Trading in Inkshares: Adam Gomolin’s Hollywood Edge

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Now the CEO of crowdfunding platform Inkshares, Gomolin talks about the company’s pivot to focus on bringing books to Hollywood.

710 Inkshares topper

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Now Inkshares’ CEO, Gamolin Gets His Buzz On
When Inkshares’ Adam Gomolin spoke in mid-June at Publishing Perspectives’ conference, Rights and Content in the Digital Age, he was in close touch with his earlier days as a screenwriter. He was told at the time, he said, that the “leanest” way to test a property was as a book.

Adam Gomolin

Adam Gomolin

“We live in a world where two million books are being published each year,” Gomolin told the audience. “The quality of literature from non-traditional sources is higher than ever.”

Now, Gomolin says, he’s shooting the right script.

No longer Inkshares’ Vice President for Business Development and General Counsel, he has become the three-year-old company’s CEO, a role until recently filled by Jeremy Thomas. Stressing that there’s no ill will among former partners, Gomolin describes a kind of long-running pivot that has finally clicked into place.

“Inkshares had to choose a path,” he tells Publishing Perspectives. “Did we want to be a pure technology company that relied on venture capital to experiment in the publishing space? Or did we want to move toward being a solidified business that was not only a next-generation business channel but also an IP-focused, brass-tacks, fully resourced publisher?

Inkshares is “a management company sitting on top of a publisher powered by a technology company that makes us fantastically efficient at launching the voices and the texts we advocate.”Adam Gomolin

“Those were competing visions in a certain way. I always wanted to build a management company sitting on top of a publisher powered by a technology company that makes us fantastically efficient at launching the voices and the texts we advocate.”

And that’s how he sees what Inkshares has become. It’s about going Hollywood aggressively: Gomolin flies to Burbank for two or three days of studio meetings each week, he says, then back to Oakland where Inkshares is based.

“We’re building out our studio templates at all of the Big Five” houses, he says. “Whether it’s Sony, Uni(versal), Warner, we’re on those lots weekly.”

“Inkshares has always been a partnership, extremely flat” in its leadership, he says, and built more for intellectual property management than may have been evident from outside.

Inkshares_LogoEach contract with an author, Gomolin says, has had management clauses written into it from the beginning. In his early career, he clerked with the Federal Trade Commission and Securities Exchange Commission. He did a stint as a law associate at KVR Law. He now has 41 books published and some 75 in the works, he says. And he has Inkshares online looking quite different from how it has presented itself in the past, when its opening image evoked a luminous bookstore interior through misted glass.

Now a much more workmanlike home page has a tab called “Syndicates,” in this case meaning forums of buy-in advocacy for strong female characters, or science-fiction and fantasy, or LGBTQIA content, or “grosso modo thriller” material. “A syndicate is a group of people who pool their money together to support a different Inkshares book each month,” the site’s copy reads. “The advantage of a syndicate is that it allows readers to more passively support Inkshares writers. Syndicate leads do most of the work” in this new feature.

There also are “Collections,” which, Gomolin says, “is our name for imprints” run by third parties at Inkshares.

The “Buzzing” tab is a feed of various forum activities—follows and recommendations—as the community of Inkshares participants grows. Publishing Perspectives wrote about this functionality last year, as well as about the effectiveness of Facebook and email in attracting readers.

And the most important of those top-nav-bar tabs is the one called “Properties.” This is a new app in its early days but accessible to those who join up. It’s a kind of rights platform where Inkshares is housing content for Hollywood interests to peruse and consider.

The Show by Pilip Syta is dubbed at this writing, for example, as the work with “#1 Most Property Interest.” It lists as having been acquired in September 2014 and published last January with availabilities in audiobook, film and TV, translation and more.

‘The Leanest Way To Test a Story’

A God in the ShedInkshares, as far as book publishing is concerned, has been a relatively quiet West Coast startup. Initially, it seemed to be one of several crowdfunding efforts, bearing some similarity to Pubslush in New York (it closed last autumn) and Unbound in London, the leading book-crowdfunding success story.

