Book Country is a free writer's community and publishing service launched earlier this year by Penguin. Its stated goal is to help new writers self-publish (for a fee) their work in a more professional way.
It started as an entirely free service, a community where writers could post manuscripts, get critiques of their work and some helpful guidance to make their story stronger.
Penguin claims the manuscripts they are receiving are high quality and that literary agents have begun perusing the site for work they would like to market. They also claim that these agents have actually "picked up" a few Book Country members.
So far, more than 4,000 members have posted about 500 manuscripts at the site with new members signing up every day. This is good news for Penguin which expects to generate revenue both from their new self-publishing service and book deals offered to members.
I have mixed feelings about this. I suppose it is great to have a tool for vetting your manuscript, getting feedback and critical review information. It probably doesn't hurt having some help navigating the self-publishing mine field. But I wonder if they aren't feeding off people who would be better off self-publishing a free ebook as a first step.
The fact is, every time I mention to someone I am a writer they say "I am going to write a book" and proceed to tell me their story and explain why it is so marketable. Having a story to tell and having the talent to tell it in written form to a mass audience are two different things. There is nothing wrong with encouraging someone to take up the pen (or keyboard) and put their thoughts down on paper. But it is wrong to give them the impression it is easy to get published. Or that self-publishing is going to make them rich or famous (I am neither, though I do make a living as a writer.)
I encourage you to check out Book Country if you are committed to self-publishing, but I caution you against putting too much faith in it. After all, projects like "Sh#@ My Dad Says" and "WaiterRant" and "Wonkette" began as free online work which garnered enough recognition to become something more. No upfront costs at all, except time and talent.
At a demonstration of the new service held at Penguin offices—Book Country is organized as a separate company but is owned by Penguin—Barton outlined the individual cost and steps involved in using the Book Country self-publishing tools. “These professional tools provide a direct path to publication for those who choose to go the self-publishing route,“ Barton said. Indeed Barton, taking aim at Amazon's self-publishing service, claims Book Country is the first of its kind to offer print and e-book production during the same automated process.
Once logged onto the Book Country site members with books ready for publication can click through to the Book Country Publish Your Book page. BC offers three publishing “packages” at three prices: $549 for the professionally formatted print/e-book package; $299 for the user-formatted print/e-book package; and $99 for the e-book only package. Each package provides the user with ISBN, distribution options, pricing and earning information, and marketing help. While the publishing packages are designed to be simple and provide a set schedule of fees and a limited number of options, Barton noted that a la carte editorial and production services will likely be added to the service later. “We want all the fees to be upfront, no surprise fees tacked on later, ” Barton said. Barton said conversion processes are done by people and are not automated and production quality of BC titles displayed during the demonstration was impressive.
Click here to read more about Book Country.