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Jim Cox Report: April 2005

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Another month, another 749 reviews spread out over four library newsletters and five online book review magazines. Just business as usual at the Midwest Book Review.

The phone rings a couple dozen times a day, email downloads take the better part of an hour a day to go through, the daily snail-mail stacks up on the desk waiting for another hour of my attention. And it's once again time to crank out the monthly "Jim Cox Report" with words of alleged wisdom, bits of personal hubris, a bit of Q&A, and the occasional observational commentary on publishing.

We have another addition to the "Advice For Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review website at This one is "Amazon Review Copy Policy". For anyone who is new to dealing with Amazon, give this article a careful reading. It could save you a bit of aggravation.

Paul Dry is an excellent and accomplished independant publisher. I've been reviewing his books for several years now. Paul has printed up a little pamphlet called "Ten Engagements" in which he lays out ten bits of sage and practical advice ranging from selecting manuscripts to selling books. In the back he has also quite cleverly created a title list and ordering blank for his books. I recommend that you obtain a free copy of "Ten Engagements" by Paul Dry. It is a quick and informative read -- and a clever idea by way of making a small press catalog stand out from the crowd. Here is the contact information:

Paul Dry Books
117 South 17th Street, Suite 1102
Philadelphia, PA 19103
telephone: 215-231-9939
fax: 215-231-9942

This recently came in:

Dear Mr. Cox,

Thank you for featuring of our recent release, Breast Cancer: One Illness, two Women, Four Seasons, in the March 2005 issue of your online magazine, forwarding it to Gale Research Company's interactive CD-ROM series, and posting it on your website. Prior to receiving your letter we read the review with excitement at

We are pleased and delighted with your decision to review and feature our book. All of this will certainly help us continue to promote the book.

Winnie Sullivan
PenUltimate Publishing
606 North and South Road
St. Louis, MO 63130

The reason why authors and publishers often encounter our review on Amazon before receiving a tear sheet and publisher notification letter via snail-mail is that we have a crackerjack fellow who is expert with a computer and will post all of our reviews on Amazon (for those books that have an Amazon webpage) in just a couple of days right at the very beginning of the month. It takes me a good two to three weeks to crank out those snail-mail publisher notification letters one at a time. That's because of all the time I must spend on my other duties as the editor-in-chief -- which includes (with the help of my editorial staff) seeing to it that those reviews are posted all over the internet, sent off to various online book review databases, and otherwise given as much exposure to the reading public, librarians, and bookstore retailers as I can manage.

It's my own personal belief that when a book manages to make the final cut and be reviewed, the reviewer has the obligation to help the publisher promote that book to its intended readership as much as possible. Even if it's only to insure that the publisher receives a copy of the review to incorporate into their publicity and marketing efforts.

Here's a novel use of one of our reviews:

Dear Mr. Cox,

You reviewed my book in October of 2004 (pasted in below as a reminder for you). I don't remember if I wrote to thank you then for it or not. But I just recently had occasion to read the review again, and use it in a submission for a book prize, and I want to thank you so much for it. Most especially because you so efficiently caught the book's spirit as well as its content.

Again, my grateful thanks.

Judith Hand
Questpath Publishing, 2003

This is the first time that I know of where an author/publisher used one of our reviews when entering their book into a contest. I pass this idea along for whatever value the notion might have for you with respect to book and writing contests. By the way, contests are great sources for publicity and promotional material -- especially if you win a prize.

Here's another thing I do as part of my working day here at the Midwest Book Review:

Dear Mr. Cox,

I am working on a book about book reviewing and would love to ask you a couple of questions about the craft. Would you agree to a short interview? I could send you the questions via email and you could answer them at your own convenience. I am mainly interested in what you look for in a review, and what are the most common mistakes reviewers make. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Mayra Calvani

I get these requests several times a year and I'm always happy to oblige. For one thing it's great publicity for the Midwest Book Review. A lot of authors and fledgling publishers first find out about the Midwest Book Review by picking up one of the 16 or 17 "how to" books that mention what we do here and recommend us as a good resource. For another, its part of our fulfilment of the Midwest Book Review mandate to promote literacy, libraries, and small press publishing. So I'm happy to honor such requests as long as the usual credit citation is attributed to the Midwest Book Review, including our website address.

