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Jim Cox Report: August 2008
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
The wonderful world of publishing continues to evolve. Some of the changes are due to technological advances, some are the result of an increasingly grim economic environment, still others seem to be the end product of a combination of technology and economics.
One case in point is how an increasing number of publishers are switching from a print catalog of their titles to an online catalog of their books. A few publishers have now replaced snail-mail submitted Reviewer Request Check List forms with on online form for which reviewers are provided with a special link to access it.
While there remains an abundances of snail-mail publicity releases, more and more PRs are going out as emails. This seems especially true among freelance publicists.
Follow-up contacts to ascertain the review status of books submitted are currently split fairly evenly between telephone calls and emails.
I see a distinct trend toward substituting publishing industry traditionally printed materials (catalogs, letters, publicity releases) with electronic versions of these once mainstays of book review solicitations.
Some publishing houses have asked me to send our tear sheets (copies of the reviews we do) to them via email. Apparently it's a time saver for them at their end because they can just do a simple "copy & paste" into their databases (and do email notifications to their authors) without having to first having to type in the review manually from a physical tear sheet.
All of these changes and the trends they represent are less than ten years old. This past decade in which the publishing industry has been transformed in so many major and minor ways with the advent and advance of computer technology.
Sometimes it all makes me feel me feel my age! I began in an era of electric typewriters and the Rolledex. An era of filing cabinets and rotary phones and three-by-five index cards.
But there is an upside to all these newfangled ways of conducting a book review operation. Back in the days of typewriters and Rolodexes, I did business with approximately 175 publishers (mostly the New York houses and the major university presses, with a smattering of small presses and a rare appearance of a self-published author). Today the number of publishers I deal with exceeds 1600 publishers. The bulk of these being self-published authors of one kind or another, with another 60 or so being publishers from other countries.
Only the Internet could make possible our reviewing books published in India, England, Ireland, Japan, Australia, etc. in the numbers that we do now These folks send us email PRs to which I provide an email response. They snail-mail me their book(s). When reviewed I email them an electronic version of our publisher notification letter (which includes a copy of the review).
None of that was possible just a decade earlier. Now it's fairly commonplace. Every month within the pages of one or more of our book review publications there will be reviews of titles published in other countries. Sometimes these reviews include snail-mail addresses overseas, sometimes just the publisher's website address, occasionally the contact information will be that of an American-based distributer.
That's why one of the trends I see in the publishing industry is that of globalization. Not just in the production of books (like expensive coffee-table art books being printed in South Korea) but in the marketplace that makes these books known to and available to an American citizenry, as well as readers anywhere else in the world.
What prompted all this is my having just received two beautiful (and beautifully published) Chinese/English bilingual architectural books from a publisher in mainland China. These are the first from this particular publisher -- who found the Midwest Book Review website on the Internet, then sent me a PR e-mail asking if I was interested, and to which I sent an e-mail response inviting the submission. A couple of weeks later they arrived in our mail room.
That's publishing industry globalization in action!
Now here are my opinions and assessments with respect to the new 'how to' titles for authors and publishers to have crossed my desk this past month.
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper
Three Rivers Press
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780307341709, $18.95, www.crownpublishing.com, 1-888-523-9292
Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy is a personal growth teacher, an artist, an inspiration speaker, a bestselling author, and under the pen name SARK has written and compiled "Juicy Pens, Thirsty paper: Gifting The World With Your Words And Stories And Creating The Time And Energy To Actually Do It", a compendium of creative games and techniques that aspiring writers will find to be invaluable in the practice of their chosen craft. There are any number of excellent 'how to' books on how to write better, more effectively, and even more profitably. The unique focus of "Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper" is an emphasis of practical 'how to' exercises to generate ideas, become inspired by people and things, make time to write within the context of a busy schedule, deal with writer's block and 'bad writing blues', -- even tips on getting published. Enhanced with personal anecdotes, uplifting quotes, interviews with artists, and more, "Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper" is a welcome and recommended read for all novice authors and holds a great deal of benefit for experienced writers as well.
