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Jim Cox Report: November 2004

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

It's been another busy month here at the Midwest Book Review. A lot is going on and I'll start this month's extended monolog with a bit of personal and office gossip, then go on to offer some "tips, tricks & techniques" with respect to publishing, and then finish up with a few Unsolicited Testimonials.

To begin with, I am once again a judge in the annual Audie Awards competition put on by the Audio Publishers Association. I've been doing this for some seven or eight years now (I'm of an age where I sort of lose track of how long I've been doing things like this). I think I was originally recruited to be a judge because of my monthly audiobook review column called "The Library Audiobook Shelf". I think they keep wanting me back because I'm rather compulsive about meeting deadlines when accepting a project like this.

My assigned category this year is unabridged non-fiction. The first batch of submissions has come in and includes:

1. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (Times Warner Audiobooks)
2. Three Weeks with My Brother (Times Warner Audiobooks)
3. Wolves & Honey (Blackstone Audiobooks)
4. Hand of Providence (Oasis Audio)
5. The Island at the Center of the World (Recorded Books)
6. Over the Edge of the World (BBC Audiobooks America)
7. Beyond Bad (Bolinda Audio Books)

In a few weeks there will be another batch of submissions, and then (if it goes like last year), a third and final batch of submissions a few weeks after that.

My responsibility is to listen to each submission, then rate and rank them according to their suitability for an audiobook format, narrative performance, production values, and a five point "consumer satisfaction" scale.

Then I send in my judge sheet and I'm done until next year's contest.

There are several different categories including fiction and children, abridged and unabridged. If you are producing an audiobook edition of your title(s) then you should become aware of the Audio Publishers Association and what membership with them might provide you by way of resources and assistance in your attempts to succeed in the highly competitive audiobook marketplace. Here's their contact information:

Amanda K. Peral
Managing Director
Audio Publishers Association
8405 Greensboro Drive, Suite 800
McLean, Virginia, 22102-5104
phone: 703-556-7172; fax 703-506-3266;

And feel free to tell them I referred you!

The 12th Annual "Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards" competition is currently underway. And once again at their request I have contracted the Midwest Book Review to be a part of the prizes awarded the winners. Our part is the guaranteed review of the Grand Prize Winner and the 9 First-Place Winners entries.

There are nine different categories:

1. Mainstream/Literary Fiction
2. Genre Fiction
3. Nonfiction
4. Inspirational (Spiritual, New Age)
5. Life Stories (Autobiographies, Biographies, Family Histories, Memoirs)
6. Children's and Young Adult Books
7. Reference Books (Directories, Encyclopedias, Guide Books, How-To, Travel)
8. Poetry
9. Cookbooks (my personal favorite category!!)

There are cash prizes that include $3,000.00 for the Grand-Prize Winner and $500.00 for each of the 9 first-place winners, along with a host of other perks. The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2004 so there's still time to become acquainted with this contest and to enter. Here's the contact information for inquiries and submissions:

Writer's Digest International Self-Published Book Awards
4700 East Galbraith Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45236

It's always nice to have the work we do here at the Midwest Book Review in behalf of the small press community be favorably recognized by professional organizations like the Audio Publishers Association and the folks at Writer's Digest (who publish Writer's Digest Magazine and have a superb publishing arm that puts out dozens of "how to" titles each year for writers and publishers).

But enough office gossip. Let's move on to some "tips, tricks, & techniques". Just remember that, as always, my advice is free -- and worth every penny of what I charge.

1. For you self-published authors who avail yourselves of POD publisher resources to manufacture your books:

Be sure to include in your contract the requirement that the POD publisher (e.g., iUniverse, Xlibris, PublishAmerica, Trafford, Infinity, etc.) provide you (as their author client) with a copy of all reviews of your book that they receive from reviewers like me.

I have liaisons in most of the major POD houses whose verbal commitment to the Midwest Book Review is that they will notify their author clients whenever we review one of their books. I provide the POD publisher with a copy of the review and a publisher notification letter and in every letter I try to include the line: "Please notify your author client accordingly".

