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Jim Cox Report: October 2005

The big news here at the Midwest Book Review is the acquisition of a grant that allowed us to replace our 20+ year old computer system with a brand new, state-of-the-art computer system. To give you an idea of how big an upgrade this is, we jumped from Windows 3.1 to WindowsXP, and we went from WordPrefect 6.1 to WordPerfect 12.

We've got a new Frontier System hard drive that is half the size and eight times the capacity of the old one. It's got a superb DVD drive and is packed with updated anti-virus software, the latest web browser software, and is lightning quick.

We also got a new Microsoft keyboard, a new HP Deskject 5740 printer, and a new Samsung plasma monitor.

Best of all (at least from my perspective) all my old publisher address, book review, and MBR website databases were deftly and seamlessly transferred from the old computer to the new one.

It seems there's been quite a bit of advancement in desktop computer systems these past two decades! This is about week 3 of the new system's arrival, and I estimate we've had a 20 - 30 percent increase in productivity. -- One very nice touch is a new "proof read" feature that tells me as I type along about any words that the computer doesn't recognize. Half the time its people's names, but the other half are just good old fashioned typos. For someone like me who tends to type as faster than I can talk, this is a good thing -- a very good thing!

The whole system ran $1750.00 -- and I still have a couple hundred left over from the grant to stock up on about six ink cartridges for the new printer (they run $35 each and last about a month or so).

By the way, grants like this are only made possible because so many of you have sent "thank you" notes and postage stamp contributions that I was able to document as carrying out our own advocacy goals in behalf of literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.

Now on to other stuff:

This is a review of a "how to" title by MBR reviewer Magdalena Ball that I thought was very appropriate to bring to the attention of writers, editors and publishers -- the targeted readership for the "Jim Cox Report".

Write it Right: The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like the Pros
Dawn Josephson and Lauren Hidden
Cameo Publications
PO Box 8006, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
ISBN 0974496626, $17.95 144 pp.

Publishing a book is no longer expensive. Anyone can do it, and everyone seems to be. What is expensive however, and what many authors make the mistake of skimping on, is hiring an editor. That isn't only an issue for self-published books either. In order to get a decent publishing contract, manuscripts have to be near perfect. However wonderful, poetic and rich the characters, the ideas or the writing in general, if a book needs extensive (or even relatively minor) editing, it won't be chosen. So learning the art of editing is crucial for modern writers. You could, of course, hire a professional at high cost, but for a mere $17.95, Josephson and Hidden provide some very simple and useable techniques for doing it yourself. Of course there is the obvious financial benefit, but self-editing has other benefits. Firstly, even if you hire someone, the chances are, aside from a line proofread, their advice will be merely guidance, and you'll still need to do the hard work. Secondly, you are the only one who knows what your intentions are, and self-editing allows you to retain complete control of your manuscript. Even if you are taken on by a big publishing house and get an editor, the more polished your work is, the easier it will be for them to clean up any last little errors. As the authors clearly state, anyone, even those whose writing is limited to business letters or letters to their school board can benefit from improved editing skills. For those writing full length manuscripts, skills in self-editing aren't optional.

The book is fairly short, simply and clearly written, and follows the clean structure of Other "Ground Rules" publications. Each chapter begins with the "Ground Rules" which talks about the core of the section, and is followed by real-life illustrations and examples, turning points or questions to help with the self-discovery/reflection process, frequently asked questions, and key points. Bullet points, graphics, exercises with blank lines to fill in, and checklists are all used liberally to lighten the text and signal that this book is meant to be used immediately as a workbook. The book contains four steps which can be used in most editing projects, and the more these steps are used, the faster and better writers will be at using them. They begin with knowing what your own particular writing challenges are. These are errors that are specific to your writing and repeated regularly. The book contains a test to help you identify your gaps in grammar, difficulties that you have with sentence structure, overuse of passives, run ons, word repetition and so on. It may surprise you (as it did me) how basic and consistent you are with your problems as you work through some of your existing pieces. As the authors state, knowing where your regular problems lie is half the battle, not just in editing, but in becoming a better writer in general.

Other steps include creating your own personalized editing checklist (based on the list made in step one), changing perspective/stance from writer to editor, reading through the text several times for different purposes, reading through from back to front or choosing sentences at random, getting a colleague to proofread, and read the work aloud to you, and printing out a clean copy for the final proofread. The casual, easy to follow text may make this book appear relaxed, but the prescriptions are anything but. A good editing job means working through the entire text many times - once for each of your regular problems and several more times for good measure. If you do what Write It Right suggests, you will certainly improve your prose; probably to at least the same level as a professional editor. You'll also be strengthening your writing skills, so that your work needs less editing in general.

