Book Country and Penguin are not the same
Penguin Books has opened up the self-publishing arm of it’s community called “Book Country” that allows authors to receive feedback from users, to now publish paying writers work and sell them through the Book Country online bookstore. Don’t get too excited though – because Penguin Books won’t actually be publishing you.
Before you get too confused and smash your computer screen, let me clarify – you will not be a “Penguin author”, because you’ll be a “Book Country author”. Which doesn’t mean a lot at all when attempting to brag at dinner parties. Although the Book Country website contains the Penguin logo wherever you look, you can bet any quality issues will be the fault of Book Country.
Budding authors can choose a number of options from the Book Country price list, which starts at just $59 and goes up to $399 if you are after a more polished, professional looking layout. Hang on, though – aren’t there cheaper (as in, almost free?) services out there for self-publishing authors that allow them to format and publish their book? From an outward glance, it looks as though Penguin and Book Country are convincing naïve young indie authors into thinking they are being published by one of the Big Five for next to nothing. If only getting a publishing deal was that easy! Certainly articles claiming that ‘you can get published by Penguin for cheap’ like this one don’t help.
There are decent royalties for authors who choose to sell their ebooks through the Book Country – 85 percent of the sell price. Compared to the Amazon Kindle Store (70 percent) and the Nook Press (65 percent) this is likely to cause authors to flock to Book Country, but how many people actually buy from the Book Country bookstore?
It wasn’t always so tempting to go with Book Country though. After it’s initial launch in 2011, the service received sharp criticism from self-published authors, and for good reason. Penguin took a 30 percent cut of the royalties that authors using Book Country earn from third-party sellers such as Amazon. Paid Content used this example in an article about the topic – ‘An author who publishes a $2.99 ebook directly on Amazon will receive $2.05 for each sale. An author who publishes an ebook to Amazon through Book Country will receive just $1.47 for each sale.’ So essentially Penguin was charging authors twice – once to publish and then again to sell a single copy of their book, and ending up with over half of the royalties.
Eventually, B.C. and Penguin responded by lowering the publishing package prices (previously the price ranged from $99 to $549) and increasing the royalties for authors. However, there is still the troubling chance that some of these self-published authors will never make back the money that they pay to have the book distributed by Book Country. At least with the free option writers aren’t out of pocket if their books never make a single sale.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s great that a big publishing house such as Penguin is starting to think about self-publishing, even if it is technically under a different name. But publishers like these have clung to the idea that they uphold editorial standards and general greatness in the literary field for so long. Will they still be able to convince authors and the rest of the world that they do care while still pushing the Book Country option?
Penguin claims that the Book Country option is not meant to be cheapest option on the market because it can offer a higher quality of ebook. But from looking at the ‘Publishing Services’ offered by Book Country, it doesn’t look as though they perform any editorial services like spell checking, grammar or checking for content quality. Perhaps that’s a job for the online community of over 8,000 budding authors – giving constructive feedback. What if there’s a WH Smith-esque scandal all over again because nobody is around to check that authors aren’t publishing ‘unsuitable’ or adult content? Even worse, what if Book Country gets a reputation for publishing crap books?