Mostly they do -- but some will inevitably not give it proper priority, so be sure to include that obligation into your contracts with them. Mostly you will be offered "boiler plate" contracts that say the same thing to every author regardless of their book or marketing plans. So you will have to create that amended paragraph for them. It's not hard to do and can be very simple. I give you this as an example:

(POD Publisher Name Here) agrees to provide (Your Name Here) with copies of all reviews, review notices, and reviewer correspondences received by (POD Publisher Name Here) with respect to (The Title Of Your Book Here).

The reason for you wanting a copy of every review the POD publisher ever gets on your book is the same reason for getting a copy of any review from anywhere else:

You invested capital in the form of the review books and the postage to send it out.

You can utilize positive reviews in your marketing and promotional activities.

You can apply damage control (if necessary) with respect to any negative reviews.

You can track the impact on sales of POD published review copies.

2. Snail-mail addresses are a "must" for small presses and self-published authors.

Once again for the November reviews I had to reject a couple because the reviews submitted by my reviewers had no snail-mail address contact information -- and I couldn't find that address info when I tried to do a websearch for it.

A couple of reviews actually made it through the review process and are part of our November publications (somehow they just got by me -- probably because during that last week of October I am proverbially swamped with editorial duties in putting together our four library newsletters (print) and our five on-line book review magazines. So here we are at the point where I'm sending out tear sheets and publisher notification letters to the snail-mail addresses of everyone who's book was reviewed in any of our publications. And sure enough -- there were a couple of perfectly fine reviews whose publishers will never know we did them -- because they didn't have snail mail addresses that I could find on-line or off!

If, as a self-published author, you don't want to use your home address that's just fine. Get yourself a post office box or use the snail mail address of your distributor. But for pity's sake, give the reviewer someplace to send you a copy of their review! And be sure to include a snail-mail address on your website!!! If not, you have short-changed yourself on getting the most from your capital investment bound up in that review copy that you sent out -- and have no one to blame but yourself.

3. In a message dated 10/3/03 11:11:51 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

As an author, do I follow the same guidelines for submission of my new self-published book (The 51st and 52nd States, self-published through 1st Books) as the Publisher? And if so, would I be able to get the tear sheet of the review sent to me?

Dear jr054:

The same rules apply whether the book is submitted for review by the publisher, or the author, or an independent publicist: When submitting a book for review consideration by the Midwest Book Review, a published copy of the book must be accompanied by a cover letter, as well as a publicity release for the book.

If/when the book makes the final cut and is featured in any of our publications, the publisher is the one to whom the tear sheet and publisher notification letter is sent. It is then that publisher's responsibility to notify authors, editors, illustrators, publicists, and anyone else they deem appropriate.

Incidently, 1st Books (now called Author House), as well as the other major POD publishers, have all agreed to notify the authors when the Midwest Book Review runs a review of one of the author client titles and provides them with a tear sheet and notification letter.

4. In a message dated 10/4/03 4:07:59 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

My name is Martha Ross-Rodgers. I have searched your website trying to find the answer to my question, but to no avail. Do you review books regardless of their copyright date or do you view only the current year copyright books? Thanks

Dear Martha:

I pay no attention to publication dates. The only criteria I impose is that the book submitted for review consideration be in print and available to the reading public.

Remember to also include a cover letter and a publicity release when submitting your book for review consideration. Send it to the attention of:

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

5. In a message dated 10/7/04 12:34:30 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

Do you want the book, to be reviewed, and the media kit, sent to you by the publisher only?

Or can the book come from publisher, and the media kit from the publicist hired by the author?

Any further information on finding book reviewers is welcome.

Dear Carson:

The book, a cover letter, and the media kit or publicity release should all be sent in the same package. We receive an average of 1500 titles a month and trying to connect separate mailings of the book and the media kit just doesn't work out.

Submissions can be by either the publisher, the author, or a publicist. That doesn't matter. What matters is that the book and media kit be sent in the same package at the same time.

There is a webpage on the Midwest Book Review website called "Book Lover Resources". On this webpage there is a section called "Other Reviewers" where you will find a lengthy list of freelance book reviewers, book review publications, book review websites, and book reviewing resources that I have garnered in behalf of the small press community. The website address is

And now on to my favorite part of these monthly musings -- Unsolicited Testimonials!

1. Dear James,

Thanks for the nice review of "Travel Writers Handbook." This is a great reference and will be around for years.

