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Confession of an Indie Novelist

Cry Time is over!

I’m going to close out this year with a confession. There was a part of me that wanted to be done with writing. It’s so much work, you know? And not just the writing, the selling, that’s the herculean experience. And it was something I wasn’t doing, selling, not in record numbers or even moderate numbers. My novel was kinda just adrift.

I was running into a wall, problems of white noise and market saturation. Indie writers are legion. There are no barriers to entry. Plus, we’ve all heard the success stories, how nowadays the indies are forging ahead of the Big Name Publishers, getting huge fanbases and reaping fortune and glory. We all want that… if you don’t want that, you’re dreaming wrong.  Envision, a million indie writers trying to move five million books, attemping to wedge into a spot reserved for a handful.

I knew this going in. I was hoping to cut through a lot of the white noise by telling potential readers, “I’ve been published in F&SF, and Apex, and Daily Science Fiction, and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show (making it a point to name drop Orson to catch some clout), and Lightspeed and Escape Pod and I made the Nebula Recommended Reading List and and and.” This was my way of saying, “I know a book from an indie writer is a crapshoot, it could be garbage so hot it melts your ereader or a brave bold crazy wonderful adventure… you should try me out because I’m vetted. I bring a resume of quality storytelling. Won’t you be my reader?”

Few cared. Even reviewers, which was my other ticket to express laning through the white noise. It’s one thing for me to tell you that my book is fun, savvy, quirky, edge of your seat action, and quite another for someone else to say “Holy smokes this rocked… buy it!” Turns out there’s only a very small dollop of reviewers who accept indie books for review. Nowadays most reviewers strictly go through NetGalley, which is quite expensive for a writer to use, I’m talking $400 for the basic option, $600 for NetGalley to place you in the newsletter… you know, showing folks you’re actually there on the site instead of you hoping that your fingers crossed is its own special brand of attractive magic.

Some of the indie reviewers were cool, most were supremely overbooked to the point of being temporarily closed to subs… I believe one guy had a backlog of 180+ books, I still put mine in the queue and don’t really expect to hear back until this time next year. And there were a few others that just didn’t wanna rock with me, take that book elsewhere, my resume be damned… they had permanently stopped reviewing indies because the aforementioned crapshoot wasn’t worth their time.

So I was running into a vicious loop of new readers not wanting to check me out because I had few reviews and reviewers not wanting to read the book because I was indie. It didn’t help that Beamon is a name that sounds like I should be catching footballs or running track, not writing fantasy and science fiction. I love my name, it’s mine, but it’s not writerly until I make it writerly. I look at this as a temporary strike, it only counts against me in the now but well, now is the time it counts. It felt as if very little, if any, of all the accomplishments I had made from the short story trade had converted into usable currency in this space. Don’t get me wrong, I did have some stalwart, Day One fans (thanks to you all!) precisely because of the short stories, but there are soooo many more days after day one and I started feeling them as sales clicked down to 0. My novel languished and for a brief time I just checked out… played some Bloodborne, watched some YouTube, didn’t check the bestsellers ranks or think about it.

And like any real writer, the ones forged of broken glass and duct tape, I came back. I wrote a couple of short stories that are making their way in the slush right as we speak, wrote a few chapters of the third book, got back down to the business. A writer has to write and no amount of commercial success or lack thereof is gonna keep a writer from doing it. Not until all their stories have been told. And mine are still there jockeying for position to be the next one out of my head, onto the page and into the world.

I had forgotten. I was calling myself a writer in the trenches but in the short story markets it felt like I had climbed out, that I was standing over the maze and catching all day sunshine. Sure, I’d still get rejections, but I was on a first name basis with many of the editors of the top magazines. Many of them I had been featured in, or been published multiple times. I felt accomplished, which is a great feeling but an impossible feeling to someone who’s claiming to be your brother in arms slugging it out in these slushpiles to achieve a slight modicum of recognition in print. It was no longer a slugfest for me, where I wrestled with self-doubt and self-rejection wondering what was wrong with my stories or if it was something else entirely.

