The Next Novel You Read May Have Been Chosen by a Computer

Computers aren’t just writing novels and entering them into literary contests. Now they’re putting on their editorial hats and are choosing them for publication too. Inkitt, a “data-driven” electronic publishing platform, announced in a press release last week that it will partner with science fiction and fantasy publisher Tor Books to “release the first novel selected by an algorithm for publishing.” The chosen novel, Bright Star by Erin Swan, is due to come out in summer 2017.

Inkitt, which was founded in Berlin last year, frames itself as an interactive publisher that promotes “fair publishing and objectivity” by emphasizing everyday readers over literary gatekeepers like agents and editors. Echoing the lament of many writers who submit beloved manuscripts to publishers, only to be rejected months later with a curt form letter, Inkitt asks, “Who are we or any editor in the world to judge whether your book is worth publishing?” Instead, they say, let’s have an algorithm decide.

Virtually all writers can share their work on Inkitt. After writers post, Inkitt tracks reader traffic and attention using “artificially intelligent algorithms” and selects the most popular, engaging works for publication. According to the press release, the company “works with leading publishers to get its top-read books to print” and also selects some novels to publish and promote in-house as eBooks.

Since the half-a-million readers who read work on Inkitt can also give writers suggestions for improvement, the publishing platform gives both readers and writers a space to share their voices. While Inkitt says that it seeks to create “an environment of support and positivity,” something seems nightmarish about an entire online community of readers critiquing my work instantaneously.

Based on its analysis of reading patterns, Inkitt’s algorithm deemed Bright Star — the second installment in Swan’s YA fantasy series, Sky Riders — “highly-addictive.” Judging from the novel’s prologue, it seems to have all the ingredients of a YA powerhouse: dragons, romance, emperors, elves, servants, and a war-torn fantasy land.

Ali Albazaz, CEO and founder of Inkitt, views the Tor deal as “a clear signal to the publishing industry that predictive data analysis is the way of the future.” “We are so excited to be able to help Erin kick off her career as a novelist,” he says, “– and we already can’t wait to get our hands on the next book in the Sky Rider series.”

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