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Jim Cox Report: February 2020

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

One of the things I do for fun from time to time is to look stuff up on Wikipedia. Sometimes I learn new things while other times I'm prompted to remember stuff I'd long since forgotten. The most recent such Wikipedia search was on the subject of books in general and novels in particular. Here's what I found:

A book is a medium for recording information in the form of writing or images, typically composed of many pages (made of papyrus, parchment, vellum, or paper) bound together and protected by a cover. The technical term for this physical arrangement is codex (in the plural, codices). In the history of hand-held physical supports for extended written compositions or records, the codex replaces its immediate predecessor, the scroll. A single sheet in a codex is a leaf, and each side of a leaf is a page.

As an intellectual object, a book is prototypically a composition of such great length that it takes a considerable investment of time to compose and a still considerable, though not so extensive, investment of time to read. This sense of book has a restricted and an unrestricted sense. In the restricted sense, a book is a self-sufficient section or part of a longer composition, a usage that reflects the fact that, in antiquity, long works had to be written on several scrolls, and each scroll had to be identified by the book it contained. So, for instance, each part of Aristotle's Physics is called a book. In the unrestricted sense, a book is the compositional whole of which such sections, whether called books or chapters or parts, are parts.

The intellectual content in a physical book need not be a composition, nor even be called a book. Books can consist only of drawings, engravings, or photographs, or such things as crossword puzzles or cut-out dolls. In a physical book, the pages can be left blank or can feature an abstract set of lines as support for ongoing entries, e.g., an account book, an appointment book, a log book, an autograph book, a notebook, a diary or day book, or a sketchbook. Some physical books are made with pages thick and sturdy enough to support other physical objects, like a scrapbook or photograph album. Books may be distributed in electronic form as e-books and other formats.

Although in ordinary academic parlance a monograph is understood to be a specialist academic work, rather than a reference work on a single scholarly subject, in library and information science monograph denotes more broadly any non-serial publication complete in one volume (book) or a finite number of volumes (even a novel like Proust's seven-volume In Search of Lost Time), in contrast to serial publications like a magazine, journal, or newspaper.

An avid reader or collector of books or a book lover is a bibliophile or colloquially, "bookworm". A shop where books are bought and sold is a bookshop or bookstore. Books are also sold elsewhere. Books can also be borrowed from libraries. Google has estimated that as of 2010, approximately 130,000,000 distinct titles had been published. In some wealthier nations, the sale of printed books has decreased because of the increased usage of e-books.

The I looked up the word 'novel' and found:

A novel is a relatively long work of narrative fiction, normally written in prose form, and which is typically published as a book. The present English word for a long work of prose fiction derives from the Italian novella for "new", "news", or "short story of something new", itself from the Latin novella, a singular noun use of the neuter plural of novellus, diminutive of novus, meaning "new".

Walter Scott made a distinction between the novel, in which (as he saw it) "events are accommodated to the ordinary train of human events and the modern state of society" and the romance, which he defined as "a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents". However, many such romances, including the historical romances of Scott, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, are also frequently called novels, and Scott describes romance as a "kindred term". This sort of romance is in turn different from the genre fiction love romance or romance novel.

Other European languages do not distinguish between romance and novel: "a novel is le roman, der Roman, il romanzo, en roman." Most European languages use the word "romance" (as in French, Dutch, Russian, Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian "roman"; Finnish "romaani"; German "Roman"; Portuguese "romance" and Italian "romanzo") for extended narratives.

The novel constitutes "a continuous and comprehensive history of about two thousand years", with its origins in classical Greece and Rome, in medieval and early modern romance, and in the tradition of the Italian renaissance novella. (Since the 18th century, the term "novella", or "novelle" in German, has been used in English and other European languages to describe a long short story or a short novel.)

Murasaki Shikibu's Tale of Genji, an early 11th-century Japanese text, has sometimes been described as the world's first novel, but there is considerable debate over this — there were certainly long fictional works much earlier. Spread of printed books in China led to the appearance of classical Chinese novels by the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Parallel European developments occurred after the invention of the printing press. Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote (the first part of which was published in 1605), is frequently cited as the first significant European novelist of the modern era. Ian Watt, in The Rise of the Novel (1957), suggested that the modern novel was born in the early 18th century.

All of the above go to document me as a dedicated, life-long, dye-in-the-wool bibliophile when as a kid in elementary school I remember that one of my favorite pastimes was (for hours at a time) to look up synonyms and antonyms in the giant unabridged Webster's Dictionary in the school library. Now more than a half-century later in this age of the internet I'm still doing that kind of thing just for the fun of it.