Going into the novel world felt like starting over, going back into the trenches, back before that first ever SFWA recognized pro sale. Season’s Greetings that was a hard era! Yes, I used Season’s Greetings as an expletive. And here I am, ready to take this hill like I took the ones before this one, bigger hill or not. Overnight success probably doesn’t suit me anyway, it doesn’t have the visceral imagery of bloody knuckles clutching my final manuscript. Overnight success doesn’t make a rocking bio and I definitely want the rocking bio. And I guess to all the writers out there who are fledgling or still feel fledging, this blog is still a relevant voice when hearing the motivational words of authorities , the big names who have been big names forever, feels like getting advice from mom and dad about a world that’s constantly changing. Bloody and battered, I’m still here for you.

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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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The Dark Side of Inkitt

An hour before I posted about the Bright Side of Inkitt, I deleted my story from their site, and for reasons I haven’t seen anywhere else on the net.  I didn’t mind the impressions from others that they were spammy (as I still hadn’t seen any) or that I was essentially turning my novel into “previously published” and I still like the theory behind their model to predict bestsellers using algorithms.  I went from excited to disillusioned, which led me on an investigation where I became appalled.  It takes a minute to go through that kind of emotional range, so have a seat.  This is the story of an Inkitt user from November 2017 to January 2018.

The compelling draw to Inkitt outside of the analytics model was the novel contest they were hosting.  You had until the middle of December to upload your novel, where they’d make 100 copies available for download and the winners, as determined by their predictive engine, get book deals.  I was enthused about the contest and the limited release so I hit the bricks, announced my novel on my blog, mailing lists, Twitter and close to 30 Facebook groups.  I earned a pretty decent number of reads.  Check the graph.

Before I go further, I should explain what some of these terms are as defined by Inkitt.  See those little question marks over “Chapter Reads” and “Collected Data?”  Inkitt explains them in detail when you mouse over them.  While I think the full description’s worthwhile, for those who may have small screens I’m adding the TL;DR version below the screenshot

Chapter reads are when someone starts your story or continues reading the story, essentially any time someone reads it.

Collected Data is how much data they’ve collected.  When it gets full, they analyze the book and see if it’ll be a hit.

I have to admit it was addictive watching the reads go up.  But I noticed the Collected Data bar wasn’t filling very much.  I figured it was still early, so I focused on what Inkitt suggested which was blare it out to more readers.  Besides, I would only have to move a maximum of 100 units and eventually the chapter reads would fill the Collected Data bar.

Then they took away the 100 download limit, making views unlimited.  It felt like a breech of the contest conditions, you know, the reason I signed up for it.  I suspected the reason they took away the limit is because their algorithm needed more than 100 readers.  After all, what’s the point of making the free story unlimited when the sole purpose is to simply get enough data to discover if they want to sell it for profit?  By this time I had learned trying to get readers to use Inkitt’s interface was a fairly titanic affair.

Then they took away the contest entirely.  If you go to the site now, there’s no mention of a contest anywhere.  Posting your novel on Inkitt has become nebulous and undefined, a perpetual slush war with every other aspiring novel on the site.

So there were no download limits, no contest and no real progress on Collected Data and all this within the very limited scope of two months.  Disillusioned, I started crunching numbers based on what I saw in terms of chapter reads to collected data and by my calculations it would take approximately 8,250 chapter reads for the collected data bar to fill.  And since you can only read so much of a 30 chapter novel, more factoring led me to the conclusion that this would take moving about 275 copies of my novel.

At this point, I wanted a bit of confirmation on the numbers.  As evidenced by the “chapter reads” description picture, this site touts their engine and how Book A can have 500 reads and Book B could have 90 reads but they analyze the data and determine Book B is the better bestseller.  Meanwhile I had more reads than Book A and Book B combined and only a fraction of a fraction’s worth of Collected Data.  It felt like a scam.  So I emailed support.  This was the start of a dialogue that would last 10 days.

