Thursday, October 2, 2008

Money for Old Rope: NetGalley (ADDED TO)

It's not my fashion to give credence or space to something that I believe is bad for poetry. Why draw attention to such a thing? However, I'm breaking that guideline over NetGalley, an organization which "provides centralized galley and digital press kit services, as well as a place to connect and collaborate with others in the industry." NetGalley has just partnered with Foreword Magazine, which is meant to be in support of the "independently published."

My problem is this: NetGalley charges $400 per title to assist publishers in making their galleys/Advance Reader Copies available online, and to provide electronic notification to publishers on decisions reviewers have taken with their galleys.

As someone who has worked with small presses for several years now to help secure review attention, I have tried to encourage electronic galleys. It costs nothing for a press to prepare an electronic galley. Not $400, nothing.

At a time when review attention and space is decreasing, NetGalley preys on publisher anxiety about review coverage. Net Galley imposes (or, at best, invites) a charge of $400 dollars in order for publishers to do EXACTLY WHAT THEY DO NOW. Under the guise of helping the environment and saving trees, NetGalley takes money from underfunded independent publishers. If the big fiction houses want to do this, great, let them splurge. But when "independent" magazines like ForeWord sign up, poets and poetry presses suffers.

So here's what I propose.

Please join me in this. Please don't acquiesce. Link widely to this post. Write to ForeWord to suggest they rethink, that if they're that keen on electronic submissions, they could facilitate it without NetGalley and without making small presses pay thousands of dollars. We all would love to see less paper galleys in the world, since most of them end up in the recycling bin or, worse, the garbage. NetGalley isn't the way to do it, and encouraging it certainly isn't.

In the interests of discussion, if you're a reviewer, a publisher, a magazine, and you feel I'm missing something about NetGalley, let me know. (EDIT: See Gabe's comment for a less indy press-centric reading of this!) As a publicist, as a writer, as a reader, I feel that this is a corporate entity which doesn't care about or care for words, language, literature. Unlike such wonderful groups as Small Press Distribution, which has really embraced the web, NetGalley is an anonymous organization. I can't find any reason to support them, and I find every reason to propose alternatives that are good for publishing and for writing about books.


I want to make it clear that ForeWord and other magazines are NOT moving to a NetGalley only system. So publishers who are reading this: you won't lose out if you opt not to go with NetGalley.

That said, my aim stands: I'd love to see ForeWord and others adopt another, non-expensive electronic organizational model, as journals have with Submissions Manager. So I'll keep this issue alive in the hopes of achieving that.

ForeWord, by the way, apparently encourages (non NetGalley) electronic submissions and has been doing so for over a year. This is news to me, news I'm happy to hear, and hopeful that they'll make more prominent on their submissions guidelines in the interests of serving independent presses.


Anonymous said...

Kevin writes:

Hello Lytton--

I agree with your assessment here. The price does seem excessive, based on what they're offering. and, yes, bad for small presses, who would suffer were NetGalley to become the primary way galleys are distributed. But could that possibly happen? I mean, why would a press sign up for such an expensive service when they could far more cheaply make pdf galleys of their books available on their own websites, on password-protected pages.

I frequently request pdfs of books for Pleiades reviewers directly from publishers, and they're always happy to oblige. Why WOULDN'T presses just make this part of their standard outreach to reviewer as part of their website offerings? I can't imagine that NetGalley could continue with these rates for long.

Or maybe I'm misunderstanding something?

I'm definitely with you on protecting the American small literary press, where 90% of the good work is being published today.


ljs said...


Good question: why WOULD a press sign up?

Because, sadly, Pleiades is more forward-thinking than many magazines. Given that ForeWord (and, I hear, one other big trade reviewer) are signing up, it suggest a willingness on the part of magazines to embrace the scheme, perhaps not realizing the problems. (I can't rationalize ForeWord's decision in any other way than ignorance.) If NetGalley gets enough big names on board, publishers end up having to sign up or else not get review attention from said magazines.

So I'm with you: let's make .pdfs standard outreach for publishers. Sadly, today, part of that involves rejecting NetGalley: we end up spending time rejecting their corporate proposal, time we could spend on asking magazines to support tree-less galleys.

Kudos on Pleiades for thinking forward!


Anonymous said...


If you look at the public library on NetGalley's site, you'll see that many of the titles are nonfiction/reference books from Sourcebooks--baby-naming books , books on coping with illness. For publications like these, Sourcebooks may send out hundreds and hundreds of galleys, making the expense of NetGalley less exorbitant. For those of us publishing poetry or literary fiction, the $400 is obviously prohibitive, especially since there is no way to get around binding galleys anyway, even if some reviewers will receive them electronically. So to me the concern isn't the existence of a place like NetGalley. It's the move by a place like ForeWord, an increasingly important publication, to favor and potentially privilege electronic submissions from a single, expensive source.


ljs said...


Yes, I think you're right: NetGalley makes sense outside of the indy press world. It makes sense for big industry magazines to have the organizational help.

Why Foreword is on board surprises me. There's a way to achieve what they want by using a version of Submission Manager that doesn't encourage presses to spend money they don't have.

I know of at least one indy press which is considering NetGalley, which I'd advise against, and so I think my urgency on suggesting to ForeWord and others an alternative to NetGalley is stemming from there.