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Jim Cox Report: February 2015

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

I thought I'd start off the new year with some Q&A about reviews, the review selection process, and the (justifiably) controversial issue of payment for reviews.

In a message dated 1/27/2014 10:35:18 A.M. Central Standard Time, Jeanne Styczinski writes:

Good Morning!


Don't want to be a bug, but I have the day off because of cold weather. I was looking through my e-mail this morning of inquires I sent out this month.

My question to you is, how long is the process to be accept for a book review? If I am not accepted how do I know?

That's all!

Stay Warm!

Jeanne Styczinski

Subject: Jeanne -- The process of a book review
Date: 1/29/2014 12:34:50 P.M. Central Standard Time

Dear Jeanne:

After a book passes our initial screening when it arrives, it then has a 14 to 16 week "window of opportunity" in which to secure a review assignment. If it makes the final cut within that time frame and achieve a review assignment, the reviewer has 30 days in which to complete the review and turn it in. I then edit the review into one of our monthly book review publications for the following month. When it appears I then sent the reviewer and/or publisher a copy of the review and a notification letter or email.

Authors and/or publishers are not normally notified If it fails to make that final cut and must be removed from consideration after its eligibility time frame expires. Since all of our reviews are automatically archived on our web site, what I advise authors and publishers to do after submitting their book for review is to do a Google search once a month for the next three months. If a review is achieved it will be found. If is not, then the Google search will confirm that by not having a review pop up.

After a 3 month time expires, it is always appropriate to send me an email inquiry to confirm whether or not there is a review.

You have asked very reasonable questions. I will be putting this little Q&A into one of my monthly "Jim Cox Reports" columns that I do for the publishing industry. Thanks for asking.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

From: Michael Thal
Sent: Monday, December 02, 2013 6:14 PM
To: Diane Donovan
Subject: Re: Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback

Hi Diane,

Since when did Midwest Book Reviews charge a fee for reviews? Iíve written quite a few reviews for the website and never was compensated.

Best wishes,


Subject: Michael -- Re: FW: Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback
Date: 12/3/2013 12:34:50 P.M. Central Standard Time

Dear Michael:

Diane asked me to respond to your question.

The Midwest Book Review does not charge for reviews of print titles (hardcover or paperback).

I came up with the idea of allowing a $50 Reader Fee for reviewing ebooks. The $50 does not go to the Midwest Book Review but to the assigned reviewer.

What I get out of it for putting the author/publisher into contact with a competent and reliable reviewer (and vouching for that reviewer's integrity) is that I get to run that review under the reviewer's byline in our monthly book review publications.

This whole thing came about because I was getting swamped with requests for ebook reviews and couldn't interest anyone in them. Print titles are reviewed for free because the book is that reviewer's compensation for their time and expertise. Most of the reviewers sell those review copies to supplement the income from whatever their day job might be.

All 81 reviewers on the MBR roster are unpaid volunteers like yourself. That will continue with respect to print titles for as long as I'm editor-in-chief.

I hope this answers your question. Please feel free to ask me anything about the Midwest Book Review at any time.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 9/15/2014 1:35:16 P.M. Central Daylight Time, Marissa Curnutte writes:

Hi James! Thanks for always being so great to our authors and running reviews of their new titles. We always look forward to hearing what Midwest Book Review thinks!

Could you send me any stats to help convince one of my new clients to pay for the $50 ebook reviews? They only publish apps, ebooks and audio books, so they don't have print copies. And I think I'm reading it right online that there is a fee for the ebook reviews.

Thank you!

Marissa Curnutte
JKSCommunications - Literary Publicity

Subject: Marissa Curnutte -- Re: Ebook reviews
Date: 9/16/2014 3:03:44 P.M. Central Daylight Time

Dear Marissa:

All the arguments for why reviews for traditionally printed books (paperback and/or hardcover) are of tangible and practical value in marketing a book (by bringing it to the attention of an intended readership) apply to digitally published books (ebooks).

