A Math Lesson: Netgalley & Your Average Rating

It’s been a while since I’ve last written a Bookish Math Lesson post, but I’ve found a new relevant topic for today! Netgalley is a huge resource for so many bloggers, but navigating it can be difficult a lot of the time.

✨ (Also, check out my previous Math Lesson posts on how 5 Stars Does Not Negate 1 Star and If Tagging People In Giveaways Hurts Your Chances!)

Netgalley ratios are important for publishers to use in determining how reliable of a blogger you are, and whether or not they want to approve you for a digital ARC. I personally am a champion of a more holistic approach (see: Edelweiss), but I realize the benefits of doing things as numerically-focused as Netgalley does.

The ratios are determined by using the following formula:

Review Copies You’ve Finished / Review Copies You’ve Been Approved For

“Review Copies You’ve Finished” does NOT include “I Will Not Review” or “Archived” books.  “Review Copies You’ve Been Approved For” does NOT include review copies you’ve been emailed links to but ultimately did not download.

So, as you can see by the restrictions, it’s a very straightforward formula. How many you’ve submitted reviews for over how many you’ve been approved for.

And although simple makes it easier for us to decode, it’s not necessarily better.

Some bloggers, when first joining the site, go request-crazy, and then end up with a bunch of books they probably can’t read fast enough, and a ratio that will take many months to recover.

Others just read a lot of books at once and it’s not necessarily feasible to have an 80% ratio, even if you always review on time.

And what I really want to talk about through this post is that a bias against new Netgalley members exists, and the math behind this conclusion.

(This is all a very US-centric conversation, and although the math checks out globally, it’s not really relevant to a lot of countries who aren’t able to use Netgalley, which I’m sorry for.)

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I wrote down 12 hypothetical situations shown below. (You can skip to the analysis part after the graphics if you don’t feel like reading my reasoning for setting the situations up.)

How I Set The Situations Up

[Column 1] The first way I created the situations was by determining how many ARCs each account had already reviewed:

Three have brand new accounts and have reviewed 0 ARCs.
Three have newish accounts and have reviewed 10 ARCs.
Three have slightly more matured accounts and have reviewed 50 ARCs.
Three have well-established accounts and have reviewed 100 ARCs.

[Column 2] Then, within each situation group, I gave one situation 1 unreviewed ARC, one situation 5 unreviewed ARCs, and one situation 10 unreviewed ARCs.

[Column 3] Using this information, I calculated the total number of ARCs they have (which goes in the denominator of the formula I mentioned earlier).

[Column 4] And used that and the first column to calculate their final Netgalley Ratio based off of reviewing none of the ARCs.

[Column 5] I created the ratio after the person reviewed one of the ARCs they hadn’t reviewed (so, ([Column 1]+1 ARC)/[Column 3] ).

[Column 6] And just for good emphasis, I did this again, but after the person reviewed two of the ARCs they hadn’t reviewed (which doesn’t apply in some cases). Formula: ([Column 1]+2 ARCs)/[Column 3]

NOTE: the ratios aren’t actually in percentage form because I was too lazy to change the Excel document to percentages. To find the percent, move the decimal place right two spaces, i.e. .73 = 73%

What does this mean?

On first glance, this looks like a jumble of numbers, but luckily, I’m here to decode their results for you.

If we look within each of the 4 situation groups, we can see that within each group, the more ARCs you have unreviewed [Column 2], the lower your ratios will be [Columns 4, 5, & 6].

Which we already know. Review more books, boost your ratio.

But, if we look at all 4 groups on a whole, we can see a couple other notable trends.

Looking exclusively at columns 1-4 right now, let’s examine the data.

When you’ve already reviewed 0 ARCs, your ratio after requesting 1, 5, or 10 ARCs is 0, 0, and 0 respectively.
When you’ve already reviewed 10 ARCs, your ratio after requesting 1, 5, or 10 ARCs is 91%, 67%, and 50% respectively.
When you’ve already reviewed 50 ARCs, your ratio after requesting 1, 5, or 10 ARCs is 98%, 91%, and 83% respectively.
When you’ve already reviewed 100 ARCs, your ratio after requesting 1, 5, or 10 ARCs is 99%, 95%, and 91% respectively.

