Borders is once more in the news, this time because of a security breach that revealed the names and email addresses of some of their reward program customers. Somehow, a marketing company created a searchable database that included information from the reward program. Hopefully, Borders is right and “only” 150 or so customers were affected by this breach. However, with their track record, I’m not sure I’m confident more customers weren’t exposed. I guess what really concerns me is the fact that the first I heard of this was from this link, not from Borders itself. As a reward customer, I’d expect the company to let me know of any possible exposure of my private data. So far, I’ve seen nothing in my inbox from them– except, of course, for ads.
The same article by the Detroit News also notes that Borders needs an additional $50 million in financing to keep operating because some of its suppliers are demanding payment before delivery. Without the additional funding, it only has enough capital to operate for another few months. This from the company that keeps saying it plans to exit bankruptcy by August, even though it has yet to file an operating plan with the bankruptcy court.
I really do hope they can turn the company around and make a go of it. But, unfortunately, I’m not seeing any real indication that they will be able to. Hopefully, I’m wrong.
The big news in the publishing world came with the announcement that Penguin has a new venture — Book Country. On the surface, this looks like a potentially very good thing for genre writers. It is being billed as an online community where authors can post some or all of their work and get feed back. In order to get feedback, you also have to give feedback.
I don’t have any real problem with that part of it. That is pretty much standard for most legitimate online crit groups. It’s also fair. If an author wants critiques of his work, he should have to critique the work of others in the group in return. No biggie and no surprise.
I even like the genre map. I don’t love it simply because it is incomplete and I don’t necessarily agree with the placement of some of the genres. But, as a visual aid, it is a good tool to help refine in your own mind where you own work falls. I know that sometimes I have a hard time, especially when starting a new story or novel, figuring out exactly how to classify it.
However, I do have several concerns about this new venture. The first is an old concern. There are publishers who feel that posting a work-in-progress to a blog or even an online critique group constitutes publication. It doesn’t matter how much of it you do. Other publishers feel that if you post more than 1/4 – 1/3 of your work online to a group, that is publication. The fact that Book Country will show up to 5,000 words (iirc) of any title posted without the reader having to register can cause trouble. Are there procedures in place that might mitigate this concern? Sure…but it is still a concern and something every author should keep in mind.
This is when I remind you that editors and agents do google authors’ names and titles when a submission comes across their desks. I guarantee you, Book Country will be joined and checked as well. So bear that in mind.
There was a time not too long ago when Harlequin was smacked, and smacked hard, by authors and professional groups alike for offering what was seen as a vanity press option for those unable to get their foot in the door at HQ. Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America even delisted HQ for a time. That vanity press option evolved into Carina Press.
So, when I read that Book Country “will offer a suite of self-publishing services that will offer e-book and print publication for a fee.,” my alarm bells went off. Penguin, in the guise of Book Country, will let the author pay them to publish digitally or in print their book. Stop right there. The money should flow to the author, not away from him. You can already publish your e-books for free at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords, just to name a few. Using Smashwords alone, if you invest in an ISBN and meet a few minimal requirements, you can be listed in more than half a dozen major e-book retailer sites. Other than the $10 or so that the ISBN costs, you have as much exposure as you need — if you are willing to bust your butt on promotion.
For print books, CreateSpace works with and through Amazon to allow authors and small publishers to put out dead tree versions of their books — again, only for the cost of the ISBN. Okay, for wider distribution, you can pay an additional $40. But again, that is minimal.
Not quite the same thing, is it?
I hope Penguin decides to simply leave Book Country as an online community when it comes out of beta testing. I’m all for anything that helps writers network with one another, especially genre writers. But I do have concerns if they offer the pay to publish bit because, folks, that sounds an awful lot like vanity publishing to me. Only time will tell…well, time and a full disclosure of their terms for the publishing end of the community.