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Jim Cox Report: October 2002

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Another month has flown by -- and I've discovered that when you own the building you work in you have also become responsible for the grounds around it.

Specifically, a 150 year old cluster of white oak trees that must be attended to because some of them are environmentally distressed (damaged by the expansion of a next door parking lot) requiring their extraction and removal for safety's sake -- for the paltry sum of $1000 and change.

Ah well, at least I don't have to come up with rent money every month -- just property taxes, utility code upgrades, and some slightly overlooked maintenance needs in a 40 year old building.

The big news around here is that my webmaster daughter has taken drastic action to prevent our drowning in a sea of spam.

All email messages with attachments have now been blocked from both our and our email addresses. This had an astonishing and overnight reduction in the amount of spam (mostly generated by viruses) that we had been getting every day. Plus the virtual elimination of some stupid hijacker from whom we had been getting 30+ "bounce back" emails a day as he (presumably a "he") blanketed some ISPs with attachment emails purporting to originate from our addresses.

I'm still getting lots of messages from Africa on how I can help out an urgent need in their oil industry and make big money for myself. But at least they don't come equipped with attachments!

I'm a bit fried from the last couple of days. Those end-of-the-month deadlines can be very trying and tiring. But the good news is that all of our publications got issued on time and all of our monthly book review magazines are now up on our website at

Tonight my webmaster daughter starts posting reviews to Amazon and tomorrow I start sending out tear sheets.

It took me all morning (it is now 1:41 pm CST on the rainy afternoon) to just catch up on the last few days of email and snail mail. After I complete this issue of the Jim Cox Report I'm going to go reward myself by staring mindless into the television set and watch about 6 video cassettes worth of new season sitcom and drama show premieres.

So now on with the "tips, tricks & techniques" advice I deliver in the form of Q&As:

In a message dated 02-05-25 12:41:44 EDT, Robert Brenner writes in regard to my earlier commentary about how so many POD titles were coming across my desk with cover prices so high as to make them significantly non-competitive with their traditionally printed counterparts from the major houses:

> How did you do your comparison?

I, quite literally, picked up a stack of "same page count" fiction and non-fiction trade paperback format titles from several of the New York houses and looked at the prices imprinted on the covers. -- I've been reviewing books (and my reviews always include the prices) for almost three decades now. For some reason, the pricing differentials between these New York houses and the various POD houses just leaped up and grabbed my attention to the point that I was moved to make my little posting on the subject. I've been very gratified by the numerous and well thought out responses.

> Did you evaluate
> comparable POD books? I understand that the larger
> publishers can use economies of scale (if not in-house
> POD printing). I'm wondering how we can best use this
> pricing intelligence in our own companies.

I review for pretty much every POD publisher around. If there are any who haven't submitted titles to the Midwest Book Review, I'm simply not aware of them. The Midwest Book Review has a fairly high profile reputation in the small press and POD press community. In fact, for the two largest (iUniverse & 1st Books) I have a first name basis relationship with their head publicists who have both agreed to accept our tear sheets for their respective titles and then forward that information to their client authors. For what its worth, seems to be the least expensive in terms of cover price averages. The others seem to be all over the map, but uniformly and significantly higher than their traditionally published competitors.

> Perhaps all of us who are small independent publishers
> should re-visit the numbers in our own book cover costs
> and find ways to become more competitive in price.

This is profoundly excellent advice for every publisher regardless of size or preferred publishing technologies and/or venues.

It had never occurred to me to do the page count math in my original post:

> Tom Wedderburn's Life $0.097/page $0.063/page
> Outsourcing the Amer 0.093/page 0.082/page
> Only the Determined 0.108/page 0.078/page

My thanks to Robert Brenner for running the numbers. I found this fascinating.

Then niche publishing expert Janet Hardy chimed in:

> I also question some of Jim's wisdom regarding what pricing is
> appropriate. In some niches, the prices he discusses would be
> entirely appropriate. Our book "SM 101" has sold well upwards of
> 40,000 copies at 400 pages, and priced at $24.95.

Actually, I agree with Janet on her book (which I've seen) because if your self-published or POD published book is of a unique, specific niche oriented subject matter you can charge more.

But if "SM 101" had been a traditional romance, or a mystery, or a mainstream novel, then $24.95 would be far to high a cover price to be able to compete with the many, many, many others being offered in the same genre.

So, if you want to charge a premium price for your self published or small press title -- make certain that it is unique, a "must" for fans or hobbyists in its particular and specialized niche, or authored by someone really, really famous.

