FanStory.com lures writers to the site by sponsoring contests in fiction, poetry and even screen writing. Some of the contests are organized by the site administrators, some by members of the site and all require a subscription membership fee of $5.95/monthly billed to a credit card or PayPal account. The site is rather antiquated and slow to load pages, and it does not appear to have been designed with the concept of user-friendly foremost. Its income generating agenda and exploitive nature are deeply embedded within the competitive atmosphere created by a ranking system of all work posted on the site, as well as ranking for individual authors (members) and reviewers.
FanStory.com operates on the premise of peer review, and encourages reviews by placing a "complimentary certificate" on all new work posted that offers incentive with the prospect of earning "member dollars" which can then be used to promotes one's own work. The pay-off for these certificates is about $0.32 with occasional bonuses of additional member dollars or specialized certificates which can only be used to promote postings. After three reviews, the posting is available for viewing in the individual's portfolio, but further reviews become a labor of love because there is nothing to gain by reviewing. This is, however, the best and most substantial kind of review and is peer review at it's best. On fanStory.com, it is rare.
The list of postings available for review is organized by the level of promotion i.e. how much money was spent on the certificates that determine the pay-off for review, the position on the list and also how long the posting remains on the list. Heavily promoted work appears at the top of the list, and requires an average of approximately $60.00 in certificates purchased with member dollars to remain in the top ten for one day. It costs substantially more to get three days in the top ten. One must write at least 120 meaningful reviews in order to earn enough member dollars to promote their work into the top ten for one day. Alternatively, one can purchase member dollars instead of earning them through reviews.
FanStory.com states that the higher on the list the work appears, the more reviews one can expect. Which makes sense considering the pay-off is $1.00 + in member dollars. However, this incentive attracts more fluff reviews written for the sake of the higher pay-off rather than a sincere desire to share constructive feedback.
That stated, many of the writers that post their work on fanStory.com are motivated by two factors: achieving a higher author ranking, and receiving at least twenty-five five star reviews which will elevate the posting to "All Time Best" status and place the piece in fanStory.com archives. The author's rank is determined by the volume of five and six star ratings received over the course of a years' time and calculated every month.
Over the eighteen months that I monitored the site by posing as three different members, the rankings changed very little and the top ten authors in each discipline held their ranks by consistently posting content nearly every day. After examining their reviewing histories, it was obvious that they did not earn the member dollars used to promote their postings. That means that they used cash to purchase the promotional certificates. However, at the levels that these postings were promoted, a considerable amount of money - in some cases there were multiple postings - would have been required to place these postings in the positions held on the list. One can only conclude that these authors have very deep pockets, or they are sanctioned by the site and paid to produce content.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the reviewing process was the use of inflated ratings by the top r