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PhoebeNorth

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Talk of Book Country was going around my crit group today--glad to see the AWers are as skeptical as we are. This bit, on their website, seems really shady:

"Your big break

Our members include published authors and industry professionals. You never know who might discover your work."

The same is true for AW, but no one is going to try to get participants to self-publish through HERE anytime soon. Sounds to me like it's Penguin's way to cash in on self-publishing while also implicitly promising mainstream exposure.
 

Chumplet

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So far I haven't seen any evidence of shadiness on the site, just a lot of spirited discussion. I put up the first few chapters of my WIP and received very helpful feedback. I also read a few other entries and gave my feedback.

I have since revised my opening chapters and added a few more. If any AWers would like to take a look, the piece is called Mallet, under general mystery.

I'd like to read AWers' works also, so if you want me to take a gander, by all means PM me.

I probably won't post beyond what I've already posted, mostly because of concerns others have already discussed. But I'm confident that I'm on the right track with this WIP and wish Book Country all the best.

I haven't experienced any pitches for favouritism as I did at Authonomy, and the discussions are open, well monitored and respectful.
 

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The implication that there are agents and editors on display sites looking for books/writers always makes me roll my eyes.

When are said agents and editors going to have the time?
 

Old Hack

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I haven't experienced any pitches for favouritism as I did at Authonomy, and the discussions are open, well monitored and respectful.

So were the discussions at Authonomy when it began. It took several months for things to heat up there.
 

tarak

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I haven't participated in many of the discassigns, so I can't speak to that. But I have gotten quite a lot of helpful feedback on the writing I've posted. It's much like an online writing workshop for me in that respect.
 

hillaryjacques

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I haven't experienced any pitches for favouritism as I did at Authonomy, and the discussions are open, well monitored and respectful.

From following Colleen Lindsay on twitter, it appears that there have been petitions for favoritism, and that anyone who made them is now a former member of the community.
 

Colleen Lindsay

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From following Colleen Lindsay on twitter, it appears that there have been petitions for favoritism, and that anyone who made them is now a former member of the community.

Hi Hillary!

Yes, in fact, we wield a fairly heavy ban-hammer at Book Country, and there a number of kinds of behavior that are automatic bans for us. Finding out a user is under the age of 18 is a ban - I have no choice, as our terms of use prohibit kids on the site. Any kind of personal attack is not tolerated. And while we're fine with writers asking for other writers to critique their work on the site, we are absolutely NOT okay with someone pestering other members for high star ratings. When we find out that a member has done this, we boot them. The idea is that Book Country is supposed to be a safe and supportive space for writers to share their work with other writers.

Am happy to answer any other questions you guys may have, though.

Cheers!

Colleen

=========
Colleen Lindsay
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Book Country
[email protected]
=========
 

Colleen Lindsay

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The implication that there are agents and editors on display sites looking for books/writers always makes me roll my eyes.

When are said agents and editors going to have the time?

Hi Medievalist -

Actually, there are a good number of agents and editors using the site right now. Last week we had four manuscripts requested by in-house editors who actually have been using Book Country in their free time, in addition to two full requests by agents.

We don't promise that anyone's manuscript will end up on an editor's desk like Authonomy does, because there is no gaming aspect to Book Country. It's really just organic. An editor may browse the site over lunch and read a couple of chapters of something that sucks them in. We happen to have a smart group of editors at Penguin who are really excited by new ways of finding books for traditional publishing so they spend more time reading projects up there than we originally may have anticipated. (Which is awesome!)

The way it works at Book Country is that if an agent or editor wants to get in contact with one of the writers to request more of a manuscript, they have to go through me or my colleague Danielle. We then contact the author and ask permission to share the manuscript. In the case of agents, we actually try to vet the agents beforehand and then arrange an email introduction.

Even the Penguin editors must go through this process, by the way; this is done to protect the writers using the site.

Although at some future point, Book Country will be offering self-publishing services to those authors who wish to choose a non-traditional publishing path, our goal is really to try to find fresh new voices in genre fiction to bring into Penguin's traditional publishing model.

It's all a work in progress right now, but we certainly welcome your feedback and would love to have some AW folks share their work on the site. I think if you poke around, you'd be surprised at the quality of the peer critiques.

All the best,

Colleen

=========
Colleen Lindsay
Community Manager
Book Country
=========
 
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Old Hack

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We don't promise that anyone's manuscript will end up on an editor's desk like Authonomy does, because there is no gaming aspect to Book Country. It's really just organic.

That's really good. It was the element of competition which made Authonomy the snake-pit it now is; I hope you manage to keep Book Country free of such behaviour.

