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Reviewing 101: 5(ish) Different Review Platforms

Updated: May 3

Welcome back to 101, all aspiring book reviewers.


Whether you're an avid reader, a writer wanting to give back to the community, or just someone who wants to get more into reviews for personal/professional/content reasons, we're here to help get you started.


In the following reviewer specific 101 articles we're going to get into things like star ratings, how (and when) to leave constructive criticism that's actually constructive, and what the boundaries should be with authors. Today we're just going to make sure that you're setting yourself up for success by choosing to leave reviews on a platform that aligns with your goals.


So let's dive into the 5(ish) main book reviewing platforms.



5ish? Why did you not count how many platforms you're listing before you started writing this article, Cat?


I swear, I do know how to count. I started with 5 review sites that I was eager to highlight the pros and cons of, but then I decided I also wanted to offer similar alternatives under that same umbrella, and then I was brainstorming even more creative alternatives, and eventually the "5 review platforms" really got away from me.


So there are 5 you should look at and really consider, 5 alternatives, and then some benched alternates. It adds up to roughly 5...ish on the list.



1 - Amazon/kobo So, our first sort of category here is "retail sites." Our main example for this is, of course, Amazon.

This type of platform is ideal for anyone who wants to directly help authors gain visibility for their books, but isn't into writing verbose reviews.

Now, I have been in a public feud with Amazon for many years, but as it's arguably one of the biggest review sites, I promise to set that aside and be impartial as I cover the pros and cons.


Starting with the pros:


  • It Benefits Writers Most Since so many writers (especially in the self-pub/indie space) use Amazon as their primary retailer, it's one of the most beneficial places to leave reviews for them. The algorithm is also very review-dependent, so leaving a review on a site like this will help increase visibility.

  • It's Easy/Convenient Speaking as one of the few outliers -- there are exceptions. But for the vast majority of readers, Amazon is just one of the most convenient places to leave a review, because you probably already have an account and a lot of Kindle books link to the review page for you.

  • There's a Low Bar This is anecdotal, but I've noticed some of the lowest quality reviews tend to come from Amazon. That sounds bad, but if you're getting started and want a low-pressure place where it's perfectly acceptable to just leave a sentence or two about a book? Amazon's great for that.

  • There's an Affiliate Program For reviewers wanting to eventually monetize their reviews, know that you can play the long game with Amazon by signing up for their affiliate program, which will earn you a small commission for any book sold through your link. Having reviews on the platform is a great way to dip your toes into the world.

And the cons:


  • Fee Amazon (specifically Amazon) is the only review site on today's list that isn't technically free to review on. A lot of people don't know this (because the average person naturally spends so much money at Amazon) but you're not allowed to post product reviews unless you spend $50 on the site annually. So... if you're someone who prefers to buy your books locally or directly from the publishers (both practices we advocate here at The Scoop) then you may have some trouble actually posting.

  • Product Site There is some turmoil between authors and reviews on this platform. Amazon reviews will prompt you with product questions (was it delivered on time? Is it in good condition? Etc.) But authors really, really do not like when their book reviews talk about the product side of things, and really, who can blame them? It sucks to pour your heart and soul into a book and then get reviews that complain about the delivery -- especially when that impacts star rating. It's annoying to see those prompts as a reviewer, but it's something to be wary of going in.

  • Little Networking Potential

  • Finnicky I won't go so far as to say that the review policies on Amazon are stringent, but they are a little bit when you compare them to other platforms that will let you speak your mind freely, and won't flag your review for profanity, excerpts, or explaining what an ARC is. Be sure to read through all the Amazon review guidelines before beginning to post reviews there.

  • Monopolization I know I said I was going to be impartial, but this is just as good a time to remind everyone that while Amazon can be a great entry way into publishing for authors who wouldn't otherwise have the resources ... it also is a book monopoly, which is bad. If you have the opportunity to support other platforms, especially financially, it is something to consider before spending your $50 a year for reviewing privileges.


Amazon, being the monolith that it is, it has very specific pros and cons that aren't universal across all retail sites. But, keep in mind it's not the only option. If you want to leave reviews from wherever you purchase your books from, you could buy titles from Kobo or even Barnes and Noble directly -- and both sites have an integrated review system that is geared toward other shoppers.


These don't have the same weighted, algorithm implications for the author's sales, but they're still incredibly helpful and a lot of people forget to do them.


2 -- Goodreads/Storygraph


Now we head into what I'm going to call the "true review" category. These are websites made for readers to track their books, write reviews, and potentially read other reviews.


It's the type of review website that I prefer most as a reviewer. I like logging my books and organizing them, participating in challenges, seeing how much I've read, organizing collections, etc. I also like to write longer, personal reviews that highlight which elements of books did and didn't work for me, which is smiled upon more in Goodreads than on a product site (at least in my personal experience.)


If you're someone who is just really passionate about sharing your book views and likes visualizing your reading journey, this is the kind of site I'd recommend for you.


Pros:


  • Lots of Tools

  • Community Functions I do really like that you're able to join groups, create lists, and connect with other readers on a 100% optional basis. It's not a social media platform where you're fighting for engagement, but the option to reach out is always there.

  • Versatile

  • Visibility If you want to be able to link to full reviews, Goodreads makes that incredibly easy for you, regardless of your tech savviness.


Cons:


  • Owned by Amazon While Goodreads is free, it is still owned by our corporate overlords. So if you're a truer boycotter than myself, you may want to steer clear of Goodreads.

