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Jim Cox Report: July 2020

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Last month I presented a link on the Midwest Book Review web site to a Zoom-based interview of myself by Barbara Gaughn-Muller in which I talked about the Midwest Book Review and what I do around here -- it was also an opportunity for the curious to see what I look like.

Now I'm going to give you a link to another Zoom-based interview that Barbara recently did with my West Coast Editor and long time (40+ years) senior volunteer reviewer Diane Donovan. In addition to her own monthly book review column as part of our MBR Bookwatch, Diane is a co-editor for three of our nine monthly book review publications: The Bookwatch; Children's Bookwatch; California Bookwatch. Diane also founded her own little company a couple of years ago called Dononvan's Literary Services:

In her interview Diane talks quite a bit about what reviewers look for in the books that are submitted to their attention -- along with a great deal of invaluable and practical advice for aspiring authors, neophyte publishers, and novice reviewers.

Here is a direct link to that interview -- and it's about 25 minutes or so of very highly recommended watching by anyone associated in any capacity with the publishing industry:

Now here are reviews of books that are of particular and special interest to writers and publishers:

Launch It!: The 7 Stages to FINALLY Writing and Publishing Your Book
Rick Benzel & Susan Shankin
New Insights Press
9781733841160, $15.99 Paper/$5.99 Kindle, 132pp

"Launch It!: The 7 Stages to FINALLY Writing and Publishing Your Book" is an excellent, informative guide for authors looking to follow through on their dreams of writing and publishing their first book.

It explores the entire gamut of 7 fundamental steps of the publishing process in great detail, explained by two highly experienced publishing professionals whose background includes working at major publishing houses and then starting two self-publishing enterprises. Each of these seven stages of publishing that they explain requires a different skill set, which is why new authors often bog down either at the beginning, midway, or even just after their book is published.

There are many decisions authors must make as they go through the progression of the 7 steps, from deciding what they want to write about and why, to whether to hire an editor or ghostwriter, to choosing and working with a book designer, to assessing the pros and cons of using a book distributor or KDP's print on demand option.

Launch It! explains everything you need. It helps new authors bolster their confidence to put pen to paper, finish their manuscript, and then understand their publishing options. It also provides post-publication publicity tips such as organizing a launch party.

Rick Benzel & Susan Shankin's "Launch It!" not only provides a clear step-by-step game plan, but addresses common obstacles and provides keys to overcoming them with the goal of getting one's great book idea into print successfully, then promoting it to the public through basic marketing strategies.

Many competing titles address the new writer's concern of how to produce a book, but few others incorporate the additional steps needed to understand not just the writing and creative development process, but the work of publishing and promoting one's words. Benzel and Shankin explain that the ultimate goal goes beyond publishing and explores what makes one's book unique and how to transform publishing a book into greater results such as becoming a speaker, workshop leader, or highly sought-after consultant.

"Launch It!" is about launching more than one's dreams, seeing them come to fruition in a logical, organized manner that acknowledges common barriers and provides the tools to overcome them. Those interested in self-publishing models for success who have something important for readers and, in these days of often working from home, more time to pass on their wisdom to others will find Launch It! an encouraging and comprehensive blueprint that takes the complex world of book publishing and synthesizes its process into seven key segments that would-be authors can easily understand and employ. -- Highly recommended.

Cult Writers
Ian Haydn Smith, author
Kristelle Rodeia, illustrator
White Lion Publishing
c/o Quarto Publishing Group USA
400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401-1722
9780711250642, $16.99, HC, 144pp,

Synopsis: What makes a cult writer? Whether pioneering in their craft, fiercely and undeniably unique or critically divisive, cult writers come in all shapes and guises. Some gain instant fame, others instant notoriety, and more still remain anonymous until a chance change in fashion sees their work propelled into the limelight.

In "Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know", Ian Haydn Smith introduces 50 novelists deserving of a cult status. The literary genres and subjects explored within these writers’ pages are rich and diverse -- acting as mirrors of their genius minds: ranging from Irvine Welsh’s gritty Edinburgh streets, to Ken Kesey’s drug-fuelled madness; from feminist trailblazer Sylvia Plath to the magical realism of Angela Carter, readers will discover little knowns with small, devout followings and superstars gracing the covers of magazines. Each writer is special in their individuality and their ability to inspire, antagonise and delight.

The featured writers include: Kathy Acker, James Baldwin, J.G. Ballard, Mikhail Bulgakov, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Octavia E. Butler, Italo Calvino, Albert Camus, Angela Carter, Colette, Maryse Conde, Julio Cortazar, Philip K. Dick, Douglas Coupland, Marguerite Duras, Ralph Ellison, Elena Ferrante, Janet Frame, Jean Genet, Joseph Heller, Michel Houellebecq, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Ken Kesey, Chris Kraus, Milan Kundera, Ursula K. Le Guin, Doris Lessing, Cormac McCarthy, Carson McCullers, Yukio Mishima, Haruki Murakami, Anais Nin, Sylvia Plath, Thomas Pynchon, Raymond Queneau, Ayn Rand, Pauline Reage, Jean Rhys, Juan Rulfo, Francoise Sagan, J.D. Salinger, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Donna Tartt, Jim Thompson, J.R.R. Tolkien, Kurt Vonnegut, Virginia Woolf, Irvine Welsh.

