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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
  • Grammar
  • 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.

Take care,