Here are reviews of books that are of particular and special interest to writers and publishers:

Crazy Screenwriting Secrets
Weiko Lin
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781615933013, $29.95, PB, 200pp,

Synopsis: Through a uniquely effective approach to writing a feature screenplay, the first half of "Crazy Screenwriting Secrets: How to Capture A Global Audience" guides the aspiring script writer in learning how to create and develop: Story Idea, Characters, One Page Step Outline, and the solid script.

In the second half, "Crazy Screenwriting Secrets: How to Capture A Global Audience" covers professional business side of the ever-changing industry by taking the aspiring script writer through the work flow of Hollywood and explores in effective detail just how to work creatively with international countries like China in producing movies that resonate with a global audience.

Critique: Unique, practical, effective, comprehensive, expertly organized and presented, "Crazy Screenwriting Secrets: How to Capture A Global Audience" is essential reading for anyone engaging in the creation of a screenplay for a project hoping to have an international audience. While especially and unreservedly recommended for professional, community, college, and university library Writing/Publishing instructional reference and resource collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Crazy Screenwriting Secrets: How to Capture A Global Audience" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.23).

Editorial Note: A writer/producer, Weiko has written projects for the Mark Gordon Company, Ivanhoe Pictures, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Don Mischer Productions, the Unison Company (Taiwan), and Wanda Pictures (China). Fluent in Mandarin, he produced and wrote the original story for the Chinese-language romance film 100 Days, which released theatrically in Taiwan and premiered in Mainland China as an official selection of the 2014 Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival. For the screen, Weiko adapted River Town, the New York Times Notable Book and bestselling memoir by Peter Hessler for Fugitive Films and acclaimed director Lu Chuan (City of Life and Death, Disney Nature's Born in China). In television, he has written a pilot for Super Deluxe (former digital studio of Turner/WarnerMedia). Recipient of a Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award, Weiko earned his MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA. He was also recognized as a finalist for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. A Fulbright Senior Specialist, Weiko has taught at institutions including UCLA, Northwestern University, and Taipei National University of the Arts. He is a tenured Associate Professor at Emerson College. A member of Writers Guild of America West and Dramatist Guild of America, he is represented by Anonymous Content and United Talent Agency.

Wizard Or Wannabe?
Mary E. Neighbour
Upriver, Downriver Books
9780996254144, $12.95, PB, 9780996254168, Kindle, $4.99
9780996254151, $19.95, HC, 109pp

Synopsis: Mary Neighbour is a member of the Independent Book Publishers and Editorial Freelancers associations, as well as a partner member of the Alliance of Independent Authors and co-founder and former prsident of the Association of Publishers for Special Seales-New Mexico.

With a successful career over some 50 years in editing and design, and of helping authors become independent self-publishers, in "Wizard Or Wannabe?: How Authors & Self-Publishers Can Vet The Professionals They Need To Edit, Design & Shepherd Their Books" she draws upon her considerable and impressive expertise and experience to create an impressively informative, expertly organized, and thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional reference, guide and manual that effectively lives up to the promise of its subtitle.

Ideal for those who are new and unfamiliar with the publishing industry, "Wizard Or Wannabe?" will instruct the aspiring self-published author with respect to choosing an appropriate editor, cover designer, interior designer, and book shepherd. Of special note is the explanation of publishing industry terminology, standards, and interview questions.

Critique: This cannot be over-emphasized, "Wizard Or Wannabe?" should be considered mandatory reading for any author considering self-publication -- it will save time, money, and avoiding the frustrations of trial and error in the process of turning a manuscript into a book. Thoroughly 'user friendly' in tone, commentary, and format, "Wizard Or Wannabe?" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections.

Editorial Note: The planned release date for "Wizard Or Wannabe?" is mid-March 2020.

Funny You Should Ask
Barbara Poelle
Writer's Digest Books
c/o F+W Media
10151 Carver Road, Suite 200, Blue Ash, OH 45242
9781440355073, $18.99, PB, 224pp,

Synopsis: There is a certain perception that the publishing industry is a near insurmountable fortress, with gatekeepers and nay sayers manning the turrets looking for any way to fire a flaming arrow at the dreams of an aspiring writer. "Funny You Should Ask: Serious Questions About the Book Publishing Industry" is based on the popular Writer's Digest column by literary agent Barbara Poelle and will deconstruct, inform, and illuminate the path to publication and beyond, all while dispelling the rumor that those in the industry are better than thou.

And even though each writer's publishing journey is like a game of PLINKO (you can drop the chip in the same slot every time and get a different result) there are still common constructs and confusions that can be shared and explored together in order to help inform all writers. From understanding the nuts and bolts of a query letter, to learning how to process the soul-searing envy of watching someone else's career flourish, to how to talk to your editor, veteran literary agent Barbara Poelle covers the approach and execution of the common and uncommon bumps along the traditional publishing path.

