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Jim Cox Report: September 2005

Dear Publisher Folks, Friends & Family:

The Labor Day holiday is over for another year and it's time for me to get back to work. But not before indulging myself with the production of another "Jim Cox Report" with a bit recommended wit and wisdom when it comes to publishing in the world today.

First up, this:

Dear Mr. Cox,

Thank you for compiling all that info on how to submit books for review. I recently joined SPAN, am attending their conference in Denver in October, and through various links was led to your organization. I enjoyed your guidelines on how to submit books for review. It's obvious they'll save me from making some amateurish mistakes. Perhaps providing the info is part of your job. No matter. I appreciate the work.


Jerry Countess

Jerry emailed me this little note back in July. I want to use it now as a kind of springboard for my take on the value of author and publisher organizations (and reviewer organizations like the Midwest Book Review) in today's highly competitive, rapidly evolving marketplace for book making and book selling.

My first observation is that never in the history of the printed book, from Gutenberg down to this very day, has the making of a book for a mass market readership been so easy to do and so hard to succeed at.

Desktop software combined with publish-on-demand businesses, a plethora of "how to" books on writing and publishing, online bookstores, and an American general culture that encourages individualism and personal expression, have all resulted in more books being published every year than at any previous time in recorded American history.

It's ironic that at this very era when transmitting what's in our heads onto paper, and what's on paper into a book that can be made (theoretically) available to every literate person in the world, we should also be seeing steadily declining rates of readers in the general populace. Every year fewer and fewer people read for pleasure, read for information, read for self-improvement, or read simply to pass the time.

Directly stated, more books are being written and published for fewer people willing to read them. And that's a trend that seems only strengthen and continue into the foreseeable future.

Therefore I conclude that truly savvy writers and even savvier publishers will need to use every edge they can get in the competition for those dwindling number of readers, that every shrinking percentage of the book consuming public.

That's where the organizations come in. There are organizations for everything and everyone. There are local, regional, national, and international organizations for writers and publishers. They offer several invaluable services, not only for the novice beginner faced with a steep learning curve about how to get published, or having been published, how to successfully market their publications, but also for even the more experienced, the seasoned professionals, the folks who give the seminars and who write the "how to" books, not just for the seminar takers and the "how to" book readers.

Every aspiring author and/or publisher should be a member of at least one of the three primary online discussion groups dedicated to writing and selling books: Publish-L; SPAN; PubForum.

Publish-L is a moderated online discussion group that is ideal for the novice in need of basic "nuts & bolts" information, as well as benefitting from a largely courteous group of helpful folk that are quite willing to draw upon their own years of expertise and experience to help newcomers with that aforementioned "learning curve" about all facets of the publishing enterprise from manuscript selection to marketing the finished tome.

SPAN is very highly moderated and particularly appropriate for self-published authors, POD published authors, and small press niche oriented publisher having to seek out specialty markets for what they produce. SPAN also puts out a really informative, professional class newsletter.

PubForum is unmoderated. There are four "List Moms" who are responsible for the mechanics of running an online discussion group, but the only thing truly outlawed is spamming. This is the "political" online discussion group for publishers that has a policy of allowing its members to go "Off Topic" on the weekends. There are no prohibitions on cussing, feuding and fighting. Harsh words often set off the cyberspace equivalent of verbal food fights. But the virtue of this freewheeling forum is that the members will take up more sophisticated aspects of publishing and commentary on the politics of publishing, market forces in publishing, the excesses of wholesalers and distributors, the impact of national policies (like censorship), these and other controversial topics on publishing are all fair game. Some of the most knowledgeable (and irritable) folks in publishing are a part of PubForum.

Then there are the local and regional organizations, several of whom have their own websites, who meet monthly or quarterly or annually, and/or who have newsletters.

Plus the three national groups: Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN); Publishers Marketing Association (PMA); and American Publishers Association (APA)

SPAN I've already talked about. This is essential a private enterprise run by a husband and wife team whose "The Self Publishing Manual" is rightly considered to be a basic instructional reference in the business, but SPAN truly does deliver sound, profitable, useful advice and services on commercially successful publishing to its members.

PMA is run by its long-time manager and has a strong hierarchal structure of command with the board of directors being self-selecting. It too has a newsletter, an invaluable website, produces an annual "university" of seminars and courses that are among the best in the country (and which are usually timed to supplement the annual BookExpo).

