“We’re the SoundCloud for stories,” co-founder and CEO Ali Albazaz says when we sat down to talk about this startup Inkitt. If you wonder who in the world would use that, look behind the story of 50 Shades of Grey, and you’ll be surprised.
Inkitt lets writers publish chapters on its platform to let the community read over it and comment on it. Comments can be an idea or inspiration on how to continue or an opinion on the story itself. What is even more interesting, however, is the technology behind it.
“We want to find the next Blockbuster book,” says Albazaz. He explained to me the software analysis on reading behavior that determines reading patterns to figure out which books are sticky.
While publishing houses make decisions based on a feeling, Inkitt will be able to provide the data to prove if a book will be popular or not, Albazaz explains. Harry Potter, for example, was rejected by 12 publishing houses.
A bestseller that started out with an online community commenting and giving input on it is “50 Shades of Grey”. First published on a fanfiction page in relation to “Twilight” and named “Master of the Universe”, author E.L. James later faced issues with the trademark of Twilight’s character names. James then decided to change them. Since taking the piece offline and publishing it there is a debate since the author claims its an original, independent work, where research has shown 89% of the text is the same.
However, the idea of direct response and feedback has worked out.
This way of writing a book is called “Lean Publishing”. Similar to the Lean Startup philosophy where products are not fully developed but MVPs are introduced to a market to see the response and work from there.
“left”]While trolling would be the first thing that comes to your mind, Inkitt wants to make sure that readers give constructive feedback to improve the piece.
Similar ideas are already out there. The most known one would be qidian in China. A platform from Canada called wattpad lets users post and read chapters. “None of them, however, use the technology we use to understand the stickiness of pieces,” Albazaz says.
Inkitt is as of right now in private beta and opens itself up to one genre after another. It started out with fanfiction and wants to open up to horror next.
Albazaz, who studied computer science and worked in data analysis in the past, and his co-founder Linda Gavin, who has a background in design (she designed the original Twitter logo) are discussing several business models right now but haven’t made a final decision on that yet.