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Jim Cox Report: January 2001

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

For those new to "The Jim Cox Report", this is a monthly little post highlighting what The Midwest Book Review and I have been up to in the last four weeks or so, plus some "tips, tricks & techniques" for authors and publishers struggling to make their books a success in the highly competitive, often confusing marketplace.

First the routine announcements: The January issues of our two principle publications, "Internet Bookwatch" and "Children's Bookwatch", are up on our website and free for the viewing at

Small press publishers, specialty publishers, academic presses, and self-published authors are to be found in abundance throughout both.

Subscription is free; just send me your email address and request to be signed up to the Internet Bookwatch and/or the Children's Bookwatch. All subscribers have carte blanche permission to utilize any of our reviews to enhance the informational content of their own newsletters, websites, or internet discussions. Just be sure to cite Midwest Book Review when doing so.

To emphasize, the following is an inquiry I received from a publicist:

> Jim:
> I am very impressed with the information on your site. I hold
> free seminars on publishing and marketing. I have one at an area
> library this Saturday. I would like your permission to quote from
> your information, and, if possible, to reproduce some of your
> articles for hand-outs. I will, of course, give you credit and also
> show your Web site url.
> Please let me know if this would be acceptable.
> Thank you,
> Sylvia Hemmerly
> Publishing Professionals
> 727-868-8657

Whenever I receive such inquires, I respond with automatic permission. It's always very nice to be asked. Rest assured when doing so that my answer will pretty much always be: Yes -- and Thanks!

Here's another typical example of how it works around here:

> Your letter about what to expect from a major publisher is so educational
> that I wanted permission to store it in our authors educational material file
> to provide to new authors who want to work with Gemstone. Coming from
> someone besides us (an interested party) I think it will make them understand
> (and believe) how the publishing business works.

Permission granted -- and I'm very happy to learn you thought my contribution on the subject worthy of attention.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

This past month, I suddenly started getting dozens of email inquires for our "Reviewer Guidelines", which I have written to send out to anyone wanting to become one of our volunteer reviewers. Usually, I get one or two such inquiries in a month. But in December, they were coming in at two or three a day for about three weeks. I couldn't figure out why -- until I got the following, and it all become clear:

> Please email me a copy of your "Reviewer Guidelines," as seen in
>'s email newsletter.
> Thank you for the opportunity to submit reviews for your readers!
> Bill Hahn
> Book Division
> Krause Publications

I never heard of "", but apparently they've heard of me! This is why authors, publishers, and yes, book reviewers, should always be as high-profile as you can with your professional organizations, internet discussion groups, and public service contributions in your chosen field or specialty. You never know what "word of mouth" will bring by way of new resources, new sales, new opportunities for promotion, or in the case of the Midwest Book Review, new reviewers!

The latest issue (Volume 5, Issue 12/57) of "SPAN Connection" (the newsletter of the Small Publishers Association of North America) features one of my articles. It's "How To Spot A Phony Book Reviewer" (p. 11). I particularly enjoyed the little cartoon figure that they used at the head of the article.

And speaking of Span Connection, they've just hired a pleasant young man who called me and requested that I help out from time to time with questions or issues of interest to the small press publishing committee. Of course, I said I'd be very happy to.

I think the two consistently finest and most practical of the newsletters available to the novice publisher are from PMA (Publishers Marketing Association) and SPAN. They are so good that they pretty much justify the cost of that first year or two of membership in their respective organizations, for the novice publisher brand new to the field. I just wish that these two fine organizations were more actively involved in the politics of publishing in behalf of reforms that are so urgently needed by novice and seasoned publishers alike.

Also this past month, I began receiving review books from dozens of small Midwestern presses that I'd never heard of before. Then, one of the cover letters explained that the publisher had heard of me at an MIPA event. MIPA stands for "Midwest Independent Publishers Association"; their headquarters are up in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Since the Midwest Book Review is also located in the Midwest (Wisconsin), I look with special favor on the small presses up here, and I'm always glad to hear from a new one.

