall listing with NetGalleyis expensive, but I think worthwhile. Certainly it is the most cost effective of advertising I have found (other than answering peoples questions on Google+). We don't require people to apply for permission to download, so that reduces the work associated with approving requests and we probably get a couple of hundred downloads, although most do not proceed to review.

We got 9 reviews for our first book, Bonnie's Story: A Blonde's Guide to Mathematics - 1x2 stars, 1x3 stars, 6x4 stars, 1x5 stars. For our second book (listed via IBPA) Lights Over Emerald Creek we got 18 reviews, 2x2 stars, 6x3 stars, 6x4 stars, and 4x5 stars.

Its too early by several months to see what happens with our third book Isis, Vampires, and Ghosts Oh My!

Overall, 18 out of the 26 were from reviewers with either their own domains, or with their own blogs or wordpress sites (ie those that can stand as the more 'official' reviewers). It is a lot easier to quote a review from Fangs, Wands, and Fairy Dust than to use the same review on Goodreads or Amazon. Having said that, sometimes the reviewers posting on goodreads and/or amazon were often quite insightful.

And in return to a final question from Independent Publishers of New England moderator - do you think the investment was returned by the reviews? My response:

To tell the truth I can't see that publishing, in the case of most books, provides a return on investment. Netgalley does get reviews for a reasonable cost which can then be used in publicity.

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