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Jim Cox Report: September 2009

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

An update on last month's commentary about the impact of the minimum wage increase with the respect to the Midwest Book Review. All five of we paid staff members are minimum wage employees. To help blunt the financial burden I had cut my own weekly hours back from 40 to 35. We have a company health insurance policy that requires the employees to be full time (defined as 35 hours a week minimum) to be eligible for the health insurance which is why I didn't cut my weekly paid work hours back even further.

Then a couple of week's ago I was talking to the health insurance agent in charge of our company health insurance program and discovered that back when I turned 65 and went on Medicare (and changed from the regular company health insurance coverage to a Medicare Supplement policy), I no longer had to be a full time employee for that particular health insurance coverage.

So effective September 1, I officially took myself off the Midwest Book Review payroll. I now work as the Midwest Book Review editor-in-chief as a volunteer rather than as a paid staff member. The Midwest Book Review still picks up my monthly Medicare Supplement insurance premium of $101.40 -- but that is entirely doable within the scope of our current finances.

So I'm living off of my Social Security, a small pension fund, and the fact that I own the building that houses my wife and I (and the Midwest Book Review). And it doesn't hurt that my wife earns an income from teaching music and voice. Or that my daughter is running more and more of the daily book review operations.

So we've completely weathered the minimum wage increase and all is well.

Now on to another topic:

Often overlooked by authors and publishers new to the business of publishing is the opportunity to increase their revenue streams derived from the sale of print editions of their books by expanding the options for the purchasing public to include other forms and formats such as electronic publishing (e-books), audio books, magazine or newspaper serializations, foreign language editions, overseas rights, etc.

In addition to my duties as the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review, I'm also one of the judges of the Audio Publisher Association's annual "Audies" contest for audio books. I've been one now for the better part of a decade. I was originally recruited because one of the regular monthly book review columns I publish is called "The Audiobook Shelf".

I recently received an email from the APA which I want to share with you:

It's that time of year again! The APA has officially opened its call for entries for The 2010 Audies competition and is introducing a digital format to this year's submission process making it is easier than ever to participate.

Why have we changed the process?

In order to reduce handling expenses for everyone, the majority of categories for the 2010 Audies Competition will be managed digitally. During last year's competition, the APA successfully tested digital download distribution to judges. With continued appreciation to Audible for generously providing service and support for this initiative, the Audies will continue becoming more efficient for publishers and judges alike.

What categories are NOT going digital? Entries into the following categories will still be submitted as CDs:

Package Design
Multi-Voiced Performance
Audio Drama
Audiobook of the Year
Distinguished Achievement in Production
What if my title is not available through Audible?
If you are submitting a title that is not currently available on Audible, please continue to submit your titles as CDs, regardless of the category.

Visit The Audies Competition online for details - here you will find the complete list of categories, rules, eligibility and the entry procedure.

Deadlines are as follows:

August 21, 2009 - for titles issued from November 1, 2008 through July 31, 2009
October 16, 2009 - for titles issued from August 1, 2009 through October 31, 2009

Thank you in advance to all Audies entrants and judges. Good luck to everyone!

Digital publishing clearly is the wave of the future. Spurred on with the younger generation's complete familiarity and comfort with electronic communications of all sorts. Just a few days ago I then received a second email from the APA:

The deadline to submit titles issued from November 1, 2008 through July 31, 2009 is next Friday. Don't delay, get your entry ready right away!

Visit The Audies Competition online for details - here you will find the complete list of categories, rules, eligibility and the entry procedure.

Deadlines are as follows:

August 28, 2009 - for titles issued from November 1, 2008 through July 31, 2009
October 16, 2009 - for titles issued from August 1, 2009 through October 31, 2009

Thank you in advance to all Audies entrants and judges. Good luck to everyone!

So if you have, or can make, an audio book edition of your title I would encourage you to do so. There are a couple of excellent "how to" books available to the novice on how to turn a print book into a digital and/or audio publication. One such title is the "TurnKey Publisher's Audio Publishing Handbook" (9781933723150, $20.95). Then get your audio book submitted to the APA "Audie" awards contest. Winning in one of the various categories is a big PR boost when trying to market to libraries, to bookstore chains, and in direct sales through such venues as

The Audio Publisher Association's web site that contains the details of both the contest and all the other benefits of the APA is

Of course, you can (and in my not-so-modest opinion should) always submit your audio book for review to my attention at the Midwest Book Review.

