Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A New Way to Publish--an interview with Adam Jack Gomilin

Rhys: I met Adam a few weeks ago when he asked if I'd blurb a historical novel for one of his writers. I had never heard of Inkshares and I tend to avoid self-published books, but he took me to lunch and I was captivated by his enthusiasm, and by such a new concept in publishing! Also the book was REALLY GOOD.
So I had to invite him to Jungle Reds. 

Welcome Adam!
 I know a lot of our readers are going to be interested in meeting you because you bring such a different approach to publishing. I confess until I met you I had never heard of Inkshares. Can you tell us exactly what it is and how it works?

ADAM: Absolutely.  We founded the company with a very simple mission: to surface and develop the most important stories and storytellers.  Inkshares.com is a platform on which authors can post manuscripts (usually just a partial) outside of the literary-agent paradigm.  What we’ve built is a  community of authors and readers that helps us select what we publish.  There’s more than ten thousand authors on the platform, and I would say that we’re the most “serious” author community on the internet.  In addition to the ten-thousand authors, there are over one hundred thousand readers that peruse the partial manuscripts.  Sometimes we see hundreds or thousands of readers pre-ordering a particular book; that was the case, for instance, with Katie McKenna’s How to Get Run Over by a Truck, which after we published it hit #3 on Amazon.  Other times it’s other authors saying “Hey, have you read this? This person is really talented,” which was the case with our forthcoming mystery title A Gentleman’s Murder.

We set out to prove that the internet and community can create works equal or superior to those produced by the major houses.  In the last three years, we’ve put books on the front page of the New York Times and USA Today, earned starred reviews from every trade publication, won a litany of literary awards, put books in the global top ten on Amazon, and sold film and tv rights for north of a million dollars.

RHYS: Is your background in publishing? What made you want to start a publishing venture?

ADAM: My background is not in publishing.  I went to law school and practiced federal white-collar litigation.  But  I’ve always been a reader and a writer at heart.  I grew up in a house where you could spill all the milk you wanted as long as it didn’t get on a book.  And I was lucky enough while in law school to be represented as a screenwriter. 

The original idea for Inkshares was actually not mine, but that of my co-founder, Thad Woodman.  Thad was really focused on marrying the social filter of crowdfunding, which was just taking off in Kickstarter, with the backbone of traditional publishing in terms of editorial, design, distribution, marketing, etc.  The original idea was essentially “Kickstarter meets Random House.”  When I met Thad, after having spent some time in Los Angeles as a budding screenwriter, I was focused on the book not only as the backbone of publishing—of course—but as the foundation of TV and film.  So as we discussed it, I was really focused on not just surfacing great stories but building a system that would be able to advocate for authors in foreign markets and in television and film.  I loved representing people as an attorney, but this was always where my heart was—to be able to develop, represent, and launch new author voices.

RHYS : How is this different from traditional publishing and self-publishing? How do you know you’re getting a quality product?

ADAM:I always tell this story about how when we started out, people referred to us as a self-publisher.  Then after a year, they called us a “hybrid publisher.”  People ask “what do they call you now?” to which I smile and respond "Inkshares.”

I think to answer your question properly we need to look at the publishing landscape today.  On one side, you have traditional publishing, which is highly curated but also like a slowly sinking cruise liner.  People are spending less time reading and what they are reading is becoming more and more concentrated across a smaller number of titles. Not only is “traditional” reading becoming more and more concentrated, margins are falling, and the tools that brought about success years ago—end caps at B&N—don’t work anymore.  The result is that we see consolidation in an attempt to reduce costs and gain margin while taking risks becomes less and less possible.  Traditional publishing is going to continue to make some of the most important books in the world for a long time still.  But the model is failing, and I think everyone in the industry acknowledges this. 

On the other end of the spectrum you have self-publishing: Amazon will probably pay more money to authors out of its Kindle Unlimited program than Harper Collins will out of its entire catalog.  Wattpad is also an amazing service, one where anyone can upload a manuscript for free and where anyone can read for free; that’s great, and theoretically means that great works won’t sit faded, dusty, and unread because an editor or agent never responded to a query letter.  But what these companies lack is curation or any real development—i.e. what made publishing great.  In terms of curation, people don’t want to choose from two million titles; they want a company to take a stance and say “read this.”   And in terms of development, it’s really a myth that an author sits down in a room and writes the next great novel.  Can it happen?  Sure.  But the truth is that most authors require a tremendous amount of shepherding to get to a final product that can break out.  Writing a novel is about making choices, page after page, and a seasoned editorial and production team is critical to success.  So while self-publishing is great and will also continue to produce sensations, it faces core deficiencies in lack of curation and development.
I think when you look at it this way, we’re really much more like the traditional publishers of yesteryear which had really strong developmental arms.  The critical differences are really that we have a strong digital presence and that we’re able to use technology to better curate and develop stories.  And in terms of curation, we have a very “producorial” mindset where we’re consistently asking ourselves “what makes this special?” in the same ways that film producers ask “why will people go to a theater and see this?”  Combined with our ability to aggressively shepherd books into television and film, I think this is what separates us from both traditional and self-publishing. 

RHYS: What successes have you had so far?

