By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid
Penguin’s online genre fiction community, Book Country, has launched a self-publishing service, signaling the intention of big publishers to develop additional revenue streams in the face of a changing book-publishing landscape, even if it means letting authors bypass the traditional publishing process.
The self-publishing tool provides prospective authors with the option of either professionally producing their print and e-book or doing much of the production work themselves. It also offers the choice between distribution on just Book Country or a wider network, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other popular e-book stores.
“We’re at a point in the industry where there’s an understanding that there are multiple paths forward for authors,” said Molly Barton, Book Country president and newly appointed Penguin global digital director.
Since its April launch, BookCountry.com has nearly 4,000 members who have posted 500 pieces of fiction, according to the company.
The self-publishing tool is integrated with Book Country’s “genre map,” a detailed classification system of many genres and sub-genres, offering authors fairly sophisticated marketing capabilities, including use of BISAC codes that help readers find books in their area of interest. Users are also given an online marketing guide and advice on pricing through a pricing calculator. Revenues from books sold are to be split between Penguin and the authors, depending on the price the author selects for the book and the distribution method.
Users can opt for professional print- and e-book production through outsourced firms for $549, produce it themselves for print and digital distribution for $299 or produce it themselves for e-book-only distribution for $99.
When asked who produces the books for authors who opt into Book Country’s most expensive package, Barton would not confirm a specific company but said it was of the “ilk” of well-known production firms LibreDigital and Aptara and that it was a set of vendors that Penguin would use for its own production.
Penguin plans on adding more a la carte services to Book Country in 2012, potentially like those found on other self-publishing sites like CreateSpace and Lulu, where authors can opt to pay for an online review of their book to generate buyer interest.
Industry observers who attended a series of special demos of the product left impressed. Several who asked not to be named agreed that the marketing integration, pricing and simplicity of the tool were significant selling points to authors.
Penguin was unable to comment on certain issues about the project before press time, including how much marketing support it would get, how much revenue it’s projected to generate for the company in 2012 and the specifics around trade rights for the site’s users.
Write to Jeremy Greenfield