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If you’re a writer and have even a smidgeon of online presence, you’ve probably been emailed or messaged or tweeted by Inkitt, a Berlin-based company that allows writers to post stories and get reader reviews and votes. A prolific spammer, Inkitt also conducts a lot of contests with titles like Vendetta Thriller/Adventure Contest, along with fanfic contests like Star Wars Sci-Fi Writing Contest (does George Lucas know?). Winning gets you badges on your profile page, and, occasionally, publication.
Tales of Inkitt spam can be seen here or here or here (I’ve gotten my share, as well). Vote-shilling by contest participants won a temporary ban on Inkitt posts on Reddit a few months ago.
Most recently, Inkitt launched its Grand Novel Contest (for which, no surprise, it is energetically spamming on Twitter):
Win a publishing offer from Inkitt! No submission fees!
Submit your finished novel, 40,000 words or more – no fan fiction, no other limitations on genre! It’s time for you to bring your manuscript into the light and show it off to the world. We are looking for tomorrow’s best-sellers!
So why would you want to win a book publishing offer from Inkitt? Well…you really kind of wouldn’t.
Inkitt was co-founded by programmer Ali Albazaz, who was inspired by the success of E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey, in particular the idea of crowdsourced editing: “Don’t publish in two years when you’re finished. Publish as you go, get feedback from other writers and improve.” Albazaz claims he has developed an “intelligent” algorithm that uniquely distinguishes Inkitt from similar sites like Wattpad:
We’ve developed an artificially intelligent algorithm that analyses the behaviour of readers on our website. We measure their engagement and build statistical models to forecast the positioning of a book in the real world market even before it is published. Once we have found a potential blockbuster book, the next step is working with publishers to get these stories to print.
(He also claims that “Moby Dick was refused [by publishers] because it had ‘dick’ in the title,” so take that as you will.)
Inkitt details its publishing philosophy here (in a nutshell, goodbye elitist editors and snooty publishers, hello democratization via the “objective” opinion of readers and Inkitt’s magic algorithm). If that floats your boat, you may also be impressed by Inkitt’s four-stage publishing process:
Step 1: We design your cover and edit your manuscript.
Step 2: We pitch your book to A-list publishers (e.g. Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, MacMillan and HarperCollins), and negotiate the best terms for licensing.
Step 3: If the publishers don’t pick your book, we publish you and run a marketing campaign to sell as many books as possible. If we can’t sell more than 1000 books within 12 months then you can get all your rights back.
Step 4: But if your book sells well, we go back to the A-list publishers, exhibit your success and ask them if they want to print your book.
If you know anything about publishing, you know how well this is likely to work. Melville House sales manager Chad Felix, who has also blogged about Inkitt, has it right:
We’ve seen it again and again: non-expert or reformed expert approaches industry with ideas about how to make money (Inkitt creators Ali Albazaz and Linda Gavin have backgrounds in sales and corporate design, respectively), non-expert builds algorithm, non-expert tries to sell newfangled, guaranteed-to-work thing back to the industry of bad experts.
I could find nothing on Inkitt’s website to indicate what the terms of its publishing contract might be, although the Grand Novel Contest guidelines indicate that if Inkitt publishes, “the author will receive 50% of Inkitt’s net earnings. Apparently Inkitt has already signed and published the first book in the series Sky Riders by Erin Swan, though there’s no sign of the book anywhere except on Inkitt.
I think this guy’s got the right reaction.
UPDATE: According to this press release from Inkitt, Tor has signed Erin Swan’s novel:
Bright Star, the young adult novel by up-and-coming author Erin Swan, was discovered using predictive data with Inkitt’s artificially intelligent algorithms unearthing the highly-addictive book based on an analysis of reading patterns on the platform. The novel is expected to hit bookshelves in summer 2017.
Publishers Marketplace confirms:
Per the Grand Novel Contest guidelines, Inkitt appears to be claiming an agent’s 15% commission. On Inkitt, Swan’s work appears to be a series, and Bright Star is actually Book 2, so it’s not clear to me whether Tor has bought the series or just the one book.
I remain skeptical of Inkitt’s “data driven” approach…but congratulations to the author!
I also have to say that this, recycled by Inkitt on its website and in nearly all its PR materials, is one of the most annoying memes ever–
We have built a platform that is cutting out the middleman in the publishing industry: the acquisitions editor. There is a long list of books whose authors faced rejection at the hands of publishers. That list includes everything from Moby Dick to Harry Potter. Why? Because individual editors and literary agents make decisions that are subjective – often based on their gut instinct – and this means they sometimes get it wrong.
–because it’s totally self-refuting: all these books did eventually get published.
UPDATE 3/3/17: In the ten or so months since I wrote this post, Inkitt doesn’t seem to have placed any more manuscripts with other publishers, but it is still sending unsolicited email.
It has also ramped up its own publishing efforts. As of mid-February 2017 it had issued twelve books, according to Amazon. Its publishing contract is now posted online, helpfully annotated with plain-language explanations in little speech bubbles. Authors who are considering a publishing offer from Inkitt might, however, want to consider a few things the speech bubbles don’t mention.
