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Book Publisher Case Study - Inkitt

Author, HR Kemp, shares her experiences of using Inkitt's community for authors

Quick links on this page:

Introduction by Chris Fielden

A few months ago I received a comment, via the website on a guest post written by Simone Elise, from HR Kemp. It said:

I have also posted my novel on Inkitt and it has been on the site since March last year. It has been great getting feedback from readers. This has been a great confidence booster. I am still not sure how the whole competition process works, but at the moment I have 46% in the analytics and find the hardest thing is successfully marketing my book to attract readers. My genre is 'political thriller', so the readership is perhaps less than romance or fantasy (which seem to be big groups). As a first novel, I am still learning about marketing and
attracting readers which was why I was looking for help from a publisher. It's been an interesting learning curve.

Simone won Inkitt's novel competition. She'd written about her experiences of working with Inkitt and how they'd helped her to become an Amazon bestselling author when they published her book. You can read Simone's post here.

Inkitt

For those of you who haven't heard of Inkitt, it's the world’s first reader-powered book publisher, offering an online community for talented authors and book lovers. They publish books based on 'crowd wisdom'.

Anyway. Back to the point...

Long story short, I asked HR Kemp if she would be willing to write a case study about her experiences of using Inkitt's platform. She kindly agreed.

Simone's post is written from the point of view of a competition winner. In contrast, I thought it would be interesting to see what a user who has not won the competition (YET - my fingers are crossed for you, HR!) thought of Inkitt's platform.

So, below is HR Kemp's post. It's candid and brutally honest. I hope you find the information she shares useful.

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My Experiences of Using Inkitt, by HR Kemp

Introduction

Hi. I write Australian conspiracy mystery/thrillers as H.R. Kemp and have entered my novel, Deadly Secrets, in the Inkitt competition.

I posted it in March 2018 and this blog is about how I came to use Inkitt and my experience so far.

Deadly Secrets on Inkitt

My Writer’s Story

I embarked on serious creative writing late in life, despite always scribbling (very bad) short stories, poems and random scenes from an early age. My studies took me into the Sciences. My first degree was a Bachelor of Science majoring in Chemistry. Then, making a living and raising a family preoccupied me and the only writing I did were business documents which just cramped any creative style.

Finally, with the family grown and mostly independent, and my retirement in sight, I turned back to creative writing. I devoured short courses and the ‘how-to’s’ started to supplement the ‘what-if’s’ in my head. The WEA courses like: ‘Developing Characters and POV’, ‘Honing your skills’ and ‘Adding Emotional Punch’ were a good way to revive my creativity. A ‘How to write a novel’ course provided a much-needed structure that set me on my way. The thread of a plot, focused on the politics of the time, was growing and a six-month Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide propelled me forward.

Never Stop Learning

I’m a slow writer. It took me three years to complete the first draft. It was essentially a brain-dump and needed extensive editing and rewriting. I used trusted readers and edited on my own but it needed fresh eyes. An editing boot camp organised through my local Writers’ Centre and run by a professional editor helped and so did the members of my writers’ group, ‘The Novelist Circle’, who critiqued the entire novel.

Two years later, I was ready to send it to publishers and agents.

The Publishing Treadmill

Finding a publisher and/or agent was a dispiriting process. In Australia, publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts via their portals. That means if you don’t hear from them within a specified time they’re not interested. There was no feedback, I didn’t get any rejection letters, there was no encouragement to keep trying, only silence. I followed their rules and submitted to one publisher at a time (silly me) and wasted years. I only approached a few agents; they’re harder to get than publishers. How was I to know if this novel had any potential? How could I amend or rewrite if I had no idea what it was that they didn’t like?

Time, It Takes Too Long

A pitch conference run by my local Writers’ Centre seemed worth a try. It was the first for them and a first for me. Looking back, I realise I was so unprepared for that process. I’d been a trainer and group facilitator for the last 15 years of my working life and had stood before groups delivering training or presentations, and yet, I became a nervous wreck trying to pitch my novel. Perhaps I was too emotionally invested or the process was intimidating. It didn’t help when one of the publishers interrupted my rehearsed spiel twice. Once, when I explained that my novel was a political crime thriller and he suggested it needed to be a romance, and then, when I introduced the main characters he said I should make them young people. Given a five minute pitch doesn’t allow for much detail, his comments left me nonplussed. I left discouraged and the doubts were re-invigorated.

