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Jim Cox Report: July 2011

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Partly because I'm so well known in the publishing community, and partly because anything having to do with publishing industry (especially when it comes to the reviewing of books) is of particular interest to me, there are a number of folk within the industry that keep me appraised of developments and trends that affect writers and publishers both directly and indirectly. Occasionally someone comes along with an especially keen insight or description of a particular issue that it should receive as wide an audience as possible within our community.

This is just such an example and I urge everyone to take a moment and read "A Lost Art? The Future of Book Reviewing" which you will find at:

The subject is on the steady elimination of book review sections from newspapers (new online book review resources that have filled that vacancy for the reading public), and is even kind enough to mention the Midwest Book Review's adaptation to reviewing ebooks.

An on-going, low-grade, chronic headache for is having to explain and their attempts to market reviews posted on their web site to writers, publishers, and our volunteer freelance reviewers. Here's an illustrative exchange of a kind that I have to do every few months:

In a message dated 10/17/2010 12:46:10 A.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:

I never agreed to having any of the reviews I did for you sold on Amazon.

I would like this review taken down, asap.

{The extended URL for the review was written out here -- J. Cox}

Alyice Edrich

Dear Alyce:

Amazon claims sole ownership of all reviews posted on their web site -- which is total bunkum.

For the past several years they also been offering reviews on their web site for sale -- which is laughable.

Why would anyone pay money for what they could simply obtain for free? Reviews are automatically sent to the publishers along with a notification letter informing them that their review copy was indeed reviewed. Publishers then share those reviews with their authors, editors, illustrators, publicists, and anyone else they deem appropriate. We also archive reviews on our Midwest Book Review web site for 5 years and are thereby accessible to librarians, booksellers, and the general public through a simple Google search. So where is the market for Amazon's sale of reviews?

The Midwest Book Review posts reviews on Amazon and other on-line book review databases in order to provide authors and publishers with a maximum return on their investment (in the form of a review copy provided gratis for possible review) which is the standard publishing industry norm with respect to publisher/reviewer quid pro quos.

Because it's also our policy that reviewers own all rights to their own reviews, I'm going to instruct our web master to remove your review from Amazon as you've requested.

You'd best not send Midwest Book Review any more reviews unless you change your mind about their being automatically tagged to the web page of that particular title on the Amazon web site.

We post them there because for all their faults (and there are a great many of those!), Amazon still continues to be the 800 pound gorilla of on-line book marketing and a vital resource for authors and publishers hoping to sell books and recruit a modicum of publicity through the practice of providing gratis review copies to potential reviewers.

I would also recommend that you visit the Midwest Book Review web site's "Advice for Writers & Publishers" archive at

Read the several articles I've written on book reviewing, the book review process, spotting a phony book reviewer, book reviewing ethics, publishing industry standards with respect to book reviewing, etc.

I think you'll find them of practical value and considerable insight.

I'll send a copy of this review to my web master so she'll know which review to request Amazon to delete.

This business of Amazon's pathetic attempts to make money selling reviews that anyone could have for free comes up from time to time. So I'll also be using our email correspondence in one of my monthly "Jim Cox Report" columns of advice and commentary that I write for the benefit of the publishing community (which very much includes book reviewers as well as authors and publishers).

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

I'm going to conclude this section of the "Jim Cox Report" with a complimentary exchange on the subject of the Midwest Book Review and the work we do here and with specific reference to

Subject: Your reviews for textile arts at Amazon
Date: 10/25/2010 10:40:13 A.M. Central Daylight Time

I discovered your website by accident today, after checking some review scores for some books Iím considering purchasing from Amazon. I was surprised that not only was there a reliable source of opinions that I can use to choose books, but itís also in my own backyard, Oregon WI.

I started quilting in the mid fifties while in junior high, and have been an avid quilter ever since. Recently in my retirement from state government Iíve branched out into art quilts and a wider range of textile techniques, and have found the books in Dane County libraries and the books Iíve purchased from Amazon immensely helpful.

