Inkitt raises $16M led by Kleiner Perkins to publish crowdsourced novels in ‘mini-episodes’

From TechCrunch:

The traditional world of publishing has been challenged hard by the digital revolution. Reading as a pastime has been in significant decline, in part because of the proliferation of screens and options for what to watch and do on them. On the other hand, Amazon has led the charge in changing the economics of publishing: the returns on book sales, and profits to publishers and writers, have all seen margins squeezed in the e-reader universe.

A Berlin-based startup called Inkitt has built a crowdsourced publishing platform to buck those trends. It believes that there is still a place for reading in our modern world, if it’s presented in the right way (more on that below), and today it is announcing a $16 million round of funding that underscores its success to date — the Inkitt community today has 1.6 million readers and 110,000 writers with some 350,000 uploaded stories, with a run-rate of $6 million from a new “bite-sized”, immersive reading app it launched earlier this year called Galatea — and its ambitions going forward.

How big are those ambitions? Ali Albazaz, Inkitt’s founder and CEO, said the mission is to build the “Disney of the 21st century.” Digital novels are just the beginning, in his view: plans include a move into audio, TV, games and film, “and maybe even theme parks.”

. . . .

In addition to continuing to search for authors that might make good Galatea fodder, it’s going to add 10 new languages in addition to English, along with more data science to improve readership and connecting audiences with the stories that are most engaging to them. The company has sourced some of its most successful works from places like India and Israel, so the thinking is that it’s time to make sure non-English readers in those countries are also getting a look in.

“It’s a long plan, and we’re working on it step by step,” Albazaz said in an interview this week. “We are looking for the best talents and the best stories, wherever they are being told. We want to find them, unearth them and turn them into globally successful franchises.”

Link to the rest at TechCrunch (August, 2019)

From The Bookseller:

Former HarperCollins global c.e.o. Jane Friedman has joined Inkitt as an advisor and shareholder.

Inkitt, which claims to have the world’s first bestseller-predicting algorithm, aims to discover hidden talents from all around the world and turn them into globally successful authors.

More than 100,000 authors upload their manuscripts to the platform and 3.5 million readers can read them for free. The best stories are selected based on reader engagement and published on sister reading app Galatea.

. . . .

“Jane’s guidance will ultimately help to build a powerful hybrid publishing model, where cutting-edge technology builds on insights and experience from the world of traditional publishing.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller (March, 2021)

From Inkitt:

We’re crazy about shining a spotlight on talented authors. That’s why we’ve developed a fair way of discovering writers by giving them a platform to showcase their books to the world, and get published through the power of reader feedback

Once you create your Inkitt account and upload your book, you have started the process of getting selected for an Inkitt publishing deal! The process is simple; we analyze reader patterns and engagement on your book to determine if it has bestseller potential. 

When we find a bestseller, our publishing team reaches out to you about getting signed. No barriers to entry. No biases. It’s publishing made fair.

Where does Inkitt publish my work?

We do things differently, and that doesn’t stop at publishing. When we discover your work, we will contact you with an offer to sign a publishing contract. This means that your work will first be adapted to be published on our sister app, GALATEA, and could later then be published in other formats (e.g, print, ebook, etc). 

. . . .

GALATEA is shaping the future of reading to better suit the digital age. Working with a production team consisting of writers and sound designers, GALATEA adapts original Inkitt stories into immersive experiences by enhancing them with chat fiction, sound effects, visual effects and haptic feedback.

When your work is published on GALATEA, your readers will be fully immersed in it – feeling every aspect of the plot – from the beat of your protagonist’s heart, to the music and sound effects that perfectly enhance the scene at their fingertips. Keeping avid readers hungry for more, storytelling has never been more exciting than on GALATEA.

. . . .

How does the GALATEA publishing process work?

Once you sign with us, our publishing team offers you a guiding hand throughout the entire process. Here is what your journey to become a published GALATEA author will look like:

. . . .

Our Publishing Contract at a Glance

  • We decided to simplify our contract and make it accessible to the public 25% royalties on e-books, and if applicable, 5% royalties on episodical adaptations from Royalty Pool of all authors
  •  You can cancel the contract if we don’t generate at least $1,000 in sales within a year
  • Professional cover design, and if applicable, audio and visual effects for episodical adaptations 
  • Professional editing

Link to the rest at Inkitt

Inkitt helpfully embedded its publishing agreement into its website (to facilitate authors signing it online).

When PG skimmed over the publishing agreement, he was immediately transported to the offices of a typical Manhattan publishing attorney.

All the expected nasty bits were there – Life of the copyright contract term, giant rights grab, etc., etc., etc.

Suffice to say, the “Publishing Contract at a Glance” section of Inkitt’s website didn’t include any discussion of what, in PG’s episodically humble opinion, would be the contract provisions that most serious authors would be interested in knowing about.

