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Jim Cox Report: October 2001

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

1. The big news for this "Jim Cox Report" is that the Midwest Book Review has launched its third online book review magazine. Beginning with its debut October 2001 issue, we now are publishing "Reviewer's Bookwatch", along with our "Internet Bookwatch" and "Children's Bookwatch".

This is how it all came about.

Four weeks ago my MBR webmaster daughter (who had been charged with the responsibility of putting our reviews up on our website as well as posting them to our subscribers, thematically appropriate online discussion groups, and the online bookstores) pointed out to me that the average monthly issue of our "Internet Bookwatch" was growing at about the rate of 5 additional pages per month for the last four months, and was now exceeding 300+ pages. This was making it much slower to upload & download, and more laborious to read through. Something had to be done to make it more online "reader friendly".

The old "Internet Bookwatch" consisted of all the reviews that appear in our monthly library newsletters "The Bookwatch"; Reviewer's Bookwatch"; and "Wisconsin Bookwatch", -- plus all the reviews from our volunteer reviewers for which there was no room in the 12-page library newsletters.

I decided to break that old IBW into two separate publications starting with the October 2001 issues.

The newly revised Internet Bookwatch will consist of our library newsletter contents.

The newly launched Reviewer's Bookwatch (in its online magazine incarnation) will hold all the reviews posted by our bylined column reviewers, and those reviewers whose work is clustered together in the "grab-bag" column titled "Reviewers Recommend".

The result is that IBW (if it were to be printed out) has dropped back below 200 pages, while the new RBW is coming in at around 100 pages.

You can see all of our online book review magazines on our website at:

2. We have also added a whole new batch of articles to our "Advice For Publishers" section on the MBR website. Here are the new titles that went up on our website last night:

Advice for Effective News/Press Releases
Author-Based Marketing Studies
Book Clubs
Book Promotion for Introverts
Business Plan Outline for Publishers
Cover Art for Books
E-Book Publisher's Reference Shelf
Free Publicity for your Book
Getting on the Bestseller Lists
How to Get Published
Marketing from the Coaching Model
Newsletters as a Book Marketing Tool
Public Library Talks
Radio Interview Performance Tips for Authors
Selling "Hurt Books" on eBay
Selling on
Signing with Distributors
Timing and the Marketing of Books
Vanity Publishing
What to Expect from Major Publishing Houses
Will Your Book Sell?

In order to access our "Advice To Publishers" section and the above "how to" articles and essays, go to

3. While on the general subject of the Midwest Book Review website, David Coulter (Body and Breath Inc) wrote:

> GREAT WEB SITE, by far and away the best of any of the trade review journals.
> It's surprising that the other review journals have not paraphrased your helpful
> comments for their own sites....Again, thank you for a useful and revealing web site.

Actually, a lot of what I write about publishing and the publishing community does end up on other websites; and as text for about a dozen "how to books" by various authors and publishers; as well as hand-outs at publisher workshops and conferences, etc.

And all with permission. It is the policy of the Midwest Book Review that anything I write or post about publishing can be freely utilized by others for their internet discussion groups, or to increase the informational content of their websites, or to enhance their "how to" books on publishing,
or to enrich the content of their workshops and seminars. The only requirement is that they always cite the Midwest Book Review when doing so (and Jim Cox, if I'm the originator of the material).

I've occasionally been asked why I give so freely of my "wisdom" and expertise -- and never charge anything for it. The answer is simple. It was all paid for by the terms of the annual grants that support the Midwest Book Review and my role as its editor-in-chief.

Besides, when someone encounters something I've written, and finds it to be useful and worthwhile, they are very likely to send their book(s) to my attention for review. This is a practice that has materially helped in extending the numbers of publishers I deal with, from the original 60 way back when I started as a book reviewer in 1976 to the more than 1200 that send us review copies books, videos, music CDs, and software today.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

4. Which comes first, press releases or galleys?

Kaitlin Duck Sherwood asked:

> I hear that I'm supposed to include my distribution in the fact
> sheets/press releases of my book... but I also hear that I'm supposed
> to start sending out press releases five months before pub date... and
> I believe that I can't get distribution until I at least have galleys.
> So what do I do? Send out press releases without the distribution info?

