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Jim Cox Report: July 2007

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

I'm now of an age where it seems that the months and years are passing by in the blink of an eye and I'm on the brink of evolving into an editor-in-chief emeritus. Hopefully I'll still be at my desk for a few more years but judging by my staff and the latest batch of our freelance and volunteer reviewers, the world around me is definitely getting younger -- and a great deal more gifted than I was at their age.

There is an upside to advancing into the last couple of decades of my life. It's seems I've been around so long now that I've accrued some kind of 'elder statesman' status in the publishing industry and the numbers of folks getting (and reading) these little monthly commentaries of mine about writing and publishing is growing by leaps and bounds.

As a practicing member of the publishing industry yourself, let's hope that this month's 'Jim Cox Report' continues to be worth your while!

Garrison Keillor is best known for his 'Prairie Home Companion' radio show. What might not be so well known is his gifted ability as a writer and as an essayist. Every novice writer, every professional author, every self-published aspirant to literary greatness should read his recent (May 22, 2007) short essay "Do Not Disturb: Author At Work" which can be found on his website at

One of my greatest pleasures and something I consider as being one of the really nice perks of my job is that I get to see pretty much every new 'how to' title published for aspiring writers on improving their craft and/or for publishers about improving their business. Many of these books are self-published or small press titles that you might never even hear about except through the efforts of the Midwest Book Review and this little monthly column of mine. That I get to share my opinions with you is just another wonderful perk arising from what I do for a living. Here's the latest writing and publishing titles to cross my desk:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

Mystery Writing In A Nutshell
John McAleer & Andrew McAleer
James A. Rock & Company, Publishers
9710 Traville Gateway Drive, #305, Rockville, MD 20850
9781596635050, $9.95 1-800-411-2230

John McAleer taught crime fiction at Boston College for almost forty years and is an Edgar Allan Poe Award winner, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, and best-selling author in the mystery and suspense genre. Now, in collaboration with his son Andrew McAleer (who is also a Professor of Crime Fiction at Boston College), John McAleer draws upon his extensive expertise and experience to provide aspiring writers with a succinct manual of instruction with "Mystery Writing In A Nutshell: The World's Most Concise Guide To Mystery And Suspense Writing". Comprised of seven densely packed chapters that focus on 'Creating Suspense and Action'; 'The Story & The Hook'; 'Fodder for Writing (Ideas for Getting Ideas)'; 'Voice, Voice, Voice'; 'Clues & Making Tracks'; 'Character Development'; and 'Plot Pourri', "Mystery Writing In A Nutshell" also features a 'Final Word', 'Final Tips', and 'Notes'. Of special interest is the concluding section (Miscellaneous) featuring important addresses for mystery writers, conversations about writers and writing, questions for William G. Tapply, Robert B. Parker, Margaret McLean, 'The Writer in Us', and a short essay on 'Writers Influencing Writers'. Thoroughly reader friendly, informed and informative in presentation, "Mystery Writing In A Nutshell" is superbly organized and very highly recommended as being one of the best introductory guides to writing commercially successful mysteries available to aspiring writers and novice authors today.

How To Do Local History
Gavin McLean
University of Otago Press
International Specialized Book Services (ISBS)
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR 97213
9781877372414, $24.95 1-800-944-6190

Written by Gavin McLean (senior historian at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage) and illustrated with a handful of black-and-white photographs, How To Do Local History is a step-by-step guide for would-be local history writers. From how to handle "difficult" or touchy issues in local history, to formulating the right questions to ask while doing research, to investigating both online and offline historical resources, and considerations to keep in mind when publishing - whether just publishing on a website or printing up a book - How To Do Local History is a seminal primer ideal for genealogists, church and institutional historians, thesis writers, and the people who commission them. "Develop an economical writing style in which you 1) tell the main story and ignore most of the historical sidetracks; and 2) cut the waffle. Compression requires self-discipline and hard work, but the results are worth it. Use your computer's word-counting tool... Rewriting is the key to successful writing. And the key to rewriting is reduction." Though written especially with a New Zealand audience in mind, How To Do Local History is packed cover-to-cover with practical tips, tricks, and techniques sure to prove useful regardless of the reader's background.

