Dear Netgalley and Goodreads,
Today I discovered that your sites will no longer be providing services (or limiting services) to international readers and I am absolutely devastated.
Contrary to popular belief, America is not the only country in the world.
For those who are unaware of what is happening, Goodreads will, from January 2018, prevent authors from creating giveaways for international readers. Basically, authors will have to pay $119 for a giveaway base package, and $599 for the premium. Previously, all authors had to pay for was shipping. Read more here.
Netgalley, on the other hand, has severely limited the amount of e-ARCs an international blogger can request – instead, bloggers will now have to use the ‘Wish’ button and pray the publisher grants their request. For those who are frequent users of Netgalley, you know how hard it is to have a wish granted. I myself has been using Netgalley for over a year and have never had a wish granted.
I cannot understand the reasoning behind these decisions, and, in fact, neither company has offered an adequate response. (As of the writing of this letter, I have scoured Netgalley’s blog and have not found an explanation for this decision. If you find a post, or see that Netgalley has explained, please link me.)
Netgalley and Goodreads may have a good reason for making these changes (that they are neglecting to share with the public), but what I don’t think they understand is that their decisions have a trickle-down effect. By giving access to ARCs to only American bloggers/reviewers, and by preventing international readers from entering giveaways, these two decisions – that may seem small right now – have a much larger effect.
Below is a list of TEN reasons as to why Netgalley and Goodreads should reconsider their decisions.
(NOTE: This post may come across as anti-American, but I promise it’s not. This is not directed at any specific American bloggers, but rather the system that prioritises them over literally the rest of the world.)
1. International bloggers/reviewers are already disadvantaged
Book bloggers and reviewers are a massive part of the online book industry, but we are constantly pushed aside to make way for American bloggers.
America, through no fault of it’s own, has a ginormous, thriving publishing industry. I would say the only other country’s industry that could possibly rival America’s is that of England’s.
It is extremely difficult for an international blogger/reviewer to get their hands on a physical ARC from their native country’s publishing company, so we often rely on services like Netgalley – and even giveaways from Goodreads – to get our hands on an ARC.
Have you ever browsed through the #arcsfortrade tag on Twitter and taken a look at the sheer number of American bloggers/reviewers trading ARCs? I have, and I’ve been forced to mute the tag due to how upsetting I find that entire exchange. I hope no American bloggers who partake in this exchange are offended by what I am about to say, but it comes across as these bloggers are (unintentionally) shoving their advantages in my face and the faces of all international readers and bloggers. It really hurts.
2. It’s e-ARCs not physical ARCs
One of the biggest sources of confusion for Netgalley’s decision to limit the ability of international bloggers to request ARCs stems from the fact that Netgalley provides e-ARCs of novels, not physical copies. That means that there is no shipping fees involved in sending a blogger an ARC.
So why limit access to ARCs? It makes no sense.
Bloggers are a tight-nit community. When I see a fellow blogger of mine rave about an ARC, I immediately load up Netgalley and search for the book. Then I log onto Goodreads and read the reviews. Then I (usually) request the ARC. It’s word-of-mouth advertising.
3. It’s difficult for international bloggers/reviewers to break into the publishing industry
I can’t speak on behalf of all international bloggers out there, but for myself, blogging is not a hobby – it’s a chance for me to show off my work ethic, my love of books, and my dedication to publishing, as I hope to secure a job in the industry one day.
By limiting the amount of ARCs I can request, my blog will deteriorate. 80% of my blog’s traffic stems from people searching for reviews of ARCs. In fact, out of the 10 most popular reviews on my blog, seven of these are ARC reviews – ironically, five of these ARCs were provided to me via Netgalley.
(Please don’t judge me too harshly on the lower numbers – they’re from my first year of blogging.)
Now that my access to ARCs is limited, there goes a lot of my traffic.
4. It’s difficult for authors to break out into the international market
Feel free to disagree with me, but having a book that appeals to only one country seems silly and counterproductive. By providing ARCs to only one portion of reviewers, authors that are attempting to break into the international market are severely thwarted.
It’s important to me that Netgalley and Goodreads understand that books are not just sold in America. By restricting ARCs and giveaways to American bloggers only, you are not only alienating international readers, you are effecting the success of an author and limiting their ability to breakout into the international market the way popular authors, Sarah J. Maas, Maggie Stiefvater, and Benjamin Alire Saenz, have.
5. Free marketing
This is such an obvious reason, but I feel like it must be said:
PROVIDING ARCS TO BLOGGERS = FREE MARKETING FOR THE BOOK
Why limit the amount of free marketing a novel will receive? That will only hurt the book.
When I really love a book, I go above and beyond to ensure as many people as possible are exposed to that book. This is doubly so for ARCs. I participate in blog tours, author interviews, guest posts, and I spend (honest to god) days writing a review because I love the book that is about to be published, and I want everyone to read it.
By denying international readers, bloggers and reviewers the same opportunities as American bloggers, Netgalley and Goodreads are essentially saying that they don’t value the international market, or even the success of the author.
6. Publishing becomes less diverse
If you only give access to ARCs to American bloggers, these bloggers apply their American-centric point of view to the story, whether or not they’re conscious of it. Silvia @ Silvia Reads Books wrote an amazing article about this issue (which I highly suggest you read), but to summarise the article:
(NOTE: This is not to say all American bloggers do the following, but when I limit my search of reviews to JUST American bloggers, these issues become more apparent, whether the reviewer is conscious of it or not. If you’re American, please don’t take offence, but rather consider reflecting upon the following points, and make an effort to view books and issues from a non-American POV, the way international readers make an effort to view books from an American POV.)