Critique: A bibliophiles delight, "Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know" is an inherently fascinating and informative book to browse through. With individual authors being charmingly pictured by artist/illustrator Kristelle Rodeia, "Cult Writers" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, college, and academic library Literary Studies and Writing/Publishing collections and supplemental studies reference lists.

Editorial Note: A London-based writer, Ian Haydn Smith is the update editor on 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and the editor of BFI Filmmakers Magazine and Curzon Magazine. Ian is also the author of Selling the Movie: The Art of the Film Poster, The Short Story of Photography and Cult Filmmakers.

Writing to Make an Impact
Sandra Murphy & Mary Ann Smith
Teachers College Press
1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027
9780807763971, $96.00, HC, 160pp,

Synopsis: Through ideas and practices straight from the classrooms of outstanding teachers, "Writing to Make an Impact: Expanding the Vision of Writing in the Secondary Classroom" is a lively resource that effectively illustrates writing that makes an impact on a reader, a writer, or a cause - writing that everyone wants to read. "Writing to Make an Impact" is rich with student work that shows how writing can make things happen in the world. The authors, Sandra Murphy and Mary Ann Smith collaborate to provide ready-to-use lessons that include a full range of writing, including poetry, narrative, petitions, proposals, emails, self-reflections, long-term projects, and critical analyses.

"Writing to Make an Impact": Incorporates the voices and practices of many talented writing teachers; Employs an upbeat style with a clear, easy-to-follow framework; Encourages writing that changes minds, tells stories, calls for action, creates awareness or empathy, touches emotions, or promotes new thinking; Provides accessible teaching ideas, short exercises, and student models; Builds on students’ experiences with social media and their interest in social issues.

Critique: Expertly written, organized and presented, "Writing to Make an Impact: Expanding the Vision of Writing in the Secondary Classroom" will prove to be an invaluable and effective curriculum textbook for creative writing classes at the college or university level, as well as creative writing seminars and workshops. While especially recommended for community and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, aspiring authors and novelists that "Writing to Make an Impact" is also readily available in a paperback edition (9780807763964, $31.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $30.35).

Editorial Note: Sandra Murphy is former secondary teacher and Professor Emerita of Education at the University of California, Davis.

Mary Ann Smith is a former secondary teacher. She directed the Bay Area and California Writing Projects and served as director of government relations for the National Writing Project.

You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue
Linda Seger & John Ralney
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781615933136, $19.95, PB, 260pp,

Synopsis: Unlike the chitchat of everyday life, dialogue in stories must express character, advance the story, suggest a theme, and include a few memorable lines that audiences will be quoting for decades to come.

The best stories have dialogue that sparkles, but it's easy for inexperienced writers to fall into common pitfalls like creating dialogue that's wooden or too on the nose. Other writers end up with exposition awkwardly inserted into conversations, actors tripping over unnatural phrases, or characters who all speak exactly the same way.

In "You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue", professional screen writers Linda Seger and John Winston Rainey have written a complete course of instruction that deal with all the dialogue problems that aspiring writers commonly encounter. In each chapter, "You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue" explores dialogue from a different angle and discuss examples of great dialogue from films and novels. To cap it all off, each chapter ends with examples of poor dialogue, which are annotated by Linda and then rewritten by John, so readers don't just learn how to recognize when it's done well -- they also learn how to make dialogue better.

Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, for the screen or for the page, "You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue" show aspiring screen writers how to get their characters talking -- and their audiences fully engaged in listening to what's being said.

Critique: Simply stated, "You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue" should be considered mandatory reading for any author involved with screen writing and considered an essential, core addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Performing Arts, Film & Video, and Screen Writing instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "You Talkin' to Me?: How to Write Great Dialogue" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.71).

Editorial Note: Linda Seger created and defined the career of script consultant in 1981. She is the most prolific author in the area of screen writing. Two of her nine screen writing books, "Making a Good Script Great", and "Creating Unforgettable Characters" remain staples for writers and many universities use them as textbooks in screen writing classes. She has consulted on over 2,000 scripts including over 50 produced feature films and over 35 produced television projects. She has given seminars in over 30 countries around the world. Linda has earned 3 MA degrees and a ThD including one in drama and one in Religion and the Arts.

John Rainey has been involved in the dramatic arts since 1975 and has been a script consultant since 1989. He has a B.A. and an M.F.A. in acting and directing. He acted and directed professionally for a decade before turning his attention to screenwriting in 1987. He has written 10 scripts for production companies located in Japan, Morocco, India, Russia, Colombia, Canada, and the United States, three of which have been produced and three more currently in some phase of production. He has also written 15 spec scripts, many of which have been optioned several times, and innumerable shorts. He has directed one short that is in post-production. Currently, he is developing a dramatic webisode series.

