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Jim Cox Report: April 2002

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

This past month has been one of milestones and millstones here at the Midwest Book Review. I'll begin this episode of the Jim Cox Report with a bit of office gossip, then move on to more "tips, tricks & techniques" for aspiring writers yearning to break into print -- and small press publishers wanting to sell their books in an increasingly complex and competitive marketplace.

First the gossip!

March saw two forays by yours truly into the wonderful world of the AOL Internet Chat Room. I was requested by the good folk at iUniverse to be one of two presenters in a March 12th evening chatroom to tackle questions and offer advice for writers of children's books.

I hadn't really ever done this sort of thing before (my previous experience was with the telephone and having someone else handling the computer end of things) but as it was being held in an AOL chat room and one of my two ISP accounts is with AOL, I thought all I'd have to do was log on and follow the instructions I was given.

I think a fellow named Murphy discovered a "Law of the Universe" that governs such assumptions. Never having had to use my computer to access a chat room (AOL or otherwise) I had a couple of surprises in store for me. One was that my AOL parental controls instructions had been set at the age level of very young children and therefore all access to any kind of chat room was blocked.

The other discovery is that somehow my 48,800 modem had gotten itself reset to a much, much slower 14,000 speed.

But all of this waited to be discovered by my computer science daughter after the hour was up. To relay participants' questions to me, and my responses to them, the gal in charge of the chat room asked help from an AOL staffer who basically used "instant messaging" to funnel questions and answers back and forth for the whole hour. It was the cyberspace equivalent of that famous old baseball trio "Evers to Tinkers to Chance" (for those of you baseball buffs old enough to remember back that far).

After the event, my daughter took over and went into our AOL settings and discovered the cause for the lock-out and fixed them. Resetting us from "kid" to adult and clicking on the right boxes to get our modem speed back up to where it should have been.

One week later (March 19th) this iUniverse chat room had an "open" night -- one in which there are no scheduled presenters. I logged on, basically to test my updated and corrected AOL settings and to teach myself what being in a chat room was like. I gave a bunch of my usual advice and commentary on how to get reviewed and what to do with a review once you have it.

It all went swimmingly well and the 14 or 15 people (the number fluctuated a little) in attendance all seemed quite appreciative both in terms of their questions and in the little "thank you's" when it came time to log off.

In retrospect, the thing that stood out in this whole experience is that for all these years that I've had an AOL account, I never knew that there were different age group settings, and that mine was set on the AOL equivalent of preschooler.

I also discovered that I really like the chatroom format -- once I got used to it -- and now that my traveling around the country days have been suspended for reasons of health and local scheduling demands, I can still get my "fix" of teaching online in addition to the three publisher discussion groups that I enjoy participating with on a daily basis.

March was also the month is which I was notified that I'll again be mentioned in the new addition of "Get Published" and will be rather flatteringly written up in a new book debuting this summer "Everything You Every Wanted To Know About POD Publishing But Didn't Know To Ask".

I was sent an galley of this second title to give my okay about what I had earlier given permission to use from some of my writings about POD publishing. The whole thing was rather impressive, but I must reserve my final judgement (and review) for the finished book.

Still, it's always nice to see one's name and commentary in print!

Another bit of gossip is that our roster of volunteer reviewers now includes two new reviewers -- from India! Add these two fellows to the husband & wife academics from the University of Queensland in Australia, the diplomat's wife from Cairo, Egypt, the bibliophile from England, the student from Hong Kong, and the four folk (3 guys & 1 gal) from Canada, and we can quite justifiably lay claim to being an international operation!

Several months back I broke out all the volunteer reviewers with their own book review columns into a publication of their own (Reviewer's Bookwatch) and it began in the new format at 167 pages. The March issue came in at an even 200 pages. And now the April issue printed out at 219 pages! This is all a reflection of the increasing numbers of folk who are utilizing the Midwest Book Review as a forum in which to share their reviews and commentaries with the reading public.

Two of our reviewers (Cindy Penn and Judy Justice) are ebook specialists. Another one (Phil Kaveny) got promoted to the newly created position of the Midwest Book Review "Literary Editor".

If any of you would like to submit book reviews of your own -- just email me at and request our "Reviewer Guidelines".

Incidently, you can subscribe (its free) to any of our three online book review magazines (Children's Bookwatch; Internet Bookwatch; Reviewer's Bookwatch) just by sending me an email requesting to be signed up -- and note which one(s) you'd like to get. They will arrive as an ASCII attachment to an email issue announcement.

Subscribers have full permission to use any of our reviews to enhance the informational content of their website, newsletter, or online discussion group. Just be sure to give Midwest Book Review the usual citation when doing so.

