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Jim Cox Report: May 2019

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

The subject for this month is 'book covers'.

In spite of the age old admonition not to judge a book by its cover -- we all have a tendency to do just that anyway.

For we in the publishing industry it is no surprise that a good cover can enhanced book sales, while a bad cover can dissuade a potential customer (including librarians and book reviewers!) from picking that book up to see if what's inside is any better than that flawed outside.

But I have a specific and practical tip to offer self-publishing authors and neophyte small press publishers who are not skilled at creating or attracting an effective book cover design or image.

Use a thematically appropriate public domain photograph for your cover. And here is where you will find them by the hundreds and the thousands:

And even an informative website specifically on the subject of finding and using a public domain photograph as the cover art for your book:

One of the perks of being the editor-in-chief of a book review organization is that I get to see books on rather esoteric or unusual subject matter. This includes what comes out of academia about writing and publishing. Here is a new one that I particularly like on the arcane issue of writing for scholarly or academic publication that I thought you folk who are interested in the subject might like to know about:

Academic and Professional Writing in an Age of Accountability
Shirley Wilson Logan & Wayne H. Slater, editors
Southern Illinois University Press
1915 University Press Drive
SIUC Mail Code 6806, Carbondale, IL 62901
9780809336913, $45.00, PB, 338pp,

Synopsis: What current theoretical frameworks inform academic and professional writing? What does research tell us about the effectiveness of academic and professional writing programs? What do we know about existing best practices? What are the current guidelines and procedures in evaluating a programís effectiveness? What are the possibilities in regard to future research and changes to best practices in these programs in an age of accountability?

In "Academic and Professional Writing in an Age of Accountability", editors Shirley Wilson Logan (Professor Emerita of English at the University of Maryland) and Wayne H. Slater (Associate Professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland) effectively collaborate in bringing together leading scholars in rhetoric and composition to consider the history, trends, and future of academic and professional writing in higher education through the lens of these five central questions.

The first two essays in "Academic and Professional Writing in an Age of Accountability" provide a history of the academic and professional writing program at the University of Maryland. Subsequent essays explore successes and challenges in the establishment and development of writing programs at four other major institutions, identify the features of language that facilitate academic and professional communication, look at the ways digital practices in academic and professional writing have shaped how writers compose and respond to texts, and examine the role of assessment in curriculum and pedagogy.

An afterword by distinguished rhetoric and composition scholars Jessica Enoch and Scott Wible offers perspectives on the future of academic and professional writing.

This collection takes stock of the historical, rhetorical, linguistic, digital, and evaluative aspects of the teaching of writing in higher education. Among the critical issues addressed are how university writing programs were first established and what early challenges they faced, where writing programs were housed and who administered them, how the language backgrounds of composition students inform the way writing is taught, the ways in which current writing technologies create new digital environments, and how student learning and programmatic outcomes should be assessed.

Critique: An original and seminal work of meticulous scholarship, "Academic and Professional Writing in an Age of Accountability" is a unique and highly recommended addition to community, college, and university library Writing/Publishing collections. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, writers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Academic and Professional Writing in an Age of Accountability" is also available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $35.99).

Now here are reviews of new books with particular relevance and interest for authors and publishers:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

The Writer's Guide to Self-Editing
Naveed Saleh
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9781476671598, $29.95, PB, 200pp,

Over the years, technological advances have given publishers the ability to produce more books and online publications with greater speed. This new efficiency, however, has increased editors' workloads, limiting the amount of detailed editorial feedback they can provide authors. In turn, writers must become self-editors, ensuring that their text is nearly perfect upon submission. "The Writer's Guide to Self-Editing: Essential Tips for Online and Print Publication" by Naveed Saleh (who is a science writer and editor that has written for various online and print publications and is a long-time blogger at Psychology Today) serves as a guide to self-editing nonfiction print and online publications, including articles for general and academic audiences. It is both prescriptive and descriptive, drawing from stylebooks, dictionaries, research, and more to provide a full picture of both style and grammar. Also provided are techniques that boost search-engine optimization and engagement of Internet audiences. The single greatest weakness of most self- published authors is a lack of effective editing. "The Writer's Guide to Self-Editing" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections.

