Penguin Launches Rip-Off Self-Publishing “Service” Targeting Inexperienced Writers

This post, by David Gaughran, originally appeared on his Let’s Get Digital site on 11/18/11.

Penguin has unveiled a self-publishing service – which will operate under the aegis of its online writing community Book Country – but questions are being asked about the huge fees they are charging, and the massive royalty cut that they are taking (on top of what retailers such as Amazon charge).


This topic has already been covered by bloggers such as Joe Konrath, Katie Salidas, Linda Welch, and Passive Guy. Their posts are worth reading in full – especially the comments where you can see the widespread disapproval of this move from the self-publishing community.

However, this message needs to be repeated again and again to reach as many writers as possible to steer them away from this truly awful deal, and to counter the wall-to-wall, uncritical coverage from the likes of eBookNewser, Publishers Weekly, and the Wall Street Journal (to get past their pay-wall, click on the first search result here).

The most contentious parts of Penguin’s self-publishing operation are the fee structure and the royalty grab. There are lots of other things to dislike, but we’ll get to that.

Overcharging for “services”

Book Country offer a range of options to self-publish your work, all vastly over-priced.

The premium package costs a whopping $549. To be clear: there is no editing or cover design included in this package (the two biggest expenses for self-publishers). There is also no marketing or promotion included in this package, aside from a “Publishing Kit” with “tips” and “ideas”.

All you receive in return for your $549 are your formatted e-book files and your typeset print files which they upload for you. Needless to say, there are a whole host of companies out there that will do the same job, quicker, for a lot less money.

For those with slightly less money to waste, the next package costs $299. The astounding thing about this package is that you get nothing other than the aforementioned “Publishing Kit” (with those “tips” and “ideas”), and the ability to use their software to format your own print and e-book files, which they will upload for you.

Again, it should be pointed out that this is more expensive than paying somebody else to do it for you. If you want to do it yourself, the software you need is free. I should also note that it costs nothing to upload your files to all the major retailers.

The cheapest package is $99. This gets you that “Publishing Kit” and the ability to use their software to format your e-book file only, which they upload to the retailers.

At the risk of repeating myself, there is no value in this package either. You are doing all the work, aside from the uploading, which is free, quick, and simple anyway.

But the poor value in these packages isn’t even the worst part as you will keep paying them every time you sell a book.

Royalty grab


Read the rest of the post, which includes several more recent updates, on David Gaughran‘s Let’s Get Digital.