Now for reviews of some 'how to' books on writing and publishing that have crossed my desk this past month:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

The Art Of Time In Fiction
Joan Silber
Graywolf Press
2402 University Avenue, Suite 203, Saint Paul, MN 55114
9781555975302, $12.00,

To say that a novel or short story has a beginning, a middle, and an end is to grossly simplify the importance of the element timing in the process of crafting any work of fiction. In "The Art Of Time In Fiction: As Long As It Takes", Joan Silber draws upon her personal expertise as the published author of six books of fiction (one of which, "Ideas of Heaven" was the finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize) to focus on identifying and illustrating five fundamental ways in which time unfolds in fiction. In this slim 120-page compendium of practical instruction, Silber devotes specific chapters to discussing Classic Time; Long Time; Switchback Time; Slowed Time; Fabulous Time; and Time as Subject. Of special note is the listing of Works Discussed as Silber draws from the works of a range of influential authors from F.l Scott Fitzgerald, to Henry James, to Virginia Woolf. The latest addition to the outstanding Graywolf Press 'The Art Of' series of focused instruction and reference books for writers, "The Art Of Time In Fiction" is highly recommended for aspiring authors, and an invaluable reference for experienced writers as well.

Clean, Well-Lighted Sentences
Janis Bell
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393337150, $13.95,

They used to teach grammar in elementary school. Judging by so much of what crosses a book reviewer's desk these days it's clear that there's a lot of defective instruction in the basics of English grammar going on in the school systems of today. That's why such remedial publications as Janis Bell's "Clean, Well-Lighted Sentences: A Guide To Avoiding The Most Common Errors In Grammar And Punctuation" is so timely and so necessary. Offering thoroughly 'user friendly' information on how punctuation marks work to make the written word truly effective. Replete with illustrative examples, of special note is that at the conclusion of each chapter, quizzes followed by their answers are provided to insure that the material covered has been understood. Written in a decidedly non-professorial and thoroughly conversational style, "Clean, Well-Lighted Sentences" is especially commended to the attention of authors who are not otherwise well schooled or grounded in the grammatical and punctuation norms of written English.

Writers Workshop Of Horror
Michael Knost, editor
Woodland Press
118 Woodland Dr., Chapmanville, WV 25508
9780982493915, $21.95,

Every author can improve with respect to their skills as storytellers, as providers of information, as artists and craftsmen of the written word. That's why the assembled wisdom, advice, experience, insights, examples and counsels from an impressive roster of successful and influential published authors that Michael Knots has deftly compiled and skillfully edited in the "Writers Workshop Of Horror" is so impressive and so highly recommended to the attention aspiring writers seeking to become published, as well as experienced authors wanting to hone their craft to even greater standards of accomplishment. Although the principle focus is on writing horror stories, the gamut of useable information provided is just as applicable to all other genres including romance, westerns, mysteries, science fiction, general fiction, and even biographies. The "Writers Workshop Of Horror" is a recommended addition to the professional reference collections of all dedicated authors and small press publishers.

Social Networking For Authors
Michael Volkin
Volkin Associates
531 Tocia Court, Fairfield, CA 94534
9780615299853, $24.95,

First the bad news: More than 70% of published books in this country do not earn a profit for their publishers. The average shelf life of a hardcover book is between 3 and 6 months. For a paperback it is 3 to 6 weeks. More than 120,000 books are published each year in the U.S. alone. The percentage of the general population that reads for recreation is crashing harder and farther than a Wall Street stock market. And according to Michael Volkin who has written "Social Networking For Authors: Untapped Possibilities For Wealth", the average reader, browsing in a bookstore or on the internet, spends less than 8 seconds deciding whether to buy a book or not. Now the good news: Michael Volkin in the pages of "Social Networking For Authors" shows aspiring authors and limited budget publishers how to use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and the growing number of others, to create customers for a book. Volkin explains how anyone can create a book oriented website that will sell books. Readers of "Social Networking For Authors" will also discover how to take advantage of free tools specifically useful for authors seeking to increase their book sales and converting single copy sales into multi-copy sales. All this and a great deal more make "Social Networking For Authors" an invaluable and highly recommended read, especially for self-published authors who must bear the entire burden of book marketing upon themselves.

