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Jim Cox Report: December 2005

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

The month of November has now gone by and I've turned 63. Books were always a big part of my life for as long back as I can remember. I've been well acquainted with the local public library of ever community I've ever lived in. For me, books were always major source of entertainment, escapism, and do-it-yourself education about the world and about myself. After more than six decades, libraries and the books they contain still serve those same purposes for me.

Like many hardcore bibliophiles, I've also had a life-long interest in writing. All kinds of writing ranging from prose to poetry, from fiction to non-fiction. My own poetry was published in small and obscure magazines -- the kind that paid you off in extra issues so you could inflict them on loved ones and folks who owed you money. My one book, "The Social Contributions of Joseph Smith to Plural Marriage" was self-published (meaning my stepfather ran them off on his own 19th Century hand-powered printing press while my family and I correlated the pages and stapled them all together) and it sold out it's entire one thousand copy print run in less than a year.

Because I've always had a fondness for reading and writing, even long before I fell into the profession of book reviewing, I've had a profound sympathy and a special empathy with those that wished to write and to publish. That's why one of the very first book review columns I ever launched was "The Writing/Publishing Shelf". This was in order to provide my readers and subscribers with my take on the continuing stream of "how to" books in those particular fields of endeavor and could, by taking advantage of the best of them, improve the quality of what they wrote and what they published, and by improving their skills, would improve their chances of being financially successful in the long term.

Here are some of those specialized "how to" books that I've reviewed and recommended over the past couple of months:

"I Liked It, Didn't Love It"
Rona Edwards & Monika Skerbelis
Lone Eagle Publishing Company
1024 N. Orange Dr, Hollywood CA 90038
1580650627 $18.95 1-800-815-0503

Titled after the most common rejection line listed by studio executives, "I Liked It, Didn't Love It", this is a no-nonsense guide to what happens to one's screenplay or novel when it is submitted to a studio or production company, and how to maximize one's odds of getting picked up. Written by a pair of industry insiders who have developed and sold screenplays for fifteen years, as well as teaching feature film development classes at UCLA for the past seven years, "I Liked It, Didn't Love It" covers important details to polish in one's writing, the art of pitching, crossing into television and cable movies, and much more. The refreshingly blunt honesty of "I Liked It, Didn't Love It" makes it as entertaining for readers of all backgrounds as it is vital for anyone looking to make a name or career for themselves in the screenplay industry. Highly recommended.

Writing And Developing College Textbook Supplements
Mary Ellen Lepionka
Atlantic Path Publishing
PO Box 1556, Gloucester, MA 01931-1556
0972816410 $19.95

Veteran development editor in higher education publishing Mary Ellen Lepionka presents Writing And Developing College Textbook Supplements, a practical guide for anyone involved in developing, creating, or editing a print or electronic supplement, whether it is an instructor's manual, annotated edition, test bank, study guide, student reader, lab manual, transparency set, multimedia CD-ROM, video or audiotape, PowerPoint presentation, e-text, website, or other format for study material enhancement. Chapters discuss manuscript development and preparation, guidelines for creating sample tests, tips unique to multimedia or online course materials, and much more. Written in plain terms with an eye toward practical usage, Writing And Developing College Textbook Supplements is a "must-have" for academic writers charged with expanding upon standard textbooks to facilitate student learning.

Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets
James Russell
James Russell Publishing
780 Diogenes Drive, Reno NV 89512
0916367118 $34.95

Learn all the basics of selling and marketing a script through the practical marketing guide Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets: Everything You Need To Know To Market Your Screenplay, TV Or Stage Play Script. This goes beyond advice on how to produce a script to focus on the nuts and bolts of how to market and protect one, from contacting production companies and increasing the possibility of a response to accessing the TV market. You don't have to have an agent to do it right - but you do have to have industry savvy, which Screen & Stage Marketing Secrets will provide.

I Could've Written A Better Movie Than That!
Derek Rydall
Michael Weiser
11288 Ventura Boulevard, #621, Studio City, CA 91604
1932907076 $26.95

There are plenty of movies on the market which feature substandard writing - so bad that even an audience member might think they can do better, let alone an aspiring screenwriter. If you're a member of the latter group, I Could've Written A Better Movie Than That! How To Make Six Figures As A Script Consultant Even If You're Not A Screenwriter is for you. It tells how to use this sense of perfection to earn cash as a script consultant, and comes from author Rydall's years of experience in the industry. Chapters show how to analyze stories in any form, write coverage, repair scripts, negotiate contracts and more. Plenty of books tell how to write the script: few, except for this one, tell how to make money repairing one.

