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Jim Cox Report: March 2005

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

This past month has seen a flurry of "how to" books cross my desk on the subjects of writing and publishing. I've been reviewing books in these categories for about as long as I've been a book reviewer - which is going on 29 years now. Partly this has been because of my commitment to promote literacy, libraries and publishing. Partly this has been because of my own life-long interest in writing and (from my college days) with publishing. The last three decades of publishing has been nothing short of revolutionary with escalating changes in every aspect of the business due to advancements in the technologies of publishing and the growing complexities of book selling.

I've set aside two distinct sections of the Midwest Book Review at to archive the reviews I've done on books about writing and publishing: "The Writer's Bookshelf" and "The Publisher's Bookshelf".

Here are the latest additions to those constantly expanding archives which will give you an idea of what to expect:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

The ABC's Of POD
Dehanna Bailee
Blue Leaf Publications
PO Box 20, Huntersville, NC 28070
0975509527 $8.95

POD stands for "publish on demand" and is an industry that sprang up with the advent of desktop publishing to provide a service for authors seeking to publish their own work, but who could not afford the costs involved with traditional publishing practices. There are now dozens of POD companies offering a variety of services to transform a manuscript into a published book, and a variety of charges for these services. The key distinguishing feature of POD publication is the ability to print one book at a time as ordered by the buyers. This eliminates traditional minimum print runs, book storage costs and associated inventory costs overhead. The ABC's Of POD: A Beginners Guide To Fee-Based Print-on-Demand Publishing by POD expert Dehanna Bailee is an ideal introduction hallmarked with straightforward, easy-to-read chapters featuring "think spot" questions by section. There are more than forty additional exploratory inquires, a glossary, supplementary recommended reading selections, and invaluable lists of "Other tips and Ideas" and "Questions to ask present authors". If you are an aspiring author wanting to self-publish, then give a careful reading to Dehanna Bailee's The ABC's Of POD. Then visit Dehanna Bailee's online "POD Database" at

Writing And Publishing Personal Essays
Sheila Bender
Silver Threads
3738 Carmel View Road, San Diego, CA 92130
189306705X $19.95 1-858-794-1597

The essay and the memoir are forms of self-expression and often intended as a kind of literary legacy by their authors. Occasionally an obscure essayist will become widely known and find their writings among the ranks of recognized literature for subsequent generations of readers. Or to put it another way, the personal essay is a serious form of literature, collections of which achieve a lasting presence, and even influence, from one generation of readers to another. In Writing And Publishing Personal Essays, by poet, essayist, author, teacher, and publisher Sheila Bender shares a practical wealth of "tips and techniques" that she has used to help provide her students with the skills and confidence to become published writers. Among the benefits provided aspiring writers is a powerfully encouraging inducement to begin writing down their thoughts and observations using the essay as their vehicle; specifically useful, step-by-step instructions for writing eight different categories of personal essays; workable techniques for receiving and utilizing critical feedback; proven tips for getting essays published; as well as an extensive listing of additional resources for the dedicated essayist. There is even a roster of contributors that have helped Sheila Bender to make Writing And Publishing Personal Essays an invaluable and instructive resource for novice essayists, and offer even more experienced writers an extensive refresher along with a few ideas that might be new to them. Highly recommended reading for all aspiring authors regardless of their chosen formats for literary expression.

The Agents Directory
Rachel Vater
Emmis Books
1700 Madison Road, 2nd floor, Cincinnati, OH 45206
1578601444 $19.99

In The Agents Directory: Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Book Or Script by editor-turned-agent Rachel Vater is a veritable compendium of insider information on what a literary agent does, instructions on how to tell a good agent from a bad one, and practical advice on how to approach an agent by mail or at a writer's conference. Avoiding agencies that won't accept new writers or who will charge novice writers money up-front just to read their manuscript, The Agents Directory focuses upon identifying the best literary and script agents who are looking for new author clients. Each individual listing is complete with detailed, up-to-date information about what type of work that particular agent accepts, other authors represented, recent sales, contract information, and submission guidelines. With detailed instructions for writing query letters (complete with examples), a bonus directory of American and Canadian writing conferences, an an extensive list of writer's organizations, The Agents Directory is the the ideal guidebook and instructional reference for aspiring writers wanting to get their work published as profitably as possible.

