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Jim Cox Report: April 2015

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

This month I want to talk about the value and differing functions of the cover letter and the publicity release when accompanying a book being submitted for review to the Midwest Book Review or to any other reviewer or review publication.

The publicity release (sometimes called a press release) is a simple one-page document that contains the following information:

Publisher address
Publisher web site
Publisher email
Page Count
Publication Date
A one paragraph summary description of the book.
A one paragraph author biography.

The publicity release is a universal document that once created goes out to any and all reviewers, booksellers, librarians, media outlets, etc. and tells me as a reviewer all I need to know about the book and everything necessary to create an "info block" for the review that will allow any bookseller, librarian, or member of the reading public to fill out a purchase order for the book if motivated to do so by the review.

The cover letter is a customized one-page document that tells me as a reviewer why I was selected to review your book. For example, you came across the Midwest Book Review web site and were duly impressed; you heard that we give priority consideration to small presses and self-published authors whenever possible; we chatted by phone and I invited the submission; you saw one of our monthly book review publications and your book is a good thematic fit for one of our monthly columns; we were recommended to your attention by some third party, etc., etc.

For authors who have gone through a POD company to produce their book, the cover letter should also include your personal contact information (an email or snail mail address) so that I can send you a copy of the review of your book directly. Too many POD companies simply do not forward our reviews (or anyone else's) to their author clients -- this is especially true of CreateSpace.

The review copy of the book submitted along with the PR and the cover letter should be pristine. No scarring, marking, stamping, or mutilating. Your book is in competition with around 2,000 others in any given month and must look its best if it is going to have any chance of being selected for review.

Think of it as a kind of literary lottery. If you win, if you are among the 600 to 700 titles selected for review each month, you will have a review for your own marketing program, plus that review will be archived on the Midwest Book Review web site for five years, plus that review will be furnished to Gale Cengage Learning for inclusion into their Book Review Index and be sent out to thousands of community and academic library systems throughout the United States and Canada.

Now some more reviews of 'how-to' books of special relevance to writers and publishers:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

2015 Guide To Self-Publishing
Robert Lee Brewer, editor
Writer's Digest Books
c/o F+W Media
10151 Carver Road, Suite 200, Blue Ash, OH 45242
9781599638478, $29.99,

Self-publishing is the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. A self-published physical book is said to be privately printed. The author is responsible for and in control of the entire process, including, in the case of a book, the design of the cover and interior, formats, price, distribution, marketing and public relations. The authors can do it all themselves or out-source all or part of the process to companies that offer these services. Writer's Digest Books specializes in publishing 'how to' books for authors and "2015 Guide to Self-Publishing, Revised Edition: The Most Comprehensive Guide to Self-Publishing" is their newest instructional reference manual for aspiring authors who wish to publish their own work. This 362 page instruction guide is as comprehensive as it is "user friendly" and includes such do-it-yourself features as self-publishing checklists, a pay-rate chart, sales tax tips, and so much more. Of special note are the interviews with successful self-published authors, a self-publishing calendar, access to an exclusive e-book formatting webinar, lists of conferences, organizations, book fairs, and festivals that will prove invaluable to the commercial success of a self-publishing author. Simply stated, the "2015 Guide to Self-Publishing, Revised Edition: The Most Comprehensive Guide to Self-Publishing" is an absolute 'must' for anyone contemplating or already embarked on a self-publishing project -- and is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).

Writing Short Stories
Courttia Newland & Tania Hershman
Bloomsbury Methuen Drama
c/o Bloomsbury Press
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781408130803, $19.95,

A short story is a brief work of literature, usually written in narrative prose. Emerging from earlier oral storytelling traditions in the 17th century, the short story has grown to encompass a body of work so diverse as to defy easy characterization. At its most prototypical the short story features a small cast of named characters, and focuses on a self-contained incident with the intent of evoking a "single effect" or mood. In doing so, short stories make use of plot, resonance, and other dynamic components to a far greater degree than is typical of an anecdote, yet to a far lesser degree than a novel. While the short story is largely distinct from the novel, authors of both generally draw from a common pool of literary techniques. In "Writing Short Stories", Courttia Newland and Tania Hershman draw upon their many years of experience and success as short story writers to produce a 304 page instruction manual and guide that will prove to be an informative and invaluable read for any writer seeking to master the short story format. "Writing Short Stories" is deftly organized into three major sections. The first part explores the nature and history of the short story form, includes personal reflections by the Newland and Hershman, and helps novice writers in getting started with ideas, planning and research. The second part features tips by an impressive number of successful and experienced short story writers. The third part focuses upon practical advise on shaping plots, exploring characters, dealing with 'writer's block', rewriting, and getting published. An invaluable 'how to' reference, "Writing Short Stories" is strongly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic Writing & Publishing reference collections.

