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Jim Cox Report: March 2009

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Most people write and publish books for a profit, for a cause, or for the simple fun of it. Then there are we who are driven to write and/or publish by irresistible compulsions and by the demands of our own egos to share with the world what we think about this or that subject or issue, concern or conceit.

How else to explain the massive increases in self-published titles during a time of equally massive economic declines? February is not only the shortest month of the year, it's also the traditional nadir or low point of the annual publishing cycles in terms of the numbers of books coming into the marketplace as evidenced by how many books show up on my desk in the hopes of obtaining a review.

But not this year! Not this "Great Recession" February!! Over the past couple of years The Midwest Book Review received a monthly average of about 2300 titles. That means in high volume publishing months like October that number jumps to around 3,000 titles. For the previously recorded Februarys it tended to drop off to around 1800 or so. But last month the number of submitted titles stayed steady at 2242 -- I counted.

How to explain this seemingly contradictory phenomena of the worse the economy gets the more small press books are getting published?

I suspect a number of factors are at play here.

Firstly, the publishing lists of the New York conglomerate publishers (the Simon & Schusters of the publishing world) are reducing their lists making it harder than ever for first time writers and mid-list authors to get published. So they are turning to smaller, regional, academic, and even POD companies to get their works into print.

Secondly -- people getting laid off of white collar jobs are turning to writing and publishing as a means of making money because they now have the enforced leisure time to do so -- and the already present computers and word processing softwares associated with 'desk top publishing' that make it fairly easy to carry out.

Thirdly, the POD companies are continuing to proliferate making self-publishing as easy as writing out a check or typing in a credit card number.

Fourthly, the advent of eBooks and electronic publishing is making the production of books about as inexpensive as anything else an entrepreneur could try when the cost of goods and services throughout the rest of a cratering economy are only getting more expensive as the economy itself weakens further.

Fifthly, the numbers of 'how to' books on being a successful publisher are increasing -- and as a whole, getting better and better at helping their readers master the 'learning curve' associated with all aspects of the publishing process -- including marketing, publicity and promotion.

As for why the Midwest Book Review has not experienced any diminishing of the numbers of titles being submitted for review -- I attribute that to an established and widely spread reputation for being accessible to self-published authors and small press publishers. Not only through being cited and recommended in so many of those aforementioned (and proliferating) 'how to' books, but popping up in publishing oriented newsletters, websites, and online discussion groups.

At least once a week I get a phone call from someone who read about us or heard about us from a source that I had no previous knowledge of .

These are just some quite musings on a phenomena that seems counter-intuitive -- but makes sense if examined more closely.

Usually I have reviews on 'how to' books with respect to writing and publishing. This month I've decided that the economic problems facing all writers and publishers warrants my sharing some reviews of 'how to' books relevant to operating a small business or entrepreneurial enterprise -- which is precisely what self-published authors and small press publishers are doing.

The Business Shelf

You Can Do It Too
Rachel Bridge
Kogan Page
525 South 4th Street, #241, Philadelphia, PA 19147
9780749451530, $29.95,

Fundamentals are the basics, but all too often, even the basics are ignored. "You Can Do It Too: The Twenty Essential Things Every Budding Entrepreneur Should Know" is a compilation of twenty bits of advice and wisdom that Rachel Bridge has deemed utterly necessary for an entrepreneur to succeed in today's competitive world. Drawing additional advice from countless people at varying levels of success, "You Can Do It Too" is highly recommended for those just starting out in the tough world of business.

Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth
John M. Leonetti
111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030
Jane Wesman Public Relations (publicity)
322 Eighth Avenue, Suite 1702, New York, NY 10001
9780470376188, $49.95,

There comes a time when one must leave what they have worked on for so long. "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth: A Strategic Guide for Owners and Their Advisors" is a guide to extracting oneself from one's business. An exit strategy for business is needed, in order to keep one's own prosperity as well as that of the businesses. With special chapters on realizing when one is a workaholic, moving onto a different career or retiring, and setting realistic exit goals, "Exiting Your Business, Protecting Your Wealth" is a must for business owners who want to move on.