ADAM:A lot!  Last year we published a science fiction book called The Punch Escrow which garnered three starred reviews, major national press, and sold to Lionsgate for film with the producers of The Hunger Games.  Scott Thomas won the American Library Association’s horror book of the year with his debut novel Kill Creek, was shortlisted for the Bram Stoker, and was selected by Barnes and Noble as the “horror debut of 2017.”  Katie McKenna’s How to Get Run Over by a Truck reached #3 on Amazon and Not Afraid of the Fall was a sensation on Good Morning America and occupied the #1 spot in travel on Amazon this past summer.  Beyond the book world, I’m also really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in terms of television and film rights.  These worlds—publishing and tv-film—have never been more linked.  I don’t think there’s another publisher consistently generating the types of aggressive deals for their authors like we do
RHYS: Where do you see yourself going in the future? Do you think you’ll become the model for more publishing houses?

ADAM:Great question!  I think it’s really unlikely that the tanker-sized publishers in Penguin Random House or Harper Collins will be able to turn the ship around and create the type of technological infrastructure that defines Inkshares.  We’ve seen a lot of the major houses spend millions and millions of dollars on digital platforms that failed.  The truth about most of the major houses is that they’re really last-mile distribution apparatuses.  
For us, I think it’s really about staying the course.  We started four years ago with no real experience in publishing or platform.  Last year we published some of the most celebrated debut novels, sold some of the most valuable tv and film rights, and were the top two most-read articles in The Bookseller magazine.  I guess when people ask us “what’s next?” the answer is “more of this.”

RHYS: So what is the first step to get started with an Inkshares experience?
ADAM: There’s a big button on Inkshares.com that says “Publish With Us.”  If you click it, it takes you through a guided onboarding process that helps you articulate what your book is about.  It helps you get a page together and give you tips on how to meet other authors and readers on the platform.  In fact, you can click right here!


  1. Adam, Inkshares sounds like an amazing enterprise and your forward-thinking ideas certainly seem right at home in a reading/publishing world that is much less conventional than it used to be . . . your enthusiasm alone should guarantee your continued success.

    I chuckled over your comment that you could “spill all the milk you wanted as long as it didn’t get on a book” because that is so true for those of us who dearly love our books . . . .

  2. Thanks for explaining so much, Adam. I'm not clear on what the business model is. What do you pay your authors? Where do you sell the books? Thanks!

  3. I. LOVE. THIS. BLOG! I learn so much about books and reading and writers and, today, a new publishing method. Wow. Thanks, Rhys, for introducing Inkshares to us through Adam, and thanks, Adam, for explaining the process. I'm now off to explore your site. I'll check back later to get your answer to Edith's question about money - always a good one!

  4. Adam, this sounds fantastic. Congratulations on what sound like huge successes!
    Edith's question is mine, too, on the business model... Do authors get paid? Do authors pay to be published? Do readers pay for the books. What's the distribution channel for e-books? Do the books come out in hard copy, and how are they distributed (libraries, bookstores, ...)

  5. Now I've got even more reason to get all my work done early today--because Inkshares is one rabbit hole I'm diving headfirst into! I have the same questions as Edith and Amanda and Hallie--but also am just feeling the energy and enthusiasm you project for Inkshares, Adam--can't wait to check it out and wish you and your partner(s) all the best as you continue to explore what Inkshares can do!

  6. I heard about Inkshares a while ago, and I was fuzzy on the details. I have the same questions as others about the business model, but this explanation makes it much clearer.


  7. This is so fascinating! And I am so intrigued and captivated by the points you make… We really are in the midst of a huge change, and all of us are affected by it. Do you work 24 hours a day, Adam? You must! How do you juggle it all?

  8. This is fascinating to me. I've heard of Inkshares and have been watching several authors on this new platform. Congratulations, Adam, and thanks for sharing your journey with us. Things are changing and it's so smart to stay in the loop and try new things!

  9. Fascinating. "Kickstarter meets Random House" is one of those ideas that sounds so self-evident, you wonder why it wasn't thought of before.

    It sounds like Inkshares has overcome many of the disadvantages of self-publishing (no editorial or design support, no distribution channels) while folding in several of the agent's functions (selling subsidiary rights.) It seems as if it really could be a brand new way of publishing.

    Like the rest of the published authors so far, I'm curious as to how the money works. When my agent sells a book to St. Martin's, I get an advance against royalties: a third when I sign, a third when I hand in the manuscript, and a third when it publishes. I have to wait until enough books have sold to cover that advance before I see any more money from its sales. My share is a percentage of the cover cost, and of course, my agent gets a well-deserved 15%. In addition, I keep foreign rights and film/TV rights, and so get more money from selling these (again, minus my agent's cut.)

    The advantage of this traditional model? The publisher carries the risk. Regardless of how poorly the book does, I already have my advance. (This is theoretical, of course. My books never sell poorly :-) The disadvantage is the percentage of sales I capture - 10% for the hardcover, 8% for the paperback, 15 -25% of the ebook. I believe Amazon self-publishing, to look at the other side of the coin, pays authors 70% of the cover price.

    So are you following Yog's Law: "Money flows toward the author"? How does it work?

  10. I heard about Inkshares when I won a copy of How I Got Run Over By A Truck. Great book! Great concept!

  11. Very interesting. I hadn't heard of Inkshares yet. I'll have to keep my eyes open for some of your books, Adam.

  12. This is so interesting, Adam! I have all the same questions as the authors above, but I've just been to your website and have recommended it to friends who are writing good stuff but are not traditionally published.

  13. Inkshares and Inkitt. How is Inkshares different? Publishing with Inkshares makes sense, but I don't know 750 readers who would pay for my book.

  14. Welcome, Adam! I second Julia's questions, and also wonder when you sleep! Have you had the experience of "finding" a manuscript on Inkshares that you couldn't put down? One that hadn't yet been discovered by other readers?

  15. What an exciting platform. I'm definitely going to take a look!