What it Means to Be a Professional Reader

In the spring of 2013, while browsing Goodreads, I found several blogs that reviewed books and decided that was something I’d like to do too. After spending many hours researching how to create a blog, and reading mostly guides by other bloggers, I signed up for WordPress and set out designing my own website. Within a couple days I had my first review posted. It was brief and unoriginal, and, in all honesty, it was awful but it started me out on a path that would help me figure out what kind of careers I’d be interested in as I started college. Three years later, I find that through blogging and reviewing books, I’ve been introduced to a side of the publishing industry that most people don’t see.

Before I started blogging, I had no concept of the term ‘professional reader.’ It wasn’t until I started leisurely reading and reviewing books that interested me that I stumbled upon the world of Professional Readers. A professional reader, defined by Netgalley, is someone who reads, reviews, and recommends books to other people, whether for libraries, bookstores, in classrooms, or online via blogging.

For most people, outside of academia, reading is a form of entertainment and escape from everyday life; however, there’s an online community of readers and bloggers who started off as leisurely readers and are now joining the ranks of Professional Readers, amongst librarians, educators, journalists, and booksellers.

Online platforms such as Netgalley and Edelweiss allow readers to access books that are soon to be published, and request to read and review them as galleys (often called Advanced Reader Copies, or ARCs) to help generate publicity for these books, through reviews, word of mouth, and social media.

“NetGalley is a service to promote titles to professional readers of influence. If you are a reviewer, blogger, journalist, librarian, bookseller, educator, or in the media, you can use NetGalley for FREE to request, read and provide feedback about forthcoming titles. Your feedback and recommendations are essential to publishers and readers alike. (Netgalley.com)”

There is a mutual benefit for both publishers and readers when an ARC is given to a reader to review and promote. The publishers gain extra publicity for very little cost (in the case of digital ARCs – print copies are more limited and expensive) and receive feedback in the form of reviews from the readers. Readers read and review these books for free because they get access to the books for no charge, and in most cases the readers are interested and passionate about the books they receive.

This process takes place online through either websites like Netgalley and Edelweiss, or through directly emailing the publishers, to request digital or physical ARCs. The publisher usually takes into account the social reach of the reader, such as where they’ll be reviewing the book, how many followers or page views they have, and whether or not the reader is the targeted audience. Based on this information, the request for that book is either accepted or declined.

Most readers publish their reviews online on a blog or website, and then share their reviews on social media websites like Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads. These reviews help expand awareness of the book, generating a ‘buzz’ about the book before it’s released. Many people look online to find new books in their preferred genres, and having these reviews on so many accessible websites helps connect the book with potential readers, particularly websites like Goodreads.

Additionally, many bloggers join together to form online communities.  These communities help spread the word on new books.  Once one blogger reviews a new ARC, many other bloggers become curious and want to find out for themselves what the book is all about, and will likely go out and purchase the book when it’s released so they can review it themselves and add to the buzz.

Professional readers and their reviews are invaluable to publishers and authors. The buzz and response from readers about a book can determine whether or not a book sells, among other factors like outside marketing (which can get expensive and is not very extensive for most books). Professional readers and reviews are a vital part of the marketing strategy for many publishers when promoting a new book.

As a professional reader, reviewer, and blogger, I’ve been able to interact with and experience the publishing industry in new ways. Having this interaction and this experience has opened up new ideas about what I would like to do with my degree in English in the future, particularly working within the publishing industry, where, if I’m lucky, I’ll still be reading and promoting books I’m passionate about.

If you’re interested in learning more, browse the Netgalley and Edelweiss websites. In my next post, I’ll discuss how to become a professional reader, particularly how to get started with a blog.

– Jessica Trudeau

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