Thank you for the excellent job you do of reviewing books for Amazon and your consulting with the Dane County library system. Madison Public Library has some of the best books and in an incredibly wide range of techniques! Dane county libraries are also up to date with some of the latest books coming out in print, so I know that Iím getting some of the cutting edge ideas to add to my work. Apparently your consulting work has been put to good use. Having traveled around the country visiting relatives and friends, Iíve discovered that Madison is by far one of the best places to acquire supplies and books in the arts. Please keep up the good work!

Barb Roe
Scenery Hill Studio
Middleton WI

It's always nice to be appreciated!!

Now on to some reviews of 'how to' titles for writers and/or publishers:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

Electronic Publishing
Gabriel Egan, editor
Arizona State University
Box 874402, Tempe, AZ 85287-4402
9780866984492, $52.00

Compiled and edited by Shakespearean scholar and author Gabriel Egan, "Electronic Publishing: Politics And Pragmatics" is a 218-page compendium of informed and informative articles written by ten experienced professionals on diverse aspects of electronic publishing from particularly apt academic perspectives. Also featuring an insightful introduction by Gabriel Egan and an Afterword commentary by John Lavagnino, the contributors focus on a variety of subjects and issues ranging from the impact of computers on scholarly editing, to digitizing printed works, to software tools for creative writing, and so much more. Of special note is Peter Robinson's commentary comprising 'How We Have Been Publishing the Wrong Way, and How We Might Publish a Better Way'. A seminal work of outstanding academic excellence, "Electronic Publishing" should be considered essential reading and an invaluable addition to personal, professional, and academic library instructional publishing reference collections.

Book Promoting
Kristen James
Privately Published
9780984636822, $9.99,

Social media has become the ideal way to advertise your book, but not everyone is an internet butterfly. "Book Promoting 101: How to Tell The World About Your Book" is a guide to the modern publishing industry and how to get your book out there and known when using print on demand services. Promotion starts soon after the book is written, as author Kristen James covers cover art, creating a website, and how to use the internet to its fullest. "Book Promoting 101" is a must for anyone who is taking book promotion under their own power.

Incidently, I'm not the only one here at the Midwest Book Review with an interest in critiquing these "how to" books for authors and publishers. Here's an informed and informative review from Kathrine Boyer who is one of our best freelancer reviewers:

The Naked Author
Katherine "Kat" Smith
TomKat Productions, LLC
PO Box 701478, Dallas, TX 75370-1478
9780971502444, $14.95

The Naked Author is a good 'how-to' book on self publishing with a little about general publishing for comparison sake. Katherine Smith has crafted a well thought out book that covers self publishing from agents to marketing. It contains just about everything an author needs as a guide through the maze of all of the intricacies of getting a book ready to be read by the hoards of avaricious readers clambering to be entertained or educated.

The reader is given several choices about what to do in a given situation; for example, whether or not to hire an agent. If you want to hire an agent to help you sell your book to a mainstream publisher, she suggests that it is a good idea, but if you don't want to go with a mainstream publisher, you don't necessarily need an agent.

"Not only did I learn that building the foundation of a successful author and/or book starts with creating a marketing campaign or career plan, but it is more than safe to say that educating oneself on the mechanisms of the process is vital for a smooth journey to publishing success."

All authors, self published or not should read this book and keep it for future reference. They will pick up some tips for marketing and selling their books that probably have not occurred to them. They will also be reminded of something they had not thought about in a while.

There is an extensive bibliography covering books, websites, and nationwide events. The only reservation I have about this information is that with today's technology, things change very quickly and having it in a book makes it difficult to update. A cautionary statement about this would be of help to the authors and others using this book.

Katherine Smith is a former talk show host turned author who has published domestically and internationally in magazines and newspapers. She is the author of several books, including The Naked Author-Exposing the Myths of Publishing, and I'm Tall You're Not So That Makes Us Even. She is from New Orleans, Louisiana and now lives in Dallas, Texas where she is a publisher with TomKat Productions, LLC.

Katherine has now published The Naked Author as an e-book at

Katherine Boyer

Now for some Q&A commentaries:

In a message dated 11/5/2010 2:44:06 P.M. Central Standard Time, writes:

First thank you very much for the blog on finding reviews. My name is Scott Batten, and I am a first time author, that got taken for a ride by Authorhouse, and I am now starting the search for a real agent. Would having a book review of the current product help or hurt me in getting a good agent? I have attached the one book review I did get, that also covers my "life story" as to how I got to become an author.