The tone of the book is light and affirming, with plenty of positive reinforcement like "Congratulations, you've now," "go for the gold," and inspirational quotations. Appendices cover things like how to do a quick edit, what not to do, some basic rules of grammar and usage, and checklists. Despite the didacticism inherent in the subject matter, this book doesn't prescribe how you should edit your work. Instead, it leads you down the path of self-discovery, so you can uncover your own weaknesses, and work, as an increasingly experienced editor of your own work, towards cleaner, clearer and better writing. The steps are easy but the process isn't. You still have to work through the writing, time and time again, which is the heart of any editing process--there's no substitute for it. Good editing/revising is the one thing which differentiates great work from average work. Writers who make the techniques in this valuable book part of their regular writing routine will most certainly stand out in a very crowded field, and that, of course, is the name of the game.

Speaking of "how to" books for writers and publishers, here's some reviews that appeared in our monthly "The Writing/Publishing Shelf" columns for September and October 2005:

Author Law A-Z
Sallie Randolph, et al.
Capital Books, Inc.
22841 Quicksilver Dr, Sterling, VA 20166
1931868263 $21.95, 1-800-758-3756

The latest installment in the "A-Z Legal Series" from Capital Books, Author Law A-Z: A Desktop Guide To Writers' Rights And Responsibilities packs the collective wisdom of author-lawyers Sallie Randolph, Stacy Davis, Anthony Elia and Karen Dustman into plain terms for lay readers - and writers! Author Law A-Z is organized like an encyclopedia, with A-Z entries of common legal and writing industry terms or issues that every author should know, from "abridgement" and "acceptable manuscript" to "young adult books" and Zapruder film", which denotes a landmark legal case about film rights concerning the home video film that accidentally documented the assassination of JFK. In addition to the entries, numerous tips, tricks, techniques, and warnings for the aspiring author in a legally complex world, from a sample demand letter (as written to a vanity print-on-demand publisher masquerading as a traditional publisher) to a sample complaint for copyright infringement, advice for what to say when one's editor calls, and much more. Enthusiastically recommended for spot research or simple cover-to-cover reading in order to grasp valuable basic lessons of the writing and publishing business.

Writer's Digest Books
4700 East Galbriath Road, Cincinnati OH 45236

The 2006 updated Writer's Markets have hit the stands, and whether you're a library catering to would-be authors and writers or a writer needing constant reference for new jobs, they are 'must' purchases both individually and collectively, representing industry-standard writer's guides which will receive repeated value and attention throughout the year. The weighty 2006 Writer'' Market (1582973946, $29.99) appears in its 85th annual edition, completely revised and updated to include over 600 new listings for book publishers, magazines, trade journals and more. Not only do new listings expand the size, but exclusive interviews with agents and publishing professionals add value to listings which include small and large press listings for paying sources. For more clearly defined sources, choose either the 2006 Poet's Market (1582974004, $24.99), holding over 200 new listings to its 1,800 listings for presses, journals, workshops and contests, the 2006 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market (1582973970, $24.99), with its 200 new listings, or the 2006 Children's Writer's And Illustrator's Market (15829734020, $24.99), appearing in its 18th updated edition featuring over 800 listings total. And don't forget the 2006 Guide To Literary Agents (1582973997, $24.99), with over 500 listings to its 15th revised edition covering all kinds of agencies, agents, and special promoter contacts. All are cornerstones of any serious collection.

Book Typography
Ari Rafaeli
Oak Knoll Press
310 Delaware St., New Castle, DE 19720
1584561572 $34.95, 1-800-996-2556

Intended as an instructional particularly for publishers and anyone involved in typographical work, Book Typography is a no-nonsense, informative tour of the definitions, history, and current usage of various typefaces, styles, spacing techniques and much more. A wealth of notes elaborate upon the text, as it walks the reader through such topics as "The school of close spacing", "Mise-en-page etc.", and much more. A handful of black and white illustrations, sample typefaces, and sample pages showcase the ideas and techniques discussed. An excellent introduction and well-rounded resource to the print technology of typography.