Just being a great read in a common genre isn't enough to justify a price that would be double or even triple what the competition is offering.

Then James Tolchard also chimed in with an inquiry:

> Hi Jim
> Over the last 18 months I have really enjoyed your input to the list but
> this is the first reason I've had to directly reply. Though it is directly
> related to your request on pricing I will add a couple of self-related
> questions which I hope you will reply to.
> JC writes: I'd really like to see some examples from other self-published,
> small press published, and POD published titles. Anyone care to volunteer
> examples of their own?
> Our company, Process Viewpoint Publishing, is about to release the first
> book in a series of twelve manuscripts we have written. The H-Factor,
> Solving The Hidden Puzzles Of Feelings, is priced at $18.00, has a page
> count of 306 pages which gives it a page price of 0.058. We arrived at this
> pricing by cross referencing it with a broad range of books both within its
> subject matter and books that could be said to be allied in subject matter.
> Question #1: I had made the assumption that reviewers would reject reviewing
> a book that "would not" be going into the standard book industry pipeline.
> For over thirty years I have operated my business activities on a "word of
> mouth" biz model so we intend to do the same with our books to build a brand
> Do you accept such books for possible reviewing?

The Midwest Book Review has only one criteria for acceptance of any title regardless of its genre, category, form or format -- is it in print and currently available to the reading public. We do indeed consider the non-standard titles for review. One "brand name" builder that comes to mind whose non-standard titles are frequently selected is "Made E-Z Products" where all of their "how to" titles in a variety of subject areas follow the common motif of being particularly and especially "reader friendly".

(Editor's Note: In the October 2002 issue of our "Reviewer's Bookwatch" one of our reviewers, Jack Burroughs, has a review of Lisa Kanarek' s"Organizing Your Home Business" by Made E-Z Products -- a title that made it through my original literary triage the day it came in because of the distinctive and standardized cover identifying it as belong to a series that had received priority and favorable attention. -- Jim Cox)

> Question #2: We have chosen a new company, ExactBind, from Jacksonville
> FL to do our PQN printing based (Note: this is followed by a description of
> services Jim) Would you have an interest in knowing more about Frank
> Millis and his company as you seem to have very broad interests about the
> industry?

I don't involve myself with vendor assessments or service recommendations in those aspects of publishing where I lack either personal or professional expertise. I leave that to the knowledgeable input from fellow list members on PubForum, Publish-L, and SPAN -- but thank you for the information. You never know when it might come in handy.

> Thank you for all the information you have shared.
> Respectfully
> James Tolchard

> From: (Green Book Of Songs)
> Jim,
> I continue to learn from your site, and I'd like to follow your advice
> and learn more by joining Pub-Forum and Publish-L. I just can't quite
> figure out where to find them so that I can sign up. If you could
> mention this in your next newsletter, I'd appreciate it!
> Thanks,
> Lauren Virshup
> Professional Desk References, Inc.
> Publisher of "The Green Book Of Songs By Subject"

On the Midwest Book Review website at you will find a section titles "Publisher Organizations". In this section are the names and links to all three online publisher organizations: PubForum; Publish-L; and SPAN.

Incidently, you will also find links to a roster of truly outstanding regional publisher associations and organizations, as well as the two principal national groups oriented to the small press community: Publishers Marketing Association (PMA) and the Small Publishers Association of North American (SPAN).

> In a message dated 02-06-11 23:11:14 EDT, writes:
> Ok, I'm lost.... I just got a terrific review from Midwest Book Review...
> are you saying that I can't use that review to further my book? If so, then
> what is the sense of sending a finished product to a source for a review...
> if their review is going to be resulting in a cash cow for the reviewer?
> Seems to me that this particular attitude and practice would tempt
> reviewers to rave a book that didn't merit a mention.... or worse.

I've just finished sending out the July tear sheets for all the publishers who had their titles reviewed in our June publications and am now catching up on a huge email backlog when I ran into the above.

For the record: All publishers have carte blanche permission to utilize reviews generated by the Midwest Book Review in their promotion and publicity efforts in any manner they deem appropriate. Just cite Midwest Book Review when doing so.

Now from the specific to the general regarding the "public domain" nature of book reviews.

I cover this rather completely and in detail in one of the "Advice For Publishers" articles that you will find on the Midwest Book Review website at

And I'm not going to tell you the article's title -- because if you don't know your rights as a publisher with respect to the utilization of reviews on your books, then I want you to read all four of the articles I've written on the book review process.

