NetGalley, or Secrets of a Professional Reader

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Do you know someone who always seems able to recommend the perfect young adult title for a student looking for something new? Maybe it’s the guy who sat in front of you at the ALAN Workshop. You watched as he unpacked his box of books, which included several advanced reader’s copies (ARCs), and you overheard him say, “This one’s awesome! Now I have a copy to give away! “Maybe you’ve stood beside a teacher friend at a bookshop, poring over recently published titles together, and you notice SHE HAS ALREADY READ ALL OF THEM.

How do they do it? How do they get there first? Are they time travelers? Are they somehow managing to bribe galley editors on a teacher’s salary? And can you do it too?

Happily, the answer to that last question is a resounding “Yes.” If you are a librarian, teacher, blogger, bookseller, or anyone who reads and makes book recommendations to others, you can sign up for Net Galley and feed your reading soul a steady diet of advanced reader’s copies. Best of all, the books are free.

NetGalley.com distributes ARCs from publishers, both large and small, to influential readers in exchange for their honest reviews. As part of the registration process, you’ll describe your professional affiliations like NCTE or ALA, and list links to your Twitter feed, blog, or anywhere else you write about books. Once your account is approved, you can start requesting books. The publisher has to approve your request for a title, but if you offer feedback regularly, you could be auto-approved by a particular publisher, in which case you are allowed to download a book as soon as you request it.

The ARCs are all ebooks, though I’ve occasionally had a publisher send an unsolicited hard copy of a book they’re promoting. You can read on various devices. Most NetGalley titles can be downloaded onto a Kindle or read on a phone with the Kindle app.That may not be an option for every title though, so be prepared to read an Adobe PDF on your computer if the publisher doesn’t offer the Kindle option.

After you finish a book, you provide feedback to the publisher through NetGalley. They’ll ask for a link to any reviews you’ve posted. And that’s it.

Sort of. Before you get too carried away, read the NetGalley Blog to pick up tips about requesting books and writing reviews. Realize that if you post only on GoodReads, you may need to broaden your use of social media in order to get regular approvals. Also, NetGalley prefers that its members offer feedback on 80% of the titles they download. That’s a lot, so don’t let your eyes get bigger than your reading glasses. Which isn’t to say that 80% is required, but it is good professional discipline, to ask for no more books than you can reasonably expect to offer feedback on. I admit my own percentage has lagged for a while, but after a big push this year to read a backlog of approved titles, I’m very, very close.

Sign up for NetGalley now and this November in Atlanta, you may be the one exulting over the ARCs in your ALAN box and telling your neighbor, “This one’s amazing!”

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