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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

AP7

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Browsing the Kindle Boards it's real easy to see how some people could really benefit from the marketing, editing, formatting, cover art-ing...etc., help of...well, almost anything. (My browsing of the Kindle boards was not a pleasant experience.)

The value based on price heavily depends on the people involved.

If Penguin was offering editorial services, that would be serious value brought to the table. They're not.

It's unfortunate that you had a bad experience with the Kindle Boards but if you went there right now and started a thread that said, "Help me with formatting and uploading" I'd wager within minutes you'd have all the guidance you'd need to take a shot on your own along with several offers to do all the things Book Country is offering for a fraction of the cost. And if anyone dared to try and grab a piece of your royalties on top of a flat fee, the community there would swarm and ensure you didnt sign on for such a crummy offer.

As far as your last statement, the value depends on the people involved, unscores exactly why what is being offered here by Book Country is predatory and borders on unethical. They are banking on people believing that Penguin is somehow of higher quality when the formatting done by any one of a dozen people soliciting services on the Kindle Boards will produce a product every bit as professional.
 

Bicyclefish

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The Penguin connection will always create some problems, simply by existing. Downplaying the connection doesn't stop there being one. Hopefuls will see it as a chance to get noticed by Penguin, no matter how separate the administration or what the official policy states. [...] It isn't helpful to pretend that no one will look on it as a way to get noticed by Penguin, because some people will.
Though there's differing views in this Guardian article, some pro some con, the opening statement (emphasis mine) in my opinion illustrates the problem that people will view the service as something it's not.

Want to be published by Penguin, the historic press which is home to authors including Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter and Kathryn Stockett? Now you can be – and for as little as $99 (£60), as Penguin's American arm announced a move into self-publishing.
 

Katrina S. Forest

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I do understand that other self-publishing sites do take a percentage of the profits. But part of Book Country's FAQ is baffling me:

Instead of nickel and diming you for services like many other sites, Book Country charges a one-time set-up fee.

What other sites "nickel and dime" writers? (I mean this as a genuine question -- I can't think of any.) Then later on there's this:

Book Country does not charge an ongoing listing fee for writers to have their book listed on our site and on all of our broad range of distribution partners’ sites. ... Instead of charging a flat monthly fee for carrying and distributing your title, you’ll only pay for maintenance and attention to your book when you sell a copy.

To me, it sounds like they're patting themselves on the back for not charging you a monthly fee just to keep your book available.

Huh? Isn't that the equivalent of a student handing in an essay with the proud declaration that, "Instead of stealing this off the internet, I decided to write it myself"?

I mean, you don't get bonus points for not being a flat-out-obvious scam.
 

victoriastrauss

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The Author Solutions companies are notorious for nickel-and-diming authors, from the hidden fees for corrections, to the annual listing fees, to the heavily promoted--and largely overpriced and ineffective--marketing services (writers who use Author Solutions companies are bombarded with sales calls once their books are published).

I think that for Book Country to point out that it doesn't do these things is a valid marketing approach. Businesses commonly market their services by comparing/contrasting them with the services of other, similar businesses.

- Victoria
 
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MicheleLee

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As far as your last statement, the value depends on the people involved, unscores exactly why what is being offered here by Book Country is predatory and borders on unethical.

Predatory and overpriced I can see. But that doesn't=scam. (I don't think you were saying it does.) Unethical is a huge question with no easy answer.
 

swvaughn

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The biggest disadvantage, IMO, to Book Country is definitely the "royalty" rates. Their split is exactly the same as Amazon's -- 30 percent for ebooks under $2.99 and 70 percent for those $2.99 and up. So they'll take an additional 30 percent or 70 percent of sales on top of what the e-distributors take, for "giving you tools" to self-publish.

If they included editing and cover design, maybe it'd be worth it. But there's no editing, and they only "give you access to a cover creator."

Compare this with a service like BookBaby -- who does everything Book Country offers in their $549 package for $99, and takes no royalties on sales (and offers actual cover design, rather than "access to a program," for a flat fee) -- and self-publishing with Book Country just doesn't seem at all like a good idea.
 

victoriastrauss

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Compare this with a service like BookBaby -- who does everything Book Country offers in their $549 package for $99, and takes no royalties on sales (and offers actual cover design, rather than "access to a program," for a flat fee) -- and self-publishing with Book Country just doesn't seem at all like a good idea.