You need to do the following:

  1. Get a book manuscript ready to go to the printer.

  2. Create a business plan that includes the publication, distribution, promotion, and marketing of your book.

  3. Print the book.

  4. Create publicity releases (plural):
    • galley accompanying
    • finished copy accompanying

  5. Accept the books back from the printer.

  6. Create more publicity releases;
    • when marketing plan evolves due to experience & opportunities
    • when reviews, sales figures, personal appearances happen
In other words -- a publicity release is not a one-time thing with respect to the life of a marketing campaign to promote and sell your book. It needs to be honed, customized, and flexible according to the evolving circumstances of promotional and marketing opportunities, events, and your own increasing experience as a publisher.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

5. Novice publisher Jamie Walker asked:

> When are the major publishing cycles and when is the
> best time to time your reviews for such an occasion.

For the major publishers (Random House, Simon & Schuster, etc.) there are two major seasons: Spring & Fall. They usually issue a catalog to launch each of these seasons.

With respect to midsized presses, their "season" is an annual one. They will offer an annual catalog: New Horizon Press Catalog 2001

> And so how long essentially does it take to actually
> get a review back from "Any Given Book Reviewer?"

This varies so widely that there is no standard. It can be anywhere from a few weeks to a few months -- to never. That's why I recommend a follow-up contact ten working days after submitting a book for review, in order to ensure its safe arrival, inquire as to its status with the reviewer (it's good to know if it was rejected out of hand, pending review assignment, or has already been assigned for review), and if there is any additional information or assistance the reviewer might need from you.

> Do books that have upcoming "release dates" get
> preference over books that have already been out for
> quite some time or no?

For pre-publication reviews (Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, etc.) the "release" or publication date is essential and part of their time-table for review eligibility. For post-publication reviews (Midwest Book Review, trade magazines, tv and radio media) release dates are not important -- what matters is that the book be available by the time their readerships or audiences encounter the review or are told about the book.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

6. Back in January, another novice publisher asked about how to handle the dating of multiple printings:

> Your advice is requested. Necessity dictates that I go to press again with
> one of my titles. This will be the fourth printing (hooray). The not so great
> news is that the copyright on this baby is 1996.

One standard response is to date each time a new printing was conducted, so on the back of the title page where such information is typically found, it would read something like:

First Printing 1996
Second Printing 1997
Third Printing 1999
Fourth Printing 2001

This gives the clear impression that the book is:

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

7. Saying that Bonnie Marlewski-Probert knows something about marketing is a lot like saying Colonel Sanders knew something about frying chickens. Here's a little bit of advice about ISPs in general, and AOL in particular, that is germane to the small press publishing community. Bonnie notes:

> I should mention that I do a lot of e-mail in my business and two weeks ago,
> my account was shut down by AOL because I sent out a letter to all the
> authors of our newest book via my AOL account. When I called customer
> service, they informed me that they are cracking down on SPAM and are
> automatically cutting off any account that BCC's or CC's more than a few
> people on any given e-mail. Needless to say, by the time we finished the
> conversation, my account was back in business and they had agreed to flag
> it so that it wouldn't happen again.

The same thing happened to my daughter. She is an on-line author who has a huge cyberspace fan club (100+) who subscribe (its free) to her fantasy and video game-based short stories and novels. About four months ago (after years of just mailing out her stories to her subscriber list) she was also blocked by AOL. She has since switched over to the other ISP we use ( and now uses a simple Eudora program to send any email addressed to more than two people.

I still maintain an AOL account along with our ExecPC account, because AOL has an excellent flash download and filing cabinet system. I use obsolete versions (3.0 and 5.0) because the new version of AOL is so full of bells and whistles I'd never use, and it takes so much longer to fire up the software.

There have also been those (thankfully) rare occasions when ExecPC was down, and I had to resort to AOL for web access.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

8. Kris, an aspiring writer wanting to break into print, wanted information on how to get a manuscript published. She asked:

> Is there a resource for a author like me?

Yes. It's called the public library.

I recommend that you first access the Midwest Book Review website at

Then, read all the articles in the "Advice For Publishers" section.