The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds
Peter Bowerman
Fanove Publishing
3713 Stonewall Circle, Atlanta, GA 30339
0967059852 $19.95

Peter Bowerman's first book on professional writing, The Well-Fed Writer was published in 2000 and established him as an expert in the field. Now he has published The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds. With 95% new content, this is no mere revision, but an original and "user friendly" step-by-step blueprint for selling what you write. The emphasis is upon marketing, promoting, cold-calling, and building up a freelance writing business. Aspiring freelancers will learn how to build up a writing clientele in smaller markets; how to start-up an effective and profitable part-time business as a freelance writer; learn to remove anxiety and fear from doing sales and marketing for what they write; learn the techniques of innovative marketing campaigns using direct mail, e-mail, and faxes; develop a mindset that will endure and thrive in economic good times and bad times; develop potent strategies for networking success; discover how to write profitable for unusual and niche markets; even how to team up with fellow writers for co-authored projects. The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds is enhanced further with specific sections on "Being a More Effective and Creative Writers"; self-publishing; answers to frequently asked questions about writing for profit; and writing/marketing resources for the successful freelancer. If you are serious about wanting to earn from what you write, then give a complete and careful reading to Peter Bowerman's The Well-Fed Writer: Back For Seconds.

Letters Of Credit
Walter Tracy
David R. Godine
PO Box 450, Jaffrey, NH 03452
1567922406 $19.95 1-800-344-4771

Typesetting has evolved from a hands-on metalworking skill to one generated by photos and computers - and the changing methods shows no signs of stability. Walter Tracy's Letters Of Credit: A View Of Type Design traces the movement from hot metal production to computers, arguing the letter forms themselves are always in a state of flux, no matter what their delivery system. Tracy has fifty years of professional experience as head of type design: his analysis criticizes type-design aesthetics and identifies common elements of hype and misinformation in the industry.

Publishing Confidential
Paul B. Brown
1601 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
0814472265 $14.95 1-800-250-5308

Paul B. Brown's Publishing Confidential: The Insider's Guide To What It Really Takes To Land A Nonfiction Book Deal deserves ongoing mention as an exceptional reference on what it takes to get a nonfiction book published and marketed. Brown has written many other successful business books and his background as former reporter for Business Week, Forbes, and other notable industry reference magazines lends to a guided survey of the entire publishing industry and its marketing politics.

The Education Of A Typographer
Steven Heller, editor
Allworth Press
10 E. 23rd St. #510, NY, NY 10010
1581153481 $19.95 1-800-491-2808

It's important to learn the elements of type before embarking on an exploration of graphic design: that's what makes Steven Heller's The Education Of A Typographer so important. Essays, interviews, and course syllabi explore the basics of teaching and learning typography, with writing by top designers and educators providing insights on the finer points of typography. Discussions cover everything from how to choose type among the hundreds of choices available to common elements of sloppy typographical choices, how to identify and eliminate them, and understanding typographic delivery to different audiences.

Forms Folds Sizes
Poppy Evans
Rockport Publishers
33 Commercial St., Gloucaster MA 01930
1592530540 $30.00

Any graphic designer working with forms and folds or the written word will find Poppy Evans' Forms Fold Sizes a 'must' for properly designing everything from brochures and envelopes to laying out the written word. Here are informed and informative discussions of type measures, postal standards, typography - virtually everything needed to graphically translate the written word properly, whether it be to page, envelope, or folder. Forms Folds Sizes is an essential guide and strongly recommended for professional and academic Graphic Arts collections, as well as the publisher reference resource shelf.

A Heavenly Craft
Daniel De Simone, editor
George Braziller
171 Madison Ave., NY, NY 10016
0807615366 $50.00 1-800-233-4830

Author Daniel De Simone is curator of the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection at the Library of Congress, and his background lends well to an authoritative survey of 19th and 20th century scholarship on early woodcuts in hand-printed books. Other experts join in the production of A Heavenly Craft: The Woodcut In Early Printed Books with articles considering major woodcut book editions, from religious texts to period productions around the world. Add a healthy dose of color reproductions and fine close-ups and you have a seminal contribution to publishing history collections and supplemental reading lists -- as well as a specialty art library 'must'.

Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript
Cynthia Laufenberg
Writer's Digest Book/F&W Pub.
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
1582972907 $19.99 1-800-289-0963

Create appropriate, notable submissions for publication, from proposals and cover letters to complete manuscripts, using Cynthia Laufenberg's invaluable informational guide. Now in an updated and expanded second edition, Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript is a 'must' for any writer aspiring to publication. Especially valuable are the tips on common mistakes made in the usual submission process, whether it be the initial query letter or the completed work.

