Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Jim Cox Reports / Jim Cox Report: July 2004
Home | Jim Cox Reports Index

Jim Cox Report: July 2004

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Another month of publication deadlines, stacks of paperwork, and a wealth of book reviews has past at something just a little less than light speed.

Another "how-to" book for small press publishers has come out. It's Marshall Chamberlain's "Creative Self-Publishing In The World Marketplace" published by The Grace Publishing Group, PO Box 3070, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931 (0974098205; $19.95; The Midwest Book Review is featured four times as an invaluable and recommended resource for the self-published author. I did a review of it -- beginning with the "truth in advertising" revelation that our website is a recommended resource. Fortunately it turned out to be a rather good resource book for both the novice beginner as well as the seasoned and experienced self-publisher because of the up-to-date information on get a self-published book reviewed, publicized, promoted, and marketed in this age of the internet, world wide web, and on-line selling. If you have self-published a book, give a careful, deliberative reading to "Creative Self-Publishing In The World Marketplace", and then keep it on hand as a continuing reference resource -- and look up the Midwest Book Review in the index!

As I mentioned in last month's Report, the "Independent Publisher" put out by the Jenkins Group had a major feature article on me and the Midwest Book Review they titled "For The Love Of Books". As a result, we got a quite noticeable bump up in review book submissions from the small press community -- and calls from a couple of journalists thinking about us as a subject of newspaper articles.

This all underscores something that authors and publishers should be cognizant of:

No matter how well you are known or how established you are within your professional community or marketplace, fresh publicity will always result in expanding the numbers of new people who now know who you are and what it is you do. It is especially nice (and effective) if that publicity developed naturally and didn't cost you a dime!

Now on to some "tips, tricks & techniques" for authors and publishers taken largely from my email traffic:

1. writes:

> Can anyone suggest where I might find a list of reviewers? I'd be especially
> interested in an electronic list, like data posted on a website.
> I'd like to build a database of reviewers, and it's much easier to work with
> electronic text than typing everything in by hand. -- Andra

You will find a list of reviewers on the Midwest Book Review website at:

I'm sometimes asked why I would go to such trouble to develop a really huge list of freelance reviewers, review publications, online book review websites, etc. Aren't they just more competition for the Midwest Book Review? Why would I facilitate authors and publishers being able to contact other and competing members of the book review community?

Simple answer: It is in partial fulfillment of our mission statement to promote literacy, library usage, and small press publishing (specifically the small press publishing part of that trilateral and self-imposed obligation).

Subtle answer: With respect to the small press community, the Midwest Book Review has a tremendously positive presence and it just goes to underscore our legitimacy. I've never known any publisher to pass up submitting a review copy of their book to the Midwest Book Review in order to have one available to send to someone else because they found that somebody else listed in the Midwest Book Review website's "Other Reviewers" segment of the "Book Lover's Resources" section.

Which reminds me -- I've got about another 150 resource links (including another 8 devoted to book reviewing resources). I will have to have our webmaster add them to our website. I'd better get her started on that project after I finish this month's Report.

2. writes:

> Honestly, I don't know how this idea started, but I can't even imagine
> a book that would warrant 300 review copies, unless you're going to
> BEA with a spot on the main floor (i.e., not the small press section in
> Siberia) and have a compelling title. And then at least you wouldn't
> waste the money on mailing them.

Fern is absolutely correct on this. Blind review copy mailings are the sign of an inexperienced publisher -- or one that has more cents than sense.

You must vette all potential reviewers and send review copies only to those that are:

1. thematically appropriate for the nature of your book
2. have established a documentable book review track record
3. have a sufficient audience for their reviews so as to make it worth your while

And don't forget to do a 10 working day follow-up by email and/or phone asking reviewer's those three succinct questions:

A. Did your book arrive safely?
B. What is your book's status with respect to their review process?
C. Is there any further information or assistance you can provide?

3. Tiffany writes:

> So I think that both volunteer efforts (to Midwest Book Review, if needed,
> and to the Amazon book review effort) would be valuable.
> Jim, if you need reviewers, please post!

The Midwest Book Review long ago reached the stage where I do not have to actively solicit for reviewers. We are so well known that people rather consistently seek us out and volunteer their services. If anyone would like to utilize the Midwest Book Review as an additional forum for their reviews -- here is our "Reviewer Guidelines" which I always send out to such prospective offers to review for us:


Thank you for your inquiry. All of our reviewers are volunteers who retain all rights to their reviews. Reviews are submitted by email (just type it, or "copy & paste" it, into the body of an email message. Reviewers will be notified by email when their review is published, during the first week of the month in which it is run. Reviewers submitting one review in a given month are clustered together in the column "Reviewer's Choice". Reviewers submitting two or more reviews in a given month are provided their own bylined column (e.g. "Klausner's Bookshelf", "Cindy's Bookshelf", "Taylor's Bookshelf", etc.)