The Bloomsbury Introduction to Creative Writing
Tara Mokhtari
Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781350056688, $29.95, PB, 296pp,

Covering all of the major genres, this fully updated and expanded second edition of "The Bloomsbury Introduction to Creative Writing" by Tara Mokhtari (Assistant Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at the Bronx Community College) is a complete introductory manual for students of creative writing. This new edition of "The Bloomsbury Introduction to Creative Writing" features an updated and expanded chapter on writing for digital media, and new exercises for reading across the genres and writing hybrid forms. Through a structured series of practical writing exercises (which are perfect for the classroom, the writer's workshop or as a starting point for a portfolio of work) "The Bloomsbury Introduction to Creative Writing" builds the student writer from the first explorations of voice and the relationship between writing and knowledge, through to mastery of a wide range of genres and forms. "The Bloomsbury Introduction to Creative Writing) deftly covers such genres as: Autobiographical writing; Short fiction; Poetry; Screenwriting and writing for performance; Writing for digital media, including video games and social media. With practical guidance on writing scholarly critiques of your own work and a glossary of terms for ease of reference, "The Bloomsbury Introduction to Creative Writing" is an essential and fundamental manual for any introductory creative writing course and a practical companion for more advanced writers. While very highly recommended as a curriculum textbook for highschool and college Creative Writing courses, and unreservedly recommended for community, highschool, college, and university library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, aspiring writers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Bloomsbury Introduction to Creative Writing" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $26.95).

21st Century Playwriting
Timothy Daly
Smith & Kraus Publishers
177 Lyme Road, Lyme NH 03755-6610
9781575259222, $21.95, PB, 477pp,

Timothy Daly's plays have been produced all over the world. Actors such as Academy-Award winners Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush and Oscar-nominated actor Jack Weaver have all appeared in his plays. He has taught and mentored hundreds of playwrights in many different countries. In "21st Century Playwriting, A Manual of Contemporary Techniques" Daly provides the most detailed analysis of contemporary playwriting techniques ever published. A decade in the making, "21st Century Playwriting" examines the contemporary theatre scene and the skills and writing techniques needed to succeed as a modern playwright. No other book goes into such depth and detail on areas like dramatic structure, story-shaping, characterization and the contemporary language techniques used in modern playwriting. Blending theatre tradition and radical aesthetic, "21st Century Playwriting" is perfect for both new playwrights and more experienced writers wishing to refresh and modernize their writing, as well as anyone interested in the rarely-discussed techniques that go into the making of contemporary theatre and its scripts. Offers a wealth of useful writing tips, as well as an understanding of how radically theatre has changed in the 21st century, "21st Century Playwriting" is an especially recommended addition to both community and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections, and a 'must read' for anyone aspiring to write a play for the stage, for film, or for television.

Bulletproof: Writing Scripts that Don't Get Shot Down
David Diamond & David Weissman
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781615932993, $26.95, PB, 180pp,

The team successful script writing team of Diamond and Weissman have been writing movies and mentoring filmmakers for decades. "Bulletproof: Writing Scripts that Don't Get Shot Down" is their practical guide taking aspiring writer by the hand and guiding them through the logistics and tools of writing an attention-grabbing, audience-pleasing screenplay. They will learn the interests and needs of managers, agents, producers, executives, financiers, directors, and actors. Diamond and Weissman attribute their phenomenal success to a career-long focus on the motives and priorities of film sponsors and benefactors. Whether it's a theatrical release or a streaming movie, a major, big-budget tent pole or an intimate, character-driven indie drama, Diamond and Weissman apply their time-tested approach and offer aspiring script writers a fresh way of thinking will resonate with industry professionals, and cinephiles excited to peek under the hood at what makes their favorite films tick. "Bulletproof" is that rare screen writing instructional guide and manual penned by authors with both massive credits and decades of business experience. Simply stated, "Bulletproof" is a 'must-read' for any and all aspiring script writers seeking to get their work transformed in film productions. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Bulletproof" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $25.60).

A Sidecar Named Desire
Greg Clarke & Monte Beauchamp
Dey St.
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway, New York, New York 10007
9780062696380, $19.99, HC, 192pp,

Throughout history, there has been no greater catalyst for creativity among writers than alcohol in the form of a good, stiff drink -- or so they claim. "A Sidecar Named Desire: Great Writers and the Booze That Stirred Them" is a graphic volume in which authors Greg Clarke and Monte Beauchamp take the on an unforgettable literary bar crawl that is packed from cover to cover with historical factoids, anecdotes, booze trivia, and fascinating detours into the lives of many successful and acclaimed writers -- along with literary-themed cocktail recipes such as Ernest Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon and Philip Larkin's Gin and Tonic (set to verse). For the literary-minded drinker, whether wine, gin, vodka, beer, whiskey, or tequila is the elixir of choice, "A Sidecar Named Desire" will prove to be an inherently fascinating, informative, and occasionally iconoclastic read. Also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99), "A Sidecar Named Desire" is a fun and recommended read for all aspiring and laboring writers. While highly recommended for community and academic library collections, it should also be noted that "A Sidecar Named Desire" is also available as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9781982554552, $25.99, CD).