All three of our book review e-zines can also be accessed on the Midwest Book Review website at

Now on to some "tips, tricks & techniques" that might prove helpful to writers seeking publication, and publishers seeking sales:

In a message dated 02-01-05 18:09:38 EST, Kathy Peterson writes:

> I recently sent Write from Your Heart, A Healing Grief Journal to be
> reviewed. Then I read your statement that the book should have been
> accompanied by a publicity release. I did not send one. I spent quite a bit
> of enjoyable time looking over your site but did not see what should be
> included in a publicity release. Will this disqualify my book for
> consideration?

The lack of a publicity release for a small press title (the big publishers always and automatically include PRs with their review copies) does not automatically disqualify a book from consideration -- but it does make it enormously more difficult to secure a review assignment for it. Reviewers will almost always reach right past it to pick up a small press title that is accompanied by a PR (and a cover letter).

A couple of the items in the "Articles For Publishers" {a section of the Midwest Book Review website} deal with this. But to swiftly recap, a publicity release should be on your letterhead stationary and include (some of this info will already be in your letterhead stationary) the following:

title author publisher publisher snail-mail address publisher email address publisher website address ISBN price page count one paragraph summary of the book one paragraph author biography

Make the one paragraph book summary of such a nature that you'd be happy to see it reprinted verbatim in the pages of Publishers Weekly or the Library Journal or on your book's website. -- It just might be.

Make certain that your author bio presents your author's credentials (if non-fiction) or (for fiction) your author's other published works and awards -- or if this is a debut title for your author.

Jim Cox Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-01-10 13:35:13 EST, Rochelle Hollander Schwab writes:

> 5. I would like to particularly ask Jim Cox, who posts reviews on,
> whether I should send a copy to Midwest Book Review immediately or wait till
> the book has a page on Amazon?

Send it immediately, accompanied by a publicity release and a cover letter. This is because there is often a time lag of several weeks between when a book arrives, when it assigned out for review, and when a review is turned in.

I would recommend you immediately send review copies to any other post-publication reviewers who work with finished copies of books. This business of "galleys only" pertains solely to pre-publication reviews like PW and LBJ, and not to post-publication reviews like the Midwest Book Review, trade journals, or most newspapers.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-01-14 09:47:10 EST, writes:

> Someone asked me how does one get entry into an organization or a school to
> speak on a topic- I know you've done it; so wondered if you had some
> insights.
> It's an organization they want to approach, not an invitation they are
> considering - so I wondered how you might do so if you wanted to speak at
> say an ALA meeting and didn't personally know anyone there...

In every organization that holds regularly scheduled meetings with an agenda there is someone in charge of preparing that agenda. It might be the organization's president or chairperson, or it might be some specifically designated person (a board member, for example).

Here's what I would do and the order I'd do it in:
  1. Determine what I have to present that would thematically appropriate to that organization.

  2. Call that organization and ask for the person in charge of scheduling its meetings and/or meeting agendas.

  3. Contact that person and pitch my presentation topic. I'd have different presentational lengths or otherwise be prepared to tailor my presentation to whatever the available time slot would be.
That's basically the process. I hope this advice proves helpful to your friend.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Getting permission from reviewers and review publications to utilize their reviews in your promotional campaign is really a very simple matter. Here's a request that recently came in and which I would recommend as a template or example when seeking to secure your own permissions -- and note that this was all by email:

Subj: Request Permission for Use of Quote/'The Seven Isles of Ameulas'
Date: 02-01-14 12:46:44 EST
From: (Holly)
To: (Mr. James Cox)

Dear Mr. Cox,

I would like to request your permission to use your name and quote for the 2nd edition of 'The Seven Isles of Ameulas'. We have added a foreword by James Stevens Valliant, Ph.D. and would like to use the following quotes from you.

"...exhilarating, sweeping, sophisticated fantasy...." Midwest Book Review

"The Seven Isles of Ameulas is an exhilarating, sweeping, sophisticated fantasy of a man's struggle against fate for the sake of true love [It] will leave readers looking eagerly towards Casey Fahy's next epic novel!" Midwest Book Review

We want to use the former quote on the back of the book, and the latter quote on the inside cover of the book.

Please let me know how you feel about this and about any changes you would like to make.

Thank you again, Mr. Cox, for your time and for your review. I hope you are having a fabulous new year. If you require this request via regular mail, please let me know and I will mail one directly.

With best regards,

Holly White Literary Agent
760.630.4585 760.726.2595/fax

I simply responded to the above by "Permission Granted", adding my name and title as Editor-in-Chief of the Midwest Book Review -- and that was that.

