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Jim Cox Report: August 2001

Dear Friends, Family & Publisher Folk:

Time again for sharing what's been going on here at the Midwest Book Review this past month -- along with some "tips, tricks & techniques" about marketing small press titles in a highly competitive field.

I'm active on three different publisher discussion groups -- and our new & improved website has been generating a lot of questions from writers and publishers. Let's begin with a series of Q&A posts.

Here's #1:

> When a book is sent to a reviewer, is it acceptable to include reviews by
> other reviewers, gold-stickers on the book from winning contests, etc.? Will
> that color things positively or negatively? Unfortunately, I don't know this
> field well enough to have a feel for it. Any help you can give me would be
> greatly appreciated. If you wish I'd also be pleased to send you a copy of
> the book to review or keep--your choice.
> Russ Dollinger
> Booksmythe

Dear Russ:

I'm glad you discovered the Midwest Book Review website, and all that we try to offer the small press publisher in terms of advice and information.

Regarding your specific questions:

1. Ordinarily, a reviewer doesn't want to see what other reviewers have written about a book which that reviewer has been asked to consider for review. Indeed, it will often dissuade the reviewer from considering it, and cause him to transfer his interest to some other title. Reviewers usually want to cover "new ground"; they seek to be first with the review.

2. Gold stickers from contests, on the other hand, tend to be a plus when reviewers are selecting books that they wish to address.

3. Color (especially in children's books) is always a factor. I've seen time after time how reviewers will pass over black-and-white kids' books in favor of color illustrated ones. The same goes for cover art.

4. You can send me a copy of your debut children's title and I'd be happy to have it considered for our "Children's Bookwatch" publication. Be sure to include your publicity release -- and mention in your cover letter that we "chatted" by email.

5. You mentioned that you also publisher medical books. For what it's worth, I also do a monthly column called "The Health/Medicine Shelf". In it, you can see the diversity of areas in medical and personal health that are represented in the titles selected for review. You can find "The Health/Medical Shelf" in our "Internet Bookwatch". Just go to our home page at:

Then click on "Internet Bookwatch". Click on the specific issue of the "Internet Bookwatch" that you want to read, then click on the "Health/Medicine Shelf" in the table of contents.

Incidently, we are currently in the process of adding more than two hundred new links to our website -- and next month, we will be adding about 6 more articles to our "Advice for Publishers" section.

Here's #2 -- a quicky but a goody!

In a message dated 01-06-24 09:45:42 EDT, Sam Decalo writes:

> I am trying to trace the track record (via book reviews) of a
> 1972 literary book that was allowed to go out of print in the
> late 70's. The rights reverted to the author who has approached
> us for a second edition...

One useful way to find old reviews of past titles is to type the title into the Google search engine and see what pops up. The URL is:

Here's #3 and a common question from an aspiring self-publisher:

In a message dated 01-06-24 18:11:39 EDT, Sarah writes:

> Hi, I am trying to find out info on how I can
> self publish my own poetry book. I would get
> it done professionally, but I can't afford it right now
> so I was wondering about what I can do,
> because its something I've wanted to do for a long
> time.

The first thing you need to do is read some basic, introductory, "how to" books on self-publishing. You can find a list of them (with brief reviews) on the "Publishers Bookshelf" section of the Midwest Book Review website at:

Most of these books are available for free through your local library's "Inter-Library Loan" service.

The second thing you need to do is visit the "Publisher Resources" section of the Midwest Book Review website and seek out the links to resources specific to self-publishing.

The third thing you need to do is go to the "Advice For Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review website and read the many articles you will find there (all the information is free), which will give you a solid foundation for what you expect and need to do in order to make a self-published book commercially successful.

There are no easy shortcuts to successful self-publishing. To give your publishing project the best possible chance, you need to educate yourself on how to best go about doing what needs to be done to first publish, and then market your book -- especially if your available funds are severely limited.

