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Jim Cox Report: October 2003

Dear Publisher Folk:

Another month gone by -- another 30 days packed with deadlines, emails, publicity releases, and more than 1500 books crossing my desk accompanied with letters requesting reviews. In addition, I've begun a couple of articles relevant to small press publishing that (when finished) will go up on the Advice For Publishers section of our Midwest Book Review website.

What I most deeply regret is the press of all this upon my available time has led to an inability to scrounge up the time to be more active with the online publishing discussion groups.

Yesterday I downloaded 468 emails. This morning it was another 273. About two-thirds of these are SPAM. Most of the rest are from the publisher groups but either the discussion threads are not in my particular area of expertise or someone else has already nicely answered that book review/publicity oriented question.

Still, there are rewards for laboring so long and hard on this book review operation which is part hobby, part profession, part obsession.

I've made the cover of the monthly "Span Connection" newsletter (Volume 8, Issue 9/90, September 2003). It's a "how to" article I wrote titled "When Pitching Your Book By Phone".

I've been published in Span Connection several times before -- but I think this is the first time I "got the cover" as they say in magazine journalism. is an online publisher discussion group and the creation of SPAN (Small Publishers Association of North America) -- and originally started by Marilyn Ross, then almost immediately and subsequently run by a number of volunteers. I don't believe (if I'm wrong someone please update me) that it is formally associated with SPAN anymore. But I've always credited Marilyn with considerable foresight in helping this group get launched.

Another nice little bit of info is our monthly tally of Midwest Book Review website visitors by In September the total was 2271 Still another indicator of website success is the number of emails and phone calls which are website generates. Mostly folks are calling for me to confirm or elaborate on something or other that they've read on our website about some aspect of the publishing and/or book reviewing process. -- I'm always happy to oblige (time permitting).

Before moving on to some publishing Q & A, I want to talk a bit about a consistent problem I've got, month after month, with respect to (largely) the self-published titles that come in here. -- Getting tear sheets (copies of the review) and their attendant publisher notification letters bounced back to me by the U.S. Post Office because the publisher addresses have become obsolete and there is no forwarding address that the Post Office can use.

For our August reviews there were six of these. For the September reviews there were five of these. And I just know that when I start sending out the notification letters for our October reviews there will be a handful coming back to me as undeliverable.

We generate around 600 to 700 reviews a month -- so you can see that it's only 1% or less that encounter this problem. But every time I do it's particularly irksome.

The problem is that when the books are reviewed (and the heartbreak is in knowing that each of these titles passed my initial screening; won a review assignment; were given positive reviews by our volunteers; which were then subsequently posted on our website and elsewhere on the net, as well as in the interactive CD-ROM "Book Review Index" that readers, librarians, bookstore folk, etc. who want to get a copy of that positively reviewed and recommended title from the publisher will be unable to do so using the snail-mail contact information that is featured as a routine aspect of our book reviews.

As near as I can figure it out, there are two major causes for this state of affairs:

1. The publisher began with using a Post Office Box number and then after the book was published, discontinued it.

2. The publisher moved locations between the time their book was published and the time the book got reviewed -- with no correction of any obsolete addresses printed in the book and no current address identified as being the new and correct one in the accompanying publicity release and/or cover letter.

So the reviewer has only one address to work with and no way to know that the address is no longer in use by the publisher.

I used to go on the net and try to Google the publisher to secure a current address from their website (assuming they had one). But even then I would just as often not be able to find one -- or finding one took clicking through several links. -- And just as often there would be no website.

I'm afraid that nowadays I just don't have the time to invest in that kind of additional and supplemental online research. So when these undeliverable notification letters are returned, I simply sigh deeply, and then drop them into the circular file that gets emptied once a day by the janitorial staff.