Here's another email that came in this past month:

Dear Jim:

Thank you for your assistance earlier today it was a pleasure speaking with you.

Midwest Book Review comes highly recommended from my publisher, Hats Off Books (R). As promised, I am finalizing a review kit now, complete with a published copy of the book (From Dad, with Love: Everyday wisdom for young adults), a press release, and cover letter.

If you require additional information or have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly. I sincerely appreciate your time and consideration regarding the review of my book. Have a wonderful week!

Respectfully submitted,

David R. Woodruff
From Dad, with Love: Everyday wisdom for young adults

There is a reason why I have so strongly avoided having a voice mail machine answer our phone. Well, two reasons really. One is that I hate the buggery things when I'm the one making a call. The other is that I genuinely like talking to authors and publishers about their books and about the publishing process. Even if I'm being asked the same questions over and over. The variable factor is the caller's own personality, situation, experience level, etc. Even after all these years I still get a personal kick out of being able to provide a bit of help and insight -- and getting thanked for it.

If I weren't editor-in-chief any more, I'd probably be a social worker or a teacher. As it works out, being editor-in-chief here at the Midwest Book Review, I'm also a bit of a social worker and teacher anyway!

Here's the latest reviews on "how to" books for writers and publishers:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf
Dan Poynter & Danny O. Snow
Unlimited Publishing LLC
PO Box 3007, Bloomington, IN 47402
1588329887 $14.99 1-800-218-8877

Now in a substantially revised and updated third edition, How 'U' Can Compete With The Giants Of Publishing is superbly presented core guide to independent book publishing (which is also known as self-publishing or alternative publishing) as written by Dan Poynter (a nationally recognized self-publishing guru and author of more than 100 books), and Danny O. Snow (a full-time book publisher whose insights and expertise into the new publishing technologies for broadcast and print media have been cited and quoted in "Publishers Weekly", "The Los Angeles Times", and "The Wall Street Journal"). Individual chapters clearly and methodically explain the all of the basic mechanics of self-publishing specifically for non-specialist general readers aspiring to publish their own work. Walking the reader through all of the steps from manuscript, to galley, to finished book, these two self-publishing experts provide a wealth of tips, tricks, and techniques for taking advantage of new technologies to self-publish at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods, as well as how to sell books in markets that are more profitable than bookstores and libraries, what common pitfalls to avoid, and so much more. The impetus for the revisions, corrections, updates, and new ideas for have been channeled directly from needs of the readers and past features of on the nationally syndicated "Ask Heloise" radio program. An absolute "must-have" for anyone with a book inside just waiting to get out, is an enthusiastically recommended addition to the aspiring professionals' Writing/Publishing instructional reference shelf.

Some Writers Deserve To Starve!
Elaura Niles
Writer's Digest/F&W Publications
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
1582973547 $14.99 1-800-289-0963

Many believe that any great book will eventually be published: in reality there are many mediocre books published simply because the writer knew the publishing industry - and many potential great books that missed the cut because its writer did not possess such knowledge. Better your odds for success with a fun, honest guide to the publishing industry: Some Writers Deserve To Starve: 31 Brutal Truths About The Publishing Industry provides the insider tips needed, from honing the 'hook' to using agents more effectively. If you hold aspirations of writing a book or becoming a professional author, then you need to give a careful reading to Elaura Niles' Some Writers Deserve To Starve!

