The Grand Inkitt Scam.

 A story about fanfiction, green bars, & data mining

New writers are desperate.§

They work hard on their ginormous manuscripts and usually end up having them rot into oblivion when zero A-list publishers pick it up. Luckily for them, a great company in Berlin is dubbing itself, “The world’s first reader-powered publisher”, or something like that.

Meet Inkitt, a humble company that totally doesn’t exaggerate itself when it’s really just a shitty version of Wattpad.

Inkitt is a big ol’ scam wonderful opportunity for people!

And I’ll tell you why.

The People Running it Don’t Even Exist§

Ali Albazaz is the founder and CEO of Inkitt. He studied computer science and doesn’t have any publishing experience. Also, his stories are… well… you can read them yourself.

Update: As it turns out, Ali recently deleted all of his stories. (One day after the time of writing.) Luckily, I already read all of the fucking chapters of The Lost Howl and I fully, legitimately regret it.

The co-founder, Linda Gavin, studied design. She’s a web designer who draws logos and icons for stuff. But no actual publishing experience here, either. Her background is also a bit more mysterious because no amount of searching would give me anything else.

I tried to read a few chapters of her stories, but they were even less comprehensible than Ali’s.

Publishing, Yay!§

“Who are we or any editor in the world to judge whether your book is worth publishing?”
– Inkitt Website – 2018

From this quote, I don’t think they grasp the idea that editors edit stuff and that publishing stuff is a business that requires agents striking deals over mugs of steaming coffee at 1 AM in the morning.

Not doing anything is not actually publishing. Just saying. But these guys are pros, they probably do all that behind-the-scenes, right?

Goodie for them, the readers do all the work. Their “advanced algorithms” will detect stories that get liked or viewed. They’ll even ring you up a publishing deal by pitching the book to Random House or some other good publisher to score you a deal!

Inkitt’s Super-Genius Advanced Algorithm§

Even though the founders have no idea what they are doing, they have a super-awesome method of figuring out which books to offer publishing deals.

They use deep learning algorithms.

That’s right, they started out with zero data, and then some data, and then they train their algorithm on that data. And then the algorithm studies more data as it continues learning from nothing into something.

This is 100% farce because the super-good AI they tout couldn’t have sprouted out of nothing. In fact, I don’t even think their algorithm even exists.

The problem is that the Inkitt algorithm would need big data from their own users to figure out what books people read more on their platform. (That’s what they say their algorithm analyzes).


Also, the publishing page on their site clearly shows their method of publishing!

According to the site, their first published work is the Sky Riders series by some gal named Erin Swan.

I tried looking on Amazon. Nothing. It hasn’t been published.

My Google search brought up nothing, except the Inkitt page and some news about the book releasing sometime “soon.”

If a publisher like HarperCollins does pick up the book, Inkitt takes 15%, the same percentage most reputable agents put up. It’s great news that a mysterious company that doesn’t understand how publishing works is willing to charge you the same rate as a decent agent!

So what if Inkitt did publish it themselves? You get 50% of their earnings on the book. That’s better than anything you’ll get from any publishers. Something even more amazing is that they don’t even put your book up for sale, like in the case of Erin Swan.

If worst comes to worst you could put your work on Amazon yourself and earn 70%.

Do I Keep My Rights?§

Let’s say you win a contest and get Inkitt’s publishing deal (the great 50% of $0 one).

You're sipping coffee from your Inkitt mug and jotting down creative ideas in your Inkitt notepad, but you’re worried about your rights as a creator being violated.

Inkitt claims you keep all of your rights.

But you know how Inkitt put up your story on Amazon? And how publishers need the English-language right to publish a book in the English language?

Inspecting the Fine Print: Inkitt can own your stuff if you are “Specially Promoted.”

Aka: They can own your stuff without notifying you if they decide it. There are no failsafes beyond this for you other than pursuing legal action. And I mean legal action, Inkitt isn't based in the US where arbitration is a thing, you have to file a lawsuit.

I have a pretty good idea that they “specially promote” you before they throw your book on Amazon.

Fanfiction Contests§

I don’t think they understand copyright.

Unmasking the Real Scam§

So a couple of months before I wrote this post, a guy named James Beamon investigated the “Collected Data” bar in the Inkitt analytic’s page (which has been removed along with its contests and literally everything else over the course of two months.)

He contacted support to figure out exactly how the “chapter reads” were related to the collected data bar.

They ended up going on a game of ping-pong where the support eventually said that chapter reads don’t directly fill the bar, reader data does.

Thus, another ping-pong ball was added and they began playing an even more confusing game of ping-pong.

Apparently, this was about “reader engagement,” and not about “how the readers read the book with how it is paced.” But don’t worry, James continued pushing past this confusing mesh of words and began checking off possibilities in his head as they began to be eliminated.

The bar was not “directly” influenced by chapter reads or how fast or slow a person reads a book.

And then James had a soylent green moment.

Now, James hit a wall because the discussion was going into “proprietary information,” but his theory makes sense.

The thing is, when you sign into Inkitt with your Facebook or Google account, they can request your data. And depending on what information you give when you click “Yes, I Accept,” you could be giving away lots of information to e-marketers or ad companies.

If you don’t mind giving away information (or have a lot of aliases,) then none of this should matter as it’s a matter of choice.

Whether or not you choose to participate in becoming a product out of your own personal information is up to your own discretion (to a certain point in certain areas, thanks [insert intelligence agency]!)

But even if you’re fine with your personal information being sold, you should still be aware of Inkitt’s many faults that don’t make it worth it to click that big blue sign-up button in the first place.


Just save yourself the trouble. Seriously.

There was talk about Tor Books striking a deal with Inkitt over Erin Swan’s series, which is awesome.

It’s also great how her entire series is still published by Inkitt and hosted on their site for free! (I’m assuming that the professionally-published version will be cleanly edited and revised.)

That information came out in 2017. And recently Tor Books opened up about their deal!

The book was supposed to release Summer 2017. Now it’s gonna release in Autumn 2019. (The delay was due to internal conflicts. Whatever that means.)

Erin Swan is none the wiser about Inkitt’s practices, but at least she’s one of the many victims who is actually getting published. Good for her.


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