Penguin’s Sekrit Projekt, headed by Molly Barton and Colleen Lindsay, launched for open beta Monday. Book Country is a community of writers online, giving feedback and posting their own work for collaborative critique and improvement.
One feature I think is rather cool is the genre map, wherein writers have to plot their books based on a few factors, including genre, sub-genre, then tone and style. I rather like the idea of categorizing books visually, though this is likely easier if you’re a reader looking for books than if you are a writer categorizing your own work, I suspect. The community is focused on critique and collaborative improvement, and later developments will include self-publishing options, according to a NY Times article.
One thing I very much like is that in order to receive feedback on your own work, you have to leave feedback for others. It has to be a two-way interaction if you choose to place your work there for critique and comment. It’s a huge cross-genre community – or, as Molly Barton said in the New York Times interview about Book Country, it connects “disparate pieces that writers had to go to three or four different sites to find.” Colleen Lindsay, Book Country Community Manager, emphasized the tone of the site: there’s a tone of respect and expected behavior in the criticism. Negative reviews are possible, but personal criticism will not be tolerated.
Calvin Reid’s PW article explains a LOT of how to use the site, including the genre map that I like so much. The site also emphasizes the use of color, as seen in this explanation of newly-uploaded books waiting to be discovered, using specific color shades to denote genre, heat level, or humor level.
If you’re a romance reader, what’s in it for you? Stuff to read – that you can discover through identifying exactly your favorite genres and sub-genres – and having an opportunity to respond to writing in progress, if you are so inclined. The site’s beta testers were not just writers – there’s a lot of readers in the site as well, says Danielle Poiesz, Book Country Editorial Coordinator. Poiesz was in editorial at Pocket acquiring romance and is thus very familiar with the genre. She thinks the romance section at Book Country is pretty strong already, and she’s particularly proud of the discussions going on about romance, particularly the conversations that focus on how to write fight scenes, combat, or even sex. The community, if you’re a writer or a reader, is free.
I was a beta tester for Book Country (a rather terrible one as my travel schedule heated up just as it was time for me to go break the thing for them) but now that it’s live for open beta, I’m curious if you’re interested in it, or if you’ve posted your writing for critique. What I do think is that there is room for Book Country to brand itself as an author and reader community of some worth in terms of outside recognition. For example, right now there’s no real brand recognition or vetting for self-published books the way there is for digitally or print published books through a house. There’s no “This book was edited by Name Brand Freelance Editor” for self published authors, for example, the way that a publisher’s name has come to mean some editorial and production oversight was given to the title in question. Self published folks have fewer valuable shortcuts in communicating to readers and reviewers, “Someone other than me thought this was a good book.” There are excellent communities that serve this function in the fanfic world, but not as many in equal strength in the unpublished genre fiction world.
So where there’s opportunity for Book Country is to be a branded vetting process for self-pub authors. “My book was rated with consistent four stars and received user awards for dialogue at Book Country” or “My novel was a Book Country award winner” could ultimately mean something to reviewers or agents, for example, when an author pitches their next work, based on the strength and objectivity of the community of people within it.
If the community is built in a manner that yields collaborative value and worth, being a successful “Book Country” book could be a meaningful attribute.
The latest Hark, A Vagrant highlights a woman who gets better or worse depending on who is steering the character: Lois Lane. Either she kicked ass or she wailed and waited for Superman – but I do like this version of her. Prickly thing.
The explanation beneath the comic linked to Dean Trippe’s Tumblr, which shows some work for the proposed Lois Lane, Girl Reporter, a pitch for an illustrated YA series featuring Lois at age 11. Oh, holy mother of pearl, do I wish that had become a reality.
And finally, you know who can help you learn to use your university library? Zombies. They are good for damn near everything, really. Thanks to Carin for the link.