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Jim Cox Report: March 2001

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

And another month has streaked by at a fevered clip. Here it is, time for another of my monthly reports on what's been going on at the Midwest Book Review, along with some tips, tricks and techniques for the self-published author and the small press publisher.

First, the monthly housekeeping announcements. The March 2001 issues of our two book review magazines, "Internet Bookwatch" and "Children's Bookwatch" are out to our subscribers, off to and, and up onto the Midwest Book Review website where they will spend the next six months.

Anyone who would like a free subscription to either of them, just send me your email address and I'll sign you up. For those new to the list, subscribers have full permission to add any thematically appropriate reviews from our magazines to your own website, company newsletter, or internet discussion group dialogues -- just give the Midwest Book Review the usual credit when doing so.

February also saw a bit of fame coming to the Midwest Book Review (and me, as its editor-in-chief).

St. Martin's Press sent me a review copy of "How To Publish And Promote Online". And there I was in Chapter 23 (from page 81 to page 86), in the form of my article on "Accessing Newsgroups, Listserves, Web Sites, and Online Bookstores".

I've often been referred to, or had bits of quotable quotes, in previous "how to" books and newsletters about publishing. But this is the first time I've had an entire chapter to myself! It's a bit of a thrill to see one's name in print.

One of the pleasant surprises is that this handy little "how to" volume also features contributions from one of my volunteer reviewers! Jamie Engle is one of our specialists for ebook reviews.

On another front:

Amy Phillips is the BookZonePro Senior Editor/Project Manager. She requested permission to post one of my "tips, tricks and techniques" articles on the BookZonePro's Info & Insights article library. Permission was granted and it looks lovely.

You can see "How The Book Review System Works" at:

One thing I especially like about her webpages of my stuff is that there is a direct link to the Midwest Book Review website, plus a one-paragraph description of what I do around here. She's asked permission for a couple more articles -- and, of course, I gave it.

You can find me and a lot of other contributors at:

Another request for permission came in from Joan Stewart, who wrote:

> Could I please have permission to add your informative post on news releases
> to the "Advice For Publishers" section of the "Writing/Publishing Resources"
> webpage on the Midwest Book Review website? -- Giving you full credit, of
> course.
> Of course, and please link to my site at
> where your readers can find lots more free articles on news releases and free
> publicity. Also, they can sign up for my free tips of the week and receive free
> by autoresponder the handy checklist "89 Reasons to Send a News Release."
> Also, please add this very important point to the list which you read. It's a
> no-brainer. But you'd be amazed at how many people don't do this--even the big
> PR agencies.
> --Be sure to tell people how much the book costs, including shipping, and how
> they can buy it. Give them as many options as possible--by phone, fax, e-mail,
> or from your website. Also mention stores where the book is available.
> Joan Stewart
> Media relations speaker, trainer, consultant
> Create the headlines you deserve. Sign up for your free Publicity Hound
> Tips-of-the-Week at
> 3930 Highway O Saukville, WI 53080
> Phone: 262-284-7451 Fax: 262-284-1737

I've since gotten a couple of here Publicity Hound newsletters and they are quite well done, innovative and practical.

If you have a website that you'd like to enhance with any of my "how to" articles in the "Advice For Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review website -- just ask!

You'll find them at

Now for some "bits of wisdom" that may prove useful in trying to become profitable in today's competitive marketplace:

Mike Tribby writes:

> And, yes, I believe Amazon does delete
> your old reviews when you change ISBN, but I think that's because they use
> the ISBN to identify titles in their system. Your new ISBN then has to
> accumulate new reviews. It might be nice if they would somehow link new
> editions to reviews of previous editions.

To which I responded:

Mike is quite correct (and his whole post on the subject of ISBNs and Printing/New Editions was excellent). There's one bit of advice I have on this particular point:

In order to preserve appropriate and positive reviews on for your next edition of a given title with changes that warrant a new ISBN, first copy and have in your own computer file all the positive reviews that were on for the previous edition(s).

Then, when your new edition replaces the previous edition on, go to your new book's webpage and repost those older reviewers. When doing so, use one of your email aliases (most email accounts provide four or five additional names to the major one) and repost them.

When doing so, be sure to add the original reviewer's name at the bottom of the review within the text block, so that proper credit will take place.

When the Midwest Book Review posts "staff reviews", we do so under the name "Midwest Book Review". These are the reviews that I do and that those of our volunteers who want to remain anonymous (even to the point of not using any pseudonyms) create.

