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Jim Cox Report: August 2007

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Pretty much every work day I get very nice thank you notes in the form of emails, and even in this age of the computer I still get the occasional snail mail letter from someone who appreciates what we try to accomplish here at the Midwest Book Review in behalf of the small press community of self-published authors and independent publishers. I'm going to print one out in this issue of the "Jim Cox Report" for two reasons:

1. It made me feel really great about my chosen profession.
2. There are lessons to be learned.

Here's the letter:

July 27, 2007

Mr. James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
The Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575

Dear Mr. Cox:

I was thrilled with the review I received from the Helen C. White Library's "Cooperative Children's Center" in our July 2007 issue of "Children's Bookwatch" for my book, "Adventures on Amelia Island: A Pirate, a Princess, and Buried Treasure". As mentioned in your letter, I am donating some postage stamps 'for the cause'.

I also have a favor to ask. My first book, "Voices in St. Augustine", was reviewed in Gary's Bookshelf in May of 2005 in the "Reviewer's Bookwatch". Would you ask your webmaster to post that review for that book on my Amazon page? I can do it, but I did not want to take the liberty of assigning the stars for the review.

Thanks for reviewing both of my books. They are both selling well. "The Adventures on Amelia Island" book is already going into a second printing, as pirates are hot right now. I cam currently working on book number three in this series.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Jane R. Wood

I'm going to hold back on putting in Jane's mailing address because I don't know if she would feel comfortable with it going into an online publication like the "Jim Cox Report" with its circulation of several thousand subscribers on the internet.

The letter from me that she mentioned was a publisher notification letter which included a copy of the review and which is always sent to the publisher.

My purpose of reproducing Jane's letter was because it contained several elements (besides the nice words of appreciation specific to our review of her book) that should prove of interest to author and publishers in similar circumstances.

1. Jane noted where she first encountered our review of her book. I insist on a copy of every review generated for the Midwest Book Review being sent to the publisher. It's the publisher's responsibility to then notify their authors, editors, illustrators, publicists, etc. When it's a self-published book there is never any problem. When it is a POD publisher then it may or may not be followed through on -- it depends on how the contract is written. When it is a tradition publisher (large or small) it sometimes happens and sometimes not.

Because we are content providers for Amazon.com, if the book is on Amazon then often that's where the author will encounter our review.

We also have various subscribers (individuals, booksellers, librarians, online databases) for our book review publications.

It is not uncommon for an author or publisher to encounter our review elsewhere before they get our snail-mail notification letter.

What fascinates me is when I learn that the author found out about the review in a another forum. This time it was the Helen C. White Library which is a specialist library on the campus of the University of Wisconsin - Madison. It is a reference library for children's books and services all of the community and school libraries in the state -- as well as being a learning facility for college students in the UW's Library Science program. I've been a contributor to them of reviews for children's books for some twenty-five years or so.

One of the things to check out when vetting a potential reviewer or review publication is their audience or readership for their reviews. Are they a multi-platform operation or just a single forum resource. In the case of the Midwest Book Review (and many others) a review not only goes in to our own publications and is posted on Amazon, but authors and publishers are at liberty to utilize the review in any manner they deem useful in their marketing campaign -- and that includes getting it published or posted elsewhere on the internet.

Long ago I gave permission to the Helen C. White Library to share any reviews they got from us with anyone, anywhere, in any forum. Not so well known is that specialty libraries like the Helen C. White will also accept reviews of any children's books (preschool through young adult) from any reputable review source -- and that includes authors and publishers passing along to them reviews that originated elsewhere. Just be sure that when doing so you have gotten permission from the reviewer or review publication first.

Jane also included a postage stamp donation along with her letter. Always appreciated, never required.

When we had reviewed her first book it was not then on the Amazon website. Should that happen to you, simply do what Jane has done -- when your book finally appears on the Amazon website, ask the reviewer to post it on Amazon for you, even though the review might have been written been months (or years) earlier. If they don't still have a copy of their review, feel free to provide them with a copy -- because, of course, you will have a permanent file of all the book reviews you ever get or come across for your titles.

Incidently, for us this retroactive Amazon posting it's no big thing. We archive our reviews for five years and it's a very simple task of just a couple of minutes for my webmaster to locate the review in our archive, then post it on Amazon.

Note that Jane has also taken the opportunity to inform me that she's working on book number 3. Knowing human nature as you do, and based upon her letter, can you tell the kind of welcome this author's next book will get in the offices of the Midwest Book Review when it comes in?

Then Jane concludes with an open invitation to contact her should there be any questions on my part. This is a very practical courtesy that should always be standard in almost any correspondence from a publisher to a reviewer.

Now on to the subject of an audio book contest!

