What did you think of the experience overall? Was it helpful for getting reviews? any other downsides to the process?
Hi Lisa. Thanks for asking. The experience overall was good. I think the key to the whole experience is being careful with approvals and also being careful about an auto-approve list if there are authors of varying genres. Because if you look at some reviewers, their profile is polite and well worded and then you look at their Goodreads profile and it's a slew of unhelpful one stars. I don't mean normal, critical reviews that help a reader decide whether to read or not. Those one stars are invaluable. I mean reviews where they read it knowing they'll hate it and cackle over it with their friends, because they have nothing better to do.
Also, Netgalley reviews tend to be much harsher than organic reviews, it's almost an extension of Goodreads in that way. They will give you a 2 star on Amazon for being 'okay, a good read' and a 3 star for being 'great, had fun reading'. Not everyone, but a lot of the reviewers. I got a lot of glowing, flattering reviews that were 3 and 4 stars. It took a while for one of my books to recover from the Netgalley reviews with regular, organic reviews from free runs, Bookbub, and regular purchases.
BUT...I have also found some of my greatest fans through Netgalley. Bloggers who offered me interviews, or wanted to get me on Twitter, or promote me (ironically they were also 4 star reviews on Amazon). It was worth being on Netgalley to meet fans like that. And some of the reviews you get will be really high quality and very informative for the readers. But if you are sensitive to bad reviews, you will get by far your least favorite on Netgalley. After releasing 12 books under 3 pen names, my skin is pretty thick, but I have still had some really cringe-worthy reviews through Netgalley.
I write romance and my by far worst reviews were from auto-approves who downloaded my books without checking genre despite hating romance. Then they would go off on a rant about how trashy romance is, and how my book is basically a romance novel (IT IS a romance novel) and laugh about how lame romances are. I actually had a review that tore me a new one for being a romance (which is fine, they have a right) but then the author of the review went on to demand I release the next quickly and emailed a copy of her review asking that I send her the next quickly because she's loving the series so far. Okay...
In general, the readers on Netgalley are voracious, opinionated readers and that can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how much your book's rating on Amazon can withstand a few bombs.
It's all about expectations and making sure the book is in the right hands. Just like a book that goes free will get bad reviews because people picked it up when they wouldn't if they were paying, Netgalley has some of the same issues with readers just grabbing what they can.
Some people also say all reviews sell books. I never really saw an increase in sales with any of my Netgalley titles, but it was nice to have reviews soon after launching. I recommend putting the book up before sale and then sending an email only to the reviewers you choose when the book goes live. It may prevent some of the one star bombers from hitting your page because they'd have to be checking when the book is live. Be very clear in your blurb so readers know just what to expect. Hope that helps some.