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Jim Cox Report: April 2016

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

One of the perks of being the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review for the last forty years (come this September) is that I'm so well known in the publishing industry that other folks routinely send me truly useful information on various aspects of the publishing business.

The latest such 'insider info' came from Ryan Petty of His article is "Self-Publishing Then & Now (1981 - 2016): Confusion on Book Publishing Terms". It is a true gem of solid information that will prove to be of interest to anyone who has or who is considering self-publication. Here is the link to Ryan's outstanding little essay:

One of the things I do in my role as the editor-in-chief here at the Midwest Book Review is to share my own experience and insights on various aspects of publishing and marketing.

One such recent case was to give advice for authors, publishers, and publicists on the construction of a monthly newsletter to help promote themselves and their books, based on having written the "Jim Cox Report" for several years now.

Here's what I wrote in response to one of my editors and a long time volunteer reviewers for the Midwest Book Review who has now gone on to establish her own publicity company for authors and publishers called "Donovan's Literary Services" -- and I would like to share my commentary with you as well:

Dear Diane:

It's not all that hard coming up with monthly themes for a newsletter. The next time you have a spare half hour or so, read through some of the more recent "Reports" done by Bethany and myself. You'll find them archived at:

What I have done is to make a file on my computer called the "Jim Cox Report" into which I drop the occasional email response that I make to an incoming emailed questions from authors and publishers -- and the occasional freelance publicist. That's the core of where my monthly themes come from.

Plus every once in a while I encounter some pet peeve of mine in the normal course of running the book review and sorting the incoming book mail so I make a note of response or observations and drop that into the "Jim Cox Report" file folder as well.

I've also occasionally reprinted something from one of the freelance publicists whose own monthly columns they send me (and always with their permission -- which has never been refused in the whole history of the Jim Cox Report). The next time I get a couple I'll forward them to you so you can see what other folk's monthly columns for the publishing community look like.

Still another source for themes are the form letters and the articles that I've written and archived on the Midwest Book Review web site -- especially the ones archived in Advice for Writers & Publishers. Every couple of years there's a whole new generation of authors and publishers to whom the stuff will be brand new information -- even though it's been archived on my web site for decades.

Then there are also the reviews of the new and forthcoming 'how to' books on writing and publishing that I do.

For your monthly columns I would recommend that you do what Bethany does and have a regular featured called something along the lines of "Reviewer's Choice" in which you would reprint your own reviews of those books you thought particularly outstanding for one reason or another.

Still another regular feature could be marketing concepts and resources that other authors and/or publishers would do well to emulate or take advantage of.

Remember that the underlying reason for doing a regular monthly column is to advertise yourself, to raise your profile within the publishing industry, as well as the online publishing community.

You always want to stress that your column is free and that in addition to being archived on your own web site can be signed up for to be received directly by just sending you an email request.

And of course, every issue of your column should contain full and complete contact information for Donovan's Literary Services.

I can tell you for a fact that I've gotten books from authors and publishers whose only previous contact or knowledge of the Midwest Book Review was that some friend forwarded an issue of the "Jim Cox Report" to them.

Let me know when your debut issue is ready and you want to get an initial mailing list from me.

I'd be very willing to look over your debut issue for you before it goes out in case I can make any further suggestions or recommendations.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Now on to reviews of new books for authors and publishers:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

Red Hot Internet Publicity, fourth edition
Penny C. Sansevieri
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781519495624, $14.95, PB, 414pp,

Now in a completely updated and significantly expanded fourth edition, "Red Hot Internet Publicity: The Insider's Guide to Marketing Online" by Penny Sansevieri (the woman who responsible for researching, creating and implementing the first comprehensive Internet publicity campaign called, The Virtual Author Tour) is a complete course of instruction in a single volume. "Red Hot Internet Publicity" draws upon real-world examples directly relevant for authors and small business owners trying to build strong brands. Social media and publicity authority, Penny Sansevieri drew upon her many years of experience and expertise to create the essential Internet Publicity roadmap; delivers current, expert insight into how to build the perfect website that will turn visitors into customer; build a strong presence on today's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube and Instagram. "Red Hot Internet Publicity" shows just how to: Amp up engagement on an authentic level and build a loyal fan base; Share content that excites people and gets them coming back for more; Target your activity for maximum exposure and impact - get noticed!; Utilize strategies that are proven to work on every major social media platform. Social media isn't about being everywhere, it's about being everywhere that matters. Of special note to authors and publishers is Penny's section on 'Building Super Fans: The Secret to Selling More Books'. Informative, practical, exceptionally well organized and presented, "Red Hot Internet Publicity" is highly recommended for community and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections, and should be on the "must read" list for anyone trying to make a career out of writing and/or publishing. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Red Hot Internet Publicity" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).

