Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Jim Cox Reports / Jim Cox Report: August 2005
Home | Jim Cox Reports Index

Jim Cox Report: August 2005

Dear Publisher Folks, Friends & Family:

In the past four weeks I've had to screen more than 2200 books, personally dealt with around 14 incoming telephone calls a day, averaged two hours a day in processing email, written about 800 letters, edited nine book review publications, held two telephone interviews, composed and recorded a ten minute radio column for international broadcast, spent three hours one morning paying the bills and balancing the checkbook, and averaged two hours a day processing snail-mail, publisher catalogs, and filling out reviewer request forms.

I've had our webmaster add 6 articles to the Advice for Publishers section:

Are "Author Tours" Still Valuable?
How Important is a CIP?
How to Get a CIP or PCIP
Ten Ways To Find Your Book's Best Publicist
Why You Should Publish Articles: Part 1
Why You Should Publish Articles: Part 2

I've also managed to review a few books along the way. Of special interest to most of those receiving this monthly "extended monologue" that I do for the small press community are the books on the subject of writing and publishing.

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

How To Write Kids' Mysteries
Jeanne Lazo
Stargazer Publishing Company
PO Box 77002, Corona, CA 92877-0100
1933277009 $24.95

How To Write Kids' Mysteries: A Guide For Teen And Adult Writers by author Jeanne Lazo is a practical how-to guide for writers specializing in the genre. Chapters address story preparation, secrets specific to mystery writing, a practical toolkit for writers (such as alternatives to the word "said"), further resources, sample exercises, excerpts from the author's book "If Looks Could Kill" to illustrate sample points, and more. Easy-to-grasp, How To Write Kids' Mysteries is especially intended for those who need to learn the mystery writing craft effectively in a minimum amount of time.

The Selling Of An Author
Bruce E. Mowday
White Mane Publishing Company
PO Box 708, Shippensburg, PA 17257-0708
1572493631 $19.95 1-888-948-6263

The Selling Of An Author is a marketing guide written especially for writers seeking to increase their book sales. Written by an award-winning journalist of more than 25 years' experience, The Selling Of An Author covers the basics of the publishing business, how to prepare to meet one's public at book signings and other events, how to keep book sales alive, and more. The Selling Of An Author is focused particularly upon the craft of marketing; other aspects of publishing or self-publishing are not as explored in-depth. Written in straightforward, no-nonsense vernacular, The Selling Of An Author is ideal for anyone aspiring to make a living from the craft of writing, regardless of personal experience in the marketing realm. Highly recommended.

Comma Sutra
Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D.
Adams Media
57 Littlefield Street, Avon, MA 02322
1593372795 $14.95 1-800-872-5627

Sentence building, modifiers, and common grammar are usually covered in grammar school and long forgotten in adulthood, so it's refreshing to find a fun review by grammarian Dr. Laurie Rozakis who links sexual innuendoes with basic grammar for maximum effect. Modern examples and fun social and historical references add spice to the topic, with plenty of examples and exercises throughout encouraging all ages to identify and repair common grammatical errors. A lively, whimsical yet solid references, highly recommended for audiences from young adults through adults.

And while I'm at it, here are the writing/publishing book reviews I did for July's review column:

Producing Successful Magazines, Newsletters and E-Zines
Carol Harris
How To Books/Parkwest Publications
PO Box 20261, New York , NY 10025-1512
1857039645 $24.75 646-215-9003

Producing Successful Magazines, Newsletters and E-Zines by Carol Harris is a practical and accessible "how to" guide that is ideal for the non-specialist general reader wanting to venture into a commercial publishing activity. Currently the publisher and editor of "Effective Consulting" magazine, Harris teaches the reader how approach printed and electronic publications, helping the reader decide just what kind of publication is right for them, how to set up and run a magazine or newsletter, how to attract articles and paying advertisers, as well as how to interview and write articles. Of special note are the provision of additional contacts and resources for aspiring publishers. If you are contemplating publishing a magazine or newsletter, then begin by giving a careful reading to the informative advice to be found in Carol Harris' Producing Successful Magazines, Newsletters and E-Zines!

The Weekend Novelist
Robert J. Ray & Bret Norris
Billboard Books/Watson Guptill
770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
0823084507 $16.95 1-800-451-1741

The Weekend Novelist is deftly co-authored by Robert J. Ray (author of eight novels) and Bret Norris (founder of the Norris Literary Agency) who collaborate to provide the reader with a collection of practical lessons on successfully writing a novel. This revised and updated edition is a superbly organized and presented "how to" workbook and manual that offers the novice a 52 weekend schedule that will enable the writer to plot their novel, sculpt their characters, develop plots with more than one protagonist, build sciences and scene sequences, create rough drafts, and even tap the power of their manuscripts by writing a memoir, rewriting the novel, or writing a screenplay. A year-long workshop under one cover, The Weekend Novelist is a perfect initiation into the work and techniques of writing a novel from scratch to finished manuscript.