The following should be a part of every review submitted:

Publisher Address
Publisher Phone Number (especially an 800 or 888 if they have one)
Publisher Website Address (if they have one)
10-digit ISBN
List Price
Your Name

Here are some guidelines that may be of help in creating an engaging review:

1. Why did you select this particular book for review? Perhaps it relates to your work, hobby, avocation, a particular area of interest, your expertise, or just for fun.

2. How well does the author write, use language, illustrate his/her points, develops characters, clarity of instruction, aptness of examples? Use brief quotations from the book itself to illustrate your observations, opinions, and comments. When doing poetry reviews include a poem, with cookbooks include a recipe.

3. Who is the book intended for? Scholarly reference, non-specialist general reader, devotees of the genre, wide ranging readership, specialized audience, age range, economic or political orientation, etc.

4. Does the book succeed in what the author is trying to accomplish? Entertain, instruct, persuade, inform, train, teach, alarm, etc. Are there suggestions you'd offer the author for his/her next time around in print?

5. What is the author's background or credentials? What other titles does the author have?

6. Are their related or relevant titles that a reader might be interested in?

7. Type your reviews in single spaced paragraphs with double spacing between the paragraphs. The review can be a few paragraphs or a few pages -- take as much space as you feel is necessary to say whatever you want to say.

8. Above all else, have a good time putting your thoughts and opinions down. The best reviews are those that you yourself would like to listen to while driving along in your car or chatting with friends over lunch. If a book is badly written or not worth while -- don't bother with it. Select another one that you think deserves the publicity that your review as showcased by the Midwest Book Review would afford it.

Reviewers come and reviewers go. We have some who have been with us for years, and others who used us a springboard to eventually launch their own book review columns and website commentaries. All are welcome without restriction as to what they choose to read and review.

4. writes:

> The _Midwest Book Review_ is a fine publication. If Jim Cox needs
> reviewers, volunteering would certainly be a worthy cause. However, I
> don't see that this competes with writing reviews to post on Amazon.

Once again Fern is complete correct (she does tend to be that way when it comes to matters of publishing and promotion!). It would not be any direct competition. The Midwest Book Review serves as both a primary as well as a secondary review forum. The primary reviews are the ones generated by our staff members and a majority of our volunteers. But a very substantial minority of our volunteers utilize the Midwest Book Review as a secondary or additional forum for their reviews that also (and often first) see print in other forums and venues.

All of our reviewers, staff or volunteer, retain all rights to their reviews.

5. writes:

> I remember reading somewhere about people who were soliciting publishers
> for books in the guise of being reviewers in order to get free books. Is there
> any kind of list of bad-guys to watch out for or URL with more explanation
> of some of the techniques or telltale signs to watch out for?

Go to the Midwest Book Review Website at and click on the "Advice For Publishers" section. Then scroll down until you get to the article I wrote on "How To Spot A. Phony Reviewer." You will find the help you are looking for.

This article of mine has been reprinted many times in regional publisher newsletters, "how to" books for publishers, and has even been passed out like flyers at book publisher conferences and conventions. I think it should be considered "must" reading for anyone responsible for dealing with reviewer requests for their title(s). And like everything else on the Midwest Book Review website -- the information is free. Just one more part of mission statement fulfillment in the promotion of small press publishing.

6. For the final segment on the "book review" theme of this month's Report I want to reprint the following email -- it is a model every publisher should consider with respect to every favorable review they receive from any reviewer or review publication or resource:

Subj: Book Review at Amazon


This is Chris of Quant Corder Fine Art. This email is to inform you that we have linked to your review of "Bouguereau," by Fronia E. Wissman at ( =sr_2_1/102-6118726-7814567) The link includes a short excerpt from this review, as well both credit and a link to The Midwest Book Review website.

The link can be found at our online Artist's Studio:

It is our policy to inform any author when we have linked to or excerpted from their work. Please feel free to contact me if there is any problem whatsoever.

Thank you,

Chris Davis

This is a succinct, click-through-able email that will win the hearts and minds of any reviewer -- no small consideration if you are considering getting an edge over the competition for that reviewer's attention with respect to your next publishing effort!

Now we come to my favorite part of the Report -- Unsolicited Testimonials!!

Subj: Thank You - Living with Stuttering...

Dear Jim,

Upon one of my periodic perusals of the listing for our book, Living with Stuttering: Stories, Basics, Resources, and Hope, I was so pleased to discover a thoughtful review by the Midwest Book Review. What a pleasant surprise! We never received a tear sheet from MBR, and our last address change was four years ago -- perhaps it got lost in the mail. Thanks for your consideration -- I know you're deluged with books each month. As you well know, positive reviews, especially from respected organizations like MBR, are invaluable for a small-press book like ours.

