Galley slaves: Several hundred galleys sent out per title—one more expense to sink besieged publishers

image Yen at the Book Publicity Blog has embarked on an admirable crusade to get people to use e-galleys these days—digital advance reading copies or ARCs, in current parlance. I love the idea. She works for Viking Penguin, and if you qualify as a reviewer and want a title to write up, you’ll score points with her if you ask for E. Alas, she can’t deliver it now but hopes to, in the future. Yen’s idea isn’t to force everyone to use e-galleys; rather, those who want to, and who can afford the right readers.

Meanwhile TeleRead’s Kat Meyer, another expert on these matters, has reminded me of the sheer cost of using paper galleys. To promote the average midlist book from a large publisher, several hundred galleys are going out.  And that’s actually larger than the print runs of many a small publisher, especially in this era of print on demand. A bestseller may even call for 5,000 ARCs. Many reviewers have very specific tastes, and while targeted mailing lists can help, they are far from completely precise, one reason for the large numbers. Talk about the need for galleys to go E and help publishing at all levels be more sustainable!

More than just going green

This is far, far more than just being eco-friendly, in other words. The high cost of paper ripples far. If you’re a publisher and you must pay X dollars to promote your book, you may be tempted to think, “I won’t even publish this title unless it can sell a certain number of copies. So I won’t go with it unless the advance is at a certain level.” If anything, the demise or shrinkage of some important newspaper book sections just may complicate matters. After all, you have yet more people to reach to make up for the AWOL reviews. With e-galleys, it’s far, far cheaper to pitch to bloggers, including TeleRead’s Court Merrigan.

Some publishers might also argue that with paper instead of e-galleys, there is more risk that reviewers will sell them and depress prices. Of course there is a piracy risk with e-galleys, but it’s rather small compared to the potential here.


Meanwhile, if you’re a writer, check out Fran Toolan’s NetGalley service, or have your publisher do so. The per-title cost, $199, is not as low as I’d like to see it. But Fran wants to reduce the price, that’s certainly a step in the right direction, and publishers would do well to help support a resource as valuable as his. Yet another alternative of course, even if it isn’t as convenient, is for publishers to offer PDFs and other formats on their own. With NetGalley, however, some additional choices are possible such as letting reviewers read a book online without a download, then request a paper copy. Meanwhile Fran tells me that the first five titles are free. So if you’re a writer or a publisher, especially a small house, there might not be any excuse left for not trying NetGalley.

An ePub angle: Yep, a standard format would simplify the process.

Disclosure: Kat will be blogging for NetGalley. Pretty irrelevant in this case, though. Except for NetGalley’s prices, which could be lower, I’ve long been a fan of the service.

About David Rothman (6820 Articles)
David Rothman is the founder and publisher of the TeleRead e-book site and cofounder of He is also author of The Solomon Scandals novel and six tech-related books on topics ranging from the Internet to laptops. Passionate on digital divide issues, he is now pushing for the creation of a national digital library endowment.

3 Comments on Galley slaves: Several hundred galleys sent out per title—one more expense to sink besieged publishers

  1. I should note that we’re not, at this point, sending out electronic galleys / books (although I wish we were). Nevertheless, it is helpful for us to know which reviewers want / can use ebooks. (More to the point, it’s helpful for us to know if a lot of reviewers want ebooks!) Reviewers — send along links to clips, please — can email vikingpublicity[at]us[dot]penguingroup[dot]com to let us know your preferences for tree or e.

  2. Thanks, Yen. I’ve tweaked the piece and pointed to your comment, so people will know about the current situation. Best of luck with efforts in this area! David

  3. It’s funny to see publishers on on one hand decrying the cost of manufacturing/distributing physical copies of books and on another hand, when trying to justify pricing ebooks at the same price (or thereabouts) as a printed copy, how the price of manufacturing/distributing physical books is irrelevant to establishing book prices.

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