You would employ reviews of ebooks in precisely the same manner that you would utilize reviews of print titles in a marketing/publicity/promotion plan.

The trick is to get qualified, competent, and thematically appropriate (given the genre or category or subject matter of the ebook) reviewer. Good reviewers (and they are as precious as good publishers, good authors, or good publicists) should have references available as to there ability easily available to anyone wanting to vette them.

For example, here is a link to just such a roster of author/publisher feedback for one of my best reviewers of digital book publishers -- Diane Donovan:

If there is anything additional you would like me to comment on with respect to reviewing ebooks (or any other aspects of book reviewing), please feel free to ask.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

P.S. I'm sending Diane a copy of this email so that she will know that she's being used as an example of excellence in the field of ebook reviewers.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 11/1/2014 9:56:39 A.M. Central Standard Time, Lauren Young writes:

I am confused. I paid Diane Donovan 50 to review my book. I just found on my Amazon site she has a fee of 9.95 for customers to pay to read her review of my book?????????????

Please explain?

Lauren Young/dba as Renee L. Scott

Sent: Monday, November 03, 2014 11:26 AM
Subject: Lauren Young -- Re: Elusive Catch book review

Dear Lauren:

That Amazon "offer" has nothing to do with Diane or any reviewer whose reviews are posted on Amazon.

Amazon automatically claims ownership of any review posted on their web site and then tries to sell them to any third party willing to pay.

It's nuts. Authors and publishers are furnished copies of reviews of their books by the reviewers automatically. So who is Amazon's market? I've compared Amazon's tactic to spammers sending out thousands of spams and hoping one or two good folk will be tricked into responding.

I've complained about this to Amazon in the past and got nowhere. My advice is to ignore them and to post Diane's review on Barnes & Noble.

I'm sending Diane a copy of this email so that she will know that Amazon is still up to their old tricks.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Sent: 11/3/2014 11:35:34 A.M. Central Standard Time
Subj: RE: Lauren Young -- Re: Elusive Catch book review

Thank you for the explanation. The fact that Amazon is trying to make money off my book review makes me feel violated. Not sure what I will do.

This has happened before. I do have lawyer friends.


Lauren Young/dba as Renee L. Scott

Finally, I want to offer this critique with respect to the way the Midwest Book Review approaches Reader Fee Reviews (paid reviews) with other review publication and organizations within the publishing industry as relayed by someone who took advantage of my referral service:

From: Carolyn Haley
Sent: Wednesday, December 03, 2014 7:56 AM
Subject: Comments re: e-book review service & Diane Donovan

Hi, Jim--

This is a quick note to give feedback about my recent experience using MBR's paid e-book review service. My novel was assigned to Diane Donovan, and she gave me my money's worth -- and then some.

As a writer, editor, and reviewer, I've been involved in many conversations about the value and ethics of buying a book review. The topic is pretty darn hot among these communities, and I've received my share of vitriol for supporting the position that reviewers are entitled to payment for their time and expertise if they want it, and that the majority have integrity and courtesy, and give honest reviews.

This is an awkward position, since I review gratis for NY Journal of Books, and for a year reviewed for pay for Kirkus Indie. Thus, I thought long and hard before ponying up for a review of my own work.

Ultimately, the difficulty in obtaining reviews through the freebie network moved me to take my chances. I chose MBR because (1) I consider it one of the top review sources and wanted that quality applied to my book; (2) the print version of my title didn't get selected when I submitted it to MBR, so I wanted another chance when I released the e-version; and (3) the cost is better than competitive -- it's the lowest that I've found, by a significant margin. Like so many writers (and self-employed editors) I operate on a tight budget.

Diane justified my expectations by returning a thorough review that came out positive without sounding like a pay-for-praise deal. She kept her tone neutral and personality in the background, talking just about the book and its notable features. What surprised me was being offered a chance to see the draft and respond to it prior to release. We have since entered into a conversation between peers that is proving interesting and informative to both of us. So I may even have made a friend through the experience.