And even though it's not technically a "how to" book for writing or publishing, this one is for all of those dedicated bibliophiles who have ended up as writers or publishers -- plus, it's a terrific resource for any author or publisher wanting to plan an independent bookstore oriented promotional tour:

Bookstore Tourism
Larry Portzline
Bookshop Junkie Press
PO Box 6067, Harrisburg, PA 17112-6067
0975893408 $10.00 1-717-541-0710

Bookstore Tourism: The Book Addict's Guide To Planning & Promoting Bookstore Road Trips For Bibliophiles & Other Bookshop Junkies by author and bibliophile Larry Portzlne is a combination tour guide, planner, and celebration of the independent bookstore. The result of the author's campaign of innovative grassroot efforts to promote and support independent bookstores through identifying them as a tourist destination and crating a new travel niche specifically designed for booklovers, Bookstore Tourism is as much fun as it is informational and is a superbly conceived and executed tool for the promotion of reading, literacy, travel, tourism, independent bookstores, and a shared love of books. There is also a very special serendipity with respect to Bookstore Tourism. It is an ideal reference and resource for authors and small press publishers seeking to create their own book tours, establish bookstore events within the community of independent bookstores across the nation. Of special note and value are the appendices providing contact information for national bookseller associations; regional bookseller associations; American literary and book festivals; a listing of books about books, bookstores, and reading groups; and state-by-state resource listings for agencies and bureaus dealing with the arts, economic development, history, libraries, and tourism. One of the most inexpensive and useful book oriented resources, the 104-page Bookstore Tourism is enthusiastically recommended for bibliophiles, authors, publishers, and booklovers everywhere.

I've long advocated that every earnest writer and every serious publisher should set aside at least 15 minutes a day to simply read about their craft and business. To be a successful writer, to be a commercially viable publisher, you need to consider yourself a life-long student -- believe me, no matter how much you know (or think you know), there's always something new to learn.

Now here's some Q&A from my email bag:


I got your name and contact information from The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing which is guiding me through the self-publishing process. I understand that you do book reviews for self-publishers. May I send you my book? If you wish to prequalify the book, you can go to to read an excerpt.

Thanks much
Sherry Evans

The Midwest Book Review is written up in more than a dozen different "how to" books for publishers, as well as regional and national publisher newsletters, that scarcely a week passes by when I don't get an email inquiry like this one from Sherry. I simply don't have the time to go out to a website to read a selection from a book proposed to my attention for review purposes. So if you think you'd like to have your book(s) considered by the Midwest Book Review, simply send them (accompanied by a cover letter and a publicity release) to my attention as follows:

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575

If you are new to cover letters and publicity releases, go to the Midwest Book Review website and click on "Advice For Publishers" where you will find archived a whole series of "how to" articles on virtually every aspect of the publishing process. One of them is about writing effective cover letters, another is on creating an effective publicity release. There are also informative articles on book reviewing and the book review process that everyone should read -- especially the one titled "How to Spot a Phony Book Reviewer".

And now some "Unsolicited Testimonials!

Dear Mr. Cox,

I love you! Yes, I got your letter and the book review for "Building a Cool House without Scorching the Pocketbook" today. I am so happy and appreciative. I am walking around smiling and hugging people.

With love and appreciation,
Joy V. Smith

I love to be loved -- and who doesn't appreciate being appreciated!! -- Jim

Dear Jim:

From Dan Poynter's 'The Self Publishing Manual' to Tom & Marilyn Ross' 'The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing' there is no one in the self-publishing or small press business that doesn't recommend YOU! In fact the Ross say:

"...his reviews are welcomed and respected." You can get better than that!!

As you well know there is a huge learning curve in the publishing business and I am on the first track, but moving along on a daily basis. I submitted my new book Let's Sail Away (Wings Publishing) ISBN:0-97549-140-7, a children's book illustrated and written by September McGee for review on December 8, 2004 to you and still hope (fingers crossed) to see it on your web site. It's a gem and I am very proud of it. I sent it complete with press kit, etc. It's a fun loving story with a timely message about preserving tide pools with a novel layout and engaging illustrations. I just spent two hours on your website and had fun reading all the reviews and your reports and learned volumes. I realize the volume of books you review and that is mind boggling - fun, but mind boggling.

I just recently became a new member of the PMA which I am proud to join all the 3800+ small publishers out there sharing our creative endeavors.

