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Book Country’s First Signed Author: ‘Never Considered Self-Publishing’

25 February 2012

From Digital Book World:

In November 2009, a novel was born about a gatekeeper and a penguin.

Two years later, the novel (initially conceived during National Novel Writing Month, a novel-writing fest in which participants are expected to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days) was uploaded to Penguin’s Book Country, an online community for genre-fiction writers to share and workshop their work.

Fast-forward a few weeks: Danielle Poiesz, an editorial coordinator at Book Country emailed Kerry Schafer, 48 and a mental health crisis response professional in Colville, Wash. and the author of said novel, asking her if she would send the complete manuscript to an interested editor at Penguin.

Susan Allison, vice president and editorial director of Berkley Books, a publishing group within Penguin, was that interested editor. Allison wanted to talk, somehow an agent, Deidre Knight, got involved, and a digital-age book deal was born.

The structure of the deal is fairly standard, according to Schafer: Advance, two books, first due out in February 2013. (Schafer would not disclose the size of the advance.)

What’s different about this book deal is how the book was discovered: Book Country.

. . . .

JG: You were discovered on Book Country. How do you think the site helped you?

KS: With Book Country, it all depends on what you want to get out of it. With Between, I hoped maybe – I didn’t really believe it – but I did hope that maybe it was good enough and somebody might have a look at it and maybe an agent or an editor might have an interest. At the same time, I continued to query it [with agents].

JG: So, now that you have a book deal from a big-time publisher, have you quit your job?

KS: No, not yet. Someday, there’s a dream, down the road, I would like to write full-time.

But now I’m a little bit more dedicated making sure I get my daily writing time in. it’s a job now. I have a contract; I have a commitment. My family understands.

My first round of revisions is due by the end of March. The second book rough draft is due the end of December.

The second book, we’re looking at calling it Wake World, will be a continuation of this book. We’re looking at a trilogy, even though there are two contracted books, I’m planning a trilogy.

JG: Before this deal came through, did you ever consider self-publishing?

KS: I hadn’t. I know I need a good editor. I like to have a team. I didn’t want to spend all the time that is required for formatting and self-marketing. I like having the professional team that I have now. It’s awesome.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to Melissa for the tip.

Big Publishing

17 Comments to “Book Country’s First Signed Author: ‘Never Considered Self-Publishing’”

  1. I thought posting your work on Book Country was self-publishing.

  2. Josh –

    Book Country has always been first and foremost a free online writing workshop for genre fiction writers and readers. Writers who join post portions of – or entire – manuscripts on the site and receive peer critique from other members of the site, as well as from the Book Country staff. We also offer discussion forums focused on the craft and business of genre fiction writing, where writers can talk to other writers about their process and their goals.

    Additionally, one of our goals has also always been to keep an eye on the work that people share in order to find talented new writers who are ready to be published. When we see talent, we bring it to the attention of the Penguin editors.

    Lastly, agents and editors from other publishers have been exploring Book Country since we moved into public beta in April 2011. Although Kerry Schafer is the first Book Country member to have had her book acquired by traditional publisher, she is not the first to have found her agent via the site.

    The self-publishing services were always meant as a way to generate revenue in order to keep the community free and accessible to all writers.

    Hope that helps clarify.

    Best,
    Colleen Lindsay
    Book Country community mananger

    • Thanks.

      • Josh –

        You are most welcome!

        Colleen

        • You’re a brave woman coming to this neck of the woods.

          • Just answering a question, sir. :)

            I prefer not to try to force folks to change their minds about things they’ve already decided to believe, whether or not there is merit to that belief. There’s a lot of willful ignorance out there about traditional publishing and self publishing; people choose to hear what they want to hear.

            I have the utmost respect for writers who choose to self pub. I have zero respect, however, for writers who declare that self pub is the ONLY path to publication, just as I have zero respect for writers who declare that print is the only real way to publish a book. There’s no one “right way” to publish.

            Hope you have a great rest of your weekend!

            Colleen

  3. The gambler’s caution: It’s not the losing that gets you in trouble, it’s the winning.

    Congrats to Ms. Schafer on the book deal (though I winced at seeing it was for two books–will Penguin even be around to publish that second book?).