  • Can Breed Cliques/Drama Whenever there's book drama, you know that Goodreads is about to come up. It's been at the center of so many of the most famous book controversies from review bombing to fake accounts to the terrible awards they host each year for books not respected within their own genres.


If you're looking for something that's like Goodreads but you're intimidated by the platform's less than stellar reputation, I'd suggest starting up with Storygraph. Storygraph has a lot more tools and asks for a lot more information, so it can be more daunting if you're new. But it also teaches great habits and offers a lot more tools for data organization and visualization. Remember, it's also up to you how much of the platform you want to use and how much time you want to sink into this.


3 -- NetGalley/BookSirens


Now we enter the "promotional" category. Remember how I said the last category was my favorite? I lied. It's this one. I prefer writing/reading/socializing on platforms that are geared toward displaying reviews, but promotional platforms bribe me with free books, which are the way to my heart. Obviously.


If you are someone who has some review experience but are looking to make a habit of it (and want free books) I highly recommend checking out NetGalley.


Pros:


  • Free Books

  • Early Access

  • Helping Authors


Cons:


  • Barrier of Entry Netgalley is more selective about who can review which things. This isn't the best website for beginners.

  • Expectations/Pressure It's very easy to bite off more than you can chew when faced with so many tempting ARCs.

  • Cross-Promoting Since Netgalley is more known for supplying you the books, there is some pressure to cross promote on other venues. (We're big advocates for cross-promoting, but again, it's not exactly a beginner friendly habit, and can contribute to burnout in less seasoned reviewers.)


Now, here's an unpopular opinion, but I actually prefer BookSirens to NetGalley. If you're someone who is interested in the perks of NetGalley but isn't certain that you're established enough as a reviewer to qualify for the books you want, BookSirens is a great alternative. They only do ebooks, but they focus on the indie space and they have a lot of amazing tools to help you match with books that you're most likely to enjoy. They also have some really fun analytics and a system in place to reach out to authors/publishers directly with discrete feedback when necessary.




4 -- Youtube/Tiktok


Now these obviously are a different kind of beast entirely, but when you say "book reviews" there is a huge subsection of the bookish community that automatically thinks of video reviews. If you're someone that is interested in making videos, or maybe someone who has experience with it already, then BookTube or Booktok could be viable options.


Pros:


  • Large Communities

  • High Entertainment Value

  • Networking Potential


Cons:


  • Technically Challenging

  • Intimidating

  • Less Portfolio Building


While these platforms might not do as much to build out your writing portfolio, they can do wonders for your online presence -- especially if networking with other authors is something you want. Not to overgeneralize here, but a lot of writers are camera shy, a lot of us are sort of awkward, and we will take any and all video help we can get.


5 Godless (or your book platform of choice)


Finally, you all know I can't talk about books, booksellers, or review platforms without bringing up Godless. This is another one that only does ebooks, BUT, they also happen to be my ebook seller of choice.


Remember how in the first tier I said that Amazon was sort of a monolith? Well... the other part of that is that we basically let it function as the default bookseller by treating it as the default bookseller.


It's no secret that The Sinister Scoop is pro independent sellers, but the more we shop locally and independently, the less hold big monopolies are going to have over us in the future and the more plausible it is for alternatives to thrive.


We are super lucky that the horror community has a retailer like Godless (#notsponsored) that specializes in wild horror books and has a 5% charity opt in for Children of the Night. But, it's not entirely singular to have a niche or genre specific retailer, so if horror isn't your thing ... why are you here? But also, investigate. I'm not the one to pitch you romance venues or anything, but remember that small sites need love and reviews as well.


Other Alternatives


As promised, I have just a couple more, out of the box platforms for anyone who wants to dip their toes in, or just go really big from the start.


  • Social Media

  • Start Your Own Blog


Obviously we talked a little about social media when we brought up Tiktok as a platform, but even if videos aren't for you, there are plenty of social media platforms that are text based that have bookish communities. Converting your personal account into a review space or curating an account that's all books could be a low effort way to get some of your opinions out there.


On the other side of that, you could host your own review space. Obviously that's on the extreme end of a reviewing hobby, but setting up your own blog or website can be incredibly rewarding. If it's something you just want to dip your toes into, don't ever be afraid to reach out to venues (like us here at The Sinister Scoop) to see if they'd be willing to host a guest review, or give you some tips about starting out.


Cross-Posting


We'd be remiss if we didn't mention this -- you don't have to limit yourself to just one of these. While some of the websites are in different mediums, and they all have slightly different guidelines for posting, it's absolutely okay (and encouraged) to cross post your reviews.


For a lot of people, the hard part is writing the review. And whether you've written an entire essay or just a few sentences, cross-posting your opinion about a book can exponentially increase how much good you're able to do with that review.


Dangers of Cross-Posting


However!


Don't burn yourself out. If keeping track of multiple platforms makes you anxious, or the copying/pasting sounds like a nightmare, then don't take on that responsibility. The more pressure you put on yourself, or the more reviewing feels like an obligation, and the less likely you're going to be to keep at it.


While it is true that leaving reviews is a 0 cost way to help authors, the last thing any author* wants is for this to feel like a job for you. Reading (and reviewing) should be about the love of books, and nothing else.


*any decent author.


Conclusion


This was by no means a comprehensive list of all the platforms that you can or should consider using to host your reviews. But! We hope that it was a good roadmap to the different kinds of review sites, and a good nudge in the right direction toward finding a platform that works for you.


We also hope that it encourages you to clearly envision your goals, and consider what will and won't work for you before throwing yourself into the adventure of reviewing.

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