Wham! Bam! Publishing
Janice M. Phelps & Joan E. Phelps
Lucky Press, LLC
126 S. Maple Street, Lancaster, OH 43130
0970637721 $10.00

Joan Phelps' background is in public relations and speech writing. Janice Phelps is the founder and editor-in-chief of Lucky Press (a mid-size publisher of titles on health, aviation, history, and self-help) and has worked on more than 150 books for the trade market, two of which won the Ben Franklin Award for independent publishing. Together, Janice and Joan Phelps draw upon their years of practical experience and personal expertise to present an effective "how to" guide for self-published authors and novice small press publishers seeking to successfully compete in the marketplace for the dollars of the reading public. Wham! Bam! Publishing: The Strategic Marketing Plan For Authors And Publishers offers is a variety of proven business techniques and resource lists applied to the business aspects of publishing (including the Midwest Book Review website). An ideal and highly recommended instructive introduction for those with no previous business or marketing experience, Wham! Bam! Publishing will walk the reader carefully through the business mission, vision, objectives, and strategies. Of special note are the chapters on book design, titling, and advice when dealing with writers. The invaluable appendices include: "Author's Marketing Input"; "Additional Business Tips for Authors"; "P.O.D. Publishing"; "A New Option for Childrens Books"; and a "How to Make A Book Checklist".

Secrets Of The Screen Trade
Allen B. Ury
Lone Eagle Publishing Company
5055 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036
1580650600 $18.95

Successful author and screenwriter Allen B. Ury presents Secrets Of The Screen Trade: From Concept To Sale, a practical guide to not only creating a screenplay that is coherent and salable, but also how to get it sold without getting ripped off. Writing tips, tricks, and techniques include a sample of overused premises to avoid (such as mysteries where the protagonist is the murderer), ten screenplay writing rules and when to break them (the first act should not occupy more than a quarter of the screenplay, unless there are so many funny jokes/action-packed events that the story is not dragging), and all too common errors to avoid, such as writing "at last he understands" in the screenplay description - the sure mark of an amateur, since "understanding" is an internal emotion and a screenplay must focus on external facets that a director can work with. Secrets Of The Screen Trade goes on to give the reader the basic low-down on submitting scripts, a process that has changed little in fifty years, and sharply warns writers not to be taken in by scam artists - such as agents who charge a flat rate instead of a sales commission, or internet sites that pretend they're doing you a favor by promoting your work online, when no serious film producer browses websites for his next movie script. A wittily written and highly recommended overview for anyone interested in the screenwriting trade.

You will find these and hundreds of other reviews in the "Writer's Bookshelf" and "Publisher's Bookshelf" sections of the Midwest Book Review website. There isn't a facet of writing or publishing that someone with expertise hasn't written a book about it. And when they have, I've reviewed it!

Now for the Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Donator's Hall of Fame & Appreciation. My heartfelt thanks to the following wonderful folk who have donated postage stamps as a gesture of support for what we try to accomplish here in behalf of aspiring authors and hard pressed publishers:

Dick Olenych
Gary J. Quinn
Mary Thompson
Christine Hrib Karpinski - "How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner"
Rose T. Stadler - "Release Your Inner Bitch"
Blake Fraina - "King of Cats"
Peter Bowerman - "The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds"
Lauren's Lyrics
Jan Axelson - Lakeview Research
Brian K. Hill - Barclay Mapworks Inc.
Angela Casale - Gilchrist Institute for Cognitive Sciences, Inc.
Dave Mathews - Bumble Bee Productions, Inc.
Gwendolyn Awen Jones - Angels of Light and Healing
Judith Hand - Questpath Publishing
Mary Mitchell - Budd Drive Press
Joseph M. Luguya - OriginalBooks
Sheri Menelli - White Heart Publishing
Eileen Bedara - Manor House Publications, Inc.
Lana Tietjen - Simplex Publications

Well that's it for this time around. If you would like to submit your book for consideration, or if you would like to "support the cause" by sending us some postage stamps, direct them to the attention of:

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

For those new to the "Jim Cox Report", you can receive it directly (and for free) by simply sending me an email request and asking to be signed up for it.

Until next time!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

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

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