On NaNoWriMo, Inkitt, and Being An Author

On Writing

I sequestered myself for the month of November and wrote the first 50k words of Hostis Humani Generis, the decopunk anarchist lesbian pirate farmer novel. So. Huzzah for me.

Unfortunately, it will probably be my last NaNoWriMo.

I’m going to finish the book! And using the same method, as well. But not using the NaNoWriMo website or hashtags, and maybe in a month with fewer holidays in it.

And now we’re going to talk about why.

On NaNoWriMo

I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month since 2015. And winning. And publishing. I used to donate every year and get that little halo over my profile photo.

I believe in NaNo as a project.

I don’t actually believe, as they often say, that anyone can write a book. I think you need to read a lot and write a lot and think a lot, and on top of that, you need the freedom to section off a part of your life and say “This is where the book is happening. Nothing else is allowed.” Those things are a combination of privilege and choice. Not everyone has the privilege. Even fewer make the choice.

But I want EVERY ONE OF THEM to write a book. NaNo was the thing that finally let me dedicate myself to the work, and I want everyone to have that for themselves.

And NaNo does get bigger every year. This has come with some issues.

When they redesigned the website, I think they were just trying to modernize. And every big, complicated, public-facing website will have some bugs to iron out. But I think the website redesign suffered from the same issue outlined in one of my favorite books as a kid, Mrs. Armitage on Wheels, in which a woman adds bells and whistles and radios and baskets and umbrellas onto her bicycle until it becomes unridable. There were some strange design decisions in the new website, too, like turning the bar graph into a blob graph. It was at this point that I decided to stop donating until they sorted it out. It seemed like they had spent a lot of money to ruin a perfectly good website. But I kept doing NaNo, hoping it would get better.

Instead, I’m afraid they’ve done something much worse.

This year, when I punched in my final word count, I got the usual lovely confetti and charming winner video and the little heart reacts from the wonderful people in my local NaNo discord. I felt good. Until I clicked on the “winner goodies” section, which is a set of discounts available to winners for things like writing software, plotting software, and typing devices. Those are all great, even if they are a bit of free advertising for the companies offering the discounts.

But this year, I noticed that my winner goodies included a “chance to win publishing contracts, social media spotlights, and more!” from a company called Inkitt.

And THAT is not okay.

On Inkitt

If you search “Inkitt” on social media, you will see a lot of authors begging people to read their story for free in Inkitt.

This is not a good sign.

If you click one, there is a very good chance you’ll find something minimally edited, completely unedited, or possibly missing punctuation entirely.

This is also not a good sign.

As the long-standing among you may remember, I wrote about Inkitt in TWENTY GODDAMN SIXTEEN after they targeted me for an “invitation” using a fictional publishing house account on social media.

I was not the only one who wrote about them being a scam.

So did Victoria Strauss.

And David Gowey.

And Fictigristle (twice).

And Enchoseon.

And, available by a quick search, reddit and quora and tapas posters.

There is bound to be some confusion if you read all of these, because Inkitt has drastically changed their business model several times, and each time it was going to be the Next Big Thing.

I learned about Inkitt because they replied to my tweet with an offer to ‘publish my book.’ (Which was, by the way, already published, but the bots didn’t know that.) I looked into them and found dozens of fake accounts spamming people with their single link. A little further and I found that if you give them an email address, they will hound you until you die.

When I wrote my initial blog post about them, the “co-founder” contacted me “to talk about it” but refused to discuss any of the actual issues unless I gave him my phone number, which, yeah, like hell, buddy. He then stalked me across multiple platforms to say that Inkitt was innocent. Inkitt is not innocent. Inkitt is a scam. Inkitt lures people into giving away their first publishing rights so they can’t sell the book to anyone else, and gives them “a chance to win” a contract. Or possibly be shopped around to real publishers, which is the job of an agent. Honestly, the whole thing is so screwy that I won’t try to lay it all out again here. You can read the posts above.

Here are some general pro tips about publishing: No publisher will ever reply to your casual post about writing on social media with an offer of publication. No publisher will sign a book that has already been published for free on the internet unless that book has already proven that it can sell a million copies, and probably not even then. And no author should ever sign away their book for “a chance” or “exposure.”