BookBaby doesn't produce a print copy, so its service is more comparable with Book Country's $99 ebook only package.

- Victoria
 
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AP7

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Predatory and overpriced I can see. But that doesn't=scam. (I don't think you were saying it does.) Unethical is a huge question with no easy answer.

I dont think it's a scam. I'm reasonably certain that Penguin will provide exactly what they are offering. It's simply a crummy deal for the writer. As far as the ethics of it, is it ethical to separate a fool from his money? That's an age old question. When you take into account that it is a lifelong dream of so many writers to be published by Penguin, and that many people will sign blatantly crummy deals, even knowingly, in the pursuit of their lifelong dream, yeah, I'm going to question the ethics of it.

In addition, I feel an entity called Writer Beware has a duty to warn writers about blatantly crummy deals, especially when the deal is being offered by an entity who, in theory at least, holds the power to fulfill the lifelong dreams of so many hopeful writers.
 

IceCreamEmpress

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BookBaby doesn't produce a print copy, so its service is more comparable with Book Country's $99 ebook only package.

So we'd be comparing a $99 flat fee from BookBaby with a $99 fee plus a 30% cut per copy sold from Book Country, right? (This is an honest question, not a rhetorical "gotcha"; I find Book Country's website extremely confusing and it won't give me more specifics unless I register an account, as far as I can tell.)

I suppose that if Book Country provides superior quality or service to BookBaby and others who operate on a flat-fee basis, it might well be worth choosing them. I've never used a service of this kind, so don't have any data points to share. It might be worth someone's making a thread in the E-Publishing forum to compare the different services?
 

eqb

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I've never used a service of this kind, so don't have any data points to share. It might be worth someone's making a thread in the E-Publishing forum to compare the different services?


This.

Even if BC's flat fee is a fair rate--and I'm not so sure about that--I see no reason to pay the fee *plus* an ongoing percentage of my sales, unless someone can point out a better reason than "others do that, too."

Note: This is not me being a hater. This is me being hard-headed and practical, and asking all the same questions we ask of any new entity in B&BC.
 

swvaughn

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BookBaby doesn't produce a print copy, so its service is more comparable with Book Country's $99 ebook only package.

- Victoria

Quite true, BB and most other reasonably priced ebook formatting services don't format books specifically for print.

But the Book Country $99 package says this:

For this special introductory price, you'll receive exactly the same tools and services as above, except you won't be creating a print book. This option requires Microsoft Word version 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, or 2010.
And "above" is this package:

Are you more the hands-on type? This option provides you with all the tools and services you need to format a professional-looking interior file. Your Publishing Kit includes a special Book Country interior template designed to work for both print and eBook, instructions for preparing your manuscript and front matter for production, a checklist to keep you on track, cover design tips and recommendations, and ideas for marketing your book after it has been published.

These packages aren't doing the conversion, formatting your ebook and uploading them to vendors. They're only giving you instructions for doing it yourself. And formatting an ebook for publication is not a particularly simple task, especially if you're not terribly tech-savvy.

The top-priced package, at $549, appears to be the only one with which Book Country will actually do the conversion for you:

Let us do the work for you! When you choose the Professional option, Book Country formatters will transform your raw manuscript file (.doc, .docx, .rtf, or .txt files accepted) into polished print and ePub files. Choose from six different elegant interior styles designed specifically for genre fiction.

...This $549 package is what BB does for $99. You send them the Word file, they convert it into ePub for you.

From BookBaby:

Our partners require that eBooks be delivered to them in the ePub or Kindle formats. We'll convert your Word, rich text, text, or HTML file for free!

$99 package: Digital distribution of your eBook to our digital partners. Includes basic formatting check, conversion to ePub format from your supplied file type, interactive table of contents, sales reporting, and automatic payments at your selected paypoint.

We pay you 100% of the wholesale price that we get paid by our partners (including Apple's iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Sony). We take zero commission, period.

You can also find inexpensive (less than $50) ebook conversion services through Smashwords. In the Smashwords Style Guide (which is free) there's an email address through which you can request a list of inexpensive service providers, including formatting for ebook and print, and cover artists.