"Funny You Should Ask: Serious Questions About the Book Publishing Industry" is comprised of more than 100 questions answered including expanded answers to topics that didn't get the full treatment in a column, along with a wealth of writing exercises, submission checklists, and publishing BINGO for every publishing milestone.

Of special note is the advice concerning what every author should ask their editor, mistakes to avoid when querying a literary agent, publishing trends and insights.

Critique: Impressively informative, exceptionally well organized and presented, and an unreservedly recommended 'must read' for every aspiring author with an ambition to be published, "Funny You Should Ask: Serious Questions About the Book Publishing Industry" will also be of immense value for already published authors wanting to keep up with the changes and evolution of the publishing industry. "Funny You Should Ask: Serious Questions About the Book Publishing Industry" should be a part of every personal, professional, community, and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collection.

Editorial Note: Barbara Poelle is a vice president at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, where she has served as an agent since 2007. Barbara is a much sought-after expert for publishing industry seminars and conferences. She also pens the popular Funny You Should Ask column at Writer's Digest online.

Adapting Bestsellers
Ken Gelder
Cambridge University Press
One Liberty Plaza, Fl. 20, New York, NY 10006
9781108731089, $12.99, PB, 75pp,

Synopsis: A part of the Cambridge University Press 'Elements in Publishing and Book Culture' series, "Adapting Bestsellers: Fantasy, Franchise and the Afterlife of Storyworlds" by Ken Gelder examines adaptations of best selling works of popular fiction to cinema, television, stage, radio, video games and other media platforms.

"Adapting Bestsellers" focuses on 'transmedia storytelling', building its case studies around the genre of modern fantasy: because the elaborate story worlds produced by writers like J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling and George R. R. Martin which have readily lent themselves to adaptations across various media platforms.

There commercial success has also made it possible for media entertainment corporations to invest in them over the long term, enabling the development of franchises through which their story worlds are presented and marketed in new ways to new audiences.

Critique: A succinct and impressively informative study, "Adapting Bestsellers: Fantasy, Franchise and the Afterlife of Storyworlds" is an inherently interesting and thought-provoking read that will have particular interest for writers and publishers interested in their books being expanded into other entertainment (and money-making) platforms. While unreservedly recommended for professional, community, and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Adapting Bestsellers" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.34).

Story Selling
Heather Hale
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781615932818, $26.95, PB, 220pp,

Synopsis: Pitching is an art form that brings together content and communication channels. Regardless of what you're pitching, the universally applicable principles of Where, When and to Whom always apply. But it's ow you pitch that matters most -- and there are countless strategies that combine elements in different combinations.

"Story Selling: How to Develop, Market, and Pitch Your Film & TV Projects", Heather Hale details all of them, their construction and applications, in a fun and interactive way that inspires her readers to create memorable and saleable pitches in order to get their own projects made.

Critique: Expertly organized and presented, "Story Selling: How to Develop, Market, and Pitch Your Film & TV Projects" offers a wealth of practical and effective tips, tricks and techniques that aspiring writers can immediate begin using when pitching their projects for television and movie productions. While unreservedly recommended for professional, community, and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Story Selling" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $17.47).

Editorial Note: Heather Hale is a film and television producer, director, screenwriter, teacher and consultant. She directed, produced and co-wrote the million-dollar thriller Absolute Killers (2011) which was marketed at Le Marche du Film and the American Film Market. She wrote the $5.5 million-dollar Lifetime Original Movie The Courage to Love and has over 60 hours of produced reality credits which have won Emmys, Ace, and Telly awards. Her How to Work the Film & TV Markets: A Guide for Content Creators was published by Focal Press/Routledge. She was the Independent Film and Television Alliance's Industry Liaison for the 2013 American Film Market (AFM) and had a four-year development deal with NBC Universal (through IFTA).

Finally, "The Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall Of Fame & Appreciation" is a monthly 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 to our postage stamp fund this past month:

Johnny & Karen Armstrong
Robert Stayton -- "Solar Dividends"
Robert White -- "Dead Cat Bounce"
Gregory L. Starypan -- "Wakes on the Alsea"
Mary E. Neighbour -- "Wizard Or Wannabe?"
Willie Etta Wright -- "Grandma Mable, Ar You Able?"
Riverview Press
Green Acres Press
Dan Chadburn Music
Mark Weiman -- Regent Press
Dan Grant -- MindScape Press
Daniel Wurth -- Wurth Organizing, LLC
Kathy Brodsky --
Barbara Morris - The New Put Old on Hold
Neal & Betsy Delmonico -- Golden Antelope Press
Ellie Godwin -- Concierge Marketing
Beth Blenz-Clucas -- Sugar Mountain PR
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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