- A majority of American readers place their modern-day, Anglo-Saxon/Protestant/Caucasian values on a piece of writing.
- A majority of American readers do not comprehend that literature is contextual. (Sorry, but it’s true.)
- International bloggers/reviewers have taken to viewing media and literature through an American-centric lens, as the American POV has become so pervasive.
- A majority of American readers don’t seem to make an effort to understand the context and the value of a non-American novel.
As Netgalley and Goodreads will now prioritise American bloggers, they are limiting a story from being read from other perspectives.
For e.g., I am Italian, and if I were to write a novel about an Italian woman attempting to escape life in the Mafia, is a publisher really only going to want an American-centric POV of that novel? Or would they rather hear from an Italian blogger/reviewer?
7. Net neutrality
Bear with me here, because this point gets a little philosophical, but I believe I’m onto something.
Net neutrality is a principle that allows us to communicate online freely. It means …
… an internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that ISPs should provide us with open networks — and shouldn’t block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn’t decide who you call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn’t interfere with the content you view or post online.
Without Net Neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes. An ISP could slow down its competitors’ content or block political opinions it disagreed with. ISPs could charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service. This would destroy the open internet.
Hmm … paying extra fees just to use a service? That sounds familiar *cough* Goodreads *cough*
Fundamentally, what is happening with Netgalley and Goodreads is the same thing as Net Neutrality. Netgalley and Goodreads are prioritising big (American) reviewers over smaller and independent (international) reviewers.
Goodreads and Netgalley are essentially discriminating against international bloggers, and authors as well, by limiting their services.
I can’t believe I even have to say this, but literature isn’t supposed to be accessible to only a certain group of people.
8. ‘You wouldn’t steal a book’ … or would you?
Sorry, I just really wanted to add that commercial in, but I do have a point, which is this:
PIRACY RATES OF ARCS WILL NOW SKYROCKET
I am not going to get into the argument of whether it’s okay to pirate books if you have a good reason, or whether or not pirating actually hurts the author – that can be a discussion for another time. What I will say is that ARCs already populate book pirating websites – can you imagine how many more ARCs we will see on pirating sites now that only a select few can gain access?
I conducted an experiment:
I went on a popular book pirating website (I will not name the site, don’t ask), and searched a few YA 2018 titles (obviously these books are ARCs). Here are three ARCs that I found (I did not download them):
- The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
- Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner
- Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine
Now, it did take me a while to find these ARCs as I typed in quite a few 2018 titles that didn’t show up, but can you imagine how many more ARCs will be put on that site, and others like it, now that international bloggers cannot access ARCs anymore? All it takes is one well-meaning American blogger who is sympathetic. Netgalley and Goodreads are kidding themselves if they think piracy won’t skyrocket.
9. Farewell badges
(This part relates only to Netgalley. It may seem a little silly to you, but I find it important.)
I don’t know about you, but I love my Netgalley badges. I was over the moon when I discovered I received that elusive 80% feedback badge, and the highly sought after Top Reviewer badge. I was steadily making my way towards the 50 Reviews badge, when I learnt the news about Netgalley.
What I am most upset about, however, is my inability to ever become auto-approved. For those of you who don’t know, when a Netgalley member becomes auto-approved by a publisher, that means the member can instantly access any ARC from that particular publishing company. It’s a great way to create strong relationships and connections with people in the publishing industry.
But now that Netgalley has restricted the ARCs we can request – and has forced us to ‘Wish’ for them instead – we will never have the chance to become auto-approved. We can also kiss all the other badges goodbye.
10. Is this even legal?
I am a Master of Publishing and Communications student, so I still don’t fully understand the ins-and-outs of the publishing world yet, but is what Netgalley (specifically) doing even legal?
Does Netgalley have the right to make a decision FOR a publisher in regards to who is able to access ARCs? Do publishing companies even know what Netgalley is doing?
From my understanding, Netgalley is a ‘connection point‘ – a bridge, if you will – where publishers can connect with readers, librarians, bloggers, etc., through the site. Netgalley is the middleman, but the publisher is the one who makes the final decision as to who gains access to ARCs. NOT Netgalley.
So what are they doing?
For me, all of this boils down to three possible explanations on behalf of Netgalley and Goodreads.
- They are going broke
When a company begins withdrawing their services, or cutting back on certain things, it means that they are not as affluent as they once were. And this makes sense: usually a company starts out small and then expands to an international market, but Netgalley and Goodreads are doing the opposite.
- They are getting greedy
Or perhaps Netgalley and Goodreads are perfectly stable and they want to reduce their services to save money. (Looking at your Goodreads, with your $600 giveaway packages.) They’ve made their money and they don’t want to waste anymore on an international market that is too expensive.
- It’s Amazon
Could this be the influence of Amazon? We already know that Amazon owns Goodreads, is it possible that the company has set its sites on Netgalley too? I mean, a majority of the ARCs available on Netgalley are dispersed via Amazon …
What do you think?
On Netgalley’s website is the declaration that they ‘provide resources to bloggers and reviewers’. Similarly, on Goodreads’*** site, they claim that their mission is to help people find and share books they love.
Their recent decisions prove the exact opposite of their site statements.
I reach out to Netgalley and Goodreads to rethink their decisions and come up with alternatives. You are alienating your International market – a market, I might add, that is far bigger and has a larger reach than the American market.
Please do better.
What do you think about Netgalley and Goodreads’ decisions? Will you be affected? Do you have an explanation? Let me know!
***Fill out this survey to express your discontent with Goodreads’ giveaway program.