Exactly six months ago today, I was basking in one of the most incredible sensations I’ve ever felt in my life. My short story, Continuum, was going to be published in a short story anthology by a publisher called Inkshares. We won The Nerdist Video Games Contest, and sold the highest number of pre-orders, which meant we’d receive full publication. As of today, you can still visit the page for the book where it’s the #1 Bestseller in Video Game related books. I have never felt as euphoric as I did on July 15th. I made a video in which I cried and poured my heart out about how good it felt to be accomplishing a dream I’d had my whole life at the young age of 25. I never released that video to the public, and given my news from this weekend, I doubt I now ever will.
Why? Because Inkshares emailed us this past weekend to tell us they were cancelling our book.
My first published work is getting ripped out from under me, and I refuse to pretend that I’m not simultaneously devastated and mad as hell.
Inkshares was a company that, this time last year, I believed in so fervently I could barely get through a day without telling someone about it. I sang their praises till I was blue in the face, and believed in them the way a kid believes in their parents. I thought Inkshares was it. My gateway to the world of being a published author. I had more hope than I can convey in words that this would be how my book got into the world. I believed this so much so that I ignored any opposing views that might suggest otherwise. How could a site that had given me so much (friends, a platform, hope) be so bad?
I look back on that time and long for it, because while the first five months were full of learning and growing and trying new things, every month since their change in management has been a nightmare for me and countless other authors, and given this weekend’s events, I can no longer stay quiet about it.
Now, please keep in mind as you read this, that my opinions are MINE. I’m in no way speaking for any other person who has ever been tied to Inkshares, mainly because some of them have had fine and dandy experiences. To them I say, that’s great. That’s not my experience, and from the conversations with friends, the emails I’ve seen (or lack of correspondence and transparency all together) on the parts of others, has led me to be utterly appalled at the way business is now being run. While there are perfectly lovely people working there, recent decisions have been made without any regard for the creators who fuel the site. Here is what transpired for me with them since things began to change.
In June of 2016, a small band of authors from Inkshares got the idea to write an anthology and enter it in the Nerdist Contest. Weary that perhaps an anthology would be unfair to other authors, several members of our group reached out to the staff at Inkshares (honestly can’t remember if it was 3 people or 5 people) and we were given the go ahead. Their staff was enthusiastic. Said it would be great. Several of said staff bought copies almost immediately. All of us authors were THRILLED when the book took the lead. We had done everything to make sure the company deemed this entry fair, and were succeeding.
In July, we won the contest. Our book sold over 400 copies to 366 unique readers. I cried and felt that immeasurable joy described at the start of this blog post. It was brought up that the new CEO of the company was less than thrilled at the notion of our anthology. But we had won the contest, which meant we would be published. All seemed well. We submitted our manuscript in August, then waited for news.
In December, we FINALLY heard from the CEO! He was asking us for a synopsis and a log line for each of our stories. While his email read like he didn’t even know we’d submitted our manuscript, we sent them anyway. Some in our group had hope that this would mean we’d soon have feedback on our pages. Some were frustrated that it took them this long to acknowledge our existence. I toed the line between the two, the optimist in me still really hoping I was wrong about my mounting fears that were based on bad experiences others at the site I knew were dealing with.
Cut to Friday. We received an email from the CEO saying our book had been cancelled. It was a flat dismissal, with no room for discussion. The basic issue was that some of the stories were not closely related enough to video games, which would make Legendary (the production house) frown on the submission as a “bait-and-switch.” He also claimed that, because the stories weren’t all video-gamey, that some readers would feel deceived by the anthology.
Why does that have anything to do with them publishing the book? We won the contest, they publish the book. Selling the intellectual property to a production studio is secondary.
The real kicker though, was this line:
“Some of you did write stories about video games, and I very much regret if you feel that you are being unfairly punished.”
Basically, sorry not sorry to those of you who tried. Even though you did as asked, you don’t deserve publication because we as a company are too lazy to do our job and help you work through your manuscript to make it the best it can be for the readers who paid for it.
After hearing other stories of disappointment and hurt, many of which had to do with this obsession with IP sales, this felt like the nail in the coffin.
My story is not the only one. I have a list of friends with concerns regarding this site that’s as long as my arm, and while I would love to share more on that, it’s not my place. And I note again, I speak for NO ONE else in this anthology but myself. I know many of them will probably not agree with me sharing the information I have already, but I for one cannot continue to stay quiet about the way in which some authors I know have been treated. All of us in this anthology were cheated, and I don’t feel it was fair to any of us to have this taken away when the concerns expressed were something that could have been easily resolved.
I don’t come here to tell you, HATE INKSHARES THEY SUCK, because that is not true, nor is it fair. Plenty of people have had great experiences publishing through Inkshares, and I am sure those individuals will continue to defend them tooth and nail, as is their right. But it is also my right to tell another side of the story. A side some would rather have kept quiet. I leave it to you to decide whether or not to ever publish with them or purchase with them. But you cannot make an informed decision when all you hear is the sunshine and daisies side of the story, just as you cannot know everything from reading this overwhelmingly negative (and lengthy) blog post.