Although at some future point, Book Country will be offering self-publishing services to those authors who wish to choose a non-traditional publishing path, our goal is really to try to find fresh new voices in genre fiction to bring into Penguin's traditional publishing model.

Will Book Country expect to make money from these services?

And how do you distinguish between self-publishing services and vanity publishing? Just asking, because you know me and know how pedantic I am.

*evil grin*
 

Colleen Lindsay

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That's really good. It was the element of competition which made Authonomy the snake-pit it now is; I hope you manage to keep Book Country free of such behaviour.

We were uncomfortable with the gaming aspect as well. We put several measures into place in order to ensure that members really can't game the system. Book Country strives to be a meritocracy and writers get out of it only what they put into it. For example, in order for your fiction to become visible on our Genre Map, you must first read and critique three pieces of fiction by other members. There’s a strong reputation system – what we call ‘karma’ - built into Book Country. Members can rate critiques, comments on reviews and discussion comments as "constructive" or "not constructive"; the more often other members find your comments constructive, the stronger your reputation on the site. Additionally, we take into account how active members are overall. The opinion of a Book Country member who spends a considerable amount of time leaving thoughtful feedback for other writers, and whose comments and reviews are consistently rated as constructive will weigh more heavily than that of a new member who leaves dozens of short, unhelpful reviews, even if all his reviews are five-stars. Those kinds of reviews aren’t really helpful to any writer and they tend to get thumbed-down on Book Country.

To be clear, negative reviews are welcome at Book Country, as long as they’re written in a respectful way, and contain actual concrete advice for the writer on how to make the work stronger. We ask members to think of the Peer Review rating system as an indicator not of how much you did or didn’t like a book, but rather, how much work does this project need before it’s ready to be shopped to an agent or editor?

Will Book Country expect to make money from these services?

And how do you distinguish between self-publishing services and vanity publishing? Just asking, because you know me and know how pedantic I am.

*evil grin*

Heh! Which is one of the things I love about you, dear!

Yes, of course the business will expect to generate revenue. This is how we'll eventually be able to keep the community aspect of Book Country free.

Additionally, ePub conversion, distribution and storage isn't free, despite what other self-publishing services may lead writers to believe.

We'll offer pretty basic services for a flat fee: We will create and distribute the book for the writer. We'll handle the back end of collecting and forwarding payment. Books will be for sale on a separate area of Book Country, or a writer will be able to choose wide distribution. We, however, do not promise marketing or editorial services, nor do we promise to make your book a bestseller. What we promise is to produce professional-level interior e-book and print book files.

This is all pretty far away at the moment as the publishing system is still being built.

How do I define the difference between self-publishing service and a vanity press? I think the primary difference is that a vanity press makes you believe that you're being published by a real publisher, with false promises of being promoted and marketed like a real publisher. They tend to charge an extraordinary amount of money (in the high four figures) for "marketing & promotion" and quite often include a contractual obligation that the writer purchase a certain amount of his or her own book.

A self-publishing service, on the other hand, is just that: an up-front business that offers a service or set of services in exchange for money; generally those services tend to be one or all of the following, depending upon whether you are purchasing e-pub or print book services: ePub conversion, e-pub distribution, DRM, ePub storage, assignment of ISBN, guidance with cover creation, guidance with interior layout, typesetting, printing, binding, shipping, facilitation of sales (ie, distribution, handing credit card authorization and transaction, distribution of e-pub or print book to customers who have purchased the book), and so on. There should be no fine print or hidden fees. All the costs should be laid out at the get-go, so the customer knows exactly what he or she is paying for.

Does that make sense?

And now I need more coffee! =)
 
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Bartholomew

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Beautiful, beautiful website so far. I'm having fun exploring it.
 

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@ Medi & Torgo

The three things I've read on there were on fairly high quality, though I can't say if they were publishable or not. I think I believe Colleen, though I have no idea what Penguin is doing to attract editors or agents.
 

Chumplet

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Many posts are works in progress (like mine), so even if an editor or agent requests more, it might be months before a finished product is ready to be shopped. However, it's good to know that the work is moving along the right track, generating interest.
 

Torgo

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@ Medi & Torgo

The three things I've read on there were on fairly high quality, though I can't say if they were publishable or not. I think I believe Colleen, though I have no idea what Penguin is doing to attract editors or agents.

Fair enough! I think they need to be attracted though. If it is a beautiful site that is full of interesting features, that might be enough.

