Is Book Country Really that Helpful?

For about a year now, I’ve been trying to do this online program for critiquing unpublished work. It’s called Book Country under the label of Penguin. This is a program that promises that you’ll get honest and supportive feedback on your current WIPs and maybe even pick up an agent or publishing contract.

If only it were that easy…

I know I’m not a perfect writer, and I don’t know of anyone who is, especially the well-known names. So I already know that my writing is a process, and it will continue to grow and improve as I continue to write. With that being said, I have noticed some things about the Book Country experience.

The problem that I’ve been having so far is there are a couple of people who, no matter what you do, give a near form response for a critique. These formulaic responses can also borderline on the personal. There’s no time limit to give a review, so it can take weeks and months before I receive feedback.

Another issue is the star system that they have to rate books. You can earn anywhere between one and five stars–one being very rough draft, to five, being publish ready. Many WIPs I have read barely made it passed the three star mark and have gone on to earn agents and publishing contracts. The stars don’t reset when you upload a new draft of your work, and I’ve found that many people have voiced their thoughts of not wanting to spend time on a critique if the WIP is less than three stars.

The star system is flawed and the reviews are heavily subjective.

The idea of this concept is appealing, and it seems like a really good way to get eyes on your work and get help on improving your story. But there is always that fine print to look at.

It has come to my attention through a few reputable sites that some major publishing houses and agents won’t look at your work or be able to work with you if your work has been placed on a site like Book Country. This makes this program geared towards those who are looking into self-publishing. Look carefully through the Terms of Service. For more information regarding this, visit The Passive Voice.

So, is the feedback honest and supportive? Maybe. I suppose. But then it’s easy to get caught in a vicious cycle of writing the book to everyone else’s standards than your own. Especially when you get some pretty snarky reviews.

My advice is to join a critique group locally and land a few beta readers. This way, you know you aren’t feeling like you’re in the midst of a competition and belittled by harsh criticism. The people you give your work to are more likely to give you the more supportive side of feedback and tell you how to improve your writing— not insult you. Whereas, Book Country is a glorified program set to bring more traffic to Penguin.

Samantha LaFantasie writes fantasy and is currently working through the revision of her first manuscript, Heartsong.  She’s been a KWA member since 2012 and says, “I love writing. It is therapy for me… I get lost in my writing.” Want to read more from Samantha? Visit her blog.

Comments

  1. I have also had a somewhat mixed experience with a “authors critique” website. While some reviewers simply gushed that they loved my work, with no constructive criticism, others trashed it and me, which caused a lot of hurt and embarrassment. I feel that face-to-face critiques work better. Most idiots know better than to trash your work to your face!

  2. I had the idea that a website like you talk about might be helpful, but never could find one. I’m glad to have this review- it sounds like they may do more harm than good.

  3. Does Book Country charge a fee? And do they provide references? It seems like there is a huge industry preying on writers who seeking publication.

    • Book Country does not charge a monomial fee. However, before your own work can be critiqued, you must be willing to critique several others’ work. On the surface, this seems like a fair exchange to me. And on the other note… there are always industries willing to prey on those with dreams. But being forewarned is definitely forearmed.

  4. Carol, most people wouldn’t just rip your book apart and demean you in the process. So, you are right. An in person critique group has a ton more value and merit than those that are online. Not all that glitters is gold and in this case, that has been what I learned. 🙂
    Summer, it is just my personal experience and what I have discovered from asking a few other writers who have had similar experiences. It seems that this is a very cliquish group with invisible standards and though it truly is meant to help, the members sometimes fall short of helping and turn too critical and even sometimes, attack the writer themselves.
    Scott, as the Admin has already pointed out, there is no fee to joining and participating in their program. However, they do have services for which they charge a substantial amount for should youd decide to publish through them. And then there is also the “price” of risking exposure on their site causes a loss of big name publishing houses as well (as mentioned in the link: The Passive Voice).
    In the end, it is better to do it the old fashioned way. At least, that’s how it seems to me. 🙂

  5. I’ve been using Scribophile for a few months now. It’s almost the same concept as Book Country, but the site is more active. I’ve gotten mixed critiques from the site, but it’s been definitely helpful with my writing. As much as I love to join a local writing group, I don’t have a flexible schedule that would allow me to do this on a regular basis with young children. So it has to be online for me.

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