Book Country

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Nathan Bransford
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Book Country

Post by Nathan Bransford » November 19th, 2011, 1:38 pm

I'm sure many of you have noticed the news/controversy surrounding Book Country's new self-publishing venture. There's some background on the debate here, including quotes from our own Forumite David Gaughran!
The primary criticisms are that Book Country’s services, which range from $99 to $549, are much too expensive—“vanity press, pure and simple,” writes one commenter at The Passive Voice—and that Penguin takes a cut of 30 percent cut of royalties authors earn from third-party retailers like Amazon. In other words, an author who directly uploads his or her work to Amazon receives a 70 percent royalty. An author who uses Book Country to upload his or her work to Amazon receives 70 percent of that 70 percent. An author who publishes a $2.99 e-book directly on Amazon will receive $2.05 for each sale. An author who publishes an e-book to Amazon through Book Country will receive just $1.47 for each sale.
Personally I wonder if some of the criticism is a little harsh. The formatting service is more expensive than other options of doing it yourself, but that's true of any "premium" option that gives you ease of use. Sure, if you did everything yourself it would be cheaper, but you're paying for convenience.

I'm less sanguine about the 30% on every copy sold, but I also can see Book Country's statement that they are offering a service that allows really easy print and e-publishing in a way that doesn't exist through other services. All e-distributors that make books available through all vendors charge a fee, it's up to authors to decide if 30% is worth it for them.

What do you think?

More background:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/no ... publishing
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-t ... vices.html
http://www.bookcountry.com/

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cheekychook
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Re: Book Country

Post by cheekychook » November 20th, 2011, 12:29 pm

While I agree the services seem a bit overpriced or outrageous (30%?!), this is, unfortunately, far from the worst offer I've seen out there. The saving grace here is that at least the people who are running Book Country are "in the business" and should, at least in theory, "know what they're doing". There are so many sites out there that offer similar service and claim to be "experts" and they are really completely inexperienced frauds. To me, neither is ideal, but the real snake oil salesmen are worse.

I actually joined Book Country as a beta when it very first went into testing. It sounded quite promising from what I knew of it. To be honest, I think my experience at Bransforums ruined me for Book Country. I didn't find the set-up, the mood, or the tone as appealing or homey as what I was used to finding on these forums. I did some chatting and some commenting, started some threads, but it always seemed something was missing. I never posted anything for critique because I already had everything out on submission, and I stopped going altogether when I got all my works contracted, because you're not really supposed to be hanging out there if you don't have things up for review (or at least it feels that way). Some people who I met there definitely seemed to be getting a lot out of it and enjoying the experience, so in that regard I thought it was worthwhile, just not my cup of tea. Everyone needs to find their own comfort zone, particularly where writing/critiquing is concerned.

I have to say it was disappointing to learn that they launched this new fee-for-service branch. To me, it felt (in retrospect) like they'd lured a bunch of people to their board as a marketing device. Had I known during the beta phase that they were setting up a business where writers paid for their services, I'm not sure I'd have ever joined. Maybe they did announce that and I missed it, that's a very real possibility. I was lucky enough to start contracting things on my own pretty quickly and, as I said, I wasn't thrilled with the set-up (and couldn't put my finger on why enough to suggest specific changes), so I stopped going. I'm sure I missed a lot of memos about what they had planned for the company overall.

I looked into self-publishing while I was out on submission, and I have multiple friends who have (quite successfully) gone that route. Sure, it's much more convenient to have someone do everything for you, but you can get a lot of services for a lot less than what Book Country is initially charging. Maybe they'll drop their prices at some point. Or maybe the Penguin name (connection) will carry enough weight that people will pay the increased price to be affiliated with them. Like paying more for designer jeans even though they're pretty much the same as any other decent pair of jeans. It becomes a personal choice.

As to the royalties issue, it doesn't seem like Book Country is offering any services that should entitle them to a sizable chunk of the profits for the entire length of time the book is for sale. Listing with multiple vendors isn't nearly as tricky as formatting and if there's no marketing or advertising I don't see why someone would agree to pay them 30% for all eternity. Again, it's a personal choice. We writers can be a desperate lot, seeking comfort anywhere we can find it, and the idea of being "taken care of" can begin to look damned appealing no matter what the cost. I hope people who sign up to use Book Country read the fine print and know exactly what they're paying for and what they're getting in return. As long as they understand all that before they sign, then it's their decision.
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Margo
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Re: Book Country

Post by Margo » November 20th, 2011, 1:47 pm

I think it's a bad deal as it stands.