I'm interested by what I see in Authonomy and Kickstarter; but they have unique features (respectively, editors reading stuff, and money-where-your-mouth-is) that give them actual clout. Perhaps there is another display site niche yet to be discovered; it's just that I would have to be convinced. I should probably go and take a look.
 

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How do I define the difference between self-publishing service and a vanity press? I think the primary difference is that a vanity press makes you believe that you're being published by a real publisher, with false promises of being promoted and marketed like a real publisher. They tend to charge an extraordinary amount of money (in the high four figures) for "marketing & promotion" and quite often include a contractual obligation that the writer purchase a certain amount of his or her own book.

Several years ago, I self-published one book and vanity-published four others.

I did spend in the high four figures to be self-pubbed because I had to do a press run of a thousand copies for the per copy price to be cost effective. (Fortunately, I had a grant which covered a lot of the expense.) I hired and worked with a printer, chose the paper the books would be printed on, provided the ISBN & EAN, etc. The books weren't available from online bookstores. I broke even after selling 500 copies.

When I vanity-pubbed, I paid a set-up fee in the mid-three figures, the company provided ISBNs, didn't give me a paper choice, listed the books on Amazon and other online booksellers, etc. There were no false promises—I knew going in that the vanity publisher wouldn't market or promote the book. I could order a handful of books at a time when I needed them to sell at readings. With the company I used, I broke even after selling 200 copies of each book.

To me, self-publishing is when you make all the book production decisions yourself and hire a printer to carry out your wishes. Vanity-publishing is when you pay to have someone else make those book production decisions, and the vanity publisher provides the ISBN.
 

tarak

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Many posts are works in progress (like mine), so even if an editor or agent requests more, it might be months before a finished product is ready to be shopped. However, it's good to know that the work is moving along the right track, generating interest.

My first posted novel is complete, although I only posted the first 50 or so, thinking it would be a good way to get feedback on what I've usually been asked to send for a partial request. I have a WIP that I'm hoping to post soon, for the very reason Chumplet posts - to see if I'm on the right track and if it's interesting.

The only downside I've found to most of what I've read on the site is the stories aren't complete and I want to read the rest.
 

Chumplet

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The only downside I've found to most of what I've read on the site is the stories aren't complete and I want to read the rest.

Yes, those teasers really want us to read on. I had a few comments stating the readers couldn't wait for the next chapter, but when I finally posted them (plus revisions) I didn't get a nibble and it's been months.

I guess that happens sometimes. At first there were a small number books to choose from, so they got lots of attention. Now there are many excerpts and you have to really dig to unearth earlier works.

That being said, I wouldn't want authors to campaign for new critiques in an attempt to get on the front page -- then it would seem too much like seeking favouritism. Plus it would be annoying.
 

miamyselfandi

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To me, self-publishing is when you make all the book production decisions yourself and hire a printer to carry out your wishes. Vanity-publishing is when you pay to have someone else make those book production decisions, and the vanity publisher provides the ISBN.

I'm not sure about that distinction... in both cases the work wasn't deemed publishable by a publishing house that paid an advance and royalties and took all the financial risk of publishing themselves, but instead, the author used their own money to publish, which to me is self-publishing. From that point on, it's just a matter of which company and mode do you choose to do it?

I also have seen authors bring out old books and put them back out there for Kindle etc., and people call it self-publishing. To me, that's reissuing a book, because it was originally published through the publishing system.

I wonder if there is any industry standard to this terminology.
 

thothguard51

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I have belonged to various sites over the years and the one thing I have learned is that it's very hard to get consistent critiques beyond the first few shared chapters.

From what I have read and critiqued in Book Country, the work really is no better or worse than what I have seen in SYW on the AW. Personally, I would rather find betas to work with than a different stranger commenting on different chapters.

I will give Book Country kudos for the staff who regularly post topic's for discussion. They are very much worth the reads...
 

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Re the vanity vs self publishing discussion, I've got a couple of posts on my blog about that. But to explain it briefly:

1) Vanity publishers earn most of their income from the writers they publish; trade publishers earn most of their income from selling books to new readers.

2) Self publishing involves control of the ISBN, printing, stock, distribution, editing, typesetting and so on. If another entity--person or business--has full control over the processes of publishing then you've not self-published.

3) The distinctions between vanity and self publishing have been blurred a lot over the last couple of years, and so I'm happy to be far more flexible over these definitions than I was a few years ago.
 

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Normally, display sites are kind of a bad idea, for reasons this forum has extrapolated on a lot.

A display site that's secretly the penguin slush pile, however, where editors can gauge the reaction of a sophisticated target audience before they say yea or nay -- that would be of actual value.

Just as a hypothesis, of course.

Bart, into conspiracy theories.