Inkitt Says Data Can Discover the Next Bestseller
Creative industries are often hesitant to embrace data-driven strategies, fearing that the numbers might supplant creativity. Online publishing platform Inkitt holds the opposite view and was founded on the conviction that data can discover the next bestseller. Inkitt describes itself as the first data-driven digital publisher. The platform has a built-in algorithm that analyzes reader behavior in order to determine what's resonating with readers and identify the next blockbuster title. Aspiring writers share their stories with the Inkitt reading community, and the algorithm determines which works Inkitt should publish in collaboration with a publishing house. Here co-founder and head of design Linda Gavin shares why she and CEO Ali Albazaz created Inkitt and their goals for the future.
What problem are you solving?
We have built a platform that is cutting out the middleman in the publishing industry: the acquisitions editor. There is a long list of books whose authors faced rejection at the hands of publishers. That list includes everything from Moby Dick to Harry Potter. Why? Because individual editors and literary agents make decisions that are subjective - often based on their gut instinct - and this means they sometimes get it wrong. At Inkitt, our decisions are objective. They are based on hard data and statistics. Essentially, we are the publishing house that does not make mistakes. Our promise to authors is that if they come to us with a bestseller in the making, it will be published and it will sell.
How did you come up with this idea?
Ali and I were particularly inspired by the story of E.L. James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey. James first published her novels on a fan fiction website. She would publish a section or a chapter at a time, get feedback from the community of authors and readers, and then make revisions before moving onto the next chapter. This is the biggest advantage of online writing communities: Authors answer only to their readers, and they also get feedback directly from them. We wanted to create a platform where budding writers can share their stories and readers can unearth fresh content.
What are the most important trends in publishing today?
We believe that the industry is heading towards data-driven writing. This is clear from the Fifty Shades of Grey example. James was writing with her audience and therefore was able to make sure she put together something that the market definitely wanted. She systematically wrote a bestseller. We have seen other instances of this data-backed approach; author Tim Ferriss, who used Google AdWords to chose a book title with the best click-through rate, is just one example. We believe that using hard data is the future of publishing. This approach has the potential to overhaul the entire industry, to completely change the way publishers find their future bestsellers.
Who is your competition?
There are other online writing communities out there and other startups, like Wattpad or Amazon’s Write On, that provide platforms for authors to post their stories. The big difference with Inkitt is that our primary goal is to get our authors published. Our role is more like a literary agency that can surface good works and get them published. With our AI system, we have developed a great decision-making tool that is unique in the market.
We regularly hold writing contests but we’re particularly excited about the current one. We’ve launched the Grand Novel Contest to find the next blockbuster book, and we can’t wait to see what comes out of it. On a larger scale, we’re looking to expand to New York City because this is the epicenter of the publishing industry and it is important for us to have a presence there. We already have one representative working in NYC but we plan to open an Inkitt office there in 2017. On the tech side, we are currently beta testing our iPhone app, which will be launched soon. And lastly we are in talks with all of the major publishers to launch partnerships. We’ll have some more exciting news on this soon so stayed tuned!