First I hit them with the numbers I had worked out with a very thorough explanation of how I arrived at those numbers.  The response was that it really did vary, they hit me with the same example of Book A and Book B, and how the internal algorithm’s looking at over 1200 different reading behaviors and to keep promoting.  Here’s what I said in response to that in brief:

While I won’t necessarily say that you’re talking around my question, it certainly feels that way.  I thoroughly read through the mission and theory that Inkitt outlines, especially how even though Book A garnered 100 downloads and Book B garnered only 30, Inkitt’s algorithms can look at reader behavior and analytically deem Book B a better bet as a bestseller.  It’s the chief reason I signed on for Inkitt, as I have minority hurdles in this business and don’t necessarily have a huge following.  Besides, it felt as if it reduced the potential to game the system.
Again, I don’t know if you’re talking around my questions or if it’s simply a matter of me not asking it right, so let me ask my two base questions as simply as I can.
1) Do the “chapter reads” directly fill the “Collected Data” bar?
2) Is the reason Inkitt lifted the 100 download limit on the contest because 100 copies doesn’t produce enough data to fill the “Collected Data” bar?
This was the reply:

For clarification, the chapter reads are not actually downloads. A chapter read is when a reader starts or continues a chapter, and it’s not unique users, so for example, one reader could be representative of 10 chapter reads.

To answer your two questions:

1) No, chapter reads do not directly fill the Collected Data bar.
2) No, because it’s about reader engagement, so it’s not necessarily about the number of copies. We removed the counter because we wanted to increase the opportunity for authors to spread the word to more readers. Keep in mind, most authors would add additional copies when their 100 from the copy counter had been taken, so it was initially meant to drive urgency.

Keep in mind I never said or assumed that a chapter read was the same thing as a reader or a download, but the big thing here is that customer service said in no uncertain terms that chapter reads do not directly fill the Collected Data bar.  I’m sure at this point you guys know my next question because it’s big and obvious.
If chapter reads don’t directly fill the Collected Data bar, then what does?”
This was Inkitt’s response:

Per the name, reader data is what fills up the bar, so the more reader data that is available for analysis, the better. So, while chapter reads do not necessarily represent unique readers, they can give you a good indication of the reach, especially if you see a high rate of growth.

Again, the key is to share the story as much as possible, so it has the best opportunity to reach new readers and discover its audience.

