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What’s Wrong With Inkitt’s “Publishing Contest” – A Partial List

Earlier this month, I received the following Tweet:

Inkitt Tweet

Well, I do like publishing novels, so I decided to check these folks out. Follow along as we talk about some of the potential pitfalls– Oh, who am I kidding. This thing has enough traps to make Admiral Akbar hoarse.

ETA: It looks like they also Tweet-spam as @great_backstrip. Great Backstrip? I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but it sounds like a really bad idea for styling back hair or something.

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1. Who’s running this thing?

I eventually found the web page with their staffing information, with Ali Albazaz listed as the founder and CEO of Inkitt. Clicking on Albazaz’s link brings up … a chapter of his book. According to his Facebook page, Albazaz studied … computer science. There’s really not a lot of information on this guy, and you know what’s noticeably missing? Any experience whatsoever with publishing.

There’s even less info on cofounder Linda Gavin, though I dug up that she’d studied design and technology. Her website lists her as a graphic artist. It’s a good skillset to have, but again, no actual publishing experience.

2. Then who decides what books to publish?

Well, the Inkitt website says, “Who are we or any editor in the world to judge whether your book is worth publishing?”

Nathan Fillion - Head Shake Gif

I get the sense they don’t actually know what an editor does … or that publishing is a business.

Their model is to instead crowdsource the selection process. If readers like your story, their “artificially intelligent algorithms” will detect that, and Inkitt will offer you a publishing deal.

3. Wait, how do they know if readers like the story before it’s published?

Oh, that’s easy: they publish it.

Let me say that again. They publish your novel. If you browse the different genres, you’ll see complete novels, along with works-in-progress.

In other words, their model is to electronically publish your book, see if people like it, and then offer to … um … publish your book.

That's Not How This Works

I refer you back to point #1, wherein I talked about wanting to work with people who actually know how publishing works, or even what the word “publish” means. This is one of the reasons why.

4. Then what are they talking about when they talk about offering people publishing deals?

From the publishing page of their site, they:

  • Design a cover for your book and edit your manuscript.
  • Pitch your book to A-list publishers like Penguin Random House and Harper Collins and–

Wait, what? They design a book cover before pitching your manuscript? That’s … do they realize publishers commission their own artists and do their own cover art? You submit the manuscript to publishers, not– Oh, forget it. Where was I?

  • If the publishers don’t buy your book, they publish it yourself.

The site says their first published work is the Sky Riders series by Erin Swan.

You know what I can’t find on Amazon.com? Anything by Erin Swan. They claim to have published Swan’s book, and it’s not even on Amazon? Google finds nothing except the Inkitt page for Swan’s work. You know, the page where they already published her book, just like they published everyone else’s who submitted to them?

Han Solo gif - Whatever

ETA: See this comment and my response for a little more on Erin Swan’s books.

If a big publisher does pick up the book, Inkitt will take 15%. This is the same percentage charged by most reputable agents, except that most agents actually know how publishing works and how to submit a manuscript.

If Inkitt published it themselves? You get 50% of their net earnings on the book.

To be fair, 50% is a bigger percentage than you’re likely to get from the major publishers. On the other hand, the major publishers will actually, you know, make your book available to buy.

Alternately, you could take a few minutes to toss your work up on Amazon yourself, and start earning 70% of the cover price.

5. What’s the difference between their normal “publication” process and this contest?

According to the guidelines, the contest winner gets a publishing offer from Inkitt, but also receives — I am not making this up — “a custom Inkitt coffee mug and a custom Inkitt notepad.”

Loki Facepalm

I raised these concerns and asked questions on Twitter. Two weeks later, I got a single response.

That’s it. Nothing about their publishing experience. Nothing about why you can’t find their “published” novel for sale anywhere. But hey, at least authors keep all rights!

All rights … including first English language rights? You know, that thing publishers like to buy, the right to be the first ones to publish a book in the English language. That thing Inkitt already did.

6.Wait, did they seriously do a fanfic contest as well?

Looks that way, doesn’t it. One of their genres is Fandom, which looks to be essentially fanfiction. Which just means “fanfiction” is one more concept Inkitt doesn’t really understand.

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Look, I don’t think Albazaz and Gavin and the rest of the Inkitt crew are actively evil. If this is intended as a scam, it’s an incredibly poor one. It feels more like a vanity press, but a mangled one. Like one of those superhero mix and match books, only there was a misprint, and you ended up with two sets of legs, and Mister Fantastic’s head is coming out of the Hulk’s butt.

