Honestly, when I read Penguin’s bouncy announcement on Book Country, Warner Bros cute little penguins danced through my mind. The announcement conveyed a sense of excitement and optimism.  “A new kind of self-publishing that offers a more professional product and provides guidance that currently isn’t available to players.”


Hm. There is so much junk here, I don’t know where to start.


Book Country, so far, is a place where “readers and writers come together to read original works of fiction.” It’s a critique group, and I’ve heard good things about it, with the added lure writers can “make a name for themselves.”  Now they are on the brink of launching their new service.


They offer three self-publishing packages: $99 for user-formatted books. (User formatted means the author does their own formatting.) $299 for a user-formatted print book and e-book. Hm. The author still does their own formatting. And $549 for a professionally formatted print and e-book. Yipee! You get formatting for $549. Not only that, you can choose from six cover styles (you heard me – six – wow) which correspond to your genre. You can also choose distribution. Wide range distribution puts you on Book Country, Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Google, Kobo and “others.” Basic is on Book Country only. There is no mention of the most vital facet of putting out a good product – editing.


Now hold on one cotton picking minute. I already sell on Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Google, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords and Diesel. And it didn’t cost me a penny. If you go through Penguin, you pay them a percentage of sales. This means if your e-book sells on Amazon, both Amazon AND Penguin take a percentage. Same for everywhere else.


A new kind of self-publishing that offers a more professional product and provides guidance that currently isn’t available to players? Er, no it’s not new. Nothing new here. For example, if you want to publish in print, Amazon’s CreateSpace offers the same services for a fee, but not as hefty as Penguin’s.


Penguin doesn’t say much else than that on their Book Country site. But here’s another article: Self Publishers get help


Again, the theme is Penguin will “help a writer make their work available.” Help a writer. An author can upload their own work to multiple online retailers.  Why go through Penguin and pay oodles for the privilege? Why pay Penguin for formatting and a formulaic cover (the options appear to be limited) when you can get a range of professional services from highly skilled free lancers, such as editing, formatting, and cover design for a flat rate and not have to pay a penny after that?


Here’s another gem: “Penguin’s traditional publishing business doesn’t plan to refer authors it has rejected to the self-publishing operation.” So if they won’t let their rejects in the program, stands to reason they won’t let the dross from newbies creep in, is that it? They’ll act as gatekeepers in this new program? Oh, come on now. Do you think they’ll have a team of editors in place to peruse every submission, to make sure it comes up to their standard? I don’t think so.


It sounds to me, all an author will get out of this is an emptier pocketbook and “Penguin” listed as the publisher, though I expect there will be a distinction between their trad pubbed books and those via their self-publishing platform. Because make no mistake, that’s exactly what it is, a self-publishing platform. A very expensive one which you’ll continue to pay for with a percentage of your royalties.


“The self-publishing venture could help Penguin discover new writers. . . . Penguin could offer the most successful self-published writer contracts . . .” Ah, there we have it. The bait. I repeat: do you think they’ll have a team of editors in place to read every submission and snap up the next best seller? Nope. Penguin won’t market your book. You do that yourself, as self-published authors already do. An author will have to sell tens of thousands in a brief period to get Penguin’s attention. You do all the hard work, Penguin picks up the profits.


Sadly, many writers will go for this, believing the Penguin name validates their work. Readers may buy these e-books thinking Penguin only prints the good stuff, just as many readers persist in believing it of trad pubbed books even though nowadays so many are poorly edited and poorly formatted.


E-book sales have increased dramatically and will continue to do so. Big 6 is finally getting it through their collective thick skull that lowly self-published authors who sell their work for $2.99 per pop are making big bucks. Penguin wants a finger in that pie. Penguin is cashing in on their name. Yet another way for a Big 6 publisher to get your money and give little in return.


Update: just up,  David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital. David is a pro at finding info which isn’t obvious unless you delve. And take a look at Joe Konrath’s Book County Fail







  1. Thanks for that! Ironic that Penguin is doing this… I suggest to steer clear.

    I taught myself everything from scratch- writing, formatting, programming, conversion etc, published my debut novel and it peaked at #2 on the Australian book charts in its first week.

    Services like this prey on those wanting to throw money at it when really, you don’t need to.

    Penguin will try to catch you with it’s affiliated publishing name but in the emergence of the E-book, the power is with you, not with them. It’s shifting, as did music….

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  8. This just blows my mind. Who came up with these packages? An intern?

    Rule #1 of creating great products/services is to create great value… for the customer. Fail.

  9. Pingback: You Win When You Create Value | No Publisher Needed

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    • I’m honored David mention my humble post on his far superior blog. I added a link to it on the main post. David says it all so much better than I can.

  12. It’s amazing what some big corporations will do to take your money.

  13. Great write up, Linda. You know those guys were offering nothing because they carefully distanced the Penguin brand from their new “Book Country” creation. Wouldn’t want to tarnish their “golden egg” either with the fallout from disgruntled writers, or the resentment of disgruntled readers, if their unedited “products” disappointed.

  14. This is the biggest scam I have ever seen. A bunch of guys in a boardroom asking themselves not “How can we offer a service that is better than anyone else?” or “How can we fulfill a need in the new market?”


    The question in that boardroom was, “How can we skim off of money that’s already changing hands.”

    And the six cover options?

    These guys aren’t putting me out of business any time soon.

    • I had to read about the cover “option” several times before it sank in. So that’s their idea of “professional?” YOU could put THEIR cover department out of business.

  15. I couldn’t have written a better post! I thought all those same things when I read about their new “service”. Yeah, I think I’ll stick with what I’m currently doing :)

  16. Exactly. You nailed it, Lin.

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