Smashwords also provides "instructions for preparing your manuscript and front matter for production, a checklist to keep you on track, cover design tips and recommendations, and ideas for marketing your book after it has been published" -- all the things contained in Book Country's mid-level $299 package -- for free.

And in all of these cases, you don't have to give up a percentage of royalties.*

I just don't see what Book Country is doing to earn royalties on these self-published titles.

*ETA: The Smashwords Style Guide, tips and lists are free, even if you don't publish through them. Smashwords does take a percentage of royalties -- I believe it's 15 or 20 percent. However, Smashwords is just one venue, and if you upload your books separately to Smashwords, Amazon and BN, you'll still get a much better deal (Smashwords distributes to Sony, Kobo, and BN, among others (they don't distribute through Amazon at this time), but it's easy to opt out of the BN distribution so you'll get a higher royalty rate dealing directly with BN.
 
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Katrina S. Forest

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Edit: Thanks, Victoria, for that information about Author Solutions. I was not aware they did that.

I agree with AP7 100%. No, it's not a scam. But it's still something new writers should be warned against. It's a bad deal, even for the person who doesn't want to do any of the "techie" stuff themselves. Yes, it's upfront about how much things costs and what it'll give you for that money, but it only stays in business if the customer is A) willing to pay more for Penguin's logo on the book or B) completely unaware of what the average price is for these services.

To simplify it, let's pretend the following:
Ann advertises fresh apples for $5, but gives customers rotten apples when they pay her.
Bob sells apples for $20, advertising that yes, the price is high, but unlike Ann's apples, his really are fresh. (And they are.)
Carl also sells actual fresh apples, but for $5

Ann is running a scam. Bob is not, but his business runs on the idea that his customers have only dealt with Ann and have no idea Carl even exists. So yes, I'm going to spread the word about Carl and discourage customers from going to Bob as much as possible. Because if there's one thing I dislike, it's seeing people pay $15 extra dollars for the same apple.

(On the logo thing, isn't that the same thing that caused such a stir about Harlequin Horizons -- the use of their name to lure in writers who dreamed of being published by Harlequin?)
 
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amergina

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(On the logo thing, isn't that the same thing that caused such a stir about Harlequin Horizons -- the use of their name to lure in writers who dreamed of being published by Harlequin?)

I think the issue with Harlequin Horizons (and with West Bow, the Thomas Nelson vanity press also driven by Author Solutions) is that the marketing stated that if your book did well enough, you just might get published by the non-vanity division. There was also a concern with Harlequin Horizons that Harlequin would direct authors of rejected manuscripts to the vanity press.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Book Country makes any sort of statements like that.

Mind you, I wouldn't self-publish with Book Country, if I were to self-publish... if I'm going to DIY, then I'll DIY the whole way.
 

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There are now several self-publishing schemes on offer from various publishers.

Are they really self-publishing? I don't think so: they look more like vanity publishing to me. But the boundaries between the two have been blurred over recent years, and the question to ask now is, I think, "is this a good choice for me?"

Book Country's scheme looks a lot better than some of the similar schemes offered elsewhere. They seem very clear about what they're offering, and they're not trying to pretend that this is going to be the gateway to bestsellerdom.

For publishers it's another income stream. For writers it's a way to pay to be published while avoiding the more exploitative vanity publishers. For readers--well. How many books from Dell Arte have you come across on the shelves of your local bookshops? How many have you bought for your e-reader?
 

Bicyclefish

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Was this YouTube video of CEO David Shanks mentioned? It's from back in July. What Penguin intended Book Country to be then may be different from what they intend now, but this part around 7:14 caught my attention:

We saw through some of these, like the Amazon new author contest that we do with Amazon, that we can find authors like that, develop them, and have them contribute significant revenue to our company.

So we sort of said to ourselves, "Well, what about using this forum where we can make this the most comfortable place for a new author to come. We let other authors help them develop their craft, and that... and then let readers come on and comment on what they like about their books." And then... so create an almost a reading or author social network where then the more positive reviews that you get the higher up on the list you get. And then at the top of that list, we'll start to look seriously at those people and say, "Ha, here's our crop of potential bestselling authors. Let's now give this, the cream of the crop if you will, let's give them broader distribution into our electronic areas, put them on all the places that we're doing business, all the agents we're doing business with in the ebook space." And then, if that proves successful, we can make the jump to paper as well, to print as well.

