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Jim Cox Report: August 2010

For the past decade I've been one of the judges for the annual "Audies" awards put out by the Audio Publishers Association (APA). My assigned categories have varied from year to year. Sometimes general fiction, sometimes science fiction & fantasy, some times children's books. There are more than a dozen different categories.

Until last year the process was basically APA would ship me a couple of cases of audio books in my assigned category. I'd listen to them. And then rank them on a one to ten scale. Then email my findings back to APA.

Then last year a significant change occurred. Instead of sending me the actual audio books (the way they would be encountered in a bookstore by customers of a library by patrons), APA wanted to send downloaded files of the audio books to be listened to on an MP3.

I don't do MP3. I'll listen to books on tape (which is the way those audio books arrived to be judges in the early days) or on CD (which is pretty much the universal format these days), but I refuse to listen to books on-line via the computer -- and I'm resisting the whole technological advance as represented by MP3 gadgetry.

I was drug kicking and protesting into the wonderful world of the desktop computer back in 1980 by my friends. Then I was drug onto the internet kicking and protesting by my computer science major daughter just a few years later. Now the world is conspiring to drag me kicking and protesting into the next evolutionary publishing frontier of electronic technology as exemplified by the MP3.

Fortunately for me and my luddite ways, there are still categories of APA "Audies" judging where I can still work from CDs. They are Multivoice; Package Design; Distinguished Achievement; Audio Drama; and Audio Book of the Year.

I've signed up for the first three of these categories.

One of the side benefits of being an Audies judge down through the years is that I get an additional value out of my evaluation of submitted titles. I use my evaluations in preparing formal reviews of the audio books for inclusion into my monthly review column "The Audiobook Shelf".

Out of these on-going experience as an Audies judge comes a rather valued lesson for authors, publishers, reviewers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, publicists, and other members of the publishing industry.

The technologies of publishing continue to march on whether we are comfortable with them or not.

Now on to reviews of a number of new titles on writing and publishing:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

The Virgin's Promise
Kim Hudson
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd., #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781932907728, $19.95,

The journey from innocence and into womanhood is a major topic in modern fiction. "The Virgin's Promise" discusses this archetypal character and how to intertwine it with the hero and tell an engaging and riveting story unlike any other in today's avenues of performing arts. "The Virgin's Promise" is a solid addition to any stage writing collection, highly recommended.

Mosquito Marketing for Authors
Michelle Dunn
Never Dunn Publishing
9781453605301 $23.95

Industry veteran Michelle Dunn presents Mosquito Marketing for Authors, a no-nonsense guide for authors (especially self-published authors!) to effectively, efficiently, and inexpensively promoting one's book. Chapters discuss creating a niche market, identifying one's target audience, writing a press release, marketing both online and offline, networking, using a blog to promote one's business, creating a mailing list, the role of direct mail, standing out from one's competition, and much more. A practical-minded, user-friendly guide, absolutely indispensable to anyone interested in writing and publishing books for a living.

Now here are some Q&A's on writing and publishing:

Not only do I get questions from aspiring authors, neophyte publishers, and the occasional publicist, I also get them from reviewers. Here's an example:

In a message dated 11/17/2009 12:16:58 P.M. Central Standard Time, Sandra writes:

Mr. Cox,

I was honored that you accepted my review in November of "The Shack." I have since sent in two more reviews. What type of process do you go through to select reviews to be used? Also how are you able to operate when you only accept money for stamps?

Jim: Dear Sandra:

I'll take your questions and comments one at a time:

Unless there are serious grammatical flaws in the review I will run them. Occasionally I have to send one back because the reviewer omitted publisher address info, or an ISBN, or some other element of the "info block" so necessary for librarians and booksellers to use when filling out purchase orders based on the review. Then all the reviewer has to do is supply the missing info and resubmit the review.

We are fortunate to be funded by two foundation grants. Plus the fact that I 'married rich', own the building that houses the Midwest Book Review, receive some supplemental money from the sale of review copies, and have always had a knack for making practical line-item budgets -- and sticking to them.

Plus our paid staff of four (I've retired and taken myself off payroll) all work for minimum wage.

Sandra: I am just an average person and my question may not be politically correct to ask. But the only way to learn is to ask.

Jim: One of the hallmarks of the Midwest Book Review, from its founding some 33 year ago, has been complete candor with all elements of the publishing industry. And that specifically means with our volunteer reviewers, as well as with authors, publishers, publicists, librarians, booksellers, and the general reading public.

That and always making certain that publishers receive copies of the reviews and notification letters telling them where those reviews have been posted and/or published.

I'm constantly and consistently amazed at how few reviewers and review publications seem to fail to recognize the importance of providing publishers (and through them, the authors) with feedback when their books make the final cut and get reviewed.

Sandra: I was told you are the "Best of the Best," when it comes to reviews. If I would of known that, I am not sure I would of had the guts to send the one review that you published. Let alone the other two I have sent lately.

Jim: As for 'Best of the Best', I rather think that it's simply a matter of longevity -- and being willing to answer people's questions like those you've posed -- as part of my mission goals of promoting literacy, library usage and small press publishing. Personally, I feel that my responsibility as a reviewer and as the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review is to assist authors in writing better, publishers in publishing more profitably, in librarians and booksellers into making better choices, and the general reading public in being more satisfied with their selections of reading material.

I love books as they can take you to new places you have never been. Or teach you something that you need to know. I just love books -- period. The world can be opened up to you within the pages of a book.

