Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Jim Cox Reports / Jim Cox Report: November 2017
Home | Jim Cox Reports Index

Jim Cox Report: November 2017

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

On November 6th I turn 75. It's supposed to be one of those 'milestone' markers of life and I suppose it is. But I don't feel any different than when I was 25 or 50. It's true that my body doesn't have quite the endurance it used to. I still remember, when I wore a younger man's clothes, being able to party all night and work all day, all pretty much with minimal interruptions necessitated by sleep. Nowadays when it gets passed 9pm I pretty much start to droop with an alarming rapidity.

But I still enjoy getting up in the morning and starting my 2 to 3 hour work day by downloading emails and getting on with the job of being Midwest Book Review's editor-in-chief.

Speaking of emails, I wanted to offer a couple of techniques I have developed over the years for handling the 100 to 200 emails I download every day -- those numbers being the result of:

1. Being 40+ years in the business
2. Spam bots breeding like rabbits in the dark
3. Being tied to two email address (one AOL and one Non-AOL) for the past 3 decades

The reason for being tied to and is that they are listed as our email addresses in more than 32 books on and bout writing & publishing that have come out over the years -- and still result in authors contacting us regarding book review submissions.

Here is how I operate every day with respect to my email traffic:

1. I go down the list of emails and immediately delete without opening them all the obvious spams.

2. I click open and respond to all the incoming emails that have a code phrase in their subject lines (more about Subject Line Codes a bit later).

3. I then open and appropriately respond to all the incoming emails whose addresses I recognize as reviewers, publicists, and publishers.

4. I then open and respond to all the remaining newly arrived emails.

Regarding "Coded Subject Line Emails" --

When I first respond to an email that I think will initiate a continuing email dialogue I always put the person's name in the Subject Line in front of whatever subject designation was originally made by them. For example, if the incoming email subject was: Requesting a Review and is sent to me by a John Smith then I respond to that email with: John Smith - Requesting a Review in the subject line.

I often get phone calls from authors and publicists wanting to utilize our Reader Fee program. To them I ask that they send me an email repeating that request and in the Subject Line put "Reader Free Request".

When I get a phone call wanting to know if their book arrived safely and if it will be reviewed I have them send me an email and in the Subject Line put "Status Request" (and in the body of the email put Title, Author, Publisher, ISBN, and a request for information on their book submission's current status with respect to our review process).

When I respond to an email where the person has included their name as part of their message, in my "hit the return button for a reply" action I usually add their name to the original subject line -- and there is a sound psychological reason for it and one that I would strongly advise you to follow.

People are psychologically conditioned from earliest childhood to respond to their own name. It will pretty much automatically attract their attention and help your email to them stand out in the crowd of their own incoming emails and thereby give your email a bit of an edge when it comes to priority -- and not being accidentally overlooked and deleted unread.

There are a couple of other 'codes' that I use but will not share here because one of them I tell individual people to use when they want me to help them with a specific problem and I've promised to do so. The other is relevant only to family and my immediate circle of friends -- thereby making certain they won't get 'lost in the crowd' of downloaded emails.

But what ever system you use, be sure to have one so that the odds are in your favor with respect to not missing important emails germane to your professional and personal activities and communications.

Now on to some reviews of new 'how to' books that will prove to be of special interest for writers and publishers.

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

What Are You Laughing At?
Brad Schreiber
Allworth Press
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781621536000, $16.99, PB, 280pp,

With more than seventy excerpts from such expert prose and screenwriters as Woody Allen, Steve Martin, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., as well as unique writing exercises for all situations, "What Are You Laughing At?: How to Write Humor for Screenplays, Stories, and More" is a basic and comprehensive tutorial will teach aspiring authors how to write humor prose for any literary form, including screenwriting, story writing, theater, television, and audio/radio. Additionally, novice writers are given sage advice on different tactics for writing comedic fiction versus comedic nonfiction. Some of the topics discussed in "What Are You Laughing At? include: Life experience versus imagination; How to use humor to develop theme/setting, character, and dialogue; Rhythm and sound of words; Vulgarity and bad taste, Of special note is the information provided on how to market humor prose in the digital market. Thoroughly revised and updated, and with new information on writing short, humorous films, "What Are You Laughing At?" is extraordinarily 'user friendly' in organization and presentation. While unreservedly recommended for community and academic library Writing/Publishing collections, it should be noted for the personal instructional reference lists of aspiring writers that "What Are You Laughing At?" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.57).

