Recently, I put my Cold Comfort novel up in its entirety on a site called Inkitt, a display site that runs a novel contest. It's still there for a little while longer and if you're interested in the book, you can read it free on Inkitt, and save yourself three bucks. If you do, please vote for the book in the contest.
As explained in a previous post, Inkitt advertises itself as a publisher that uses a crowd-source publishing model. Briefly, the way it works (according to Inkitt) is this. An author publishes his or her book on the site to enter a contest. Interested readers can read the book free. An algorithm developed by Inkitt collects and analyzes reading pattern data and reader engagement levels. This enables Inkitt to make objective and data-driven decisions on whether a novel has marketable potential. Authors whose books meet the criteria a (contest winners) are offered a publishing deal.
A few days after later I mentioned putting Cold Comfort on Inkitt in a writer's forum I'm a member of. Another member quickly replied telling me that Inkitt was just another YADS (Yet Another
Display Site), not a legitimate publisher. I was provided a couple of links to sites that had reviewed Inkitt and determined it wasn't a legitimate publisher.
I took a look at both of the reviews, one at Jim C. Hines blog, and the other at Writer Beware. Hine's noted that Inkitt touts a book by an author named Erin Swan as its first publishing success story, but that he had been unable to find the book in publication at Amazon or anywhere else other than the Inkitt website. I did a little fact checking on that and admit I found the same thing Hines did. I also found a website for the author that seems to indicate that her contest-winning book is still, in fact, unpublished because the Inkitt team is still shopping it to big-name publishers.
While neither Hine's blog or Writer Beware goes so far as to brand Inkitt a scam, both did point out enough troublesome things about the company to raise doubt about whether Inkitt can actually get anyone's book published beyond its own website. The claims I read in both of the reviews I read were well documented, so I don't doubt the veracity of either. On the other hand, I'm not particularly concerned about putting a book up on Inkitt, and here's why.
I hadn't been contacted by Inkitt but discovered the company and website by reading about it in another blog I follow that is written by a very well known and respected member of the independent author community. I've always found that blog reputable and have a hard time believing the blogger would post information and links to an outright scam. Because I trust that person, I'm willing to give Inkitt the benefit of the doubt. Also, I didn't enter the Inkitt Novel Contest with the expectation of winning the contest and getting offered a publishing deal. Even if that happened, after reviewing the contract that Inkitt offers authors, I'd decline the offer because I feel I can do better publishing on my own than I'd do partnering with Inkitt.
I put my novel up on the Inkitt site simply as a potential means of getting my work in front of another group of readers. I hope that perhaps someone who comes across Cold Comfort on Inkitt and likes the book might later want to get a copy of one of my past or future Malone novels. As a relative newcomer to fiction writing, I think anywhere I can gain some extra visibility for my books is worth pursuing. Publishing a book on Inkitt then, to me was pretty much the same as publishing on Wattpad, another display site where I've uploaded some of my work.
As far as my own experiences with Inkitt, I can't say publishing there has been wildly successful. My book has been on the site for a couple of weeks now, and a little less than 50 people have read at least parts of the book. About a dozen readers have put the book on their reading list. But, the engagement bar on the Inkitt dashboard that is supposed to visually show me the engagement my book is getting on the site hasn't moved at all. Evidently, the engagement I've had then hasn't impressed the Inkitt algorithm at all to this point.
On the other hand, I don't see how my participation at Inkitt could be construed a negative. At least almost 50 people who probably never heard of me or my books previously, have now been exposed to both. So, despite the reviews and the opinion expressed by a fellow writing forum member, I plan to leave Cold Comfort up on the site for a little while longer. I'll probably take it down by mid-February unless the rates of reader engagement increase dramatically before then.
The one real question I think deserves consideration is whether a crowd-sourced publishing model, like that of Inkitt, is a viable one. Personally, I think it could be. It really seems no different than using Patreon or crowdfunding sites, as many authors do to reach potential readers.
Historically, trad publishers have made decisions on whether to offer authors a publishing deal based on their own professional judgment of whether the books had potential to sell enough copies to make it profitable for the publisher. It's hardly an objective process, and acquisition editors and committees don't always get it right.
Trad publishers publish lots of books that in the end don't turn out to be profitable and they turn away a lot of authors who subsequently enjoy great success. As one example, celebrated author James Patterson I believe had his first novel turned down by 31 publishers before it got published. I think you can safely and objectively say those publishers were wrong as it gets. Maybe crowd-sourced publishing is a better and more objective way to go about book acquisitions. That said, I'll agree it remains to be seen whether Inkitt has actually mastered using the crowd-sourced publishing model effectively or not.