For about a year now, I’ve been trying to do this online program for critiquing unpublished work.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.