How I Did It: Establishing A Playwriting Career
Lawrence Harbison, editor
Applause Books
c/o Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group
19 West 21st Street, Suite 201, New York, NY 10010
9781480369634, $24.99,

A playwright, also known as a dramatist, is a person who writes dramatic literature or drama. These works may be written specifically to be performed by actors, or they may be closet dramas - simple literary works - written using dramatic forms, but not meant for performance. For more than 30 years, Lawrence Harbison was in charge of new play acquisition for Samuel French, Inc. He edits annual anthologies of best plays by new playwrights and women playwrights, best ten-minute plays, and monologues for men and for women. In "How I Did It: Establishing A Playwriting Career", Harbison draws upon his experience and expertise to provide aspiring playwrights with a thoroughly 'user friendly, 342 page instruction manual and guide in the form of Q&A interviews with thirty professional playwrights. The result is an informed and informative compendium that should be considered a "must read" by anyone contemplating becoming a successful playwright whether it be for film, stage, or television. "How I Did It: Establishing A Playwriting Career" is a critically important addition to community and academic library Writing/Publishing reference collections.

Comedy Writing Self-Taught
Gene Perret
Quill Driver Books
2006 South Mary, Fresno, CA 93721
9781610352208 $16.95

Comedy Writing Self-Taught: The Professional Skill-Building Course in Writing Stand-Up, Sketch, and Situation Comedy comes from a three-time Emmy winner and former head writer for Bob Hope and Phyllis Diller, who teaches comedy writers how they can analyze their own routines and others, and produce winning results. Writing exercises accompany these analytical tools to cover the basic tenants of producing stand-up comedy and other types of humor, offering chapters that show how to analyze the work of professional comedians to understand their devices. There's a companion Comedy Writing Self-Taught Workbook which provides further exercises: the two work together to provide a fun 'course in a book' on the basics of how comedy operates, the various devices that can be used to create and foster it, and how to fine-tune a comedy routine for maximum effect. Any would-be comedy writer - especially those just starting out in the genre - need this and its accompanying workbook.

Here is "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:

Jean Moynahan
Tod Murphy -- "Go Fast, Go"
Karen Haid -- "Calabria: The Other Italy"
Susan Schenkel -- "An Improbable Journey"
E. Marie -- "Avoiding the Dodgeballs... at Work"
Marv Gold -- "Ghostly Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"
Joseph N. Crew -- "Fall In, Fall Out: The Dogface Years"
Red Grammer -- "Circle of Light: Songs for BuckeFillers"
Kenneth J. Miller -- "Engaging Gifted Readers and Writers"
Kathy M. Miller -- "Chippy Chipmunk: Friends in the Garden"
Richard A. Marino -- "I Miss You Very Muchly City of the Cats"
Jaime Kulaga -- "The Superwoman's Guide To Super Fulfillment"
Lowell Press
Fithian Press
WordTech Editions
Sharon Soemann -- Aries Books
Nahreen Ghazarian -- Salor Press
Aaron Lumpkin -- Winning Publications
Cheryl Filsinger -- Filsinger & Company Ltd.
Mark Wayne Adams -- MWAI Books & Illustrations
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Helen Cook -- Prime Star Publicity & Public Relations
Barbara C. Wall -- The Barrett Company Communications

In lieu of (or in addition to!) postage stamp donations, we also accept PayPal gifts of support to our postage stamp fund for what we try to accomplish in behalf of the small press community. Simply log onto your PayPal account and direct your kindness (in any amount and at your discretion) to the Midwest Book Review at:

SupportMBR [at]

(The @ is replaced by "[at]" in the above email address, in an attempt to avoid email-harvesting spambots.)

If you have postage stamps to donate, or if you have a book you'd like considered for review, then send those postage stamps (always appreciated, never required), or a published copy of that book (no galleys, uncorrected proofs, or Advance 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 at 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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