Book Country - The Newest Way to Screw Writers

I didn't believe it at first when I saw this over on Konrath's blog.

Penguin U.S. has set up something called Book Country. One side of it, the critique side, doesn't bother me. If that's your thing, go for it.

But what Konrath and other writers object to is this announcement to self publish and format your ebook for a fee.

Outrageous Fees

This part of Book Country's "self publishing" site states that "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." Sounds great, right? You don't have to do a damn thing except provide the document, and they'll format it for you.

For $549.

Wait, what?!!!!

There are plenty of formatters out there (just go to Smashwords, and you can request a list of them, if memory serves; or try Kindleboards, if you can't/don't want to do it on your own) who charge WAY LESS than what these bozos (no offense to Bozo the Clown) are charging.

Let's see...is there another option? Why, yes, the lovely folks at Book Country have come up with something that is so ridiculous that it's almost laughable (almost): a user-formatted option.

Think I'm kidding?

I wish I was kidding.

To wit (and I use the word "wit" very loosely here): "Are you more the hands-on type? 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."

Why would I want to pay a whopping $299 for this? Formatting isn't as hard as some people think, and if you don't put in any weird formatting marks, you should be fine. There are plenty of low-cost classes/courses on cover design using whatever publishing program you're familiar with, and as for marketing ideas - come on, even Penguin and the other so-called Big Six don't always have a clue as to what works and what doesn't.

So, what am I getting out of this that I can't do by uploading on my own?

As for their (introductory price) US$99 ebook-only package is crap; again, I can do this all on my own, with a minimal amount of money. (And what's going to be the price after the introductory US$99 goes away? $139? $159?)

If You Just Can't or Won't Format and Upload on Your Own

Very simple. You go through the special section at Kindleboards and ask questions (how much, how long will it take, etc.) of those people who do the formatting. Or go onto Konrath's blog and use someone there. A lot of those who format will also upload, but, trust me, it's really not that hard to figure out. There are steps to take, sure, and you have to have your blurb(s) ready, but the upload for Amazon will take 24 hours; the one for Smashwords is usually anywhere from about fifteen minutes to a couple of hours (that's because Smashwords has to take your story and make it into different formats, like ePUB). With Smashwords it also depends on how big your book is; short stories almost fly through.

But They're Not Done Yet

You'd think that would be enough for Book Country to extract from writers' wallets. And you would be wrong.

If you've been uploading stuff for a while, you know that when you price a book at $2.99 and above you get 70% in royalties from Amazon. A nice, decent split.

But not so with Book Country. Penguin keeps 30% of your royalties. So you keep paying them, and keep paying them. It doesn't look like they do any editing or proofreading, they give you tips on designing covers (big whoop), and they charge you upfront.

And keep charging you. For. Every. Book. You. Sell.

From Book Country's site: For a $2.99 eBook sale of a Book Country title on Amazon, Amazon takes $0.90 and then the author is entitled to $1.47.

Excuse me? The author is "entitled" to $1.47 because Book Country did what? You've already paid them for formatting, if you've with the $599 "deal." Why are they getting a further cut?

I, for one, am tired of being treated like a peon. I get enough of that at my temp job, and it's great to actually have one part of my life under my control, where I'm treated with some respect.

I have one thing to say about this entire thing:


You have been warned.