The Big Idea
Donny Deutsch with Catherine Whitney
77 West 66th Street, New York NY 10023-6298
9781401323219, $25.95

Donny Deutsch's hit CNBC show THE BIG IDEA profiles business people who have made their dreams come true, illustrating that big business ideas are developed, not inspirations from above. The entrepreneurs featured didn't necessarily have lots of money, either, or experience. They had an observation, an idea, and the willpower to follow it through to profits - and THE BIG IDEA illustrates how. Libraries both business and general-interest will find it a popular pick offering easy-reading ideas and inspiration.

Hiring An Employee
Linda Hill
Harvard Business School Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163
9781422125823, $9.95,

Because training and retaining an employee is one of the most expensive investments a business can make, special care must be engaged in selecting the most appropriate and promising candidate for any position from custodian to CEO. Pare of the outstanding Harvard Business Press 'Pocket Mentor' series of instructional business handbooks, "Hiring An Employee: Expert Solutions To Everyday Challenges" by Linda A. Hill (Professor of Organizational Behavior and Chair of the Leadership Initiative at the Harvard Business School) is a 79-page pocket book that will provide invaluable advice on laying out all the particular elements of a job ranging from the skills sets required to the personality traits desired. "Hiring An Employee" directly addresses how to prepare for and how to conduct a successful hiring interview and make an appropriate, persuasive offer to a desired candidate for the available position. Packed from cover to cover with 'user friendly' interview tools, self-tests and real life examples, "Hiring An Employee" is strongly recommended reading for anyone tasked with the responsibility of screening and selecting the best possible candidate for any given employment position.

5 Steps to Expert
Paul G. Schempp
Davies-Black Publishing.
1055 Joaquin Road, 2nd Floor, Mountain View, CA 94043
9780891061144, $22.95,

Natural prodigies are rare, but one doesn't need to be one to be an expert. "5 Steps to Expert: How to Go from Business Novice to Elite Performer" is a guide to learning and mastering one's business from being a beginner all the way to the mastery of one's craft. Outlining the many parts on the road to mastery, and how to wisely apply it, "5 Steps to Expert" is a must for any businessman who is just starting out in an unfamiliar field.

Emotional Intelligence for Managing Results in a Diverse World
Lee Gardenswartz, Jorge Cherbosque, & Anita Rowe
Davies-Black Publishing
1055 Joaquin Road, 2nd Floor, Mountain View, CA 94043
9780891062554, $32.95,

Frustration is in plenty of supply when dealing with the hectic avenues of business. "Emotional Intelligence for Managing Results in a Diverse World: The Hard Truth about Soft Skills in the Workplace" is a guide to keeping one's cool when dealing with all the problems and stress that comes with it. Encouraging business people to increase their EQ and empathy with their business partners and clients, "Emotional Intelligence for Managing Results in a Diverse World" is a must for anyone who doesn't want to lose a client based on petty things like hurt feelings.

Strategic Alliances
Steve Steinhilber
Harvard Business Press
60 Harvard Way, Boston, MA 02163
9781422125885, $18.00,

Without friends, few people will ever get anywhere. "Strategic Alliances: Three Ways to Make Them Work" is a business guide which takes a look at and emphasizes the value of strategy in the world of business. A part of the memo to the CEO series, it's aimed at business leaders who are the most vital in forging the alliances in the world of business. A good alliance is the difference between prosperity and bankruptcy, and "Strategic Alliances" is a surefire way to start one's partnership-making skills.

Proving Continuous Improvement with Profit Ability
Russ Jones
American Society for Quality Press (ASQP)
600 N. Plankinton Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53203
9780873897426, $42.00,

It's one thing to turn a profit, or improve one's business, but doing both is a bit more tricky. "Proving Continuous Improvement with Profit Ability" is a business book dedicated to finding the things one needs to do to have profit while still improving one's business. With plenty of tips on increasing sales, cutting losses, efficiency, maximizing profit and creating a harmonious business environment, it's a well thought out business manual from a great business mind in Russ Jones. "Proving Continuous Improvement with Profit Ability" is a solid choice for any business looking to move on up without breaking the bank.