– The contract requires authors not just to waive their moral rights, but to assign them to Inkitt, and to the extent that they can’t be assigned (as, in some countries, they can’t be) to agree not to assert them “at any time”. (Clause II.1.) Moral rights, which include the right of attribution and the right to the integrity of the work, are only partially recognized in the USA but are important in other countries. I’m not a lawyer, but as I understand it, this wording would prevent authors from asserting their moral rights in countries where moral rights are recognized–which could be an issue with subsidiary rights sales.
– The contract requires authors to “execute any and all documents and papers reasonably requested by Publisher to evidence the transfer of the Work´s rights to Publisher, including, but not limited to, documents and papers relating to the assignment of copyrights.” (My bolding. Also Clause II.1.) Yikes. To be clear, Inkitt does not demand a copyright assignment. But if it doesn’t, why is this language included? Might it also suggest that Inkitt is willing to negotiate a subsidiary rights deal that does demand copyright assignment? (The contract claims just about every subright in existence.)
– The contract gives Inkitt first refusal on works in the same series, but binds the author to “the same conditions as the ones established herein for the first work.” (Clause II.3.) This is great for Inkitt if a series takes off. It’s not so great for the author, who under other circumstances could use a previous book’s success to negotiate a better deal.
– Per Clause XV, the term of the contract is 15 years (a bit confusing, since Clause II takes rights for the life of copyright–but let’s assume the 15-year provision prevails.) That is super-long for a digitally-based small press. Authors do have the right to terminate if Inkitt fails to sell 1,000 books within the first year of publication–but if sales exceed 1,000, the author is on the hook for the full 15. Again, this is great for Inkitt, because it gets to hold rights for a really long time, even if the book in question is selling in tiny quantities (low-selling books can be profitable if the publisher has a large enough catalog); but possibly not terrific for authors, who, once sales decline, are usually better off reverting their rights and exploiting them on their own.
– Royalties for Inkitt-published books are 25% of net (a drop from the 50% initially promised). (Clause X.) Inkitt also promises to “allocate a minimum of six thousand (6,000) dollars marketing budget into the Work for an initial marketing test”. (Clause VIII.2.) Authors should be aware that editing and design costs are considered part of this budget, per a post from Inkitt founder Ali Albazaz in this discussion thread.
There are other issues, including an overly broad non-competition clause, but these are the highlights.
UPDATE 3/24/17: I spoke today with Ali Albazaz, Inkitt’s owner. We talked about Inkitt’s business model, and agreed to continue to disagree on whether technology and Big Data can make the process of discovering new authors more efficient and less subjective, or whether, by publishing novels selected by algorithm, Inkitt is really doing anything to revolutionize the basic process of selecting and publishing books.
I asked whether, given the company’s active publishing program, they plan to continue trying to make deals with traditional publishers. Ali indicated that they are now focusing more on publishing (though the website still presents Inkitt as an “agent”). He also told me that he is seeking wider (offline) distribution for Inkitt-published books, including bookstore shelf presence. My impression is that he is genuinely committed to supporting the books and authors he publishes.
We discussed some of the issues I raised in this post. Ali will be consulting with Inkitt’s lawyer about the contract clauses I flagged above (I will update this post if anything changes). While I appreciate Ali’s willingness to look into my concerns, I’m worried at what seemed to me like an incomplete understanding of his own contract language. I also wonder what response he’ll get from his lawyer. For instance, Ali said that he was told by the lawyer that it was standard practice among Big 5 publishers to require authors to waive or agree not to assert their moral rights. It is not.
Ali also expressed concern about my (and others’) criticism of Inkitt’s prolific program of unsolicited emails and tweets; he said he feels this was “a mistake” and that the company plans to move away from this practice.
UPDATE 4/25/17: In private conversation with me, Inkitt founder Ali Albazaz claimed that Inkitt is moving away from spamming as a promotional tactic. That may be true (I don’t know)–but even if it is, Inkitt is still using questionable promotional methods. Namely, paying for referrals.
Inkitt affiliates advertise Inkitt’s contests on their websites or blogs, or by direct mail to their subscriber lists, using the possibility of publication as an incentive. If someone submits their book using the affiliate link, the referrer gets a small fee (between $5 and $15).
I first heard of this program from two people who were approached to become affiliates, and I’ve confirmed its existence with Ali Albazaz, who says that Inkitt has signed up more than 500 “partners.” Affiliate links currently lead to this page, which invites writers to submit their books and “join the circle of Inkitt’s bestselling authors.” On a quick spot check, most affiliates disclose their affiliate status, but not all: this one doesn’t, nor does this one, which embeds repeated Inkitt affiliate links in a long article about book promotion sites. Of those that do identify themselves as affiliates, not all reveal the fee.
I can only guess that the Inkitt folks are not aware of the seamy history of paid referrals in publishing.
UPDATE 5/23/17: In our March conversation, Ali Albazaz informed me that he’d be consulting Inkitt’s lawyer about the contract issues I’ve highlighted above. He emailed me on April 18 to tell me that the contract had been updated to address the issues, and to promise that I’d receive the final version “in the next few days.”
I’ve heard nothing since. And on a check today of Inkitt’s contract page, the contract language I was concerned about, along with the incomplete and/or misleading “plain language” explanations, had not changed.
UPDATE 1/3/18: Inkitt updated its contract in July 2017. It never did share the contract with me–I heard about the update incidentally on Twitter.