The moral of this story is that if you are a self-published author, if you are a small press publisher, and you have had to move from one address to another -- please be specifically certain that every piece of correspondence sent to a prospective reviewer about your book clearly identifies your new address. Half the value (at least!) of getting your book reviewed is the use you can make of that review in your promotional campaign quite above and beyond that particular reviewer's forum and/or audience. And if that reviewer's editor can't send you a copy of that review -- then you've just lost half the value of your investment (review copy + postage + publicity release + cover letter + your time).

Now for some publisher Q & A -- and please remember that my advice is worth exactly what I'm charging! :-)

In a message dated 9/19/03 8:28:25 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:

> When I published the first edition of my non-fiction book I did not bother
> circulating copies of my manuscript in an effort to solicit Pre-Publication
> reviews through the appropriate venues. Now I am in the early stages of
> preparing the manuscript for an expanded second edition of my book. Is it
> appropriate to solicit Pre-Publication reviews for a second edition?

If the new edition is significantly different from the first edition, then go

ahead and send out the usual ARC (advanced reading copies) to reviewers. Be sure that in your accompanying cover letter and publicity materials you clearly bring to notice that your second edition is seriously updated, expanded, and/or revised from the first edition.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 9/18/03 3:33:12 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

>I understand that a lot of writers use Pseudonyms. How can they get paid for
>their work if they are not using their own legal name? How do they sign
>contracts/cash cheques, etc?

All banks have a "DBD" provision. DBD stands for "doing businss as". So what the authors do is sign the pseudonyms (if that's the way the check is made out) and then make a direct deposit into their personal or business bank accounts.

Incidently, most publishers know the identity of their pseudonymed authors and the checks are made out to the author's real name -- and the pseudonym is kept as an "in-house" secret as to what the real identify is as far as the reading public is concerned.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Date: 8/5/03 1:49:22 PM Central Daylight Time


Thanks so much for the terrific review of Divorce Solutions by Ed Sherman in the August 2003 Reviewers Bookwatch (Sharon's Bookshelf). I'm sure we at Nolo Press Occidental will be able to use some great quotes from the review in our promotions, and I will suggest a quote on the back cover for the next edition. Of course we will attribute any quotes to the Midwest Book Review.

I have some correction requests for the review, which I know from reading your newsletters that you welcome. When I sent in the book for review, I included all our contact information, but as often happens, it seems we got confused with the other Nolo Press (we are separate companies and Nolo Press Occidental is the publisher of Divorce Solutions).

Here is the correct information:

Publisher: Nolo Press Occidental
Address 501 Mission Street, Suite 2, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
web address
Phone: (800) 464-5502

Many thanks for your assistance with this, and keep up the great work. I found the info on your site for publishers to be extremely useful and informative.

Best regards,

Sandra Borland
Nolo Press Occidental

Sandra's email points out three separate issues that I want to underscore as important:

1. Reviewers make mistakes. When that happens, publishers should always seek to have those errors corrected. In this case, Sandra hit the problem squarely on the head. I routinely review for Nolo Press (they are a premier publisher of do-it-yourself titles in the field of law and contracts). When Sandra wrote to me I immediately realized what I had inadvertently done -- I have a publisher address data base and when I read "Nolo Press Occidental", I did not realize that it was a different publisher than Nolo Press and so automatically imported the wrong publisher address into the contact information part of the review.

Fortunately, it was very easy to correct -- and is especially worthwhile doing so in light of our reviews being held on our Midwest Book Review website for at least one year.

2. Sandra clearly identified what the correct contact information was -- including snail-mail, website, and toll-free phone number. I didn't have to hunt or peck around. It was right there in an easy "copy & paste" routine by our webmaster who immediately took care of everything.

3. She didn't have too -- but did you notice how polite and supportive Sandra "sandwiched" the problem with the ego-boosting info about her planning to use the review and her closing comment of appreciation.

It made this reviewer simply stop everything else and take care of this little gaff right then and there. Courtesy and appreciation are contagious!!

