At NetGalley, we pride ourselves on being a connection point between publishers and professional readers—which we see demonstrated on a daily basis when our members receive early access to books and then provide publishers and authors with valuable feedback. At the very least, this exchange helps new books receive crucial early reviews and buzz amongst trade professionals; but more and more often, we’re hearing stories of NetGalley feedback ultimately changing the course of the book (whether in the editing or in the marketplace). We love the example explained in today’s guest post from DigiWriting about Nirvana by J.R. Stewart. Read on for an inside look at how your participation as professional readers truly helps books succeed!
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“A compelling storyline, but the narration and characterization have to be improved… and it has to be done in two months!”
On an unseasonably warm September afternoon, our team arrived at the above decision after a lengthy deliberation concerning the direction of one of our client’s upcoming titles, Nirvana by J.R. Stewart. The next step was communicating our unorthodox recommendation to the book’s publisher, Blue Moon Publishers.
A few weeks before, Nirvana was featured in the final 2015 NetGalley Challenge email. With the book’s young adult and mystery/thriller category placement, Nirvana became our most requested and reviewed title yet, with thousands of impressions and hundreds of reviews, all thanks to NetGalley’s fantastic marketing programs. Combined with our own internal book marketing efforts, Nirvana looked to be well on its way to becoming a very successful title.
However, as we began to receive early reviews, it became very clear that there were particular elements of the story on which many reviewers gave constructive feedback, along with lower ratings. With an average rating of 2.5 out of 5 stars, it was clear that the book would not be as successful as first anticipated unless something was done – and quickly. After our meeting, armed with our recommendations to improve the book, we met with the publisher. As we understand that small publishers are already tight on a number of resources, we knew Blue Moon Publishers would not be thrilled with the news.
To our surprise, Blue Moon Publishers wanted to address the concerns of reviewers, as did the author! They understood that the author of the book, J.R. Stewart, was not a typical writer, but they believed strongly enough in the concept to issue the ARC and gauge reviewer feedback. Plus, given their strict editorial standards, Blue Moon Publishers wanted to release the best novel possible, and decided to follow our recommendation to work with J.R. and improve the book’s characterization and narration within a two-month period. In return, the publisher asked that we personally thank every single reviewer for their helpful and constructive feedback, inform them that Nirvana was going to be revised based on their comments, and, most importantly, ask if they would be willing to re-read the book.
With hundreds of reviewers to personally contact and thank, this was not going to be easy. Thankfully, NetGalley was there for us again! Using tools such as the activity reports, our team was able to email each reviewer based on their earlier feedback. Adam Mawer, J.R. Stewart’s publicist, was tasked with following up with each reviewer. “When I first found out that I had to email each reviewer, my jaw nearly hit the floor. I’m used to working with professional reviewers on a daily basis, but this was simply unprecedented,” says Mawer. “But then I remembered the download report and I knew that, thanks to NetGalley, I was going to be able to do this.”
As each email was sent, our team waited with baited breath. We understood that we were asking reviewers, some who are very busy with full-time jobs, to do something very unconventional. Amazingly, many reviewers agreed to re-review Nirvana, as they too believed in the book’s potential to shake up an overcrowded young adult genre.
Meanwhile, the editorial team at Blue Moon Publishers was busy working with J.R. Stewart on improving the book. Talia Crockett, Editorial Coordinator at Blue Moon Publishers, was assigned the task of working on the revised manuscript. “Through the early ARC reviews, we identified several aspects that needed to be revised. Without these reviews, I would not have had a starting point,” says Crockett. “At Blue Moon Publishers, we pride ourselves on releasing quality fiction, and I was not going to stop working with J.R. and the entire editorial team until it met our high standards.”
After weeks of intense work from a very dedicated team, on October 10th, the revised book was re-uploaded to NetGalley, and widget links were sent to eagerly waiting reviewers. With a release date of November 10th, reviewers would only have one month to update their reviews, and we understood that this request was yet another tall order.
But, within a few days, reviews started rolling in, and feedback was extremely positive! With some reviewers who did not originally finish the ARC now giving it 4 and 5 stars, we think it is safe to consider the revised book a success! Also, many reviewers said that it was wonderful to see a publisher and an author who actually listened to their audience, and implemented changes based on earlier reviews.
As one librarian put it in her review:
“This revised edition is proof that NetGalley works and helps authors, publishers, and readers!”
We couldn’t agree more. If it were not for NetGalley, their effective tools, and all of the wonderful reviewers who have supported Nirvana and our entire team on this wild journey, all of this success would not be possible. Or, as J.R. Stewart wrote in Nirvana:
“To a very special group of advance readers. Without your feedback, this book would not be what I have always dreamed of. I cannot thank you enough.”
If you would like to request Nirvana, please click here.
The DigiWriting Team