The vision of Inkitt CEO Ali Abazz to build the

“Disney of the 21st century.” Digital novels are just the beginning, in his view: plans include a move into audio, TV, games and film, “and maybe even theme parks.”

evidently persuaded the wise folks at Kleiner Perkins & followers to drop $16 mill. into Inkitt a couple of years ago and a former HarperCollins global CEO to jump onboard the Inkitt parade, but PG is unpersuaded and more than a bit skeptical of the whole arrangement as providing any benefit to authors who want to earn a living from their writing.

He would be happy to hear from any actual Inkitt authors concerning their experiences, however.

5 thoughts on “Inkitt raises $16M led by Kleiner Perkins to publish crowdsourced novels in ‘mini-episodes’”

  1. This shark (who has extensive experience dealing with publishing startups and the too-often-illusory promise of venture-capital assistance) cautions that there’s something extra to be concerned with here: The culture of the particular venture capital firm behind Inkitt.

    We’ll leave aside the Ellen Pao problems. This shark watched that matter from fairly close-up when it was happening, and developed some less-than-favorable opinions about counsel’s performance on both sides of the v. that probably underly the actual result in the case: Plaintiff’s claims of sex discrimination were sufficient to defeat summary judgment, didn’t convince the jury, and the plaintiff’s appeal was dropped before the first brief was filed. Combine that with Pao’s silence thereafter, and… experienced counsel can infer what happened.

    The real problem is that KP has a long history of getting impatient when overoptimistic projections and timelines prove, well, overoptimistic, and imposing its own (either internal or imposed-consultant) management personnel upon the recipients of its funds a few years down the road. (This shark is carefully being extremely elliptical here to avoid disclosing stuff that he probably shouldn’t, even though none of it is inside of privilege.) That is, the venture capitalist imposes its own management style and impulses on the recipient business. Which, if you ask this shark, is just a little bit undermining of any business purporting to be involved with a new and evolving market and supply-chain paradigm… especially when imposing old-school contract terms on those suppliers, in a jurisdiction that won’t respect the choice of law underlying those old-school contract terms.*

    I’m not saying “never deal with a start-up supported by venture capital.” I’m saying “know who the venture capitalist is who will have influence over your works for at least several years — and on the terms offered as noted by PG, the life of the copyright — and decide whether that’s someone you want to be beholden to.”

    * This shark has some scholarly and litigation chops regarding choice of law and contracts founded on mistaken choice of law, and would like to think he knows something about how bad assumptions in blithely adopted contract terms can come around to bite everyone in the butt. This shark has even more fun when it’s international choice of law, and softly hints that when the location of all of the in-house positions for which you’re seeking employees in the English language nonetheless says that the positions are in Berlin just might make blithe application of pre-1968 New York contract law… problematic.

  2. My first thought was “with all the high ceiling startups running around, why would any ambitious VC put money into a low margin business like publishing?”
    My personal guess is lack of…imagination. Or lack of something else starting with the same letter, like information, etc.

    SiliValley might be showing signs of unwinding but there’s plenty of other places and sectors with startups that are inventing entire industries. Why go after table scraps?

    Of course, in the VC game $16M is itself table scraps.

    I’m thinking tbere isn’t much there, there.

  3. Am I seeing the same pattern here as Patreon and Wattpad for writers? The writers do all the work, and promote it to the people willing to read their stories from a startup – those who are successful then fight the shark for a pitiful part of the revenue.

    The system favors what all systems favor: the enterprising hard-working energetic entrepreneur.

    • This shark thinks the esteemed commenter is being too generous by identifying the actual beneficiaries as the “enterprising hard-working energetic entrepreneurs” who actually do the work. In this shark’s experience, the benefits disproportionately flow to the enterprising, hard-working, energetic managers of passive capital; and then to the lazy, passive-aggressive (or, more often, aggressively-passive-until-there’s-a-shareholder-derivative-suit) providers of that working capital, who typically have mid-eight-figure-and-up net worths and have become bored with “mere” passive-index returns that double their money, on average for the last century, in slightly over nine years; and only then to those entrepreneurs.

      This shark is also being exceptionally polite this undercaffeinated Monday for no discernable reason, and would ordinarily use much harsher language to describe the true “clients” of VC and hedge funds that better describes the misconduct that put those clients in position to be clients. Approximately 80% of them, according to three academic studies, rely upon inherited wealth and not their own efforts, and the sources of some of the “great fortunes” in the US don’t hold up to even cursory examination. Right, D___ family (combination of tobacco, racially discriminatory sharecropping, and even-less-savoury activities in the 19th and early 20th centuries)?

      • You are, of course, correct. The system appears to favor those who have done all the hard work of getting public exposure for their writing.

        Then the system takes most of the financial rewards, and gives these entrepreneurs ‘exposure’ and pitiful royalties.

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