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Are Inkitt Bestsellers Really Selling?

After I published the Dark Side of Inkitt, I started seeing more and more writers respond to and relay their own sour experience of Inkitt to me.  Fellow writer/blogger Enchoseon wrote an article unambiguously titled The Grand Inkitt Scam.  Enchoseon goes in on the people behind Inkitt.  If nothing else, you guys should check it out just to see my appearance via the craziest of Photoshops.

Another writer, Michael Ampersant, contacted me directly after reading my post because of his experience with both Inkitt and coding to express his observations into what seems to be their algorithm, this legendary AI they tout as being able to predict bestsellers.  It was a very enlightening conversation and you can view his observations to me and my followup response in their entirety on his website.

While I recommend you read both these writers’ posts, I’ll summarize and conjecture a sort of group hypothesis: Their algorithm, their AI, it’s magnificently craptastic.  Let me run through the reasons.

  1. It was written by programmers who appear to have had no initial or very limited data starting out.  This is a fairly reasonable assumption, seeing as the CEO is a programmer with an eye on publishing rather than, say a publisher with a penchant for programming.  Like any programmer who believes in the power of machine learning, I imagine the programmers started the algorithm with their own hunches and assumptions of what readership for a bestseller would look like and let the AI learn as it’s relatively empty database began to fill.  Ultimately it feels as if their hunches were derived with little to no knowledge of the publishing industry or how readers actually consume books.
  2. Inkitt relied on faulty means to gather more data.  Empty database remember?  To fill it, they held quasi-contests and promos and promises of pie in the sky to get writers to bring readers to their website.  Once on the website, their database would start to fill based on reader behavior and Bango! Predictive Analytics Achievement award.  It seems they didn’t account for one detail: Would readers across all spectrums use their website?  It seems readers by and large don’t like to read via website… they’ve bought Kindles and Nooks and iPads just so they wouldn’t have to read books via website. Plus Inkitt’s got to rely on writers to drive readership, and writers aren’t exactly known for marketing ability just like programmers aren’t known for their publishing chops.  The result seems to be a lack of participation in some genres and a wealth of participation in others.
  3. And now you’ve got Garbage In, Garbage Out.   If you have malformed hunches and lopsided participation, your AI is going to learn bad.  If you go to Inkitt’s “bestseller” page, you’ll notice that the overwhelming majority of their books are romance novels.  Inkitt and their AI is predicting the next great bestseller is a romance novel.  I’m not trying to crap on romance novels, I’m just saying it’s not taking into account the next Harry Potter or The DaVinci Code or any other novel not a romance.  I wager that the only demographic that isn’t opposed to reading on the website are romance readers.

The Big Question: Are Inkitt Books Even Bestsellers?

They all have a nice yellow ribbon on the Inkitt website that labels them bestsellers, but by who’s definition?  Certainly not the New York Times.  It looks like they’re touting whatever top place they’ve held in Amazon’s ranks to claim this bestseller status.  Appropriately named for this post, let’s look at Fake by Haley Ladawn.

 

As of the time of this post, this book Fake was at 819,150 in Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank, meaning Amazon considers 819,149 other novels to be selling better.  These numbers are transient and temporary, fluctuating as sales pick up or decrease.  My novel’s been in the Top 100 for it’s genre and I wouldn’t go anywhere close to calling  it a bestseller like I’m giving up the day job.  If you want to know how much of a difference one purchase can make, then go to any novel you’ve been looking to purchase,that one that maybe you’ve been putting off… if nothing comes to mind than I highly recommend this ultra-clever, adrenaline fueled fantasy adventure novel.  Highly recommend.  Anyway, check out the Amazon Best Sellers Rank before you buy.  Then buy.  Then check the number again.  Yes.  One sale makes that much difference.

Don’t get me wrong, more than total number of sold factors into that Amazon bestsellers rank.  Some other factors is how many you’ve sold that day and how long you continue to sell over time.  It only takes a few days to slide back a hundred thousand or more… if you haven’t sold many over time.

If you’re still on Amazon and wanting to experiment, type in LitRPG into your search bar.  Pick ANY… I’m not kidding.  ANY of these novels with LitRPG in their subtitle and you’ll see better sales ranks overwhelmingly to what Inkitt’s doing.  Some of these books are also several years old.  This means they’ve sold well and continue to sell well.  The best even, like you know, a bestseller.  The GENRE is wrecking the sales of others on Amazon, to include romance, and to especially include Inkitt’s romance line.