The MIPA folk put out an excellent regional publishing newsletter for their members. Beth Blasczyk is the CEO/Publisher of Little Leaf Press and the VP-Promotions for MIPA. Their next issue will feature another of my articles: "Getting Book Reviews: Off-Peak Opportunities". If you are an upper-Midwest author or publisher, check out MIPA. They have a website, and you'll find a link to it in our Publisher Associations section at:

December was a banner month for the Midwest Book Review in a couple of more ways. Here's a much appreciated post/question that came in:

> Subj: Publicity for You

> Jim:

> I'm plucking three paragraphs from an earlier e-mail message from you
> this morning and putting them in my free "Publicity Hound Tips of the
> Week" e-zine. They will be in tomorrow's issue.
> If people want to sign up for the Jim Cox Report, how do they do that?
> Also, you accept book reviews written by just about anybody, for the
> Midwest Book Review, right? The author does not have to be a publisher
> or author?

> Joan Stewart
> Media relations speaker, trainer, consultant

Two comments:

Please, everybody, feel free to avail yourself of any post I make or any of the articles in the "Advice For Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review website. You will find the latter a gold mine of "tips, tricks and techniques" for publishers, and it is located at:

Also, be sure to check out the wealth of links to resources specifically for the self-published author, the small press publisher, and the novice publicist/marketer for small press titles.

[Managing Editor's note: The Jim Cox Reports are now part of the Midwest Book Review website. Please check back monthly for the new Jim Cox Report! You can also subscribe to the Jim Cox Reports by sending us email and requesting it.]

A promising title from a new (at least to me) small Christian press arrived in the book mail recently. Over the past several weeks, I had suddenly been getting a lot of titles from the Christian community's small presses and authors. It's always very nice, but I did wonder about the sudden influx. Then, another submission's cover letter told me why. This is from Paul Leege, Executive Coordinator, Lit Torch Publishing:

> Dear James:

> After recently reading Sally Stuart's "Christian Writers' Market Guide", I
> discovered your book reviewing service...

Now, I'll just have to automatically start looking up the Midwest Book Review in the indexes of these writing guides and publisher "how to" books. It's more fodder for my grant renewal folders -- and makes my day clean up into the middle of next month!

There was one excellent question raised by Stephen P. Byers, about something I wrote in the November issue of "The Jim Cox Report. I'll repeat my response here to ensure that anyone else with the same concern can read it:

>> "We've just self-published our first title; in fact, we're getting
>> our first shipment of books from the printer this week. We're
>> planning on doing a big mailing of review copies, ..."

> I did the same thing --- order books to send out for reviews. My
> marketing expert cried foul ball and made me read Dan Poynter's
> article called Book Reviews, which states among a whole lot of other
> advice, to send galleys and not books, "If you want your book to be
> accepted by pre-publication reviewers, make your galleys look like a
> Crane." Then a little further along he says, "Finished books are also
> unacceptable (to the pre-publication industry.)" The inference is
> that Midwest Book Review does not agree.

> > I'd sure appreciate some clarification and guidance from anybody who
> > has experience with pre-pub reviews.

Both Dan Poynter and myself are quite correct -- but we are talking about two different kinds of review organizations/publications.

Some reviewers are pre-publication reviewers only. This includes Publishers Weekly and The Library Journal. Indeed, send a finished copy of your book to either of them for review and it will be summarily dismissed. They want galleys only -- and on a certain timetable in advance of your announced publishing date.

Other reviewer resources, such as the Midwest Book Review, most trade magazines, media and newspaper reviewers, are post-publication reviewers who require the finished book. Most galleys and uncorrected proofs will be summarily dismissed, or simply passed over in favor of finished books arriving for consideration.

So, if you are dealing with a pre-publication reviewer, a galley or proof will be required.

For a post-publication reviewer, only the finished copy will do. In both cases, be sure to include your publicity release or media kit.

To determine if a given reviewer is "pre" or "post" -- contact them and ask. And while you are at it, ask for submission guidelines, because everybody has their own particular preferences.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

And now for another little publishing tip. This is a question posed by Fran Hamilton, and my response:

> Hi, Jim.

