For those who don't know yet, Book Country is a program founded by Penguin last spring as a community for writers. Which is fine. But now, Penguin has gone a step past that. Joe Konrath has already been talking about this. I figured I'd chime in with a few comments as well.
It means Penguin thinks writers are stupid. And that they've decided to start a subsidy press.
There have been subsidy press scams around for years. These force writers to pay up front for book production costs, and then on top of that they take a large percentage of the income from book sales. I've spoken about these before. The problem with subsidy presses is not that they charge up front (which is fine) or that they take a percentage (which is fine), but that they do BOTH. And that's not OK.
Take Penguin/Book Country, for example. $549 is not atypical for print and ebook production. You'd pay about $50-150 for ebook conversion to all major formats, and you'd pay $200-500 for print book design. So they're not over the moon expensive there. And they're only taking 30% of net on ebook sales (not sure what percent on print), which isn't terrible either. The problem is that they're doing both, which is a HORRIBLE deal when you can get a freelance designer to make the book for you for $300-600 and no percent - or find a small press willing to pay all the production costs AND edit your book for 50% of net.
Consider: say I indie publish, and don't want to bother learning how to make my own ebooks. I pay someone $100 to format the book, and spend half an hour uploading it to the various retailers. I sell 5000 copies over the next X years at $2.99 each, and make ten grand. Or, I use Book Country, pay them $99 for the ebook-only option they have, and they keep 30% of the net. I make $7000. I've just paid them $3100 for a $100 job.
On what planet is that a good deal?
Or, you can use their "do it yourself" option. You format your own print and ebook; you give it to them along with $299, and Book Country will upload it to the various retailers for you. Understand: that means they're spending about $70 in fees for the print book, nothing for uploading the ebooks, and it's taking them about a half hour to an hour. So you're paying them $229 for an hour of work, which seems...a little high to me. And worse, again they're taking 30% of your income on all sales.
The bottom line? This is not a good deal. This is not even close to a fair deal. In fact, this is such an incredibly BAD deal that I find it offensive it's even been offered.
It's not a deal.
It's an insult.
This is what the publisher thinks of us, writers: that they can offer a deal this awful and we'll take it.
The world has changed, and we have much better options now, thanks.
Spread the word, writers. Let's make sure not one person falls for this awful program.