Dave, this might be a bit of a daft question, but I buy lots of books at Amazon.com and I’m curious how you move from being a reviewer to being a rated reviewer? Can you tell me how that works?
I read quite a bit, but I don’t submit reviews to Amazon, so I’m not the best person to answer this question, but a blogging buddy of mine, Thomas Duff, is a prolific reviewer for Amazon and he’s actually ranked in the top 300 on the site. Here’s his explanation of what it means to be an Amazon reviewer and why he puts in the effort to review all these books too:
Basically, you can submit reviews of anything that Amazon sells, and people can vote on whether your review was helpful or not. “Here’s my review page as of today. As you can see, I’m ranked at 270, I have 412 reviews to my name, and I’ve had 2183 helpful votes.
At the bottom of each review for an item, there a “yes”/”no” button in order for the reader to rank if the review was helpful or not. “Based on those helpful votes, you get ranking points. “Amazon doesn’t publish the formula, but some people have reverse-engineered it and figure out many of the components.
If you get three helpful votes on a review, you get one ranking point. If you get ten helpful votes, you get another. You can lose a point of your “not helpful” votes minus your helpful votes is five more than your total helpful votes for that review (confusing, huh?). It’s not an exact science, as many people read “helpful”/”not helpful” as “did I agree with you or not”. It’s just part of what we put up with…
So… if you ever want to participate in the fun, feel free to click on any of my book links and vote helpful/not helpful on my reviews.
Oh, typical numbers? Usually reviews generate between 0 and 10 votes on average, but there have been some that have really snared attention…
Knoppix Hacks – 39 helpful of 41 total
Visio 2003 Bible – 25 of 27
Google – The Missing Manual – 34 of 36
Excel Hacks – 25 of 30
Digital Photography Hacks – 30 of 32
Adobe Photoshop CS One-on-One – 82 of 83
OOP Demystified – 24 of 25
The Great Influenza – 32 of 36
Degunking Windows – 52 of 59
HTML & XHTML: The Complete Reference – 45 of 46
Hacking Hardware Projects For Geeks – 25 of 32
Google Pocket Guide – 35 of 35
Upgrading and Repairing PCs (15th Edition) – 46 of 47
Digital Photography Pocket Guide – 39 of 41
As a follow-up to my answer about what Amazon reviewing is all about, I now offer my why…
On the Amazon discussion boards, the question is often posed as to why people write reviews for a corporate entity. The reviews benefit that entity but entail no monetary reimbursement. Everyone has their reasons… For me, it’s mutually beneficial. Amazon and the authors/publishers get “buzz”, and I get better at writing (and I get free books!)…
I’ve always been a heavy reader. I started an Access-based reading database back in 1996 as a project to teach myself the tool. Over nine years and 1324 books later, every book I’ve read is listed in there. That’s how come I can tell you my lightest year of reading was 103 books in 1996 and the heaviest was last year at 182 (I’m a sick puppy…) I started to get into the habit of jotting down notes about the book to remind myself of the plot. But Amazon wasn’t even a blip on the radar then.
In about 2003 or so, I learned of the O’Reilly User Group program and their book review offer. You request a book, write the review, post it to your user group website, and keep the book. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I quickly formed a close relationship with Marsee there at O’Reilly, and they started asking me if they could send me more books. The blog was getting started by then, so I started posting both to the user group website and my blog, with the blog traffic being the more significant of the two. Still feeling like I was getting the better end of the deal, I also started posting the reviews to Amazon. And the rest, they say, is history…
When I started to review on Amazon and watch my ranking, I think I debuted around 25000 or so. That would have been late 2003. My goal was to get into the top 1000 by the end of 2004. I ended up in the top 500. This year, I wanted to end up around 250, but I’m already at 269. Breaking 200 is probably more realistic. So what’s the payback?
I have relationships with most all the major tech publishers to get review copies of books. For a book junkie like me, this is nirvana. I have been able to influence sales traffic on Amazon with books I really feel strongly about (like Head First Java). When an author credits you with that type of influence, it feels really good. That’s their livelihood! I have “virtual friendships” with a number of authors, like Dave Taylor and Kathy Sierra. Once again, a very cool thing. And now that I’m in the upper rankings, I often get email requests from authors (both tech and fiction) asking if they can send me a review copy of their book. Of course! Getting emails from notable mainstream authors thanking you for your Amazon review always perks up my day. And it still blows me away that O’Reilly gave Joe and I three *cases* of books to give away at our Lotusphere session this year. Shipped them directly to the Dolphin weeks ahead of time. I keep thinking there’s an invoice floating around somewhere that’s going to come due one day.
I’d like to think my writing has improved, and I know more about some areas of technology than I would have otherwise. The drawback that I have to fight is that I know a lot *about* certain things, but I end up not having enough time to really delve into them to really *know* them.
So… That’s why I review on Amazon. I’m forever amazed that people make decisions on books based on my opinion. But Amazon gets valuable feedback that draws people to their site. Publishers and authors are able to get input on their titles that might help someone else buy a book. I learn a great deal in the process, and become a better technologist and writer because of it.
Oh yeah… and I’m surrounded by BOOKS!
Articles reprinted from Duffbert’s Random Musings with his kind permission.