And so within these values, you can see that the more ARCs you have ALREADY reviewed, the smaller the impact of having unreviewed ARCs. You can see that if you request 5 and have 0, 10, 50, or 100 ARCs already reviewed, you’ll have 0%, 67%, 91%, and 95% averages.

All of the other data I’ve included [Columns 5 & 6] only further solidifies this point, as simple as it is.

People who have had the chance to review more ARCs are hurt less when they request more books.

I really wanted to emphasize this idea, because it has a lot of ramifications for new bloggers. Which leads us to the next section.

(You might have already realized how simple this math actually is and how I really didn’t need to make a giant table to prove my point, but I still did it to help people visualize my point.)

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NOTE: I don’t believe in “small” or “large” bloggers, but for the sake of simplifying this discussion, I’m using “small/new” and “large/established” to mean “has barely reviewed anything on Netgalley” and “has reviewed a lot of things on Netgalley” respectively.

This entire concept–the less ARCs you have reviewed, the larger the impact of an unreviewed is set up to work against new bloggers & slow readers & readers who read a lot of books.

Not only is there the just-joined-Netgalley-going-to-request-a-bunch-of-ARCs issue that a lot of people face, there’s the fact that having a lot of ARCs while you haven’t reviewed as much impacts your ratio more than having a lot of ARCs when you have reviewed more.

So, smaller bloggers have to work harder to maintain a ratio, and that usually means they can’t request as many books to start out with.

When you have the buffer of already submitting reviews, you can request more ARCs. But when you don’t have that buffer, you’ve got to work your way up. Request one, and then another, and then maybe two, and slowly build your way up to a point when you can have 10 ARCs sitting in your dashboard and still have a ratio over 80%.

“But wait, Vicky–” you ask. “Aren’t ARCs a way for bloggers to help their platform grow?”

Yes. Although this is mostly a conversation for another day, the idea of “staying ahead of the curve” and reviewing what’s new is really prevalent and it’s sort of a core rule to the blogging community. Sure, we might read backlists, but ultimately, we keep up with what’s hot and it’s what’s ahead of us that helps a blogger gain popularity, as you’re one of the first to put out reviews for that book and so people are more inclined to read your review when they can’t read the book for themselves.

So, in creating a system that causes new bloggers to have to request slowly and in smaller numbers, it’s also keeping them from obtaining the materials that they use to grow their platform.

Which is frankly, kind of dumb. And it’s even dumber when you look at the fact that more established bloggers already have a good ratio, and they’re also more inclined to receive physical ARCs which don’t even contribute to your ratio.

So, larger bloggers don’t even need to reap the benefits of their hard work as much as they used to, because now they’re probably starting to receive ARCs which don’t affect arbitrary numbers that help a publicist decide whether or not to approve them.

Moral of the story:

It’s a system that favors more established bloggers who don’t even need to reap the benefits of the system as much as they used to.

And that’s the tea.

much love, vicky

Did you know it took me an entire year to bring my ratio up to the suggested 80%, even though I always reviewed before publication? I always had a lot of books on my dashboard, but didn’t have any buffer to make my ratio look higher.

Let me know your thoughts on this topic (or your own ratios!) & your thoughts on this post in general!

 

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28 thoughts on “A Math Lesson: Netgalley & Your Average Rating

    1. lolol sorry henn!!!

      and yeah, it’s funky and i’m pretty sure your ratio isn’t *THAT* big of a deal, so idk. I try to do my best to look like a good reviewer they should approve, but sometimes it doesn’t work, haha

      Like

  1. Great post, Vicky! I’ve experienced this so much firsthand and it’s a real pain. It also took me over a year to reach 80% for the first time. When I first signed up for Netgalley, I requested about a dozen titles on the first day, and was approved for 10 of them. I was STUNNED. Suddenly here I was, with all of these books I had to read really quick-like, and this TERRIBLE ratio! I reviewed almost everything before its release date but it still took ages to get that percentage up.