The Glimmer Train
Susan Burmeister-Brown and Linda B. Swanson-Davies, Editors
Writer's Digest Books
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
1562974462, $19.99

"The Glimmer Train: Guide To Writing Fiction Building Blocks" is a writing reference like no other: most competitors offer inspiration but here a hundred writers' experiences are presented using interview excerpts conducted over a sixteen-year period by the editors of the literary quarterly Glimmer Train Stories. These contemporary writers offer their personal insights into writing techniques, challenges, and frustrations alike, making for a detailed collection of insights perfect for aspiring writers who would learn from the pros, and for any library catering to them.

Now for some Q&A from the Midwest Book Review email box:

Here's a question I get asked several times a year along with my standard reply:


I am seeking a book published in 1965 by Dr. J. Manson Valentine, entitled, The Discovery of Possible Significance of X-Kukican Ancient Mayan Site. It is archaeological in nature.

Do you have a copy of this small book, or can you locate one, cost, etc.

Thank you.

Clark C. McClelland

Dear Clark:

I'm a book reviewer, not a bookseller. But I think I might be able to help you. Try the following:

Go to the Midwest Book Review website at

Click on 'Book Lover Resources'

Click on Antiquarian Bookstores

One of these will be able to help you locate the out-of-print book you are seeking.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

This is another question that pops up now and then:

Dear Mr. Cox --

I have sent you my self-published book Fight Your Health Insurer and Win: Secrets of the Insurance Warrior for review.

I have a question. I published this book myself. No other publisher of any sort. No wholesaler, no distributor. All of the books that are for sale are in my possession.

Yesterday, a friend pointed out that Barnes and Noble are selling my book. I went to their website, and they are indeed currently taking "pre-orders" for my book, which they say will be available on July 28. My retail price for the book, which I am selling exclusively from my website, is $14.95.

When I called B & N this morning, I was transferred to the ".com department." They said, "We are not responsible for what is sold on our website. We get that information from Bowker, we are not responsible for its accuracy."

What can I do? Can B & N really sell my book, for whatever price they want, siphon off my customers or send them away, when I have no business relationship with them?

Thank you very much. I am the Insurance Warrior, not the Publisher Warrior!


Laurie Todd

Dear Laurie:

Online booksellers like B&N,, Borders, etc. can sell any book to anyone as long as they can obtain copies of the book for sale. Usually they obtain their books from one (or more) of the following eight sources:

1. The publisher
2. The author
3. A wholesaler
4. A distributor
5. A 'brick & board' bookstore
6. Another online bookseller
7. A reader who has purchased a copy and is seeking to resell it
8. A book reviewer selling their review copy

The online bookseller can sell the book for what ever price they wish, offering what ever discount they want.

A publisher can refuse to provide an online book seller with their books. So can a wholesaler or a distributor.

In such cases online booksellers look to fulfill orders from one or more of the other sources listed above.

In your particular case as being the author and publisher, and having no wholesaler or distributor, I can only assume that B&N will be approaching you at some future time with a request for a quantity of your book at a wholesale discount so that they can fulfill any orders that they may have for it.

Otherwise they will try to fulfill those orders by acting as a middle-man and facilitating as sale between their customer and a reader selling a used copy and/or a reviewer selling a review copy -- although claims not to accept review copies for sale. I think B&N and as online book sellers holding the same policy -- but I don't know that for certain about them.

R. R. Bowker is simply a database of what books are being published and registered with ISBN numbers. All of the major online book sellers use that Bowker database when setting up their proffered inventories.

I do a monthly column called the "Jim Cox Report" where I offer commentary and advice to the small press community. I'm going to include our little Q&A for the benefit of any other small press publishers who find themselves in your circumstances.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

I think I spend about one hour a day doing email Q&A with authors, publishers, librarians, and the general public. I rather enjoy it -- but more importantly it helps to fulfill the mission goals of the Midwest Book Review to promote literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.

