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Jim Cox Report: January 2004

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

We are now in the fourth year of the 21st Century. I come from the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon generation. As a kid addicted to science fiction I thought for sure that we'd have our own personal rocket-propelled flight suits and be vacationing on the moon by now.

As it is, I find that I presently have complete access to those once "futuristic notions" such as a personal computer, instant global communications, more television channels than I can keep track of, -- and it seems like nearly every field of science that I once studied back in my public school days has advanced further in the past decade than they had in the past century.

This last observation also holds true for the wonderful world of publishing. When I began my career as a book reviewer back in 1976, I was using the cutting edge technology of a self-correcting electric typewriter. I had an industry standard rollodex, and a two-drawer metal filing cabinet.

Now I operate daily with two computers, a room full of filing cabinets, a telephone system that does everything but make coffee -- and a coffee maker that does everything but make telephone calls!

So it is with publishing. What used to take a whole series of distinct skills and specific machineries, is now accomplished by a software package. What's changed over the last 30+ years in publishing is that now literally anyone can publish a book -- and they often do. One of the sociological phenomena of our times is that while the number of book readers is steadily declining, the number of books being published is just as steadily increasing.

The only way for any independent publisher to be commercially viable in today's insanely competitive and highly prejudicial marketplace is to learn how to sell what it is they've published. The days when a publishing company could put out a book, then sit back and let sales reps, distributors, wholesalers, and a good review in the New York Times turn that book into a black bottom line are long gone.

Today's independent publisher must become savvy and effective and innovative when it comes to persuading the reading public (not to mention book reviewers, book retailers, librarians and the like) to buy the book. What follows are some "do's & don'ts" to help the little guys compete against the big houses:

1. If you have an LLC as part of your publisher name -- that's just fine. But don't use it in your publicity materials. LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) is a corporate legal distinction that is quite legitimate and honorable. But what I'm referring to is the psychological impact of seeing that LLC designation in connection with a book. What it comes across as is that "The Witless Wisdom of Jim Cox" published by Midwest Books, LLC is clearly a title from a company so small that it is probably the result of a group of friends or associates who want to limit their financial liability when the book fails to sell and the company goes bust.

So drop the LLC in your press materials and just present yourself as "The Witless Wisdom of Jim Cox" published by Midwest Books. That way you will side-step any adverse reaction to the LLC designation in the way you've chosen to organize the business aspects of your publishing activities.

It's not that you can disguise the fact that you are a small, independent publisher. Nobody is going to confuse my hypothetical Midwest Books with Simon & Schuster or Random House. It's that you must do whatever you can to get your target audiences to look past that fact of your smallness long enough to appreciate your product -- the book.

Incidently, that's also the reason for avoiding overly "cutesy" publishing house names like "The Little Brown Bucket of Pig Slop Publishing Company". Believe me, down through the years I've occasionally seen publisher names even worse than this one!

Aspiring self-publishers wanting to set up their own publishing houses also need to look out for name confusion. For example, there is an Impact Books; an Impact Publishing Company, and an Impact Publications. As a reviewer (and as a book review editor working with 76 other reviewers) many is the time that I sent out a book review tear sheet only to have it sent back with a little note that "This isn't ours."

Sure enough, the reviewer had made a mistake in just which "Impact" publisher they were dealing with. -- Then extrapolate that problem to bookstore retailers, librarians, and the general reading public.

So when you chose your publisher name, here are three general rules of the road:

1. Keep it simple and memorable.

2. Check it out (as in a Google Search) to see if it's already in use by someone else.

3. Leave off LLC or any other extraneous legal ID that is a small press "red flag".

Now on to some recent Q&A from my email traffic:

Subj: Thank You for the Review of My Book: The Science of Disorder

Dear James A. Cox

Sunday evening, I found out through that my book, The Science of Disorder, has been reviewed by Midwest Book Review. Many thanks.

I found the review extremely fair and to the point.

And now a fact that might interest you. For about a year, had about 45-65 references to my book and/or to myself (with redundancies). Sunday night the number of references was 48 if I remember correctly. I checked today and somehow the number of references had jumped to 163 (again with redundancies). Websites in Germany, Japan, U.K. . . . have picked up my book. Is this a mere coincidence or MBR review had something to do with it? (It is hard to believe that it's just a coincidence.)

Thanks again for the review.

Best regards, Jack Hokikian, Ph.D.
Los Feliz Publishing

Every publisher (and every author for that matter!) should routinely do Google searches with respect to their books. You never know where or when a review or commentary on your work will pop up. And occasionally you will be able to harvest some very useful copy for your marketing/promotional activities. Plus, if you find out that favorable notice is all over the net, then that can also help you in dealing with distributors, sales reps, library & book conventions, etc.

Keep track of the hits. Make a record of them. These are sources that might prove of value for any future publishing projects -- such as a new edition, or a sequel, or simply your next effort (as in "if you like X you are going to want to read X").