Here's #4:

Speaking of our new & improved website, each month we add new links to new resources of internet to readers, writers, librarians, and publishers. The latest additions include:

Antiquarian Bookstores:

Advanced Book Exchange, Book Hunter Press

Authors & Writers:

Burroughs, Edgar Rice; Fitzgerald, F. Scott; Rosetree, Rose; William Blake Online

Book Lover Resources:

100 Best Nonfiction, 100 Best Novels, America's Story from America's Library, American Writers, Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site, Center For Book Culture, Guardian Unlimited Books Top 10s, Invisible Library, James and Mathew's Library Underground, Leaves of Gold: Treasures of Manuscript Illumination, Library of Congress Bicentennial,, Quality Paperback Book Club, Scribbling Women

Book Publicity & Marketing:

Book Marketing Resources, How To Publish & Promote Online

Other Book Reviewers:

Bard's Ink Book Reviews, BookForum, Holt Uncensored Book Reviews, Book Reviews, Story Circle Book Reviews

Children's Books Publishers:

Dorling Kindersley

Computer Publishers:

O'Reilly & Associates

eBook Publishers/Dealers:

Electronic Literature Organization Reader's Central

Libraries & Universities:

Librarians' Index To The Internet, Public Library Database Search Engine, Public Libraries With WWW Access

Periodicals (Magazine & Newspaper Websites:)

Daily Globe Searchable Dates Achieve

Online Bookstores:,

Publisher Associations:

Association Of Jewish Book Publishers

Publisher Resources:

Aeonix Publishing Group, Advantage, American Society Of Indexers, Book Indexes & Concordances, Book Mailing Rate Chart, Books Just Books (Book Printing/Self-Publishing Resources), Center for the Public Domain, Chicago International Remainder/Overstock Book Exhibition, Digital Publishing Rights,, Holt Uncensored, InKindEx, InterShipper, Running Your Book Publishing Business

Reviewer's Choice:

Free Stuff Center,, Map & Atlas Information,, Who's Alive And Who's Dead

Scholarly Publishers:

Texas A&M University Press, University Press of America

Trade Publishers:

Business Publishers Inc., Harlequin Publishing Group - Independent Publishers Directory, iUniverse, Moon Mountain Publishing

Writer Resources:

American Heritage Book of English Usage, Bard's Ink, Children's Books Writer Resources,, Sweethearts At The Editor's Desk, Traditional Grammar,

Here's #5 -- this was in response to a discussion about authors & publishers engaging in speaking events at conferences, workshops, conventions and the like.

Dear Publisher Folk:

I've been reading the thread on the invitation to a successful self-published author to address a writer's conference, where the sponsoring organization (and conference organizers) are simply not interested in the self-publish option for their attendees or members.

My own opinions on the matter are free -- and worth precisely what I charge for them.

The only three reasons to accept an invitation to address a conference, workshop or seminar are: 1. to make money; 2. to advance a cause; or 3. just for the fun of it.

When I accept a speaking engagement, I do not accept any honorariums because it's all part of my job as editor-in-chief here at the Midwest Book Review, and it is a direct service in support of our three-part mission statement of promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.

But the sponsors of the event must pay for my transportation, accommodations, and feed me while they have me.

I provide the sponsors with an outline of my presentation, so that they will have a good idea of what they are going to get. I always ask the sponsors to read it over and make any special requests they'd like, in case they want me to address some issue or cover some subject that isn't in my outline. Then, I modify the outline accordingly.

When I step up to the podium, both the sponsors and the audience have a very good idea of what is in store for them.

If the sponsors don't want me to cover this or that subject (for example, if they want me to avoid discussing the self-publishing option when I address a group of aspiring writers), then I must decide whether such an omission is so grievous that I cannot in good conscience short-change my audience. If I decide that I cannot abide the sponsors' request, then I simply decline the invitation.

If the requested omission is reasonable (often, the request relates to time constraints require me to cut down my outlined presentation to a shorter length) hen I can accommodate such restrictions as long as I feel my audience is going to "get their money's worth" out of spending time with me.

Incidently, all three of the previously mentioned motivations for speaking at conferences, workshops and seminars apply very strongly to my own appearances and presentations:

1. The Money: inevitably after I appear at sponsored publishing and/or writer oriented events, the Midwest Book Review experiences an upsurge of publishers submitting their books for review. The pitch for another year's renewal of the foundation grants, which help finance what we do here, is strengthened.

2. The Cause: I'm absolutely dedicated to the threefold mission of advancing literacy, promoting the use of all manner of libraries (corporate, academic, community, specialized and general); and anyone who has ever dealt with me can testify to my admiration for, and support of, the self-published author and the small press publisher. The latter two deserve extra accolade for trying to succeed despite a commercial world dominated by the publishing conglomerates, and despite the steadily dwindling "market share" that books are experiencing as a leisure time activity for the general populace.