Putting Your Passion Into Print
Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry
Workman Publishing
708 Broadway, NY, NY 10003-9555
0761131221 $14.95

Become a successfully published author whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction with the aid of Putting Your Passion Into Print, which begins with a writer's idea and follows it into print. From putting together a compelling book proposal and considering an agent to meeting editors, understanding royalty payment realities, and more, the nuts and bolts of the publishing industry are fully explored.

Say What You Mean!
R.L. Trask
David Godine
PO Box 450, Jaffrey, NH 03452
1567922635 $25.95

Plenty of books cover English usage and style - but linguist R.L. Trask's is more specific and entertaining than most, imparting the laws for writing simple sentences and influential works using a blend of blunt observation and an A-Z format of key words designed to help reader polish and edit their words. Say What You Mean: A Troubleshooter's Guide To English Style & Usage first appeared in England in 2001 and has become a 'bible' of information for journalists, writers, and any who need to know more about English usage.

Inner Drives
Pamela Jaye Smith
Michael Wiese Productions
11288 Ventura Boulevard, #621, Studio City, CA 91604
1932907033 $26.95

There are some basic principles to writing good characters into novels and dramas and with them the aspiring screenwriter or novelist can produce powerful, three-dimension figures. Inner Drives: How To Write & Create Characters Using The Eight Classic Centers Of Motivation surveys these principles from the world of mythology, using plenty of examples teamed with exercises to help writers structure characters, devise subplots, make logical connections and more. Chapters discuss 'inner drive centers', link art and writing to New Age concepts, and survey archetypes and classic examples.

Blockbuster Plots
Martha Alderson, M.A.
Illusion Press
704 Blossom Hill Road, #146, Los Gatos, Ca 95032
1877809195 $25.00

Confused about the basics of building a plot in a story? Martha Alderson's narrowed focus on how to produce a superior one applies to novels, memoirs and nonfiction alike, using scenes by contemporary writers from Twain to London to show how to create logical and substantial plots. Visual representation of scenes is the focus of a step-by-step workbook packed with tips on everything from character development and depth of story line to action and theme clarification. Any writer seeking to produce not just acceptable but superior works must have this guide.

Writer's Digest Books
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati OH 45236

The 2006 updated Writer's Markets have hit the stands, and whether you're a library catering to would-be authors and writers or a writer needing constant reference for new jobs, they are 'must' purchases both individually and collectively, representing industry-standard writer's guides which will receive repeated value and attention throughout the year. The weighty 2006 Writer's Market (1582973946, $29.99) appears in its 85th annual edition, completely revised and updated to include over 600 new listings for book publishers, magazines, trade journals and more. Not only do new listings expand the size, but exclusive interviews with agents and publishing professionals add value to listings which include small and large press listings for paying sources. For more clearly defined sources, choose either the 2006 Poet's Market (1582974004, $24.99), holding over 200 new listings to its 1,800 listings for presses, journals, workshops and contests, the 2006 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market (1582973970, $24.99), with its 200 new listings, or the 2006 Children's Writer's And Illustrator's Market (15829734020, $24.99), appearing in its 18th updated edition featuring over 800 listings total. And don't forget the 2006 Guide To Literary Agents (1582973997, $24.99), with over 500 listings to its 15th revised edition covering all kinds of agencies, agents, and special promoter contacts. All are cornerstones of any serious collection.

Author Law A-Z
Sallie Randolph, et al.
Capital Books, Inc.
22841 Quicksilver Dr, Sterling, VA 20166
1931868263 $21.95, 1-800-758-3756

The latest installment in the "A-Z Legal Series" from Capital Books, Author Law A-Z: A Desktop Guide To Writers' Rights And Responsibilities packs the collective wisdom of author-lawyers Sallie Randolph, Stacy Davis, Anthony Elia and Karen Dustman into plain terms for lay readers - and writers! Author Law A-Z is organized like an encyclopedia, with A-Z entries of common legal and writing industry terms or issues that every author should know, from "abridgement" and "acceptable manuscript" to "young adult books" and "Zapruder film", which denotes a landmark legal case about film rights concerning the home video film that accidentally documented the assassination of JFK. In addition to the entries, numerous tips, tricks, techniques, and warnings for the aspiring author in a legally complex world, from a sample demand letter (as written to a vanity print-on-demand publisher masquerading as a traditional publisher) to a sample complaint for copyright infringement, advice for what to say when one's editor calls, and much more. Enthusiastically recommended for spot research or simple cover-to-cover reading in order to grasp valuable basic lessons of the writing and publishing business.