As many of you know, I'm one of the judges for the annual Audie Awards given out by the Audio Publishers Association. Not only that, but one of the prizes for each of the first place winners in the various categories is a guaranteed review by the Midwest Book Review as part of our regular monthly review column called "The Audiobook Shelf". So I'm going to pass along the following announcement from the APA for any of you that have an audio book to market:

APA Announces The Audies(R) Call for Entries!

It's that time of year again! The APA has officially opened its call for entries for The Audies(R) 2008. View the Call for Entries brochure for details here you will find the complete list of categories, rules, eligibility and the entry procedure.

New this year, The Audies(R) entry form will be available online!

This new online format will make it much easier to submit multiple entries. The online website will be live on Monday, July 16 at the APA website.

The Audies(R) 2008 will feature a new category recognizing Achievement in Abridgement. Finalists will be notified in March 2008, and showcased to the industry-at-large on the APA website and in association materials. Winners in 30 categories, including the prestigious Audiobook of the Year award, will be announced at The Audies(R) Gala on May 30, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

More than 800 entries were submitted for consideration for The Audies(R) in 2007 a new record! Entries for The Audies(R) will be accepted in two waves.

Deadlines are as follows:

August 15, 2007 for titles issued from November 1, 2006 through July 31, 2007.
October 10, 2007 for titles issued from August 1, 2007 through October 31, 2007.

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

The APA website address is www.audiopub.org -- and you can email them at info@audiopub.org

Now on to one of the most useful portions of my monthly advice column:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

How To Write For A General Audience
Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett
American Psychological Association
750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242
9780979212536, $19.95 www.apa.org/books 1-800-368-5777

Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett is a health psychologist who has authored more than 130 articles or chapters. She has also authored or edited 15 books and serves on the editorial boards of 'Child Abuse & Neglect; 'the 'Journal of Child Sexual Abuse'; and the 'Journal of Human Lactation'. She draws upon her many years of experience and expertise in "How To Write For A General Audience: A Guide For Academics Who Want to Share Their Knowledge With The World And Have Fun Doing It". This superbly written instructional guide and reference is embedded with Kathleen's keen sense of humor and illustrative personal anecdotes, along with practical information on how academics in any of the sciences or disciplines can communicate their own expertise in articles or books with effective, jargon-free prose. "How To Write For A General Audience" covers such practical considerations as obtaining a publisher, pitching ideas, negotiation writing contracts, dealing with editors, and post-publication promotion. An ideal and thoroughly user friendly 'how to' instructional guide for academics and scientists aspiring to write and publish both within their fields and for the general public, "How To Write For A General Audience" is confidently recommended for personal, professional, academic, and community library Writing & Publishing reference collections.

How To Write A Screenplay
Mark Evan Schwartz
The Continuum International Publishing Group
80 Maiden Lane, Suite 704, New York, NY 10038
9780826428172, $15.95 www.continuumbooks.com 1-800-561-7704

Now in a newly revised and significantly expanded edition, "How To Write A Screenplay" by Mark Evan Schwartz is an instructional manual specifically designed to teach aspiring screenwriters how to write a screenplay by reading one. This unique 'how to' guide is literally written and presented in the form of a screenplay. As well as the screenplay itself, Schwartz includes an instructive foreword explaining how to get the most out of the screenplay, the log line, the synopsis, character bios, the treatment, and 'The Pitch". As entertaining and engaging as it is informed and informative, "How To Write A Screenplay" is an impressive, 'reader friendly', professional, practical, instructive, superbly organized and presented 'how to' manual that is very strongly recommended reading for any and all aspiring playwrights and novice screenwriters.

Creative Writing
Colin Bulman
Polity
c/o Blackwell Publishing
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148
0745686886, $26.95 www.blackwellpublishing.com 1-800-216-2522

In "Creative Writing: A Guide And Glossary To Fiction Writing", academician and author Colin Bulman draws upon his more than twenty years of experience and expertise teaching creative writing to university students for more than twenty years. Having published a number of both fiction and non-fiction books in the course of his career, Bulman writes with a special authority about the lesser known aspects of creative writing, as well as fictional techniques their proper application in stories and novels. "Creative Writing" defines more than 200 specialized terms and techniques associated with fiction writing (including 'intertextuality', 'anachrony', and 'fabula'); demonstrates how to achieve fictional effects; provides literary example of the described techniques; addresses the characteristics of genre as well as literary fiction; presents basic (but essential) techniques for creative writing that include writing dialogue and using figures of speech; and, unique to an instructional manual for aspiring authors, provides definitions for the major terms used in publishing. Superbly written and organized, "Creative Writing" is as thoroughly engaging and 'reader friendly' as it is informed and informative, making it a very highly recommended addition to any aspiring novelist's technical reference collection.