If these answers from Inkitt seem cagey to you, you’re not alone.  I’m not the kind of dude you can toss a word salad at and expect me to feel like I had a great meal of it.  So I unpacked my same question.
My question is what directly fills the Collected Data bar if not chapter reads?  I mean, Inkitt has yet to actually analyze the data using its 1200 point algorithm engine, it’s just collecting the data at this point.  If chapter reads, i.e. the number of times a reader starts or continues reading the story isn’t what’s filling up the collected data bar, then what is?
I’m providing the response for the sake of tracking the conversation more than any real useful information to be had.  Here it is:
Each story will pace differently, so the bar will just show how much reader data has been collected and how much more is needed. The reason I was saying it can vary with chapter reads is because a story could have 200 chapter reads and have a smaller bar than one with 60 chapter reads, for example. Since it’s based on reader engagement, our algorithm is the one making a determination regarding that. It’s hard to provide an accurate response since it will always vary from book to book.
I think the objective by this time was to frustrate me away.  What Inkitt failed to realize is that I’ve been married for 20 years and I have a cat.  I threw out most of the filler and asked this:
So let me get this straight, you’re saying if a reader reads the story fast, it fills the Collected Data bar faster than if a reader reads the story slowly?
I figured this was it, as Inkitt’s founder  said as much in TechCrunch when he said, “If they start reading and stay up all night to continue reading, if they use every break during the day to continue reading your story, we look at this reader behaviour in order to see if a book is good or not good.”  But the response from Inkitt support surprised me.
Pardon the confusion, as that was not what I was saying. I was saying that every story paces differently regarding its progress, and since it’s about reader engagement, it’s always going to vary from book to book.
I really chewed on this and everything else, all the negative response to what this thing is.  And I had a soylent green moment.  This was my next question:
So, chapter reads don’t inherently fill the bar.  Neither does reader engagement in the sense of how fast/slow they read the book.  I thought a bit about what you say in terms of reader engagement and the reader data collected.  Are you saying that the more data you collect about the actual reader of the novel (such as a fully complete bio on inkitt) fills the Collected Data bar faster than someone with a bare bones profile of just a username/email login?  I mean, that would make sense because it’s very difficult to apply 1200 individual points of data just on how fast or slow someone clicks through a book.  But collecting data on the reader allows the algorithm to create reader profiles of sorts and determine how the book would work with the world at large.
Is this how the Collected Data bar fills, based on readers engaging with the site in a meaningful way for Inkitt to collect data on who the reader is?
Here was Inkitt’s response:
It would not be based on someone who decides to fill out a profile more than another person, but I think you’re somewhat on the right path regarding reader engagement, though we may be getting into proprietary information, so I’m not sure if I’ll necessarily be able to provide more at this point.
 You guys see where I’m going?  I was on the right track when it comes to thinking about what reader engagement was, but it didn’t necessarily have to do with profiles on Inkitt.  I want you guys to look at the sign in screen for Inkitt, the methodologies employed, and have your own soylent green moment.
While I can’t get a confirmation because it’s “proprietary” I highly suspect the Collected Data isn’t about how someone’s reading as much as WHO is reading.  Signing in with Google and Facebook allows Inkitt to request data from these sites about you; your birthday, friends list, employment, an exhausting amount of data about who you are.  Again, this is just my suspicion, but with that suspicion in mind everything makes perfect sense in the following ways.  Chapter reads do not directly fill the collected data bar because they’re not focused on the reads as much as who’s reading.  If most of your readers signed onto the site with a bare bones username/password, that bar, like my bar, won’t move much despite the number of reads because, while they can still collect the same amount of data on HOW someone’s reading, they can’t collect enough data on WHO’s reading.  I don’t care how nitpicky you are, there’s no way to apply 1200 individual points of data on how fast someone’s clicking through an ebook.  Besides, adults have lives… work and children with after school practices and dinners to cook and bills to pay… most of us don’t have time to speed through a novel with abandon but this is what they say they’re looking for even though that’s not an especially telling indicator of a bestseller in this current age of distraction.  What is a better indicator of a bestseller is market penetration, i.e. how many different markets can this book reach and one of the best indicators is demographics.  Are you black, living in New York and like the book?  Hispanic and 35? Male? Female? What’s your job?  When do you take breaks (after all, can’t know if you’re reading a book during your break if we don’t know you have a job and when you take breaks)? Do you have a lot of friends? Few friends?  Did you recommend the book to them?  It makes sense to discover everything about the reader, inspect and dissect it in 1200 individual ways to gauge how successful a book can be across several spectrums.
Again, this is just my suspicion.  And to be fair, I’m going to post the final exchange I had with Inkitt so you can hear what they had to say.  This is me, telling them what I thought they were doing:
It sounds like Inkitt is data mining the people who sign up on the site and the reason the Collected Data bar fills differently based on the reader is because different readers have varying levels of data to mine based on their Facebook and Google privacy settings i.e. how active they are on social media and other publicly accessible sites.  While this isn’t inherently proprietary information, as it doesn’t go into the data points of the algorithm, I suspect it’s a prickly enough subject for you to not want to comment on.  So I actually don’t have any further questions outside of “Would you like to comment on this?”
 I actually didn’t expect a comment back but I guess that’d be too damning.   Here’s what Inkitt said in response.  Keep in mind they are fans of word salad:
The Collected Data bar is only based on our platform and is still just tied to the reader behavior on our app and website.  There might not be more information I can provide beyond that, but if you still have questions, please let us know.
I’m pretty sure that signing in with Google or Facebook is a reader behavior tied to their site.  You can be your own judge of what this says.  You already know how I judged it.  Of course I can be totally wrong.  And even if I’m right, perhaps it’s not a big deal to most people.  I do not fall in that category, as I believe sharing information with another party should be a clearly communicated choice.  There’s a huge difference to me from just feeling let down by a sales pitch where I find out instead of 800 chapter reads I have to actually get 8000 to telling friends and long time followers and people who just discovered me to check out my work by going to this site and possibly signing up for more than they asked for or wanted.   It was important enough for me based on those suspicions to delete my novel from the site and to issue an apology to anyone who went to Inkitt on my behalf.
I’m sorry folks.
I tried to provide the best possible full spectrum look of Inkitt in the few months time I used it.  I hope you look at both this and the post about the bright side and make your own determination, as either a writer or a reader.
See y’all in the trenches.

