Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Jim Cox Reports / Jim Cox Report: April 2001
Home | Jim Cox Reports Index

Jim Cox Report: April 2001

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Another month, another four library newsletters, two on-line book review magazines, four weekly television shows, one short-wave radio broadcast, and a convention speech at the Edgewater Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin on the subject of "Science Fiction And Small Press Publishing".

It all tends to keep me off the streets and out of trouble!

By the way, for those new to this discussion group, subscriptions to our two book review magazines "Internet Bookwatch" and "Children's Bookwatch" are free. Just send me your email address and note which one (or both) you'd like to be signed up for. Subscribers have permission to utilize any of our reviews to enhance the information content of their websites, post to thematically appropriate internet discussion groups, or use in company and personal newsletters -- just be sure to credit Midwest Book Review when doing so.

The issues arrive as ASCII documents attached to an email announcement.

The Cenografix publishing company has long had a link to it on the "Trade Publishers" section of the "Book Lover Resources" webpage of the Midwest Book Review website. I finally got around to responding to an invitation by Cenografix to look at a page on their website, where a link is in for the Midwest Book Review. The folks at Cenografix did an especially nice job of it. Here's how it was laid out for their website visitors, to a page they calls "References For Writers":

> This section would not be complete without mentioning other important
> Internet sources of information: James Cox's Midwest Book Review
> website is unsurpassed for the wealth of information it contains for
> writers and publishers. The Writer/Publisher Resources section will
> astound you. Copyright information, a Bookseller's Associations section,
> Web Search Engines, a Submission List for placing your URL where it
> will count, Publisher's Resources, and a section on Wholesalers and
> Distributors. In addition, Jim gives dozens of pointers on promoting your
> work. The URL for his site is Click
> here to go there.

It's always a pleasure to have folks do this sort of thing, and help pass the word about the Midwest Book Review on to aspiring authors yearning to break into print, struggling small press publishers trying to successfully compete in the marketplace, librarians looking for the best of the small presses for their collections and patrons, as well as the general reading public looking for something good.

This has also been a very pleasant month, with a whole series of incoming "thank you" messages arriving by email and snail-mail. Among which was one from Will Richardson of Nerdy Books:

> Hi Jim,
> Just wanted to drop you a short note to tell you that your follow up phone
> call script has worked really well for me, too. I'm probably more like Laree
> Draper who posted that her "books will have to speak for themselves" in
> terms of wanting to avoid phone calls. But I've been using your basic
> script, massaging it as I go, and it's made it a lot easier to follow up.
> I'm finding that a phone call close to the delivery date of the book allows
> me to introduce myself first and schedule a second call since most haven't
> had a chance to look at it yet. It gets my name in their brain, and gives me
> an opening for that second call. In the 15 or so tries, I've gotten two
> reviews from major dailies and a couple of "probablys" from other
> periodicals. And I have a bunch of follow ups scheduled. Ultimately, I guess
> the book has to sell itself, but the phone contacts are helping. Thanks for
> sharing your technique.
> Will Richardson
> Nerdy Books
> Check out our new newsletter at

You can find my famous "3 Questions" for publisher follow-ups to review book sendings in the "Advice For Publishers" section of the Writing/Publishing Resources webpage on the Midwest Book Review website at:

I also get the occasional "thank you" note from members of the general public. Here's one that I rather enjoyed, and goes a long way to explain why I took up this line of work:

> Dear Mr. Cox:
> I was just checking for info on a book that my father,
> Dr. Bernard L. MacKinnon, wrote, entitled, SEVEN MOURNERS: DEPRESSION
> AND THE NEEDS OF HUMAN NATURE, and noticed your recent on-line review.
> I just wanted to thank you for giving the book attention and for your
> kind remarks. I've e-mailed my sister in Maine and asked that she pass
> this on to our father. Everyone who has read the book has good things
> to say about it, but it's published by a company that cares little, it
> seems, for promotion and distribution. I suspect this is quite common,
> particularly for first-time authors. In any case, attention of the sort
> that you've give the book can only help. If you haven't already
> discussed on the TV and radio programs that you refer to in your
> profile, feel free! That too can only help. Anyway, thanks
> again, on behalf of the whole damn family.
> Sincerely,
> John E. MacKinnon, Ph.D.
> Department of Philosophy
> Saint Mary's University
> Halifax, Nova Scotia

I just want to make three points from the above "thank you" note:

1. I'm very serious when I saw we give priority to first-time authors whenever we can and whenever the quality of their work merits such special treatment.