Subj: Book Review
Date: 8/20/03 12:37:18 PM Central Daylight Time

Dear Mr. Cox,

I wanted to express my sincerest gratitude for the absolutely wonderful review you did for my book: Alcatraz - A Definitive History of the Penitentiary Years. I was equally ecstatic to learn that it would be featured on KNLS Bookwatch program.

As unbelievable as it may sound, I am a huge S-Wave fan. Last year I purchased a used a Grundig "Satellite 800 Millennium" short-wave radio, and have really enjoyed it. I was able to stay up and catch several of the 1 AM (Pacific Time) programs, which I found very enjoyable.

Thank you again so much. I really do appreciate everything you did for me. I also very much enjoyed a few of the other titles. Its really a great program...

Kindest Regards,

Michael Esslinger

As some of you new folk might not know, I do a shortwave radio broadcast book review column called "The KNLS Bookwatch". Once a month I'm called up by the show's producer (who is in Tennessee) and I speak my review column into the phone (while sitting here in Wisconsin). Mike records it, adds some intro and exit music, then pipes it to the KNLS studio located in Anchor City, Alaska. Those folks then beam it all around the world into 124 countries. My ten-minute book review on-air column is broadcast three times a day at staggered times, and three days a week, all month long.

The theme is to showcase books on and about American culture, politics, history, and biography. My audience is rather neatly divided between folks who want to know everything they can about America -- and those who are just practicing their English language skills!

I get nice little emails from time to time from listeners all over the globe. It has even resulted in my receiving a small but steady stream of review books from India! I learned that India has a huge English language publishing industry. One striking difference is that the books (and their accompanying cover letters) usually have the sweet scent of incense! They are also usually printed on very thin paper and use very small type.

I draw my reviews from books already reviewed and featured in our online magazine "Internet Bookwatch". So it is a minimal time investment for me -- and I really enjoy doing it.

And now for my favorite part of The Jim Cox Report --

Unsolicited Testimonials ... with commentary!

Date: 8/9/03 6:52:04 PM Central Daylight Time

Hi, Jim,

Just a quick thank you for sending me a copy of Peter Hupalo's review of my new book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First. If every editor were as conscientious as you, the world would be a much better place.

Shel Horowitz

I think I trace my compulsive sending out of tear sheets and publisher notification letters to my early childhood training by my maternal grandmother and her rules about always sending "thank you" notes when people gave you presents or did something nice for you.

Not only is it gracious etiquette -- it's also darn good business in at least two specific ways:

1. The person being thanked may be in a position to do you a future good.

2. The person being thanked may be so surprised that they'll talk to others about you in a very favorable light and raise your profile within (as in this instance) the publishing community you wish to prosper and "network".

Then there's this:

James -

I have to say that your site is the best resource for publishing information I have ever seen. I have only been in the business for about four years, beginning at Jones and Bartlett Publishers in Sudbury, MA and now at Addison-Wesley in Boston, MA, however along the way your site has lent me guidance and suggestions.

Thanks again.

Nathan J. Schultz
Marketing Manager, Computing

A final word:

Our postage stamp appreciation program continues to be a source of great joy and humility for me. It's easy to send an email "thank you" note. But when folks think so highly of what we try to accomplish in behalf of the small press community that they are willing to donate stamps "for the cause" -- well, that's really something special in my book.

Here are some more of the wonderful folks who contributed postage stamps this past month by way of saying "thank you" and wanting to support our efforts:

Stewart Publishing
Carol Teten - Dancetime Publications
Sue Freeman - Footprint Press
Celeste Bailey - Science2Discover
R. Newman - Labyrinth: A Mythic Journey
W. Royce Adams - Rairarubia Books
The Bluedorns - Christian Logic/Trivium Pursuit

My personal thanks and gratitude to all of these terrific folk. If you'd like to donate postage stamps as an expression of support, just send them directly to my attention.

Until next time!

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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