When we post volunteer reviews by reviewers who wish to be recognized (either under their own name or by their own chosen pseudonym), we do so in the exact same manner, except that we add the volunteer's name and title at the end of the review within the review text block. It works like a charm every time, and allows the Midwest Book Review to have the prestige as a primary content provider, while our individual volunteer reviewers receive clear and complete credit for their work as well.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Meredith Rutter writes:

> We clicked on the used-copy-for-sale button at Amazon offering one of our
> recent books ("But This Is My Mother! The Plight of Our Elders in American
> Nursing Homes"), only to find that someone was selling one of the BOUND
> GALLEYS we had sent to early reviewers and certain media. We had only
> printed about 30 of them altogether. In the "Condition" description, the
> seller admits to their sale copy being an "uncorrected page proof" edition,
> and they're asking $9.95. Doesn't that fall in the category of unethical?
> Or maybe it's just sleazy.

Advanced Review Copies (ARC), whether in the form of galleys, uncorrected proofs, pre-publication manuscripts, or finished copies, become the property of the reviewer, review publication, or review organization to which they are submitted for review consideration.

Since they are the property of the reviewer, they can be disposed of in any way the reviewer deems appropriate.

They can be kept, trashed, given away, or sold.

The ethics of selling ARC copies is in the "eye of the beholder" -- with many publishers feeling that, at the very best, it is a sleazy and undesirable practice. From the perspective of reviewers (especially the independent, freelance reviewer), it is a necessity to which they are entitled.

Whatever your personal view, the widespread industry practice of selling ARC copies underscores the necessity to be discriminating in the dispensation of review copies, and to minimize such actions by dealing with established, credentialed reviewers and review publications.

It would also well serve all novice publishers to read my "How To Spot A Phony Reviewer" article in the "Advice For Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review website at:

Incidently, there is a definite, albeit small, market for ARCs among collectors, bibliophiles, and academia. The apparent feeling is that, in this day of the computer, a galley or uncorrected proof is as close as scholarship can get to an author's original manuscript.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Sam Vaknin writes (in response to my advice about posting reviews on Amazon):

> Dear Jim,
> To post a review on the Amazon web site, one has to log in. This is a given.
> This means that one has to open as many accounts with Amazon (in order to
> log in using the aliases)...

That's correct. But you don't have to make any purchases under the various aliases. I have two versions of Netscape on my computer: the older version is the one I use because it is much simpler, fewer bells & whistles, and is set to register as Midwest Book Review when I log onto

The second one is Netscape Communicator. It's the one my daughter prefers when roaming around the web, has a lot more bells & whistles, and can be set up to register as James A. Cox when I log onto

This is one easy way to not have to keep track of your aliases with their different email addresses and shifting from one to the other when logging on to Amazon. But even if you only have one version of a browser, it's not that difficult to log onto Amazon with your primary identity, then click on the line "If you are not..." and switch over to the alias you want to use for posting purposes.

> as there are reviews to be re-posted.
> Moreover, the review opens with the line: "JO Mo from nowhere, nostate (none@n...)
> on 01/01/01"
> This means that all the reviews posted this way appear as though they were
> posted by the aliases (very counter-productive).

No, you can post twenty reviews from twenty different sources using a single alias for them all. They will all show up on the Amazon book page as originating from that particular alias -- which is why you need to include the citation information for the original reviewers at the end of their particular reviews within the text block.

The is how it would look like for the mythical book "The Wit & Wisdom of Jim Cox", published by "Don't I Wish Publications":

Midwest Book Review
Oregon, WI 53575-1129

This is an engaging compendium of wit, wisdom, insight, and information on everything Jim knows about publishing -- all three pages of it! Highly recommended for anyone with too much time on their hands!

John Q. Public, Reviewer
Internet Bookwatch

> I wonder: do you or anyone know if we can simply WRITE to Amazon or Barnes
> and Noble and ask them to re-post the reviews?

I have and staff assigned to the Midwest Book Review. They do the posting of our reviews themselves -- including the ones from our volunteers under their own names. I had a similar arrangement for years with, but because of the increasing time lags between submissions and their ultimate appearance on Amazon book pages, I decided to scrap that and post them myself.

As far as I know, my arrangement with and is because I've been a content provider for them pretty much from their earliest years. I'm not aware of anyone else having this kind of arrangement. There may be someone, but I'm just not aware of it.