The whole process of finding a publisher was disheartening. There were so many times when I felt I should just give up. I questioned why I was spending my time on writing when I could just relax and read. I wasn’t sure (perhaps I’m still not) that what I was writing was the right quality, or if I had the necessary skills and abilities to succeed. Luckily (or maybe not) a positive review or critique or someone with enthusiasm would come along at just the right time to fan the flame and spur me on.

I started writing my second novel while still sending my first novel into competitions or to agents and publishers but without success. I considered self-publishing but it looks such a daunting path and I worried about promoting my novel in that sea of reading options on Amazon. I didn’t have an author platform or even a presence on social media. I didn’t know where to start.

The Inkitt Option

When I read about Inkitt on Christopher Fielden’s website, my novel seemed destined to die in the proverbial bottom drawer, never to be read or to see the light. My first thought was: putting it up on Inkitt meant my story would at least be read. My second thought was: what if no one likes it? I didn’t want to die wondering (as they say), so I registered and investigated.

Ali Albazaz, Founder and CEO of Inkitt, on the BBC - he gets a bit of a grilling, but does a good job of explaining how Inkitt works and how it started

Inkitt’s site has a helpful video that takes you through the steps to upload your novel and points you to the submission guidelines. I watched that video and made notes.

First, I saved a copy of my manuscript and edited it to comply with the guidelines. It wasn’t hard, mostly removing spaces and paragraph indents. I then researched the free image sites they recommend (Pixabay and Unsplash) to find a suitable photo for my front cover. The photos on these sites have the required quality (and pixels).

There weren’t many images for a conspiracy related mystery/thriller, but I narrowed it down to two and downloaded them onto my computer.  There I could crop, edit and play with them to achieve the look I wanted.  

I chose a photo that focused on the title Deadly Secrets:

Deadly Secrets book cover image

To avoid burdening my novel with the stereotyping I’d experienced when I attended the pitch conference mentioned earlier, I used H.R. Kemp as my author name and a generic photo for my Inkitt identity to maintain a little mystery.

I took the plunge. I used the option to upload the manuscript as one document. The system found the chapter breaks and, before long, my novel was uploaded. It had been worth preparing the manuscript beforehand. I then scrolled through and added the required symbol for the scene breaks within chapters. If you prefer, you can manually upload each chapter individually (save it progressively and edit or adjust as you go).

Once the novel is uploaded, you add your cover photo. The title and the author name are automatically added by the system, so you only need to upload your selected image. You then indicate if your novel is complete or in progress. Mine was complete, but some writer’s use the site to progressively post their stories as they write and to get feedback so not all stories are complete and entered for the competition. You then select the genre (you can pick two) and the age range for your novel.

Finally, you need to enter a hook (150 characters) which will be featured under your novel when it’s advertised on the Inkitt site and a blurb (1,200 characters), which appears when someone opens your book. Both are worth drafting before you start the uploading process. Once these steps have been completed you can press save and submit.

It took two days for Deadly Secrets to be approved and that’s when I could enter it in the competition. It was now up on the site and ready for readers. At any time, you can edit or update parts of the novel, so if readers point out those inevitable typos, you can amend them and save it. Here is a link to my novel on Inkitt.

Now the hard work really started. I sent out links to family and friends. Some were very helpful and started the process off, but some were too busy, didn’t really read this genre or didn’t like reading online. You can give friends a hard copy but it doesn’t help Inkitt’s analytics, even if they post a review.

Getting my first readers from the Inkitt community or wider audiences was both thrilling and nerve-wracking. Then reading their positive comments at the end of chapters and getting my first five-star review was fabulous. Of course, readers might not enjoy your book.  

Reviews

So far I have attracted 20 five-star reviews, 6 four-star and one three-star who said they enjoyed it but their rating suggests just ‘not enough’. Below are three examples of reviews for my novel (these are all the more significant because they come from talented Inkitt authors):

1. Greg McLaughlin

A Complex, Comprehensive Thrill Ride with Sharp Social Observation

This intricate socio-political thriller takes the reader through a mind-spinning myriad of mystery and intrigue while generating a delicious pallet of both likable and detestable characters. Each main character slowly unravels the puzzle pieces to the seemingly impossibly disparate threads that weave the tapestry of this massive conspiracy story. The writing style is sublimely professional, active when the story calls for action, descriptive, when the story requires detail and scene-setting, romantic at just the right touching moments and downright chilling at others. The writer's depth of understanding and spot-on insight into political mechanization, maneuvering and maniacal self-serving corporate selfishness provide a biting commentary on today's political environment, accentuated by a perfectly drawn set of contemporary conflicts that seem like hyperbolic satire, but all too closely pinch the nerve of truth. Almost overwhelming in its rich detail and in-depth discovery of political corruption and complex social issues, the novel challenges the reader to think beyond the action and intrigue and contemplate the broader social and political condition. This writer has all the makings of a commercial success as well as a literary tour-de-force and should have no difficulty finding an audience and attracting a publisher.

