My thoughts on Inkshares

Beginning authors have to decide how they want to publish their works. The options range from self-publishing all the way up to trying to attract the interest of a major publisher. In between are crowdfunding possibilities, including a site called Inkshares. I was initially excited after I discovered Inkshares. At one time, I planned to publish my first book that way, but ultimately decided against it for a variety of reasons.

First, some background information. People join Inkshares as either readers, authors, or both. Authors post drafts of their books, usually including background information and excerpts from the actual text. The initial goal is to attract followers. At some point the author might launch a preorder campaign for their book, which has a fixed time period such as 90 days. If they get sufficient preorders before the end of the campaign, then their book will be published in both electronic and physical form. At present, 250 orders is the minimum, the so-called Quill level. A book that reaches 750 preorders receives full publication, including editorial and other assistance. It is this level, obviously, that everyone hopes to reach, but the majority end up settling for Quill.

This all sounded reasonable to me at first, but I soon began to see issues. There are talented writers trying to publish through Inkshares, but they are in the minority. Many of the posted drafts are of poor quality, not even close to being ready for publication. Ideally, none of these would ever be published, but that isn’t how it works. Anyone with a significant social media following can hit the Quill level with little effort. Another issue is preorder swapping amongst authors, which completely defeats the purpose of the site. (To be fair, Inkshares has tried to put an end to this practice.) The end result is the publication of many poor quality books by Inkshares, because at the Quill level there is no editorial oversight. This, to me, is a real problem. It sullies Inkshares’ reputation, and, by extension, all of the books that it publishes.

I have had other issues with Inkshares involving changes made without warning or consultation of their users. Shortly after I joined, they made it much more difficult for authors to connect with readers. A year later, they still haven’t addressed this huge problem. Inkshares used to offer credits for recommendations, but abruptly pulled them due to abuse. Despite assurances that the credits would be restored, they are still absent. Most recently, they retroactively removed the option to sell signed copies of books, leaving authors in an embarrassing situation of having sold something they can no longer deliver. Another issue is the incredibly long publication time. You would think a Quill-level book would be published within at most a month or two, but it usually takes over a year.

One simple step that Inkshares could undertake to address their problems would be to implement a simple vetting process before a book can be put up for preorder. This would really be about reviewing basic grammar, not the overall plot or writing style. That alone would greatly improve the average quality of their published books by weeding out those whose writing abilities are nowhere near good enough to be publishing.

Despite all the negatives, I think that Inkshares is a reasonable choice for some authors, and I encourage people to check out the site for themselves.