Aug 21, 2018

Inkitt (3) --- Bestsellers, Amazon sales rank, and much more

James Beamon has already reacted to our letter of yesterday about Inkitt, and here's his answer:

Your theory and discussion on Inkitt's underlying drivers with their touting of AI is definitely worth merit, to the point that I may write a follow-up post covering your analysis.  Oh, and to fill in some of the gaps of where their "bestsellers" lie, I present to you the Kindle Sales Rank Calculator:

As long as you don't put in commas, this thing will convert the current sales rank to how many books they're selling per day.  Virtually EVERY book I put into from Inkitt's best seller rank was selling less than 1 per day.  To put it into working context, anything higher than a Amazon rank of 100,000 will be less than 1 book.  One book, Eric Olafsson: Midshipman, is at 407,416.  Egan Brass, the guy I interviewed for "The Bright Side of Inkitt", has a series called the Esper Files and the first one is at 321,238, the second is at 650,597, and the third is at 891,640.  At that rate I imagine Egan hasn't sold a single copy of Book 3 in months.

James Beamon

Now I haven't looked at every book in their lineup, but the one book I did see that was doing worthwhile numbers was Chosen by Lauren Chow.  Her rank is 55,707 which translates to her moving about 5 books per day.

Time since publication isn't a factor either, at least not from surface looking.  Book 1 of the Esper Files, the most successful, was published October 2016, his third book on September 2017.  Lauren Chow's was published October 2017, one month after the third Esper Book.

It's fairly strange.  Mateo Santigo by Katlego Moncho is ranked at 35,781 which is 9 books a day (published November 2017) and The Rogue's Fate by Missy DeGraff is ranked 29,941 which is 10 books a day, which is killing it in terms of Inkitt pubbed.  This was published in December 2017.

So perhaps, despite what I said earlier, the time it was published is a factor.  Let's discard Egan Brass' Esper Files from the thought experiment because it's a series.  Looking at the number, the series started hemorrhaging readers from giddyup because it was likely not that fun of a story or didn't find it's audience.  He has a lot of 1 stars for that initial book and it's an easy guess as to where the readers went.  Looking at the others, which are either standalone or series starts, the numbers are climbing from October 2017 on.  To put it in another context, another book called Ignite by Danielle Rogland is at 164,292 and was published April 2017.  So for 2017 April numbers are bad, there's a climb at October and the climb continues for November and December.

Truly unofficial, since I'm only looking at the one book that was published at that specific time, but this very limited look does lend credence to what you're saying about the machine learning after the fact based on programmed hunches.  It looks like the data's starting to churn into butter at the October mark and give way to successful sales.

And this is only successful from their own standpoint.  Have you noticed that the overwhelming majority of their titles are romance books?  Some may be speculative, fantasy or sci-fi, but even within those subgenres there's a heavy romance element.  Let's look at another subgenre completely non-romance for a second to compare numbers.  There's a sub-subgenre called litRPG, where a protagonist is embedded in a video game (think Ready Player One).  Aleron Kong's The Land series is part of that... his first book published in 2015 has a rank of 787, which means he's selling 119 books a day.  He's considered the "father" of the genre so maybe that's not fair but I arbitrarily clicked Ascend Online, which is another litRPG book and their rank is 2,374 which is 83 books a day.  The numbers for many litRPG books are doing crushingly well, I know because my book is like a close cousin to the genre so I was hoping to sway that crowd to my book when I went to market it.  True indie bestsellers are happening within the niche.

The money question is, why didn't Inkitt predict it?  Why are there zero, literally, books of this takeoff genre on Inkitt?  Now, I can't say that there are no litRPG or gamelit novels on the "Free Stories" public forum space on Inkitt, but if there are, why is the engine failing at seeing this huge trend to video game fiction?  I posit that your pizza eating coders didn't program it to consider.  They programmed stale hunches, let the algorithm collect data from those hunches while simultaneously introducing the means of collection through a website that didn't promote the most ideal way to collect the data.  What I mean by that last statement is that the interface is clunky to most device users... they don't like to read via website.  Apparently, it appears that the one demographic that doesn't mind, doesn't notice, or doesn't care about the interface is romance readers.  And in that it appears to be a limited subset of younger readers.  This has spiked the algorithm, and the machine has learned that a romance novel will win the day.  Meanwhile, litRPG is DESTROYING their numbers with an informal unadvertised fanbase that's honking huge.

As you can probably tell by now, I really enjoyed your email.  It prompted all sorts of followup research.  And I have a pretty good feeling you're right.

James Beamon is the author of the genre-savvy-portal-fantasy-adventure novel Pendulum Heroes

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