Overall Rating:

  • 5*, Plot
  • 5*, Writing Style
  • 5*, Grammar & Punctuation

***

2. Mark Mijuskovic

Deadly Secrets

To take politically-charged issues that have polarized sentiments, and to weave them into a page-turning mystery, make for a provocative plot. The characters are compelling and evoke myriad emotions. It speaks to truths involving environmental concerns, human rights, big business and politics. Very enjoyable read.

***

3. Matthew Arnold Stern

This book is an intense page-turner, thanks to beautifully crafted and well-rounded characters. The twists and turns of the plot keep us fearing and rooting for characters we have come to care about. Deadly Secrets touches on a wide range of contemporary issues, including immigration, climate change, the effects of environmental destruction, and global political corruption. Kemp puts them together in a thrilling, twisting thriller with engaging, unforgettable characters.

Deadly Secrets is the perfect political thriller for today.

***

So you can get a flavour of my book, here is an exerpt from the opening:

Novel–Deadly Secrets by HR Kemp

‘No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear’

Edmund Burke

‘The tragedy of life is often not our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities.’

Benjamin E Mays

Prologue – Sydney, July 2020

It was hard to concentrate with the fog blanketing his brain. An indistinct barrage of accusations flew at him, throwing him off balance. He clasped the arms of his office chair and squinted at the red, contorted face bellowing at him from across the desk as a spray of spittle pricked at his face. A laugh tickled at his throat.

Dragging himself up, he carefully moved to the front of the desk. A wave of nausea lodged in his throat along with the taste of scotch. He stumbled and stifled a curse and immediately the tic in his forehead spasmed. He yearned for peace and quiet.

“You don’t deny it?” the visitor boomed.

“I don’t admit, or deny, anything,” he replied. “This is progress. Sometimes there are losers, but they are…” He scrambled in the recesses of his mind for some clever, elusive words. “Collateral damage!” He smirked with satisfaction. “I’d have preferred not to have so many losers but…it’s out of my hands.”

The response, a sarcastic laugh, surprised him.

“Collateral damage! That’s what you call it?” The visitor’s face leaned close and stale hot breath flooded his nostrils. “You’re a megalomaniac! You think you’re untouchable. Well, you’re not. I’m going to stop you.”

The pulse in his temple throbbed more insistently now and he glared at the hard set mouth opposite, his thoughts too slippery to form a witty retort. He was bored with the bleeding hearts. They just complained endlessly. No matter what he did, there was always someone ready to criticize or disagree. It was just self-interest.

“I’m not quitting! So piss off and leave me alone.” He pulled himself up straight. “I don’t answer to you…or anyone else for that matter. People will applaud my time in office. They’ll see I was revolutionary…visionary…taking this country to bigger and better things…taking it forward.”  He threw his head back for emphasis and immediately regretted it.

“You’re out of control. You have to be fucking stopped!” 

Spittle landed on his face again and he slowly wiped it off with the back of his shaking hand. The rest of that bottle of Scotch beckoned but as he stepped forward he stumbled and again had to grab the desk.

“Fuck off!” he shouted.

“You will be stopped…” the visitor murmured then lunged at him.

His chest clenched as steely hands dug into his shoulders and shook him violently.

 “I’ll make you pay, you bastard.” The word ‘bastard’ echoed like a chant.

He jerked back but was being held fast. He almost laughed at the absurdity of this scuffle. Instead, he growled, “You’ll pay for this…you, you…”

He thrust forward but his assailant didn’t budge. Instead, he was bound by a rough and clamp-like embrace. They tussled and fell against the desk. He twisted, using all his strength but couldn’t break free. His smothered jabs aimed at his opponent’s belly made no impact.

“I’m not quitting,” he croaked.

His visitor roared and his grip waned. A glint of something caught the corner of his eye. Then, without warning, a sharp stab seared through his neck. He grasped at the pain and his hand touched cold metal. Sticky wetness pulsed from its base down onto his collar. His legs buckled and he slumped to the floor.

A moan and an oath, “Oh my god!” floated through the darkness, followed by retreating footsteps and the thud of a closing door. Silence. At last, he was alone. The pounding in his ears softened, his strength oozed onto the carpet in a steady rhythm. He tried to shout but only a hoarse gurgle passed his lips. He’d get that bastard after he’d rested.