Book Typography
Ari Rafaeli
Oak Knoll Press
310 Delaware St., New Castle, DE 19720
1584561572 $34.95, 1-800-996-2556

Intended as an instructional particularly for publishers and anyone involved in typographical work, Book Typography is a no-nonsense, informative tour of the definitions, history, and current usage of various typefaces, styles, spacing techniques and much more. A wealth of notes elaborate upon the text, as it walks the reader through such topics as "The school of close spacing", "Mise-en-page etc.", and much more. A handful of black and white illustrations, sample typefaces, and sample pages showcase the ideas and techniques discussed. An excellent introduction and well-rounded resource to the print technology of typography.

Damn! That's Funny!
Gene Perret
Quill Driver Books
1254 Commerce Ave., Sanger, CA 93657
1884956440 $14.95 1-800-497-4909

Whether you're a satirical writer or produce outright comedy, there's a market for funny writing, from humorous articles to sketches. Article writers will relish Gedne Perrett, himself one of the top comedy writers going, in Damn! That's Funny! which tells not just how to 'write funny', but how to market one's humor to the right audience. Understand what you want to say, how to best say it, and how to sell it effectively in this guide to producing and publishing outstanding humor.

Self-Publishing Fiction
Gavin Sinclair
Mainland Press
4340 J.A. Yount Farm Road, Conover, NC 28613
0970874642 $19.95

Self-Publishing Fiction: From Manuscript To Bookstore And Beyond is a step-by-step guide to publishing one's novel with no more than a manuscript, a computer, and some hard work - mountains of money not required! Simple instructions to transform one's manuscript into a printer-ready format, design a cover, select a printer, obtain ISBN and Library of Congress numbers, register copyright, get one's book reviewed and get onto bookstore shelves, maximize on-line sales, and much more fill this extremely practical how-to guide. Packed cover-to-cover with "hands-on" information offering straight talk to difficult problems, from how to approach Barnes & Noble and other big bookstore chains to how to get picked up by a distributor, Self-Publishing Fiction is an enthusiastically recommended "must-have" for anyone determined to present a story to the reading public without breaking the bank.

Turning Your Life's Stories Into A Literary Memoir
Peggy Lang & Robert Goodman
Silver Threads
3830 Valley Centre Drive, PMB 102, San Diego, CA 92130
1893067041 $12.95

Turning Your Life's Stories Into A Literary Memoir: A Memoir People Actually Want To Read is a straightforward "how-to" guide to skillfully preserving one's memories in book form. Emphasizing writing tips, tricks, and techniques that will absorb readers into what you have to say, chapters cover the definition of a memoir, literary techniques in story structure, craft and style to add one's unique imprint to writing, common pitfalls with dialogue, sentence construction, or background research, how to spark one's memories, and more guide the reader to write in a professional manner. A final chapter walks lay people through the simplest basics of how to get published, whether self-publishing, e-book, online publishing, private publishing, or traditional publishing. A short and simple guide that effectively covers the basics of memoir writing and publishing.

There are hundreds of other reviews on "how to" books written specifically for aspiring writers and serious publishers archived on the Midwest Book Review website at in two major sections: "Writer's Bookshelf" and "Publishers' Bookshelf". Almost all of them are available for free through your local community library's InterLibrary Loan Service.

I want to once again express my personal gratitude for all the authors, publishers, and occasional publicists who have made their support and appreciation for what we try to do here in behalf of the small press community. Here are the latest men and women who have joined the Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall of Fame & Appreciation through their kind and generous donations of postage stamps (which we use when sending out tear sheets and publisher notification letters):

LeAnn R. Ralph - "Cream of the Crop: More True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm"
Sheila Sustrin - "The Teacher Who Would Not Retire
Dawson Church - "Healing the Heart of the World"
Michael L. Wentz - "Resurrection of Liberty"
Edward Olshaker - "Witness to the Unsolved"
74th Street Productions, LLC
Vanerwyk & Burnham
Dina C. Carson - Reunion Solutions Press
Charles Boyle - Trident Publishing
Craig Gabriel - TeriBooks
Lee Jackson - Snaptail Press
Jennifer Troulis - Twin Monkeys Press
Eileen Bedara - Manor House Publications, Inc.
Stormy Lee Kennedy - KS Publishing, Inc.
Roy Junes - R & B Innes
Mary Van Dyke - Keene Publishing
Sherri Brown - Atlantic Publishing Group
Sara Pattow - Champion Press Ltd.
Sherri Erickson - Attainment Company Inc.

For those new to the "Jim Cox Report" it is available and free. Just send me an email asking to be signed up. If you have a book you'd like to have considered for review, send a published copy (no galleys or uncorrected proofs), accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity or press release to my attention.

Until next time! Goodby, 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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