Secrets of Social Media Marketing
Paul Gillin
Quill Driver Books
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721
1884956858, $15.95

"Secrets of Social Media Marketing: How to Use Online Conversations and Customer Communities to Turbo-Charge Your Business" is a powerful, cutting-edge survey for any business library catering to marketers and business owners who wish to learn the new social media method of promoting brands and generating business. It's for newcomers to the topic and offers chapters on everything from podcasting and social networks such as Second Life to using web browsers and identifying on-line sales influencers.

How to Manage People
Michael Armstrong
Kogan Page
525 S. 4th Street, #241, Philadelphia, PA 19147
9780749452414, $17.95

"How to Manage People" is a new book surveying key ideas on motivating people and teams. It presents author Michael Armstrong's knowledge on how to manage teams and staff members and how to get the best results from people, and offers managers a clear and comprehensive course of action. Any business library catering to managers needs this.

In the Land of Difficult People
Terrence L. Gargiulo and Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D.
1601 Broadway, New York NY 10019-7420
0814400299, $19.95

24 fables taken from around the world illustrate 'best practice' ideas for handling difficult people at work. Unlike the usual Western approach, this book provides analysis of different cultural and social reactions to difficulty, and juxtaposes the folk stories with a brief analysis discussing organizational habits that adversely affect organizations at all levels. A lively, intriguing format, this will be enjoyed by both business and general-interest libraries.

Discover Your Inner Economist
Tyler Cowen
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014-3658
9780452289635, $15.00

Plenty of books discuss economic thinking - but how many discuss how to apply such thinking to nontraditional topics? Here one of America's foremost economists examines everyday life and how economic reasoning applies to everyday events. From keys to successful daily interactions to assessing risk, outcome, and financial pros and cons, Discover Your Inner Economist is a powerful pick for both school and general-interest libraries alike.

All of these titles are available through your local community library's "InterLibrary Loan Service".

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

In a previous "Jim Cox Report" the subject of Amazon postings was addressed in which I didn't think that directly reviewed books, but relied on Reader Comments and some book review professionals to post to them on the web site. Then I got this informative email from Carol White -- a long time friend of the Midwest Book Review and a darn good publisher in her own right:

Hi Jim -

Loved your commentary this month - sorry for your illness, but I think WE are the beneficiaries of it!

Just two quick comments. I also thought Amazon did not review books, but I was corrected on the self-pub list awhile back -- it seems that they do. Check this link out:

About 3/4 the way down the page, this is what it says:

How do I send a book to your editorial department for review?

Our editorial team organizes feature presentations, and you're welcome to send them promotional materials or review copies. To submit your book for possible feature or review, send it via the U.S. Postal Service to the address below. Please refer to our extensive list of subject areas to determine which category would best represent your book. Indicating a category will ensure that your request is processed in the most efficient manner possible.
Attn: Editorial - [Product & Category]
701 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1500, Seattle WA 98104

Once your materials are received, they'll be passed along to the appropriate editor(s).

Please know that we receive many editorial submissions each week, and we are unable to acknowledge receipt of a review copy, nor are we able to speculate on whether or not we will be able to review or otherwise promote your title.

The other little known fact about Amazon reviews is that you have to have purchased something from Amazon (and have an account there) to be able to review a book. I've had people try to review my book and you just don't get the proper information to be able to review if you a) haven't logged in and b) haven't purchased something from Amazon.

Hope this information is helpful - and hope you are back on your feet now. You do a tremendous service to self-published authors.

Carol White
RLI Press
P O Box 1115, Wilsonville, OR 97070, 888 522 TRIP (8747)

My thanks to Carol and it only goes to show that even though I've been a "Content Provider" to for all but the first six months of its existence -- there is always something more for me to learn about their constantly evolving operation.

In another "Jim Cox Report" I laid out my definitions of the goals of a reviewer for the Midwest Book Review. I maintained that a good reviewer through their literary critique should seek to help writers to write better, publishers to publish more profitably, booksellers, librarians, and readers to make more successful acquisition judgements.

