Boosting Online Reviews with NetGalley

To get Ana Lal Din’s indie YA fantasy debut Descent of the Drowned in front of an engaged YA audience, we knew online reviews would be key to the book’s success. And we also knew that one of the keys to securing early reviews is posting advanced reader copies on NetGalley.

The online platform caters to librarians, educators, booksellers, bloggers, media and reviewers, who can download early digital copies of books for potential review. Descent of the Drowned was made available to the site’s more than 400,000 subscribers for a limited time, and we managed a promotional ad spot on the site to boost exposure.

On NetGalley, the book received 220 reviews, 1,009 downloads, 285 cover up-votes, 68 5-star reviews and 82 4-star reviews.

We also personally followed up with every person who downloaded a copy of the book on NetGalley, to encourage them to post reviews on Goodreads, Amazon their blog and social media.

As a result, Descent of the Drowned had over 100 reviews on Goodreads at the time of launch, a number which only grew after the author celebrated her pub date! These early reviews were essential for helping a first-time author gain the following she deserved.

Establishing a Brand via Creative Promotions

Poetry for children can be a niche market, and a few famous names dominate (we’re looking at you, Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss). But Brett Fleishman’s poems for young readers are so funny and charming, and we wanted to plan something special to help his work stand out. 

After requesting that he write a unique poem for “Take Your Child to a Bookstore” Day, we shared it with hundreds of indie bookstores, along with a custom poster. The independent bookseller associations nationwide shared it with thousands of people via their email lists and social media, and the story and poem were picked up by and featured in Shelf Awareness! 

We also put Brett in front of his target audience by connecting him with ReadBoston, an organization which arranges school visits for authors across the city, and coordinating speaking events for him with the Boston Children’s Museum and the Boston Children’s Festival. We even partnered him with the Lowell Spinners (a local minor league baseball team) so that Brett could collaborate with them on an official promotional poem about the team! 

Establishing Brett’s brand by connecting him directly with his most important audience–kids!–was our primary goal, but we didn’t stop there. We coordinated coverage for him with Kirkus, the Midwest Book Review, Book Riot and influential children’s book bloggers. 

Helping a Genre Publisher Find a Mainstream Audience

As one of the most respected Christian publishers in the industry, Tyndale’s authors have traditionally found success among Christian booksellers and readers (also called the Christian Booksellers Association or CBA market). The publisher knew their titles could also find a wider readership beyond the CBA market. When Tyndale approached us about creating a strategy to promote their titles to a more mainstream audience, we were happy to assist!

Christian and mainstream markets intersect the Southern U.S., (which was also where some of the Tyndale authors were based), so targeting booksellers and readers in that geographic region was a natural first step to not only maximize Tyndale authors’ genre influence, but extend to a broader, receptive audience. We positioned Tyndale’s authors for optimum visibility at the Southern Independent Booksellers Association Tradeshow (SIBA), where they were able to network with and promote to thousands of mainstream Southern booksellers and influencers who were not exclusively faith-based.

We also coordinated blog tours and secured coverage for Tyndale’s authors, including now New York Times bestseller Lisa Wingate, with online reviewers and influencers who cover a diverse variety of genres, which helped expose these wonderful books to mainstream readers across the worldwide. 

With some strategic geographic positioning and creative online exposure, we’re pleased to say that Tyndale’s titles did indeed find a host of new fans beyond their original genre market, growing the publisher’s and authors’ platforms!

Helping A Debut Author Build Her Brand

When Lori Rader-Day joined our Books Forward family in 2014, we knew she was one of a kind. Her debut mystery novel The Black Hour won starred reviews in Booklist, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, and her writing has since been honored by the Edgar, Macavity, Thriller, Barry, and Mary Higgins Clark Awards. For the past five years, we have been honored to help her build her brand (including four subsequent releases!), and to come alongside her amazing efforts to ensure her books get the recognition they deserve.

During Lori’s first epic book tour around the Midwest, we helped confirm her status as a star on the rise by securing local media coverage around her events, building buzz at her various tour stops. Awards recognitions can also help grow a new author’s reputation in the industry, so we managed nominations for an Indie Next Pick, and celebrated with her when she won!

Now, we are continuing to help grow her author brand and expand her fanbase by targeting well-known literary events with established audiences. Lori’s made the long journey from first-time novelist to established author, and we are looking forward to seeing where her literary career takes her next!

Networking with Indie Booksellers for Long-Lasting Success

Author and renowned work addiction expert Dr. Bryan E. Robinson partnered with Books Forward for the launch of Daily Writing Resilience (January 2018). His book focused on mindfulness and meditation as tools to improve the writing process, and was a hit with both health media and writing/literary outlets. 

