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Jim Cox Report: September 2003

Dear Publishers, Family & Friends:

Another month has gone by, filled with books, email, snail-mail, review scripts, and publication deadlines.

The September issue of Writer's Digest Magazine is running a piece by me titled "How Do You Stack Up?" and is about how people judge books by their covers every day and how to get a small press or self-published title past the first hurdle in the promotion/publicity/sales campaign -- the book reviewer.

I'm donating my little writer's fee to the Midwest Book Review postage fund. And speaking of postage, the following wonderful people donating stamps as a gesture of support for what we try to accomplish here in behalf of the small press community:

Sherri Erickson - Attainment Company, Inc.
Dick Olenych
Kassons Castings
Steve Karris - Orchard Publications
Jean Colis - Emba House, LLC
Carol Fenster - Savory Palate, Inc.
Barbara Elmore
David J. Marcom
Lois Roney

I know it might not sound like such a big deal -- but every time one of these stamp donation letters come in it just fills me with a profound sense of appreciation at this tangible acknowledgment of our efforts to support authors and publishers in a business that so very highly dominated by the conglomerates and multinationals.

Just to reiterate for newcomers, the Midwest Book Review cannot accept money from authors or publishers in order to avoid any conflict of interest issues. But we do most gratefully accept donations of stamps as gestures of support and appreciation.

In other news, I got one of those Social Security Statements in the mail. The ones that tell you how much (or in my case, how little) I can expect to get if I retire at ages 62, 65, and 70. -- Financially speaking, it looks like I'll be manning the helm here at the Midwest Book Review until I'm 90!

Ah well -- at least I so thoroughly enjoy my job that I really don't mind -- as long as I can start to slow down when I'm 80!

The reviews we generate here at the Midwest Book Review are also going to be popping up elsewhere on the internet in regular monthly fashion.

Subj: Re: Book Review Forum Invitation

Thanks for the subscription offer, sign me up for Children's Bookwatch, Internet Bookwatch, and Small Press Bookwatch...I am going to make a special category at the Book Review Forum for YOUR book reviews.

Thanks again,


The Book Review Forum website is at This latest outlet joins a roster of others ranging from, to the School Page, to the University of Wisconsin's "Cooperative Children's Book Center", to

Now let's go on to talk about questions and issues relevant to publishing.

1. Thanks for the review..


Thanks very much for the recent good words about my book, "How to Become a Fulltime Freelance Writer." This is a book I had been wanting to write for 15 years.

Years ago, I used to send books to you, when I handled Baen Books' publicity, freelance. Now, I want to submit a couple of sample book reviews to you. I'll send them in separate messages.

Best regards,

Michael A. Banks

I actually remembered Michael from his Baen Books days (Baen is a science fiction & fantasy specialty publisher out of New York). It's kind of strange to most folks but I rarely remember authors, but for some reason I rarely forget publicists! But more to the point, we are always interested in serving as a forum for as wide a variety of literary opinion and book reviews as possible. I've even developed a "Reviewer Guidelines" that I automatically send to anyone who inquires. All of our review correspondence with our volunteer reviewers (including their book review submissions) is done by email.

Some of our reviews (like Michael) are quite experienced in the publishing industry and published authors in their own right. Others are simply bookaholics like me who enjoy being able to express their opinions and need only a forum from which to do so.

A quick online perusal of our "Reviewer's Bookwatch" and "MBR Bookwatch" will quickly demonstrate the wide and diverse range of reviewing styles by our 76 volunteer reviewers.

Writers need to be readers as well. But it's publishers who also need to spend healthy amounts of time reading for both pleasure and profit. That's because it is by the practice of regularly reading the writings of others that we improve and sharpen our own skills and awareness of what works (and what doesn't) when it comes to putting our thoughts and imaginations down on paper (or a computer screen in this day and age).

Reading will expand vocabulary, provide examples of effective expression to emulate, introduce alternative word usage, and reinforce communication traditions of grammar, punctuation, spelling, paragraphing, and layout.

Reading helps the writer to write. What's not so obvious is that in my experience and observation, reading also helps publishers in their publishing of what others (and they themselves) write -- if only in the editorial evaluation part of the publishing process.

And I'm not just referring to reading your way through all those "how to" books you will find listed in the "Writer's Bookshelf" and "Publisher's Bookshelf" sections of the Midwest Book Review website -- or even these monthly extended monologs called The Jim Cox Report.

Read for pleasure. Read for sport. Read for mindless fun. We all have "guilty pleasures". One of mine is Japanese anime graphic novels and comics. Every now and then, after finishing something that was as interesting as it was entertaining, take a moment to reflect upon just what was it about the author's writing or the publisher's efforts (ranging from cover art to font selection) that made your reading experience so memorable and/or pleasurable. What you come up with by way of explanations or observations might just serve you in good stead in your own writing/publishing project(s).

And you can always available yourself of the Midwest Book Review as a forum for your more articulated commentaries about what you've been reading!

2. Permission to use review quotes

Hi Jim,

We're currently working on several promotional items here at VIZ, and we'd love to use quotes from some editorial reviews. At this time, we are specifically interested in securing permission to use the following from your reviews of this manga:


"Deftly written and superbly drawn by Hitoshi Ariga The Big O series is very highly recommended for fans of Japanese science fiction manga with film noir feel."

Midwest Book Review

If possible, we'd like permission to use these quotes in advertising, promotions, and on product (i.e. graphic novel/DVD covers) for these titles. Any use of the quote would be accompanied by credit to the publication. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly. In the meantime, if there is an official procedure in securing permission rights, please let me know. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you soon!


