Tag Archives: Writer Resources

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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Intelligence Report: The Skeptic’s Dictionary

It’s not Writer’s Block, it’s a lack of desire.  Because let’s face it, the ideas you’re entertaining right now aren’t all that entertaining.  You’ve seen it a few times, wrote it about it in a similar fashion like twice now, and you’re just plain old ‘Meh’ about it, even with the twists you’ve devised.

Yes, you could be the guys behind “What to Expect When You’re Expecting: The Movie”.  Or you could just be the average writer, a person who’s written a fair amount of tales, a storyteller not quite sure what to write about next.

When in doubt about your next story idea, use doubt itself.  Welcome to the Skeptic’s Dictionary.

This site has got a treasure trove of goodies for a writer.  Main page listings like Cryptozoology , ETs and UFOs, junk science, and paranormal open up to literally hundreds of listings.  So let’s say you cruise to junk science and find Phrenology, and learn that there are folks who claim to know things about people by studying their skull characteristics.  Maybe that’ll get the idea factory turning, where you envision a phrenologist in the ancient past trying to determine who killed the emperor or a phrenologist in the future trying to make peace between two alien races with a little head massaging.

The beauty of the Skeptic’s Dictionary is it doesn’t matter if the website’s design is to debunk everything on it as nonsense.  We’re writing fiction!  People want to be sold on this stuff!  So sell them bunyips and inedia and xenoglossy.

Unless you’re Ken Jennings from Jeopardy, the Skeptic’s Dictionary is guaranteed to have terms and notions you haven’t run across yet.  Not only is it fun to read, but its guaranteed to get your thinking cap glowing, your brainstorm clouds rolling.  No doubt about it.

In a room full of crazy, you’re bound to find something that catches your eye.

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Intelligence Report: David Farland’s Daily Kick

For awhile now, I’ve been a subscriber of David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants.  It’s not just because he’s wrote a crap ton of books.  Honestly, I didn’t know who he was when I subscribed and I still haven’t read book one from this guy.  Maybe that’s saying something about my lack of reading.

Back to the kick… I looked at some of his advice and it made good sense.  I’ve found a lot of advice pages out there lurking in the webz, but so many of them parrot the same stupid advice.  If anyone tells you to ban adverbs from your writing, run.  Quickly.  I have a sneaky suspicion that in order to idiot-proof writing advice so that everyone can write with a sliver of decency, the advisors have gone overboard.

David Farland’s not so much concerned with mechanics, at least not nowadays.  He’s focused more on the art of storytelling, like what makes a story come alive to a reader, what makes it powerful.  It’s a refreshing change of pace to see someone delve into the very nature of storytelling rather than trying to police your use of passive voice.

Unlike most advice, the daily kick comes to you in your email.  That felt a bit intrusive to me at first, but I haven’t gotten any offers yet to increase my penis size, so I know he safeguards your email address.  And really, when your inbox is cold and silent between the long gaps waiting for acceptance/rejection letters, it’s kind of nice to have the kick come in.  Often you’ll find a good nugget of advice.  Plus it lets you know your email still works.

Farland’s just now starting to migrate from the kick to exclusively cover “Storytelling as a Fine Art.”  This will later become a book of storycraft.  I recommend you sign up on his website,  get in on it while it’s just starting.  It’s free this way… and it comes to you.  Maybe he’ll enlighten you on what makes a story timeless.  I doubt it’s the criminal absence of adverbs.

This is a picture. The button doesn't work. Do not click it. Seriously.

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Intelligence Report: HeyPublisher

I ran across this site purely out of professional self-interest.  Apex Magazine has started exclusively using HeyPublisher as its submission engine, and I wasn’t NOT going to submit, so what the hey, HeyPublisher.  I figured it was just another submission manager.  Turns out it is, but it professes to be much more.

It’s like the little, fiesty baby of Duotrope and Submishmash.  Like Duotrope, it has a huge database of publishers and it’ll track your submission to any one of them.  Like Submishmash, it’ll keep tabs of where a publisher is on their review process for your work.  Unlike either, HeyPublisher has a bunch more features.  The most notable one is that it will literally store an electronic copy of your entire work on its server.  Another interesting feature is there is an option to workshop with other writers… basically if you get told no by a publisher writers who have been accepted at that same publication can review your story and tell you the specific reasons why editors thought it was garbage. 

I didn’t like it.

That’s just me.  I like to think of myself as relatively keen to embrace new things and technology.  But these guys seem just a little too invasive or too eager or maybe both.  My cynic and skeptic buttons were firing off.

First, they used single-sign on through my email.  I’m just not a fan of sites that grab my email account and say “you now have an account with us too, James Beamon”.  Yes, it’s easier, I get it.  Still, I get the heebies… it’s like meeting someone who asks you where you’re from and when you say it they spit back the first five of your social security number.  Maybe I wanna go through the extra steps to establish an account.

Second, I don’t really like a site automatically keeping a copy of my stuff.  Sure, it’s a smart idea to have an online repository of all your work in case of hard drive failure.  But I’ve had that forever… it’s called email.  Couple that with the fact that you can’t automatically take down your work (you have to email their support team) and it feels clingy.  Putting up hoops for me to jump through just to take down something I didn’t want saved in the first place is not a great way to make friends, even if you are on a first name basis with me because of your single sign on solution.

Three, it doesn’t perform its feature functions better than the two sites it draws from (Duotrope and Submishmash).  Duotrope’s database is more robust, with more entities and better functionality like filtering based on pay rate and response time.  Submishmash gives you a quick and dirty look at your subs and where the publisher’s at… nothing more, nothing less and without being obtrusive. 

Granted, the primary function of HeyPublisher isn’t any of those things.  It’s goal is to allow you to take your uploaded work and submit directly from their site to any publisher in their database. That sounds great… on paper.  The reality is that publishers have a bunch of different guidelines, ranging from file type to manuscript format to what type of things to include (or not include) in your submission letter. 

My attitude can change about this site.  Right now it’s in its infancy.  If publishers adopt a standardized manuscript submission format or make allowances if a submission was received via HeyPublisher, then I can see this being helpful.  But they have miles to go on their publisher database before it’s even remotely as useful as Duotrope.  I don’t know what they can do to make that Rockwell “Somebody’s Watching Me” feeling go away.  Currently the best thing they have going for them is  their blog, which has some really fun stuff on it.  So much fun in fact, that I’m going to discuss it in a later Intelligence Report.

Meanwhile, I’m not trying to naysay for everyone.  I invite you to go there and make up your own mind about it.

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