Damn! That's Funny!
Gene Perret
Quill Driver Books
1254 Commerce Ave., Sanger, CA 93657
1884956550 $14.95 1-800-497-4909

Whether you're a satirical writer or produce outright comedy, there's a market for funny writing, from humorous articles to sketches. Article writers will relish Gedne Perrett, himself one of the top comedy writers going, in Damn! That's Funny! which tells not just how to 'write funny', but how to market one's humor to the right audience. Understand what you want to say, how to best say it, and how to sell it effectively in this guide to producing and publishing outstanding humor.

Self-Publishing Fiction
Gavin Sinclair
Mainland Press
4340 J.A. Yount Farm Road, Conover, NC 28613
0970874642 $19.95

Self-Publishing Fiction: From Manuscript To Bookstore And Beyond is a step-by-step guide to publishing one's novel with no more than a manuscript, a computer, and some hard work - mountains of money not required! Simple instructions to transform one's manuscript into a printer-ready format, design a cover, select a printer, obtain ISBN and Library of Congress numbers, register copyright, get one's book reviewed and get onto bookstore shelves, maximize on-line sales, and much more fill this extremely practical how-to guide. Packed cover-to-cover with "hands-on" information offering straight talk to difficult problems, from how to approach Barnes & Noble and other big bookstore chains to how to get picked up by a distributor, Self-Publishing Fiction is an enthusiastically recommended "must-have" for anyone determined to present a story to the reading public without breaking the bank.

Turning Your Life's Stories Into A Literary Memoir
Peggy Lang & Robert Goodman
Silver Threads
3830 Valley Centre Drive, PMB 102, San Diego, CA 92130
1893067041 $12.95

Turning Your Life's Stories Into A Literary Memoir: A Memoir People Actually Want To Read is a straightforward "how-to" guide to skillfully preserving one's memories in book form. Emphasizing writing tips, tricks, and techniques that will absorb readers into what you have to say, chapters cover the definition of a memoir, literary techniques in story structure, craft and style to add one's unique imprint to writing, common pitfalls with dialogue, sentence construction, or background research, how to spark one's memories, and more guide the reader to write in a professional manner. A final chapter walks lay people through the simplest basics of how to get published, whether self-publishing, e-book, online publishing, private publishing, or traditional publishing. A short and simple guide that effectively covers the basics of memoir writing and publishing.

Book Design And Production
Pete Masterson
Aenoix Publishing Group
6171 Hillside Drive, El Sobrante, CA 94803-3617
0966981901 $29.95

Book Design And Production: A Guide For Authors And Publishers will enable even the most novice aspirants to publishing an ideal instructional guide to every aspect of book publishing. A pioneer in the use of on-demand printing technology back in 1982-83 when he was in charge of publishing all price lists for a large railroad, and having operated several book design, printing and typesetting businesses for clients which included HarperCollins and McGraw-Hill, Pete Masterson takes the reader through every step of the book creation process. A master at the craft of book creation, Masterson clearly explains why 90% of all designers will prove wrong for a particular title -- and the ten crucial questions to ask when interviewing book designers; why Microsoft Word is a poor layout choice -- but what to do if you end up having to use it anyway; why the wrong fonts can ruin a book -- and how to pick the right ones. Covering both the outside (cover) of a book, as well as its interior design, and thoroughly "user friendly" throughout, Pete Masterson's Book Design And Production is one of those indispensable instructional references that should be on the shelf of anyone seeking to produce their own books so as to be as marketable (and profitable) as possible.

Book Proposals That Sell
W. Terry Whalin
Write Now Publications/ACW Press
5501 N 7th Ave, #502 Phoenix, AZ 85013
1932124640 $14.00

More than 80% of all nonfiction books are sold from a book proposal, according to W. Terry Whalin, author of more than 60 nonfiction books and Book Proposals That Sell: 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success. Book Proposals That Sell breaks down the art of refining and pitching one's idea into simple individual steps such as "Know the audience for your book", "Keep the title and format simple", "Always include a SASE", "Maintain a log of your submissions", "Delete any hype" and more. Written in straightforward, no-nonsense terms easily accessible to writers of all skill and experience levels, Book Proposals That Sell is highly recommended for its nuts and bolts practical information drawn from research and extensive personal experience.

