Let’s me start by being completely candid with you; I’m no expert. I’ve got one book currently being published by Inkshares and that’s still months from hitting the shelves. I am, however, in the later stages of the meat grinder and I think that gives me some insight. Insight enough to ask someone who knows more than I do.
I wanted a better understanding of how ‘The Life Engineered’, my current book in development as well as any future project, would be handled. If you’re anything like me, your creations are as precious to you as something else that you make that’s very important. I’m sure there’s an analogy I could make…
In order to get a firm grasp on how books are treated once they pass their funding goals, I turned to Matt Kaye the VP of Marketing at Inkshares. What follows is a mix of what I learned on my own through experience and relentless questioning of Matt when he probably should have been doing important VP things.
What it means to get funded
Let’s clarify what it means to fund on Inkshares. There are two levels of funding: 750 pre-orders gets you a digital edition of your book. 1000 pre-orders will earn your book a soft-cover or hard-cover release. You pick the cover at the moment you create your campaign. Chose wisely. You’ll learn why later. Once your book has reached it’s funding goal, it goes into production. That’s when things get very interesting. It’s worth noting that pre-order goals are not monetary, but the amount of books sold. Anyone can put down cash to pay for a self-publishing service, but Inkshares wants to encourage the building of a community and audience around each project along with the support that goes with it.
I funded. Now what?
According to Matt, every time a book funds on Inkshares the team is elated. That’s easy to understand, they’re a small team and every book that gets produced is one more step towards their goal. These are people passionate about books, so to be able to bring one to ‘life’ must be exciting indeed.
Inkshares works with another company called Girl Friday Production who handles the, you guessed it, production of the book. From experience, I can tell you that no time is lost before the gears start turning. In the case of ‘The Life Engineered, less than 24 hours after the winners were announced, I had been assigned a project manager and I was filling in some documents. To be more precise; I was given a design brief and a marketing brief to answer. If you think that these are simple questionnaires that can be filled in a few minutes, you are sorely mistaken. The design brief is the easiest but requires you to describe your book as synopsis, an elevator pitch, pick genres, describe what you expect for your cover, etc. It’s a very exhaustive document, yet it is dwarfed by the marketing brief which requires a lot of the same information along with names and links to various influencers, inspirations, awards you might be eligible for, events you might be interested in promoting at, etc.
These two documents are then used to help meticulously pick the team that will handle your book along with creating a timeline (which you can see on your dashboard) to keep track of where every step of the production is at. I was delighted to discover that my team, especially my developmental editor, totally ‘got’ my book. ‘The Life Engineered’ isn’t that rare of a breed of science fiction but it’s not necessarily mainstream either. It was important to me that I work with people who understood the tone, mood and message of the story. Believe me, if you’ve never worked with an editor before, having one that can relate to your novel is imperative.
One of my questions to Matt had to do with how much care is taken picking release dates to avoid conflicts of interest and take advantage of “beach read” season, the holidays, to coincide with events or relevant movie releases, etc. This is very reassuring. You don’t want your horror novel coming out the same day as the new Stephen King or your first Sci-Fi book to drop right along Andy Weir’s follow-up to The Martian. This goes right along the narrative that Inkshares cares for the book they put out. In a talk I had with Jeremy Thomas very early in the campaign for ‘The Life Engineered’ he mentioned something that stuck with me: “We want to publish bestsellers”. This wasn’t a boast or a form of elitism but, from his tone, a heartfelt wish that Inkshares would attract and curate that level of literary quality.
Let’s talk about money
So, you’d assume that with hundreds of books pre-ordered at the time I won the Sword & Laser collection contest that a nice, fat check ended up in my hands. Or direct deposit in my bank account. After all, Inkshares offers an appealing royalty split of 50% on physical book sales and 70% on digital. That’s some solid coin and to be honest, I hadn’t given it much thought until the question was brought to me and I relayed it to Matt. Royalties start going to the author the moment the book reaches it’s funding goal (or wins a contest). However, the money accumulated through pre-orders goes to fund part of the production costs.
