The Full Story on Inkitt

ETA: Inkitt cofounder Ali Albazaz has been in touch to clarify a couple of points (see below). I will keep this post periodically updated as more information about Inkitt emerges.

If you’re active in writing on almost any site—Twitter, fanfiction.net, Wattpad, Fictionpress—you’ve probably been contacted, or will be contacted, by a site called Inkitt encouraging you to enter writing contests that can get you a Big Five deal. Here’s the full story.

  • You were contacted by a bot. They didn’t pick you because you caught their attention as an up-and-coming author; they will contact anyone who appears to be a writer. They have a whole army of Twitter spambots. They also apparently have four official Twitter accounts, three of which do nothing but plug their contests.
  • Their front page lists publications like The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, implying that they’ve endorsed Inkitt. Both publications only mention Inkitt briefly in passing while covering the same story about an author.
  • They claim the entries are curated by real writers, but in reality they’ll post anything. Many of the entries are riddled with errors, and your entry will appear side by side with them.
  • When you post your novel on Inkitt, you post it in its entirety. In the publishing world, this counts as publishing your book. You’re using up your all-important first-publication rights just by entering the contest. Few publishers will touch a book that’s been previously posted online.
  • They don’t promote your book aside from occasionally tweeting a link to a top entry. Notice that they always contact you asking you to enter a contest—never promoting another entry. Getting pageviews is entirely up to you. An average entry has maybe 5 likes; top entries have a few hundred. Inkitt is extremely low-traffic compared to reputable sites like Wattpad, and in particular, it has no readership: Everyone on the site is a writer participating in a contest or a friend who was pestered into voting. You can’t build an audience on Inkitt because there is no audience. The entire site is geared toward getting people to enter contests, not toward what happens next. And matters get even worse if you actually win.

    Inkitt vs Wattpad. Remember, a lower rank is better.
    Inkitt vs Wattpad. Remember, a lower rank is better.
  • They are notorious spammers. They email you multiple times every day encouraging you to pester your friends and family to like your entry.
  • Inkitt touts its “artificially intelligent algorithm” as the future of publishing, claiming it can predict future bestsellers that elitist agents and editors would reject. How does this algorithm work? We don’t know exactly, but it “analyses the behaviour of readers” and “measure[s] their engagement.” That sounds suspiciously like simply picking the entry that gets the most page views. But if you’re an indie author with a large platform and a lot of readers, you don’t need a contest in order to get found. An algorithm based on reader behavior can’t find the diamonds in the rough that no one is reading yet—the very books and authors that Inkitt caters to.
  • Inkitt claims “We pitch your book to A-list publishers” (oddly not referred to by their ordinary name, “Big Five publishers”) and strongly implies that you’ll get published by one of them if you win the contest. In reality, Big Five publishers have no relationship with Inkitt and little reason to be interested. Tor apparently picked up a recent contest winner, as apparently confirmed by Publisher’s Marketplace (although that’s behind a paywall so I can’t verify), but this deal is oddly ephemeral: The book, Bright Star by Erin Swan, is not on Goodreads or available for preorder and, less than a year out, there has been no buzz about it since its original announcement. Writer Beware has the full story.
  • If you do get a Big Five deal, Inkitt takes 15% of all the book’s earnings. That’s the same as an agent’s cut, but while an agent fosters a career-long relationship with an author that involves putting in an enormous amount of work pitching, negotiating, and promoting the book, Inkitt demands that fee for once putting your book on their website. Reputable writing contests will never take a cut of your earnings.
  • If you don’t get picked up by a major publisher, Inkitt claims they will publish your book themselves. The details of this publication process are extremely vague on their website. They list five books as “published” on their site, but there’s no trace of four of them anywhere outside of Inkitt (according to the Inkitt representative who keeps stalking this post, they’re coming out in September, October, and next year, but the site doesn’t include this information and makes no distinction between books which will be published in the future and ones which are already published). Inkitt’s “publishing deal” is nothing but publishing your book on Amazon through CreateSpace. They offer no advance and do nothing for you that you couldn’t easily do as a private individual. The one book that has been published this way, Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia, is a new release less than a month old as of the writing and is ranked #16159 in fantasy. And this from a company that claims “we only publish bestsellers.”
  • Inkitt claims they will “run a marketing campaign to sell as many books as possible,” but have you ever seen a marketing campaign for an Inkitt book? Yeah, neither have I. In fact, the Inkitt website seems designed to minimize any mention of its “successful” books. The pages for previous contests don’t even list a winner, nor do individual entries; to see winners, you have to go to Writing Contests > Show All Contests and scroll down to find the winning entries printed in small text (linking, of course, to their Inkitt pages, not to a purchase page). Their list of published books is buried on a carousel halfway down the page on publishing, the rest of which is about their special algorithm. They do profile winners on their blog…which is hidden in a collapsed menu in the far corner of the page. There are no buy links or exterior links at all on the site. To get to their one buyable book, you have to go to Amazon and look it up yourself.
  • Rules vary wildly from one contest to the next. Prizes vary from publishing deals to gift cards, Inkitt branded merchandise, or nothing but a badge on your profile. In each case, you’re still sacrificing your first publication rights.

