Self Publishing: Friend or Foe?
Writers, Readers … and Services for Both
In the case of Book Country, the goal was to provide services for genre fiction writers—mystery, thriller, science fiction, fantasy and romance—that Barton believes are best offered by a book publisher.
"The inspiration behind Book Country was to create a real stepping stone for genre fiction writers," she says. "It's focused on writers, but open to readers. I wanted to create a place for genre fiction writers to post works in progress and really create a website that serves them from inspiration to publication."
To that end, Book Country offers unique tools for writers, such as the ability to ask the community for advice on specific aspects of a work in progress—pacing, characterization or voice, for example. Reviewers are themselves rated, and those who provide the most constructive advice get special influence and exposure. Users must read and review three examples of other writers' works before their own manuscripts become visible, and robust search features allow writers to research examples and advice related to their own challenges. Perhaps most interestingly, a "genre map" feature allows authors to locate their books relative to other authors or styles, which show up as points on a virtual landscape.
"I wanted to bring a playful, fun element to browsing because I think we're all a little sick of search results," Barton says. The genre map includes published writers, helping aspiring authors locate themselves in the publishing landscape—and potentially publicizing established writers to an eager audience.
Book Country, Barton says, helps break down the "false notion" of writers versus readers, as some of the most passionate readers and genre fans are aspiring writers themselves.
As with Lulu, Author Solutions has gotten the message that writers are looking for new levels of support. The company has launched the Author Learning Center, which provides services such as an online support network for aspiring writers; a Book Launch Tool, which lays out goals and deadlines that allow authors to track where they are on the road to publication; and multimedia educational materials provided by writers, publishers, lawyers, agents and marketers. Weiss says he is looking to have 10,000 pieces of content on the site by the end of the year.