Here's another:

When you set up timing for you publication date, do you need to say the month in advance. Yes, one does need to do that right? When you register with Publications and all? What if you are early or late? Or must one stay right on track?


Dear Marlena:

When you set an official publication date you need to cite both the month and the year. Once you have done so, you need to stick as closely to it as you possible can. The unforeseen can (and often does) prevent publishers from meeting their announced publication date, so when setting one, use the most pessimistic date you can muster, not the most optimistic one -- because that would require everything going along splendidly with no upsets or delays, which is a rare and wonderful thing in the publishing business.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Then there was this inquiry:

To: James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review

Mr. Cox,

My name is Shirley Cate. I am recently a Hometown Newspaper, The Tannehill Trader, publishing partner. My partner, Robin Stewart, is the Editor. Our newly created publication is a monthly and soon our 3rd issue will be out for the month of June. We are in an area that has no newspaper other than the large one's from Birmingham or Tuscaloosa. News in these papers are rarely relevant to our towns. So, we are humbly trying to make this work. The reason for my contacting you is to ask if I might use some of your book reviews until public interest is generated here enough to get volunteers. Robin and Myself are writing, typing and acquiring most all of the 16 pages(and selling the advertisement). We have a few people sending a few book reviews but not many. Our paper has Community News, Arts and Entertainment, Home and Garden, Faith and Fellowship, Sports etc.

If this is not possible because of copyright laws or whatever that will be fine. I was shopping for my teenage daughter a book on Amazon and ran across your review. My mind now stays in Newspaper mode.

I also sell on Amazon under the BeanstalkMusic store front. And I also actually have a physical store here in McCalla/Bucksville Alabama.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Shirley Cate
TannehillTrader.Com 1-866-386-1263

Dear Shirley:

Thank you for your inquiry. You have complete permission to use any of our reviews in two of our online book review publications: "Internet Bookwatch" and "Children's Bookwatch".

Anytime you do so, please give the usual credit citation of Midwest Book Review. It would be nice if you could also include our website address of as well. We have hundreds of thousands of reviews archived on our website which are free to the general public.

I'm going to take the liberty of providing you with a free online subscription to both of them which will start with their current June 2007 issues. My webmaster will be sending them out to their subscribers later today.

I do a monthly column for the small press publishing industry called the "Jim Cox Report" and will add our correspondence to the next one to illustrate how publisher efforts such as yours can utilize our reviews in their endeavors.

If there is any other help I can provide you in your efforts, please don't hesitate to ask.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

One of the things that distinguishes the Midwest Book Review from just about every other book review operation is that we encourage people to help themselves to our reviews to enhance their own websites, publications, promotion campaigns, etc. In fact, we offer free subscriptions to any and all of our monthly book review magazines. We even offer free subscriptions to individual book review columns (e.g. 'The Business Shelf', 'The Poetry Shelf', 'The Needlecraft Shelf', etc.) for anyone who would like to receive them and utilize them in some fashion. All that is required is that whenever one of our reviews is used, that the usual credit citation be given to the Midwest Book Review when doing so.

Finally, there's this bit of Q&A that you might find of interest and which I did as part of a recent online discussion thread:

If you want to get your book published by a traditional publisher then find a good agent. There are several good books on agents and selling to agents on my short list. Fiction in particular is almost always agented.

If you want to self publish and get meaningful reviews (the kind that sell books) then submit copies properly prepared and in the proper timeframe to the prepub reviews....Well there is Midwest Book Review.

John Culleton
ATTN Publishers/authors:

This is a fascinating thread -- and you can always count on John for basic common sense -- and not just because he's had so many nice things to say about the Midwest Book Review down through the years.

Basically the Midwest Book Review is an educationally project with the three-point mission statement of promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing (which by definition also includes the self-published author).

One of the big hurdles (among so many) facing self-published authors and small press publishers with little or no capital to invest in marketing is the problem of securing qualified and reliable reviews for their titles.