    One thing that helped me a LOT—and I recommend this to every person who tells me they can’t get their ratio up—is going to the children’s and graphic novel sections, downloading “read now” titles one at a time, and reading and reviewing each one before moving to the next one. I would take one day a week and devote 3-4 hours to binge reading poetry collections and graphic novels and kids’ books. I only did ones that looked interesting to me, and I wrote legitimate (though short—usually 3 paragraphs or less) reviews for each one, so that it wasn’t just a cheap way to game the system or anything. A lot of new Netgalley reviewers don’t think about the fact that whether the book was 50 pages or 500, it still counts the same towards your percentage!

    Now, I’m sitting at 137 approvals with 120 reviewed, so my ratio doesn’t move much, which is comforting, but I’ll never forget how freaking stressful it was to get one approval and watch that percentage plummet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhh that’s smart! That seems like a good way to buffer your ratio–I never actually thought of that!

      It’s too late now for me, haha, but I’m definitely going to share that insight in the future! It really was so stressful watching my ratio plummet each time I got an approval (or multiple at once).

      So glad you’ve gotten your ratio to a good place now! I would honestly cry if I had to make a new Netgalley account after all my agonizing, ahaha

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was so insightful. My feedback ratio right now is 60% with 5 approved and 3 feedback sent.

    I honestly have no idea if I’m doing this NetGalley thing right or not lol. I’m just going with the flow I guess. I try not to overdo it with the requests, I usually only request books that I know I’m going to review which is working out for me so far.

    I’m also a newer blogger and I figured that the system was against us lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you! And you seem like you’re doing a good job so far! Little by little is a good way to go, and once you have a buffer established, you can request more at once.

      (Alternatively, someone just recommended to me that you should review a bunch of short kids books + poetry collections to boost your ratio, so that’s something to consider!)

      Seems like you’re doing well! And yeah, it really sucks how hard it is on bloggers who haven’t been there for a long time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t realize there could be some tricks to boost the ratio 😁 That’s clever. Although right now I’m finding it hard to request anything I’m really interested in. I’m probably overdoing on “peakiness factor”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I get that! I’ve gotten more selective, and sometimes my ratio isn’t enough to motivate me to read less interesting than normal books.

        Like

  3. This is such a great post, Vicky! It took me almost a year to get to 80% as well (I was on NG as a consumer reviewer for like 6 months before starting my blog), and it definitely has become easier for me to maintain a ratio above 80% consistently for the past 3 or 4 months. Partially because I am more selective with requests now, but also because I have more of a buffer.

    I wound up downloading Read now titles and reviewing them to help with my ratio, which I think it is a great way… especially if as a newbie you over-requested and didn’t get to review before the titles archived.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kaleena! From what others have said, a year seems to be the case to get your Netgalley to a safe butter place. But by the end of a year, you’re usually more selective, so it doesn’t matter as much anyways *cries*

      Yes! I heard someone mention that, which I totally should have done way back when. They did it with poetry and kids books, haha!

      Like

    2. There are always some good titles in Read Now. In fact, I think the most beautiful book I read last month, Virgil Wander, was in Read Now. Kaleena where did you use to leave reviews before you started your blog?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. So, here are my promised comments 🙂 First of all, yes I got into this trap too. It’s slightly better now (thankfully I’m a fast reader and managed to climb out of the low ration quite unharmed), so if I have one unreviewed book now I’m still on 87%. Still not too comfortable, especially if another book gets approved soon. I liked a suggestion from a publisher, in those automatic info texts they provide on their pages, that if a blogger has a low ratio she should explain in the bio why it happened. So now when it happened I insert an Update part above the text explaining why it happened and stating how long it will take me to review their book.

    Your post actually helped me see that there’s a logic in the system, although an unpleasant and cruel one. Imagine you are a publisher. Who will you trust more, a blogger who’s been doing it for months/years or a beginner? A blogger with longer experience will unlikely quit. It’s obviously her style of life, while a new blogger can get disheartened, tired, or just change her mind and quit. Besides, an “older” blog has more subscribers, thus more exposure to the book. My point is, I see why publishers go after higher ratios even though these ratios mean different things in case of different bloggers.