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The Bright Side of Inkitt

If you’ve done even a cursory search on Inkitt, you’ll get some of the most widely disparate viewpoints for a new publisher you can find.  There are tech articles that seem impressed with their future-forward approach to predict bestsellers through data analytics.  There are writers on the web who have very good reasons why their business model sucks.  Me?  I dug the idea so I tried it.  This is the first of a two part look at Inkitt, with this one focusing on the things I think they did right, as well as an interview with Egan Brass, an author who found success on Inkitt’s platform.  I urge anyone who’s considering or recommending Inkitt to look at both parts (part 2 will post in a few days).  Let’s get started.

When Inkitt first started out, apparently they were spammy as hell.  Many authors and bloggers have reported this.  Personally, I didn’t notice this and I think perhaps that was due to my lack of a well developed social media presence until recently.  When I came to Inkitt in October, I had to find them.  And I’ve personally seen their business model evolve even after I joined in October 2017, so for those interested in Inkitt and you’re doing research, know that the further back in time you go the less relevant it may be to how Inkitt is today.

I also have to confess that I really dug the writer interface.  It was extremely easy to upload my work, format it in ebook format and post it.  I think that first day getting started it maybe took an hour to take it from a Word doc to fully available on their site. They also provide charts and graphs measuring your metrics and it gives you a pretty solid view of who’s currently reading your work, how many chapter reads you’ve got under your belt, and how much overall data’s been collected.  Also, and I mean this whole-heartedly, their customer service is top flight.

That said,  Inkitt wasn’t for me.  But that doesn’t quite give folks looking for a full scope view a whole heaping lot to go on in terms of the bright side.  So I decided to reach out to Egan Brass and interview someone who actually earned a deal for a book series through Inkitt.  Egan Brass (aka Ryan Attard) is the author of the Esper Files, the Legacy series, and the Pandora Chronicles.  Hailing from a faraway island, it wasn’t long until he began creating his own imaginary friends and writing down their adventures.  As Egan Brass, he writes the Esper Files — a tale of super-powered individuals set in a steampunk universe.  He also dons a cape and a mask, and spends his free time learning Victorian insults in order to both confuse and enthrall his foes.  He’s also one to write his bios in the third person.

The Esper Files is the series in which Egan found success through Inkitt and three of the books are available now at Amazon.  I asked him several questions about Inkitt and I invite you to check out the interview below.

Me: The Inkitt staff seems really helpful and friendly. Were they fun to work with?

Egan: The folks over at Inkitt are amazing. I mean, I guess you can expect that when you put a bunch of really dedicated people in an environment of hard work but also passion. Having worked with a (now failed) small press, I can tell you that Inkitt people actually care. Heck, they periodically ask me if there’s anything they can do to help – whilst demanding a sequel of course, ha ha!

Me: How much input did you have in selection of cover art?

Egan: They actually consulted me from the get-go. The thing with any business is that you have to present your attitude up front. When we had our first meeting, I told them that writing is my full time job and had been running my own self-publishing business for 4 years (now close to 6). Essentially they knew that I had a plan, from story to marketing, and as such they consulted me because of it. So yes, today every move done on Esper Files is a team effort.

Me: Did they provide an editor to suggest changes once your novel was selected, or was it a more of a print “as-is” type of affair?  If they did assign an editor, were they willing to bend to suggestions based on your input?

Egan: Again, they offered to assign me an editor but I was professional enough to have my editor friend look it over before submitting it to the contest, as well as edit it myself (I have qualifications in that sort of thing). Bear in mind that when I came on board, I was the second or third author they got — Inkitt has come a long way since then. So they presented me with my choice of editors, as well as letting me bring my own people if I thought I worked better with my team.