Subj: Message for Mr. Cox

Hello Mr. Cox,

I am the author of a book called Values of the Wise: Profound & Witty Words of Wisdom from the Greatest Minds I want to ask you the following: what will be the status of the phrase "An impressive compilation..." which is excerpted from the review I earned "Reviewer's Choice" for a few months ago if I were to re-do a few aspects of the book?

There are four main issues I am trying to correct in the next version One, the subtitle will be changed to "Ideals To Light Our Way" rather than the "Profound & Witty...." Two, I am shortening the last 7 chapters by 4 pages each to reduce the size of the book by 28 pages Three, by doing so, my publisher will reduce the price to $19.95. And fourth, I wish to redesign the back cover to include the excerpt from the Midwest Book Review as well as 4 other sources.

I am wondering if you would permit me to use the quote on the back with this information, or if you must be "by the book" and require me to submit a new book...? Part of the problem if you decided the latter is the fact that it would cost me $80 and some grief from my publisher to add your quote to the back of the book after the fact.

I found the review helpful, and I want to use it, though I felt it was inappropriate to transfer the excerpted quotation without asking you if it was permissible If I need to obtain a new review, then I will do so, but of course, prefer not to.

Jason Merchey, Editor
Values of the Wise

This is an example of significant revisions to the next edition of a title whose original edition was given a favorable review response. This is a very common occurrence for publishers large or small. In this particular case I granted permission on the basis that Jason had taken the time and trouble to notify me and fill me in on the background to his request. My reasoning was anyone who was this conscientious could be relied on to "play fair" with his readers and with his reviewers.

When you want to revise a new edition and take marketing advantage of the original edition's favorable responses, then do what Jason did and you will rarely, if ever, have any complaints lodged against you by reviewers (or by readers!).

Subj: Request for Permission to Quote You

Hi Jim

We are in the process of updating our website and adding a lot of content on cover and interior design as well as several quotes from industry experts such as yourself on the importance of good cover design etc etc.

I would like to quote one of your old PubForum posts as follows:

"After more than 20 years in this business I can tell you straight up that covers sell books. What most folks might not be aware of is that covers also *unsell* books.

"You can't judge a book by its cover!" is both correct (philosophically) and incorrect (commercially). Every minute of every book selling day, customers in bookstores and patrons in libraries compare titles in a given area or genre and go with the ones whose cover art they find attractive, and passing over the ones whose cover art they find unappealing -- and even off-putting.

Another little secret of the publishing industry is that this same phenomena takes place with reviewers, librarians, magazine editors, and bookstore owners....

A good, attractive, communicative cover will not guarantee a sale, but a flawed, unattractive, non-communicative cover will guarantee your book not even being picked up, inspected, and considered for purchase by the prospective buyer, librarian, bookstore acquisitions person -- or review by reputable literary commentators." Jim Cox, Midwest Book Review

Barry T. Kerrigan
Desktop Miracles, Inc

I always give permission for folks to quote whatever I write for either one of the publisher online discussion groups, my own Midwest Book Review's "Advice For Publishers" section, or in my email responses to questions and requests.

This is a bit more than just Jim Cox being one of the publishing communities nicest fellows (although I do hope that I am!). This is also in very tangible fulfillment of the mission statement of the Midwest Book Review as it was founded by yours truly back in the mid 1970s: To promote literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.

And while it's very nice to be asked (and no one has ever asked more nicely than Barry), anyone and everyone has carte blanch permission to utilize my commentaries and observations about any aspect of publishing and the publishing community. The same also goes for my book reviews or anything else I do in behalf of authors and publishers. Just remember to give the usual credit citation when doing so.

And for those of you seeking to enrich and enhance the informational content of your website, just spend some time in that "Advice For Publishers" section of my website at and if you see one of my articles that you believe would be thematically appropriate -- feel free!

I've got a huge stack of publisher notification letters and tear sheets to send out for all the reviews being run in our January publications, so I'll end this Report by listing all those wonderful people who donated stamps "to support the cause" of what all of us here at the Midwest Book Review try to accomplish in behalf of novice authors and independent publishers:

Joan Blacher
Daniel A. Olivas
Mary Allen Redd - "The Dogwood Tree"
Ann Mullen - Afton Ridge Publishing
Mary Jesse - Hexagon Blue
Jan Axelson - Lakeview Research LLC
Portia M. Little - Panntree Press
Firooz E. Zadeh - Twin Lakes Publishing
Steve - Orchard Publications
Peggy Hanna - Left To Write

If you would like to express your support, you too can send donated postage stamps (we use them to send out our tear sheets and publisher notification letters) to my attention at:

Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575

For you folks new to The Jim Cox Report, you can receive it for free by sending me your email address an ask to be signed up. You can also find "back issues" of The Jim Cox Report archived on the Midwest Book Review website.

Incidently, my webmaster daughter has just uploaded about 150 new reader, writer, and publisher resource links to various parts of the Midwest Book Review website. You can find them (and thousands of other resource links) at

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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