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Jim Cox Report: August 2014

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Next month will see the 39th anniversary of the Midwest Book Review.

In the course of almost four decades I've written a number of instructional articles on and about the publishing industry, especially the role of the book review and the book reviewer. Everything I've written about publishing is archived on the Midwest Book Review's web site and has always been available for free to anyone wanting to use them in organizational newsletters, web site content enrichment, or 'how to' book publications.

One of the earliest and most often reprinted of these articles over the years is "How to Spot a Phony Book Reviewer".

I was recently contacted by Angela Bole, who is the executive director of the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) seeking permission to reprint it in their blog. It was many years ago when the IBPA was the PMA (Publishers Marketing Association) that I wrote this particular article. I gave my permission for her to do so (and updated the obsolete reference of PMA to IBPA). I wrote the article so long ago that it cites the MBR has having 31 reviewers (we now have 81). Otherwise the article has held up rather well.

She did reprint it -- and somehow got a hold of a photo of me that I think was taken of me when I received the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award in Publishing from the eBook Publishers Association out in Santa Barbara, California, to include with the article.

So if you've ever wondered what I look like, you can see me (and read the article) at:

One of the major characteristics of the Midwest Book Review has been the encouragement of folks to try their hand at book reviewing. Here's one of the latest examples of this aspect of our operation:

Hi Jim,

Sorry for the delayed reply, I've been very busy with work. I'm glad you liked the review, thanks for saying so. I'm looking forward to reviewing more and will submit again.

I'm relatively new to book reviewing, my apologies if this is something I already should know -- are they any guidelines about when *not* to submit a review? (If it's already been reviewed, say, or if the work was published more than a year ago, something like that?)

Thanks for clarifying.

Best regards,


Dear Nate:

1. My advice is to only review books that after reading them a reviewer can honestly recommend them to their intended audiences. There are so many good books that I stop reading and discard a flawed book and simply reach for another one to take its place.

2. If a book has already been reviewed it by someone else, that is no deterrent to reviewing it yourself. Different reviewers bring to the same books different life experiences, perspectives, ability levels, styles, etc. I often run more than one review of a given book by different reviewers for just those reasons.

3. I pay no attention to publication dates. Our rule is that when a review of a book is submitted the book must be in print and available to the reading public.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Some of our volunteer reviewers have been with us for decades, others come and go as quickly as snowflakes in July. But the core mission of the Midwest Book Review to promote literacy, library usage, and small press publishing continues to endure.

Here are recommended books of special interest to writers and publishers:

Fireflies: A Writer's Notebook
Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Little Pickle Press
3701 Sacramento Street, #494m San Francisco, CA 94118
Smith Publicity
9781939775047, $12.95,

With respect to "Fireflies: A Writer's Notebook", Coleen Murtagh Paratore (who has had 19 of her books published since 2004 and is perhaps best known for her novel "The Wedding Planner's Daughter), has created a resource in which aspiring writers can jot down their ideas and observations which may well be occasionally inspired by a sprinkling of inspirational prompts and advisory citations. A perfect little blank page manual in which to record thoughts and story elements, "Fireflies: A Writer's Notebook" is also perfectly equipped to help overcome writer blocks. Because it is a consumable, it is not appropriate for community or academic library Writer/Publisher instructional resource collections, but it is enthusiastically recommended for the personal reference collections of individuals who aspire to putting their thoughts down on paper -- and perhaps utilize those recorded thoughts for larger writing projects.

1,001 Tips for Writers
Quotations selected by William A. Gordon
North Ridge Books
PO Box 2832, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
9780937813102 $15.95

1,001 Tips for Writers: Words of Wisdom About Writing, Getting Published, and Living the Literary Life is an anthology of witticisms, insights, tips, tricks, techniques, warnings, suggestions, and much more for anyone and everyone in the writing trade. William A. Gorden has gathered a broad swath of writing quips from an immense diversity of authors, publishers, editors, and other experts in the field. 1,001 Tips for Writers is a pleasure to browse, and an absolute "must-read" for anyone considering a literary career! "Every time we have to publish a public affairs book, we cringe. People forget about the event it deals with. The attention span of the American public is fleeting. -Alberto Vitale, chairman and CEO of Random House, quoted in The New Yorker, October 6, 1997."