There are improvements. The objectionable moral rights waiver is gone, as is the language about assignment of copyright. The non-competition period has been restricted to one year post-publication. And though it now appears to be a life-of-copyright contract (rather than the 15 year term of the previous version), authors can terminate if sales are less than 1,000 in the first year (though only if there have been no licensing sales), or less than 500 in any 12-month period following the first year.
Also, the promise of a $6,000 marketing budget has been removed.
However, there are still some things that authors need to be aware of.
– This is an all-rights contract; Inkitt claims “the sole and exclusive” right to exploit or license just about every right and subsidiary right in existence. Authors can reclaim film, TV, dramatic, and game rights if those haven’t been used or licensed within 18 months of publication–but that’s all. Where a publisher makes an exclusive claim on so many subsidiary rights, authors are well advised to investigate whether the publisher is actually capable of exploiting or licensing them. At this time, I’m not seeing any indication of that with Inkitt (if I’m wrong, I welcome correction).
– Although Clause 7 (Publication) provides an 18-month publication window, Inkitt’s annotation on the clause indicates that, in fact, “Our publishing process generally takes between 8-12 weeks from signing date to publication date.” If true, this is an awfully short time frame for a thorough editing, copy editing, and proofing process, let alone the creation of an individualized marketing plan.
– Language in the Option clause suggests that Inkitt is claiming an option and right of first refusal not just on an author’s next Serial Work (defined as prequels, sequels, and books that “use or adapt” the principal characters or that are set in the same world) but on subsequent ones as well. Briefly, the author must offer Inkitt their next Serial Work; if the author and Inkitt can’t come to terms, the author can shop the work to other publishers, but if another publisher makes an offer, the author must give Inkitt the opportunity to match it. If Inkitt chooses not to do so, “the Author shall be free to contract with the other party for the Author’s next Serial Work without further obligation to the Publisher respecting the Author’s next Serial Work (but preserving the Publisher’s Option and Right of First Refusal for any subsequent Serial Works).” (my bolding) I’m not sure that a perpetual option on Serial Works is really Inkitt’s intent–but this wording certainly can be interpreted that way, so authors might want to get clarity on this issue and amend the contract accordingly.
– Royalties for paperback editions are 51% of net revenue–but this is actually net profit, since “the Publisher’s direct unit production costs” are deducted. From the language, it’s not clear whether the costs are deducted from net revenue before royalties are calculated, or whether the costs are deducted from the author’s royalty share.
– For Performance Marketing Sales (defined as sales “through any method of performance marketing…including…Facebook Ads, Outbrain Ads, Bookbub Ads, Twitter Ads, Amazon Ads, etc.”), royalties are 51% of net revenue–but again this is actually net profit, with “marketing costs associated with such sales” deducted from net revenue before royalties are calculated.
– No royalty rate is stated for “all other editions” (Clause 10.II.i: “All other editions, versions and formats of the Work not expressly described above”). I’m sure this is just an error, but it should be corrected.
– The contract attempts to impose a gag order on “the financial and economic terms” of the agreement.
UPDATE 10/1/19: Anyone who is considering publishing with Inkitt should read this interview with one of Inkitt’s first published authors, Lauren Garcia. It describes why she decided to leave Inkitt after three years and three books–in part because of Inkitt’s plan to switch most of its publishing focus to its “immersive fiction app”, Galatea.
There are many fascinating nuggets buried in the interview, such Inkitt’s declining responsiveness over the course of Lauren’s publishing experience, and Inkitt’s requirement that books “earn out” their marketing costs before any royalties were paid (not the same thing as, and even more onerous than, the “net profit” provision that I highlighted above).
UPDATE 6/16/22: As suggested by the interview linked in above, Inkitt seems to be focusing most of its effort on the Galatea app. I’ve recently seen a Galatea non-exclusive contract (“Inkitt Originals Publishing Agreement”), and it has some issues, including a sweeping claim on successor books, an editing clause that allows Inkitt to edit “at its sole discretion” (presumably because books may need to be adapted to the Galatea platform), and really confusing royalty language.
If you’ve been offered an exclusive Galatea contract, I’d love to see it. Feel free to email me.
Commenting to follow this blog
Thanks for all you do!
Hi Victoria, I am new at this exercise. I am French and I have written 2 stories for children. One of them on a subject which, as far as I know, has never been treated. Could you tell me how to do to get them published and who I should contact ?
Thank you very much
I know Inkitt very well. Neither are books well-served (editing is crap/ they fake your Amazon best seller status if they need to/cover art gone wrong) but they don't even hold up their end of bargain. The Monthly novel contests promised publication, and now they no longer do. No doubt due to the fact that the supposed 'winners' hadn't been published for the past 5 months. Lot of talk, but no walk. Seems like Inkitt just want to get as many books as on their platform, and are willing to make false promises to get there – and then have that 'oh shit' moment and have to backtrack. Add to the fact that most of their employees have no experience in book publishing, I just don't see it. Great idea, bad execution (both from a resource and moral standpoint).
Yes it does, thank you so much for responding Victoria, I really appreciate it. xx
You'll probably have gathered from my post and updates that I don't think publication by Inkitt is a particularly good deal (this is even more clear to me from looking at Vanessa's book, which from what I can tell has not been well-served either by Inkitt's editing or its cover art). Other than that, I don't see any harm in having your book on the site, if you enjoy the interaction and feedback from community members. I certainly don't think you've doomed your book. I'd just suggest, if you decide to submit to agents or publishers, or to pursue self-publishing, that you take it down, or at least remove most of it. A few publicly-available chapters probably isn't a problem, but the whole thing shouldn't be available online. Does that make sense?