Especially since there are so few organizations like the Midwest Book Review that try to give priority to the small presses whenever possible.

So one of the earliest things I did as the editor-in-chief was to create on the Midwest Book Review website a section called "Other Reviewers". This is a lengthy and constantly updated list of freelance book reviewers, book review magazines and publications, book review websites, etc. that I've vetted for their legitimacy.

The list includes a few who do 'pay for play' reviews, but for most of them the only compensation they receive for their efforts is the right to keep the book that was submitted for review and then dispose of it in any fashion they deem appropriate (including selling it online or to a used bookstore in their community).

Some of these reviewers are specialists (e.g. poetry only, or science fiction exclusively, etc.), while others are generalists dealing with pretty much any category or genre, fiction or non-fiction.

So my advice to any self-published author or small press publisher is to go to the Midwest Book Review at _http://www.midwestbookreview.com_

Then click on "Other Reviewers"

Then scroll down the list looking for likely reviewers. When you find one, click on their entry and you will be zapped to their website. Look over their website and you will be able to determine if they would be a good fit for your particularly title.

But that's not enough. That's only the beginning.

Next you have to make sure that if they only accept galleys then that's what you send them. If they only accept finished copies, then that's what you send them.

And what ever you send them has to be accompanied by a well composed publicity release and a well written cover letter.

Basically, the publicity release is a formula product that is sent to everyone and tells the prospective reviewer about the book. But the cover letter is an individualized document that specifically informs the prospective reviewer why they were chosen or selected to receive the book and requested to review it.

Then after popping a copy of your book, the publicity release, and the cover letter into the mails, you wait ten working days and then do a follow-up by phone or by email.

And before doing any of the above, every author and every publisher should read the articles about book reviewing, the book review process, writing a cover letter, composing a publicity release, and what to ask when doing that 10 working day follow-up that I've archived on the Midwest Book Review in the section called "Advice for Writers & Publishers".

Do all of the above and you enhance your chances of getting reviewed, you will avoid losing money and review copies to scammers, you will make the most effective use of reviews in your marketing plan, and you will conduct your publishing efforts in a professional (and professionally competitive) manner.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

I'm now going to conclude with "The Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall Of Fame & Appreciation" roster of well-wishers and supporters. These wonderful folk decided to say thank you and 'support the cause' that is the Midwest Book Review by donating postage stamps this past month:

Linda Collison
Charles Jacobs
David Jackson -- "Einstein's Design"
Mike Kearby -- "Ride the Desperate Trail"
Mary J. Andrade -- "Day of the Dead: A Passion for Life"
Ann S. McFarland -- "Next Friend: The Journal of a Foster Parent"
Charity Gustovic -- "I Can Do All Things Through Christ Which Strengtheneth Me"
American Legends
Casagrande Press
Purslane Press
Fisher King Press
No Voice Unheard
WordTech Communications
Ann Rouse -- Pickled Herring Press
Maureen Harrison -- Excellent Books
Beverly Newton -- International Jewelry Publications
Barry Basden -- Camroc Press
Cheryl Kirking -- Mill House Press
Beverly Cole -- Kimimi Publications
Kathleen Ferrigni -- Monument Books
Debra Pratt -- Harbor House Law Press
Sue Jasinski -- Career Advancement Publications
Maxwell St. John -- Randsom Note Press
Philip M. Cole -- Colecraft Industries
Mike Delach -- Chart and Compass Security Analysis
Carolyn White -- AARO Publishing
Joyce Mills -- Amber-Allen Publishing
Timoty H. Warneka -- Asogomi Publishing Interntional
Mario -- Back Up Books/Human Medical Rights Press
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!

If you have postage to donate or if you have a book you'd like considered for review, then send those stamps or a published copy of that book (no galleys or uncorrected proofs), accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity release to my attention at the address below.

If you'd like to receive the "Jim Cox Report" directly (and for free), just send me an email asking to be signed up.

So 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

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