***

Analytics

The analytics on Inkitt give some insights into the novel’s progress but, I confess, I haven’t made sense of them all. The first graph below is ‘total reads’. It doesn’t show how many people read your novel, but how many times a reader has started or continued to read the novel.

Inkitt Total Reads

The ‘binge rate’ graph has been added recently and provides interesting feedback.

Inkitt Binge Rate

Another new graph is ‘readers by country’ (although there are a lot of readers who don’t identify which country they’re from).

Inkitt Readers by Country

The final graph, ‘collected data’, gives an indication of how much data Inkitt has collected for your novel (and of course, how much is still needed).  I’m still not sure how they decide on whom to publish. They talk about ‘reader engagement’ but I don’t have a clear picture of how that’s measured and there is no time limit on your submission.

How long will I leave my novel here before deciding to do something else? The honest answer is, I don’t know. The Inkitt team select someone for publication each month, but there are hundreds of thousands of contenders and there is no cut off period. It’s even difficult to identify if you have a serious chance.

The Time You Have To Invest To Gain Readers

Getting enough readers to satisfy the analytics is more time-intensive than I had expected. My novel has been on Inkitt since March 2018 and at the time of writing I’ve only just reached nearly 50% on the analytics, so there’s a long way to go. Certainly, the amount of time I’ve spent on promoting my book makes me wonder if self-publishing was any harder.

I offer review swaps within the Inkitt community, which means I’ve read and reviewed almost 30 books but not everyone follows through. I’ve set up an Author Facebook account and author Facebook page and joined many writing and reading-related Facebook groups where I regularly share a link to my novel. I’m currently building a website and hope to add a blog to promote my writing, but I’m muddling through on my own. It’s been a big learning curve but no matter how this book is published, I will be ready.

What I’ve Learned

The best part of Inkitt is becoming part of a community. I’ve read some great authors (one who has achieved 100%, so I’m hoping he will be published soon) from all over the world. They support me and often like or endorse my attempts to share my novel and I support them in return. There are so many good books on Inkitt, and I realise the publishing world is too small to publish them all.

Thought Bubble Blackboard

I learned that I should have given my friends more explanation about the process I was undertaking. Some didn’t understand the difference between reviews and critiques and a number couldn’t work out how to vote for my book. In the end, friends got me started but they have not been a big contributor to the statistics that I need.

I have also heard that publishers don’t accept books that have been shared on Inkitt (although I’m not sure how true that is) and I think getting a publishing contract with Inkitt might be harder than I thought. These are all considerations before you upload your book.

I’ve forced myself to learn more about social media and how to promote myself as a writer (although it is on-going), while at the same time trying to make it less time-intensive. I have made some great friends and am thinking seriously about the next steps.

The Inkitt experience is valuable, but don’t try it if you don’t have the time or energy to promote the book and yourself as a writer. It is rich in feedback and comments but it’s reciprocal and you have to read and write reviews for others. I don’t have time to read anything else and I’ve even found it hard to maintain the momentum on writing my second novel. I don’t know how much longer I will leave Deadly Secrets on Inkitt but I think the experience has been worth it.

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H.R. Kemp's Biography

HR Kemp

I write conspiracy thrillers/mysteries as H.R. Kemp. My first novel, Deadly Secrets, is posted on Inkitt and I am currently finishing the first draft of my second novel (another conspiracy mystery/thriller) and the beginnings of a third novel is sitting in the bottom drawer awaiting my attention. I have written several short stories and my story, ‘Reunited’, was published in the anthology Fledglings by Birdcatcher Books (July 2016).

In 2011 I decided it was time to pursue my creative writing ambitions and I enrolled in and successfully completed a Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing at Adelaide University. Over the years I have also completed a variety of creative writing courses at Writers SA and WEA to hone my skills. I am now an active member of the Novelist Circle writers group.

I live in Adelaide, Australia, although I grew up in country areas near Melbourne. My first degree was a Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) and I have a Graduate Diploma in Education. My career in the public service spanned roles as diverse as Management Trainer, Team Facilitator, Statistician and Laboratory Assistant.

Travelling and discovering new places is a passion for me and I have wandered through many fabulous countries and cities around the world. I keep a daily travel journal and take copious photos and these often inspire scenes for my stories. EG, Deadly Secrets begins in Paris and has scenes set in Normandy, Nice and Barcelona, before returning to Australia. I am an avid theatre-goer and subscriber to the Adelaide State Theatre company. I enjoy art exhibitions and galleries and, of course, I love to read. In March each year I take full advantage of the Adelaide Writers’ festival to discover new authors and to hear my favourites. Some of the writers I admire are Elliot Perlman, Anna Funder, John le Carré and Peter Temple.

