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Jim Cox Report: May 2021

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

One of the major perks of being the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review is to be a recipient of some of the best newsletters and blogs the publishing industry has to offer writers, publishers, booksellers, and reviewers. One of the best of these is Marsha Friedman's The PR Insider's Blog. She's given me permission to share her thoughts on:

How To Hire The Best PR Firm For You

I often talk to people who know they need publicity and want professional help to get it, but find and hiring PR agencies to be a confusing and daunting task.

Thatís understandable. Public relations firms differ in a thousand ways, it seems. For one, they use different business models Ė some charge monthly retainer fees while others are pay-for-performance, meaning you pay only for actual media coverage. Firms also have a whole range of specialties, from crisis communications to public affairs to research and analysis. How can you possibly determine which is the right firm for you and your needs?

I shared some practical tips for doing just that in my book, Gaining the Publicity Edge: An Entrepreneurís Guide to Growing Your Brand Through National Media Coverage. I know how valuable PR can be for building your brand, so itís important to be an informed shopper.

If youíre considering hiring a PR firm for the first time, or youíve hired one in the past and were unhappy with the experience, these tips should help.

Find a firm that has successfully dealt with clients in your industry. That firm will understand your industryís idiosyncrasies, its jargon, and what it views as newsworthy. It wonít be trying to learn about your industry on your dollar, and it will already have relationships with relevant publications, blogs, and TV and radio shows. If youíre also an author, find a firm that works as well with book reviewers and book bloggers.

Hire a firm that specializes in the right media for you. Most PR firms specialize in print media (getting editorial coverage in newspapers and magazines, both online and offline), and many focus on social media. But your audience may be watching TV talk shows, or you may like the convenience and immediacy of podcasts and talk radio. The firm should be able to determine whether a particular medium is appropriate for your message and audience, and it should have a strong track record in gaining clients exposure in whichever media they will be using.

Ask to see sample campaigns. This is the only way to get a feel for the work they have done and the quality and quantity of coverage they may be able to obtain for you. Keep in mind that a number of variables influence the success of a campaign, and theyíre not all within the firmís control. Breaking news events are a good example. Still, this should give you a good idea of a firmís track record.

Make sure you understand the fee structure. Many retainer firms add charges for actions they take on your behalf. So in addition to the monthly retainer, you can expect to be billed for materials they write for the press, or time spent on research, phone charges, copying, postage, etc. This can make it hard to plan your budget.

Try to find a firm whose fees are tied to performance. One of the reasons I chose to make my company a ďpay-for-performanceĒ model was to ensure clients would leave satisfied. For example, if they pay for 15 talk radio and podcast interviews, thatís what they get. And if we canít get them all 15 in a predetermined amount of time, we will return the money for those we canít schedule or compensate them another way. I prefer this approach over the retainer fee model, which can cost you thousands of dollars a month with no guarantee of results.

Keep in mind the most important thing is to find a company that you feel understands you and your message, and that you will be comfortable working with. They should be as enthusiastic as you are about promoting your company, product or book.

If your PR firm heartily supports your cause and performs like a real member of your team, you are both in for a truly rewarding experience.

Happy publicizing!

Marsha Friedman
The PR Insider's Blog
News & Experts

Now here is a review of books that will be of particular and special interest to writers and their publishers:

The Family Business
Keel Hunt
West Margin Press
9781513267210, $24.95, HC, 226pp

Synopsis: The history of the Ingram Content Group is one of the most important and remarkable publishing industry stories that almost no one knows. Launched as a favor to a family friend, it started as a local textbook distributor -- one tiny division within a thriving corporation focused on oil, construction supplies, and shipping. From those humble beginnings it grew into the world's largest book wholesaler, then into the most influential and innovative supplier of infrastructure and services to publishers around the world.

Over the past 50 years, from its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, Ingram has played a pivotal role in modernizing the book business. Two members of the founding family have led the way: Bronson Ingram, a tough-minded industrialist who instinctively recognized a golden opportunity to apply modern efficiencies to antiquated logistical systems, and Bronson's son John Ingram, an "intrapreneur" with a keen understanding of both the opportunities and the risks created by the new digital technologies. Led by these two brilliant managers, Ingram has used its unparalleled industry-wide connections to help transform book publishing from a tradition-bound business into a dynamic, global twenty-first century powerhouse.

Now, for the first time, "The Family Business: How Ingram Transformed the World of Books" by Keel Hunt fully captures the whole story. In its pages, readers will learn about: The introduction of the Ingram microfiche reader in 1972 and how it catapulted book retailing into the electronic era; Ingram's network of coast-to-coast distribution centers turning U.S. book publishing into a truly national business for the first time; Ingram using fast-growing video, software, magazine, and international wholesaling operations to create a phenomenal record of expansion, growing from a million-dollar company into a billion-dollar giant in just two decades; Two of book publishing's most powerful organizations (Ingram and Barnes & Noble) almost coming within a hair's breadth of merging, and how the deal fell apart at the eleventh hour.

Also revealed is: Ingram's unparalleled ability to rapidly fulfill product orders empowering Amazon's unique customer service model and enabling its explosive growth; Lightning Source, a technological marvel spawned by Ingram, converting the "long tail" of niche books from a costly headache for publishers and retailers into a steady source of profitable sales; Ingram's transformation of the book supply chain enabling countless booksellers and publishers to survive and even thrive in the disruptive era of Covid-19.

Today, with Ingram's expanding portfolio of service and infrastructure businesses playing an ever-growing role in the world of publishing, the company stands ready to help lead the industry into an era of even more dramatic change.