Any Questions?
Marie-Louise Gay, author/illustrator
Groundwood Books
c/o Publishers Group West
1700 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781554983827, $19.95,

"Any Questions?" is a fun, thought -provoking kid's book about the amazing process of writing a book. Colorful, zany illustrations of kids, all asking funny questions, narrate the description of writing a story. My personal favorite character commentator is the little gray striped cat who wishes he could fly. The talented author/illustrator describes fascinating parts of her creative process.....: "I draw and Paint. I cut and paste. I let my mind wander.....I shake my ideas around and turn them upside down and look at them flying out the window like a flock of birds. Suddenly, I know who lives in the forest....a giant, a shy young giant with birds nesting in his hair. His story starts here...." The central part of "Any Questions?" presents a wonderful story about a shy giant who tends his forest and confronts a ferocious purple gobbling beast, then finally tames him by.... reading him a story! All the children and forest storybook characters love the story so much they don't want it to end, and that is where the end is in fact, the beginning. At the (actual) end of "Any Questions?" there is a list of real children's questions with the answers of award-winning author/illustrator Marie-Louise Gay. "Any Questions?" is a fabulous way to describe and explore the creative process of writing a story with children ages 6-9.

Writing Nonfiction
Dan Poynter
Para Publishing
PO Box 8206-244
Santa Barbara, CA 93118-8206
1568601107, $14.95,

Now in a newly revised and expanded edition, "Writing Nonfiction: Turning Thoughts into Books" is a 144 page instruction manual by Dan Poynter -- aptly called the guru of self-publishing and a man who has been promoting and mentoring aspiring writers for more than three decades. Poynter teaches authors of non-fiction to 'build' their books utilizing free resources available on whatever their subject matter might be through accessing the internet for free research materials, quotations, art works, and stories. Of special note are the invaluable tips about finding editors, proof readers, and others to help polish an author's writing. "Writing Nonfiction: Turning Thoughts into Books" teaches aspiring authors how to repurpose the core content of their work into downloadable books, CDs, ebooks, audiobooks, reports, articles, seminars, and consulting gigs. The information about handling interviews, autograph signing, and fans is rarely (if ever) found elsewhere. Himself the author of more than one hundred books, Poynter draws upon his many years of experience to write one of the most 'user friendly' how-to manuals on the subject of writing and promoting self-published non-fiction to create an instructional reference work that, simply stated, is an essential addition to the personal reference collections of anyone who aspires to becoming a professional author. It should be noted that "Writing Nonfiction: Turning Thoughts into Books" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.97).

The Insider's Guide to A Career in Book Publishing
Carin Siegfried
Chickadee Press
7308 Quail Meadow Lane, Charlotte, NC 28210
9780985336257, $14.95,

Having worked in the publishing industry for almost four decades, there is one undeniable fact that I've learned. Publishing is hard work, often with very little return on the invested dollar. But despite that fact, there is a never ending supply of young men and women who would like to establish a career for themselves within the publishing industry. A unique and seminal work, "The Insider's Guide to A Career in Book Publishing" by publishing industry veteran Carin Siegfried is a 134 page compendium that ought to be considered mandatory reading for anyone who aspires to a publishing career -- especially those for whom a publishing career automatically equates with being an editor because that's pretty much the extent of their familiarity with publishing. "The Insider's Guide to A Career in Book Publishing" is a thoroughly 'reader friendly' presentation of the different types of publishing houses and offers practical descriptions of the kinds of jobs the publishing industry offers. Basically an instruction manual, "The Insider's Guide to A Career in Book Publishing" explains how to research individual job categories; how to break a job description down to determine what is actually involved in it; covers searching for a publishing industry job both within New York as well as elsewhere in the country; and how to stand out in a crowded field of applicants for a targeted publishing industry position. Practical, informative, unique, and compactly comprehensive, "The Insider's Guide to A Career in Book Publishing" is very highly recommended for personal, academic, and community library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections.

Build Your Author Platform
Carole Jelen & Michael McCallister
BenBella Books
10300 N. Central Expressway, Ste 400, Dallas, TX 75204
9781939529251, $16.95,

It takes far more to write a successful book, fiction or non-fiction, that being a talented wordsmith. Once a book is written, the task remains of bringing it to the favorable attention of an intended readership. If an author is to be commercially and professional successful, that intended readership must be developed over time in the highly competitive world of publishing. "Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules: A Literary Agent's Guide to Growing Your Audience in 14 Steps" by the team of literary agent Carole Jelen and technical communications expert Michael McCallister is essentially a 384 page instruction manual specifically designed to teach authors how to define their literary and publication goals while developing a unique 'brand name' recognition for their work and themselves. Authors will learn how to utilize and implement website strategies, content, social presence, and media authority to increase their sales. Of special note is the practical guide to securing positive reviews. Replete with pragmatic and illustrative book marketing lessons, examples, success stories, and a wealth of tips and techniques, "Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules: A Literary Agent's Guide to Growing Your Audience in 14 Steps" will prove to ben an enduringly valuable addition to personal, professional, academic, and community library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections. Very highly recommended to writers aspiring to become successful authors, it should be noted that "Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules: A Literary Agent's Guide to Growing Your Audience in 14 Steps" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Writing Wild
Tina Welling
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608682867, $14.95,

