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My Experience with Inkshares: A Cautionary Tale


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 restructured 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 they 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.

Update: I found another publisher and you can now buy my book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble. etc.

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9 comments on “My Experience with Inkshares: A Cautionary Tale

  • I’m really sorry to read your story. I had looked at Inkshares a few months ago and put up a ‘draft.’ I read something about them changing royalties and it sounded fishy to me. Ugh, glad I left when I did.

  • I’ve funded for Quill but my book has not yet been published so I’m in a weird sort of limbo. It’s been alright so far but it’s starting to seem like this is just self-publishing plus. Fingers crossed I’m wrong but I do like the platform less as time goes on.

  • Such a strange situation and so sorry to hear it happened to you.

  • Wow, I was just alerted to your post by another Inkshares author who has now had a similar experience.
    My book failed to fund on Inkshares, but then I subsequently succeeded via Kickstarter.
    Although it was hard work and, to be frank, cost me more than I raised £1,800 (£1,666 after KS fees) it was worth it, and I have stock of my book for local bookshops with Createspace editions on Amazon.
    I even set up my own publishing imprint to give the book an air of professionalism.
    I have still got the sequel in draft mode on Inkshares, but I think I will withdraw it soon, given the bad experiences others have had.

    • Hey Olli, thanks for sharing. Glad to hear you found a better alternative. I’m a firm advocate of authors and think Inkshares will take as much as they can get so if no one pushes back and seeks alternatives like you did then it will only get worse.

  • I invested in being in a “syndicate” (supporting the books they publish). 35% seems fair–a good mix between the lower rates of the larger firms and the nearly full profits a self-pub receives, to cover some of their effort, time, and risk. According to their site they do edit and make a cover and “market” your book (though I wonder what that means). Combined with ads which I intend to place anyway (whether I self- or trod-pub), I’m unsure it’s a “bad” deal, though clearly your experience was AWFUL.

    It is, however, not unlike what a lot of authors go through when things get shaken up. I had an agent take my $350 “copying fee” and leave the business and never tell me herself. That agency is STILL OUT THERE. Someone going to them today might have a totally different experience; who knows?

    But does feel like there’s just a non-transparency problem in the industry. (“You’re just an artist. You don’t matter or need to know.”)

  • Hi! Found this as I’m currently contemplating leaving Inkshares. My book The Living God made Quill in 2016, I submitted the manuscript in June 2017, and at the time was told it would be a 6 month process. A year later, no word on when we’ll get started. But, I’ve got a lot of bad feelings about the company. They’ve been super vague, unresponsive, and I’m worried about leaving a book which is the first in a 4 book series in the hands of such a vague company. I’ve been researching other horror stories from Inkshares to really give me the push to self-publish. This helped. Thank you.

  • Hi John, Thanks for the illuminating post. I’ve been marketing my book on Inkshares for about three weeks and campaigning like crazy to get pre-orders – so much so that I have very little time left for writing. My designer and I are partnering on this project, and are seriously considering withdrawing my book from the site. For one thing, an editor I’ve been corresponding with is leaving the platform, which leaves me feeling high and dry, as she was a good advocate and a direct connection to the process. Does anybody know how it works if you withdraw your manuscript from Inkshares, after having transitioned to “pre-order” mode? Obviously I haven’t met the 750 mark yet, but want to ensure that all those who’ve placed orders get refunds. Thanks!

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