As for dollar value, Kirkus charges over $400 for a template-style review of 300-350 words; PW (last I looked, a few years ago) charges $125 for a blurb that might not get posted or published anywhere; and of the others I looked into, the lowest price was $70 for a Kirkus-type package. Yet through MBR I got over 800 freestyle words that not only highlighted the novel's qualities, but also showed that the reviewer had indeed read the book, looked at the supporting materials about it available online, and done her best to emphasize what makes it different from other novels.

I learned about your service from one of my indie-author clients, who was similarly satisfied with his experience. So I think you've got a winner here! I'll be sure to recommend MBR to everyone in my circle for whom it's relevant.

Thank you very much for making this option available, and connecting me to Diane. The follow-up services she offers look to be very helpful, at reasonable cost, and I plan to take advantage of them.

Thanks again, and have a wonderful holiday season!


Carolyn Haley
Production support for writers, editors, and designers
Member Editorial Freelancers Association

So in conclusion, if you have a hardcover or paperback edition of your book and want to submit it to the Midwest Book Review for a possible review -- that review is free of charge. If you have a galley, an uncorrected proof, an ARC, a pdf file, or an ebook, and want it reviewed, then send me an email with the subject line of Reader Fee Request. In the message body of the email give me a brief description of the book, and I'll put you in touch with a qualified and reliable reviewer. The $50.00 Reader Fee goes directly to the reviewer. I only serve as a volunteer middleman to connect you with a responsible reviewer. The rest is up to the two of you.

Now some more reviews of 'how-to' books of special relevance to writers and publishers:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

Book Fairs For Authors
Larry DeKay & Peggy DeKay
Darby Press
PO Box 4486, Louisville, KY 40204
9780983414438, $12.95, 188pp,

Synopsis: Dozens of book fair links are included "The Author's Guide to Book Fairs", an essential resource and reference for all authors, both traditionally published and self-published, who want to learn how to leverage book fairs to build their platform and sell more books. "Book Fairs For Authors" covers hy go to a book fair; who can be in a book fair; where to find book fairs; applying to be in a book fair; preparing to go to the book fair; tips on engaging buyers at the book fair; post book fair marketing; and book fair traps and pitfalls. "Book Fairs For Authors" is enhanced with the inclusion of a list of book fairs by state; a list of book festivals by state; resources for authors; book expos and trade shows.

Critique: Informed, informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, as well as thoroughly 'user friendly' from beginning to end, "Book Fairs For Authors" should be considered mandatory reading for authors and publishers who hope to expand the audience for their books -- and the financial revenues that expanded readership would engender.

How To Publish High-Quality Research
Jeff Joireman & Paul A. M. Van Lange
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242
9781433818615, $29.95,

Being able to publish research findings is absolutely critical to academic and corporate success. Co-authored by Jeff Joireman (Associate Professor of Marketing, Washington State University) and Paul A. M. Van Lange (Professor of Social Psychology and Chair of the Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, VU University at Amsterdam), "How to Publish High-Quality Research: Discovering, Building, and Sharing the Contribution" is a 344 page compendium comprised of three major sections: Developing Ideas, Designing Studies, and Writing Manuscripts; paradigms for Publishing High-Quality Research; and Conclusions (including 'A Process Model for Publishing High-Quality Research). Enhanced with four pages of References and an eight page Index, "How to Publish High-Quality Research: Discovering, Building, and Sharing the Contribution" is an exceptionally well written, informative, insightful, and practical instruction guide that is ideal for the novice researcher seeking to eventually publish their findings, and has a wealth of information and usefulness for even the more experienced researcher, especially attempting to secure tenure, successful grant applications based on past performance, etc. Simply stated, "How to Publish High-Quality Research: Discovering, Building, and Sharing the Contribution" should be a part of every academic library reference collection.