Creative writing is any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, or technical forms of literature, typically identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes or with various traditions of poetry and poetics. Due to the looseness of the definition, it is possible for writing such as feature stories to be considered creative writing, even though they fall under journalism, because the content of features is specifically focused on narrative and character development. "Writing Wild: Forming a Creative Partnership with Nature" by published author Tina Welling is a 248 page instruction guide on how to tap into the natural world (including ourselves to create memorable and engaging stories while exploring ourselves and our surroundings. Of special note is the chapter on the 'Care and Feeding of a Writer'. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Writing Wild: Forming a Creative Partnership with Nature" is thoroughly 'reader friendly' and highly recommended to all aspiring authors, as well as community and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "Writing Wild: Forming a Creative Partnership with Nature" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

I'm not the only one with an interest in reviewing 'how to' books for aspiring writers. Here's a review by one of our volunteer reviewers:

Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life
Robert Benson
WaterBrook Press
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200 , Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400074358, $15.99,

Robert Benson is a "writerís writer," as well as a critically acclaimed author with a multiplicity of books on spirituality and life. In his July 15 release, Dancing on the Head of a Pen, he answers one of his most frequently asked questions. "Can you tell me how to write a book?"

In twelve delightful chapters with titles such as, "Dark Marks on a Page," "Go to Your Room," "Six Hundred Words" and "The Jury Box," Benson describes the techniques, disciplines and processes he employs "when he begins to make a book."

He's quick to admit some of the habits and methods he practices are ideas "stolen" from other successful writers. Others he discovered after years of what he describes as "dancing on the head of a pin," reminiscent of the question about the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin. While some are disciplines he's stumbled across over the years that equip him to be a better writer, able to deliver a clear message.

He says, writing a book is like starting a new "construction project" except the writers tools of the trade are a "pen and a keyboard and paper and ink." Nothing more. Nothing less. When it's time to start a new project he knows it's time for him to pick up his "tools, pull on his boots and go to work."

He writes about procrastination and warns just as "solitude and silence" are a writers best friend, waiting for the muse to show up is a writers worst enemy. Because the muse shows up "in the midst of the dance he does with the fountain pen on the page."

Bensons' wisdom shines through the pages with practical advice on what to write about, your audience, writerís disciplines, word count goals, when to share your work and knowing when the project is finished.

I especially appreciated his lyrical use of words such as:

"Any writer worth his ink stains..."
"Writers pause instead of writers block...""
"Writing in the cracks..."
"The Affliction That Must Not Be Named..."
"To begin a book, I select the jury..."
"Good writing takes time..."
"The value of slow..."

"Dancing on the Head of a Pin," a wise and witty gem, is filled with realistic tips for talented or aspiring writers on the writing life and useful techniques to consider when writing a book. Benson delivers his advice with deceptive ease, humor and skill that mine his many years of writing experience. He hopes his words will give "writers a way to begin."

Gail Welborn

Here is "The Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall Of Fame & Appreciation" roster of well-wishers and supporters. These are the generous folk who decided to say 'thank you' and 'support the cause' that is the Midwest Book Review by donating postage stamps this past month:

Anesa Miller "Our Orbit"
Jerry Labriola -- "Global Shadows"
Yolanda A. Reid -- "The Honeyeater"
Victor R. Levine -- "Global Economics"
Lori Wolf -- "Bank of Allowance Givers"
Sherrill S. Cannon -- "My Fingerpaint Masterpiece"
Phyllis Cole -- "Faith Challenge Bible Activity Book"
Marlaena Shannon -- "Black and White Cat, White and Black Dog"
J. Gridley -- Gresham & Doyle
Beth Smith -- Zip Line Publishing
Jacob Takeo -- New University Press
Sherri Erickson -- Attainment Company
Valerie Koch -- Mystery Doc Publishing
Barbara C. Wall -- The Barrett Company
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!

In lieu of (or in addition to!) postage stamp donations, we also accept PayPal gifts of support to our postage stamp fund for what we try to accomplish in behalf of the small press community. Simply log onto your PayPal account and direct your kindness (in any amount and at your discretion) to the Midwest Book Review at:

SupportMBR [at]

(The @ is replaced by "[at]" in the above email address, in an attempt to avoid email-harvesting spambots.)

If you have postage stamps to donate, or if you have a book you'd like considered for review, then send those postage stamps (always appreciated, never required), or a published copy of that book (no galleys, uncorrected proofs, or Advance Reading Copies), accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity release to my attention at the address below.

All of the previous issues of the "Jim Cox Report" are archived on the Midwest Book Review website at If you'd like to receive the "Jim Cox Report" directly (and for free), just send me an email asking to be signed up for it.

So until next time -- goodbye, good luck, and good reading!

Jim Cox
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

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