In my pre-Lifehacker days, I was a content creator for the nation’s largest bookstore chain — I’m sure you know the one — and coming to the office each day was like Book Nerd Christmas: My mailbox was constantly overflowing with packages from publishers containing advance reading copies (or “ARCs”) of books that weren’t scheduled to hit stores for months. Getting on these exclusive mailing lists can be tricky (it’s certainly the perk I miss the most), but if you’ve got an e-reader or an ebook app on your phone, you can capture a little bit of that magic via NetGalley.
Billed as “a site where book reviewers and other professional readers can read books before they are published, in e-galley or digital galley form,” NetGalley exists primarily as a way for publishers — from indies to the “Big Five” — to build buzz for forthcoming releases by distributing them to a wide network of “influencers” who will hopefully review them in their publications, on their blogs, or even on Goodreads. (Speaking from experience, being a book influencer is definitely less glamorous than being an Instagram influencer, but at least you don’t have to worry about your selfie game.) Here’s how to get in on the action.
How to join NetGalley
While NetGalley is ostensibly seeking “professional readers,” the wonders of the internet — and of book review aggregation sites like Goodreads and its non-Amazon-controlled alternatives — mean that anyone can be a pro. And certainly you don’t need to provide any bona fides to sign up for an account. Just head over to NetGalley and create one. You’ll need to provide some basic info — your name, age, an email address — but where it asks for your “company,” feel free to enter the name of your blog or even Goodreads. You can also just make something up, though being honest — and actually having a review platform — will help you land review copies of more sought-after books. In order to read advance copies, you’ll also need to create a brief bio and list the genres you’re most interested in reading.
Whatever information you provide, once you’re signed up and have confirmed your account, you can begin to browse the catalogue of forthcoming books available for digital download. Some titles will only be delivered to you if you request to review them and are granted approval by the publisher (this is where it helps to have an established voice as a reviewer, whether just on Goodreads or on your own blog or YouTube channel). Others — lots of them, in fact — are freely available for anyone to download and read instantly. Just click on “Find Titles” and look for the “Read Now” link.
True, most of these freely available titles will be books you’ve never heard of, many of them from small publishers, but that’s not always a bad thing. And you will find books from major publishers and authors here too; as of this writing, one of the most-requested freely available titles is Ninth Step Station, penned by a cadre of mainstream-published sci-fi authors including Hugo Award nominees Malka Older and Fran Wilde.
Titles can be downloaded in a variety of formats — including audiobooks — or you can read them in the native NetGalley Shelf app, available on iOS and Android. Note that these special advance copies typically include copy protection that will require you to jump through a few hoops to load them onto your devices, but the site provides some good FAQs to help you get started. You’ll also want to wait to download until you’re ready to read, as they often are set to expire after a few weeks or a month.
If you don’t have a good way to prove you have a strong following as a reviewer, don’t get too excited about seeing listings for books by super famous authors — these will almost always be on an “as approved” basis and publishers will be reluctant to OK just any random person looking to score a free copy. That said, it’s worth a try — and NetGalley also provides a few tips to boost your profile and hopefully land you that must-read ARC.