One of the major pleasures of my office is helping authors and publishers with their professional questions, problems, and issues. Here's a Q&A sampling specific to the topic of reviewing books:

In a message dated 9/13/2008 7:05:57 A.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:

I am still learning my way around in the world of book reviewers, but I've come to the conclusion that these review slips are not a requirement or used very much these days.

When you think about it, there really isn't much need for a sell sheet either if all of the information is already printed on the back cover. They need to stop requesting the same info twice if for no other reason then we are wasting paper and tone. It probably won't be long before we can submit galley copies online. That would be great and would save us more money and postage (smile).

Dear Training2go:

Different reviewers and review publications have different submission requirements. That's why it is always a good idea to seek out their web sites and see just what their own particular preferences and requirements are.

I would also suggest that there is a much different purpose served to be served by the cover letter than that which is served by the review slip (or as I tend to call them, publicity or press releases).

I recommend that to see what those (rather vital) differences, and how the information in the cover letter should never duplicate that contained in the review slip (and vice versa), that you read two brief "how to" articles that I've written called:

Writing An Effective Cover Letter:

Writing An Effective Publicity Release (which has also been called a Review Slip):

With respect to books submitted to the Midwest Book Review, they are likely to be dismissed from consideration during our initial screening if they arrive "naked", that is, without a cover letter and some form of publicity release (alias press release, alias review slip).

Failure to abide by whatever a particular review publication submission's particular requirements are will probably result in that submission being rejected for review assignment in favor of some other title from someone else that does comply with what is required.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 9/15/2008 8:43:41 A.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:

Good morning!

I have a question regarding the timing of review copies. We have a list of reviewers and how many months in advance they need to receive books. However, Dancing Lemur Press L.L.C.'s first book is set for release on March 31st, and several of the publishing books I have read recommended NOT sending out review copies in November & December. (As they will be lost in the holiday shuffle.) Since most reviewers want books four months or more in advance, what do you recommend? Thanks!

L. Diane Wolfe

Dear Diane:

I've written an article specifically on this question of review copy timing. It's titled:
Publication & Review Copy Timing. You'll find it at:

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 9/15/2008 9:50:53 A.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:

Hi James,

I have a quick question for you that I was hoping you could help me on. From your professional stand point in being in the book review industry, does the industry tend to stick with brand new books that have not been released already? For instance, if a book has a publishing date of 2007, would you still consider it for review, or do you prefer to only see books that are not released yet?

Just trying to see from our end what we should consider when taking on certain books for the media. Need some help, hope you can help.

By the way, thank you for the reviews you have done in the past of some of our clients, they have all been great.

Rachel Friedman
Print Campaign Manager

Dear Rachel:

Most book reviewers and most book review publications focus on new books and do not consider active back list titles for review.

The Midwest Book Review is an exception to this rule. My policy is to accept for review any book that is in print and available to the reading public no matter what it's publication date.

My reasoning is that a lot of small presses, academic houses, self-published authors, and niche publishers have to live off an active back list if they are to be commercially viable operations.

Secondly, often my review is the first one that a prospective bookseller, librarian, or member of the general public may read on a given book -- and therefore introduce them to the existence of a book that they were no heretofore aware of. So for them it's like encountering a new book regardless that it may have been published months or years earlier.

Thirdly, the Midwest Book Review is a post-publication review (as opposed to a pre-publication review). That's why we do not review galleys, uncorrected proofs, or pre-publication manuscripts but insist upon the finished book -- the way such a book would be encountered in a bookstore by a customer or a library by a patron.

If you haven't yet done so, I would recommend that you visit the Midwest Book Review website at and read the articles on book reviewing, the book review process, differences between pre- and post-publication reviews, etc. I think you will find them to be exceptionally informed, informative, practical, and "user friendly".

Meanwhile, I'll just consider myself to be on your "automatic" list to receive review copies of your author and publisher clients.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 9/20/2008 10:50:35 P.M. Central Daylight Time, writes:

Hello, my name is Selma Kelly and I read your blog: Getting Reviews For Self-Published Books. Your blogs tells us "how" book reviewers react to self-pubished books, but you never stated "why" they refuse them. Can you please tell me why? Thanks for your valued time.

Selma Kelly.

Dear Selma:

There are several reasons why self-published books are refused a review by many (if not most) review publications and professional reviewers:

Legitimate reviewers receive far and away too many books than they could ever have the time to review and so must look for a way to pair down than income avalanche of titles to a more manageable number.

