Back when I started doing reviews, I shared them by email with some friends and other people who asked to be put on the list after seeing other things I emailed out for PolyWogg Trivia and PW-Humour. I was an one-man GoogleGroups of sorts.
I had dreams of becoming semi-famous as an online blogger for movies. I tried posting a few reviews to various sites, and a site called Ottawa FilmCan loved my reviews — free content for them! So when studios offered them “press passes” for some premiere, they gave one to me. I went to the theatre, got in for free, and sat in a decent row where five of the seats said “reserved for press”. Me, with a press pass for a movie? Cool. I didn’t get a lot of free passes, but just enough that it remained a rush each time.
At the time, I was going to the movies fairly regularly, mostly by myself, and I tried to go to some premieres several times a year. So my reviews would show up within a day or two of a premiere. Sometimes I could even post them on the Friday night after seeing the 7:00 p.m. show. It was fun, and started posting my review links to IMDB.com as well, at a time when there weren’t a lot of people doing that. You couldn’t post directly, just your link, and online review sites tended to ONLY accept professional reviewers like Siskel and Ebert. There was no Rotten Tomatoes site and nobody had thought yet about collating reviews or ratings from the unwashed masses.
I moved into doing some book reviews too, or more accurately, moved into actually sharing them by something other than email, and when Amazon went live, I thought, “Hey, I could do book reviews for THEM!”. At the time, anyone with more than 100 or so reviews up was almost guaranteed to be in the top 20 reviewers on the site, and they were only soliciting and accepting book reviews at the time (not product reviews). I posted 50 or so and made it in the top 100 list for reviewers.
I had dreams of eventually getting books for free from publishers, as well as movies as screeners on DVD. But it’s a young person’s game, so to speak, before life intervenes and sucks your free time. You need to not only produce extensively to attract interest, you also have to do a lot of self-promotion and marketing. I couldn’t sustain that level, nor did I have much interest in the life of what people now do as celebrity Youtubers and social media stars even if it was on a much smaller scale. I had no entrepreneurial drive to turn it anything more than a hobby to guarantee those ongoing perks.
Over the last ten years, I’ve focused on my blog, and did occasional reviews when I got around to it. I managed to go through all my old book reviews, format them for the new site, and even write another 50 or so. I expanded to Amazon.CA when the Canadian site opened, and then expanded outward to lots of sites. I really don’t have a strong reason why at this point, but I post to Amazon (Canada, US), Indigo, Kobo, Ottawa Public Library (added recently), Barnes and Noble, Library Thing, Good Reads and Google. I did Shelfari for awhile too, but alas, it died. And as always, my own website. I’m not after free books or screeners (although I wouldn’t say no to the latter), but I love when people comment on my reviews to agree or disagree. People around the world that I don’t even KNOW. Still a bit of the rush of when I used to get press passes. Maybe some sort of external validation thing, I guess.
As I said, I ranked high on Amazon.com early on and even stayed there for a time when I had less than 50 in total, but that was solely based on number of reviews. Over time, people started posting reviews of limited length (i.e. “Good book, you should read”) which are worthless in my view. There are RABID onliners who have views about those types of reviews, and from both ends of the spectrum — many who think (as I do) that it hardly qualifies as a review as it doesn’t tell you anything other than “Yum” for a restaurant or recipe vs. others who think it qualifies as censorship or snobbery to put any limits on what constitutes a review. Regardless, Amazon changed up the algorithms eventually based on whether people rated a review as “helpful” or not.
Recently, I got curious though, as I passed the 125 review mark for my book reviews. Where do I rank now?
It took me a bit to find the reviewer ranking in my Amazon profiles, but I am at the 400K (!) position on Amazon.com and 19K on Amazon.ca. A far cry from any “top” positions. However, that is not surprising since I tend to rate older books, not new releases, which means very few people are going to see them shortly after a book’s release and click “helpful” (you get the most clicks for that when there are less than 10 reviews, particularly when I do a decent review of some length compared to the “read it last week” reviews, which don’t tend to get many “helpful” votes).
I can’t seem to find a list of how I’m doing in terms of raw numbers anymore though. When I review the list of “top reviewers” now though I see that the list varies considerably in how many reviews they have. Some have as few as a couple of hundred, some as many as 10K. However, when I look at the 10K ones, their reviews are almost always REALLY short, four stars and above, and some of the first to ever appear. Yeah, cuz that seems legit. Particularly for accounts active less than at least five years.
