We've helped orchestrate the first true discovery of a Book Country member! YAY!!
Kerry Schafer, an awesome woman from Washington State who I met through the lovely Allison Pang, was one of our beta testers for the site. I could tell from her first posting on Book Country that she had a tremendous amount of talent, so when she posted some pages of her fantasy novel, BETWEEN, I was stoked to check it out. I read it and instantly loved it! And after passing along my excitement to the Berkeley editorial staff, they did too.
Several weeks later, viola! The official Penguin press release goes out on the PR Newswire:
NEW YORK, Jan. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Ace Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), today announced the signing of a new urban fantasy series by a writer discovered on Bookcountry.com, Penguin's nine-month-old online genre fiction workshopping community. The two-book deal marks the first acquisition from the site since the Book Country community launched in May of 2011.
BETWEEN, by debut novelist Kerry Schafer, was discovered by Susan Allison, Vice President, Editorial Director of The Berkley Publishing Group, who acquired it and its sequel, WAKEWORLD, the first two books in a planned trilogy.
"We're very excited to work with Kerry Schafer on BETWEEN and WAKEWORLD. She's a wonderful new voice in the urban fantasy genre," said Allison. "The fact that Penguin's own Book Country helped connect us to her is inspiring too. There's so much talent out there, and now we have one more way to find it. "
Schafer, a Mental Health Crisis Response Specialist in rural Washington State, talked about the importance of the online community in her road to publication. "My experience with Book Country has been amazing. I had a different novel up on the site and discovered that the feedback helped improve my writing. Criticism takes a little getting used to; my thought was that I should get some pages up and start building a thicker skin. When I uploaded BETWEEN to Book Country, I wasn't even thinking about it being picked up by an editor or an agent. What happened after that felt like pure magic."
David Shanks, CEO Penguin Group (USA), said, "Penguin is proud that Kerry Schafer, one of Book Country's original beta testers, was able to use the community's resources and will now be published by one of our own imprints. Book Country provides an exciting place for our editors to find great new talent."
Schafer's agent, Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency, said, "I marveled at the high level of talent I found on Book Country. BETWEEN is one of the most imaginative submissions I've read in a long time. I found myself compulsively reading more than half the book in one sitting."
Molly Barton, Penguin's Global Digital Director, who spearheaded the launch of the Book Country community in 2011, said, "Book Country is a constructive online place for writers to post and refine their fiction while helping other writers improve their craft. Finding such a great project to acquire in a community that is less than a year old tells me that Book Country is working exactly the way it's supposed to. I couldn't be more thrilled!"
About Penguin Group (USA)
Penguin Group (USA) Inc. is the U.S. member of the internationally renowned Penguin Group. Penguin Group (USA) is one of the leading U.S. adult and children's trade book publishers, owning a wide range of imprints and trademarks, including Viking, G. P. Putnam's Sons, The Penguin Press, Riverhead Books, Dutton, Penguin Books, Berkley Books, Gotham Books, Portfolio, New American Library, Plume, Tarcher, Philomel, Grosset & Dunlap, Puffin, and Frederick Warne, among others. The Penguin Group (www.penguin.com) is part of Pearson plc, the international media company.
See the press release HEREThe New York Times also picked up the story and I'm sure we'll have more to come this week! It's such exciting news! The fact that it's Penguin who did the deal doesn't even really make that much of a difference to me, honestly--I mean, it's great, of course, but what this deal means is that the site and initiative is working. Writers who might not get their due recognition getting the help, appreciation, and opportunities they deserve. =)
A big congratulations to Kerry!