Say What You Mean!
R. L. Trask
David R. Godine, Publisher
9 Hamilton Place, Boston, MA 02108
1567922635 $25.00 1-800-344-4771

The highly skilled and experienced linguist R.L. Trask offers no-nonsense vocabulary advice Say What You Mean!: A Troubleshooter's Guide To English Style & Usage.. Structured like a dictionary, Say What You Mean! is specifically a compendium of English words that are all-too-often misused or confused - such as "sped" vs. "speeded", and the proper usage of "Sir" or "Dame" - these titles may be used with the full name or just first name, but using them with the last name only is improper! Although particularly useful for British English speakers adjusting to American English spellings and definitions and vice-versa, Say What You Mean! is an utterly invaluable reference and serious-minded writers of all formats are enthusiastically recommended to peruse Say What You Mean! cover to cover in order to avoid common mistakes and misconceptions.

How To Publish Your Nonfiction Book
Rudy Shur
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Rd., Garden City, NY 11040
0757000002 $16.95 1-877-900-2665

Having a great idea for a book is only the first, baby step to getting it published and publicized: but how does the writer with a manuscript publish a nonfiction book? First it's necessary to define the book's audience and category, so you know where it fits into the overwhelmed publisher's marketplace - it's niche. Then, consider how to choose a publisher who will be the best choice for your title. Finally, submit a package to make acceptance more likely. The Square One formula revealed in How To Publish Your Nonfiction Book deftly walks the would-be author through all the steps necessary to avoid common mistakes and up the chances for success.

MovieMind For Screenwriters
William Ronald Craig
On the Flats Publishing
PO Box 2240, Berkeley, CA 94702
0972080228 $24.95

Written by a former University Professor of Screenwriting, MovieMind For Screenwriters: Write It Right And Get It Written is a no-nonsense guide to planning, writing, and polishing a Hollywood-quality screenplay. But chapters cover much more than creating believable characters, proper format style, layout, and examples, recommended steps for revising rough drafts and other writing techniques; the final section of MovieMind informs an aspiring screenwriter of exactly what to expect when trying to break into the business! Some issues - such as whether one should include a bold copyright notice when submitting a script (technically unnecessary since copyright in America is automatic without the notice, and some claim the notice gives a "sue-happy" impression that will get one's script dropped like a hot potato) - are given over to controversy, in which case MovieMind For Screenwriters presents both points of view and lets the reader judge. Other topics covered include the requirements to get into the Writer's Guild Association, to how to get noticed when most producers won't read scripts from previously unpublished authors, to how to protect one's rights, and much more. MovieMind For Screenwriters is an all-purpose introductory guide to writing for quality, profit, and pure entertainment, and an absolute must-have for anyone interested in writing for the big or small screen.

There are reviews of hundreds of more "how to" books covering every aspect of writing and publishing. You will find them in two specific sections of the Midwest Book Review website at They are "The Writing Bookshelf" and "The Publishing Bookshelf".

Now for my annual reminder -- please always inform your friendly neighbor reviewers when you have moved or otherwise have changed your mailing address!! It's just sad that neither Little Seed Publishing nor Top Publications Ltd. will ever know that the Midwest Book Review featured their books in the September issues of our monthly book review publications. That's because our tear sheet enclosed, publisher notification letters were returned to me by the post office stamped with "Return to Sender, Not Deliverable As Addressed, Unable To Forward".

Now its time for the "Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall of Fame & Appreciation". The following authors, publishers and publicists wanted to say thank you and "support the cause" by donating much appreciated and always useful postage stamps:

Terri Kay - "The Secret at St. Sans"
Edwin Fontanez - "On This Beautiful Island"
Linday Joy Myers - "Don't Call Me Mother"
Joan Marie Wood - "Her Voice Is Blackberries"
Harold Kassel - "Economics as a Symptom of Sadism"
Marv Gold - "The Elephant Who Crossed the Alps"
Cally Press
Smart Girls Publishing
Meredith Rutter - VanderWyk & Burnham
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier - Walmania Publicity
Barbara Meislin - Purple Lady Productions
Dale Carlson - Bick Publishing House
Milton E. Adams - Beaver's Pond Press, Inc.
Dorothy Lockspeiser - DotLock Enterprise
J. Lee Gilbert - King & Queen Publishers, Inc.
Michael Dorn - Safe Havens International, Inc.
Nancy Illing - Creative Genius Publications
Richard R. Peppe - Glassworks Publishing

If you would like to subscribe directly to the "Jim Cox Report" (its free), just send me an email asking to be signed up.

If you have a book you'd like considered for review then send it (accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity release) to:

Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575

So until next time! Goodbye, Good Luck, 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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