Inkshares’ wrinkle on the scenario is that an author needs to sell at least 250 pre-ordered copies through a campaign at the site to get “light editing” and basic publication. Getting 750 pre-ordered sales triggers a “publishing process the same as at any traditional publisher.” Inkshares describes its royalty split as 35 percent of net after the sale of the 250 or 750 pre-orders. It charges no crowdfunding fees.

It’s not self-publishing, either. The company makes the distinction that it’s publishing these books that achieve the right levels of pre-orders.

In her early write about the company at Publishers Weekly, Clare Swanson wrote of this “all or nothing” approach: “A project doesn’t move into publication until it has raised the critical mass of funding, determined by Inkshares, required to cover the costs of editorial, design, and an initial 1,000-copy print run.”

The site now lists stats including $451,517 in author royalties to date, 137,945 copies of books sold.

It’s in the “Browse” section of Inkshares’ site that you find books listing how many copies have been ordered, with options to “follow,” “start reading” and “discuss”—part of the community element that Gomolin says is that “lean” way of testing a property: by seeing how it fares as a book.

It turns out that Gomolin’s game is leveraging these fledgling ideas into attention grabbers for filmmakers—putting those management clauses in the Inkshares contracts at work. He’s in his element now, having spent the last couple of weeks locking in the course he wants to take as CEO.

He talks avidly of A God in the Shed by J.F. Dubeau, which Tracking Board announced Friday (July 29) has been taken to Warner Bros. by Akiva Goldsman of Weed Road Pictures. “The town is buzzing,” Tracking Board writes, about Dubeau’s horror tale of “an ancient trans-dimensional god” trapped in a backyard shed.

The Astronaut Instruction ManualAnd before Shed, the town was buzzing about Mike Mongo’s The Astronaut Instruction Manual, which was tapped by Legendary Television for a series from Matt Tolmach Productions at auction. That one, Tracking Board writes, is “pitched as ‘a Wimpy Kid’s Guide to becoming a Martian.'”

Previous buzzing was heard for Abomination from  Gary Whitta (Rogue One) and Trekonomics by Manu Saadia, according to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Andy Lewis.

It’s a buzzy business, Hollywood, and Gomolin can hum along with the best of them, having signed with United Talent Agency to represent underlying rights from Inkshare book deals, per Ross Lincoln’s report last October in Deadline Hollywood.

“I love books,” Gomolin declares in mid-interview. And the theory he’s eager to tell you about is that a book represents what can make a film franchise rise from paper.

He says that Andy Weir’s The Martian and E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey became what they were to Hollywood because their authors got them into book formats first. Even the mighty Bourne franchise—now stretched to 13 books, 10 of them written by Eric van Lustbader—survived an early, lackluster mini-series treatment, he says, because its books (albeit not self-published in Robert Ludlum’s case) were there to attest to the material’s viability.

The Show“The book is the leanest way to test a story,” Gomolin says, “and see if it connects with an audience.” It’s also a way to keep the faith if an adaptation doesn’t fly right the first time. Where there’s a salable book, there’s a development-worthy property, in his way of thinking.

And Inkshares, then, becomes a book-to-film engine to watch, not at all a simple platform on which to crowdfund and publish a book, but a determinedly positioned catapult meant to pelt Wilshire Boulevard with new titles.

Two contests are on the big screen of Gomolin’s ambitious plans: a Geek & Sundry Fantasy Contest opened on Monday (August 1). And when Gomolin says that Ridley Scott is “coming onto our platform in October,” what he means is that submissions will open October 4 in partnership with Sir Ridley’s Scott Free Productions and Energy Entertainment for a Launch Pad Manuscript Competition, a search for more new content.

In the same way Gomolin sees a book providing proof-of-performance for a potential film risk, he now sees Inkshares as having proved its own potential: a startup that’s pivoted to get its traction on the Strip.

“We’re servicing unbelievable intellectual property,” Gomolin buzzes, “as a fantastic new content channel that’s hyper-efficient in bubbling up great voices.”

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.