When I first started self-publishing a few months ago, I found the formatting and uploading to be confusing and frustrating, mostly because of formatting errors. So I hired someone to format for me...for $20, not $99 or $500, and the formatted files were perfect.

And there's no way it's worth giving them a cut for distribution that you can do yourself with a little practice.

Now I do my own formatting and uploading. In real time terms, it takes me one hour to format a single title in four different ways for 5 different distributors, to convert all the files to the best file type for each distributor, and to upload the title to all the distributors. It's moderately tedious, but I can't imagine how I'd justify paying these people 30% forever for what would take me one hour. They would have made hundreds of dollars off me in addition to their upfront fees this month alone.
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Ryan
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Re: Book Country

Post by Ryan » November 21st, 2011, 2:26 am

The name Book Country makes me think of a used car dealership complete with a fast talking round guy trying to rip you off.

Couldn't they come up with a better name like Book Barn, Book Mill, Book Ville, or Book Factory?
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cheekychook
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Re: Book Country

Post by cheekychook » November 21st, 2011, 11:24 am

Ryan wrote:The name Book Country makes me think of a used car dealership complete with a fast talking round guy trying to rip you off.

Couldn't they come up with a better name like Book Barn, Book Mill, Book Ville, or Book Factory?
Book Ville. Very Seuss-ian.

All the Books down in Book Ville,
the short and the long,
awaited new readers,
things couldn't go wrong...
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Ryan
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Re: Book Country

Post by Ryan » November 21st, 2011, 12:54 pm

One more name.

Books o' Rama!

Publish here!
Tomorrow!
Instantly!
Success!
YOU can be an Author too!
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HillaryJ
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Re: Book Country

Post by HillaryJ » November 22nd, 2011, 1:42 am

The one thing that struck me as actually different from other self-pub assist programs was Book Country's distribution. Their website shows a chart indicating theirs is much broader than their main competitors'. I wonder if anyone has compared sales on a single or limited distribution network versus theirs? Likely not, yet, if they've only just started this part of the program. But I could see that being an advantage if it increased sales beyond just offsetting its costs.
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dgaughran
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Re: Book Country

Post by dgaughran » November 24th, 2011, 7:42 am

Hi guys,

Sorry I've been slow to respond, I've had a nasty cold all week.

I have a number of issues with Penguin's vanity-esque self-publishing imprint (as you might guess from my choice of words). These, in brief, are my areas of concern:

1. Overcharging.

There is little value in either of the three packages and the same services are available elsewhere for much, much less. If you don't want to do ANY of the work yourself, there are plenty of services (such as Book Baby) which charge considerably less. Book Country's package doesn't even do everything for you anyway, you will still have to arrange things like editing. And finding a good editor is considerably more difficult (and expensive) than finding a good formatter.

2. Double dipping.

But these exorbitant fees aren't enough for Book Country. They then take 30% of the royalties that retailers such as Amazon pass on. This, of course, is AFTER the retailer takes there 30%. There is no justification for taking an ongoing fee for a one time job like formatting or uploading. None whatsoever.

3. Disingenuous marketing.

The marketing copy on the site doesn't make it clear exactly how much of a cut they are taking from your royalties. This should be upfront, and clear.

4. Potential conflict.

Aside from the confusion that can arise from a major publisher launching a self-publishing service (e.g. the article in The Guardian presented it as "Get published with Penguin for only $99"!), there is a question whether it is in poor taste to attach paid publishing services to any writing community. If Nathan added self-publishing services (or query package critiques) to this forum, serious questions would be asked. Part of the reason for that is that part of the role of writing communities is to evaluate such service providers - which is hard to do if the community itself is providing such services.

I talk about all this in more detail in my post here: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2011 ... d-writers/

Both my post and Joe Konrath's post generated well over 100 comments from fellow self-publishers, and I have spoken with plenty more over the last week by email and on Facebook and Twitter. I can't find one who is interested in using this service.

That should tell you something: namely that Penguin/Book Country are adding exactly zero to the self-publishing proposition.
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