I have submitted my book on Inkitt too, and I'm having a minor panic attack now. I found the competition after having seen a post by one of my most loved authors, who'd been asked about whether he thought competitions you had to pay to enter were worth the money. He said no, and then provided a list of free competitions available – Inkitt was on there. I'd seen them on Facebook, and it all seemed fairly legitimate to me (granted, I'm definitely NOT savvy about any of this stuff).
I've had a lot of really positive reviews, votes and likes so far, but I'm hesitant to keep my book up there now that I've read all of this. I started uploading it a couple of months ago, but the whole book has only been up for about 2 weeks.
Should I pull it down? Should I wait to see whether or not I'm offered a publishing deal? Should I disclose in my queries that the manuscript is/has been on there? Have I doomed my book?
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My mistake; sorry Vanessa.
Even if you ignore the cover image, it's not clear who's the protagonist and who's the author, due to the lettering and typography; left to my own devices, I would've presumed Eric Olafson was the author and the title was "Space Pirate, Vanessa Ravenscroft."
Also, if it's being sold via Createspace… doesn't that mean one could just… do it by themselves? What service exactly is Inkitt providing? I mean, jeez, I self-publish my own books and design my own covers (with the paid services of a friend); it's a fair amount of work, and I won't win any design awards, but at least I'm not getting scammed.
Vanessa isn't a bot. Here's her Inkitt-published book on Amazon. It was pubbed a bit over a year ago.
It's gotten a lot of reviews, many of which mention grammar and spelling errors. Doesn't sound like Inkitt held up its end on the editing front. I also don't think it did Vanessa any favors with the cover–the book is a space opera, and I guess the cover image is meant to look like one of those enhanced Hubble deep space photos, but to me it looks like a hamburger with a toothpick through it.
Vanessa Ravencroft, are you a spambot? You sound like a spambot.
Hi. I’m Vanessa Ravencroft – one of Inkitt’s Published Authors.
It has been interesting so far and it appears to get even more interesting! I’ll keep you posted on the Inkitt deal
You can find me anywhere on the net, simply by googling, by checking Goodreads, Amazon,Barns & Nobles and there are free samples of my work on Inkitt's website.
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Does the author keep their rights 100% before the publishing contract that Inkitt might provide? Is it only when the contract is signed that Inkitt owns rights? Some make it sound as if the the author loses rights the second it's uploaded onto the site. Thanks! for such an imperative aticle!
I am also in the middle of investigating Inkitt (in response to FB ad!).
Regarding some of the comments here about the risk of leaving your work "lying around" gathering dust during the Inkitt process, this in the Comments to one of their blog entries (www.inkitt.com/writersblog/how-inkitt-publishes-your-books-from-preparation-to-promotion ) indicates you can have it both ways, and if you want to self-publish e.g. on Amazon, you can do that as well as submit to Inkitt:
Can I submit my self published novel if its already on Amazon?
MARVIN WEY on January 9, 2018 12:33 pm
Hey Dorothy! Yes, you can submit self-published works. We have many self-published authors in our community. Some of our published authors were also previously self-published
I wrote a novel over 15 years ago. I sent it to seven agents and they all returned it claiming the content was out-dated. (It was a war story based on true events submitted when Harry Potter and Super Hero's were all the rage). It has been sitting within a drawer ever since but with the recent interest with'Dunkirk' and 'Darkest Hour' I am wondering if I should try once more. If 'Inkitt' can get it published…then what have I got to loose?
If your goal is traditional publication, entering contests isn't an ideal way to go about it; you'd be better off querying agents or submitting to independent publishers. That said, I don't think that having entered this contest will do you any harm–just be sure, if you get an offer of publication, to seek advice from someone knowledgeable about the publishing industry, and to carefully consider the contract issues outlined above.
I recently submitted a novel to the inkitt writing contest. I thought i did plenty of research about them.before doing so… however i didnt see this article until now. Was i wrong to submit my novel? Im getting a few votes buy even if it randomly wins i dont want it laying around never getting seen and i definitely dont want to be scammed. Is there anyone on here that can help me with this? Novel is at https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.inkitt.com/stories/scifi/194529.amp thanks!
This "Win and Get Published" email was sending little alarm bells off in my brain, so I did my research and came across two articles that warned me to beware — most notably yours, Victoria Strauss. Thank you for helping me stay out of the Inkitt slog.
John T. Shea, my thoughts on the newest Inkett ad (paid to and solicited by Writers Digest) exactly! JK submitted and got an Agent, the Agent submitted and got a deal. She went the commercial/traditional route so why would anything about Jo apply to posting your work for free on the off chance somehow a real publisher is found? Why isn't her Author journey a lesson to Authors to keep on submitting???
Also a question. Erin Swan's post here back in May mentions NET earnings?
"Inkitt will collect 15% of my net earnings"
Authors working with commercial publishers are typically paid on retail. If it's only net and if there is no advance, I really wouldn't want to be then also sharing it with an Agent. I would expect better negotiation then that.