This makes sense, especially when you consider that pre-orders don’t pay for everything, sometimes only counting for as low as half the necessary budget. Add the hit Inkshares takes from the credit system and you begin to understand that publishing a book is still a calculated risk on Inkshares’ part.
While this may be a disappointment to some, it serves as good incentive to keep pushing your book past the funding goal and build your audience further. Awww…. work? I know right.
Where does the money go
To make your book. If you’ve ever tried to self publish seriously, you’ve looked at the cost of hiring editors and cover designers and layout artists, etc. If you know the numbers then I don’t need to explain to you that these are expensive services. Especially if you want it done right. Girl Friday employs experienced editors and designers and I’ve so far been satisfied by their service.
Matt tells me the budget isn’t always split the same for every project. Some will have more funds put into design if the book needs a new cover, maps or whatever (I’m lucky enough to have an amazing illustrator as a friend which means I got some awesome images for my cover, but I’ve seen what the designers at Girl Friday can do for other books and it’s is some professional stuff).
Another important chunk of change goes to printing. The minimum print run for a book is 1500 copies. The final number is calculated through pre-orders and amount of advanced copies. At this point, Inkshares doesn't seem to make any distinction between the cost of hard covers and soft covers for books. Make no mistake that this is something that affects production costs as is reflected by the difference in price between the two (15.99$ for soft cover and 25.99$ for hard cover). So a larger part of the budget will go into printing the later of the two. Something to remember when picking between soft and hard (insert your jokes here) isn't just how it might affect your book's budget behind the scenes but also how it might impact your sales. There are definitely pros to having a hard cover book; it looks more professional and legitimate and the dollar value of royalties for each unit sold is of course higher. However, if you're a first time author or still establishing your name in the industry, a higher ticket item is a more difficult sell. At this point in my career, readers are still taking a chance on me when purchasing my books and there is a much higher likelihood that they'll be willing to pay 16$ as opposed to 26$. The same goes for book stores looking at stoking the book on shelves.
So how does it feel?
The experience of being published by Inkshares has been interesting. I’ve never published traditionally so I don’t have a point of comparison on that side. However, while I may have entertained hope that having a publisher would be less work than self-publishing, I know better now. The process is like having a second job. I have to think about what’s next. Supply Inkshares with information at the drop of a hat. The deadlines and turnaround for reviewing edits and cover design are short. They don’t treat this as a hobby and clearly don’t expect you to either. Perhaps I’m putting more pressure on myself than I should by having extra tasks but this is what I feel I should be doing. I guess someone could allow themselves to get ‘carried’ by Inkshares if they wanted.
While I may be making it sound like a terrible burden I have to point out that while not being less work, it certainly is different from self-publishing. For one, all the tasks are directly linked to making the book. I’m a graphic designer by trade and yet I find it extremely liberating to not have to work on layout and cover design myself. I won’t have to look into distribution and I won’t have to fiddle with Kindle Direct Publishing, iBooks, etc to get my book out there. All my efforts are going to making ‘The Life Engineered’ the best book it can be. And so is Inkshares and Girl Friday. Working with my developmental editor was an absolute joy and an incredibly educational experience. He pointed out my mistakes but also highlighted what I was doing correctly. So while it was a lot of work and will be more work still in the coming months, everything about it was enriching. I will come out of this a better author, more experienced at selling books and myself and much more comfortable at dealing with the whole publishing machine.
So there you have it; a quick overview of what it means to be published by Inkshares. Let me head off some basic questions:
- You’ll get royalty statements regularly when you sell book.
- You’ll get new an interesting emails. During funding you get emails with the subject line “You have a new order”. After, your emails will read “You have money” for new pre-orders and “You’re selling books” for orders from bookstores.
- You can get in contact with the people at Inkshares and Girl Friday to answer questions any time and they are all extremely accommodating.
If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me. I’m no expert, but I’m in the meat grinder right now. Chances are, any question I don’t have the answer to, I’m going to want answered anyways, so I’ll gladly do the digging for you.