Second question if you don't mind, is this a scam? It smells like one to me, but they do have a lot of book reviews on the internet that have been done.

Thank you for your time, and if you are interested in reviewing Johnny the Phoenix (children's 3-8), I would love to send you a signed copy.

Scott Batten

Dear Scott:

There are several excellent books on finding and recruiting a literary agent. You'll find reviews of them in the "Writer's Bookshelf" section of the Midwest Book Review web site at:

It's a huge book review data base. Perhaps a quicker way to find these particular titles would be to use our web site search engine and just type in "Literary Agent" (be sure to use the hyphens).

Reviews of a self-published author's book will always be an asset when trying to secure the services of a good literary agent. The more the better.

As to possible book review scams, read the article I've written on "How to Spot a Phony Book Reviewer". You'll find it in the "Advice for Writers/Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review web site at:

With respect to "Johnny the Phoenix", it sounds appropriate for our "Children's Bookwatch" publication. Send two published copies, accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity or press release, to my attention.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575

In a message dated 6/7/2011 10:42:50 P.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:

Hi Jim,

I just read your monthly letter and I would like to point out one thing. I have had authors who are publishing through Amazon, and they don't have all the information that I need to send in my reviews.

The first thing I do is to point out that I will not review their book without what is required by me, as a reviewer, to have for you. One lady I really felt sorry for, as she really had a hard time finding out the information. She had to go down a long paper trail to find it. She is not the first person who has had the same problem with Amazon.

I just thought I would pass this information on to you.

Sandra Heptinstall

Dear Sandra:

Amazon Encore is terribly difficult to work with from my perspective as a book review editor with the responsibility of notifying and supplying their authors with reviews of their books. I think what I would advise you to suggest to these unfortunate authors is that they use their own mailing addresses (or email addresses) so that reviews and notification letters could be sent out to them directly.

They should encase their contact information in their cover letters. Have them read the two very useful and succinct instruction articles I've archived on the Midwest Book Review web site at:

Writing an Effective Cover Letter

Writing an Effective Publicity Release

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Finally we have "The Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall Of Fame & Appreciation" 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 postage stamps this past month:

Nick Wreden
Stephen Goss
Gary Cornelius
Jin K. Robertson
Julia Antoine -- "Too Clever"
Judy Genandt -- "A Port in the Storm"
LeeAnn Hawkins -- "Find Love at Last"
Debra A. Patrow -- "Acres of Bitterness"
James W. Gilliam II -- "Point Deception"
Ronald J. Thompson -- "Danced with the Devil"
Rami Zurayk -- "Food Farming, and Freedom: Sowing the Arab Spring"
Eirini Press
Almaden Books
Palari Publishing
Turnaround Press
Willowrose Publishing
Nick Perry -- Music of Note
Cookie Combs Publications
Joe Thurtell -- Hardalee Press
Angela N. Hunt -- Hunt Press
Joel Thurtell -- Hardalee Press
Jody Banks -- Praktikos Books
Mary Ceska -- Nepperhan Press
John Novak -- Bookmagic LLC
Kathleen Frazier -- Health Press
M.S. Otteni -- Enrichment Books
Nan Wisherd -- Cable Publishing
P. Bellomo -- Liberia Publications
Raymond Wolf -- GoldRay Publishing
Patricia Weenolsen -- Rubythroat Press
Lauren Tanny -- The Tannywood Group
Catherine Treadgold -- Coffeetown Press
Cristina Montero -- Seriously Good Books
Amy C. Spaulding -- Sleepy Hollow Books
Tina Singh -- Antenna Publishing Company
Jennifer Justice -- Endicott and Hugh Books
Candace Carson -- Sigi and Lulu Productons
Josephine Manzella -- Bella House Publishing
Linda Valderrama -- Shirley's Girl Publications
Joe Asher -- Speechworks Asher Communications
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity
Barbara Wall -- The Barrett Company
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Gary S. Lesser -- GSL Galactic Consulting
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity

If you have postage to donate, or if you have a book you'd like considered for review, then send those 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. 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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