My review of Inkubate, a service that offers writing style reports that compare your writing style to other books in the Inkubate catalog
I recently received an email from Barnes & Noble Press describing a new-to-me feature.
From the email:
B&N Press has partnered with Inkubate, a service that offers writing style reports that compare your writing style to other books in the Inkubate catalog. You can use the Inkubate comparison reports to target readers across different genres, and learn the keywords that readers use to talk about books that share your same writing style. B&N Press authors receive a 30% discount as well as a keyword analysis report.
From Inkubate’s website:
Based on a comparative analysis of the writing styles of published authors within our database, your ScoreIt!™ result presents the three top commercially published titles that most closely align with your manuscript.
For each title presented, ScoreIt!™ defines how closely your manuscript aligns with these titles based upon 4 key features that have been empirically proven to be diagnostic of an author’s writing style.
The 4 key features are based on:
- Authorial Vocabulary
- Expressive Complexity
- Tonal Quality
This caught my attention because agents often ask, who do you write like? I’ll take a moment to rant about this question. While searching for agents to query, I read their bios to see what genres they represent. If I had a dollar for every time I have read, “Sally’s looking for a fresh voice in the (fill-in-the-blank) genre,” I could give my books away for free. Yet, the last time I met with an agent, “who do you write like?” was the first question I was asked. I get it. Truly, I do. But then you can’t also say you’re looking for the next fresh thing.
Anyway, back to Inkubate. I thought, if this works, then it’ll be worth the money because I don’t know who to compare myself to. I’ve done the research, read samples in my genre, and even asked bloggers who liked my books, but I still don’t have an answer. Being impulsive and curious, I decided to submit my current WIP. I don’t have a good title for it yet, but the working title is: The Butler Didn’t Do It. Terrible, I know. It is a female amateur sleuth mystery with romantic elements following Hallmark Publishing guidelines (nothing heavy, murders aren’t graphically described, no swearing, only kissing, etc.). The description is:
Emma and Grace, best friends since freshmen year of college despite coming from different worlds, work at the Chicago Tribune. When Grace is assigned to cover an annual charity ball and auction being held at a lakeside mansion and her new boyfriend bails on her, she brings Emma as her plus 1. The night is going smoothly until Emma finds the host’s brother unconscious in the study. Figuring he was a bit tipsy and stumbled, it soon becomes clear more is afoot, as the wall safe is empty and a three-million-dollar diamond necklace is missing. With visions of becoming ace reporters, Emma and Grace set out to solve the mystery, much to the chagrin of the handsome, local detective.
With the B&N 30% discount, to submit one manuscript it cost me $69.99. When submitting your manuscript, you indicate whether it is fiction or non-fiction and the genre(s). I chose fiction, mystery, and romance. You also provide the description and an excerpt as well as the full manuscript.
Seconds later, I got my results. And I wasn’t happy.
Result #1: The Fastdiet by Michael Mosley – a NON-fiction book. Exactly how is this going to help me in my marketing efforts? Why would this even be a result when submitting a FICTION manuscript?
Result #2: Festive in Death by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts). Now, this I found interesting. When I started reading romance novels some fifteen years ago (before I started writing romance), I devoured everything from Nora Roberts. I vaguely remember reading one of her J.D. Robb’s books but found it rather dark for my tastes. Would comparing myself to J.D. Robb help me? Only if I said, I’m like her except without the swearing, sex, and dark subject matter. Our voices may be similar, but if a reader wants the swearing, sex, and dark subject matter, then they won’t be impressed with my WIP.
Result #3: Miracle At The Higher Grounds by Max Lucado. I was not familiar with this author, so I looked him up on Amazon. From what I can tell, all of his books are in the religion genre. This result was as helpful as result #1’s diet book.
Since I have spent most of my professional career as a technical writer, perhaps I do write like a diet book author. But I hope not. I think the majority of my reviews show that I have successfully transitioned from non-fiction to fiction.
Has anyone else tried this offer? I would be interested in knowing your results and whether you thought it was worth the money. I’m voting no at this point.
UPDATE: Since writing the above post, I complained to Inkubate about my results and was contacted by the President and Chief Technology Strategist of the company. He feels I am misunderstanding the value of my results and offered to talk more with me. I declined, and he refunded my money. If nothing else, their customer service impresses me.
Immortal Angel said:
Thanks for posting this review! I laughed at your joke about a ‘fresh voice’ that writes like everyone else who’s already in the genre. I am also having difficulty figuring out who I write like. So this summer, I’m doing a blog series and interviewing all of the authors who write cyborgs, like me. I’m going to read and analyze one of their books every single week for the summer, and I’m analyzing things like action, mystery, romance (amount and heat level), epicness of story, humor, characterization, etc. Then I’m going to interview them and ask further questions about their books that my readers might be interested in. I thought that would give me the excuse I need to really delve into this genre and figure out who writes like me. Since you already have a blog, that might be an option.
Elizabeth McKenna - Author said:
What a great idea! Thanks for sharing it, and I hope you find some answers.
Ugh! I did it, and I’m just as disappointed. I sent them an email, hoping to get my money back. Unfortunately, I was so excited about the prospect I bought the 3 credit package. I tried it twice with two different books. Both times it gave me 3 thriller authors two of which were the same on both books. I am a romance author, there’s no doubt about my genre. The fact you even put your genre in and it still doesn’t even match you with one?? I emailed them, hoping to get my money back. Or maybe this means my romances have a “fresh voice?” Ha!
Elizabeth McKenna - Author said:
Oh, good luck with the refund, Melissa. I still don’t get it. It sounds like a great service that authors need – but the results aren’t useful (though I was told repeatedly that I didn’t understand the value of my results). Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry that someone else had just as bad results as me, though at the same time, I find it interesting.
Frelon Bartley Jr said:
I recently published my first book and bought the ScoreIt! service for $69.99 as you did. Today I attended a webinar by the people at Inkubate to help me understand how to use the information. As I was researching for details on the categories they use, I found your blog, and it seems we had the same quizzical response and questions about the results. How am I like these authors, and what do I do with the analysis?
They did a good job with the webinar, and I have a better understanding of what to do next, but I’m still not convinced of its value. They say the ScoreIt! analysis is only the first step. The next thing to do is go look at the reviews of the three books selected as your top matches. Note, not the authors, but the specific books. Their theory is that people will use the same words to describe a book in their review that they will use in searching for new books to read. By gleaning out keywords that are repeated, we can use those keywords in our book description and also in the metadata that retailers use to categorize our books.
On a side note, they did say that although they ask for genre, their analysis does not take that information into account; it is only the text of the story that matters. Hope this helps.
Elizabeth McKenna - Author said:
Thank you for this info, Frelon. I appreciate you sharing it with me.