First I want to be very clear on what this post is not. It is not me telling anyone else that they should not do business with Inkshares, and it is not me trying to represent the events I will detail as the standard experience with Inkshares. Most experiences with Inkshares do seem to be positive from what I have heard, but I cannot speak to those. If they wish to express their own experiences they should do so through their own blog, newsletter, or whatever tool they use to communicate with the world. I can only speak to my own experience, and my own experience with them was horrible.
This will likely be a long post, so for anyone wondering what the why mentioned in the headline is: in my dealing with them they have displayed a lack of respect for the readers who go out on a limb to support authors they believe in. That is just not something I can abide by. Now I will move on to explaining, and hopefully everyone will stick with me throughout.
With that said I’ll start with a bit of background for anyone not familiar with Inkshares. When I first stumbled upon Inkshares in 8/2015 I was excited. It was a business which allowed authors to place their work up and attempt to attract readers to said work. When an author felt ready they could launch a preorder campaign and if enough orders were placed they would get published with editing, marketing, and distribution plans comparable to what one would get via traditional publishing.
I had long since decided for various reasons that I didn’t wish to pursue publication through a traditional publisher, but for years a combination of self-doubt and generally feeling daunted when it came to the task of finding and connecting with readers had kept me from pursuing the self-publishing route which I knew at the time was the only path that would be right for me to follow. When I saw the Inkshares route of connecting to readers directly and allowing them to decide what should be published I felt I had to jump in.
In the time between I have been delighted to be able to connect to readers, and surprised to also connect with other authors. I’ve never been a very social person, and before I had no real interaction with other authors beyond passing talk at the bar, certainly nothing along the lines of the sense of community I got from many of the authors I met through Inkshares. For both the connections to readers and other authors I will never regret having come to Inkshares.
In 2016 Inkshares held a number of contests in an effort to attract both more readers and more authors. Midyear the contest announced was a Video Game themed contest. While talking about it with some of the authors, 15 of us realized that we had ideas that could work as short stories with a video game connection but not books, so we decided that we could perhaps enter a short story anthology. Several of us contacted Inkshares to make sure that an anthology would be a legal entry. I was not among those contacting Inkshares about this, but from the statements of those who did they not only said it would be a legal entry, they were also quite excited to hear about it and see it happen. We poured a lot of energy into our campaigning and our anthology, Too Many Controllers, ended the contest at number 1. If you want to read more about the contest and see the rankings you can still see the page here: https://www.inkshares.com/contests/nerdist-video-game-contest
We completed the necessary beginning paperwork and sent in our short stories around the middle of August, then settled in to wait to hear back. We knew that Inkshares had built up a bit of a queue of other books in their production pipeline, so we chose to be patient with occasional requests for updates to make sure we were still there. To avoid chaotic communications we had previously decided that all contact to Inkshares would be done by 1 or 2 designated spokesmen, and so when it came time to inquire about the status any response from Inkshares was then reported to us by these spokesmen. From what was told to us after each inquiry, they were simply telling us to continue waiting due to the books still in queue ahead of us. By itself, this was fine and understandable at the time.
During this time there had also been a change in management, and the rumors making their way down to us were that the new management was less than excited about our anthology, to put it nicely. I can’t speak for the mindset of the other 14 authors, but while hearing this made me nervous I consoled myself thinking that certainly Inkshares would still abide by their principle of letting the readers who preordered decide what books got published. Finally in December we were asked to send in additional paperwork, this time synopses and loglines to help guide attempts to sell IP rights among other things. This at least seemed to be an indicator that the real production process would be starting within the foreseeable future, so I began to chalk up my own fears to paranoia and sent in wrote up what was requested to be sent to them.
On 1/13/17 we were sent an email which let me know my fears had been justified all along. Inkshares had decided to cancel the project, claiming that not all of the stories were not closely aligned with video games. There’s a few problems with this explanation, however. First, any such problem is something that could have been addressed via rewrites during the 5 months they kept us waiting without real feedback from them between us sending them the manuscripts and them announcing the project cancellation. Since they had the stories during that time, and before that there where the short descriptions of each story on the book’s project page(short descriptions that from what I have seen vary little from what was included in the synopses we sent them in December), they could have very easily identified anything they saw as a problem and asked us to correct it, but simply chose not to do so.
In fact when we got the news we immediately contacted them asking if it would be possible to do rewrites and they were not willing to even discuss it, being adamant in the cancellation. A phone call was made by one of the other authors to the management. I can’t speak for the entirety of the conversation since I was not on the call, but the short summary from the person who made the call boiled down to a reiteration of their reasoning, this time saying that they had wanted to pitch it as a show related to video games but didn’t feel it was closely enough aligned and then reiterating that rewrites were not a possibility Inkshares would consider.
Beyond the possibility of a rewrite that could have happened, there was another fact which was even more important in my opinion. The contest page guidelines(which you can find on the link above) about what constituted a story in the “video game” genre included these very important points:
“We allow writers to self-define genres when creating their project. The intent of our platform is to democratize the process by which books get traditionally published. We trust our community to back the video game books they want published.”
So, while we had all written stories which in some way had video games as a central point, and the community had been able to read the short descriptions on the page before the contest ended and had quite clearly shown they wanted to see it get published, Inkshares had chosen to show a lack of trust and respect in said community by overriding their decision and choosing to cancel the book instead.
Perhaps if the decision to cancel had been sooner I would not be as upset over Inkshares’ treatment of the readers who supported us. As it stands the contest ended 6 months ago, which means that in addition to disrespecting the readers by overriding their decision they also chose to needlessly hold up the money of those supporters who backed the book with real money as most of those I personally know who preordered had.
I firmly believe that at the end of the day one should hold true to their principles above all else. Those who want to read what I have written will always be the most important aspect of this entire process to me, and after witnessing what only appears to be a complete disrespect/disregard for those readers from Inkshares in their treatment of the anthology I cannot stay true to my own principles if I do any future business with them. Ultimately, it returns me to the truth I knew before I came to Inkshares – that the only path right for me to follow for book publishing is that of self-publishing, only now I move forward with at least a bit of self-confidence and less nervousness about the effort necessary to continue connecting with readers.
Ultimately my only true regret in this is that a promise was made to readers, and that promise will not be fulfilled. The fault for that lays solely at the feet of Inkshares however.