Landscapes with Figures
Robert Root, editor
University of Nebraska Press
233 North 8th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68588-0255
9780803259836, $21.95 www.nebraskapress.unl.edu 1-800-755-1105

Landscapes with Figures: The Nonfiction of Place is an anthology of essays, memoirs, nature writing, and travel narratives from thirteen different authors, gathered under the central theme of discussing the effect that a sense of place has on one's writing. Each essay is accompanied by a separate commentary by its author, the better to add perspective. Landscapes with Figures is emphatically not a "how to" manual for writers, but rather offers a wealth of insights to relating personal connections to places with one's perceptions and insight into narrative. An excellent source of inspiration for advanced writers seeking to enhance the integrity and authenticity of their settings.

The above were reviews that I did. Of special relevance for the small press community is this review by volunteer reviewer Kaye Trout about a 'how to' book for authors that didn't quite cut it for her:

Taxes, Stumbling Blocks & Pitfalls for Authors 2007
Nash Black
If Publishing
101 Evergreen Rd, Jamestown, KY 42629-7813
1432703633, $9.95 www.amazon.com

Quoting from the back cover:

"A clear and concise guide for organizing and preserving expense records for writers as a sole proprietorship under current rules and regulations of the Internal Revenue Code using Schedule C and its supplements for the 1040 IRS form. Vital tips for preventing identity theft, keeping your computer free of viruses, worms and other headaches, personal security planning, and designing worry free book tours. Contains all 50 states and DC as to their sales tax percentage and contact information."

There is some information in this small book which might be of interest to new authors, of which there are many these days; however, unless an author is fortunate enough to realize significant financial returns from his writing efforts to show a profit at some point, the IRS may consider his endeavors to be a 'hobby' and not a business and therefore not eligible for business deductions. It is always important to keep all your receipts, protect your computer and personal identity, and I think most people today have the common sense to do so. Would I recommend this book to new authors? I don't think so . . . based on its briefness.

Kaye Trout
Reviewer

Anyone with a different perspective on this title is welcome to submit their own review to me and I'd be happy to run it.

Now for some Q&A from the Midwest Book Review email box:

In a message dated 2/16/2007 9:13:40 A.M. Central Standard Time, craig@artasiagallery.com writes:

Dear Jim,

I would like to get my book reviewed in your magazine. What do I need to send as part of my press kit? Thank you so much for your help in this matter.

Sincerely,
Sarah Rosenblatt

Dear Sarah:

A basic publicity release features the following information:

Title
Author
Publisher
Publisher address
Publisher phone number, email, website (if any)
ISBN, price, page count, publication date
A one paragraph descriptive summary
A one paragraph author biography

A basic media kit for reviewers consists of:

A folder
A publicity release
A cover letter

Following are optional additions to a basic media kit:

An author and/or publisher and/or publicist business card
A photograph of the author
Reader testimonial quotes
Reviews
Suggested interview questions
A marketing/promotional appearance schedule

Remember that the purpose of a cover letter is to tell me (as a reviewer) why you are submitting your book to me. The function of a publicity release is to tell me the basics about the book.

Please send to two copies of your published book, accompanied by a cover letter and a publicity release, to the attention of:

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575

I don't need any of the optional additions to a basic media kit.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 2/22/2007 4:16:24 P.M. Central Standard Time, jcaldone@tampabay.rr.com writes:

I have submitted a manuscript of my story to Durrance Publishing in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. They contacted me and was very interested in publishing it. The fees were $8080.00. Unfortunately I am not financially capable of meeting their terms. Are there any other alternatives.

Respectfully
John Caldone

Dear John:

The price cited seems awfully expensive to me. My advice is to go to the Midwest Book Review website at http://www.midwestbookreview.com and do the following:

Read through the various articles on every aspect of publishing and
book promotion that you will find archived in the "Advice for
Publishers" section.

1. Click on "Publisher Resources"
2. The go to the subsection dedicated to POD (print on demand) publishers.
3. Use the links to got to their various websites and read their policy/prices.
4. Ask for each of them to give you a quote on their publishing services.

This is how to best get a list of competitive bids so that you can determine what would be the best bargain for you in terms of the publishing services you would require for your particular book.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Karen Villanueva is an experienced publicist and an expert in book marketing. She has submitted many a title to the Midwest Book Review in behalf of her author clients. I want you to note the little addendum she put on my response to a quite common question from a POD published author about the discrimination they face in marketing their books:

In a message dated 5/1/2007 4:12:01 P.M. Mountain Daylight Time, mbr@execpc.com writes:

Dear Roberta:

The prejudice against POD published titles has its origins in the unfortunate fact that the POD publishers (even Publish America) will turn any manuscript given them into a book when paid to do so by an author -- regardless of that manuscript's literary merit, typos, flawed writing, or any other errors that print books are susceptible to.

Nowadays, POD companies have steadily expanded the number of services that they are willing to provide their author clients for additional fees, including editing and promotional services.