I just wanted to say thank you for contributing so much to the world of publishing and particulary for helping the small publishers such as myself build a foundation from which to grow. I created Wings Publishing for several reasons, one of which was to give Let's Sail Away a timely publication instead of waiting 18 months, and the other was to have complete creative freedom!

My company's satement is this: Wings Publishing was founded in 2004 to offer inspiring, fun loving books for children (and adults) of all ages. Given 'Wings', we can all learn to fly!

Thanks for the winds beneath my wings Jim. I really do appreciate it.

I was never in this for the money -- mostly because I married rich. I was (and continue to be) in this for the feeling of materially contributing to world of books -- which I regard as the only truly enduring cultural, scientific, and humanitarian legacy that past generations can leave to future generations. -- and these "Thank You" notes help to document and justify my efforts in behalf of readers, writers, and publishers -- and make my day clear into the middle of next week! -- Jim


Thanks so much for the review of "Dream" by Susan V. Bosak in the December 2004 issue of Children's Bookwatch.

I know you get a lot of books in. We put five long years into this particular book's development, and we appreciate the enthusiastic review and you helping to get the word out. The book has won four awards so far, including being chosen by the American Booksellers Association as a Book Sense Children's Pick. We're off to a good start!

Thanks again for your interest. Happy new year!

Brian Puppa

It's always nice to hear how a book has fared that I thought had merit and could be recommended to its intended or targeted readership. It's also nice to hear that other critics as well as the marketplace share my favorable opinion of a book. -- Jim

Dear Jim,

Many thanks for the really great review of Bohemian Cats. We are delighted - and of course purring and washing our whiskers.

I just wanted to check that it's okay for us to quote the review on future press and publicity releases? It's certainly one we are very proud of so we'd like to go around shouting it from the roof-tops.

Our next "Cats" book will be Nosfelinu the Vampuss - a faithful rendition of the Bram Stoker original, but with cats, naturally. Due out in Autumn 2005, it features an all-star cast that includes a hairless Sphinx cat (the old Vampuss himself). We'll of course be sending you a copy.

Many thanks again, and all best wishes for the continuing success of Midwest Book Review.

Kind regards,

Karen Mahony
The Magic Realist Press

Authors and publishers automatically have complete permission to utlize any review generated here at the Midwest Book Review in their attempts to publicize, promote and market their book. In my personal and professional opinion, it's the only quid pro quo that is ethical between publishers and reviewers. Publishers provide a free copy of the book, reviewers provide a copy of their review to the publisher thus providing an assessment and recommendation of the book in question.

Sometimes that assessment will be unfavorable and the recommendation is to reject it. Sometimes that assessment will be favorable and the recommendation is to read it. That's all a matter of individual taste and judgement on the part of the reviewer. But positive or negative, the publisher has a right to that review for what ever purposes it may serve.

Now it's time to thank all the wonderful people who have donated postage stamps to the Midwest Book Review this past month as a gesture of approval and support for what we try to do here in behalf of the small press community. My heart felt thanks to these latest members of the Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall Of Fame!

Joy V. Smith - Lakeland, Florida
Robert H. Miller - Louisville, Kentucky
Lee Ames - Mission Viejo, California
Stacey Tipton - The Musical Linguist
Yardena Rand - Maverick Spirit Press
Judith Palmateer - Beaver's Pond Press
Douglas Miller - Granite Hills Press
Susan Gibbs - Hawkshadow Publishing Company
Brenda J. Ponichtera - ScaleDown Publishing, Inc.
September McGee - Wings Publishing
Carol L. Kaiser - Little Philosophies Press

If you'd like to donate some stamps, feel free (but never obligated!) send them to:

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

One final note: Once again I've agreed to have the Midwest Book Review be one of the prizes in the 13th Annual Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards contest. The reward is in the form of a quaranteed review for the Grand-Prize Winner, and the First-Place Winners in the nine various categories: Mainstream/Literary Fiction; Genre Fiction; Nonfiction; Inspirational; Life Stories; Children's and Young Adult Books; Reference Books; Poetry; and Cookbooks. The deadline for submissions to this annual contest is May 2, 2005. For more detailed information about the contest, contact Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards at 4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45236 or go to the contest link on the "Writer's Digest" website at

For those of you who are new to the "Jim Cox Report", you can receive it directly and for free by simply sending me an email requesting me to sign you up for it.

So until next time -- Goodbye, Good Luck, and Good Reading!

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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