Like a lot of authors, I subscribe to a number of literary journals, information sources and digests, so I get quite a few 'newsletters' from them. Some time ago I joined a site called YouWriteOn, hoping to get some constructive feedback for my books and some useful advice on how to improve my writing. To a limited extent I got some, but I also quickly discovered that most members saw it as a tool for pushing their work through the back door and into the publishing house that sponsors it.
Sadly, a lot of the reviews I got weren't that helpful. Some were downright disheartening. Part of the problem was the way they allocated reviews. If you posted work, you had to review something to 'earn' a review of your own. Most of the stuff I got to review would not have been on my reading list at all had I a choice. Still, that was how the game was to be played, so I did my best and spent a lot of time reading, making notes and then trying to give the work a fair and reasonable score. I'm sure others were doing the same, but the ones I drew seemed to play by a different set of rules. You'd get a written critique along the lines of "I liked the way ..." or "Your characters come to life ..." or "You make excellent use of non-verbal communication in you speech tags ..." and then, when you checked the score - Bingo, the lowest scores they could give.
Now I'm the first to admit that I'm no Dickens or Shaw. I'm not even a Banks or a Pratchett, but other appraisers assure me my work is very good or excellent - so why the discrepancy? I discovered that the scoring system was what got an author noticed by the site administration - and potentially by agents and the publisher. So, as the aristocratic meerkat in the TV ads in the UK says - "Simples." All you need to do is score the opposition as low as you can.
So, having wandered away from posting material there for a while now, I still get their newsletters. The latest one invites me to apply for one of two hundred 'free' publishing slots with someone called "FeedARead." I have to say, it looks interesting. I would have to upload my MS into one of their templates, make sure I've everything arranged as it should be in the layout - and submit it.
I'll admit, it's tempting. Very tempting, especially as they offer 'reviews by top authors in the Random House stable' for the top selling authors publishing through them. But that begs a question. What I've not discovered is this. What do they consider 'top selling?' and secondly, how do you promote the books through them?
I think this needs a lot more research on my part.