Please extend a thank you to the reviewer for capturing the essence and value of Living with Stuttering: Stories, Basics, Resources, and Hope; it will help immeasurably in encouraging libraries and others to include it in their collections. The review also contributes to the increasing "buzz" about the somewhat common, yet too often overlooked, problem of stuttering in the US and international community.

I thought I'd send you this quick thank you through e-mail, but you will soon receive a hard copy via snail mail for your scrapbook. If you have a chance, we would love receiving a tear sheet for our scrapbook one of these days.


Rae Jean Sielen
Owner, Populore Publishing Company

It is the formal and official policy of the Midwest Book Review to notify publishers by postal mail when one of their books makes the final cut and is reviewed in one of our several monthly publications.

The volunteer reviewers are responsible for doing this for the reviews they generate for our on-line book review magazines "Reviewer's Bookwatch" and "MBR Bookwatch".

I'm responsible for doing this for the reviews that our in-house staff of editors generate, along with those that appear in the print editions of our four library newsletters, as well as our on-line book review publications "Children's Bookwatch"; "Internet Bookwatch"; and "Small Press Bookwatch".

It's a rare month when we don't receive post office "bounce backs" for publisher notification letters and marked undeliverable because the post office box is closed, the publisher has moved with no forwarding address, delivery was attempted by there was no such street, etc.

Case in point -- On June 14th I sent a tear sheet and publisher notification letter to in Omaha, Nebraska. On June 28th it came back stamped by the Post Office with "Return to Sender".

So unless the good folk at check for their title and see our Midwest Book Review attached, they will never know the quite nice things we had to say about their book.

Whenever I hear from a publisher (and it happens from time to time) that they stumbled across our review on their Amazon web page but didn't get the notification letter and tear sheet it can only mean one of the following:

1. The post office returned it because they couldn't deliver it as addressed.
2. The post office lost it somewhere in transit.
3. Somehow I screwed up and didn't realize it at the time

In all candor I had to add #3 to the list of reasons because I learned long ago that I was quite capable of making address typos and/or having "senior moments" getting a bit confused and committing oversights when plowing through the monthly project of sending out 600+ publisher notification letters .

Hence my perennial invitation: If you see one of our reviews on Amazon and you didn't get your letter -- please let me know. It may be too late to do anything other than apologize for the oversight -- but at least you will know my intentions were honorable -- and you might have to take another look at the paperwork you send along with your review copy submissions to insure that addresses are up-to-date and prominently displayed for the benefit of nearsighted book review editors.

Subj: Thank you from author, Patricia Q. Wall......

Dear Mr. Cox,

You made this rainy cold day in Kittery, Maine, turn sunny and warm when I recieved notice of your review of my book, CHILD OUT OF PLACE: A Story for New England. Thanks and more thanks for giving it such a substantial boost on the way. Tom and Marilyn Ross were so right in pointing me to your caring web doorstep.

Pat Wall

Tom and Marilyn Ross are credentialed experts when it comes to self-publishing. Marilyn and I are email "pen pals" of long standing. They publish the SPAN newsletter to which I occasionally contribute. They also are principally responsible for establishing the self-publisher online discussion group which is now commendably monitored by other folk. So it's always nice to have someone like Pat Wall come right out of the blue and let you know that you have "friends in high places" within the publishing community.

The moral of this story (if it has one) is to never neglect an opportunity to network with your peers and colleagues within the small press community. You never know when it will rebound to your benefit and help to publicize and promote what you do and how you do it.

And that is the perfect lead-in to this month's "Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall of Fame". We don't allow authors or publishers to give financial donations to us in order to avoid conflict of interest issues. But anyone who want to make a gesture of appreciation for what we do (or at least try to do) on behalf of authors and the small presses can always donate postage stamps as a way of saying "thanks!" and "supporting the cause".

Here is a June listing of just such folks who said thank you with stamps:

Elizabeth K. Burton -- Zumaya Publications
Denise Hong - "Why I Love My Mom"
Maureen Stearns - Enrichment Books
Kathleen Walls - Global Authors Publications
Peggy Elam - Pearlsong Press, Inc.
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier - Waldmania Publicity
Russ Like - Spotswood, New Jersey
Benny Mares - Vancouver, Washington
Joyce B. Hale - Imagine Publishing
Jason Williams - Knightscares
Dave J. Pearson - Sigil Publishing
Fashola Olajide - Paris, France

Fashola Olajide sent me a packet of ten international reply coupons when she came upon my review of her book "French Public Opinion And The Transition To The Single Currency System 1981-2002". What can I say? I have a weakness for economic studies left over from my old college days. And it turns out I can exchange those French international reply coupons for American stamps at the current exchange rate of one coupon for 80 cents worth of US postage stamps.

So no matter what country you live in, you too can say "thank you" with postage stamps and/or coupons!

Until next time!

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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design