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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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!