Then, look through all the books listed and reviewed in the "Writer's Bookshelf" and "Publisher's Bookshelf" sections, and make a list of the ones that are dedicated to turning a manuscript into a published book.

Once you've made a list of the titles that seem most directly concerned with your present problem, take that list down to your public library and request them through their free Interlibrary Loan service.

While you are there, also ask for their "Grants & Awards" reference directories, and see if you can find literary, educational, and other non-profit organizations who have grants and awards that would be thematically appropriate to the nature of your manuscript. This can prove to be an excellent source for start-up funding.

Also ask for Literary Agent directories -- there is one published by Writer's Digest Press and updated from time to time -- because an agent who accepts your manuscript on a commission basis may be able to find a publisher for you.

There are no shortcuts or easy paths to getting published. You need to learn everything you can about how to market your manuscript to the publishing community (including the option of self-publishing), and to the reading public at large.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

9. There was an inquiry from Jeff Cohen (Ridgeback Press) on emailing public libraries as a small press publisher:

> When emailing these libraries (public libraries, for example), do you
> think that the general contact email addresses available on your
> Website would be appropriate? I have gone to a number of the home
> pages for these libraries. Most only give general contact email
> addresses, rather than the addresses of specific librarians. This is
> what I expected, and thus wondered if my idea of you using the
> information on your Webpage was appropriate for my purposes.

When using a library's general email address within the context of a book marketing campaign, put "Acquisition Librarian" in the subject line. That way, your email will be routed to the attention of the appropriate person in a multistaffed library.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

10. I sometimes get inquiries from journalists and writers. Here's one from Kelly Milner Halls on the subject of "Vanishing Review Space"

> After reading this article -- Books | The amazing disappearing
> book review section -- I wonder what YOU have to say about this alleged
> trend.
> I want to write an article on the subject myself, reflecting a broader
> perspective than Salon represents. Would you be willing to share a few of
> your thoughts for publication? For example...

I'm always happy to comment on the trends I see impacting on the small press publishing community.

> 1. Do you agree that book review space is an endangered species within the
> newspaper/magazine world?

Definitely and tangibly. Not only is the column space reserved for reviews getting cut back significantly, but the ratio of number of titles considered to those being submitted for consideration by the major newspapers and journals is also reflecting this trend -- to the specific detriment of the self-published author and the small press publisher.

> 2. Do you see any counter-trends that might balance out the ominous
> impression?

The counter-trends are primarily on the Internet. Both with book reviews being posted to the larger online bookstores like Amazon and Barnes&Noble, but also to thematically appropriate newsgroups, listservs, and websites (this last being pitched as a means of enriching the information content of specialized websites).

> 3. How can readers and writers help reverse the trend, if it does exist?

There's nothing that can be done with respect to this trend in the newspapers and journals. What is going on is a reflection of the changing nature of the general populace (read: subscribers) served by these publications. Reading books is a steadily diminishing recreational activity for an increasing majority of the population. Print publications (newspapers, magazines, journals, etc.) are experiencing a steadily dwindling market in the face of television and the Internet, and are seeking to salvage their commercial viability by emphasizing what they perceive their readers really want. Such as more media reviews and pop culture articles, and fewer book reviews.

> 4. How are booksellers, chain and independent, contributing to the demise
> of review space?

One major way is by not serving as a retail outlet for publications with strong book review components. Another is by not citing to book distributors and wholesalers that their use of published book reviews is a trigger for their (and their customers) acquisition decisions. With no "field documentation" of the role of published reviews play in creating consumer demand, the newspaper and magazine editorial staffs trying to counter the shrinkage of space devoted to book reviews are having a very difficult time justifying the preservation of their book review page or column, especially when other departmental staffers and columnists are clamoring for an expansion of theirs.

> Thanks in advance if you can help me. If you can't, I certainly understand.

The Midwest Book Review has a three-part mission statement of promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing. Your questions are specific and fundamental to all three issues. The nature of publishing is changing rapidly under the impact of advancing technology. This is resulting is something of a paradox.

More books are getting published, and fewer of them are getting read.