Inkitt Meets NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo has dedicated forums. When I found Inkitt on my “winner goodies” page, I went to the forums to ask why this extremely disreputable company had been included and suggest that people google them before signing up.

(The following is edited and updated to reflect events of the 24 hours after this was originally written, because if I update this just to add the entirety of 24 hours of forum drama, this is going to be a long damn post.)

The highlights of the following day on the forums are as follows:

  • The mods panicked
  • I was banned for disparaging a sponsor
  • I wrote this post
  • Other authors joined me in saying that Inkitt was not okay
  • The mods presumably had a long and stressful meeting
  • The mods un-banned me (and others) and sent both public and personal apologies
  • I, for one, absolutely forgave them, because the core issue here is not their fault
  • We all settled down for a long talk in the forums about sponsors, forum moderation policies, and how to make sure all this never happens again, which is ongoing at time of writing.

But Inkitt remained on the Winner Goodies page.

Conclusion

I find it extremely distressing that NaNoWriMo, an organization that exists to encourage writers, is funneling those writers directly to a company that will take advantage of them. I hope it is an oversight (although typing two words into a search engine could have spared them that). I hope they will fix it. I am not going to assume that the org, or the mod, acted maliciously.

But I also can’t let authors fall for Inkitt if I can help it. You wrote a whole book! You should treasure that, and continue to work until it is perfect in your own eyes, and then share it in its best possible form, after close review, in a way that works for you, without signing it over to the first hand you see outstretched.

So spread the word. Do not put your work on Inkitt.

And hopefully that word will get around to NaNoWriMo as well.

And if it doesn’t…I think I’ll start writing books in June. June is nice.

Fundraising for Vermont Access to Reproductive Freedom

My DSA Socialist Feminist team, Reproletariat, has started fundraising for the Vermont Access to Reproductive Freedom fund! Join me in making abortion accessible for those who need it by clicking here and pitching in your spare change.

If I personally raise $300 through my donation page, this is the bribe: I will create a repro-rights-themed body paint photo shoot and post it without watermarks or DRM, so anyone can use it for future fundraising or awareness campaigns.

If you’ve never needed an abortion, maybe you haven’t thought about what it’s like. Like all healthcare in America, it’s stressful. It’s expensive. Unlike most other healthcare, it’s also stigmatized, and people who will never need one have tried to outlaw it. This means that while facing the decision, the expense, and the stigma, you may also have to travel to another state and rely on strangers to get you through an unnecessarily complicated procedure. Abortion funds are trying to be good strangers.

If you or someone you love need an abortion but can’t afford the many associated costs, please contact the fund. They will help people until the money runs out.

And let’s make sure the money doesn’t run out.


March News

Personal news: I will be having minor surgery tomorrow, so it may be a minute before I’m back to fully functional. Please be patient. Because of my health complexities, I never really know how I’m going to bounce back from things.

Author news: After much trial and even more error, my web presence is now in its final form. Aside from this website and my various social media, everything can now be found on Ko-Fi. My Patreon will close at the end of the month. Ditto all previous iterations of web store. Ko-Fi will be the place to support, buy, and read all things Sharp. Short stories will be posted periodically in the store for a minimum donation of $0, in effect allowing the people who donate (thank youuu) to subsidize the stories for everyone. Any purchase from my store will also grant you access to all the digital supporter content forever. You can also follow me there, but public news there will be much the same as public news here.

That’s all for now. I will hopefully be back online again soon.

💜

SFWA StoryBundle!

I can finally talk about this now: I’m in the SFWA Storybundle!

It’s pay-what-you-want, but if you choose at least $15, you get Phaethon and all these other wonderful books.


THE SFWA MAGIC AND MAYHEM BUNDLE

The SFWA Magic and Mayhem Bundle – Curated by the Self-Publishing Committee of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)

Every fantasy lover knows the basic rules of magic. It always comes at a cost and it never quite gives the expected results. Then it should come as no surprise that the magic in our stories has many explosive consequences! Demolish your way through fourteen novels that span the sub-genres of fantasy while showcasing magic-induced mayhem, from the hilarious to the horrible and everything in between.

SFWA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, advancing, and supporting science fiction and fantasy writing in the United States and elsewhere. This year the SFWA Self-Publishing Committee cast a wider net when seeking submissions and received substantially more novels to evaluate than ever before. We enjoyed sorting through so many excellent books but faced a doubly difficult task as we narrowed our selections down to these fourteen special stories.

