The concept of crowd-sourcing is now a tried and tested method to almost pre-vet the concept of a business before it goes to market. By establishing how much interest there is in the concept, and how many people are willing to invest their own time and money into the project, the owners can gauge fairly accurately if it’s something that will appeal to a wider audience. But what happens when you take that to another level and not only crowd-source the business but the products you end up selling once the business is operational?
Well, that’s exactly what Inkshares have done. Wall Street Journal in fact referred to Inkshares as “the future of publishing”, so in this review, we’ll take a closer look at who they are, exactly what it is that they do and whether or not any writers should consider utilising their services.
Who is Inkshares & what do they do?
Inkshares is a publishing and literary rights management platform launched in 2013. Founded by Thaddeus Woodman, Lawrence Levitsky, Adam Gomolin, and Jeremy Thomas, the original concept for Inkshares was developed by Woodman, whose parents founded a successful computer-book publishing company called Ventana Press just before the turn of the century. Encouraged by the success of Kickstarter and the promise of the equity crowdfunding provisions of the JOBS Act, Woodman initially sought to create an equity crowdfunding portal for books.
Woodman discussed the concept with Levitsky, a former founding vice president of RealNetworks, who had worked at Ventana Press with Woodman’s parents after running Microsoft Press. Levitsky introduced Woodman to Gomolin, a securities attorney and represented screenwriter. After the three raised a small $250k friend-and-family-round in late 2013, they hired Thomas as a co-founder and Chief Technical Officer.
The concept whilst unconventional is fairly straightforward. Inkshares are a book publisher that has readers, not agents or editors, decide what they publish. They publish any work that successfully hits a pre-order threshold on their platform. By “publish” they mean that they edit, design, print, distribute, and market books.
Authors pitch, readers pre-order, and Inkshares publish. Any author can submit a proposal for a book. Once the project goes live, readers support the project by pre-ordering copies of the book. Once the 750 pre-order goal is hit, they start the publishing process by assigning authors an editor, and a designer whilst Inkshares handles all aspects of printing, distribution, and marketing once the manuscript is finished.
Once the 750 pre-order goal is reached the publishing process begins. Typically this will take 9-12 months from when the writer submits the final manuscript to Inkshares having the book available in bookstores.
What types of books do Inkshares publish?
Inkshares welcomes all genres, but for one reason or another has had particularly successful campaigns in mystery, thriller/suspense, young adult, historical fiction, children’s books, memoirs, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, biographies, and more.
The prevalence of sci-fi and fantasy in their community is due in part to the numerous contests that they host throughout the year with their partners at Sword & Laser, Nerdist, and Geek and Sundry, full details of which can be found on their website.
A selection of titles can be seen below to provide further insight into the types of works Inkshares publishes.
The Boy in the Woods – Scott Thomas
The Life Engineered – JF Dubeau
Young Donald – Michael Bennett
Abomination – Gary Whitta
Sorcery for Beginners – Matt Harry
Everything is Normal – Sergey Grechishkin
Rise – Brian Guthrie
Sister of the Circuit – Amanda Orneck
The Cat’s Pajamas – Daniel Wallace
Space Tripping – Patrick Edwards
As you can see with titles ranging between children’s books and fantasy to sci-fi and human drama, regardless of genre every book may well have a home at Inkshares.
Can Authors Submit to Inkshares?
Yes, and as we mentioned earlier their entire business model depends on it. Authors are invited to create a proposal or draft of which there is a clear step by step instructions that can be found on the website.
The process from there is mentioned earlier whereby readers can engage with it and upon reaching the pre-order number of 750, full publication processes commence.
What are some alternatives to Inkshares?
The two main alternatives to Inkshares would be making a submission to a traditional publisher or to pursue self-publishing.
Having a submission accepted by a traditional publisher comes with a range of benefits including prestige, expertise and potential for financial reward. However, the wait times for a response from a submission combined with the incredibly stiff competition can often result in writers being left in limbo and unsure of where they stand. This combined with the relinquishing of control of their own work often results in them seeking other opportunities such as self-publishing.
Self-publishing can be a good option for authors for many reasons. The retainment of creative control is often very appealing as handing over at least in part the creative decision-making to a team without first-hand knowledge of the work can be difficult for a writer to accept.
This combined with both the higher percentage of royalties retained as well as the increased flexibility of publication dates and scheduling make it an increasingly appealing prospect. There are also a huge number of resources available online for writers looking to pursue this route.
Inkshares Review – Final Thoughts
In conclusion, there’s no doubt that Inkshares offer both an innovative and worthwhile option for writers seeking to get their work out to readers. In utilising the crowdfunding model, it provides a level of confidence for them as a business as well as the writer in knowing that the work is genuinely valued. In an industry such as publishing, which can be uncertain at the best of times, this added reassurance makes perfect sense.
It’s also worth noting that Inkshares do not accept payment for writers looking to utilise their services which is the perfect example of being true to their ethos and only publishing works that their community of readers shows genuine interest in.
With that being said, there are some questions raised upon evaluating Inkshares and what they do.
Firstly, the pre order threshold number of 750 could result in writers being left in limbo whilst they await that number to be hit, or if it is reached at all. If it is reached then the added timescale of up to a year for the book to be published could result in an incredibly lengthy wait between the initial submission and the book being ready to purchase.
On top of this, the process of publishing itself will likely take up a lot of the writer's time as they engage with back and forth discussions regarding cover art, editing etc that a writer may not wish to engage in.
Ultimately then, Inkshares is a worthwhile concept that should be considered by many writers but is likely not the best course of action to be considered as a stand alone path to pursue.