So the next best question is, if Inkitt’s awesome AI can predict the next bestseller, how come none of their books are even in this runaway genre?

 

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187 on the Novel (Hypothet Killing It!)

Hey gristlers!

As I write this my Pendulum Heroes Goodreads Giveaway has exactly 187 entries.  If you don’t know the significance of the number, a quick Google will tell you about it and confirm to you that I’m hypothetically killing it in these trenches.   Not bad considering that my sole advertisement is telling folks it’s there on Twitter, Goodreads and of course here on the gristle.  We’ve got just a little less than a week left before the giveaway ends, so now’s the time to enter if you haven’t already.

Also of pretty cool note, the site All Author has entered the Pendulum Heroes book cover into their Cover of the Month contest for August.  The cover rocks and I think it’s miles ahead of the competition on the site, but I need your help on this.  If you dig the cover too take a moment to go to Pendulum’s All Author page and +1 it.    No need to register for the site or sign up for some kind of mailing list, it’s just a matter of clicking the link and hitting the vote button.

My top competition

Meanwhile, let me update you guys on what I’ve been doing.  I know I said I was going to focus on the novel but I took these last few weeks off to engage in a Codex writing contest.  They keep the tools sharp and they’re too fun to not put some words to.  That said, you guys should expect some flash stories from me later this year.

Did all of you notice the title?  I wanted to make a point and put a mark in the web-sand the difference between hypothetically killing something and literally killing something.  Am I the only one irked when someone says “It was literally killing me” or “I was literally dying” or “my head was literally exploding” and I’m like “ARRRRGHH! I’M NOT A GRAMMARIAN BUT DAMN, DO YOU KNOW WHAT LITERALLY MEANS?!!”  So I’m doing my small part to make “hypothetically” cool again.  I think part of the problem is that it’s too damn long.  And you can’t shorten it to “hypo” because you could mean a dozen words and that’ll just confuse everyone.  I would literally piss off people with hypoglycemic, hypochondria, hypothermia and that’s a huge demographic that never did anything to me.  Notice the usages.  Plus, “hypothet” that sounds cool.  That hypothet works.  Try it for yourselves.  Let’s literally destroy the world’s liberal use of literally.

So less than a week left to enter to win a free epic genre-savvy adventure novel, so don’t put it off.  Click here and enter!

Also, don’t let the cover wither in obscurity when it looks better than a lot of covers gracing the front page.  Only takes a second to click, so  go vote!

HELP IT WIN!

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Get the novel for FREE!

Hey, you guys know my novel?  The one that looks like this:

I’m hosting a giveaway on Goodreads, so enter for a chance to win yourself a free copy.  It’s also free to enter the giveaway so EVERYTHING is priced at our favorite four letter word.

Um… that’s about it.  Giveaways don’t last forever, so go now before you forget and then you’re all mad with yourself and who knows?  You may be a rather unforgiving person and you might stay mad at yourself for awhile because you know in your heart of hearts it doesn’t ever get freer than free.  You don’t want that, I don’t want that, mad people leave bad reviews.  So enter the Pendulum Heroes Goodreads Giveaway and get yourself a copy!

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Lightspeed and sound!

Gristlers!  July is starting off in epic fashion.  Epic as in atmospheric steampunk war story featuring killer cyborg monkeys on an airship.  Yes, people, my story “A Song of Home, the Organ Grinds” is finally out in the latest issue of Lightspeed!  And they really gave the story and yours truly the royal treatment.  Lightspeed made the story this month’s feature and the issue’s cover art, illustrated by the very talented Saleha Chowdhury, is derived from the story.  They also podcasted the story, which makes for the second time a story of mine’s been narrated.  It’s pretty cool hearing your words spoken back to you, and Stefan Rudnicki did a wonderful job creating atmosphere and also has a real knack for sound effects… he has a killer killer monkey impression!

Lightspeed didn’t stop there.  They also gave me an Author Spotlight interview, where Gordon White asks me how I came up with this story and some of the aspects and psychology of the characters and their motivations.  It’s definitely worth checking out after you read the story and want to know the behind the scenes.  You guys will never guess how this idea of attack monkeys spawned.

Lotta links, right?  Ok, let’s recap.

Want to read the story? Click here.

Want to listen to it instead? Click here.

Want to know why the monkeys straight from the source? Click here.

And as always, feel free to come back to the gristle and let me know what you thought about this or anything else.  Happy July folks!

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