Me: When you say they offered an editor but you declined, you’re saying that in your case you could waive editorial review and they were fine with that? The reason I ask is because most venues I’ve worked with, excluding the ones that are looking for “print as is” quality stories, generally require editorial review, even if it’s simply a matter of grammar or word choice changes.  I’ve never seen a venue that has editors on deck but will defer to the author’s decision to employ the editor.  If nothing else, it definitely seems that they give the writers in their stable the royal treatment which is pretty cool.

Egan: Their practice is to assign an editor – so every book needs to be professionally edited no matter what. In my case, I already had someone I worked with for years, and asked them to use her instead of their own editors.

Me: It looks like you took 1st place in the Skybound contest (congrats btw!).  How long did it take from the time you initially uploaded your novel to the time you were determined winner?

Egan: Uploading the manuscript was sure easy. Even back then, the interface was basically copy, paste, save. (Now it’s even fancier but having used it again earlier this year, I can tell you I have no trouble figuring it out). As for the selection… Well, in between the drinking, and praying, and thinking I suck, and then reading the reviews I got so many times I can quote some by heart, I say it took about 3 weeks. It also helped that I already had a mailing list of fans who helped up-vote the book.

Me: I’m assuming once you won, subsequent novels in The Esper Files series are automatically selected to be published by Inkitt.  Is that right?

Egan: Yes, my contract says that Inkitt gets “dibs” (for lack of a better term) on any Esper Files book. Which is great for me and them, since the whole thing is 9 books long. (plus short stories and extra content for mailing list sign ups)

Me: Now that you’re an Inkitt novelist, are there any deadlines you have to meet?

Egan: Inkitt is pretty lax with deadlines with me, since I present them with a book a year. Heck, after I gave them book 1, we released book 2 three months later. So, I can say that at least with me, they never pressured me for a manuscript. Then again, I write like my life depends on it, so they have nothing to worry about on that end.

Me: How many chapter reads did it take for your Collected Data bar to fill for The Esper Files?

Egan: Oh God, I have no idea. As I said, the technology went through various iterations and personally, I had no idea how to read it back then. But I can say that since Inkitt is a data-driven enterprise, they put data collection quite high on the list. But don’t ask me how they collect it – my answer is either fairies or goblins.

Me: Do they help in any way with your social media presence (tips on blogging, setting up interviews on podcasts, setting up GoodReads Giveaways, etc.?)

Egan: I know for a fact they do help other authors, especially if they are new to the scene. For example, you can go on their Facebook page and see Emma (one of the aforementioned magical creatures) talk about new releases on videos. As usual, I am a bit of an exception. I had everything in place already, so they basically just got out of my way, or egged me on with my shenanigans. Like when I do Q&As for my book releases. (There’s swearing, alcohol and loads of geeking out involved)

Me: Overall, would you recommend Inkitt to fledgling writers?  Any tips for those newly approaching the site?

Egan: I would recommend it but please bear in mind this is not a magic button. Once you upload, you need to hustle to get yourself promoted. Or if you get chosen via Inkitt’s own system, then you still have to hustle and work on marketing with the team once the book is out. You don’t get to write the book, send it over, and bury your head in the sand. Inkitt is a great place for those that have the right attitude. (I swear they are not paying me to say this but I’m sending them a copy of this interview and demanding something!)

Me: When you say once you upload you need to hustle to get yourself promoted, can you provide examples of that?  Did you pay for any advertisement?  And how many copies did you move, ball park, in the course of the endeavor to win the contest?

Egan: No, not  paid advertisement. At that stage it won’t be worthwhile. I basically hit my followers and posted on social media to drive people to the competition and vote for my title. No idea about the actual numbers since I did not check.

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That’s the interview, and my first one at that, so my apologies if I didn’t think to ask a question one of you folks reading may have been curious about.  I may do better next time if there is one.  Meanwhile, feel free to find out more about Egan Brass, you can check out his website here and check out more about the Esper Files, an adventurous superhero filled steampunk series here.

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