3. The Fun: I enjoy meeting and greeting folks associated with any aspect of the publishing industry -- not to mention that it's fun to be the center of attention up at the podium. I get a kick out of coming up with answers, suggestions and ideas to problems encountered by people trying to write a good book, and publishers trying to sell that book to its intended readership.

My advice, then, is that when you are invited to speak and are presented with guidelines or restrictions, you must then make your own premeditated, deliberate decision as to whether or not it is a worthwhile enough enterprise. You must weigh your options from the perspective of your own goals and mission statement (read: business plan), and calculate whether the benefits of answering the invitation will justify the time, energy, and expense that it will cost.

With respect to the writer's conference invitation that sparked this discussion thread -- my advice is to present your presentation outline proposal to the sponsors. If they can live with it -- fine. If they cannot -- pass.

Incidently, if they cannot afford to cover your expenses then it is perfectly within the compass of "industry standards" for an invited speaker to sell books at the back of the room, and/or host a "sales party" of their stuff in their hotel room. I think that Dan Poynter, Pat Bell and a good many others would be quite happy to give you a consignment of their "how to" books on writing and publishing for just such a specialized conference appearance. In fact, the "Writer's Digest" folk once gave me a couple of cases of their various titles on consignment some years back, when I was just a fledgling in this business and was not yet a big enough "name" to request an event sponsor to cover my expenses.

Incidently #2: My next appearance will be with the Florida Publishers Association at their one-day conference in Orlando on Saturday, October 6th.

Here's #6 -- another quicky about what to do when your book gets a nomination.

In a message dated 01-06-19 22:16:15 EDT, writes:

> I wrote you several weeks ago thanking you for the kind review in
> your Midwest Book Review for my children's book, Oonawassee Summer. As an
> update, I thought I'd tell you that it just came in second place for a Ben
> Franklin award. I don't know why I'm writing again to tell you that, but I
> just thought you would be a person who could appreciate the significance of
> that in an author's life. Most of the people I know have never heard of the
> Ben Franklin award.
> Again, thanks for the nice review.

Thanks for the update. The PMA's Ben Franklin award is a very nice thing to list in your promotional materials -- including coming in second place. You could phrase it something like "Nominated for the Ben Franklin Award".

Here's #7

In a message dated 01-06-16 09:22:47 EDT, Darren Ingram writes:

> I saw the Midwest Book Review's reviews and found it an interesting one.
> Reading more I noticed that every review from MBR, even the just over three
> line ones (i.e. Dumpy La Rue) get five stars.. How is that? What is the
> criteria?

Simple. 5 stars means that the book was recommended to its intended readership by our reviewers. We only post those books that are recommended. Flawed, substandard, or mediocre books (Stars 1, 2 & 3) don't get reviewed.

I suppose 4 stars does mean it's a good book, an above average book and therefore worth the reader's time -- but I personally think an extra point (star) should be added on the basis of the book being any of the following: a small press title, a new author trying to make it in a highly competitive field, a nice approach to an otherwise routine subject matter, or I'm feeling kindly disposed to folks trying to write, publish, and attract a readership.

Of course, 5 stars is always awarded to the "must read" book category -- even if it comes from a major New York house with their built in marketing departments and big name authors -- with publishing contracts to match.

Here's #8:

The August 2001 issues of our two online book review magazines ("Internet Bookwatch" & "Children's Bookwatch") are up on our website. They are also available for free subscription. Just send me your email address and which one (or both) you'd like to receive as an ASCII text document attached to an email announcement.

Subscribers have permission to use the reviews to enhance their website, organizational newsletter, or online discussion group dialogues. Just cite Midwest Book Review when doing so.

Incidently, this "Jim Cox Report" is also available for free. Just send your email address and ask for it.

Here's #9 -- Finally, let me finish this month's report with a unsolicited kind word from the publishing community and which is why we here at the Midwest Book Review do what we do:

Gloria Wolk wrote in a discussion thread on "information wants to be free?":

> The first book went into a second printing in less than 6 months and has
> yet to pay for itself. Part of this is due to most books being sold
> through the distributor so that I received 1/3 of cover price months
> after the sales took place (ah! such an honor to have a distributor),
> and spent much too much and much too unwisely on marketing. One of those
> major marketing mistakes, as I've described previously, was spending
> $1400 for RTIR. Another was sending out too many review books. Older and
> wiser now, I only send to reviewers who return a reply card, or ask for
> a copy, or are named Jim Cox.

I just love having "brand name" recognition value!

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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