Tag Archives: opinion

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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Rant Grenade: Pizza Tracking

Pizza’s like the perfect writer fuel.  You can get at it straight out of the box, no need to fuss with utensils or even plates, take a few bites and get back to writing.  Plus in most cases it comes to you.  So imagine how happy I was awhile back when science merged with the perfect writer fuel to create this:

The pizza tracker.  Maybe we’ve become jaded with the wonders of the modern era but seriously… it tracks pizza, y’all!  I mean, we’ve come from those big ass battle tank cellphones from the 80’s to having near real time intelligence of the grub you ordered.  You never have to wonder where the hell your pizza is–you know that weird space where you feel like it’s been for-frickin-ever since you placed the call so you’re trying to calculate when that was and it’s messing with your rusty math skills and you kinda feel like you’re tripping but maybe not and either way you’re hungry.  No more of that… it’s like they’re baking a chain of accountability right into the pie.

So what’s the rant about?  Because it’s a beautiful lie.  Because they lulled me in with their promise of pizza tracking and pulled the rug from under me, something I only noticed after about 4 orders where my pizza was kind of sucktacular.  See it for yourself.  Compare the old pizza tracker to the newer one:

 

See the difference?  While they were busy making it smaller and neater they were also removing the accountability from the tracker entirely.  Step 4 went from “Box” which means they took your pizza from the oven and put it into the box to “Quality Check”, which means Fuckall.  Think about it… it’s a conveyor belt oven so all you gotta do is stand at the ass end of the conveyor, look at the pizza as it comes out for a second just to be sure Johnny’s not pranking you again by turning the oven up or some starving fly decided to enter Valhalla by taking a suicidal dive into the lava cheese while screaming “witness me!” to its fly friends,  and box the damn thing up.  What kind of “quality check” are they doing?  Sticking thermometers in it to see if it achieved optimal internal temperature like a turkey? Measuring the distance between toppings to ensure perfect coverage?  No, they’re putting the pizza in the box.  That’s it.  The difference is when you literally honestly say Step 4 is “Box” most folks know that only takes a minute so it should be out the door and on its way to you.  When you say “Quality Check” it becomes this nebulous, undefined affair that could take 10, 15, who knows, 20 minutes.

And it does.  If your local pizza place is anything like mine, you’ll see your pizza dwell in Step 4 long enough to get mail there.  It is eternal.  It is the purgatory in which your pizza goes from this hot gooey wondergrub to this lame, limp heatlamp meh.  Ironically, “Quality Check” is where quality goes to die.  And my pizza like lives in there and I’m looking at the 4 do its subtle throb-glow and it’s supposed to be soothing but it feels like watching the hero of the story, say like James Bond or Flint or some other super spy, get put into a tank that’s slowly filling up with water.  I want to go to my pizza, to help it escape from “Quality Check” but that defeats the whole purpose of the call.  Besides, pizza can maybe hopefully go free from 4 to “Out for Delivery” any second.  Only pizza doesn’t.   Pizza isn’t James Bond or Flint or some other super spy with training and agency.  Pizza doesn’t escape, it becomes limp and soggy.

That’s my rant, y’all.  Another story of how science made things better and then somehow people turned that science into crap.  This is how Charlton Heston went from an astronaut to wearing a loincloth yelling “You Maniacs! You blew it all up!”  And it started with the pizza tracker.

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REMINDER: Hey guys, I still have a few copies of my novel Pendulum Heroes available over at inkitt.com.  For those of you who’ve already read it, they’ve allowed voting now!  So do your boy a favor and go to the site, grab the novel if you haven’t yet or vote on it if you have.  Since a whopping 20% of the decision on who wins the contest comes from votes, I DEFINITELY need yours!   Click here to help!

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Intelligence Report: FirstSiteGuide.com

Making sense of the whirlwind of blog topics

Making sense of the whirlwind of blog topics

Have you guys been saying good things about me, telling folks you like my blog?  Reason I ask is because I was approached by a representative from firstsiteguide.com, asking me to take a look at it and let my readers know what I think.  Well, I’ve browsed the site, looked at some of the advice, enjoyed some of the fun pictures and I’m pleased to report that it’s worth checking out if any of you are interested in blogging.

They cover the gamut of blogging, from the history, to why people do it, what kinds are out there, how to make money from blogging, you name it.  Maybe I should look at the chapter about monetizing the blog… who couldn’t go for more of that right?

If you have an inkling of a kernel of a nugget of an idea you wouldn’t mind blogging about, I definitely recommend checking them out.  When I first started fictigristle, I wanted to document this war in the trenches, the journey from selling my first story at token pay to becoming a pro to (now!) working on getting a book deal.  I remember when I thought it up I wasn’t sure of how to really start, what things to include, where to host it, etc.  Having something like that back when I posted my first blog would have helped make the war in the trenches feel less like a war.

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Rant Grenade: What Happened to the Flying Car

Coming to the dealership in the summer of hell freezes over.

Coming to the dealership in the summer of hell freezes over.

I’ve been around the world and met a lot of people along the way in this war in the trenches.  Despite changing zip codes, country codes, coworker demographics, and uniforms, somehow I invariably have the same conversation with whatever happens to be my present social circle.  Somebody in the circle will say, “man, whatever happened to the flying car?  This is supposed to be the 21st century, the future dammit.  They promised me a flying car!”  Then everybody agrees vehemently and talk ensues about how ultra awesome the flying car would be.  They want one too.

Am I the only one who’s ever had this conversation occur and reoccur?  Maybe it is just me, and I bring this discussion upon myself somehow.  I know I used to be in the circle, vehemently agreeing.  Because it flies miles above awesome.  In my mind the flying car is the conveyance of choice of Jesus Christ.  Then realization struck; I suddenly figured out the answer to the all powerful initial question: whatever happened to the flying car?

We happened.  We suck.  We can barely drive in two damn dimensions, yet everybody’s screaming to drive in three?  This ain’t the Jetsons, this is a world where people tweet and text and eat and spill coffee in their own laps while they’re driving.  You know those people who drive regular ass cars that do any number of things that’ll have you yelling and ranting and getting ever closer to a coronary?  Imagine them dive bombing at you cause they’re busy putting on make-up, or envision them coming up at you in a straight vertical… collision course your floorboard where you can’t even see your impending doom… because they’re too busy rooting through their futuristic glove box to see they’re climbing like Crackhead Icarus.

We live in the 21st Century, where our smartphones do more than tricorders in Star Trek.  We’ve pretty much put Wall-E on Mars, where he’s collecting rocks until a sleek new robot comes through for an adventure of a lifetime.  Honestly, I think we’ve got the technology to make flying cars the standard in a marketplace where literally everyone wants one.  The only reason we don’t have them is because it would usher in Self-Inflicted Doomsday.

Until we learn to stop doing this, we're staying on wheels.

Until we learn to stop doing this, we’re staying on wheels.

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