Shortly after our first campaign with Bryan ended, HarperCollins’ William Morrow imprint accepted his next book #CHILL for publication, and we had the privilege of working with him again on a second book launch for December 2018. With tenacious, personalized pitching, we were able to arrange a regular column for Bryan with Psychology Today, multiple interviews with Forbes and interviews with NBC. 

We also opened up a new area of success for Bryan outside of traditional media placements by helping him develop impactful relationships with his regional independent booksellers association. We arranged for Bryan to speak at the Southern Independent Bookseller Association’s summer tradeshow, and we strategically positioned him at our booth so he could network with passing booksellers. Bright and personable, we knew he would make an impression, and he did! 

When we began our Fall 2018 publicity campaign for #CHILL, we pitched his books for inclusion at SIBA’s Spring 2019 tradeshow, even though Bryan himself could not attend the event. Our proposal was accepted; booksellers and tradeshow organizers remembered him from his previous SIBA appearance. Better still, #CHILL was picked to be SIBA’s official January 2019 Book Club Selection, meaning thousands of booksellers all over the South were encouraged to read #CHILL (creating more incentive for them to stock and handsell the book in their stores)! Bryan was also featured multiple times in the SIBA email newsletter, which named his book an official New Year’s Reading Pick.

Here’s a great example of how building relationships with influential tastemakers can change an author’s life and boost a book.

Using “Out-of-the-Box” Creativity for Big Debut Win

It’s crucial for debut authors to make personal connections with their target audience to build buzz for that first release. Historical novelist Jeffrey Stayton wanted to make as many connections as possible; luckily he had an RV, a taste for adventure and willingness to hit the road! 

We knew a book tour would be the perfect way for Jeff to build a following for his gorgeous and gritty Civil War novel This Side of the River. An epic book deserves an epic tour! 

Books Forward designed a 20-stop book tour at venues and festivals across the country. The tour included Southern mega-fests like the Southern Independent Booksellers Association tradeshow and the venerable Southern Festival of Books, as well as plenty of independent bookstores. We also arranged for Jeff to speak at Civil War reenactment festivals and museums–the perfect place to connect with history buffs, who were warmly receptive to Jeff and his new novel.

As a former indie bookseller himself, Jeff knew the power of bookstores and also wanted to celebrate his fellow book community leaders. We set up a “Cheer for the Bookstore!” $250 Scholarship Contest, where indie bookstores nationwide could enter to win by telling us how they would benefit from the money. One of the highlights of the tour for Jeff was getting to stop in the winning stores and meet the booksellers in person! And we appreciated how Shelf Awareness celebrated Jeff’s goodwill.

Jeff also participated in unique promotions such as SIBA’s TRIO Project, which paired him with a musician and artist who each created an original song and piece of art based on his novel. The TRIO art installation was featured prominently at the tradeshow, before touring through the Southern states.

Helping an International Author Connect with a U.S. Audience

When New Zealand author Christopher Parker came to us with his debut novel The Lighthouse, we felt we had discovered something truly special, and we couldn’t wait to help U.S. readers discover Christopher’s storytelling as well!

To introduce Christoper’s author brand and debut novel to a wide audience here in the States, we knew our best strategy was to get his book directly into readers’ hands. We designed a gorgeous promotional #JourneytoSeabrook box mailing full of interactive swag to introduce readers to his mysterious and fictional town of Seabrook, Oregon. We implemented a strategic mailing to top American social media influencers and were gratified to see the buzz building quickly!

We also coordinated a Little Free Library giveaway that got Christopher’s book placed in 50 prime locations across the U.S., and we managed an advertising campaign to entice prospective reader fans and grow his email list.

Post-launch, we wanted to build on the momentum already rolling by coordinating a comprehensive e-newsletter campaign for The Lighthouse. We worked with Christopher to discount his ebook (for a limited time to $.99) and put it in the inboxes of thousands upon thousands of avid readers, dramatically helping boost the novel’s review count and stateside awareness. We also made sure to share his audiobook on industry platforms, where it was well-received by dozens of librarians, educators and reviewers.

Christopher’s readership continues to grow after our work together. To date, his book has more than 2,000 reviews on the American version of Amazon and an ever-expanding audience worldwide. He told us:

“It’s definitely crazy to go back through that document and review all the milestones and achievements we were able to reach. Definitely a lot to celebrate. Just yesterday I had the librarian from a town in Parkersburg, West Virginia email me to say how much she loved the book and she’s promoting it around the library and it’s now got a waiting list on it. To get messages like that is just crazy and really demonstrates how far and wide the book has been able to go (and it’s not over yet!)

Thank you again to you all for your hard work and the effort you put into publicizing my novel, and thank you also for your encouragement and support along the way. It was definitely a nervous process sending my baby out into the world but knowing I had you all in my corner and championing the book made it a lot easier.”

Boosting a Business through Book Promotion

A book can do so much more than launch your literary career; it can boost your business as well! 