Just received an email from Writer's Digest promoting Inkitt's latest contest, saying it's a trusted partner. That's very concerning to me. Thank you for protecting the vulnerable, such as me.
John T. Shea–I know of at least one major writers' group that was offered a large amount of money by Inkitt for a similar "trusted partnership" (they said no).
I subscribe to Writers Digest emails, several of which recently pushed Inkitt, which they describe as 'A Special Offer From Our Trusted Partner'. They repeat the Harry Potter legend, omitting the fact that J. K. Rowling got agent Christopher Little with her second query, and that it was Little who submitted the manuscript to several publishers, as is perfectly normal, and sold it to Bloomsbury.
I think this is always a concern when posting complete works online (as opposed to chapters or excerpts). There's no clear-cut answer, though. It depends on a number of different factors, including the policies of the publisher and how available the story was to the public–if it's behind a membership login rather than visible to anyone, it's easier to argue that it was privately posted rather than published to the public.
In general, I think that short works (stories and articles) are more at risk to be seen by a potential publisher as reprints if they've previously been made available to the public. A short work is more likely to be read in its entirety; also, short works are typically published and distributed only for a limited time (in an issue of an ezine or magazine, for instance) or as part of anthologies of new work, so having previously been publicly posted is more likely to be seen as a problem.
For book length works, which are read and distributed differently and anyway would be completely re-worked and re-packaged before publication, I think there's less likely to be an issue. There are plenty of instances where publishers have picked up novels previously posted on Wattpad, fanfic sites, and the like. In the case of Inkitt, Tor picked up Erin Swan's Bright Star. If a book publisher sees profit potential, they aren't going to care too much about a previous online posting.
Again, though, this is not a clear-cut issue and there are no hard and fast rules. So if it's something you're concerned about, it makes sense to avoid contests that involve posting works in their entirety.
If an author publishes a story online for a contest such as this, does it nullify their ability to sell first rights to a legitimate publisher?
According to Facebook, Bright Star has been handed off to the publisher. I'm pleased for Erin (it sounds like she had an editing crisis and I feel her pain!) but I am still very sceptical of Inkitt. Victoria mentions the Fanfiction Reddit ban, but I moderate two other writing subreddits and Inkitt have been blacklisted from both as all we get from their users is drive-by spam.
They need to educate their users that spam has a counterproductive effect, and that participating in a community pays more dividends, even at the unpublished stage. One of the subreddits I moderate hosted an AMA ('Ask Me Anything' — a Q&A session) for one of their authors and we're happy to support and cheerlead for the writers concerned, as long as they play by our rules and engage respectfully with our community — but the press itself remains blocked.
If they can wise up, stop the spamming, and do well by their authors, that would be great, but they need to revise their attitude. That means that they have to actually become a decent independent press following a model similar to other presses, but you never know, they just might improve!
I also got an email from Lauren asking to buy copies of my book, which is also permafree on all platforms. Wonder what the new angle is…
For whatever this is worth, I received an unsolicited email from them today. The offer was for a book that has been published for five years already and has hit several bestseller lists. The email was vague enough to send up red flags (Lauren from "a publishing company"). Also interesting is that they offered to pay for some of my books to test them on their audience, but the book they wrote me about is perma-free on all retailers.
I went to Erin Swan's FB page today, she posted this back in May: "Well, everyone, a bit of sad news. Due to delays on the initial contract, and now with some slowdowns in the editing process, "Bright Star" will not be published this summer. Instead, we'll be looking at a 2018 publication. I know it's a bit of a wait, but we will get there someday! Thanks for following along on this crazy journey with me!"
This is basically the approach of each online-publishing-revamped-for-the-new-millennium company I've encountered in my experience – including the "SBPRA" who continue to assail me with spam emails every week. The contract is always the same: forward to us ALL of your material, and then (if you're not asked to pay US for things like "agent fees" which are redundant if you know what a scam looks like) then go out and find us 100 or more people who will buy your work at publication, doing basically all of the preliminary work on our behalf.
Of course, this is regarding the aforementioned company, from whom I backed away after reviewing, bewildered, a contract stuffed like turkey with phrases designed to catch the mark's – sorry, "Author's" – eye. "Royalties, payouts, published works, not feeling empty and unaccomplished any more!" are tones that tend to jump out.
While I can't speak for Inkitt specifically, I would advise the utmost caution with these companies. It must be agreed that publication in the physical medium needs a renaissance, but tossing hundreds of thousands of words, and hundreds of hours of work into what can most endearingly be called a Book Mill, means the death of exactly why we all write.
Don't let stagnation force you to hand away your rights as a creator. Would that it were a better world, and we might all be able to publish and be beloved with ease. Not like this, though.
That option you mention is "self-publishing." 😛 You just gotta do all the printing, marketing, and designing yourself.
Don't get me wrong, I do it and love it, but might not be the option you want necessarily.
Received this via my website:
"Name: Lauren Burns
Comment: Hey Ian Thomas Healy,
'The Scene Stealers' caught my eye. My name is Lauren and I am a Marketing Manager at a publishing company. We're looking for authors to promote in our current writing contests, and we're still accepting submissions until the end of May.
I would love to tell you more about our publication process. How does that sound to you?
P.S. If you win we'll spend a minimum of $6000 on your book marketing to get 'The Scene Stealers' into the top 50 on Amazon.