You can find out more on my website and on my Facebook page.

You can read my novel, Deadly Secrets, on Inkitt.

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Big Thanks To HR Kemp

I'd like to say a huge, "Thank you," to HR Kemp for sharing her experiences in such a candid fashion. The internet is forcing change in the world of publishing and it's really interesting to hear stories like this - it can help us all keep informed and aware of the opportunities available to us.

Short Story Writing Course

If you have a story you would like to share with my readers, please review my submissions guidelines.

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Your comments:

Betty H
Just a daft bit of info. Kemp was my maiden name, but we came from Birmingham.

Chris Fielden
Daft, but interesting – thanks Betty :-)

Alan D
Hello Chris. Many thanks for this - very interesting material.

Chris Fielden
No problem, Alan – glad you found it useful.

Ted M
Hi Chris. An interesting article. I put my first novel up on Inkitt briefly but then asked them to take it down. It turns out that many – if not most – publishers will not accept submissions that have been previously published, and having it appear anywhere online constitutes publishing. Just an F.Y.I.

All the best, Ted

P.S. That novel – Fluffy's Revolution – was subsequently picked up by a traditional publisher and debuts 28 March 2019 from Black Rose Writing.

Maris M
I tried Inkitt too, but gave up on it after a few months. As you say, promotion takes a lot of time. Since then I've had offers from two small overseas publishers for the same book (with a new title) but am beginning to have doubts about the one I signed up with, even though they seemed enthusiastic and claim to sell trillions of books. Fingers crossed.

Chris Fielden
Hi Ted – I hope all is good with you. Thanks for sharing this - you make a good point. It's also useful to know that Inkitt will delete books, to help solve the problem. Congratulations on your book. The website you've made for it looks great. Who did you use to do that? Or did you do it yourself? I wish you the best of luck with launching the book.

Hi Maris. Thank you for sharing your experiences - much appreciated. Marketing and promotion do take a lot of work. Not just on Inkitt, but in general I think. I sink loads of time into it on the blog and promoting my books. It's hard to get the balance right, as I have very little time to write fiction anymore... something I intend to address. Well, I hope you've chosen the right publisher – my fingers are crossed for you. Please let me know how you get on once your book is published. A case study about that might be interesting, once you have the book out? I'm always fishing for interesting guest posts... :-)

HR Kemp
Ted, I had heard rumours that publishers don't like accepting a novel if it's been shared but I haven't known of anyone who had personal experience of this, so it's useful to have it confirmed. Congratulations on getting your novel published.

Maris, promoting the novel to get readers is very time-consuming, it's been hard to find time for other things like writing. I also wonder if the amount of promoting I am doing to get people to read it for free wouldn't be better spent promoting it to be bought (self-published). I don't have a clear answer to that. Congratulations on finding a publisher and hopefully, it works out well for you.

Maris M
Hi Chris and Helmine. Thanks for getting back to me on this. There's no simple answer, is there?

As well as trying Inkitt I also tried self-pub with Kobo, which proved to be fruitless, too. I have the feeling that the great bulk of books that sell via the internet (and social media) can be classed as either chick-lit, YA or fantasy, none of which are what I write.

Having had the heady experience of winning a competition and having a novel published by a well-regarded Indie Australian publisher (Scribe), who did an excellent job of promotion which resulted in reasonable sales (for a hitherto-unknown writer), I confess I long to get my toe in the door of another trad publisher, preferably one with international distribution.

Sigh!

My experiment with Creativia has come to an end, alas, and contracts are being cancelled. I found them slapdash and poor communicators. They have over 200 authors, most with multiple titles, most of them previously self-published, and when I queried mistakes they'd made my work turned out to be a 'poor fit' for them. Never mind. I think of Creativia (which is in the process of changing its name) as Miika's magical marketing machine :-)

Back to the drawing board!

Chris Fielden
Hi Maris. No simple answer indeed. And no 'right' or 'wrong' way of approaching publishing either. It's a bit of minefield, but quite a fun one to navigate I think, even if it is frustrating at times.

It sounds like your experiences with Scribe were good - congrats on that. Sorry to hear about Creativia, but if their attention to detail isn't good, then you're probably better off going elsewhere.

Please let me know how you get on in the future. It's always interesting to hear about a writer's journey to publication. When you do find that elusive publisher, your story would make an excellent guest post, if you're interested :-)

Maris M
Thanks for your interest, Chris, and I'll keep you informed.

Chris Fielden
Great stuff, thanks Maris :-)