It’s one of the complaints about Amazon reviews, how the integrity has been compromised over the years by scammers and if I go to the Top Reviewers Hall of Fame area, there are a number who are listed who now have ZERO votes and ZERO reviews. Why? Almost all of them have deleted their reviews in disgust, or to monetize them elsewhere themselves, or in rare occasions, because Amazon killed their accounts! But I digress. I only have 120+ reviews on Amazon US and about 150+ on Amazon Canada, with the difference being that Amazon Canada also includes some product reviews (electronics, etc.), all verified purchases. For my books, while most of my ebook purchases come from Amazon, not all of them do. Some are just library loans, but I still post the review everywhere.
Over at Good Reads, they also go by “votes” on your reviews, but those numbers are driven by two things. First, it helps to give your reviews as early as possible for new releases so that people considering a book will see your review in the first five or six — get your review in early, and they’ll upvote you, same as on Amazon.
However, second, Good Reads encourages you to link to other people on the site — i.e. creating friend links like on FB — and a lot of them find those friends through Twitter-like reciprocity…they “like” anybody they can find and are liked back. Or they interact through discussions. Either way, they “link” to each other and thus any review one of them does, it instantly generates eyeballs and clicks. Think of it as a way of using the site to create your own following. Amazon doesn’t really do that in the same way, but Good Reads does.
Many of the top 20 reviewers on Good Reads have maxed out their account with 5000 friends. The lead, a woman named Emily, has 10K followers on her page on FB too. That requires not only effort to sustain but also a lot of effort at self-promotion, as I mentioned earlier. More power to her, but not my cup of tea. As a measure of her power, she has 500K votes on Good Reads, with the person in number 2 position being less than 300K. Wow. And she has that following from ~1500 reviews. I don’t know if all of her reviews are as long as the few I sampled, but she has a breezy style and doesn’t seem to post short ones…she talks about the book in some length, putting up > 200 books a year. The Top Canadian, Lola, read about 250 books in 2018, with 160K votes over the years. My ranking is so low, I don’t even register, but I don’t self-promote either. Hmm, I should probably think about that a little. Even if I just put my links on my blog too (I’ve recently started using their API to gather the book image and then link to the individual review overall).
Over at Chapters, I can’t seem to find a list of Top Reviewers. Heck, it’s even difficult to FIND my profile to see that I have 89 reviews with a whopping — wait for it — six votes. Yeah, pretty sure that’s not going to lead to any recognition. 🙂 On their sister site, Kobo, I can’t even find a list of my reviews nor any rankings. I pulled up one of my old reviews, and it doesn’t even let me click on my name to show me ANY info if I wanted to see other reviews by the same person. That is a huge missed opportunity for them.
For Barnes and Noble, they’ve linked their paperback and NOOK reviews, same as Amazon has with Kindle, and like Chapters, it’s almost impossible to track reviews of any one reviewer. I suppose I could get to it through a complicated Google Search of the site. I can’t even find out how many reviews I have posted there, and I wrote them!
Over at Google Books, it’s the same thing. I can see my individual reviews (i.e. if I go to a book I already reviewed), but there is no easy way to see all my reviews nor for others to see my profile. There are opportunities for upvoting, but it doesn’t seem to track it in any way.
Library Thing is a lot like Good Reads, but not as well developed for interactivity and rankings. I am not thrilled with the interface at all, including how to add books to my list in order to review them quickly, but that may just be a simple workflow tweak I haven’t seen yet. The site does however give a lot of stats about the books in your “library” and different ways to sort and see the data.
Finally, last but not least, I started sharing my reviews with the Ottawa Public Library. I have 145 “community credits”, which you get for doing various things like rating a book or submitting a comment (i.e. a review). Can you DO anything with credits? No, but it’s a bit of gamification I guess. I don’t see anyway to share my lists though as anything other than an RSS feed. And no way to search across other feeds.
For movies and TV, the world is simpler. I only post at 6 sites:
- Internet Movie Database (IMDB): TV series reviews and rating, TV episode reviews and ratings, movie reviews and ratings;
- The Movie Database (TMDB): TV series reviews and ratings, TV episode ratings, movie reviews and atings;
- Rotten Tomatoes: TV season rating and review, movie review and rating;
- MetaCritic: TV season rating and review, movie review and rating;
- TV.COM: TV series reviews and ratings, TV episode ratings;
- TVFanatic: TV episode ratings;
And I have absolutely NO idea about rankings within those sites.
I won’t get famous, that’s for sure. But I like doing it.