Among the primary means of doing this "literary triage" are the establishment of submission guidelines. When submitted titles fail to comply with those guidelines it is an easy dismissal that does not require a significant amount of time or energy.

Books whose genre or contents are not within the scope of that particular review (like sending a cookbook to a poetry review, or an adult novel to a children's book review, or a book on animal husbandry to a women's issues review, etc).

Sending galleys, proofs, or Advanced Reading Copies to a post-publication review (like the Midwest Book Review). Or sending finished, published copies to a pre-publication review (like Publisher's Weekly).

There is still another reason "why" a reviewer would not want to consider self-published titles. Self-published authors tend to take up more of a reviewer's time than professional publicists and marketing directors from established presses. Four of every five phone calls I receive are from self-published authors. Each phone call takes a bit of time out of my work schedule. I'm pleased to do it, but remember that a primary focus of the Midwest Book Review (and me as it's editor-in-chief) is to be an educational resource helping writers and neophyte publishers learn how to write, publish, and market their books more effectively.

Most other reviews and reviewers do not have that as part of their mission statement and want to diminish (or avoid altogether) such interruptions to their work schedules.

Yet another reason "why" is that self-published authors have higher rates of mediocrity, error, and emotional investment that do seasoned professional authors and their publishers. The first two of these qualities make reviewers resistant to investing their time in a title, that last one means that self-published authors will all to often want to argue with a reviewer about the review and a few can become quite nasty about it. So in order to avoid such folk, the entire category of self-publishing gets an unsavory reputation.

A final reason, and one not often spoken of even among reviewers, is that for many reviewers the only compensation they receive is the book they review -- and the only revenue they derive is the sale of that review copy. Self-published books submitted for review tend not to have much of a commercial value when sold to a bookstore or marketed online. Non-self-published books tend to have a better commercial value and the reviewer can get a bit more for their sale as part of the compensation for the time, energy, and expertise expanded in reviewing that now-to-be-sold title.

I hope this gives you a modicum of insight into the "why" behind the quite real prejudice against self-published books within many members of the book reviewing community.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

As is customary, I'm going to conclude this issue of the "Jim Cox Report" with "The Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall Of Fame & Appreciation" roster of well-wishers and supporters. These are the generous folk who decided to say 'thank you' and 'support the cause' that is the Midwest Book Review by donating postage stamps this past month:

Lisa Rieke
Roger Grubbs
Grigor Fedan
Kenneth Kales
Martine Ehrenclou
Mary Allen Redd
Hope Irvin Marston
Mosetta M. Penick Phillips-Cermak
Lily Wang -- "Garden Haiku"
Deborah L. Hall -- "Pony Tales"
Rik Isensee -- "Shift Your Mood"
M. Patton Echols Jr. -- "The Blackness"
Mark P. Sadler -- "Blood on His Hands"
Kyra E. Hicks -- "This I Accomplish"
Mary Lou Peters Schram -- "Pursuing Happiness"
Milet Publishing
Concierge Marketing
Bick Publishing House
Ascot Media Group
Safe Goods Publishing
Senneff House Publishers
Rob Smith -- Drinian Press
Kyra Morris -- Bottletree Books
Anna Florin -- Featherwood Publishing
Jeanie Okimoto -- Endicott and Hugh Books
Robert Scott Leyse -- ShatterCourse Press
Nan Wisherd -- Cable Publishing
Stanley Marianski -- Bookmagic
William Widmer -- Alacrity Books
William J. Connor Jr. -- Argus Enterprises
Charlie Russell -- Loblolly Writer's House
Scott Gale -- Spectrum International Press
Indera Murphy -- Tolana Publishing
Marty Schupak -- Youth Sports Club
Darry Madden -- Skinner House Books
Julie Murkette -- Satya House Publications
Elizabeth Waldman -- Waldmania!
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity
Cathy Williams -- Brown Books Publishing Group
Charles Barrett -- The Barrett Company Communications

If you have postage to donate, or if you have a book you'd like considered for review, then send those stamps (always appreciated, never required), or a published copy of that book (no galleys, uncorrected proofs, or Advanced Reading Copies), accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity release to my attention at the address below.

All of the previous issues of the "Jim Cox Report" are archived on the Midwest Book Review website. If you'd like to receive the "Jim Cox Report" directly (and for free), just send me an email asking to be signed up for it.

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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