Some of our favorites in this Bundle:

• Darkmage – ML Spencer’s award-winning debut novel filled with epic battles, flawed heroes, and a brutal struggle
• Playing with Fire – R.J. Blain’s snarky romantic comedy with a body count, featuring a fire-breathing unicorn on a mission of destruction
• Phaethon – Rachel Sharp’s tech fantasy that weaves computer hackers, faeries, and corporate greed into a twisted tale
• Ragnarok Unwound – Kristin Jacques’s story of a young woman tangled up in a prophecy that sets her off to save the world with the help of a brownie, a Valkyrie, and the goddess of death herself
• Cutie and the Beast – E.J. Russell’s novel pairing a former Queen’s Champion of Faerie’s Seelie Court with a cheeky yet adorable human temp worker, as they prove, once again, that when fae consort with humans, it never ends well
• 9 Tales of Raffalon – Matthew Hughes’s intriguing mosaic novel combining nine stories of an enterprising thief as he grapples with crooked guild masters, ghosts, spies, ogres, and a talented amateur assassin

– The SFWA Self-Publishing Committee


Visit the website at storybundle.com, connect on Twitter at @storybundle and like StoryBundle on Facebook.


…So, how ’bout this pandemic, huh?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, so this entry will serve mainly to tell you that:

  • I am alive,
  • I am still actively writing on occasion, and
  • I have hope that we’re going to get out of this someday

If that checks all your boxes, you can stop reading here.

Otherwise, I’ve been doing some mask sewing and home renovating and activist organizing to pass the long year. Since I qualify for the vaccine (on multiple fronts, thanks to my complex disability), I’ve made an appointment to get my first jab. I expect that even after I’m fully vaccinated, I will have some difficulty adjusting. A year of conditioning is hard to shake. Maybe especially because this thing will have no one day of victory, no sirens suddenly falling silent, no declarative moment when the state of emergency is over. Getting back to normal is going to be like walking rolling hills in tall grass. But at least we’re on the path now.

Hope to see you all at the top.

Gay Apparel

Last year, I edited Gay Apparel, a queer holiday flash fic anthology available only from the authors in exchange for donations.

This year, one of our writers, Corey Alexander (who wrote under the pen name Xan West), passed away.

To get a copy from me this year, please donate to @savelyonmartin to honor their memory. The clinic helped our friend, and we’re going to help the clinic.

Find their GoFundMe here.

Learn more about Gay Apparel here.

If you donate, just send me your email and I’ll send you the book in all digital file formats.

If you cannot afford to donate, that’s okay. Social media boosts of the authors & their chosen charities are accepted in lieu of donations. Then just contact me and I’ll send you a digital copy.

P.S. In author news: NaNoWriMo is over, and I successfully completed it this year. Phantasma, book three of Phaethon, is now 50k words, about 80% finished.

It’s #NaNoWriMo Again

Once a year, I hole up in my whatever-I’ve-got-at-that-moment to write a book. My first novel was written during NaNoWriMo, a month of writing 1,667 words per day. So, too, were most of the subsequent ones. I “win” (write 50,000 words) most years, but some books take longer than others. And some years are harder.

I “lost” NaNo in the last presidential election year. I may yet lose it in this one. It’s hard to focus; politics, pandemics, and chronic pain are unhelpful. That’s an understatement, but you’re living on the same planet I am (I assume), so you know damn well what it’s like right now.

Usual sources of ideas, like listening to people talk at the bar while I work, are not happening. Long drives are my best time to think, but there’s nowhere safe to go. I needed to reallocate time from somewhere, and since I still have to eat and sleep and do laundry, the hours I spend writing are taken away from sewing masks, which feels wrong, but I’ve been at it for months now and made more than 300 masks, so something was going to have to stop me sooner or later. And, since my current project is the last book in a trilogy, I’m trying to juggle three books in my head and keep track of what everyone has in their pockets at the same time, working with only the brainspace not occupied by the aforementioned politics, pandemic, and pain.

That said, I am trying. I want you all to get a new book next year. I know you waited patiently for the last one.

Here’s hoping next year is better than this one.

Pharos is here!

Pharos, book two of Phaethon, is now available.

Hackers, faeries, screaming rockabilly neighbors.