This isn't just hubris folks -- these articles on the book review process, the responsibilities that reviewers and publishers have toward each other, and what are the "industry standards and norms" with respect to the book review are "must" for all self-published, POD published, small press published, and major corporate house published authors, publishers, publicists, marketeers, sales reps, and reviewers.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-06-17 15:56:14 EDT, I wrote to the online discussion groups:

> Subj: [Pub-Forum] A Midwest Book Review Experiment
> Dear Publisher Folk:
> I was sitting at my desk this morning...going over seven self-published
> and POD published titles in reject them for review assignments.
> It turned out that my final decision was that six would be dismissed, but
> the seventh one would be accepted -- even if I had to assign it to myself...
> 1. Laws Of The Master (Golden Dragon Publishing) - no publisher snail-mail
> address on the book or in the publicity release. Plus the author in his
> cover letter notes that he is moving soon so that email is the way to reach
> him if I need to.
> 2. The Mothership Chronicles (1st Books Library) - very poorly drawn and
> designed cover. Overpriced for the market at a $17.10 cover price for a
> 241-page trade paperback book that should be no more than 10.95 to 12.95.
> 3. Delphi Justice (Atreus Publishing) - no publicity release accompanying
> the submission. Very poorly designed cover.
> 4. Confessions Of A Corporate Centurion (1st Books Library for Four
> Continents Press) - a poorly designed cover with too small a picture
> surrounded by far too wide a white border. Back jacket is just a standard
> promo for 1st Books Library with no specific information about the book
> itself or even an author bio.
> 5. Descending Into Heaven (City Fables) - interior text in way too small a
> font size for easy reading. This combined with a stark and minimal white
> cover with a very small black and white image of a city skyline and "naked"
> black cursive script spelling out the word Descending and Into, with block
> capital letters of the word Heaven. No attractiveness or attraction to the
> cover making it non-competitive with the other trade paperback fiction with
> which it would be in competition for a readership.
> 6. Gun Shy (Renaissance Alliance Publishing) - a very amateur art cover for
> front and back. This combined with a $21.99 price tag for a 444 page trade
> paperback novel that should be down around 15.95 to 17.95 makes it
> non-competitive and unfairly doomed in the marketplace.
> Note that in none of these rejection decisions have I even come near to
> mentioning anything about the quality of the writing. That's because I didn't
> take the time to sample it. Why should I when, in my opinion, no browsing
> reviewer on my staff or browsing customer in a bookstore, or browsing patron
> in a library, would either.
> Oh yeah, and that seventh one that did make the cut after I gave it a closer
> inspection?
> Curtain Call (Infinity for D2 Enterprises) - excellent cover
> art; decently sized interior print; good, brief, three paragraph descriptive
> summary on the back, nice color photo of author along with brief bio also on
> the back. This combined with a short cover letter on letterhead stationary
> and a one page publicity release with all the essential infobits -- all this
> combined with the subject matter of AIDS (a subject for which I have a
> personal interest since it killed off an uncle, a cousin, and is currently
> infecting a step-brother).
> So this one makes the cut and will be featured in an upcoming issue of one
> of our publications if I have to do it myself.

There has since been a postscript. Two of the six rejectee's got in touch with me. Both were royally steamed and felt the need to set me straight. After a bit of correspondence back and forth -- one of them went to her publisher and the two of them found that they both had felt the cover was flawed -- but thought that the other liked it and didn't want to create any conflict.

There was a second edition of Gun Shy, complete with a new (and much improved) cover. And the author is now one of the best of my volunteer reviewers with a particular and distinctive approach to the books she chooses to review. We have become very friendly in a cyberspace email kind of why and she reviews have definitely enhanced the reputation and expanded the outreach of the Midwest Book Review.

So covers count, people. It is theoretically possible for a good book to overcome a bad cover -- the key word being theoretically.

> In a message dated 02-06-17 20:20:43 EDT, Jeff Potter writes:
> "The Gulf Coast Boys"---black text on white cover. 180 pages. Ragged right!
> (just checked) I *happily* paid $19.95 plus shipping for it. So...this fine
> book---which is likely selling just fine---BROKE EVERY RULE YOU GUYS JUST
> MENTIONED. Maybe it's a word of mouth book. In that case, every honest
> reviewer who comes across it should help keep that ball rolling, PROVIDED

It's hard to argue against success!

But I can't help wondering how such an apparently terrific, niche oriented title would have done if it had followed publishing conventions? Would it have been able to sell even more copies to a larger and wider readership because it would have gotten more than just word-of-mouth promotion (as valuable as that is)?