Be sure to print out such email correspondences and keep them in your permissions file folder in case of any future necessity.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-01-15 12:29:22 EST, Fern Reiss writes:

> I'm selling "Terrorism and Kids: Comforting Your Child"
> non-returnable. Ingram griped and said they wouldn't buy
> more than a few hundred, but when those flew out the door
> so did their objections, apparently.

This is the keystone, the nub and core, the bottom line in dealing with distributors. If their customers (read bookstores and librarians) come to them asking for your book, then your non-returnable conditions will be no obstacle.

> Baker and Taylor sent me long impassioned emails insisting that it
> would affect library sales, which I did (and do) find hard to believe,
> and they appear to have been wrong; my library sales are excellent.

When B&T runs a line about library sales being missed because you won't agree to returnable terms they are blowing smoke up your unmentionable body part.

When libraries send in purchase orders to B&T for your book, B&T will send in purchase orders to you -- and agree to non-returnable terms when doing so.

> Quality had to consider the issue with their board. In the end, everyone
> bought. But I'm not sure if they would have been as interested with a
> lower-profile, less topical title.

The key isn't the topic of the book, the key is how well the author and/or publisher has drummed up demand for the book regardless of its topic, category, subject matter, or theme.

It is true that some topics are more timely than others and therefore easier to drum up interest on.

It is true that some categories are in bigger year-round demand than other categories and therefore easier to drum up interest in.

It is true that some subjects have greater interest to more people than others and therefore are easier to drum up interest in.

It is true that some themes have niche followings making them easier to drum up interest in to members of that niche whereas the general book reading public would not particularly care about or find it interesting.

So no matter what your book's topic, subject, category, or theme -- play to it in your publicity, promotion, and marketing activities. Drum up interest in your book to thematically targeted readership groups -- and then those bookstores and libraries will beat a path to Ingram and/or B&T -- who will in turn beat a path to your door, and accept your fairly imposed conditions of an appropriate discount and non-returnable status.

As a professional observer of the publishing industry for almost 30 years now, I've seen it happen over and over again.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-01-15 15:20:26 EST, Scott Gardiner writes:

> My question to the list is this, can a
> small publishing business be successful publishing the works of others?

Yes. The small press publishing field is rife with examples of this.

> Should I put out my own book first to get a feel for the business before I
> take on other writers?

Yes. Invariably first time publishers learn an immense amount of invaluable, practical, "how-to" information arising from what they did wrong, what they didn't know they didn't know until they did it, the feedback of others in the publishing community and from their customers.

All these "first timer" lessons-learned-the-hard-way should be made with the author who would forgive you the most -- yourself.

Then having learned these unanticipated lessons (if you'd been able to anticipate them then you'd have learned them the easy way -- before print met paper) you can do a more professional (and effective) job as a publisher in behalf of authors who come to you and entrust you with their manuscripts.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-01-17 14:47:32 EST, Laurie Scott-Reyes writes:

> How does a small press finance publishing the works of others? This is
> something I've considered, but didn't know quite how to go about it. What
> role does the small press play in promoting, distribution, etc. of others' books?

This is an excellent and fundamental question for all aspiring publishers.

Securing financing for the publishing of books by authors other than yourself (including the marketing and promotion of those titles) is the same process as securing financing for publishing those titles that you have written and self-published.

Primary sources of financing for any publishing endeavor can include any combination of the following:

Personal Savings/Earnings Loans Grants Profits from previously published books

If you as a self-publisher are considering branching out to publish books by authors other than yourself then you need the same things you would have to have to profitably publish books of your own authorship:
  1. A Business Plan

  2. Adequate Capitalization
If you haven't learned how to promote, publicize, and market your own books -- you have no business publishing the books of others until you have acquired and mastered that essential body knowledge and expertise.

There are a number of excellent "how to" books for novice publishers on the business aspects of establishing a business (including the securing of financing), a business plan, a marketing plan. You will find them in two sections of the Midwest Book Review website:
  1. The Business Bookshelf

  2. The Publisher's Bookshelf
The nice thing is that most of these titles are available from your local community library, either directly or through their Interlibrary Loan System.

Our URL is

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-01-17 23:55:43 EST, Kathy writes:

> Web sites dealing with grief are requesting review copies. How do I know if
> someone who asks for a review copy is legitimate?

Read the article "How To Spot A Phony Reviewer" that you will find on the "Advice For Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review website at:

> Here is my question. How do you watch your pennies and nickels? Where
> do you save money?

Your business plan is the proper instrument to answer such questions.

A major problem for those who publish in order to advance a cause (and grief counseling is a wonderful cause) must take specific pains to assess what their "break even" point is in order to continue to publish in behalf of their cause.

