Penguin Enters the Self-Publishing Service Arena with Book Country

Book Country Launches Self-Publishing Services PW:

“Book Country, a free online writing community and publishing services venture launched by Penguin in April, has now added a suite of economically priced, easy-to-use self-publishing tools for its members. The launch of the fee-based self-publishing service makes Penguin the first big New York trade house to aggressively enter the self-publishing market with an online community aimed at developing aspiring genre fiction writers tied to the ability to self-publish their works.

Penguin CEO David Shanks said, “With its focus on nurturing and supporting new voices, Book Country is the perfect vehicle for introducing a new kind of self-publishing that offers a more professional product and provides guidance that isn’t currently available from other players.” Since its launch in April, Book Country has attracted 4,000 members who have posted about 500 book manuscripts on the site and generated thousands of critiques and reviews from the site’s community.”

Some very lively comments today on this piece from PW on Penguin’s new venture, Book Country, which has just launched a self-publishing service. Below are my own comments on the discussion:

Some excellent points, Inanna. The problem with the term self-publishing is that it is now so whored and overused – it has transcended what it should mean, but no more than the equal pointless, *traditional publishing* , a term actually coined by one of the most twisted and deceptive vanity houses in the business – PublishAmerica! I’d sooner focus on the quality of publishing, than the misuse of publishing terms.
I don’t think author guilds and associations are up in arms with *self-publishing* simply because it’s not on the radar for many members of those groups. Most of those groups’ members are established authors and semi-professional writers. They are not *self-published* and will never choose that path. Standards in publishing – in general – will only improve and see a balance debate as well as a charter of quality and accountability when author groups have larger memberships of authors who have chosen a route outside of *traditional publishing*. As many bar such authors – this is always going to be a them and us argument.Right now, the changes in the publishing world call for a concerted effort to progression and change on how publishing will be, not conservation and preservation on what has been.
I’m not happy about a lot of what is published in the name of *self-publishing*, but I’m also not blind to the fact that self-publishing as a viable path for some authors and reputable services have vastly highlighted great deficiencies with the greater publishing world.
[“The writer as revenue source is where the publishing industry is headed, and it’s halfway there now.”]
This utterly baffled me! Hasn’t the book publishing industry used the ‘writer as revenue source’ as its profit cornerstone since Guttenberg? The entire publishing industry survives by the core work generated by the author? I don’t know of any other industry where the producer takes 85%+ of the retail profit derived directly from what the creator/author generated. Certainly ebook and digital publishing in general is starting to seriously challenge that. The only difference I see is that publishers now cream the profit at the back end (after publication), rather than the front end model operated by publishing services.

Publishing is a business, and as a business man, I’d rather know my outlay and investment in time and expertise upfront, rather than discovering that my ‘advance’ on royalties is the only profit I will ever see on my endeavors after a year or so.

[ Readers won’t read self-published books and reviewers won’t look at them–unless they’re paid to, which is a growing trend from PW’s new “PW Select” on down.]

I’m not sure who is being referred to as readers here – true readers or reviewers – but either way, most ordinary readers don’t know what a self-published book is in the first place! Ordinary readers buy what intrigues, interests or inspires them. The only key here for author and publisher is to do the best to get that book in front of the reader by distribution and marketing. Both are the key areas that most self-published work falls flat on the face because of a lack of distribution reach, promotion and professionalism. As regards professional reviewers, most read and consider less then 5% of what is submitted, let alone respond with a published review, whatever means it has been published.

I think it is important here to realise that Penguin’s new venture is less about being a pro-active move to embrace authors willing to pay for publishing services, but rather more about being a reactive move to where they find themselves within the publishing industry. Sure, we can make Penguin’s move all about *self-publishing*, but if you are an author with a publishing contract, I’d be more concerned about what is going on in the publishing world than pointing the finger at *self-publishing* as a convenient scapegoat.

Publishing is a business.

True self-publishers get it, and that is why some authors do it properly and are prepared to invest so much in their books.

But, ultimately, business is business…

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