About a year ago, in late 2015, I stumbled upon a decentralized, crowd-funded publisher called Inkshares. At a glance, it looked great. Inkshares seemed a combination of a couple of passions of mine. I’ve been interested in the trend toward decentralization for years and am forever interested in projects that subvert media funding models. I knew that it was new and that there was some risk involved with anything like this without a long and positive track record, but I dove right in.
I campaigned for nearly a year. At first it did seem great but in late summer of 2016 Inkshares underwent a management change and restricted the royalty terms for authors. The terms became less friendly to authors but, more importantly, Inkshares did not communicate with authors who were currently crowd-funding. I found out weeks later, by accident. I was unhappy with the lack of transparency and poor communication but at this point I was most of the way to the goal and decided to push on. One of the great advantages Inkshares has is that the more an author invests themselves into the platform, the more they want to see the company succeed—and the less willing they are to dissent.
Finally, in October, I reached my goal. I sold over 750 pre-orders of my prospective book. I was going to be published and was extremely excited. I sent out messages to all my supporters telling them we made it. Then, 10 days later, a computer glitch sent everyone a refund. I immediately reached out to Inkshares to ask what was happening. They said they didn’t know why the refunds had been sent out, but not to worry as they would be able to re-charge all the credit cards used. However, orders that used credits would not be honored. I strongly objected.
For much of the campaign Inkshares gave out credits to encourage participation but had since discontinued that practice in part because they didn’t always like how they were being used. While credits were active, which was most of my campaign, Inkshares sent out messages to everyone who signed up, told them ways to get credits and encouraged them to use them. Even the former CEO bought my book with credits.
Credits were phased out after the new CEO took over. That’s also when they changed the royalty terms.
For almost two months, I tried to get concrete answers out of them about what was happening and how they planned to resolve the situation. Many emails went unanswered and in the responses I did receive never gave me specific details. In summary, they seemed to be saying: ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.’
I wanted to believe them at first. I had already spent nearly a year asking thousands of people if they could spend money on a book they could not yet have. I hated doing that, but saw it as a means to an end. Once I hit 750 orders and my book went into ‘production.’ I was heavily invested into Inkshares and had an interest in seeing them in a positive light. I’ve spoken to a number of published authors privately and was surprised to hear that many of them had negative experiences as well. Within Inkshares, either on their campaign page or inside the forums these same people always spoke positively, but it’s part if that phenomena that makes us all into cheerleaders, at least in public. Others were much further along and more invested then I was. But that’s wrong, a company like Inkshares will only be as greedy and shitty as their users allow. If we accept their bullshit today, it will be even worse tomorrow.
Throughout, I tried to be patient, respectful and understanding but all of that began to wear thin and I told them I needed to know what was happening or I would walk away. Their response was much the same as on the first day—we’d be happy to publish you but will not honor credit orders. They offered a lower level of publishing or would ‘allow’ me to fund-raise more money for them.
I asked them to withdraw my book from their site. I was done. They did not have my interests in mind and were willing to change the rules whenever it suited them. No.
I wish I had read a post like this last year when I first found Inkshares; I probably never would have begun. I’m so sorry to have put my backers though this.
I don’t know what will happen with my book, Illegal, but any option seems preferable to working with Inkshares at this point.
There is not free, open debate within Inkshares about Inkshares. If you want to share your experience in the comments please do so. You may be anonymous if you wish.