> You reviewed my book Hands-On English nearly two years ago.
> Judy Coker suggested I contact you regarding submitting reviews to
> Amazon. I would like to submit reviews that I write for my monthly
> e-mail newsletter. I see this as a means of reaching new subscribers
> (and prospective customers). However, I am concerned about the reviews
> becoming the property of Amazon. If I submit reviews to Amazon, will I
> still have the right to use them on my own site--and anywhere else I
> might later want to use them?

> Thanks for sharing your expertise in this matter.
> Happy holidays to you and your family!

> Fran Hamilton
> Author of Hands-On English
> Providing Quick Access to English Fundamentals

Dear Fran:

All three of the major online bookstores (Amazon, Borders, B&N) have an announcement that reviews posted to their respective websites become their property. But in practice, I've never had any problems with any of them when posting a review for a given title on all three of their websites.

It's my impression that those claim announcements are in place to protect the online bookstore in the event that they should ever wish to amend, remove, or make other use of the posted review.

So, feel free to post any positive reviews you get, from the Midwest Book Review or any other source (including your own in-house generated reviews), on Amazon, Borders or BarnesAndNoble -- and check out all the other online bookstores that you'll find links to on our "Book Lover Resources" webpage, which is on the Midwest Book Review website at

While many online bookstores don't have as elaborate a "reader reviews" posting feature as the big three, some of them have something similar on-site. It's a great way to ensure that your title is brought to their attention, in case they are not yet carrying your title in their cyberspace inventory.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

And now, one final "tip" for this report. It's an email that clearly illustrates the value of looking up titles on the Amazon, Borders, & Barnes websites to see what reviewers are posting about titles similar to one you have to offer.

> Subj: a book for you to review

> Dear James,

> I saw your review of "Sisters of the Extreme" on Amazon, and thought you'd be
> interested to hear about my own book TRIPPING: An Anthology of True-Life
> Psychedelic Adventures, just out from Penguin last month. The book has
> garnered some rave reviews and already gone into a second printing. Perhaps
> you'd be interested in reviewing it or already have plans to. If so, let me
> and or the Viking Penguin publicist know, and we'll make sure a copy goes to
> the right person. I present the press release for TRIPPING below. Cheers!

> Charles Hayes

What Charles has done here is to utilize the online bookstore reviewer postings to build a "reviewer registry", for reviewers who do good work in a specific area that is relevant to his title. At the very least, assuming that his book holds up under review, there will be a review posting to that same online bookstore by a demonstrably competent reviewer with a proven interest in the subject, genre or category of Charles' proffered title.

This seems to me a far more advantageous and judicious expenditure of review copies than just blind mailings to Publishers Weekly or the New York Times Book Review. Particularly when you can take an Amazon reviewer's review commentary on your title and incorporate it into your overall promotional plan.

Just one more "tip, trick & technique" in your promotional armory.

And finally --

My computer science daughter has been home for Christmas break and in need of a bit of pocket money. So, I had her clean up all the obsolete links on the Midwest Book Review website (something I've been meaning to get to, but there is so much to do and only 24 hours in a day); then I taught her how to post reviews on Amazon (it's not rocket science, but there are a couple of strategies involved for speedy accessing of specific book pages, and how to translate a review's content into a pithy and succinct post heading). She will be spending a couple of hours a day this next week in helping me catch up with a considerable backlog in that respect.

But I've saved the best news for last. My computer science major daughter has announced that she will not be wandering off after graduation next May to seek her fortune in some Silicon Valley. She's decided to help me out in the book review business. I can tell you that she knows her way around a computer, and will expand five-fold the number of internet discussion groups to which we will be able to post thematically appropriate reviews to. By relieving me of the hours and hours of Amazon review postings, she will free me to do what I do best -- read and review even more titles from the ever-expanding numbers of small press publishers and self-published authors, who are discovering us through newsletters, "how to" books, internet discussions, our website, and word-of-mouth.

Until next time!

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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