"The Family Business" is the first publishing industry study to recount the story of this strategic powerhouse that everyone in the publishing industry does business with, and that practically everyone admires -- but that few people really understand.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, impressively comprehensive, meticulously researched, "The Family Business: How Ingram Transformed the World of Books" is essential reading for authors, publishers, book publicists, book sellers, distributors and wholesalers, as well as anyone in the book business and the world of media -- as well as the bibliophile and non-specialist general reader wanting to understand how this vastly influential publishing industry really works, as well as the ways in which today's electronic information technologies are transforming the world. While also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99), "The Family Business: How Ingram Transformed the World of Books" is an essential, core addition to community, college and university library Writing/Publishing collections.

Editorial Note: Keel Hunt is the author of two books on Tennessee political history and has been a columnist for the USA Today Tennessee network since 2013. In his early career, he was a journalist and Washington correspondent. He has been an adviser to the Ingram family and Ingram businesses since 1995.

Writing the Novella
Sharon Oard Warner
University of New Mexico Press
1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM 87131-0001
9780826362551, $19.95, PB, 248pp

Synopsis: A novella is a short novel, that is, a narrative prose fiction whose length is shorter than that of most novels, but longer than most short stories. No official definition exists regarding the number of pages or words necessary for a story to be considered a novella or a novel. US-based Writers of America defines novella's word count to be between 17,500 and 40,000 words. (Wikipedia)

While the novella has existed as a distinct literary form for over four hundred years, "Writing the Novella" by Sharon Oard Warner is the first craft book dedicated to creating this intermediate-length fiction. Innovative, integrated journal prompts inspire and sustain the creative process, and classic novellas serve as examples throughout.

Part 1 defines the novella form and steers early decision-making on situation, character, plot, and point of view. Part 2 provides detailed directions for writing the scenic plot points that support a strong but flexible narrative arc. Appendix materials include a list of recommended novellas, publishing opportunities, and blank templates for the story map, graphs, and charts used throughout the book.

By turns instructive and inspirational, "Writing the Novella" will be a welcome resource for new and experienced writers alike.

Critique: A complete and comprehensive course of instruction under one cover, "Writing the Novella" must be considered essential reading for any aspiring or experience author wanting to explore and practice this very special form of fictional literature. Especially well organized and presented, "Writing the Novella" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college and university library Fiction Writing instructional reference collection. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Writing the Novella" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.49).

Editorial Note: Sharon Oard Warner is a professor emerita of English and creative writing at the University of New Mexico. She is the author of several books, including Sophie's House of Cards: A Novel (UNM Press).

The Hollywood Standard, third edition
Christopher Riley
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781615933228, $29.95, PB, 220pp

Synopsis: Intended to be kept at a screenwriter's fingertips, and now in a newly updated and expanded third edition, "The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style" by professional script writer Christopher Riley provides what even the best script software cannot -- clear, concise instructions and hundreds of examples to take the guesswork out of a multitude of formatting questions that perplex even seasoned screenwriters.

"The Hollywood Standard" includes: When a new scene heading is appropriate and when it isn't; How to format shot headings, dialogue, direction and transitions; How to control pace with formatting; How to make a script page visually inviting to the reader; What to capitalize and why; How to get into and out of a POV shot; How to handle text messages and Zoom meetings; How Hollywood's most innovative screenwriters are pushing the boundaries of format; How format for animation differs from live action formats.

Critique: Simply put, Riley knows more about script format than anyone in Hollywood and shares it all in this indispensable guide for any aspiring script writer wanting their project to be picked up and produced. Comprehensive and thoroughly 'user friendly' in commentary, content, organization and presentation, this new third edition of "The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, college and university library Screenwriting instructional reference collections.

Editorial Note: Christopher Riley is an American screenwriter whose first film, After The Truth, (a multiple-award-winning courtroom thriller) sparked international controversy when it was released in Germany in 1999. Other credits include 25 To Life, written for Touchstone Pictures, The Other White House, written for Sean Connery's Fountainbridge Films, Aces, written for Paramount Pictures and Emmy-winning producer Robert Cort, and an adaptation of the book Actual Innocence, for Mandalay Television Pictures and the Fox television network. Riley is also a 14-year veteran of the Warner Bros. script department, and from 2005 through 2008, served as director of the acclaimed Act One Writing Program in Hollywood. He executive produced the groundbreaking 2010 web series Bump+ and produced the 2013 feature film, Red Line. He teaches screenwriting at John Paul the Great Catholic University.

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:

Julia Chang
Sylvia Bodmer
David McElrath
Eric Lotke -- "Union Made"
Paul Fuller -- "The Sisterhood"
Kitty Felde -- "State of the Union"
M.S.P. Williams -- "Listen Mama"
Rob Couteau -- "Collected Poems"
Sylvia True -- "Where Madness Lies"
Neal Scidmore -- "Mortal Conspiracy"
Acadia Tucker -- "Tiny Victory Gardens"
JoAnn Vicnair -- "It's Storytime, Memaw!"
Barbara King -- "The California Immigrant"
Marc Levy -- "The Best of Medic in the Green Time"
Theodore Cohen -- "Flash Fiction Stories of the Warrior"
Bill Amatneek -- "Heart of a Man: Men's Stories for Women"
Andrew Temte -- "Balancing Act: Teach Coach Mentor Inspire"
Elisabeth Sharp McKetta -- "She Never Told Me About the Ocean"
Vineyards Press
Stone Pier Press
Role of the Least-Aspected Planet
Carolyn Wilhelm -- Wise Owl Factory
Betsy Delmonico -- Golden Apple Press
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Karen Thomas -- Thomas Publis Relations
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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