Nope, nothing sketchy about that. "A publishing company," ""I would love to tell you more about our publication process," "If you win we'll spend a minimum of $6000 on your book marketing…"
So basically, they're asking me to submit a book that is *already* published to them, and if by some wizardry I win their contest, they're going to spend $6000 of somebody's money to get it into the top 50 on Amazon.
Sounds totally legit.
Firstly, thanks Victoria for the investigative blogging on Inkitt. I was considering this alternative with a complete novel but in my questions I wondered how they control family and friends in the original 100 readers. They in fact encourage this practice so there is little to assure them/you as to whether the book is truly of merit. I am disappointed because going through the query/rejection process is so daunting I wish there was an alternative to feeling like I have send my hard-earned work to someone who bases a decision on a query and prides themselves in being able to deny a submission in "one to six seconds." We need an alternative to at least have our MS read and evaluated.
Just wanted to note that as of 5/22/17, the company is still engaged in spam. Hysterically, they spammed me to offer to publish a book that I, as a publisher, already published.
Yes, you read that correctly, they spammed a publisher to offer the publisher a chance to enter their contest to win a publishing deal.
FYI – I looked for Bright Star by Erin Swan on Amazon tday – May 17, 2017 – and did not find it.
It's been over a year, and I checked up on Erin Swan's book. I STILL can not find it for sale anywhere. Tor makes no mention, Amazon has no listing.
For a company that claims it'll publish your book fast, I am deeply dubious of Inkitt. Especially since it seems to have a spambot army who specifically descends on all posts defending it, without ever actually offering concrete stats that its authors are successful. (Clicks and pageviews are not money in the hand.) And the links they post are overwhelmingly through their own site, their own press releases.
I'm a small fish self-pubber who's been selling short stories on Livejournal for over four years. I am a nobody. That I am making more money, and still have my IP rights really horrifies me, because these are companies trying to pass themselves off as respectable, offering far worse deals.
Just… what the hell?
Well, it's true. My son does not like to read MG/YA books with teenage girls as the protagonist. But my daughter does and her bookshelves are full of MG/YA fantasy books with girls as the hero.
It may be that your agent just did not know the market well enough and approached the wrong publishers. You might try again with a different agent to see if you get a better result.
I will do Victoria, and thanks for posting my comment.
Thanks for your comment. I wish you the best of luck. Please return and let us know what happens.
As an aspiring middle grade/YA author I'm currently giving Inkitt a try. I like the algorithmic approach they describe and I'll tell you why.
I managed to secure an agency contract (now ended) with my first book and they spent 12 months trying to place me with publishers. They didn't approach many (for reasons I won't go into here), but none of those they did approach accepted it. The most common reason given for refusal was, and I quote, "12 year old boys won't read a story with a 12 year old girl hero".
I find this view to be ridiculously outdated and potentially reinforcing an archaic sexist stereotype. I did a bit of research and discovered Inkitt and thought "An objective selection platform? That's for me – let's see if this traditional view is right."
I've had nearly 1000 chapter reads and I'm trending in the top twenty recent books across all genres in less than two months since uploading.
I think there is a lot of old school thinking in the industry, and, if I'm honest, I think this blog and many of the comments on it reflect that. I think the comments by Ali Albazaz and Erin Swan above do much to underline the altruistic motives of the site, and its potential.
I remain positive and hopeful.
And hey, check out my book!
As a data scientist, I would be curious to know more about INKITT's algorithms and data sets. There have been several academic papers on the subject of trying to predict best sellers. They all suffered from biases of form of the other. One point I would be worried about with INKITT's approach is the bias of using their own readership. Is their readership really representative of the groups that buy books and make "best sellers" best sellers? Without more information and in depth studies, there is no reason to believe it is, and therefore no reason to believe their algorithm, whatever it is, can work. At best their algorithm will turn their restricted reader base into a virtual agent which, like human agents, picks books some readers like.
I've just found this piece after spotting an INKITT ad on Facebook, giving a big plug to their novel-writing comp. They say they will pump 6,000 into marketing support for their winning author. I'm inclined to give it a miss after reading this
First of all: any kind of publisher that wants to have the whole script instead of a summary and one or two chapters seems fishy to me.
Second: I approached them with a question through support if I can send in a translated version of my already published book in Germany, they said yes (which was nice) but asked no questions regarding the ownership of the script and what the contract with the other published looks like… seemed weird to me so I decided not to send anything in
I just updated this post with comments on Inkitt's publishing contract. If you're considering publishing with Inkitt, I'd suggest taking a look.
As an author published with small presses who has seen 6–yes, literally 6–copies of one of her books sold over the past 5 YEARS, I have to admit, Inkitt at least looks like a place to get your book in front of eyeballs. Despite numerous promotional efforts I've done, blog tours, Facebook launch parties, regular posting on FB book promotion sites, interviews, articles, my own blog and website, Tweeting, et. al., I am seeing NO results. 100 percent of nothing, as someone eloquently put it, is still nothing. Yes, I get fabulous royalty rates. What I don't get are SALES upon which to collect any of those royalties.