59 Reasons To Write
Kate Messner
Stenhouse Publishers
480 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101-3451
9781625310033, $23.00, 216pp,

Synopsis: In order to teach writing effectively, teachers must be writers themselves. They must experience the same uncertainty of starting a new draft and then struggling to revise. As they learn to move past the fear of failure, they discover the nervous rush and exhilaration of sharing work with an audience, just as their students do. Only by engaging in the real work of writing can teachers become part of the writing community they dream of creating for their students. "59 Reasons to Write: Mini-Lessons, Prompts, and Inspiration for Teachers" shows teachers and librarians who teach writing how to be stronger role models for their students. Dozens of guest authors also share their writing processes and secrets, from brainstorming ideas and organizing research to developing characters and getting unstuck from writerís block. "59 Reasons to Write" is for anyone who has always wanted to write but never managed to get into the habit.

Critique: Although principally intended for the use of K-12 classroom teachers as part of a school's literary skills curriculum, "59 Reasons to Write: Mini-Lessons, Prompts, and Inspiration for Teachers" is also ideal as a do-it-yourself instruction manual for anyone of any age wanting to learn how to write well and deals with such critically important issues as Getting Started; Organizing; Characters; Point of View, Voice, and Mood; Setting; Plot and Pacing; Flowing Between Nonfiction and Fiction - Finding the Story; Poetry; I'm Stuck; Revising and Critiquing; and Time to Reflect. Enhanced with the inclusion of a list of Recommended Resources and a useful Index, "59 Reasons to Write: Mini-Lessons, Prompts, and Inspiration for Teachers" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections.

Donovan's Literary Serives

How to Write Short Stories That Sell
Jane Bettany
Dormouse Press
Guidemark Publishing Limited
185 Lambourn Drive, Allestree, Derby, DE22 2US
9780957670433 $16.50

Many fiction writers believe they have to start big, with a full novel; but as Jane Bettany demonstrates, they do not. How to Write Short Stories That Sell is all about mastering the short story format, and it covers all the writer's basics that are needed in order to craft not just a short story, but one that is salable.

This is the point that separates How to Write Short Stories That Sell from other writer's guides: while it covers the usual approaches to plot, structure, characterization and description, it also focuses on the editing process and adds important points on sales potential that are often missing from other creative writer's how-to guides.

It pairs description of technique with reinforcing exercises and examples of solid short story writing, it shows how to identify the right markets for a particular type of story and how to submit them to a publication, and (most importantly) it encourages creativity, experimentation, and a deeper attention to understanding the advantages and disadvantages of different short story approaches.

How to Write Short Stories That Sell isn't just about how to write: it's how to produce a superior short story that deserves to be in the public eye. And that's why How to Write Short Stories That Sell, more than many of its competitors, deserves to be in the writer's eye.

Diane C. Donovan
Senior Reviewer

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:

Ernest Hume -- "Worlds Apart"
Shane Hayes -- "The End of Unbelief"
Killarney Traynor -- "Summer Shadows"
Susan Jensen -- "College Basic Training"
Gayle H. Swift -- "ABC, Adoption & Me"
Daphine A. Ignatius -- "My Life As Athena"
Diane Rose-Solomon -- "JJ Goes to Puppy Class"
Donna LeBlanc -- "Explorations of Commander Josh"
William Thomas Thach -- "The Girl Who Saved Christmas"
Red Feather Publishing
Linda Purpura -- Minted Prose
Melissa Mahle -- SpyGirls Press
Sylvia Forbes -- Snowflake Press
Julianna Pang -- Jade Tree Books
Ann Atkins -- Flash History Press
B. J. House -- 4-D Fire Protection Inc.
Lisa -- Decadent Publishing Company
David E. Kane -- American History Press
Ted Parkhurst -- Parkhurst Brothers Publishers
John R. Guevin -- Biographical Publishing Company
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Barbara C. Wall -- The Barrett Company LLC

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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