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Jim Cox Report: February 2006

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

The month of January has come and gone. But not before our library newsletters, our on-line book review magazines, and my little world-wide book review radio broadcast column generated more than 800 reviews spread out over four library newsletters and five on-line book review magazines.

We've had such an increase in the number of book submissions (we are now averaging slightly more than 2,000 titles a month coming in) that I've had to hire another full time assistant editor to help me cope with it all.

For those new to the Midwest Book Review, we have a three-part mission statement: Promote literacy, library usage, and small press publishing. To those ends, I do a great deal more than just hand out review assignments, take in book reviews, and edit our publications. I also try to make myself accessible and available to authors, publishers, and anyone else who write, email, or call in with questions about the publishing process, book reviewing, marketing & promotion, etc. Here's an illustrative example:

Hello Mr. Cox,

I'm a former member of SPAN and an active member of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers of North America.) A few months ago, you very kindly provided information about gaining exposure for my highly niched book, Ballet Secrets for Skaters.

Based on your advice, I focused on the magazine market and have lined up a number of creative articles--such as Tips & Techniques for Performing with Props--that will provide valuable information to readers while promoting the book. Additional articles and reference information are now available on the Ballet Secrets for Skaters web site,

Your advice to search for specialty publishers, such as Human Kinetics, resulted in a very constructive conversation with two editors. My experience in writing and publishing two books would qualify me to write on a number of subjects for them.

Much to my surprise, Blades On Ice, an international figure skating fan magazine, published a review of Ballet Secrets for Skaters. Although they sensationalized the subject matter, this was their first review of a self-published book--a major victory for the small presses.

Lastly, I'm checking in on the status of my submission to the Midwest Book Review, please.

If you need any information about Ballet Secrets for Skaters or figure skating information related to the forthcoming Winter Olympic Games, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you so very much for your advice and encouragement on promoting a highly specialized, non-fiction book. I'll keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime, my fingers are crossed in an elegant ballet pose in hopes of a favorable outcome from the Midwest Book Review.

Thank you again.


Barbara Denise Files
Artistic Enterprises International
P.O. Box 8582, Tarrytown, NY 10591
(914) 332-4512

I was happy to be able to inform Barbara that a review of her book is currently running in our February publications. But the real reason I've cited her correspondence here is that I recommend authors (especially of non-fiction titles) to think about deriving as much attention (and income) as possible from their books by considering the writing of articles, giving of talks, selling secondary rights to magazines and journals, etc. In this case, Barbara provides an excellent example of what can be done.

Then there is this example of how an author/publisher is utilizing reviews and events to promote, market and sell her book:

LOVE: My Search for Truth
Annie Marrs & Illustrated by Rachelle Rouse
10225 Research Blvd., Austin, Texas
Saturday, February 11, 11:00 - 3:00

Book Reviews:

"An inspirational collection of thoughts about love. Emotionally inspiring. Heart-healing." (Midwest Book Review)

"The reader is compelled to return, time and again, to review, to study, to appreciation." (Texas Triangle Magazine)

"Good books are easy to read. Great books get you to think. In my opinion this book is both." (Metaphysical Reviews)

"Short, original truisms about love. Reveals the truth in the matrix of all religions. A unique reading experience." (Mindquest)

"A very wise, insightful and deep book. It rings with such truth that you will often find yourself saying, "Yes!!". Annie's words leave you thinking long after you finish her book. Highly recommend it." (Caroline Mate)

The above announcement came to me as an email. Probably because our review is quoted from in this particular publicity campaign. All I can say to other authors and small press publishers is to try and do the same -- as often as you can.

I'm not the only one here at the Midwest Book Review who reviews "how to" books on writing and publishing. Several of our freelance volunteers do the same. Here are especially good reviews of especially good books that deserve to be brought to the attention of anyone seeking to write professionally -- and profitably!

The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Freelance Writer in Six Months or Less
Peter Bowerman
Fanove Publishing
3713 Stonewall Circle, Atlanta, GA 30339
ISBN: 0967059844, $19.95, 282 pp.

Peter Bowerman lives up to his title, with a client list that includes Coca-Cola, MCI, BellSouth, IBM, UPS, GTE - well, you get the idea. He is indeed a well-fed writer, and his book is about showing readers how they too can become (as stated in his introduction) "...a well-respected, well-compensated, fulfilled writer." Chapters like Let's Get Started, How Much Do I Charge?, and Dos, Don'ts, and Don't Forget's lay out a clear map through the copy-writing jungle to an oasis of success. Once you've finished reading what Bowerman has to say, you'll be ready to make some real money with your writing.

Now, if you think writing business copy is too boring for words, that business writers themselves have no souls, and that starving in a garret is the only real choice of a true "artiste", then you can put this book down right now and go back to trying to find a word that rhymes with "silver". But if you're tired of subsisting on ramen noodles and cold cereal seven days a week, tired of shuffling your feet when someone asks you what you do for a living, tired of wondering how you're going to make your next car payment, then this book and its contents may be just what you've been looking for.