Unless we spend hundreds of dollars on advertising in the major writing/readers' magazines, work with Google AdWords (which I actually DID, briefly, after one release), or otherwise find some way to "game" the system so we can get NOTICED, it won't matter how good a deal our publisher gives us: we'll still get lost among all the other thousands and thousands of books out there, and no one reader has enough time to see even a fraction of those books, much less figure out what's worth buying. There are only so many promotional efforts an author can do, and only so many admonitions to "write another book" before it all starts to sound like so much claptrap. Yes, I can get an uptick on sales by writing another book (or 10)…but there's no evidence of substantial upticks except for authors sold to more "conventional" publishers. This is not by way of an excuse; it's simply what a lot of us out here are facing, all the time, every day. Is it any wonder that when something new comes along, we're tempted to take it?
Is Inkitt's model perfect? Heck, no. Is its contract perfect? Heck, no. Do the numbers designate "best seller" on many of these books? Heck, no. But on just one of their published books, I saw 109 reviews listed. I haven't had 109 READERS, period, on any of my books…so trust me. That looks pretty darned good right now. And compared with the "meh" responses I'm getting from agents (when I get them at all), it looks even better.
I just checked, and Inkitt has published nine books to date under its own name (current Kindle rankings range from pretty good [low four figures] to ho hum [mid-six figures]–either way, not really bestseller territory, though I suppose time will tell). But as far as I can determine, Erin Swan's book remains the only trade publisher placement. So that part of Inkitt's business model still doesn't seem to be taking off.
Talk about a bitter article and bitter comments. Inkitt are a company trying to build something to help authors as well as themselves. What's wrong with that? We've even heard from a user, Erin Swan, who has had direct experience with Inkitt and seems to have had an excellent experience. This is a classic example of artists/creatives having a moan about something "new" that actually has the potential to really benefit them if it weren't for their scepticism. Grow up, open your eyes and join the 21st century. Until you drop your chip and start accepting new models for how things are done, all you'll do is hit walls.
Inkitt will never get off the ground. I don't believe they care about our novels and are only after a get rich quick scheme. Using algorithms to predict best sellers, is a one pony trick.
Um, I know nothing about Inkitt although I have looked at terms for publishing by Tor. I ran away from them fast. Just my little thought, but it looks like one viper signing one up with another viper.
As an unpublished writer who is constantly bombarded with marketing and spam I feel I should just point out that Inkitt have asked for NO MONEY at all, there's no entry fee and no 'registration fee'.
The number of seemingly respectable writing sites and people who will offer 'networking opportunities' and 'workshops' and great 'how to get published' advice out there that comes to nothing and always costs is soul destroying. As far as I can tell Inkitt is doing something. If there's a chance, however slim, to see my novel on a shelf in a book shop without it costing me a penny then that's a damn site better than most other things out there.
Self-publishing is looking better and better. Yes, you have to pony up for a good artist and editor, but at least you've got control.
Barbara of the Balloons
I first found out about Inkitt via fanfiction.net. It piqued my interest. I was about to publish my first story there for one of the contests until I read horror stories about spamming, with the way stories were judged on the site questioned, which put me off.
Months later I got an email saying that they were publishing their first story on amazon. I kept in mind the date and found they were telling the truth. Catalyst moon is now available on Amazon (£2.31 to buy, free for kindle subscribers).
I'm so disappointed. Inkitt hasn't written to me.
I take issue with the claims that editors rejected best-sellers like Harry Potter. Harry Potter was accepted – it was published by those editors and publishing houses and by the very processes they claim to hate. Often a book may get rejected simply because it does not fit with a publishing house's catalogue, with the specific editor who recieved it's tasks for that quarter, is sent in an off-season…etc. The list goes on. Publishing rejections aren't about doubting books, they are about selling them at the right time to the right market. Had Harry Potter been accepted in it's first go around then maybe we would not know about it today. Timing and audience are important and Inkitt seems very, very out of sync with publishing dynamics.
If they were set up as a new publishing house I may give them more credibility, but the fact is that they have to go to these big houses to get their books published in the first place. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Why would any publisher want anything to do with a platform that claims to be against publishing traditions and schematics?
There is too much to be questioned in their methods to support Inkitt as an authentic and viable publishing path, or even as an authentic and viable publishing platform.
Thank you Mr. Ali Albazaz for clarifying some issues here because I was really skeptical after reading this post and the comments. I submitted my own book title 'The Blacklist Conspiracy' for the Grand Novel contest and so far, I don't think there's anything wrong with the whole procedure except at one time they kept on sending spam emails to me but I don't receive that anymore.
So please blogger, make inquiries before posting stuff or blasting people, it's really not good for business and the author's alike.
Thank you once again.
This is Erin Swan, the author of "Bright Star" and what will hopefully be the Sky Riders series. I recently read your blog post and hoped I could offer an insider's look at what goes on when working with Inkitt.
I wrote the first book in the Sky Riders series starting in 2007, and posted it on FictionPress the following year. (We are actually hoping to publish this book as a prequel sometime down the road, but I won't go into that here.) For those familiar with FictionPress, you know it's pretty stagnant. You post your stories on there, people review, and things don't really progress beyond that. A few years later, I wrote "Bright Star" and posted it on FictionPress as well. Like the first book, I got a great reader response, but was never able to move my books beyond that.
Outside of FictionPress, I'd written other things and actually reached out to publishers on my own. If you've done this as a writer, you probably know how difficult and demoralizing it can be. First of all, it's pretty much impossible to get your manuscript on the desk of a big-name publisher without having an agent. And even smaller publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts will often reject yours without offering you any kind of reasoning or feedback, so you're not sure if it's just "not a good fit" for their catalog, or if what you've written isn't publishable. A no-name writer has a really hard go of it in the standard publishing world.