The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story
Christopher Castellani
Graywolf Press
250 Third Avenue North, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781555977269, $12.00, PB, 160pp,

Christopher Castellani is the author of three novels, including "All This Talk of Love". He is the artistic director of GrubStreet and teaches in the MFA program at Warren Wilson College. He was recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction. In "The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story" Castellani draws upon his years of experience and expertise to explain that while a writer may have a story to tell, a sense of plot, and strong characters, for all of these to come together some key questions must be answered. What form should the narrator take? An omniscient, invisible force, or one (or more) of the characters? But in what voice, and from what vantage point? How to decide? Avoiding prescriptive instructions or arbitrary rules, Castellani deftly examines the various ways writers have solved the crucial point-of-view problem. By unpacking the narrative strategies at play in the work of writers as different as E. M. Forster, Grace Paley, and Tayeb Salih, among many others, he illustrates how the author's careful manipulation of distance between narrator and character drives the story. "The Art of Perspective" is a fascinating discussion on a subject of perpetual interest to any writer and is very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of any and all aspiring novelists, as well as a critically important addition to community and academic library Writing/Publishing instructional reference collections. It should be noted that "The Art of Perspective" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.56).

Writing Blockbuster Plots
Martha Alderson
Writer's Digest Press
c/o F+W Media
10151 Carver Road, Suite 200, Blue Ash, OH 45242
9781599639796, $16.99, PB, 240pp,

"Writing Blockbuster Plots: A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering Plot, Structure, and Scene" by Martha Alderson is specifically designed o demystify how story writing works. It shows aspiring writers how to track the seven most important elements of a scene on a Scene Tracker, and how to use her Plot Planner to develop a multi-layered plotline for each individual project. "Writing Blockbuster Plots" also provides useful analysis of scenes written by classic and contemporary writers such as Twain, McCarthy, London, Fitch, Chopin, and Letts, all of which will help show writers how to: Pre-plot Link scenes through cause and effect; Determine which scenes are flat and why; Set up tension, conflict and suspense; Develop complex characters; Establish compelling action; Re-vision rewrites; Clarify themes; Deepen and expand narratives. Detailed, comprehensive, insightful, instructive, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Writing Blockbuster Plots" is exceptional and very highly recommended for aspiring writers. It should be noted that "Writing Blockbuster Plots" is also available in a Kindle edition ($11.94).

Publishing Romance
John Markert
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9780786494903, $40.00, PB, 344pp,

Romance novels have attracted considerable attention since their mass market debut into American popular culture in 1939, yet seldom has the industry itself been analyzed. Founded in 1949, Harlequin quickly gained market domination with their contemporary romances. Other publishers countered with historical romances, leading to the rise of "bodice-ripper" romances in the 1970s. The liberation of the romance novel's content during the 1980s brought a vitality to the market that was dubbed a revolution, but the real romance revolution began in the 1990s with developments in the mainstream publishing industry and continues today. "Publishing Romance: The History of an Industry: 1940s to the Present" by John Markert (Associate Professor of Sociology at Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee) traces the history and evolution of the romance industry, covering successful (and not so successful) trends and describing changes in romance publishing that paved the way for the many popular subgenres flooding the market in the 21st century. A seminal work of outstanding scholarship, "Publishing Romance" is enhanced with the inclusion of twenty-five pages of Chapter Notes; a five page Selected Bibliography, and a three page Index. "Publishing Romance" is an extraordinary history that is especially recommended for academic library Writing/Publishing reference collections and will prove to be of special interest for aspiring writers of romance fiction. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Publishing Romance" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.04).

Write Your Tale Off!
Robert Brown Butler
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781514849095, $14.99, PB, 204pp,

In 1971 when Robert Brown Butler was a what he describes as a"cub ink-slinger" and living in Aspen for the summer, he met Saul Bellow, who was also living there. Bellow read some of Butler's writing, and advised him "to learn the writer's trade". Butler took the future Nobel Prize winner's advice to heart and subsequently has authored eight books: In 1981, The Ecological House, which describes how to design and build houses that are friendly to the environment; between 1984 and 2002, five books on architectural engineering for McGraw-Hill; in 2012, Architecture Laid Bare, a book for laymen that details the latest environmental and technical issues facing American architecture (website:; and in 2014, the Disaster Handbook, a book on disaster preparedness which to date has won nine literary awards (website: http://thedisasterhandbook .com). In "Write Your Tale Off!", Butler draws upon his many years of experience and expertise to create a kind of "literary tool box" for aspiring authors that contains the essential tools of the writer's trade. Each of its fifty short chapters describes one of these literary tools, exemplifies its use with a passage by a usually famous author, and reveals the "literary script" by which anyone can create and utilize each tool for the purpose of enriching their own writing project whatever it might be. Absolutely 'user friendly' in content, organization and presentation, "Write Your Tale Off!" will prove to be an invaluable, practical, and immediately applicable do-it-yourself instruction manual for any and all aspiring writers for whatever their subject or literary genre might be.

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:

Ellen Weisbey
Bonnie Williams
Wayne E. Rhynard
Victor Xiong -- "Heavenly Khan"
Robert Brown Butler -- "Write Your Tale Off!"
T. A. Gallant -- "The Legend of the Dagger Prince"
Annye Rothenberg -- "Why Can't I Be the Boss of Me?"
Opal Singleton - "Seduced: The Grooming of America's Teenagers"
Chelshire Inc.
Creston Books
Certa Publishing
BRB Publications Inc.
Timothy Wenzel Music
Summit Crossroads Press
Diviacchi Promotions, Inc.
Merrill Leffler -- Dryad Press
Hap Palmer -- Hap-Pal Music
Suzzane Kelley -- New Rivers Press
Jim Madden - Paramount Market Publishing
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!

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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