by Susan Ruszala, Director of Marketing, NetGalley
Since NetGalley’s introduction nearly four years ago, there has been a distinct shift in the tenor and orientation of dialogues about digital galleys—not if, but when; not why, but how.
That’s good news.
Despite this shift, though, one of the major hurdles still ahead is the acceptance of digital galleys by professional readers and publishers.
Note: “Professional reader” signifies anyone who influences purchases by reading and recommending upcoming titles. This certainly includes traditional book reviewers, but also book and enthusiast bloggers, off-the-book page media (print, TV and radio), booksellers, librarians, and professors who request desk copies.
On the face of it, supporting both a print and digital galley process seems redundant. In our conversations with publishers, however, we often hear that print galley quantities are determined more by budget than by need; entire segments, such as the library or bookselling community — both avid recommenders within their own geographic area as well as more broadly online — cannot be served by the number of print galleys available to shrinking budgets. For illustrated titles, the need is even more acute as costs are higher.
Without question, print galleys will rightfully live on, but the digital galley can go further, faster, at less cost, and bulging with supporting materials that would be cost-prohibitive in print. Adopting digital galleys isn’t a one-for-one swap, then; it requires a shift in strategy and tactics. Print budgets will not be eliminated but they will change; and the use of the galley within the publishing house will have to change, too.
One way that change will manifest itself is by stretching the use of the galley across the company. Publishers will succeed when any activity that can result in a galley request—from librarians to trade advertising to traditional reviewers to electronic catalogs to international rights—can be fulfilled with a digital galley. If multiple groups in an organization can use the digital galley, costs are spread across the organization, too.
Digital galleys are not intended as a replacement for the print galley; in many cases digital will supplement and promote print. (Michael Cairns of Personanondata recently blogged about a JISC study which supports this claim.)
Think back to when company websites first became standard practice.
Before there was the corporate website, there was the corporate brochure. Carefully crafted, reflective of its values, glossy, and artistic — and also extraordinarily constrained, expensive to produce, and quickly outdated. Today my safe guess is that there are very few corporate brochures produced solely to deliver information about a company. They are marketing pieces designed to impress; more experiential than informational.
A website, on the other hand, delivers both a visual impression and deep information about a company; it is only limited by how easy it is for visitors to navigate the site.
This is exactly where we are with digital galleys.
The digital galley ostensibly delivers the “same” content to your contacts, but just as visitors to your website navigate your pages according to their specific needs, professional readers will do the same with your digital galleys. The digital galley isn’t limited to what you can afford to print, or are inclined to stuff in your jiffy bag. Off-the-book page media covering the subject of your book can browse and search; broadcast media can access previous author interviews; bookstores can view the author tour schedule; professors can preview a companion teacher’s guide.
Other areas of the publisher’s front office are already making the shift to digital in earnest. Many publishers have introduced digital catalogs to replace the printed tome that once hailed a new season, using solutions like Edelweiss, or by building their own digital catalogs.
Why not include the capability to browse the full-text galley from within that catalog? This is exactly what NetGalley will soon be doing with Edelweiss, as announced a few weeks ago.
The digital galley has a variety of tricks up its sleeve, for sure; but are the readers ready? Some publishers have said to us, “I’ve asked my contacts if they would prefer digital galleys, and they say no.”
So your contacts prefer print galleys. Of course they do! As a publicist charged with pitching a particular book for a particular season, I’d ferociously resist any tactic that might jeopardize an opportunity for coverage. Like the corporate brochure, the print galley represents the traditional and comfortable way to introduce your contacts to new content.
This is why limited experiments for a few titles have limited success. Besides fostering confusion (why can I get this title but not this one?), too small of an experiment won’t support the effort required to convert your contacts to a new concept. The use of digital galleys must be accompanied by internal evangelization and external communication, a responsibility that we at NetGalley share with the publishing community.
User confusion is also cited in the JISC study, and informally on blogs and social networks which note that navigation, user experience, digital rights management and reading devices can all be barriers to adopting digital galleys. Offering your contacts a consistent and user-oriented experience where they can get many titles the same way will only help speed adoption rates. This is true internally, too; the goal is for staff not to focus on the tricky terrain of security and multiple formats, but instead on offering the digital galley as easily as possible.
Savvy publishers are already using digital galleys creatively in their marketing, publicity and sales efforts, a groundswell that is really just beginning. We’re looking forward to sharing ideas with you on this topic at Digital Book World during the session, Digital Tools: How the Sales and Marketing Process is Changing.
Thanks for reading and commenting.