Like most predatory companies, Inkitt maintains just enough veneer of legitimacy to stay out of trouble. Yes, its contests do have winners; if the winners are barely mentioned anywhere on the site, that’s your problem. Yes, it is possible to get published through them; if they just use CreateSpace to post it on Amazon, that’s your problem. The places their behavior becomes really questionable are often the hardest to quantify. A legitimate publisher would have its new releases on its main page, front and center, with buy links and dates, but here “Get published with us!” is front and center and the books they’ve actually published are buried. A major red flag, but not actual proof of anything.

As the comments on this post reveal, Inkitt is deeply concerned with coming across as a legitimate organization, even to random private bloggers—but appearing legitimate is their only concern.

Inkitt claims to be the future of publishing that will revolutionize the industry and create a new path for overlooked authors. In reality, it’s a predatory company that preys on inexperienced writers, luring them in with exaggerated promises of book deals while driving traffic for their site only by recruiting more and more writers. Give Inkitt a hard no and only submit your book to vetted contests that have a track record of success within the industry.

Some reputable pitch contests to consider are listed after the cut.

The following contests are recommended entry points into the industry. They are run by successful authors or agents with the goal of helping newer authors. They do not charge entry fees, take a cut of your earnings, or use up your first publication rights. Many agents and editors participate in these high-profile contests and high numbers of the participants get representation or book deals. They’re also a great way to build your platform and make new friends.

#pg70pit

Pitch Madness

#PitchMAS

Pitch to Publication

Pitch Wars

Query Kombat

Secret Agent

Sun vs Snow

WCNV

Writing in the Margins

16 Comments


  1. You did Pitch Wars successfully, didn’t you? Congratulations!

    Yeah, there’s a LOT of scammy businesses trying to take advantage of young writers out there. Have you heard about James Frey and Full Fathom Five? Gross. I might be burning my first publish rights by posting stories on LiveJournal, but at least I’m getting PAID.


  2. Oh god, Full Fathom Five is the WORST.


  3. I know, right? I read up on their practices and was just HORRIFIED, as a small-time self-pubber on freakin’ LIVEJOURNAL. I’m just saying, when I’M making more money off my work, there’s something terribly wrong.

    And what REALLY honked me off was the people going on about how this was just the way it was in the industry, that if you wanted to make money as an artist, you had to be humble and start small, and I just wanted to kick them all in the face since, again, I was making more money and developing a nicer fanbase, AND keeping my self-respect. I hate the idea you have to SUFFER to make a living and aaaaaah


  4. Hi Gwen,

    Ali from Inkitt here. I recently read your blog post and wanted to reach out to clarify a few items.

    We’ve spent the past year building a community of authors and readers who come to our platform to discover and publish new literary work, in addition to developing algorithms that help identify best selling content. Our promise isn’t that our system is perfect, but we believe it has the potential to positively impact the current selection process in the publishing industry.

    As with any fast growing startup, we experiment with different online platforms. But when we hear complaints about spamming from us we take it to heart. We’ve worked hard to ensure we’re only providing relevant content to the Inkitt community and will continue to do so.

    Our deal with Tor Books for Erin Swan’s novel Bright Star is our first signed novel and we’re incredibly excited about it – you can read about it on Tor’s Publishers Marketplace Profile here:
    http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/dealmakers/detail.cgi?id=2586

    In terms of getting coverage in the Wall Street Journal, we haven’t got a feature (yet!) but included mention to the outlet as they included us in a blog post in our early days which made us incredibly proud: http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2015/06/10/paulo-coelho-tests-pay-as-you-wish-model-for-2-books-on-his-blog/

    Hope this helps clarify a few items and always available at ali@inkitt.com to continue the conversation.