I just encourage that you think for yourself. Ask questions, ESPECIALLY when people are telling you not to. And know that if you are a writer seeking publication through Inkshares, you don’t deserve to be treated like this. You as a writer deserve respect and fairness and honesty, because these are things every human being deserves. You do NOT deserve to have your work dismissed and cancelled because it isn’t good enough for someone else, or because they don’t want to spend the time of day to help you publish the book you crowdfunded. Whether you write with Inkshares or not, your stories are worth fighting for. Your story deserves better, and so do you.
8 thoughts on “Your Story Deserves Better”
I’m so sorry this happened to you! I hope that pre-orders were refunded and that your group is able to find another publishing option that works for you. 300+ potential readers believed in you, so don’t give it up as a total loss. 🙂
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Thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s important for us writers to watch out for each other, even if it means giving some bad news or warning about the perils of working with a certain company.
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Before anything, I’d like to state that after winning my contest and getting to know the Inkshares team, I was so impressed by the new management that I became an investor in the company and now sit on its board of directors. I realize this paints me as a biased shill, but I feel obliged to comment nonetheless – though my comment is not as an investor or board member of Inkshares, but rather as another author in the same anthology.
Although I was also disappointed with the outcome, I did not feel quite like the rug had been pulled from under me because I understood the rationales for the project’s cancellation. I may even be doubly biased because my book won the Geek & Sundry hard science fiction contest (prior to and without any commitment or discussion of investment in the company), and I am going through with publication. But it’s been through this process of getting my first novel to print that I’ve learned a lot. Frankly, had I known then what I know now, I would have stopped us from submitting our manuscripts when we did. Although Inkshares could have done a better job of communicating with us, ultimately I think most of the fault rests on us for the following reasons:
1. We should have done a better job of editorializing ourselves prior to submission of the manuscript. Inkshares is not a vanity publisher. They have every right to expect that manuscripts submitted to them are coherent and primed. We handed them a mixed bag of stuff that was semi-coherent. I put my story squarely in the midst of fault here, because video games were a small, anecdotal part of my story. Simply stated: my story was not about video games, thus thematically inappropriate for the anthology. If I were a buyer purchasing an anthology about video games, my expectation would be that video games would be a central theme of each story. This became apparent to me again when we submitted our log lines and synopses. There was hardly any thread of consistency in subject matter among the stories. TL;DR Our anthology would have been an editorial nightmare for both Inkshares and the authors, and disingenuous to buyers.
2. This is just opinion, but I do believe our group never would have survived developmental editing anyway. We quibbled among ourselves over the most minor things. Heck, it took us over 48 hours just to come up with the copy for our update for the readers (which, by the way, someone posted prior to everyone’s agreement on the copy, further proving our inability to function as a team). How long did it takes us to put together the initial author agreement, to choose leaders, etc. I can’t even imagine how much fingerpointing and vitriol we’d see if we had to deal with a competent developmental editor. Again, this point is merely my own speculation, take it with a boulder of salt.
3. Inkshares’ contractual responsibility to the contest sponsor is to produce content that would be appropriate for Nerdist’s needs. Inkshares is a book publisher but Legendary entertainment is in the IP space. Nerdist selected our project not only because we had the most pre-orders, but also because a package of several stories about video games sounds exactly like a beautiful IP package to convert into a series. The execution, however, was sorely lacking. Even if we survived editing, the anthology not something I could expect Inkshares to hand over to Nerdist and expect any sort of marketing or promotion support because so many of the stories were simply not about video games. Again, I put much of the blame on us (and me as a big part of said “us”) for not editorializing ourselves prior to submission. We went for speed over quality, and so, in the time between August and December, instead of continuing to refine the package, we instead consistently prodded our publisher to “get started”. I believe the onus is on the author to deliver something marketable, not on the publisher to make it marketable.
I respect your anger and frustration, Elayna. Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to put all the blame on Inkshares. We Inkvengers shoulder at least some responsibility for the implosion of this anthology.
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Thanks for posting your thoughts, Tal. For what it’s worth, I’m glad for my participation in the anthology and equally disappointed/miffed with the outcome. There’s something that’s been bothering me about this whole discussion and I want to quickly raise it here.
Inkshares purports to be a *crowdfunding* publisher. They are not a vanity publisher, sure, but their business model is built on the notion that they’ll publish the books that fund. They absolutely have the right to refuse publication of pieces that jeopardize their future as a publisher, but they seem to be exercising that right with a bit too much frequency for my (and many other authors’) comfort.
Their cavalier attitude toward publishing what fits marketability as intellectual property is not only concerning, but it’s disingenuous and contrary to the core of the company’s founding principle: democratizing publishing.
What their behavior amounts to is a shift in their status as a publisher. They’re not a crowdfunding publisher anymore. They’re essentially a small, semi-traditional publisher that asks for massive advances from authors for publication.
The onus can’t all be on us authors. After all, we provide the all-too-valuable IP that brings in the big bucks. The relationship with a publisher/agent can’t be quite as one-sided as it’s become with Inkshares to remain viable for authors.
Moving on: To say that we were disorganized as a group of writers is, while honest in some ways, generally unfair. We had fifteen strong-minded authors come together, solicit preorders from our various networks, and submit a complete manuscript (however shoddy it may have been in some eyes) in reasonable time. That’s remarkable.
Inkshares is busy, we all get and respect that. But no response for months, followed by a no-arguments cancellation on what was shaky ground seems, to me, another nail in the coffin. For more than a few of us, it was the final nail.
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