Seven Steps to Confident Writing
Alan Gelb
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
9781608685448 $16.95 pbk / $10.98 Kindle

Author, writing coach, and communications consultant for higher education Alan Gelb presents Seven Steps to Confident Writing, a guide to overcoming anxiety, self-doubt, and emotional hurdles to writing. Whether crafting a business memo, a speech, a blog or magazine article, a research paper, or a novel, Seven Steps to Confident Writing is an invaluable tool for breaking through paralysis and writer's block. Chapters focus on the value of incorporating storytelling anecdotes into one's communication, the importance of paying attention to one's tone, the "lapidary work" of refining, condensing, and editing one's writing into a polished piece, and more. Seven Steps to Confident Writing is a "must-have" not only for aspiring authors, but also for professionals in every field that requires writing! Highly recommended.

Tarot for the Fiction Writer
Paula Chaffee Scardamalia
Red Feather
c/o Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
4880 Lower Valley Road, Atglen, PA 19310
9780764357237, $24.99, HC, 192pp,

Paula Chaffee Scardamalia uses myth, fairy tale, Tarot, and dreams to write fiction and nonfiction, to guide book coaching clients, and to teach writers around the country. She is the award-winning author of the nonfiction book, Weaving a Woman's Life: Spiritual Lessons from the Loom. Writing a novel is a wild, unpredictable (and oftentimes stormy) adventure. And sometimes aspiring writers and seasoned veteran authors alike need a compass to guide them. Because story is inherent in Tarot's structure, it is an effective map and storytelling tool -- whether writing a novel in progress or starting out on a brand-new endeavor. In "Tarot for the Fiction Writer: How 78 Cards Can Take You from Idea to Publication", Paula draws upon her years of experience and expertise with tarot myths, symbols, characters, settings, and innumerable combinations as a powerful, portable, and imaginative tool for story development, to show their value in editing and revisions, publication, and promotion. Each individual card has a story to tell and can help to map out a book. With "Tarot for the Fiction Writer", anyone working with any literary genre will discover how to hook their readers; figure out what happens next; find a unique twist in a scene; deepen character backgrounds; create meaningful settings; and identify that "Black Moment" in the storyline. One of the most unique instructional guides for the writing of a short story or a full blown novel, "Tarot for the Fiction Writer" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic writing instructional reference collections.

Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books
Sarah Bolme
Crest Publications
PO Box 481022, Charlotte, NC 28269
9780991299515, $24.99, PB, 242pp,

Sarah Bolme is the Director of Christian Indie Publishing Association, which exists to assist independent authors and small publishers in marketing Christian books. Sarah frequently conducts seminars for writers and publishers on indie publishing and marketing. Sarah has an informative blog at Now in a fully updated fourth edition, "Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books" Sarah provides the advice and resources needed for an author or a publisher to promote a Christian book successfully! This award-winning resource is packed from cover to cover with valuable information on promoting Christian books. "Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books" features a wealth of specific resources from launching the book, to connecting with consumers and retailers, to obtaining media coverage, to utilizing social networking. This exceptionally well organized and presented guide walks authors and publishers step-by-step through the various aspects of book promotion. It is an ideal and thoroughly 'user friendly' resource for authors and publishers. It should also be noted that the Midwest Book Review is cited on page 35 as a resource for the authors and publishers of Christian books.

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:

Evans Priligkos
Thomas D. Furst
Harold W. Thorpe
Christina Waldman
Mercedes Frazone-Morales
Andy Furillo -- "The First Year"
Lucille Newman -- "Wonder of Water"
Georgia Batsidis -- "Love Me, Love Me Not"
Christian Hofsetz -- "Challenges of the Gods"
Thomas Furst -- "Torah Mysteries Illuminated"
Harold William Thorpe -- "Strawberry Summer"
Jerry Brown Schwartz -- "Cha Cha's Rainbow End"
Carolyn Wilhelm -- Wise Owl Factory
Joanne McCall -- McCall Media Group
Barbara C. Wall -- The Barrett Company
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!

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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