2. The Midwest Book Review is a "content provider" for the Amazon, Borders, and BarnesAndNoble websites because that helps us to carry out our mandate to promote literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.

And it doesn't hurt when publishers learn that, if their book makes the cut and is featured in one or more of our various publications, it will also go onto the websites of the three largest on-line bookstores in cyberspace!

In fact, this evening my computer science major daughter will start posting the April reviews on Amazon. Bethany tends to begin her "work day" sometime around midnight on to about 3 or 4 in the morning. She is also in her last semester before graduating, and only has two literature classes that meet Tuesdays and Thursdays in the afternoon. Ahhh -- to be 27 and able to dance all night and work all day.

Now her 58 year old book review editor of a father can't hardly make it past the 10:00 p.m. news!

3. Even though the name is "Midwest Book Review", we have evolved to dealing with authors and publishers in Canada, England, Ireland, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong. That's only fair when among our 47 volunteer reviewers there is a lady from Cairo, Egypt; a husband and wife academic team in Australia, a gal in Hong Kong, three more folks in Canada, and we've just got our first review submission from a fellow in Germany. Talk about globalization!

In a message dated 01-03-28 12:30:41 EST, Alison Clement wrote to me asking:

> How do you select books to be reviewed?

I thought I'd share my reply with you, since it is quite germane to how things work here at the Midwest Book Review. The criteria I use in "directing the book traffic" here depend on the following:

1. What's actually sent to me for my consideration.
2. Who the publisher is (we give priority small presses).
3. Who the writer is (we give priority to new authors).
4. The book's physical appearance (the quality of the covers).
5. The quality of the publicity release and/or media kit.
6. What subject areas my 47 volunteer reviewers tend to be attracted to.

Recently, I got involved in an on-line discussion about folks sending other folks unrequested and unexpected email attachments. This was my contribution, which I'd like to share with you:

Dear Publisher Folk:

This is a topic thread near and dear to my heart.

I once (about five years ago) opened an attachment and received a virus that knocked out all the .exe parts of the software on my hard drive.

Fortunately, I had just done a complete backup of the hard drive, and all that was necessary was for my computer resource guy to come down and reinstall the missing bits.

Ever since then I never, never, never open attachments. I carefully explain to new reviewers when they try to send me their reviews as attachments that they need to resend them within the message body of an email.

Since we've also started reviewing ebooks, about once a week some ebook author (its never the publishers, always the authors) will send me their whole book as an attachment to an email, requesting that we review it.

Fortunately, the America Online email program that I use allows me to stop the downloading of attachments at any point. So at least I don't have to waste time staring at my screen, waiting for downloads to complete themselves.

Incidently, for ordinary email inquires as to our submission guidelines for ebooks, I routinely respond that they should send their inquiry to our reviewers who are the ebook specialists -- and I provide the necessary their email addresses to the ebook author -- with a "cc" to the reviewer so that the reviewer will be alerted as to what to expect.

But for those folks who just barge in with their attachments flaring, I make no reply. All is silence. Blessed silence.

This past month also saw me asked a question I hadn't encountered before:

> Jim,
> I'm writing to ask whether you've written any articles on what the ideal
> press release for a poetry book should contain. Press releases for
> nonfiction books seem more straightforward, because they're able to use a
> headline and present hard facts as well as convey benefits to the reader.
> Someone told me a poetry release should essentially be a one-page brag sheet.
> If you've written anything about this, I'd be grateful to be directed to it.
> Best wishes,
> (name withheld)

After giving it some thought, I responded that a publicity release for a book of poetry should have all the identifying and contact information that any book should have:

Publisher address
Publisher phone numbers
Publisher email & web addresses (if any)
ISBN, Price, Page Count
One paragraph of content description
One paragraph of author's biography or credentials

Then for poetry: A sample of a poem.

For cookbooks: A sample recipe

That should make for an especially effective PR for poetry (or cookbooks -- I just threw that in as an example because one of my favorite columns to write every month is "The Cookbook Shelf" -- and I've got the waistline to prove it!

And I'll now close with a final "thank you" that came in:

> Thanks for your nice lines about Midwest Independent Publishers Association.
> You are to be commended for doing a wonderful job where others leave off.
> You provide a lot of support to the writers and publishers. I thank you for
> myself and for the members of MIPA.
> Archie Spencer, President

This one I actually printed out, posted on the office bulletin board, and it made my day clean up through the middle of May!

Until next time!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design