The steady shrinkage of space dedicated to book reviews in major publications will exacerbate this trend significantly.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

11. The above triggered a response from Debbie Thurman who wrote:

> Jim and others,
> I'd be curious to know what you think of utilizing editorial space in
> newspapers' and magazines' op-ed sections to mention/promote books when they
> tie in with a current issue. I think this may be an untapped source of
> promotion.

This is an excellent and cost-effective promotional technique. It's one I've recommended to authors and publicists for years. The trick is to insert within the body of the article a reference to getting additional information on a publisher website or in the book.

It's also a tried and true means for a small press title to get around a publication's anti-small press bias -- and circumvent the limitation imposed by the steady shrinkage of space allotted for book reviews in all to many major newspapers, magazines and journals.

> Also, why not offer free-lance articles to various publications, even if you
> give them gratis?

Even gratis there are two distinct payoffs for the contributor:

  1. Getting your name known to a targeted audience thematically appropriate to the nature of your article and book.

  2. Creating a demand from a readership which will seek out your book at their local community library, on the internet, or at their local bookstore, or directly from the publisher if that information can make it into the finished article as published.
> I check the letters sections of major newspapers and magazines from time to
> time looking for editorials/columns to comment on or news items that are up
> my alley. Does anyone do this?

Everyone should do this routinely. I've known local authors in the Madison, Wisconsin area who have drummed up significant sales because of their "Letter To The Editor" on local issues being germane to their book(s).

12. On the subject of "Thank You" notes, Raleigh Pinskey writes:

> I always send thank you notes and mention a part of the review I
> particularly liked.

There are several reasons to send a reviewer a "thank you" note for a review of your title(s).

  1. It leaves a pleasant memory in the mind of the reviewer, who will be even more disposed to consider your next book and future titles.

  2. It could result in an additional correspondence from the reviewer, which might be useable in your marketing.

  3. It will set you apart from the common herd -- those whose mothers never explained to them the simple etiquette of saying "please" and "thank you" in civil discourse.
Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

13. also joined in our little "Thank You" note discussion:

> Dear Jim, Rule Number Three is the most important. What do you think of
> e-thank yous. I think written are nicer but I am happy and touched by the
> ones on e-mail.

Snail-mail, email, and telephoned thank you notes are all completely acceptable in terms of author/publisher/reviewer etiquette. And when it comes to snail-mail, cards do quite as nicely as quick notes on stationary.

When it comes to saying thank you, it's not the format, but the thought that counts.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

14. And it's so nice when they say thank you!

> Thank you for the delightful review for our title Sharing the Journey, as in the May
> issue of Internet Bookwatch.
> And special thanks for your professionalism in responding to publishers with
> review information and copies of review scripts. You are a model for how book
> review transactions should be done!
> Best wishes,
> Lynn McGlothlin
> North Country Publishing

> I've learned so much from other people in this industry and on the various
> listserves over the years. I'd like to thank the people on this list that have
> helped me and so many others over the years like Jim Cox, Diane Pfeifer, etc.
> Your mentoring of others and commitment to this industry is sincerely
> appreciated by all.
> Linda Matthie-Jacobs
> The MJM Grande Publishing Company Ltd.

> Thank you very much for taking on our title "Musical Qigong: Ancient Chinese
> Healing Art from a Modern Master" by Shen Wu for review and for sending us
> the tear sheet. We have also seen the review on page for that
> title, which is very helpful for web book surfers.
> As always, thanks again for the wonderful work you have been doing for
> publishers, especially the indies.
> Best,
> Shawn Ye
> Publisher
> Homa & Sekey Books

15. September was a month of great tragedy for us all. That's why I wrote an essay called "War, Religion & Publishing". It was very well received and I want to say a collective thank you to the more than 80 emails I received in response, thanking me for putting into words the emotions and thoughts that a lot of people were struggling to express and put into an horrific event into perspective. My little essay was passed along to other discussion groups and at least one newsletter.

I won't repost it here because I sent it to all three publisher discussion groups and to the subscribers to the Jim Cox Report. Suffice it to say that in the months and years ahead of us, let us remember to distinguish the guilty from the innocent, to separate the fanatic from the believer, and in that process, to maintain our own core beliefs and moral compass while doing what necessity dictates, both as individuals and as a nation.

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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