They don’t understand publishing, they don’t know what an editor’s job is, they don’t have a grasp on the legalities of fanfiction and licensed properties, and they don’t seem to know how to publish or sell a book. What they do have a pretty good grasp on is spamming folks on Twitter. Which is why I decided to write this little rant. Because they’re spamming a lot of people, some of whom might not recognize just how many red flags Inkitt is waving about.

If you’re interested, the wonderful folks at Writer Beware also did a write-up on Inkitt last month. Their write-up does note a press release claiming Tor Books bought Erin Swan’s book Bright Star, and that Inkitt was involved in making this happen. But Writer Beware hasn’t gotten independent confirmation. If so, good for Swan! Though I’d be very interested in knowing what kind of contract Inkitt and Swan negotiated. Particularly since Bright Star is still available in its entirety on the Inkitt website…

ETA: It sounds like Swan’s sale to Tor was announced in Publisher’s Marketplace earlier this month, which I’ll take as confirmation.

SF/F Being Awesome: Norwescon Fundraising

Norwescon is an annual convention in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

I spoke (okay, emailed) Kathy Bond, the chair of Norwescon 38, 39, and 40, who talked a bit about the fundraising and charity work the convention does.

In 2016 alone, Norwescon donated:

Let’s look at just one of those items. From the Northwest Harvest website, “Northwest Harvest can feed a family of three a nutritious meal for just 67 cents.” That means the convention paid for more than 3700 of those three-person meals.

Where does the money come from? Short answer: from fandom. From the hard work of convention volunteers, and the generosity of attendees. Kathy explains in more detail:

“For, the scholarships and sponsorships, the money came from our general fund. After 40 years, Norwescon has been lucky to build up a cash reserve that we’re able to re-deploy. For Northwest Harvest, we raise funds by soliciting donations when people buy their memberships, selling a specific charity ribbon at the convention, and with a Charity Auction on the last day of the convention. The food is done through a combination of food drive and donating the con suite leftovers.”

That is some impressive fundraising and generosity.

Goblin: Keep Being Awesome!!!

Do you have a recommendation for a person or group in the SF/F community who deserves a shout-out for doing generous, awesome, and generally wonderful work? Let me know!

Next Newsletter and Book Giveaway

My quarterly(ish) newsletter will be going out soon, assuming Klud can take time from building increasingly complex (and universally ineffective) squirrel traps. I don’t know why he’s decided to declare war on the squirrels, but one thing is clear: goblins are really bad at building traps. As in, strung-himself-up-by-his-own-butt bad.

I’ll also be giving out an autographed book to one subscriber, in my ongoing and shameless attempt to get folks to sign up.

If you’re interested in updates on stories, novels, appearances, and of course, free books, you can either go to https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/goblin-updates/join to sign up, or send an email to goblin-updates+subscribe@googlegroups.com.

Excusing Sexual Harassment and Abuse

Last month, DC Comics was in the news about long-time editor Eddie Berganza, who works on Superman. Berganza was disciplined for sexual harassment back in 2012, but it sounds like that was one incident among many. For a while, there was even”an informal policy in place that no female staff would be assigned to the Superman office, and no female freelancers would be hired.” (Source)

In other words, in an attempt to avoid further incidents of sexual harassment, DC kept the harasser on staff and chose not to hire any women to work with him.

Way to punish and exclude women because of a man’s abusive behavior!

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Over at the Mary Sue, Teresa Jusino brings us an update on the comic Rat Queens. Artist Roc Upchurch was arrested for domestic violence back in 2014, and Rat Queens co-creator Kurtis Wiebe wrote at the time:

“As of today, Roc Upchurch will no longer be illustrating Rat Queens … I am committed to Rat Queens, to stand by what it has always been praised for and to prove to the fans that they weren’t wrong in loving it.” (Source)

Fast forward to 2016. Rat Queens is going on hiatus, and artist Tess Fowler will no longer be involved. Weibe claims this is because the collaboration “wasn’t working out.” Fowler claims she was being pushed out so Wiebe could “bring in the original artist.”

Nothing has been announced publicly about whether Upchurch will be involved when and if Rat Queens comes back from hiatus, but Weibe has recently begun promoting Upchurch’s art on Twitter and the Rat Queens Facebook page. At the very least, Weibe is once again promoting a domestic abuser in connection with Rat Queens.

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Then there’s Kukuruyo, the Hugo nominee for Best Fan Artist, thanks to Theodore Beale’s Rabid Puppy slate. Kukuruyo has done a number of adult-oriented and sexually explicit works, one of which was a drawing of the 16-year-old character Ms. Marvel, naked from the waist down. (He’s since taken it down. Never mind. I had read that the drawing was taken down, but he still has it posted on his website, along with a long post about how “it’s just a drawing,” and so on.)