Actually, the Comma Goes Here
Lucy Cripps
Rockridge Press
9781647399221 $12.99 pbk / $8.99 Kindle

Synopsis: No one's ever said that learning punctuation is fun - until now. Actually, The Comma Goes Here takes a lighthearted yet highly informative approach to ensuring you never misplace a comma again.

Whether it's semicolons or exclamation points, this primer has you covered with chapters that dive deep into the correct use for each and every piece of punctuation. You'll find plenty of fun (and funny) examples of proper writing while also learning how punctuation has changed throughout history.

Actually, The Comma Goes Here includes:

A complete crash course - Keep things simple with chapters that progress from the most basic punctuation (like periods) to more advanced or uncommon punctuation (like brackets).

Memorable advice - Never mix your clauses up again thanks to easy-to-remember breakdowns, handy mnemonics, and entertaining sample sentences.

Matters of style - Discover a quick reference chart that details the differences between the most common style guides, including the Chicago Manual of Style and Associated Press.

Perfect your punctuation with the help of this comprehensive guidebook.

Critique: Actually, the Comma Goes Here is a thoroughly accessible punctuation guide for writers of all skill and experience levels. Periods, semicolons, commas, brackets, clauses, and much more are all explained in straightforward terms with examples and more than a dash of witty humor. Actually, the Comma Goes Here is a "must-have" especially for aspiring and practicing professional writers, from columnists to novelists! Highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Actually, The Comma Goes Here is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

The English Grammar Workbook for Adults
Michael DiGiacomo
Rockridge Press
9781646113194, $19.99, PB, 208pp,

Synopsis: Mastering English grammar can be a real challenge. But, with a little practice and patience, anyone can discover how to communicate better through self-study in their spare time with the DIY instructional course offered by "The English Grammar Workbook for Adults: A Self-Study Guide to Improve Functional Writing" that is specifically designed to help improve writing fluency so aspiring writers can gain confidence while crafting emails, cover letters, conducting daily business, and personal correspondence.

No matter the current skill level may be, this English grammar workbook has everything needed and necessary to learning essential elements of the written language, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, tenses, and beyond. Then what has been learned can be aptly applied to everyday situations such as those related to school, to work, to social situations, to creative writing, to writing online, and more.

Critique: An ideal choice for classroom curriculums or DIY individual studies, "The English Grammar Workbook for Adults: A Self-Study Guide to Improve Functional Writing" is very highly recommended for personal, school district, college, and university library collections. It should be noted for personal studies lists that "The English Grammar Workbook for Adults: A Self-Study Guide to Improve Functional Writing" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Michael DiGiacomo started teaching English as a foreign language to adults at a private language school in Sendai, Japan, in 1994. In 2010, he formed Happy English, his own ESL tutoring company in New York. He teaches private lessons, hosts a podcast, and has a YouTube channel to help students all over the world learn English.

Finally, "The Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall Of Fame & Appreciation" is a monthly 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 to our postage stamp fund this past month:

Brian Young
Tom Durwood
Jane A. Fulkerson
Frank E. Muskeni
Faye Rapoport DesPres
Mahmud Akhter Shareef
Joseph N. Crew -- "Begotten"
Marian Christy -- "Dumbbell"
Paul Fuller -- "The Sisterhood"
Gen LaGreca -- "Just The Truth"
Esther Escott -- "The Second Life"
Gerald Goldhaber -- "Murder, Inc."
Tim Westover -- "The Winter Sisters"
Holly J. Trechter -- "Galileo! Galileo!"
Debra L. Stout -- "Continued Miracles"
Keith Steinbaum -- "You Say Goodbye"
Maureen Sherbondy -- "Lucky Brilliant"
Lisa White -- "Did You Know?: Love-Light"
Ivan Brave -- "The Lived They Were At Brighton Beach"
Rory McFarlan -- "Nephi's Courage: Story of a Bad Mormon"
Natasha Wing -- "Saltwater Sillies: 300+ Jokes for Buoys and Gulls"
Selby Ink
GLB Worldwide
Kitty Werner -- Distinction Press
Julie A. Aydlotti -- JA Publications
Dana Cohenour -- Music Playground
Gary & Carolyn Wilhelm -- Wise Owl Factory
Lynn B. Sanders -- Difference Makers Media, LLC
Mimi Schroeder -- Max Communications
Ken Wachsberger -- The Book Coach
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Barbara C. Wall -- The Barrett Company, LLC

In lieu of (or in addition to!) postage stamp donations, we also accept PayPal gifts of support to our postage stamp fund for what we try to accomplish in behalf of the small press community. Simply log onto your PayPal account and direct your kindness (in any amount and at your discretion) to the Midwest Book Review at:

SupportMBR [at]

(The @ is replaced by "[at]" in the above email address, in an attempt to avoid email-harvesting spambots.)

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