Books were my refuge in a troubled childhood, a source of information and entertainment that basic poverty had otherwise prevented from other sources, and a means of expanding my life experiences far beyond the bounds and boundaries and limitations of my otherwise quite ordinary existence.

Sandra: If I have asked anything that I should not of then please caulk it off to ignorance. I think because I am so open about my life I feel others are also. We have all made mistakes and had failures. But I am learning people do not always think like I do. I should know that as I am fifty-eight years old.

Jim: I'm used to holding minority opinions on the cultural and political issues of the day. At the ripe old age of 67 I'm quite aware of the truth embedded in that old dictum of "The more I know the less I know". So I try to keep an open mind, listen carefully to what people say -- and pay even more attention to what they do.

Sandra: Thank you for all you do for writers.

Jim: It not just my job -- it's my pleasure.

Sandra: Sincerely,

Sandra Heptinstall
Whispering Winds Book Reviews

Jim: Sandra you are doing just fine as a reviewer. Practice makes perfect for book reviewers just as it does for piano players -- and book review editors.

I'm going to include our little correspondence in my "Jim Cox Report" for the benefit of others who may share the same questions and concerns as yourself.

Meanwhile, I look forward to your next review!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 11/20/2009 7:10:03 P.M. Central Standard Time,

I am a foster and adoptive mom for the last 13 years. We have eight kids. I wrote a book Yes They are All Mine. It is my hope to save as many kids as possible and make a difference for the kids still in the system. Iam on Barnes Noble,Amazon,And Borders. I could use some publicity but have no idea how to achieve it. Anything you could do would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You,

Linda Dyson

Dear Ms. Dyson:

Thank you for your inquiry. I do have some recommendations for you.

1. Always put something in the Subject line of your emails. This one came in blank and ordinarily I would have deleted it as spam but for some whimsical reason I clicked it open instead.

2. Go to the Midwest Book Review website at

3. Click on "Advice for Writers & Publishers". An archive of 'how to' articles for authors and publishers on every aspect of the book publishing process -- including marketing books once they've bee published.

4. Pay especial attention to all of the ones dealing with book reviewing, the book review process, spotting a phony book reviewer, etc.

5. Read the two called "Writing An Effective Cover Letter" and "Writing An Effective Publicity Release". It will only take you a few minutes, follow the instructions, and you'll have professional quality documents to accompany book review submissions to me or anyone else.

6. Then click on "Other Reviewers". This is a database I've made of freelance book reviewers, book review publications and magazines, book review websites, etc. Go down the list (its a very long list because it is an enormous database) and when you see one that looks promising, click on it. You'll be zapped to their particular web site. Read it and you'll discover it is thematically appropriate to your book, and if so, what their submission guidelines would be.

7. Click on "Publisher's Bookshelf" and you'll see reviews for a great many 'how to' titles on book marketing -- including marketing books on very small budgets. Write down the ones that seem most pertinent and get them (for free) from your local community library's InterLibrary Loan Service.

8. As time permits, I would also advise you to click on the "Jim Cox Reports" and browse through these monthly columns of advice, tips, tricks & techniques that I write for the small press community. In fact, this correspondence will be a part of a future Report for the benefit of others who have similar concerns and questions to your own.

You've got a fairly steep learning curve in front of you -- and my web site is going to be your new best friend for a while. Don't try to do it all at once. But spend some time every day there.

With respect to the Midwest Book Review, please send two copies of the published book for review, accompanied by a cover letter and your newly written publicity release, to the attention of:

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575

Finally we have "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:

Alisa Clark
Nancy Deville
Emilie Barrett
Carla Danzieger -- "Hidden Falls"
William J. Kunz -- "Third and Ten"
Susan DiPlacido -- "House Money"
Karen Nilsen -- "The Witch Awakening"
M. Juanita Taylor -- "Cogslea Revisited"
Harold G. Ross -- "Comanche Crossing"
Mary M. Nyman -- "High School Stories"
Jeane Daly -- "Looking for Jimmy Stewart"
Alice M. Carleton -- "Sanctuary of the Soul"
LeAnn Neal Reilley -- "The Mermaid's Pendant"
Olukemi Aikulola -- "The Christian - Born for Victory"
Kathy M. Miller -- "Chippy Chipmunk Parties in the Garden"
Richard K. Pate -- "The Remembrance Album of Harriet Pruden"
Selby Ink
Studio Indiana
Book Magic LLC
Peel Productions
Indian Publications
Anthony Publishing Company
Nan Wisherd -- Cable Publishing
Dia L. Michels -- Science Naturally!
John Hager -- Greenstone Publishing
Kyra Morris -- Bottletree Books LLC
Wahida Clark -- W. Clark Publishing
Betty Mackey -- B. B. Mackey Books
Jan Yager -- Hannacroix Creek Books
Dale Carlson -- Bick Publishing House
Lawrence Grey -- "Letters from Grampy"
Michelle Linn-Gust -- Chellehead Works
Sherre DeMao -- Green Castle Publishing
Pat W. Kirk -- Puckett Browne Publishing
Warren Caterson -- Winfield & Scott Press
Russell G. Rodrigue -- Rodrigue & Sons Co.
Patricia A. McDonough -- Terra Sancta Press
Sharon Ellsberry -- The Spaniel Family Books
Steven M. Ulmen -- Eagle Entertainment USA
Walt Shiel -- Slipdown Mountain Publications LLC
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Marygleen McCombs -- MM Book Publicity

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, uncorrected proofs, or Advanced 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. 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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