    Best,
    Ali


  5. Thanks Ali, I’ll update the post to include this information.


  6. I’m not really understanding where you’re getting all of your facts. I’m friends with a girl who just won one of their contests and, yes, she’s getting published. Her release date is in a couple weeks, if I remember that date correctly, and it WILL be released paperback in stores. It’s not the traditional way of publishing, but as many of us know, traditional publishing is an insanely long and hard process of rejection after rejection. Inkitt doesn’t judge your work off of the review of just one person. It judges it by the reviews of many, which is a wonderful alternative.


  7. I’ve presented the best information I could glean from the Inkitt website. Their finished contests don’t list winners. There are no buy links or lists of successfully published books anywhere on their site. If they’re publishing their contest winners, they’re doing it without mentioning them anywhere on their site.

    If you have more information, I will be glad to update the post to give a more complete picture. What’s your friend’s name and book title? Which contest did she win? Is she getting a big five book deal or is Inkitt publishing independently, and if the latter, on what platforms? Can you provide a buy link, Goodreads page, deal announcement? If it’s a real book deal, there should be an easily visible paper trail.


  8. Hey Katz,

    Marvin from Inkitt here. Thanks for taking the time for researching Inkitt.

    Here you can find a link with all previous contests and their winners: inkitt.com/contests.

    Also, please find our published books here: inkitt.com/publishing.

    Please let me know if there is anything else you’d like to have clarified.

    Best,
    Marvin


  9. Your list of published books only links to them on Inkitt. Catalyst Moon is the only one available on Amazon (published through CreateSpace). Google searches for the others only point back to Inkitt. Macmillan’s website makes no mention of Bright Star by Erin Swan. Please provide links to where I can find these books offered for sale.


  10. Eesh, it’s kinda creepy how these guys are popping up about this entry in specific, especially since they aren’t actually engaging with your points. Lotta dodgy orgs around here…


  11. They keep replying to random private blog posts but they haven’t had a news mention since May.


  12. Hey Katz and Loonybrain,

    Thanks for your messages. To clarify:

    – “Bright Star” will be published together with Tor next year (read here about it here: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2016/data-driven-publisher-inkitt-signs-first-predicted-bestseller-with-tor-books/)

    – “Catalyst Moon” is the first book we have published and it is available on Amazon.

    – “Just Juliet” and “I was a Bitch” will be published in September.

    – “Esper Files” will be published in October.

    If you would like to read more about our authors, you can also take a look at our blogs in which we have announced our previous winners http://www.inkitt.com/blog.

    We are planning on publishing several more titles before the end of the year. If you would like further clarification on our publishing approach, I would be happy to jump on a call with you.

    Have a great week!

    Marvin


  13. Marvin, you really do not seem to be getting it. The whole POINT of katz’s post is how all your links are entirely through your own site, not independent confirmation. And all the posts I see about Bright Star are through Inkett press releases, I can’t actually find anything from Tor about it.

    You aren’t actually CLARIFYING anything. Where will ‘Just Juliet’ or ‘I was a Bitch’ or ‘Esper Files’ be available? You post absolutely no links supporting any of your statements… except again, through Inkitt and its press releases.

    I can publish my own work through Amazon! I have self-published friends who do that. What is the benefit that Inkitt gives over my own self-publishing?


  14. A really good post about Inkitt was made here earlier in the year.
    http://www.jimchines.com/2016/05/inkitts-publishing-contest/

    I take issue with their approach to publishing. A lot of people find them disingenuous, especially since they claim to say that publishing houses reject plenty of great books…however, their examples of these books are those that HAVE been published. The whole process takes time, and there is no consideration taken into the fact that many of these stories (take Harry Potter, for example) often get sent to the wrong editor, or are simply submitted at the wrong time for the publisher’s catalog or season. Traditional publishing is the reason we have bestsellers, and rejections occur for a reason.

    There are a lot of flaws with their system, how they answer queries, and in the way in which business is conducted. It’s shifty how they never really answer anything outright, and how issues that have been brought up get ‘taken to the team’ but never changed.

    They do not get my vote, and there are hundreds of other authors who feel the same and who will avoid the website like the plague.


  15. Yo, Inkitt supporters! To prove you’re not a spambot, please discuss your favorite doggie in every comment you post from here on out, please! It’ll reassure me that you aren’t just copy-pasting form comments, which is what all your posts sound like so far.


  16. I endorse this suggestion.

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