The Books Forward team was thrilled to help Dr. Tiffany Breeding grow her platform as a health expert with the launch of her book, The Metabolic Makeover. With a PhD in Health and Human Performance, and a Masters in Kinesiology/Performance Psychology, “Dr. Tiff” combined exercise, dieting and intention into a transformative strategy for healthy living. Her goals were focused on increasing her local private fitness clients through the sale of her book and growing her fitness brand through publicity. 

We set to work creating a brand-building campaign that resulted in both national and local media attention. We coordinated an interview with NBC, arranged an expert Q&A with Sanctuary magazine and organized a SiriusXM radio tour that solidified her as a credible fitness expert in the national eye. 

Since her customers were primarily Nashville-based, we secured solid local coverage with Nashville Fit magazine, Nashville Lifestyles magazine and News Channel 5’s “Talk of the Town,” one of the city’s most popular morning television programs. We even snagged a feature for her in one of the debut issues of Nashville’s newest lifestyle and health magazine, Nashville Edit. And, we partnered her with local online influencers, fitness Instagrammers and lifestyle bloggers for a big online / social media boost. 

We are happy to see Dr. Tiff’s brand and business continue to skyrocket. With a little savvy promotion, she was able to get the visibility her business deserves!

Selling Out an Initial Print Run

Named a Best Indie Book of the Year in 2018, A Year of Living Kindly was an immediate darling of national media and reviewers, earning a coveted starred review by Kirkus Reviews. As the contentious 2018 midterm elections were setting fire to national headlines, author Donna Cameron’s warmth and authenticity became a sought-after perspective as she examined the transformative power of civility. 

Books Forward maximized Donna’s visibility by positioning her as a “kindness expert,” securing placement for her guest articles in The Washington Post and more, and our team helped grow media buzz around her brand.

Our partnership with Donna made a difference. She already built a wide fan base with a blog she began writing a year prior to publication, and the media attention we secured for her grew her readership and solidified her position as as an expert in the field of kindness.

And the buzz didn’t stop with publication–at the start of 2019, Donna’s expertise continued to make a splash across multiple media outlets, and she was even showcased in Weight Watchers Magazine

As a result, Donna’s publisher She Writes Press announced that the book sold out of its first printing in just a few months, and is now in its fourth printing. We’re thrilled that readers took notice of this remarkable book!

Building a New York Times-bestselling author brand

When we were first introduced to J. Elle, we knew we had someone really, really special on our hands. Our communications began when she was beginning to build her author platform, and she eventually sparked a firestorm of interest when she participated in #DVPit, a Twitter book pitching event for historically marginalized voices. Her tweet landed her a six-figure contract with Simon & Schuster for her debut WINGS OF EBONY duology. Six months after her first contract, Elle sold a second fantasy duology at auction to Bloomsbury Publishing. She was beginning her publishing journey with a bang!

But building a lasting brand is a marathon and not a sprint, which is why we were thrilled to partner with Elle to help position her as a powerhouse author who is here to stay.

For her debut novel WINGS OF EBONY, we introduced Elle to TikTok, as we recognized early on that the book community on the app (which was rapidly expanding due to lockdowns in 2020) could be a powerful promotional audience for an up-and-coming YA author like Elle. We helped guide her in how to make the most of the app’s features, and we celebrated with her when she experienced her first viral video! We also made the most of the hyper-targeted, personalized pitching Books Forward is known for, garnering media interest not just from traditional book outlets, but national coverage in Essence, The Root and Ms. Magazine, as well as local features in the Houston Chronicle, Houston Public Radio and Houston Life.

We were elated when WINGS OF EBONY became an instant New York Times bestseller — and when we partnered with Elle for Book 2!

For her next book ASHES OF GOLD, we doubled down on savvy, targeted media pitching that capitalized on the success of Elle’s debut. The media responded with enthusiasm, as we secured coverage in major outlets including The Mary Sue, Belletrist, Yahoo, Tor, Mother, The Young Folks, Bustle, Frolic and more. And booksellers championed her work as well. We helped coordinate a nationwide multi-indie bookstore event where stores from every part of the country – including Oblong Books in New York, King’s English Bookshop in Utah, Jackson Hole Trader in Wyoming, Wonders of the World in Mississippi and more – hosted a poignant discussion with Elle and other powerhouse authors on Black love being a cornerstone in Black history.

We also provided weekly customized TikTok guidance for Elle to grow her brand and connect with a dedicated audience, with advice about the latest trends and recommendations for video ideas she could use.

Once again, we were thrilled to celebrate every success with Elle — including when she was named a 2022 NAACP Image Award Nominee for Outstanding Fiction for Teens!

There’s so much ahead for this incredible author. Her star is only rising, and we can’t wait to see more and more readers fall in love with Elle and her books!