Flash Writing: How to Write, Revise and Publish Stories Less Than
1000 Words Long
Michael Wilson Publishing
P.O. 9949, College Station, TX 77842
ISBN: 1589396375, $14.95, 178 pp.

Flash Writing may be Michael Wilson's first book, but it probably won't be his last one. Wilson teaches creative writing classes and facilitates writers' groups in the Columbus [Ohio] area and has been a featured speaker at various area writers' conferences, so he undoubtedly has a lot more to say about writing of all kinds.

However, his current hot topic is flash fiction (also known as short-short stories, sudden, postcard, minute, furious, fast, quick, skinny, and micro fiction) and when he discovered that there really wasn't anything in print about it, he decided to write something that would fill that gap.

He begins [in chapter 1] by explaining what flash fiction is. Flash fiction can be anywhere from 250 and 1000 words long and it has all the features of a normal short story: conflict, character, and a beginning, middle, and end. The main way it differs from other forms of fiction is that a flash fiction story is extremely compressed.

Although this does make them easier (and quicker) to read, it doesn't make them easier to write. The shorter a piece of writing is, the fewer scenes and characters you can include and the more necessary it is to make every word count. Or as Wilson says in Chapter 15 (Compressing the Narrative for Flash Fiction): "Flash fiction has to tell the story of an entire life in a single page."

Flash fiction isn't a new story form. It has been around for a long time in the guise of fairy tales, nursery rhymes, tall tales and legends, and (a more recent version) urban legends. However, it has now come into its own, with entire web sites, magazines and books devoted to flash fiction stories. Makes sense to me - modern society has less and less time to read, and it takes far less time to read a flash fiction piece (or even a collection of them) than it does to read an entire novel.

There are certain tricks to being successful with flash fiction and they're all covered here to one extent or another, from getting ideas and creating characters to working on setting and point of view. My favorite part of the book, though, is its treasure trove of writing exercises, first lines, and quick topics that can be used to inspire you when you're stumped for ideas, and the Do It! exercises that follow many of the chapters, encouraging you to use what you just read about.

Been wanting to try your hand at fiction, but don't have the time or attention span required for a novel? Try flash fiction. Who knows? You might turn out to be a natural. And even if you don't, working in this genre will help you tighten up your writing. Robert Southey once said, "It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. " If that's true, this book will have you playing with fire in no time!

Betty Winslow

January 2006 also saw the U.S. Post Office increase the cost of postage. I'm especially grateful to all the good folk who donated postage stamps to the Midwest Book Review and helped us to be able to take the increase in stride.

Here are the newest members of the "Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall of Fame & Appreciation":

George A. Brymer
Mark Y. Herring - Dean of Library Services, Winthrop University
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier - Waldmania! Publicity
Leslie Troy McClure - 411 Video Information
Linda Davis Kyle - Davis Kyle Writing & Editing Company
Bob L. Morgan Jr. - "Dark Carnival"
Charles Portolano - "The Devil's Advocate"
Matthew S. Chan - "Turnkey Investing with Lease Options"
Margaret Schwartz - "The Pumpkin Patch"
Gloria Gilbere - "Pain/Inflamation Matters"
L&M Publications
The Taber Hall Press
Simplex Publications
Vincent W. Rospond - BL Publishing
William Whitfield - Thornwood Publishing Company, LLC
Janice Phelps - Lucky Press, LLC
R. Kevin Hennelly - Our Lady of Light Publications
Dilip G. Saraf - Career Transitions Unlimited
Joseph S. Spence, Sr. - Trilogy Poetic Literature & Prose
Jim Michael Hansen - Dark Sky Publishing
Paul D'Arezzo - Marcellina Mountain Press
Amy M. Arcand - Lonefrog Books
Bill Klemm - Benecton Press
David Shuah - Integrative Arts Press
Chris Staros - Top Shelf Productions
David Smitherman - Palari Publishing
Denise Haverkos - Xulon Press
Charlotte Digregorio - Civetta Press
Steven Swerdfeger - Singularity Press/Star Cloud Press
Deborah Robson - Nomad Press/Dogtooth Books
Yvonne Low - Kyoodoz
Carol Ferrott - Our Child Press
Jim Salisbury - Tabby House
Kathleen R. Oleson - Prisma Collaborative
Linda Tuck-Jenkins - Inspirational Fiction
Mary Iorio - Vocalis Ltd.
Jeannie McStay - The Vegetarian Resource Group
Chris Staros - Top Shelf Productions
Olga Lochtchinina - Ekadoo Publishing Group
Fern Reiss - Peanut Butter & Jelly Press
M. David Samples - Pegasus Publications
Len Barot - Bold Strokes Books
Charles Boyle - Trident Publishing
Daniel Farside - 3 Point Land Publishing

I also received a generous postage stamp donation from someone who simply signed themselves off as Anonymous from Mesa, Arizona. Well that's about it for this time around. If you have a book you want reviewed or postage stamps you'd like to donate "for the cause", just send them to my attention at:

Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575

The "Jim Cox Report" is archived on our website at You can also get it directly (and for free) by just asking for it to be emailed to you. So until next time! Goodbye, good luck and good reading!

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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