If you’re a writer, you’ve probably struggled at one time or another with finding people to critique your work. Book Country helps connect writers for that very purpose. Today I’m excited to have Lucy Silag, an author who works at Book Country, here to talk about the site and how it works. And just in case you’re wondering, it’s FREE!
For people who aren’t familiar with the site, can you share a one or two sentence description?
Book Country is the most supportive writing and publishing community on the web, where writers workshop and publish their books, as well as connect with one another to learn about the craft of writing and the business of publishing.
What do you see as the biggest benefit for writers to be a part of Book Country?
We hear over and over that writers are getting the most helpful online feedback on Book Country. It’s a site where people take a lot of time to comment on specifics in a constructive way. I love that we provide a place where you can really test how your writing is working “on the page”—someone who has never met you is basically picking up your book and reading it, the way readers do in a bookstore or library. Those reactions are hard to get from friends, family, and classmates.
Have you had the same position the whole time?
My role has grown and evolved a lot since I’ve worked here—that’s one of the things I like most about my job. I oversee the Book Country blog, our social media, as well as oversee user support issues, which I’ve done from day one, but I now my role has expanded so that I’m also much more involved with web analytics, IT + site development, as well as marketing partnerships. I’ve been a “humanities person” my whole life, so working with statistics and technology was something I never imagined that I’d do. But I actually really love that part of it. Another thing I’ve been getting to learn more about is graphic design, and that I really adore. I’m lucky that Book Country is part of Penguin Random House, because my colleagues are incredible at this stuff, and I’ve been able to learn a lot from them and apply it to my work on the site.
How did you get involved initially?
The moment I read the ad for this job I knew it was the perfect job for me. I’d worked in traditional publishing (as a book publicist) and I adore the industry. Publishing people are totally “my” people. We love to read, but we also squeal over gorgeous covers, joke around with one another on social media, and flock to book parties and happy hours. When I was a Fiction MFA student, I loved getting all the time to think about great writing (and finally reading the classics), but I missed that swirl and excitement of new books, conversations, and milestones happening every week. But at that time I was in my MFA program, I also developed a love of community—things happened more slowly in my teaching, tutoring, and grant administration work, but that allowed me to really get to know other writers (of all experience levels) and help them figure out major things about how to make their writing better, whether it was my peers or my students. That process takes time. So Book Country is wonderful mix of that: We get to celebrate with our members and help them write revise, and publish their books, but we also get to be part of their learning process.
In addition to supporting writers, you’re an author yourself. Tell me a little bit about your published books and what you’re working on now.
I wrote a trilogy of young adult books called the Beautiful Americans novels. They were actually published by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin, long before I worked for Penguin or before Book Country was even founded! The trilogy takes place at a high school study-abroad program in Paris: A group of new friends is just settling into their new life in the City of Light when one of them suddenly and mysteriously disappears.
You’ve actually workshopped some of your own writing on Book Country. What advice do you have for anyone who might be leery of putting their writing in a public forum for critique?
It is daunting to put your work on the internet for strangers to read. But it’s very hard to be satisfied with your writing life if no one ever reads your work, and part of what happens when people read your work is that they will have an opinion about it! Book Country members have been nothing but helpful and engaged reviewers, and their tips are so useful for revision. I also learn a ton from reading other Book Country members’ work. The more I review, the more I relate to the people reading my work and getting stuck on certain things. We’re all just trying to figure out how to make our writing clearer and more compelling. It’s hardly ever personal, and if it is, you should tell me, because on Book Country we take our Community Guidelines quite seriously! We want this to be a safe space for writers to move forward with their work. Furthermore, we try to make the site as secure as possible by making books only viewable to other members, and by disabling copy and paste in the manuscript reader. We’ve got more info about that in our FAQ.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Lucy!
Thank you so much for this opportunity!