Bring Your Fiction to Life
Karen S. Wiesner
Writer's Digest Books
c/o F+W Media
10151 Carver Road, Suite 200, Blue Ash, OH 45242
9781440349829, $17.99, PB, 264pp,

Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 113 titles published in the past 18 years, which have been nominated for or won 134 awards, and has 39 more releases contracted for spanning many genres and formats. In "Bring Your Fiction to Life: Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity" to teaches aspiring authors on how to build a solid narrative structure and layer in lush, textured scenes to create a story that rings true. "Bring Your Fiction to Life" explains how to: Master the three-dimensional aspects of characters, plots, and settings using detailed sketches that define the past, present, and future aspects of each element; Develop complex opening, resolution, and bridge scenes that expertly lead readers through your fictional world: Construct and analyze an outline for your manuscript, using tools and techniques to analyze scenes that lack dimensionality: Brainstorm, research, and draft efficiently and effectively, and juggle multiple projects with ease. Packed from cover to cover with story-development charts, worksheets, and checklists, "Bring Your Fiction to Life" when enable even the most novice and inexperience of writers just how to craft a vivid story world that readers (and publishers!) will instantly recognize as remarkable. While especially recommended for both community and academic library Writing/Publishing collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Bring Your Fiction to Life" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Make a Scene, revised edition
Jordan Rosenfeld
Writer's Digest Books
c/o F+W Media
10151 Carver Road, Suite 200, Blue Ash, OH 45242
9781440351419, $17.99, PB, 264pp,

Scenes are the building blocks for any work of fiction, basically they are the DNA sequence that makes a novel un-put-downable and unforgettable reading experience. When writers are able to craft effective, engaging scenes, they can develop a complete, cohesive story -- and a mesmerizing experience for readers. Now in a significantly revised and newly expanded edition, "Make a Scene: Writing a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time" by Jordan Rosenfeld takes aspiring writers step-by-step through the elements of strong scene construction and demonstrates how the essential aspects of a compelling story (including character, plot and dramatic tension) function within the framework of individual scenes to give momentum to the whole narrative. "Make a Scene" show how to: Craft an opening scene that hooks readers and foreshadows conflict; Develop various scene types--from contemplative to suspenseful to flashback--that are distinct and purposeful; Establish characters' intentions within a scene that drive the plot; Transition into new scenes by clearly establishing details of setting, character, and point of view; Create resonating climactic and final scenes that stay with readers long after they've finished your story. This newly revised and expanded edition includes brand-new examples, an increased focus on advancing plot and character development, making it an essential part of any personal, community, or academic library's Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "Make a Scene" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.31).

Grammar For People Who Hate Rules
Kathleen A. Watson
Ruthless Editor Press
9780997664607, $8.95, PB, 166pp,

Writing and grammar expert Kathleen Watson, fondly known as The Ruthless Editor, has nearly three decades of experience in the corporate and academic worlds. As a fiction and non-fiction book editor, she has helped many authors hone their writing skills. In "Grammar For People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips From The Ruthless Editor" she draws upon her years of experience and expertise to create an succinctly comprehensive instruction manual focusing on the effective use of grammar in writing and speaking. The easy-to-follow tips in "Grammar For People Who Hate Rules", enhance this straightforward guide that will provide practical 'real world' help in avoiding many of today's common word and punctuation errors. Even if English is one's original language (and even more so for those to whom English is a secondary language) English grammar and usage can be (and all to often is) confusing! Even the best writers sometimes pause to consider word and punctuation choices. Whether writing for work, for school, for publication, or even creating a knockout profile for LinkedIn or a dating website -- "Grammar For People Who Hate Rules" will bring the reader quickly up to speed with respect to today's English grammar. Writers will build their reputation as they build their mastery, impressing their clients, their boss, their professor, their editors, -- or maybe even their potential spouse! Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Grammar For People Who Hate Rules" is thoroughly 'user friendly' in content and tone, making it an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "Grammar For People Who Hate Rules" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.99).

Good Arguments
Richard A. Holland Jr. & Benjamin K. Forrest
Baker Academic
c/o Baker Publishing Group
6030 East Fulton, Ada, MI 49301
9780801097799, $17.99, PB, 160pp,

The collaborative work of Richard A. Holland Jr. (Assistant Professor of Apologetics and Theology at Liberty University School of Divinity in Lynchburg, Virginia) and Benjamin K. Forrest (Associate Dean of the College of General Studies and Professor of Christian education at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia), "Good Arguments: Making Your Case in Writing and Public Speaking" offers a brief introduction to making effective arguments helps readers to understand the basics of sound reasoning and to learn how to use it to persuade others. Practical, inexpensive, and easy-to-read, "Good Arguments" enables students in a wide variety of courses to improve the clarity of their writing and public speaking. "Good Arguments" will equip readers to formulate firmly grounded, clearly articulated, and logically arranged arguments, avoid fallacious thinking, and discover how to reason well. "Good Arguments" is supplemental text that is especially suitable for use in Christian colleges and seminaries and includes classroom discussion questions. Whether preparing sermons for the pulpit, opinion pieces for publication, or a persuasive book on any given social or political issue, "Good Arguments" will prove to be exceptionally 'user friendly' in tone, organization and presentation. While very highly recommended for community, seminary, and academic library collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists that "Good Arguments" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Finally -- Here is "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:

Ed Myers
Edith Poor
Amy Rogers -- "The Han Agent"
Dale Allan Pelton -- "Celine On Fire"
Rosemary G. Ryan -- "An Angel Remembered"
Red Feather Publishing
Dancing Pen Publishers
Julia Ahadi -- Penny-Farthing Productions
Monica Morabito -- Sophie's Tale Book & Media Publishing
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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design