UPDATE: Don’t miss the update at the bottom.
From The Wall Street Journal:
In a sign that major book publishers are now recognizing the potential of the digital self-publishing industry, Penguin Group (USA) on Wednesday is launching a service to help writers publish their own books.
For a fee of between $99 and $549, plus a cut of any sales revenue, Penguin’s subsidiary Book Country will offer an array of tools—ranging from professional e-book conversion to a cover creator—to help a writer make their work available through digital book outlets and print-on-demand services.
The self-publishing venture could help Penguin discover new writers while creating an additional revenue stream.
Penguin Group (USA) has invested “a substantial amount of money” in technology to launch the new service, said Chief Executive David Shanks. “If some of these books hit the best-seller lists, it could be very successful.”
. . . .
On the other hand, Penguin’s traditional publishing business doesn’t plan to refer authors it has rejected to the self-publishing operation. Molly Barton, Penguin’s global digital director, said “it wouldn’t be appropriate” to “suggest a path that involves fees” to an author whose manuscript had been rejected.
Fueled by the emergence of e-readers and the growing popularity of e-books, the number of self-published titles in the U.S. nearly tripled to 133,036 in 2010 from 51,237 in 2006, according to R.R. Bowker LLC, which tracks the publishing industry.
. . . .
Penguin is using its Book Country, a website for genre fiction, as the basis for its new service. Writers already post manuscripts on the site, which focuses on romance, fantasy, science fiction, thrillers and mysteries. Users comment on evolving manuscripts and offer advice about the publishing business.
Penguin says Book Country, which was launched in April, has attracted about 4,000 members who have posted an estimated 500 manuscripts, some finished, some not, with at least three authors finding agents to represent them.
Those writers who opt for Penguin’s self-publishing tools will have to share some of their earnings with Book Country. Authors will receive 70% of revenue for titles sold directly from Book Country that are priced at $2.99 or more, and 30% on books priced from 99 cents to $2.98. Book Country also will take a fee for each sale on other online retailers, which also will take a percentage of each sale.
“Our proposition is that this is the best place to self-publish genre fiction because that’s what we’re focused on,” Ms. Barton said. “Everything we do in self-publishing is tailored to genre fiction, including formatting and design, as well as how to describe your book, position it, and discover it.”
Thanks to Mercy for the tip.
In a quick pass through the Book Country website, Passive Guy found an FAQ here, but didn’t see any contract. If anyone finds an online Book Country contract, PG would love a pointer to its location.
UPDATE: PG reserved editorial opinion when he posted about Book Country, but many commenters did not. Joe Konrath commented, then wrote a blog post about the service. PG can’t improve on Joe’s commentary.