Theodore Beale also championed a blog post about pedophilia and sexual abuse in SF/F circles for the Best Related Work Hugo, which makes his defense of Kukuruyo all the more fascinating. Among other things, Beale argued:

  • “The age of consent in Spain is 16. Kukuruyo is Spanish, lives in Spain, and US law is not relevant to his activities.” Which he immediately follows by trying to argue about what US law says…
  • “The drawing cannot be child pornography regardless of what age the fictitious character is supposed to be. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that drawings and computer representations are not child pornography.”
    • In the comments, Beale refers to a Supreme Court decision striking down provisions against “virutal” and computer-generated images in the Child Pornography Prevention Act.
    • When another commenter pointed out that Congress later passed the PROTECT Act, which “makes it clear that obscene child pornography in any form — including cartoons — is still unlawful and not entitled to any First Amendment protection,” Beale dismissed this as “irrelevant.”
  • And my personal favorite, “I am reliably informed that Ms Marvel was 16 when she was introduced in 2013. That makes her at least 18 now, possibly 19.” Just like Superman debuted in 1938, which is why he’s now portrayed by actors aged 95 and up.

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What I find interesting is that in all three cases, we have people and organizations who have stated their opposition to sexual harassment, domestic violence, pedophilia, etc. We also see the difference between abstract statements and real actions when it comes to their friends and employees.

  • DC claims they won’t tolerate sexual harassment, but they’ve protected a known harasser for years.
  • Wiebe spoke passionately about the evils of domestic violence, but at the very least, chose not to fully separate his creation from an abuser.
  • And Beale is working awfully hard to explain why it’s okay that one of his Hugo nominees drew and sold a sexually explicit drawing of a 16-year-old girl.

I highlighted these three examples because they’re such clear cases of crap we’ve seen again and again. It’s one thing to stand up and say sexual harassment and abuse are bad things. But if you’re talking the talk and then turning around to defend or protect people who cross the line because they’re your friend, or because you think it’s easier? Not only are you not helping the problem, you’re making it worse.

I think we’re doing a better job of talking about stuff, of creating harassment policies and discussing issues of harassment and abuse. But we need to do a better job of walking the walk, too. Step one of that walk? Stop excusing gross behavior just because the perpetrator is a friend or employee.

Cool Stuff Friday

Friday wants a team-up movie with Black Widow and T’Challa’s Security Chief.

I don’t know if it’s tacky to mention my own stuff here, but I’m going to anyway. Earlier this week, I posted some of my pics as desktop wallpapers. I’m pretty happy with how they turned out!

Now, on to the rest of the links.

SF/F Being Awesome: Lar DeSouza and Sailor Bacon

I met Lar DeSouza when he was artist guest of honor at ICON in Iowa, back in 2014. Later that weekend, I met him again as Sailor Bacon.

Lar DeSouza as Sailor BaconYou see, back in 2013, Lar was fundraising for Multiple Sclerosis research, and promised his fans that he’d dress up in the cosplay of their choosing if they raised at least $10,000.

Which they did.

He’s continued to raise money for MS research — and to dress up as Sailor Bacon — ever since. He’s also offered incentives like custom artwork and dyeing his beard an additional color for every extra $1000 raised.

If my math is right, Lar and his fans have raised around $40,000 in total to fight MS.

There’s even a new Sailor Bacon plush, with a portion of the proceeds going to MS research.

Fighting MS by con light,
Winning breakfast by daylight,
Rainbow beard that is so bright!
It is the one named Sailor Bacon!

The MS Walk was May 1 this year, but it looks like you can still donate.

I love that geeks and fandom not only work so hard to do so much for good, worthwhile causes, but that we find weird and random and fun ways to do it.

Goblin: Keep Being Awesome!!!

Photos Using the Late Birthday Present

For a while now, I’ve been looking at the nicer DSLR camera lenses and drooling a bit. As a late birthday present for myself, I went ahead and purchased an L-series 100-400 mm lens, which arrived on Friday. Naturally, all productivity came to a screeching halt while I ran around to try it out. If we’re friends on Facebook, you may have already seen some of the results.

The lens is both bigger and heavier than I expected. I can take pictures and get a bit of a workout at the same time. It’s got three different stabilizer modes that I need to figure out yet, and long-range handheld shots are tricky, but I’ve gotten some pictures I’m very happy with.

You can see a few more, or check out larger versions of these, at Flickr.

Red Winged Blackbird Flower Alley Geese, in silhouette Geese, with babies! Squirrel, with Nut Nuthatch Macaw Frog

For those of you who do photography, do you think I should worry about watermarking any of these? I’ve never bothered before, but I’m still very much an amateur trying to figure out what I’m doing.

Jim C. Hines