    It’s interesting for Penguin to publicize this. It doesn’t sound as if there is anything special about the deal. No celebrity name, no scandal, no over-the-top advance, no tie-in movie deal. Oh wait, because it’s not about the deal, is it? It’s about BOOK COUNTRY. Now thousands more hopefuls will flock to the site hoping to hit the publishing contract lottery, never considering that one) Ms. Shafer has an agent (the article is cagey about the chronology, but I suspect acquiring the agent came before the editor interest); two) the ratio of hopefuls to “winner” is about standard for the slush pile (4500 writers, 1000 manuscripts, one acquisition). Being a Book Country member didn’t actually help Ms. Shafer, only time will tell if it hurts her.

    My real question is, why isn’t Book Country publicizing their members’ self-publishing successes?

    • It sounds very much like Authonomy except it’s Penguin instead of Harper Collins. No thanks. I wasted way too much time on Authonomy to ever try something like that again. Thankfully, I don’t think I’ll have to.

      • And Authonomy don’t offer self-publishing, which makes them seem more above-board than Book Country – though you can’t go more than two or three pages on the site without seeing an advert for CreateSpace.

        My first book is still on Authonomy for the sake of a bit of exposure, but I stopped chasing the editor’s desk there as soon as I self-published it (not on CreateSpace). Most of the books that made the editor’s desk didn’t get published, and then they launched an imprint that would publish books from Authonomy without requiring them to reach the desk. So what was the point?

    • “Oh wait, because it’s not about the deal, is it? It’s about BOOK COUNTRY.”

      Brand Amplification, baby. Yeah.

      Pengy’s amplifying their brand as well as doing a little psyops against indie publishing.

      Nothing in that excerpt (or Ms. Lindsay’s reply) discusses the acutal product. Doesn’t even mention the book’s genre, now, does it? Let alone storyline.

      It’s about the process — Pengy’s new brand amplified gee-whillickers Charles Atlas programme that gets new 97-pound new author weaklings magically discovered, Hollywood style.

      Just send in those boxtops, kids, along with your manuscripts c/o Pengy’s Flavor Country. Tastes good like a book contract should!

  4. When someone never considered being something, they probably don’t really know what it takes to BE said something.

  5. “The self-publishing services were always meant as a way to generate revenue in order to keep the community free and accessible to all writers.”

    Just like a casino. Loser pays. Nice.

    • Zingo, Jaye.

    • Colleen was pretty brave for commenting on here, yikes.

      I still don’t understand why people sign contracts over e-books. They are so easy to do on your own and with the marketing tools available for indies these days, marketing is becoming easier.

      Why give up so much for so little? Kerry Schafer’s logic here does not make sense to me:

      “JG: Before this deal came through, did you ever consider self-publishing?

      KS: I hadn’t. I know I need a good editor. I like to have a team. I didn’t want to spend all the time that is required for formatting and self-marketing. I like having the professional team that I have now. It’s awesome.”

      She is paying a lot for that team, IMHO.

      • I don’t understand that either. There are many good editors around with references and they are a one-time cost. Same with a cover artist. Formatting isn’t a big deal. I had issues with my first book, but that came from using a variety of word processors to write it. A lot of weird code was left behind. My formatting isn’t fancy, but it’s clean. And marketing? Sure,initially. Then what?

        • Yup, I agree with you.

          I have a few different editors and cover artists who do a really good job. Also, I use scrivener so I have no formatting issues at all. Scrivener is one of the best software programs you can use to make ebooks.

          There are so many ways to market. What I have found is that social networking doesn’t really help with sales. It only helps with spreading the word about you and your book(s). This has been my experience. What really helped sales were the marketing tools available on Amazon, but there are other ways to market too, besides using the Amazon author tools.

          You know, someone should teach a class on this!

  6. “(When Book Country launched its self-publishing tool in November 2011, some self-published authors criticized Penguin for bating newbie-writers into thinking that by working with Book Country, they might have a chance at getting picked up by the major publisher even if that wasn’t necessarily the case.)”
    — As I recall, newbies were being warned about paying high prices for the services Book Country was offering, not the bating that is described above. It may be me, but the whole piece reads like it’s intended to be a well-oiled advertisement for traditional publishing.

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