Part of that analysis is not only what revenues you can generate through your publishing activities but also how much you can afford as a shear out-of-pocket donation of your personal resources.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-01-18 10:24:06 EST, Dean Tong writes:

> Just checking in on when my new title Elusive Innocence (Huntington
> House, 2002) might be reviewed by you?

I do not know. A book being submitted for review consideration has a 16 to 18 week "window of opportunity" to secure a review assignment. If it fails within that time frame to achieve a review assignment then it is removed from the shelves to make room for new arrivals.

We have 1500 titles a month coming in for review consideration. I have 60+ reviewers to cope with that kind of traffic.

If/when your book makes the final cut and is reviewed then Huntington House will automatically be sent a tear sheet for their records. It is then the publisher's responsibility to notify authors, editors, illustrators, publicists, and anyone else they deem appropriate.

> If same is reviewed would it be published at

Yes. It is literally the same review, word-for-word. Incidently it is quite routine for a review to appear in one of our four print library newsletters, and then to be repeated in one of our online book review magazines. It is also that same review that will appear on (assuming the book has an Amazon webpage and the "Reader Review" feature).

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

> Subj: Re: [pub-forum] YahooGeocities and Hackers
> Date: 02-01-19 11:55:38 EST
> Why are you using geocities? Do you realize that it is now possible to
> register a domain name of your own

I just wanted to remark that since we've had a domain name for the last several months my life as an email corresponder and book review editor has been ever so much easier.

When I would give my standard website announcement in conclusion to my KNLS Bookwatch radio commentary that goes to 124 countries around the world, I never cited our old URL which had lots of unrelated letters and peculiar symbols in it. Instead I would say something like "just go to your favorite search engine and type in Midwest Book Review -- you're sure to find us".

Now, I just rattle of without hesitation. People can remember it easily. No weird symbols like the tilde (~) to explain.

Shel and a bunch of other folks (including my webmaster daughter Bethany) had been after me for ages to convert to a domain name. Bethany just up and did it. And I've been so happy with the thing ever since!

It reminds me of how I learned to swim. I was 10 years old and my Grandfather took me to the local community pool in Lancaster, California. Gramps got disgusted with seeing his 10 year old (and only) grandson wading about in the little kiddies section. Gramps took me to the deep end. Threw me in and said "the shallow end is thataway".

Splashing and thrashing I made it all the way down to the other end of the pool. And I've never been at risk for drowning from that day to this.

If you are having YahooGeocities and Hacker problems like Sam -- I officially join the chorus of Shel, Bethany, et al. and say "get yourself a domain name website".

Just jump in and do it.

It will solve a multitude of pesky little problems -- and may help you avoid some of the really humongous ones.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

And now it's time for more of those "Unsolicited Testimonials"!!

Dear Mr. Cox,

Thanks a million for reviewing our book Rock Art and Ruins for Beginners and Old Guys by Albert B. Scholl, Jr., and for including the review in MBR's various publications. It was a real thrill to get the notification; you've given us a real boost! The author and I both appreciate your kind words and consideration.

Best wishes,

Ginny Iadicicco
Rainbow Publishing - Services for Self-Publishers,

Dear Mr. Cox,

Thank you for your beautiful review of Spinning Gold out of Straw: How Stories Heal and the tear sheet. The review is one I will treasure because it's obvious you understand what I was trying to accomplish.

Thank you for your time and interest.

Peace and blessings,

Diane Rooks
Tel 904-829-1754, Fax 904-826-0449

Dear Listmates,

Thanks to Jim Cox for reviewing my books in the series for kids: Exploring History through Simple Recipes. It's posted on It made my day to read his positive comments. This independent pub life can feel like doing time in a cave. So I say, Hooray for MWBR and for it's editor-in-chief. sign me, enjoying the light, Mary

Mary Gunderson
History Cooks -- Paleocuisineology
Bringing History Alive through Cooking

Dear Mr. Cox,

Just wanted to say Thanks: I'm in the process of transitioning from many years in editing and acquisitions at a mid-sized publisher of fiction, to operating my own small children's press called Bollix Books. My husband owns a publishing distribution company and has been in the industry for 10 years. And despite all of our combined experience your website and writing has been and will continue to be a WONDERFUL resource. Thank you for your words and thanks for your support of the small press.

I look forward to submitting my titles for your review in the near future!

With thanks and kindest regards,

Staley Krause
Bollix Books
1609 West Callender Ave., Peoria, IL 61606
phone: 309-676-6522, fax: 309-676-6557,

If any of your would like to have your book(s) considered for review, then just send them (accompanied by a Publicity Release and a cover letter) to my attention as follows:

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive Oregon, WI 53575-1129

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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