An American publishing start-up has relaunched the portal through which producers and editors can find rights to buy.
California-based company Inkshares selects, develops, and publishes stories based on reader engagement and then licenses those stories to TV and film companies, and to publishers in foreign territories. It has been described as a “Tinder for reader engagement” although c.e.o. Adam Gomolin believes it could be more accurately described as “Kickstarter meets Random House”.
The technology firm published its first book in 2015 after raising $3m from institutions and “strategic angels” including Nion McEvoy and Hollywood executives Greg Silverman of Warner Brothers and Erik Feig of Lionsgate. Gomolin described the company as a “studio for books” in an interview with The Bookseller in March when he visited London Book Fair.
Gomolin has now revealed that the six-strong team is boosting its 'Properties' function to enable industry figures to find stories even faster and it is launching a mobile app, which will be tested between Frankfurt Book Fair next week and London Book Fair in April 2018.
Inkshares currently boasts around 10,000 authors and 100,000 readers with 1,000 publishers and producers registered to search for stories. Books are selected for publishing and representation based on reader engagement, such as titles which have received 750 pre-orders as well as competition wins and nominations from other authors. The platform measures reader engagement across a host of indicators, from pre-orders to chapters read to reviews and more. “The core idea behind Inkshares has always been to measure initial engagement,” Gomolin said.
“In the last year there have been a few dozen [six-figure] deals, with our projects now being developed in TV or film about two-thirds of the time, which is a ratio that I don’t think anyone’s ever seen before.
“But it’s not just about getting something optioned. It’s about lining up the pieces, from the writers through the producers and elements that get something made.”
Gomolin, who also co-founded the company, revealed that “Hollywood is gobbling up intellectual property at a rate that no one has seen before” and that Inkshares considers a book as the “leanest way to test the story”.
He told The Bookseller: “We see ourselves as a story company, we see the story as a book, maybe it becomes a podcast or a movie, contributes to the global story community.”
Gomolin described how the start-up is “getting rid of those silos and bringing publishing and TV-film much closer together”.
The former lawyer said that while there have been comparisons to Tinder, the concepts are different because while the dating app “puts a lot of content in front of you really quickly and lets you sort through it as fast as possible, Inkshares is much more like a highly skilled digital matchmaker that’s trying to get you one great first date a month”.
He revealed after they launched the first version of Properties last year, a navigation-style function allowing people to search for rights to acquire, it led to major TV sales through foreign rights deals across the globe.
He said: “At the core of Inkshares Properties is an algorithm that matches stories with end-buyers based on their interests. The technology employs tried-and-true machine learning techniques that have long been used by the recommendation engines of Amazon and Netflix to match users with a long tail of content and products. These methods produce profound results when applied to content discovery. Instead of relying upon relatively crude classifiers like genre and comps, these methods analyze granular interactions of tens of thousands of readers across thousands of different stories.”
Gomolin, who oversees the company’s story, partnerships, foreign rights, and TV-film, revealed the new version of Properties builds on a “story taxonomy” to gauge people’s preferences. It will not have a ‘browse’ experience, instead focusing more on “tell us what you’re looking for and we’ll come to you’”, according to Gomolin. For the first time the manuscripts will go to a limited number of publishers and they will have a specific time period of 48 hours to respond.
He said: “The ‘story taxonomy” asks questions not just about genre, but story type, and specific comps in both television and film. This is about honing in on a really specific version of what you’re looking for: not just a sci-fi book, but a sci-fi book that is also a man-against-the-machine narrative.
“We are mapping out the global story economy so it is more efficient”, he added.
Gomolin believes that the trouble with editors viewing manuscripts in the traditional way is that they do not know who else is reading it or have enough contextual information about it.
He said: “I can’t imagine how difficult it is for a young commissioning editor to make their way up in the bowels of HarperCollins or Penguin Random House and find it and it must be very nerve racking. We want them to see 'hey, more than 1,000 readers gave it this, it is in development with Lionsgate, here is why we’re sending it you'.”
“We say ‘we are going to release this to 20 publishers and each of you have 48 hours to claim your spot’.”
The site also has star ratings to demonstrate popularity with readers as well as letting the readers themselves shape the story.
Gomolin said: “We use our readers not only to select stories but to develop them. We thought 'how do we chase the best version of the story' – we went to the smartest readers on the platform and we asked them about the market opportunities, we said, ‘what else is interesting here?’”
Gomolin hopes that the company will help the “story” industries of publishing and Hollywood become more cohesive rather than the current “bulkenised” form, concentrated on networking at a few high-profile fairs each year.
He said: “A lot of people think we don’t like literary agents but I think they’re amazing, as someone who does ‘agenty’ things, it’s very hard to keep in your head what people are doing.”
For more information, visit inkshares.com.