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REEDSY INTERVIEW OF JIM COX (October 19, 2017)
"Reedsy is now looking to work more with book reviewers and wants to better understand their role and how they fit in the publishing landscape. The following questionnaire shouldn't take too long to complete. Many thanks for your responses."
Q: What's the name of your blog?
A: I'm the editor-in-chief of a book review company called the Midwest Book Review. I don't have a blog although I do write a monthly column for the publishing industry called the "Jim Cox Report" which features tips, tricks and techniques for marketing and promoting books, reviews of 'how to' books on and about writing and/or publishing, and features a listing of the monthly contributors to our postage stamp fund.
Q: How/Why did you start blogging?
A: The Midwest Book Review was founded in September, 1976. We are now in our 41st year of operation. My own monthly column started on December 2000.
Q: How many books a year do you read?
A: I personally average two books a day. One fiction, one non-fiction.
Q: How many submissions do you get?
A: The Midwest Book Review receives an average of 2,000 titles a month from the publishing industry.
Q: How many books a year do you review?
A: The Midwest Book Review generates an average of 600 to 700 reviews a month.
Q: Goodreads plays a major role in the world of book reviews. How do you use Goodreads?
A: We receive book submissions requesting review from Goodreads.
Q: Do you get much traction for your own blog from it?
How do you find readers for your blog?
A: My column is posted monthly to Publish-L and PubForum which are two online discussion groups for writers and publishers. They are also archived on the Midwest Book Review web site. Here is a link to that archive:
The column is available for free to anyone who sends me an email asking to be signed up for it. A lot of new subscribers are the result of word-of-mouth from one author to another.
Q: Do you review indie books?
A: One of our nine monthly book review publications is called "Small Press Bookwatch" and is dedicated to self-published authors and small independent publishers.
About one-third of the books that make the initial screening cut and achieve book review assignments are indie publications.
Q: Do you review bad books?
A: No. My standing advice for our 81 volunteer reviewers is that if they cannot in good conscience recommended a book to its intended readership then they should dismiss it and choose another one for review.
Q: Do you offer video reviews as well? Do you have a YouTube channel?
A: We review DVDs, and CDs. We do not use social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Q: Do you accept both ebooks and physical copies?
A: Print editions of books (hardcover or paperback) are reviewed free of charge.
There is a $50 Reader Free charge for authors and/or publishers wanting reviews of galleys, uncorrected proofs, ARCs, digital books, or pdf files. The fee goes to the assigned reviewer, not to the Midwest Book Review.
Q: What makes people trust a book reviewer?
Trust is built on the reader basically agreeing with the reviewer's assessment of the book.
Q: When do you become a 'professional book reviewer?'
A: When someone wants to pay you for your review you are by definition a professional. Otherwise you are offering your non-professional critique of a given book. A great many reviewers supplement their income from whatever their day job might be by selling the review copies they receive (hopefully after they have reviewed the book) -- but that does not make them professionals. Just good enough at what they do as reviewers to be able to entice authors and/or publishers to send them more books to review.
Q: What's your relationship with readers?
A: Based on responses from the folks who subscribe to my monthly column, the folks whose books we review (and always provide them with copies of said review), I would say the Midwest Book Review enjoys a sterling reputation within the publishing industry -- and I have something of a fan club out there!
Q: Do you make money through book reviews? What's your business model? How do you see that evolving?
A: We are primarily financed through two annual foundation grants for the purpose of promoting 'literacy, library usage, and small press publishing'. What review copies we do not donate to such non-profit outfits such as the Free Little Library program, local schools, or comminty library "Friends of the Library" groups for their annual fundraising booksales, are sold to a local used book store or turned over to a Madison, Wisconsin based paper recycling plant.
For those authors and/or publishers who want to make a gesture of support for what the Midwest Book Review seeks to accomplish in behalf of authors and publishers, they can make a donation to our Postage Stamp Fund - we use these donations of stamps, Pay-Pal contributions, and checks to cover the postage costs of mailing out copies of our reviews and notification letters informing authors and publishers of all the places we publish or post our reviews of their books.
I haven't had to buy a postage stamp for more than three decades now.
This has been our model for the last 41 years and will not change.
Q: How do you currently handle submissions? Is there anything that could help you streamline your workflows?
A: Books come into our mail room Monday through Saturday and my mail room guy takes them out of their boxes and packages and stacks them up on my desk.
I then do a kind of literary triage and sort that one big pile into three smaller ones.
Pile #1 is automatic rejection. The book wasn't a finished copy but a galley, a proof, or an ARC.
Pile #2 is automatic acceptance: The book is an unmarked published copy accompanied by a cover letter or some form of publicity or press release. I've got a reviewer that is particularly interested in the books genre or subject and a review assignment is a lock.
Pile #3 is provisional acceptance. The book is a finished copy, has it's paperwork, and will have a 4 to 6 week 'window of opportunity' in which I will try to assign a reviewer for it.
Q: Are there any book reviewers that you admire? Why? List up to 5.
A: I currently have a roster of 81 reviewers, some of whom have been with more for more than 35 years, others only a few months. I don't pick favorites. Everyone has their own style, approach their book review assignments from different life experiences and frames of reference, community skill levels.
Q: This survey should help the Reedsy team design a new product for book reviewers. Would like to become a beta tester?
Yes -- but I should tell you I have no idea as to what you mean by 'new product for book reviewers'.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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