Still, the fact that what the author had to say was able to overcome any prejudices in the mind of the reader based on non-conventional presentations remains very impressive indeed. Perhaps it falls under that old adage about exceptions making the rule?

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Reviewer

> In a message dated 02-06-17 17:23:04 EDT, Angela K. Durden writes:
> What is the difference between a trade paperback
> and any other paperback?

There are two classifications of paperback:

Mass Market Paperback: these are the small and rather uniform sized books that you see in supermarket or drug store spinner racks.

Trade Paperback: these are all the others and can vary in size from smaller than the mass markets to anything larger, from about the size of a traditional hardcover to very large -- what is often referred to as a "coffee-table" book.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

> In a message dated 02-06-17 18:43:24 EDT, Sid Jackson writes:
> We are presently working on a mystery-novel and I'm thinking of setting a
> verbatim police report, which the protagonist is reading, all in italics to
> set it off from the other text. This post, however, is making me wonder
> whether I should do this. The report itself is set up as one paragraph
> though it is about three-quarters of a page long. Is there a problem with
> this? If so, what?

Actually, if italic script is just used to set off a particular document within the context of a novel that uses conventional type for the rest of the text there should be no problem, -- as long as the italic font size is large enough to avoid eye strain.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

And now for my favorite part of these monthly messages of gossip and advice: Unsolicited Testimonials!

> Subj: Kudos to you James Cox
> From: (Valerie Sherrod)
> Mr. Cox,
> Hi my name is Valerie Sherrod. I am the African-American young lady you
> met at the Orlando Publisher's conference in 2001. You and Mylinda picked me
> up at the airport. Thanks for meeting with me to review my book "By Any
> Deceptive Means Necessary" and give me wise advice. I must say you are truly
> a well of information, wisdom and knowledge. Also, I am one of those persons
> who is causing your daughter to add more ram to the computer (trafficking
> issues).
> As far as information goes, in all honesty, your website is the only site I
> need to get information. When I visit your website, I am sure to get honest
> and humble advice. Your site is perfect for someone like me who is a self-
> published author who doesn't know a lot about publishing but learning more
> each day.
> What sparked my writing you this memo was the disappointed person in your
> May issue of Jim Cox's Report. From having met you personally, I know for a
> fact that no lies came from your mouth. So whatever her frustration was,
> trust me, it was not because of Jim Cox granting her a review.
> To place the conversation between you two on your site for all to see speaks
> about who you are as a person. You are a man of integrity and humbleness...
> the most humble man I have ever met in this publishing industry. Many could
> learn from your character. Now, I can go on and speak about the genuine
> compassion you have for self-published authors and others who you try to help,
> not hurt.
> I encourage you Jim to remain who you are on the inside because that is the
> person that is affecting others.
> And one more thing...although I am new to this self-publishing arena, thanks
> for not making me feel illiterate concerning this issue. No matter what
> level a person is on in publishing your wisdom and expertise feeds all of us.
> Okay. This is really one more thing. Concerning your health, I breathe the
> breath of life into your health area. There are so many people who need you
> in this publishing arena.
> Take Care and remain the king that you are.

My health these days is just fine -- as long as I take 8 different pills every day and walk on that verdammet treadmill where if it weren't for audiobooks I'd be bored out of my mind.

Also this little "unsolicited testimony" documents something else I've always tried to promote -- simple kindness. It is so easy to bombast other folk -- especially when they are asking the same questions you've heard and answered a hundred times before. But with courtesy and patience you reap respect and that very special kind of satisfaction that is reserved for teachers, mentors, gurus, and guides.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-06-28 00:23:04 EDT, you write:

> Subj: Thanks to Jim Cox from Media Magic author Marisa D'Vari

> Now that June is coming to a close and on the East
> Coast at least, the familiar thunder bolts are
> heralding the summer season, I'd like to publically
> thank Jim Cox for his review of new book, Media Magic:
> Profit and Promote with FREE Media Placement. The book
> is written from the pov of a TV host helping potential
> guests increase their chances of getting booked on TV,
> radio, and print.
> In the past, I've had publishers who submitted books to
> Jim on my behalf - but this is the first time Jim
> reviewed me!
> Jim may not remember because he talks to so many
> people, but it was he who helped me when I created my
> first show, which was a book chat for public
> television. I was young (well, at least seven years
> younger than today) and very excited, and Jim was Jim
> at his best: igniting my passion.
> Actually, I do scour his list and buy the books he
> recommends. Since we are all book people, we know the
> low price of books has absolutely no correlation with
> their value in terms of changing our lives and our
> thinking and increasing our business. Every single
> book I bought on Jim's recommendation has helped me in
> a very positive way.
> So, thanks Jim. Here's his web - you can find how to
> get your book reviewed advice in addition to lots of
> positive, enlightening articles.