So it was sort of... in our project before we launched it we were calling it the Farm Team, because it was sort of a baseball analogy. You know, you work your way up until you get to majors. You don't win at too many world series if you have a lousy Farm Team.
(I transcribed it myself, so there may be missed typos or words misheard.)
 
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IceCreamEmpress

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Arcadia Divine, "farm team" is an old baseball expression for "minor league affiliate." The Pawtucket Red Sox, for instance, are a "farm team" of the Boston Red Sox. The term comes either from most minor league teams having been in farm communities, or as a slang carryover from horse racing, where you send the injured horses to, and train the inexperienced horses at, an actual farm.

Old Hack said:
For writers it's a way to pay to be published while avoiding the more exploitative vanity publishers.

Yes, but there are less expensive publishing services available that aren't affiliated with large trade publishers.

People can say all they want to about these services not being misleading, but then you encounter rhetoric like Shanks's "farm team" comment above, and I really think that there's an implication out there that this is a back door into the majors. (Note: Book Country may well make it very clear that it isn't a "farm team" for Penguin on its site--obviously they're not responsible for everything Mr. Shanks happens to say in public--but since I find the Book Country site difficult to navigate, I will have to labor in ignorance unless someone else enlightens me.)
 
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AphraB

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Empress: that's exactly what was bugging me about the "farm team" reference, but couldn't put my finger on it. It seemed wrong and . . .well, yeah, misleading.

People can say all they want to about these services not being misleading, but then you encounter rhetoric like Shanks's "farm team" comment above, and I really think that there's an implication out there that this is a back door into the majors.
 

Shika Senbei

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Is it safe to place a WIP there for review, or will it be considered on-line publishing?
 

Chumplet

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I had a couple of my manuscripts there (one as a beta before they launched) and received a wealth of good critiques from other members. I reciprocated by offering my opinion on some other drafts.

I was satisfied with the critiques I received, and Mallet was consistently at the top of their rated manuscripts. But after a while they dropped off. The membership had grown so much that my little book settled at the rear of the pack.

I had reciprocated with some critiques, but I felt I wasn't contributing enough to merit staying with the site.

As a last ditch effort, I introduced the contemporary YA I'd been flogging since forever, after they had opened their genre list to permit it. It received a couple of rudimentary comments, but due to the size of the community, the manuscript was essentially ignored.

I decided to leave the community, not because I was dissatisfied, but because it didn't work for me.

My YA title remained on the site after I had attempted to remove it. Because my account was closed, I had no way to get my novel off the site. I emailed support but with no response.

A few days ago I emailed support again, and they responded today with the news that they successfully removed my novel. They thanked me for my participation, and invited me to join again if I felt it necessary.

Book Country might be perfect for some, but it wasn't quite right for me.

My account and first novel were removed from the site. However, the YA remained, even after I had attempted to remove it. I emailed support, and it was ignored.

A few days ago, I emailed again, and today they acknowledged that they received this request to remove the book from the site, and they apologized for the oversight.
 
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stormie

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What I've noticed with Book Country as pertaining to writers' WIP:

First, I created an account so I could peruse the site. Slight problems with signing up, but it could have been my ancient computer. Then again, after I successfully logged in, I had a problem with reading manuscripts. Another member of that community suggested that using Windows IE might be the problem. So I accessed Book Country using my Kindle. I was then able to read manuscripts and comment, if I wished.

Second, I don't think it's that large of an active community. Nothing like here at AW when it comes to critiquing manuscripts or writing discussions. It's well moderated though, which is a big plus.

Third, I do know that at least one person got an agent through posting her book on BC. Don't know the specifics.

This is just my observation on manuscripts posted, not BC's publishing.
 

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Book Country

Okay I stumbled onto a mention of this site in the latest issue of Writers' Digest and as someone who is considering self-publishing, thought I'd ask what the people on this board thought of the site. Because I'm not really seeing anything that sets off too many alarm bells, but at the same time, I'm a newbie, so I'm probably not a good judge of these things.

http://www.bookcountry.com/
 

Abderian

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It calls itself a Penguin community, so is it sponsored by Penguin? That's interesting.
 

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