The other main source of prejudice is the feeling on the part of librarians and book retailers is that POD is the resort for authors whose work simply isn't good enough to enable them to be published through more traditional publishing arrangements with established publishing houses.

When an author pays a publisher to publish their work, that publisher is justifiably called a 'Vanity Press'.

I should also state that most POD books fail to secure review assignments because so many reviewers share that historic prejudice against self-publishing for the reasons cited above.

I don't hold with that prejudice because I think self-publishing has a long and honorable tradition as well as having a value of its own, with the advent of POD companies being simply a reflection of the advances in technology that make publishing your own work easier than it has ever been before.

Your questions arise from time to time and so I'm going to include our little exchange in a future issue of my "Jim Cox Report" for the edification of other aspiring authors for whatever benefit it may have for them.

To my above remarks, Karen added:

Great reply! Distribution is also a problem. As a publicist, if the books don't get placed in book stores it is that much harder to "sell" the book to the media. If a POD does get placement in book store chains such as Borders or Barnes & Noble, it makes our job so much easier.

If I had a nickle for every time I've heard "...but it is available through Barnes & Noble, my publisher told me it was." Yes, anyone can order a book through Barnes & Noble (or Amazon.com) if it is in the system, but it does not mean it will ever appear on the shelves. If the book return policy is non-refundable and the discount margin is too narrow, the store will not stock the book even for a signing event, and most of the stores no longer work with authors in what used to be a "you bring in the books and we'll pay you for what you sell" deal. Some independent stores will still make that arrangement, but usually only a bookstore in the author's locale. And so, yes, if someone has heard about their book and wants to order it, certainly that can happen, but it is not the same as being sold in a Barnes & Noble store.

Also, one can garner publicity and reviews through various means, but if the book is not in a book store on the shelf, the sales as a result of PR are usually negligible. Thus the onus is on the author to find alternatives to bookstore selling through seminars, talks, etc., at a variety of other venues or through excellent marketing via websites, link exchanges and such.

Phew, didn't mean to go on so.

Another matter entirely - Did you receive Healing the Hurting Soul by Louis Wynne, ISBN-10: 1419653466, ISBN-13: 978-1419653469, which I sent in late March? And any update on whether it may be assigned for review?

Thanks so much Jim,

Karen Villanueva

Karen Villanueva Author Services
Publicity Book Tours
Author Hosting . Author Representation
P.O. Box 25061, Albuquerque NM 87125-0061
PH: (505) 764-8323 Cell: (505) 306-9213
e-mail: authorcare@aol.com website: www.authorcare.com

Note that Karen, ever the consummate publicist, took the opportunity for a client title follow-up. Deftly done!

I'm now 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 wonderful folk decided to say thank you and 'support the cause' that is the Midwest Book Review by donating postage stamps this past month:

Jim Sheldon
Phyllis May
John F. Sullivan
Kara 'The Computer Tutor' Glover
Jane R. Wood -- "Adventures on Amelia Island"
Linda Ayers -- "The Time Bridge Travelers" series
Rik Feeney -- "Back Handsprings: The Secret Techniques"
Ida R. Baker -- "Mindful of Madness"
Rebecca Leonard -- "Adirondack Nightmare"
B. Corey Kilvert Jr. -- "Comrades in Courage"
Laurie Todd -- "Fight Your Health Insurance and Win"
Tangela B. Pierce -- "The Power of Now in Your Life"
Guido V. Marinetti -- "I Beat Heart Disease, So Can You"
Darlene Wofford -- "Edgewise: An Assignment to Remember"
Pat Moffett -- "Ice Cream in the Cupboard"
Ringside Books
Baylaurel Press
Jeanne Archambault -- Jitterbug Books
Stan Swanson -- Story Meadow Publishing
Jerry Gold -- Black Heron Press
Joe Landwehr -- Ancient Tower Press
Lex Fairfax -- Tucumcari Press
Joy R. Butler -- Sashay Communications, LLC
Patrick W. Miller -- Patrick W. Miller & Associates
Michelle Ronco -- XCEO, Inc.
Steve Sherman -- Appledore Books
Paula Tarantino -- Alternative Insights Publishing
Vivian Dubrovin -- Storycraft Publishing
Herb Dimock -- Eddy Publishing
Michael LaLumier -- Stagger Lee Books
Bob Fick -- Three Angels Publishing
Don Bracken -- History Publishing Company, LLC
Martin Watkins -- Windcall Publishing
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania Publicity
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity
Nigel J. Yorwerth -- Yorwerth Associates, LLC

If you have postage to donate, or if you have a book you'd like considered for review, then send those stamps or a published copy of that book (no galleys or uncorrected proofs), 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.

So until next time!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI, 53575
http://www.midwestbookreview.com


James A. Cox
Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937
e-mail: mbr@execpc.com
e-mail: mwbookrevw@aol.com
http://www.midwestbookreview.com


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