The Half-Known World
2402 University Avenue, Suite 203, Saint Paul, MN 55114
9781555975043, $15.00, www.graywolfpress.org
Writing fiction requires a combination of expertise, talent, experience, and imagination. In "The Half-Known World: On Writing Fiction", Robert Boswell (the published author of five novels and an instructor in creative writing at the New Mexico State University, the University of Houston, and in the Warren Wilson MFA program) draws upon his more than twenty years of personal experience and earned expertise to compile nine compelling informed and informative essays on the craft issues facing every literary writer and author. Comprising this extraordinary compendium of observation, insights and advice are Process and Paradigm; Narrative Spandrels; On Omniscience; Urban Legends, Pornography, and Literary Fiction; The Alternate Universe; Politics and Art in the Novel; Private eye Point of View; You Must Change Your Life; and the title piece, The Half-Known World. Enhanced with a two and a half page listing of referenced works at the end, "The Half-Known World" will prove to be a fascinating and educative read for anyone who aspires to literary success as a writer of deftly crafted fiction.
The Power of the Darkside
Pamela Jaye Smith
Michael Wiese Producations
3940 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Suite 1111
9781932907438, $22.95, www.mwp.com
A world where everything goes according to plan isn't terribly interesting at all; a good antagonist is essential to a great story. "The Power of the Darkside" is a guide for screenwriters who want to craft a truly memorable and believable villain, someone viewers will talk about as much as they talk about the hero. And a good hero, of course, needs an excellent villain. Sound and wise in its advice on the shadier side of the script, "The Power of the Darkside" is a must for aspiring writers and for community library collections.
Now for some Q&A from the Midwest Book Review email box:
In a message dated 1/30/2008 9:51:03 A.M. Central Standard Time, Jodi5565@aol.com writes:
Dear Mr. Cox:
Several books I've read about writing covers and queries recommend comparing my manuscripts to similar, successful, published books. How can I find statistics about how successful a comparison book was for its publisher? I wouldn't want to compare my manuscript to a title that didn't sell well. Also, does the comparison book need to be published by the publisher to whom the cover or query is addressed? This would mean I'd need to find a comparison book per publisher. The cover or query is supposed to be limited to one page, but when I include a comparison paragraph I have trouble keeping the letter to one page. Is the comparison a commonly expected part of a cover or query, or is it optional? Thank you for reading my questions and for any advice you can offer.
Jodi L. Daly
That kind of information is usually considered proprietary by publishers and usual not available to casual inquiries by others. Your best bet would be to try and determine how a particular book did in the marketplace by looking at its ranking on Amazon.com
With respect to comparing your book with other successful titles by other authors in your promotional materials, I wouldn't do it. Leave such comparisons to book reviewers and literary critics.
Midwest Book Review
In a message dated 2/11/2008 1:27:23 P.M. Central Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
I checked Amazon, and I can't see where this occurs. Is this one of the MBR publications? If so, it would make sense for MBR to sell their publications to those who want to buy it. After all, MBR does need a source of revenue.
To which I responded as follows:
The Midwest Book Review does not sell our reviews to Amazon.com or anybody else. They are all given away for free to anyone who wants them -- especially to the publishers (and through them the authors) of the books that make the final cut here at the Midwest Book Review and get reviewed in one or more of our nine monthly book review publications.
When our reviews are posted to Amazon (for whom we are a content provider and have been for great many years now) they always carry a credit citation of either Midwest Book Review, or the title of one of our various publications (The Bookwatch; California Bookwatch; Children's Bookwatch; Internet Bookwatch; Library Bookwatch; MBR Bookwatch; Reviewer's Bookwatch; Small Press Bookwatch; Wisconsin Bookwatch).