The Making Of A Bestseller
Brian Hill & Dee Power
Dearborn Trade
30 South Wacker Drive, Suite 2500, Chicago, IL 60606
0793193087 $19.95 1-800-245-2665

The collaboration of Brian Hill and Dee Power, The Making Of A Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors And The Editors, Agents, And Booksellers Behind Them answers the fundamental question of why certain authors seem to be able to have what they write consistently end up on best seller lists. Readers will learn how literary agents affect the publishing process, how good and bad reviews affect sales, what the role of the bookseller is with respect to a book's success or failure in the marketplace, the importance of marketing and publicity in determining a books impact upon the reading public. The Making Of A Bestseller reveals just how more than fifty best-selling authors approach the craft of writing and marketing their books in ways that aspiring authors can emulate with their own works. If you want to be a professional author whose books are commercially successful, then give a very careful and considerate study to The Making Of A Bestseller.

Every dedicated writer (regardless of the genre or format you are working in) and every publisher (regardless of the size or scope of your publishing operation) should consider themselves to be "life long learners" if they truly want to succeed in having a successful "life long career" as a writer and/or publisher. And that means reading and studying and practicing your craft day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade. Otherwise you will miss out on the every expanding wealth of ideas, concepts, practices, discoveries, developments, resources, and technologies that can assist you in become better and more profitable at what you do.

I've been a book reviewer for just shy 30 years now, and hardly a seasons passes by that I still don't pick up a new idea, a new twist, a new perspective, a new inspiration that substantially or tangentially contributes to making the Midwest Book Review (my own publishing house) and my own skills as a reviewer and/or a book review editor more effective, more successful, and more respected within the publishing community, as well as the broader world of librarians and readers whom I serve.

A few days ago I had a bit of spare time (actually it was my lunch hour and I was eating a sandwich at my desk) so I went online and Googled my own name. It turned out that there were 165,000 citations for James A. Cox -- but the first page (citations 1-10) had only one for me. The other 9 turned out to be nine other guys who share my name. That one hit that was for me was on the Xpress Press website and turned out to be one of the articles I had written many years ago. So many years ago that the Midwest Book Review only had 39 reviewers at the time! I had completely forgotten about the article (this was decades before I started the "Advice for Publishers" section of our website or began writing the "Jim Cox Report". Here is that "blast from the past":

Press Releases and Announcing Your New Book to Reviewers

1. The best one, two or three paragraph publicity releases summarize the contents (nonfiction) or storyline (fiction) and if done well enough are a wheel that doesn't have to therefore be reinvented by the reviewer in the crafting of a review for publication or broadcast. What a good reviewer will do, in addition to utilizing the publicity release in this manner, is to then add a line or two or three of personal commentary or advice to the reader of the review as to the value or "recommendability" of the book the prospective reading public for which the book would be particularly appropriate.

2. Editors of newspapers, newsletters, magazines and journals are on deadlines and must occasionally resort to "filler" to round out the column of a page, or the page of a section, or a section of an issue. Currently I have 39 volunteer reviewers (and the same would hold true for other publications with paid staffs), some of whom wouldn't know a deadline if it was to bite them on the ankle! So an editor's resorting to incorporating the publisher's publicity release info is ideal tactic to use as a fall back measure to getting an issue out on time.

3. Still others reviewers are but fledgling in the art and craft of book reviewing and what they turn in must be augmented by the incorporation of publicity release info. I can't tell you how many times an ISBN or even a price has been left out of an otherwise perfectly good review. Or that a reviewer had a comment which would have made a whole lot more sense to a reader if the reviewer had given a bit more "book content" background, precisely the kind that good publicity releases provide the reviewer when the editor sends it back for a re-write.

4. Publisher originated publicity releases should be written so as to be able to be printed verbatim in the pages of a local newspaper or a national newsletter. Think of it this way -- you were able to reach that one person with the apparently persuasive information of why your book should be bought, taken home and read. That the one person you reached was then able to turn around and provide that same persuasive information to hundreds, perhaps thousands of other people is a cause for publisher celebration.

And the better crafted your PR the better your chances of that "publicity release chain reaction" will take place.

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review

The advise in this old article of mine is still valid today. But I must say that encountering it was like unexpectedly coming upon an echo of my younger self. Now on to some other stuff:

On Ascertaining The Value Of A Book:

In a message dated 7/1/05 10:12:59 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

I don't even know if I'm asking the right person this question. I was hoping you could help me with a question. I bought this book at a yard sale and was wondering if it was worth anything. It is a 1929 Rally Book, Boy Scouts of America used by troops and councils. For demonstrations and round-ups and other activities. I was wondering if it was worth putting on E-Bay. I also have two others. Scout Field book 1944 boy scouts of America and a hand book boy scouts of America 1948. If you cant help I hope you can tell me who can. Thank you

Sally Phillips

This is my advice:

1. Go to the Midwest Book Review website at
2. Click on "Book Lover Resources"
3. Click on "Antiquarian Bookstores"
4. Go down the list and click on their respective links.
5. As you get to their sites, type in your books and you will see what they
are currently going for.