Mari has become another of my cyberspace pen pals in the publishing industry and I thank her for her very kind words. I actually do speak to so many people, correspond to so many people, meet so many people, that I've long since given up trying to remember names when I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning. So it's always a pleasant little surprise when someone tells me that it was something I said to them that had an influence on their life -- all said and done so long ago that I don't even remember meeting them . But then, that's the whole underlying philosophy to that ancient admonition to "cast your bread upon the waters".

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

> Subj: Well done!
> Date: 02-06-29 13:52:52 EDT

> Hi Jim: Your feature article "Promoting Books on the Internet" that
> appeared in the July issue of SPAN was extremely helpful. Generating traffic
> onto our web site is a continuous challenge. Thanks for your insights. We
> plan to pursue them next Monday. Best regards, Charlotte Leister, president,
> Leister Publishing Company

This is the most sincere form of "thank you" possible -- someone actually going out and applying the advice offered. Incidently, you will find that "Promoting Books on the Internet" article in the "Advice For Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review at

In a message dated 02-07-02 09:27:40 EDT, you write:

> Subj: Grateful Gudhemma Author Bursts Forth in Song
> Date: 02-07-02 09:27:40 EDT
> From: (Chris Paul)
> Hallelu...hallelu...hallelu...hallelujah!
> Praise-for the review!
> Hallelu...hallelu...hallelu...hallelujah!
> Praise be to you!
> Praise to Jim Cox
> And his reviewer,
> Whose review rocks!
> Hallelujer!
> Praise off the cuff,
> Midwest B.R.
> Can't-thank you enough!
> There once was an author Christine,
> Who couldn't contain her bright gleam.
> When she felt most sublime,
> She burst forth in rhyme,
> Strange as I'm sure that must seem.
> Christine Paul

I promise you that I have never met Christine, no money changed hands, and that her poetry was as surprising as it was unexpected.

> Subj: Thank You!
> Date: 02-08-20 12:37:04 EDT
> From: (Donna Crossman)
> Dear Jim,
> I just returned from vacation and found your letter among my mail. Thank
> you so much for your wonderful review of our book "Sixteen Is Too Young
> To Drive." Your verification of our book's worthiness gives us the
> incentive to enthusiastically go on with our marketing efforts. This
> fall, we plan to offer our book to schools across the country as a
> fundraiser for driver education purposes or drinking and driving
> education. This book has not only launched our publishing company, but
> hopefully will save teen lives. I can't thank you enough.
> Just wanted to mention - you listed our address as "Hammon Rd." It's
> "Harmon Rd." And we have a toll free number for orders that wasn't
> listed with the review: it's 1-877-557-0575.
> I'm planning to submit another title next year to "Midwest Book Review."
> I look forward to your sage advice on the Publish-L list.
> Sincerely,
> Donna Crossman
> Footnote Publishing
> 16 Harmon Road
> Scotia, NY 12302
> 518-399-1261

Donna is an example of a thank you note with correction request. I'm never embarrassed to learn that we got numbers switched in an ISBN, or that a phone number has become obsolete and needs to be updated, or that a misspelling has occurred (especial a correctly spelled wrong word) and needs to be amended. So never be reluctant to bring these to my attention -- even (and especially) when you are feeling so otherwise happy about making the cut here at the Midwest Book Review and being featured in our publications, postings, etc.

In a message dated 02-09-02 11:28:05 EDT, you write:

> Date: 02-09-02 11:28:05 EDT
> From:
> To:,
> 9/2/02
> Dear James,
> Please accept my VERY belated thanks for the review you did of my book,
> Earth Dreams: Finding Light in the Shadow. Your publication was the first to
> review the book -- back in March -- and the MWBR review remains the one
> I quote most often in press releases and other publicity materials. I have
> thought so often since of contacting you and apologize for how long it's
> taken me to actually do so.
> As a first-time author/publisher, I cannot express my gratitude for your
> support enthusiastically enough!
> My best wishes to you -- Liz Brensinger, Red Road Press

It's never too late to say thank you. And it is largely on the well wishes of the small press community that keeps me going even when my brain is fried from dead line pressures, my motives are impugned by well meaning colleagues, my abilities to keep up with the demands of this business falter from fatigue, or I end up still here at my desk writing the October issue of the Jim Cox Report at 3:22 pm when I should be taking a nap.

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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