The reviews posted on Amazon by our volunteer reviewers (like Harriet Klausner) which appear in either Reviewer's Bookwatch or MBR Bookwatch are by posted those reviewers with that particular reviewer's name as the citation credit.
In the past, Amazon has had two eccentric assertions concerning the book reviews posted on their website:
1. They claimed ownership of all reviews posted by readers.
2. They tried to offer for sale some of those reviews.
With respect to the first assertion, all rights to a review belong to either the reviewer that made them or the publication that paid the salary for that reviewer to write them for that publication. Unless the reviewer has specially sold or otherwise given up ownership rights to the review. I've never heard of that happening.
With respect to the attempt at making money ($9.95!!!) from selling a review, that makes no fiscal sense at all. The market for such a thing would be an author and/or publisher wanting to use that Amazon posted review for a marketing campaign. But (at least with respect to the Midwest Book Review) all publishers (and through them the authors) are provided the review for free -- and accompanied by a publisher notification letter outlining all the various places that the review has been posted or published.
The Midwest Book Review gives those authors and/or publishers automatic and complete permission to utilize the review in any manner they deem useful in their efforts to publicize, promote, and market their book.
So what's the incentive to pay out cold cash for a review that they've already gotten for free?
Then there's the little matter of anybody being able to simply do a 'copy & paste' of a posted review from off the Amazon website and onto their own computer.
Still, Amazon has been trying to sell reviews for a few years now -- and not with any success that I've ever heard about.
I think maybe the fiscal logic behind their attempts is that kind of logic that underlies those Nigerian SPAMs -- send out a couple of million emails and perhaps a few scattered and naive people can be tricked into parting with some cash.
Bottom line -- The Midwest Book Review provides Amazon with our reviews because it increases the audience for them in behalf of our reviewers, the publishers, and the authors. We've never charged anyone (especially not Amazon) for doing this. It's part of fulfilling our mandate to promote literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.
And posting reviews on Amazon (along with our reviews appearing on such other online databases as Lexus-Nexus, Goliath, Book Review Index, etc.) helps to make us a very popular book review resource for the publishing community.
Midwest Book Review
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 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:
Leland W. Cross
Fran Smith -- "Friendly Feathers"
Debra Purdy Kong -- "Fatal Encryption"
Maureen Cain -- "Let Your Dough Ri$e"
Annette Haws -- "Waiting For The Light To Change"
Sam Moffie -- "The Organ Grinder And The Monkey"
Thomas A. Leenerts -- "There Is Only You Beholding You"
Roswitha McIntosh -- "The Mad Man And His Mistress - History in the Making"
Chery A. Bazzoui -- "Runaway Grandma"
Best Fairy Books
Dark Sky Publishing
Broad Reach Publishing
Clumsy Ducks Publishing
Safe Goods Publishing
Cable Publishing Inc.
Glenda Selvage -- Axios Press
Liana C. Lovell -- Mystic Publishers
Lily G. Stephen -- Blooming Rose Press
Edward R. Wood -- "Summertime Books"
Bill Klemm -- Benecton Press
Leila Joiner -- Imago Press
Barbara Peters -- Poisoned Pen Press
Susan Alcorn -- Shepherd Canyon Books
Alyce Barry -- Practically Shameless Press
Kate Miller -- Terrific Science Press
Brian Stepanic -- Panic Press
Betty Hugh -- Clay Dog Books
Kathy Stevens -- Global Advance
Janet Terrill -- W.S. Beetle & Company
John Errett -- Free Enterprise Press Inc.
Maryglenn McCombs -- Oceanview Publishing
Wayne E. Stahre -- Habitation of Chimham Publishing
Mary Kay Lazarus -- MKL Public Relations
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Nigel J. Yorwerth -- Yorwerth Associates
Anonymous -- Studio City, California
If you have postage to donate, or if you have a book you'd like considered for review, then send those stamps (always appreciated, never required), 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 for it.
So until next time, goodbye, good luck, and good reading!
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI, 53575
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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