This is the quickest and easiest way I know of to get an idea of the current value parameters (a lot depends on the physical condition of the book) for an out-of-print title.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

On Why There Is Sometimes More Than One Review Of The Same Book:

In a message dated 6/23/05 3:34:15 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

I recently received the May and June issues of BookWatch from you with several of our books reviewed. Going back into my records, I see that the same titles were reviewed by you back in February and March. (Volcanoes and Earthquakes - Mar and now May and Young Musicians in Feb and now June).

The reviews are not the same, they are different. Is this typically done by Bookwatch? And if so, I don't understand why. I look forward to hearing from you.

Marie Shomion
The Creative Company

We sometimes run two or more reviews of the same book (or book series) because I have always felt that different reviewers bring differing levels of skills, perspectives, life experiences, and critical literary abilities and expertise to their reviews.

I also believe that it never hurts to have librarians, booksellers, educators, parents, and the general reading public to have more than one exposure to a given book (or series) -- especially if the reviews are of a positive nature and stressing differing virtues of what is being reviewed.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

I almost forgot. I've had my first "PodCast" interview. It apparently went quite well. Poor interviewer -- she didn't know how easy it is to get me started talking and how difficult it is to get me to stop!!

Dear Jim,

I have posted your podcast at I think it came out fantastic. I hope you like it, and I hope you will link to us and/or tell everyone about it!

I have also posted your article advising authors how to do their best on TV.
Thank you so much!!!

Paula Berinstein
The Writing Show, where writing is always the story 818.253.5431

> In a message dated 7/13/05 1:54:19 PM Central Daylight Time,
> writes:
> I have edited your interview. Now my husband, who also serves as my
> audio engineer, has to play with the sound quality, and then it
> will go up on the site. It came out great!
> I just wanted to clarify something. Is it okay to use the articles
> from your site even if you're not the author, or can I only select the
> ones you've written yourself?
> Thanks!
> Paula
> The Writing Show

I gave Paula my permission for those "Advice for Publishers" articles that were mine and suggested she contact the contributors of the other articles. Most of whom are only to happy to grant such permissions. Here's another example of such permission giving:

In a message dated 5/22/05 11:15:46 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

Mr. Cox, I'm the editor of Michiana's Rainbow Gazzette, a free regional GLBT newsletter (1000 copies/month and an online archive) for northern Indiana/southwestern Michigan. Am I allowed to reprint your reviews? The Gazzette is only 16 pages at the moment, so I don't always have the space, but I very much want to be able to promote authors, books, and small presses that would be of interest to our readers.

Thank you for your time and attention.


I would be happy to give you complete permission to reprint any of our reviews as long as you provide the usual credit citation: Midwest Book Review. It would also be appreciated if you (for our own records) could send me a copy of any issue in which you run one or more of our reviews.

Incidently, a number of diverse publications around the country utilize our reviews as filler. I'm always happy to oblige because it expands the readership for our reviews.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Now I'd like to brag just a little bit. When I started reviewing books on WORT-FM back in the fall of 1976, the my listening audience was pretty much just those few square blocks around a fledgling radio station whose signal was so weak that it couldn't hardly make it to the other side of Madison. Now almost thirty years later my audiences and readerships are virtually world wide. I'm happily reminded of that every now and again when I get emails like this one:

Subject: to buy book
Date: 3/7/05 7:56:51 AM Central Standard Time

Messrs. James A. Cox, I am interest to acquisition of book: The Games we Payed of Margaret Hofer. I'd like to know if you accept the payment in Euros by postal order. Yours truly, Cosimo Giannuzzi

Mitt. Prof. Cosimo Giannuzzi
via C.Palma, 27
73024-Maglie (Le)

Of course I had to inform Professor Giannuzzi that we don't sell books, we review them. But still, it pleases me to know that over on the other side of the world people are reading our book review publications and listening to my on-air book review commentaries for overseas broadcasts.

Enough ego-stroking! Now it's time to record the real heroes of the Midwest Book Review. All those wonderful people who so appreciate what we try to accomplish in behalf of the publisher community that they donate postage stamps to us as a way of saying "thank you" and "keep up the good work"!! Here is this month's roster for the Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall of Fame & Appreciation:

Rose Stadler
Davy L. Johnson
Rick Salter - "The Wishing Star"
Attainment Company, Inc.
Civetta Press
Leathers Publishing
EarthTime Publications
Marquette Books
Brody Communications Ltd.
19th Century Books
Anne - Beachfront Publishing
Charlie Girsch - Creativity Central
Bill Pursche - Varzara House
Deborah Robson - Nomad Press
Lyn Follett - Arctos Press
Pam Schwagul - Tsaba House
Matthew Moscato - Harvest Sun Press
Adrienne Ehlert Bashista - DRT Press
W. C. Wright - Stochastic Books
Angelina Heart - Heart Flame Publishing
Suzanne H. Schrems - Horse Creek Publications
Stachey Kannenberg & Linda Desimowich - Cedar Valley Publishing

If you'd like to receive the "Jim Cox Report" directly (it's free), just send me an email asking to be signed up. If you have stamps to donate, or a book you'd like reviewed, send those stamps or a published copy of that book (no galleys or uncorrected proofs) accompanied by a cover letter and a publicity release, directly to my attention at the address below.

That's pretty much it for this time around. For now, Goodby, Good Luck & Good Reading!!

Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design