Your other requests, for the Free and Equal cookbooks, I can't fill, as they are out of print. They had a great run for 19 years but the recipes are really out of date now.

I hope we can send you some others. Please see our website for ideas.

Susan H. Schwartz, Publisher
Surrey Books

And see her website I did. In my original request letter to Susan I had been working off what turned out to be a quite outdated catalog. This underscores the value of always making sure that you get your current catalog and publicity release mailings out promptly to your favorite reviewers -- and I hope I'm one of them!

2. Hi Jim,

We haven't talked for a long I want to let you know how very much I appreciate your wonderful reviews of our titles in your Midwest Book Review and also in Bookwatch.

The latest one was for "Modern Worlds, Modern Words" by Joseph Campbell. Thank you so much -- for that one and all the reviews in between.

Thank you for sending me copies of them too! That's great.

Keep 'em coming! We love them!!

Much gratitude,


Marjorie Conte
Publicity Manager
New World Library
1-800-972-6657 Ext. 18

As you can see, while the primary focus of the Midwest Book Review is on the small press community, we do not neglect the major houses -- and even the major houses appreciate our policy of automatically notifying publishers when their titles make the final cut and are featured in one or more of our publications. I like to think that I'm on a first-name basis with most of the publishing houses, large, middle-sized, or small.

But not every submission makes that final cut. Here's a case in point:

3. In a message dated 9/9/04 6:15:33 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

I don't mean to sound rude or anything. But just wondering if there's a possibility that reviews are not expressing interest in my book because of who my book is published by? Or is it because of PublishAmerica's "no-return" policy? Or is the cost too high?

Dear Duncan:

Every month we review selected titles printed for their author clients by PublishAmerica and other POD publishers. That is not an automatic handicap with respect to the Midwest Book Review.

It is a significant handicap when trying to get reviewed by such major publications as Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.

When a PA title is turned down by the Midwest Book Review it is usually for one of five reasons:

1. The cover art is substandard making the book non-competitive in a bookstore or library with respect to its direct competition.

2. The price tag is simply too high to be competitive (e.g., a PA trade paperback with a price of $23.95 when a thematically similar (including page count) Simon & Schuster trade paperback is $14.95

3. The text really needed the attention of an editor (this is an especially common problem with first time authors).

4. The interior text is simply too small (this is usually where the author is trying to cut down on the cost of the title by cutting back on the number of pages by using smaller type face).

5. It's a good book, we just have too many other titles in the same category or genre and not enough reviewers to handle them all.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Because what we do here is deemed of value to the small press community, we had to come up with a way for authors, editors, publishers, and publicists to express their support. We couldn't have folks send us money because we really need to steer clear of any conflict of interest issues -- especially when we have to turn down a book -- so we came up with a policy amendment allowing anyone who wanted to say "thank you", or otherwise "support the cause", to do it with a simple donation of postage stamps. We use those donated stamps to send out the aforementioned tear sheets and publisher notification letters. And the response from our supporters and well-wishers in the small press community has been overwhelmingly generous!

Here are the latest additions to our "Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall of Fame". My thanks and gratitude to:

Samantha Shubert
Joyce P. Hale
Jean C. Koven
Dilip G. Saraf - "The 7 Keys to a Dream Job"
Scott Louis Diering - "Love Your Patients!"
Candy Davis - "Collateral Man"
Nancy Glass West - "Nine Days to Evil"
Barbara Fritz Vroman - "Small Celebrations-Autumn"
Barbara Ghazarian - Mayreni Publishing
Dennis Caetano - Three Point Press
Jan Louthain - Alexie Enterprises, Inc.
Anna E. Kravis - Baby Rose Music
Chromisphere Press
The Local History Company

Well, that's about it for this time around. Remember that all of our monthly book review publications are archived on our website. They are also available (for free) by simply sending me an email and letting me know which ones you'd like to get directly. We can also sign you up for any specific book review column you'd like (e.g., The Cookbook Shelf; The Poetry Shelf; The Needlecraft Shelf", etc.) all you have to do is ask. Thematically appropriate book reviews is a great way to enhance the informational content of any author or publisher website!

And you can get the "Jim Cox Report" the same way -- just send me an email and ask to be signed up. It's free -- like everything else we do in behalf of the small presses and self-published authors.

So until next time -- Goodbye, Goodluck, 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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