Fast forward a few years. My writing was on hiatus, as other things in my life had taken priority. Then a FictionPress reader reached out to me and mentioned a new website that was running a writing contest–Inkitt. She suggested I enter and, not seeing any reason not to join the site, I posted "Bright Star". I didn't win that contest, but several weeks later, Ali reached out to me. He told me that their readers seemed to be responding well to my story and inquired about my interest in publication.
Since then, Inkitt has been putting in an insane amount of effort to get my book out there. First, they went to the Frankfurt Publishers Fair and pitched on my behalf. Then they sent manuscripts to interested parties, and negotiated on potential contracts. The book got interest from both Tor and HarperCollins, and, as was stated in the update, we ended up receiving an offer from Tor. Inkitt has been acting as my agent, negotiating the terms on my behalf, and we're close to a final contract. Also as stated elsewhere, Inkitt will collect 15% of my net earnings, just like a standard literary agent, even though they've done so much more on my behalf than most agents would.
I'm a writer, not a numbers person, so I can't attest to exactly how Inkitt's algorithms work. However, I can tell you that response to "Bright Star" has been overwhelmingly positive online, but I never would have gotten the chance to get my story off of my computer hard drive without the Inkitt team. Of course, I am the first selected author from their site, so it remains to be seen whether or not their predictive algorithms will prove accurate. But whatever lies ahead, the fact remains that my book will be on the shelves next summer. Whether it's a "blockbuster" book or not, isn't that what we all really want as writers? The chance to hold a printed copy of our work in our hands? Anything else is just an added blessing.
For anyone who is interested, I will be doing an AMA hosted by Inkitt on May 18. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about my experience with Inkitt, the publication of "Bright Star," and anything else you may be curious about.
Ali from Inkitt here. Reaching out as I recently read your blog post and wanted to provide some insight on our publishing process.
My co-founder Linda and I built Inkitt because we believe every author should have an equal opportunity to be successful. The publishing process should be fair and objective.
At Inkitt, we put the power in readers’ hands to determine what content is most interesting to them. Our algorithms track reader engagement and identify the most compelling content that we seek to get published.
Through our writing contests we offer authors the chance to win publishing deals, either through traditional publishing houses or our platform where we combine it with an in-house marketing campaign and guarantee that if we’re not able to sell at least 1k copies with a year, we’ll give you all the rights back if you’re not happy with our performance. Inkitt takes a 15% commission on every publishing deal we sell to other publishing houses (like an agent) and 50% if we run a marketing campaign and publish it ourselves. Both numbers are based on industry standards.
We don’t pretend that our system is flawless but we do believe it has the potential to positively impact the current selection process in the publishing industry. Our team has spent the last year building strong ties to authors who have come to Inkitt for both feedback on their work, through our reader base, and for the potential to be published.
To address the commentary on spam – as a fast growing startup we have experimented with different online platforms to reach out to authors and readers. When we hear complaints about spamming we take it to heart. We have a dedicated team on the ground who are responsive to all feedback and inquiries from both our authors and readers, which we factor into all our decision making.
We’re excited to see what the next year brings and as you’ve mentioned in your blog post are anticipating the release of our first predicted best seller, Erin Swan’s Bright Star, with Tor Books. Announcement details here: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/dealmakers/detail.cgi?id=2586.
Hope this helps clarify a few items and always available to continue the conversation at email@example.com.
This was a very timely article as I was solicited by this group just today. Thank you!
Ali got in touch with me about the Tor deal; apparently it's on Publisher's Marketplace: https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/login.php/dealmakers/detail.cgi%3Fid%3D2586
(I don't have an account so I can't confirm.)
Good point. I will go double confirm the report.
I see no mention of the Tor deal on Tor's website and Google searches only point back to the Inkitt press release.
Oh hooray I got Tweeted at by that contest. I feel so special.
Tor Teen does YA. But I agree–I'd like to see independent confirmation of the sale. I'll be keeping an eye out and will update here if I find anything.
Juli–they are claiming to act as the author's agent, so I'm guessing they're taking a 15% commission…though I'd like to know what they mean by "net."
Oh, yeah, the Crosstime Traffic series. But he's a huge name. They'd publish him anyway. I haven't seen a Tor YA imprint. Anyway, I'd like to hear what they have to say about this.
Tor has a series of YA titles by Harry Turtledove.
Have you asked Tor for the details? I haven't heard of them publishing YA before.
Yech. Those are not good terms.
Did you see this gorgeous clause in their "Terms" sidebar
"The author receives 85% of net earnings if the license is sold to an A-list publisher (e.g. Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, MacMillan or HarperCollins)"
85% of net? Of course that means 85% of nothing, but the writers they are preying on won't know that and will think they are getting a fantastic deal.
Adding linkage to Nate's comment, above. I've updated my post to reflect the info.
I hadn't seen that announcement. I have to say I'm surprised, expecially given the excerpt from the book on Inkitt's website…but it's wonderful for the author. I remain skeptical, however, and will be interested to see if this sale is followed up by others. (Also a question: what kind of cut is Inkitt getting?)
What about the deal with TOR?