As publishers experiment with digital galleys and book reviewers gradually get up to speed with new e-reading devices, the question of how to protect digital information without hassling the reader is moving to the forefront.
For some publishers, the simplest approach is to dispense with digital rights management (DRM) altogether and just trust the reviewers. That’s what Carina Press, the digital-only romance imprint of Harlequin Books, decided to do when it began offering digital galleys and press kits via NetGalley (click here for a catalog of available titles).
Since Carina aims to build their brand with romance bloggers rather than traditional professional reviewers, the advantages of going DRM-free were clear. For one thing, their galleys are more easily accessible on any number of mobile devices, including the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and BlackBerry. Plus, digital galleys from Carina carry no expiration date, which means reviewers can access them long after the publication date for the book.
To find out more about why Carina chose to go DRM-free, and how it’s working out, we talked with digital marketing specialist, Carly Chow.
As a digital-only publisher, how do you use e-galleys in your promotion strategy?
Since we don’t have print galleys, digital galleys are really important for promoting our titles. A lot of traditional reviewers, like Publishers Weekly and print media, are less inclined to review our titles, so we’re looking to non-traditional reviewers to get the word out.
How receptive are reviewers to digital galleys?
Digital-only publishers are quite new, and there are not a lot of them, so we’re doing a lot of brand-building at this point. People are wary of e-books, but when they discover that ours are comparable in editorial quality to what Harlequin is offering, they will often try other galleys from us.
What types of reviewers have been most attracted to Carina Press titles since you began offering them on NetGalley last June?
Romance bloggers are very active on NetGalley, as well as GoodReads and LibraryThing, which are a close second. We’re finding that a handful of reviewers will go on NetGalley, then post reviews on GoodReads or LibraryThing. Often, the reviews say they got the book from NetGalley, so other reviewers see their reviews and go to NetGalley to get a review copy. LibraryThing has an early review program, but we haven’t used that yet.
Can you give me an idea of your overall constituency of NetGalley reviewers at this point?
Carina Press has hundreds of reviewers, but less than 1000 so far. On the Harlequin side, they have more than 1000 reviewers on NetGalley– the biggest group is bloggers, followed by librarians and then booksellers.
When do you release your e-galleys for optimal review coverage?
We usually put the book up two to three weeks before the pub date. Some reviewers read and review it the same day I upload the title, and others will review it a month or more later. Online, it’s a bit of free for all – bloggers will review things published 30 years ago, and books published this month. Since they’re not obligated to review, we can’t force them to do it in any particular timeframe.
Are you getting any specific feedback from your reviewers about how they like DRM-free galleys compared to galleys with DRM?
I handled the NetGalley program for Harlequin, which has DRM protection on its galleys, and by comparison, I’m getting fewer complaints from reviewers about the process of transferring Carina galleys between devices. In my experience, DRM can make transferring a title from an e-reader to a desktop computer or other device a little harder.
Are you getting any feedback on the ePub files you’re offering, since they are supposed to provide a better reading experience because the text reflows according to the device?
We were one of the first publishers to offer ePub files on NetGalley, but I haven’t heard people saying they love it. On the other hand, we’ve have had fewer complaints from reviewers that the print size of our galleys on their e-readers is too small.
Do you have any sense of which DRM-free formats are most popular – e.g. iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Sony Reader, Kindle, etc?
Personal computers seem to be the most popular device for reading digital galleys. With so many e-readers coming on the market, and prices dropping all the time, people seem wary of investing a lot of money in an untested device. Kindle seems to be the most popular, because it’s been around longer. The iPad is coming up slowly, but it’s hard to say how fast things will change or where they’ll end up.
Which of your galleys have been most popular on NetGalley?
Our paranormal titles do very well in NetGalley. Several of our top five titles are in that category, such as Dark and Disorderly by Bernita Harris and Allegra Fairweather by Janni Nell. Other popular titles are Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacer, Panther’s Lair by Esmerelda Bishop and Motor City Fae by Cindy Spencer Pape.
What effects do the dynamics of online discussion have the promotion and sales of your books?
Romance is getting more attention than it used to. Bloggers are reading and reviewing the books quickly, and they can review as many as they want, GoodReads and LibraryThing great for generating word of mouth. People trust other people – if 7 out of 10 reviews are good, they trust it more than one critic at one magazine.
NetGalley helps us reach more bloggers than we would have known about otherwise. Bloggers drawn in by books from other publishers can easily find ours too, because of the ways the books are tagged.
It’s also easier for me to find blogger reviews – they send us their reviews using NetGalley, so it’s easier to find than by searching the whole Web.
Do you think you might offer any incentives to frequent reviewers on NetGalley?
We only started offering galleys on NetGalley last June, so it’s a little early to say for sure. But we’re looking into an incentive program for frequent reviewers.