I hope this helps you and anyone else who might have wondered about my advice regarding review postings on Amazon.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

--- I have one update to the above comments. My computer science daughter, who graduates in May, is now assisting me part-time in the Midwest Book Review. She has taken over the chore of doing the individual posting of reviews on She's just finished the backlog from January, and will spend next week doing the February backlog -- and the week after that, she will post the new reviews for March.

Angela Shearry writes:

> I find your posts to the list to be quite informative so I would very much
> appreciate your feedback on an issue I'm facing. As a newly self-published
> author there is still a lot I don't know about the publishing business, but
> I did know that sending out review copies immediately after your book is
> printed is highly recommended. Nevertheless, after reading about how some
> authors failed to get a single review after sending out hundreds of copies
> of their books, I decided to forego the review process. Now, I'm wondering
> if I made the right decision. My novel was printed in July 2000 and has a
> November publication date and it is now that I really want to send out
> review copies for reviews. Have I missed the opportunity to do this. Is
> there a deadline as to when review copies should go out? Your feedback
> will be greatly appreciated.

To which I responded:

The only reviewers who pay attention to publication dates are the "pre-publication" reviewers like Publishers Weekly and The Library Journal. And those folks don't want finished copies; they want galleys, and they want them 3 to 4 months in advance of the official publication date.

Your finished copies with a "November 2000" publication date are still just fine for post-publication reviewers like the Midwest Book Review, or media reviewers (radio, television). You don't mention if your book is fiction or non-fiction. If it is fiction, then there aren't many print reviewers (newspapers, magazines) that I know of who will handle fiction four months after a publication date. But if it's non-fiction, then most thematically appropriate specialty magazines, newspaper editors, or columnists would still be interested.

Along with a copy of your book, be sure to craft and include a dynamite publicity release that will help to snare a reviewer's attention. Next to a book's cover art, the PR is the most effective way to get your book seriously considered for review.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

I'll conclude this "tips, tricks & techniques" section with a word of advice for authors who are about to be interviewed by the media:

For non-fiction authors, turn your chapter headings into questions and give them to the interviewer.

For fiction authors, give your interviewer a two or three paragraph summary of your novel or short story collection.

For poetry authors, give your interviewer a sample poem.

The single biggest error authors coming onto my weekly television show "Bookwatch" (seen in Madison, Wisconsin and the surrounding communities comprising Dane County, Wisconsin) is that they do not have the 800 numbers and website addresses associated with their book(s) memorized and ready to slide into the conversation -- and as an interviewer, I always make it possible for them to do so.

The second biggest error is that they don't have the aforementioned information written down on paper, so that it can be handed to my director, who will then make it pop up on the television screen in the post-production editing of the video tape.

And in conclusion:

When I send out tear sheets of our reviews to small press publishers, I rather routinely get "thank you" letters and emails in response. And they are always welcome!

Every once in a while, there is one that just makes my day clear into the middle of next month, symbolizing everything I had hoped the Midwest Book Review would be and do.

Dated February 22, 2001, I got a thank you letter from Kathy Williams of Southern Charm Press (a small press located in Hampton, Georgia). I had sent her tear sheets of reviews for two of her books that one of my volunteer reviewers, Harriet Klausner, had done and which were featured in the February 2001 issue of our monthly book review magazine "Internet Bookwatch".

This is the second paragraph of her four paragraph letter:

"Believe it or not Mr. Cox, when I opened up your letter and read it, I just stood there crying with joy. I couldn't believe it! It's so hard for a small press to get recognized in the publishing world these days, and when someone as wonderful and caring as you are about **people** and **small presses** comes around, it makes it worth while to keep plugging away and trying to do your best. You make us strive for that Mr. Cox, and I for one appreciate that very much. Your dedication to people and small presses is totally outstanding! Without your help Mr. Cox, none of the small presses would ever make it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!"

Well, of course, the Midwest Book Review is not the cause of a small press making it in the highly competitive and complex book selling marketplace. But I do earnestly appreciate the sentiment.

Kathy goes on to say how she sent copies of our tear sheets to her authors and that "They are still bouncing off the walls so to speak." -- The passing along of review tear sheets to the authors is a true mark of a professional etiquette on the part of a publisher.

Some folks write books because they want to affect the world. Some publishers invest themselves, their capital, and their efforts into publishing those books because they, too, want to affect the world. And my reviewers (all volunteers) at the Midwest Book Review hold to the same ambition. -- As does their editor-in-chief!

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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