NetGalley has gone through several incarnations since it was launched just before the 2008 BookExpo America, but its current phase is the most encouraging—it has paying customers. "We're not in a trial period anymore," said marketing director Susan Ruszala. Founded by Rosetta Solutions and taken over by Firebrand Technologies in December 2008, the original technology has been revamped, and Firebrand has worked to overcome one of its key weaknesses, lack of media users. There are now 7,000 registered NetGalley users and while reviewers and the media remain the largest segments, librarians are the fastest growing category. "Librarians don't always have access to galleys, and they want to look over the books before they order," Ruszala said. "With budget cuts, ordering the right books is more important than ever."
Although there have been lots of modifications at NetGalley since its launch, the basic principle remains the same. Readers sign up to use the system for free, and publishers are charged a onetime setup fee and monthly fees based on the number of active titles in the NetGalley catalogue, which currently has about 565 titles. Once a reader chooses a title, the request must be approved by the publisher before an e-galley is released. There are several digital reading options such as the Kindle and PDF downloads in Adobe Digital Editions (no iPad or iPhone app yet), and a few publishers do make print copies available, although Ruszala noted that since most publishers are aiming at a digital audience, print galleys are generally discouraged. Publishers can make up to 50 titles available in the catalogue per month. In addition to the catalogue, NetGalley offers a widget that publishers can send to selected readers inviting them to review a particular book.
Publishers have been using the service in a variety of ways. "We are keeping the system as flexible as possible," Ruszala said. "Each publisher has its own requirements." The most recent publisher to sign, HarperCollins, is using NetGalley to promote science fiction and romance titles, two genres "conducive to online reading," Ruszala said. Harlequin has been using the service to get galleys to bloggers to help stimulate conversation about its romance titles. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's trade group was in the NetGalley pilot program and now is using it as part of a publicist's regular toolkit, said Sanj Kharbanda, v-p, digital market strategy at HMH. While HMH still uses print galleys, the publisher uses NetGalley to give its titles wider exposure and has had particular success in the young adult market, Kharbanda said. For full-color cookbooks, HMH sends black & white galleys to reviewers with a link to NetGalley to give the reviewer the complete impression of the title. "It really helps," Kharbanda said. In addition to speed (which a readers' survey found was the top reason they use the service), Kharbanda said he appreciates that NetGalley has "grown with the market" and has the capability of making the service compatible with the new devices that are being introduced. But he also advised that for NetGalley to work effectively, "it needs to be part of an overall plan."
NetGalley's publisher roster is at about 40 and growing, spurred in part by agreements it made with the Association of American University Presses and ECPA to offer its members discounts. Ruszala said she is optimistic the company will sign a few more major publishers this year. Ruszala has been with NetGalley since the beginning and noted, "It's nice to see a good idea become a viable business."