This prompted the following email response from William Gordon:

In a message dated 6/13/2008 2:36:00 P.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:

That may be your policy, but that is not what independent book reviewers do. They are not writing coaches, publishing consultants, and their job to help authors sell books, but to provide a clear picture of what the book is about and help people decide whether a book is worth the reader's time.

Here is my response to Williams thoughtful commentary:

Dear William:

Perhaps my perspective is shaped by my feeling that one of the principle roles of the Midwest Book Review is that of being an educational resource for writers, publishers, booksellers, librarians, book reviewers, and the reading public.

I feel that an expert reviewer and an expertly crafted review does indeed teach authors how to write better through a well founded critique (be it praise or pan) of what and how they write. For example, when the reviewer points out a specific flaw in the author's writing, whether it be grammar, style, technique, or fact.

Sometimes the flaws or innovations in the physical publication of the book, when pointed out and commented upon by the reviewer, provides the publisher with clues and cues on how to improve the next edition of that particular work or their next publishing project. One very common example is the pros & cons of the cover art. There are also other such aspects as the font size chosen and its impact on an intended readership (e.g., too small for older eyes); the sturdiness of the binding (an important consideration for libraries), etc.

The reviewer also points out to his/her audience or readership what books are to be recommended or avoided. This is an invaluable and educational assist for booksellers, librarians, and targeted readers as to whether to acquire the book for their inventories, collections, or reading lists.

You bring up some very germane issues in response to my position on the responsibilities and role of the book reviewer.

If a reviewer likes a book, he can help the author move books, but independent reviewers are not cheerleaders for the publishing world. A reviewer is free to criticize books if they are bad; praise them if they are good; and produce a mixed review if a book is both. The more sophisticated reviewers are knowledgeable about other books in the author's genre. Reviewers oftentimes can provide a larger context of how or why a particular book is important or not.

Reviewers are not cheerleaders. What I hold forth is that reviewers are educators. They educate the public as to what is good, what is bad, and what is merely mediocre about the books they review. That public-to-be-educated includes not only readers, but also authors, publishers, publicists, booksellers, librarians, and academicians.

And I disagree with your point about drowning out nasty reviews with good reviews. If reviews are nasty and untrue (as opposed to nasty and true) the author should not sit back and allow someone else to paint a false portrait of his work. Both the author and Amazon have the same goal: to sell books. The author and Amazon's goals cannot be met if a malicious or untrue review is allowed to persuade people not to buy the book.

My advice to overwhelm negative reviews with positive ones still holds, whether the negative review is honest or dishonest in its origin and intent.

If a review is dishonest and can be shown to be so, then Amazon and any other reputable database or publication should delete it. However this does not always happen. Sometimes the reasons are indifference or negligence on the part of the database, publication, or online bookseller. Sometimes the reason for refusal or inaction is that the dispute is one of those "he said/she said" arguments that are so hard to separate fact from fiction from hurt feelings. Sometimes maliciousness is in the eye of the beholder -- and different beholders behold differently.

Whatever the reason, if a negative review is not removed upon request, then the most effective recourse I know of is to just drown out number that negative review with positive ones.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Well, I think that's about enough Q&A for now.

As usual, I'm going to conclude this issue of the "Jim Cox Report" with "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:

KRS Edstrom
Kelly Palace
Jennifer Seet -- "Snow Signs"
Mary J. Zelinsky -- "Something Very Wild"
Diana Estill -- "Totally skewed Guide to Life"
Patrick Egan -- The Travels of Annie T. Hastings"
Nancy Mehagian -- "Siren's Feast: An Edible Odyssey"
Lona Mae Shaskan -- "Motogalactic Masters and the Astro Truck Jam"
June's Publishing
T 'n' T Classic Books
Howard Bandy -- Blue Owl Press
Eileen Duhne -- Palace Press
Jeri McCormick -- Fireweed Press
Kendra Wilde -- Trails Ends Books
Connie Kirk -- KenArnoldBooks LLC
Frank Comstock -- Quaker Hill Press
Diana M. Johnson -- Superior Book Publishing Company
Helpful Media
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 (always appreciated, never required), 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.

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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