Brad Kim-Marchant

The above permission was granted. In fact, I can't remember ever having denied anyone permission to use any of my reviews in their publicity/promotional efforts.

I just wanted to cite the above request as documentation that I follow my own advice -- and write reviews on my "guilty pleasure" reading (Big O is one of those Japanese anime graphic novels I was referring to earlier).

The other reason for adding Brad's email to this Report was to illustrate how simple it is to ask permission whenever you want to use a reviewer's commentary in your own promotional efforts. And that includes those "Reader Review" commentaries -- at lest where the reviewer provides contact information as part of their personal profile for Amazon.

3. THANKS for Socrates' Way review

Dear James Cox:

May I thank you most warmly for your fine review of my Socrates' Way. I greatly appreciate your coverage -- and I am delighted to learn of MBR and your diverse activities which obviously do so much for promoting reading and books throughout the world. Congratulations on this important enterprise.


Ron Gross

It's always nice when folks send along little "thank you" notes, cards, letters, and emails. Book reviewer's like feedback as well as any author or publisher! It also serves a very practical function for the Midwest Book Review. I collect them and then utilize them to demonstrate and document our work in the small press community when it comes grant renewal time.

It's also in line with how I was raised by my grandmother -- a lady school teacher who taught me to always say please when you wanted something -- and thank you when you got it.

4. The MBR Website


I just wanted to introduce myself and thank you for your valuable Web site.

I started ghostwriting a business book a few months ago, and I think I finally found my writing passion -- after 10 years of writing advertising and marketing copy. My client has decided to help me set up a small press to publish his book, and hopefully other business, health, and self-help books in the future.

I'm using much of the info on your site to start this exciting new venture, and I want you to know how much I appreciate the resources that you provide.

Thank you,

Ed Sweet
Edward Sweet & Associates

I get communiques like this a couple of times a month. When folks first stumble upon the Midwest Book Review they do tend to be rather impressed by both the massive size of the thing and by the utility of the information it provides for writers, publishers, librarians, the general reading public, -- and now book publicists!

I was delighted that Ed Sweet is availing himself of the MBR website as he carries along with his fledgling book publicity company.

I've often been asked why everything on our website is free? What don't I charge admission or levy a user fee or something.

The answer is quite simple. The site itself is sponsored and paid for by a grant -- and that includes the time and effort of our webmaster in maintaining, updating, and expanding it. The information contained in the articles I write and then post in the "Advice For Publishers" section of the website is stuff that I've created elsewhere for other audiences.

Besides, the mission statement of the Midwest Book Review is quite clear: To promote literacy, library usage, and small press publishing. Very few things we do accomplish so much for so many as the Midwest Book Review website.

A lot of people find out about our website from friends, fellow members of regional author and publisher associations, and from online publisher discussion groups. Some find it referenced and recommended in something like 15 different "how to" books written for aspiring writers and publishers over the past couple of decades. But a goodly number find it by simply typing in "book review" into their online search engines.

Then I get fan mail like the one from Ed Sweet -- and it makes all our hard work and long hours feel totally worth while!

Incidently, the Midwest Book Review website address is

5. Permission request for Curriculum Articles

Hi, Jim. I have a request for you. A while back, you let me put some comments from one of your monthly reports about POD aggregators up at my web site. Thanks again. Now, I am putting together curriculum and a resource binder for a series of author/publishing workshops I am giving. I'd like to include this one among some other articles there, as well as one other: "How the Book Review System Works." It's at the BookZone site, but this may also be the article that ran in the SPAN newsletter some time back.

I'd be most grateful for your help again...

Best to you,

Debbie Thurman
Cedar House Publishers

Debbie is a cyberspace "pen pal" of mine. We've been colleagues in publisher discussion groups. She does good work -- as a writer, as an educator, and as a publisher.

She also demonstrates in the above email request still another aspect of the Midwest Book Review. We have a huge educational component to what we do. Any teacher that wants to utilize anything on our website for their classroom or online instruction efforts is free to do so -- giving the Midwest Book Review the usual credit citation when doing so.

This not only means the various "how to" articles that are to be found there, but the reviews and reader/writer/publisher web resource links as well.

Every now and then I do a Google search for my name and the Midwest Book Review. I'm all over the place! I find my stuff on websites that I've never heard of! So our policy of free dissemination of information and advice for the publishing community has won us friends all over the country and (quite literally) all around the world.

I wouldn't have it any other way!

As writers and publishers having websites of your own, you should give serious consideration to developing articles or texts of usefulness and utility in a "public domain" kind of way that visitors to your website could acquire and use in enhancing the informational content of their own websites. When proper citation credit is given, this is one very successful and effective way of increasing traffic to your own website -- and enhancing the possibilities of selling your non-public domain writings and publications.

All I can say is that every time something I write shows up in the Writer's Digest Magazine, or one of the regional and/or national publisher association newsletters, or in somebody's newly published "how to" book, there is a sudden and massive spike in the numbers of visitors to the Midwest Book Review.

It should be the same phenomena for your own website. Think of it as priming one of those old fashioned water pumps or 19th century forebears used to pump by hand.

Again for the newcomers amongst us, you can receive the Jim Cox Report directly and for free. Just send me your email address and ask to be signed up.

Well that's all for now. I'm going to break for lunch and then prepare for the monthly mailing out of tear sheets and publisher notification letters (and once again bless all those wonderful folks who send us stamps!)

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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