APA is a classic lobbying oriented organization of the major publishing houses in the country. These are the Random House and Penguin Putnam's of the publishing world. Their interests and the interests of the self-published author or small press publisher are rarely in sync.

You will find links to all of these groups and organizations in "Publishers Associations" section of the Midwest Book Review website at

Check them out. Especially the local or regional ones where you live, as well as the nationals. Check out all three of the online discussion groups -- incredibly valuable resources where any publishing problem you have, they can provide expert comment on, any publishing question you'd pose, they've got people who can material help with the answers.

The fact that the "Jim Cox Report" is posted every month on Publish-L; most months on PubForum (unless I've been just too long winded and the thing is simply too large); and announced every month on SPAN (which considers it a newsletter and therefor cannot be eligible for posting) is an indication of how valuable I think they are for members of the publishing community.

Remember that the primary value in joining publisher groups and associations is what Jerry Countess discovered. They can save you from making amateurish (and expensive!) mistakes. They can make things easier for you by telling you what works and what doesn't. They can bring to your attention resources (like the Midwest Book Review) that you might never otherwise be aware of. They can also help give you a sense of community with like minded folk who are in the same or similar circumstances to yourself as an author and/or as a publisher.

Now on to other stuff:

My webmaster proposed and our staff unanimously agreed to donate money for the hurricane relief efforts. There were a lot of writers and publishers and bookstores in that so severely damaged part of the world. We made our donation through the homepage "how you can help" link to the American Red Cross. That Amazon hompage link is There are so many scam artists trying to take advantage of people's generosity and sincere desire to be of help. Don't respond to their unsolicited emails, but go directly to known and reliable relief agency websites to make your online donations. We picked the American Red Cross. But there are a great many other bonafide organizations trying to help. We simply went through the homepage link to the American Red Cross website because it was so handy and convenient for us.

More other stuff:

Recently there has been a lot of publisher discussion group topic traffic on the subject of "paid for" reviews and whether they were a wise investment of an author or publisher's limited capital. I've written on the book reviewing process quite extensively and in greatly applicable detail. You will find several of my articles archived in the "Publisher Advice" section of the Midwest Book Review website at If you've haven't read them, you should. They can save you a great deal of money, time, and anxiety.

Having read them, then go to the "Book Lover Resources" section of our website and click on "Other Reviewers". This is an extensive list of freelance reviewers, book review publications, book review websites, etc. All of them have been vetted by me and are legitimate. Some won't be thematically appropriate for you. Others will be. And there's certain to be some (perhaps a great many) such resources that you've never heard of.

Now it's time for the Midwest Book Review's "Postage Stamp Hall of Fame & Appreciation":

The following folk wanted to express their appreciation for what we try to do in behalf of the small press community and have done so with welcome donations of postage stamps. We use these stamps to send out tear sheets and publisher notification letters every month. It's been (and continues to be) a real help! A heartfelt thank you to:

Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Jeanne Lazo
Mark Stuart Ellison
VivianBolland Schroeder - "Butterflies and Willow Switches"
JamesHilgendorf - "The Great New Emerging Civilization"
Beth Rotondo - "Threads of Hope: An Offering for Those Who Grieve"
Callipe Press
Orchard Publications
Higganum Hill Books
Vovonne Low - Kyoodoz
Neil Willenson - Camp Heartland
Olga, Valerie, Igor & Valentin - Ekadoo Inc.
George Gordon - Te Deum Publishing
John Luksetich - Imagine Nation Press
Rita Y. Toews - Birds Hill Publishing
Winston Conn - Shenanigan Books
Jeanne House - Elite Books
Dennis V. Damp - Bookhaven Press LLC
Mary Ellen Sinclair - Zenga Publishing
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier - Waldmania
Rusty Morrison - Omnidawn
Lisa Ruzicka - Winepress Publishing
Rick Allen - The Kenspeckle Letter Press
James D. Gallagher - Ottn Publishing
Peggy Eager - Hi-Caliber Books
Jack Masters - Rounding Third Publishing
Charlie Fleetham - Right Brain Books
Mark Renz - PaleoPress
Diane Astimbay - Culturelink Press
Lily G. Stephen - Blooming Rose Press
John Shaw - Washington Publishers

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

If you would like to express your appreciation and "support the cause", then you can send your postage stamp donations to me at that same address.

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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