    I’m sorry if I was rambling. I’m happy I found your post because I really wanted to talk about that too. BTW, do you know if publishers see the amount of books your reviewed or only the percentage? Also, do you think they see some kind of their own “rating” about you? Is there one? Like some mark they would give your review so that other publishers can see also that info about you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yeah! I put a little disclaimer in the bottom of my bio to explain why my ratio was so low before, haha!

      And I didn’t even think of that, but it makes a lot of sense, even though it sucks that new bloggers can’t be fairly considered for something as simple as an eARC. But I also see how it emphasizes the “more established = better stats etc. = better reviewer”, even though it makes it hard for new bloggers to break in.

      This is all speculation, but I think publishers do see how many you reviewed–that makes sense to me. But I don’t think they give you a rating for other pubs on Netgalley to see.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Really interesting when you break it down like that. I have over 50 reviewed titles and have been receiving physical ARC’s, but I also WAY over requested when I first started so it has taken me FOREVER to get my ratio to what it is and it is still extremely low. I will always be playing catch up though, since I have so many back titles still to review, yet I still want to be able to review new titles. The best advice I can give to new reviewers is to not request a title unless you’re 100% sure that you want to review it.

    Like

  6. I’m going to play devil’s advocate a little bit here and say that the problem isn’t so much that the system is stacked against newer bloggers but that so many newer bloggers don’t truly understand how NetGalley works and they get themselves into trouble inadvertently. The best way to build up your ratio is to request a book, read it right away, and then review it. I know that seems like a pain at first, but it works—and it’s a great way for you to prove to publishers that you’re serious about this reviewing thing and you can be counted on. (People who recommended the Read Now books make a great point!)

    Once you’re more established as a blogger, you’ll have more leeway. I definitely remember that in my early blogging days I had no idea how the system worked and it took me a while to get my ratio up to the coveted 80%. I wish I’d read advice on it before I jumped in, but it all worked out okay—I worked my way up there, and now I have a good track record and get most books I ask for. It definitely didn’t happen overnight though! Thanks for providing this info for people so they understand how it all works!

    Like

    1. Hmm, I get what your saying and that definitely happens a lot (happened to me last year :S), but the math still checks out in the way that if you haven’t reviewed any and only request 2 books and you review 1, your ratio is still only 50%, while for a blogger who’s already reviewed 80 books and they request 2 and review 1 their ratio is 98.7%.

      The system is ultimately meant to reward people who have already reviewed a lot of books, but it also means it’s harder for someone–even if they take things little by little–to break into the fold with a 50% ratio.

      It makes new bloggers either suffer with a low ratio, or do what you explained which is reading books that they’re probably not 100% passionate about.

      I feel like we should be secure enough to take chances on new bloggers instead of making it harder for them to break into Netgalley, or making them work harder when they could provide the same quality reviews as older bloggers. The only thing the system really does, in my eyes, is give benefits to those who have established themselves.

      But thanks for your insightful comment! It is so true that Netgalley should come with a disclaimer or something so people don’t end up over-requesting initially.

      Like

      1. Yes, you’re definitely right. And actually right after I posted this comment, I thought about it more and also realized that I wasn’t taking into account the fact that you don’t necessarily know if a book is going to get approved and you can’t control when it gets approved. (So, even if you try to be careful, you could find yourself with a few books approved at once.)

        Love the fact that you do math-oriented posts for those of us who don’t think mathematically. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. This is so interesting! I requested a lot of eARCs when I first started on NetGalley, simply because everyone says you won’t get approved for them… and then you are and it’s like oops! I checked my percentage because of your post, and I’m hovering around 40%. I DID figure out that you an still leave feedback on archived titles IF you download them before they expire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oh, yes! that’s definitely true. or even if you don’t download before it archives, you can still hopefully obtain a copy off-netgalley, review it, and submit that to reboost your rating!

      Like

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