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Jim Cox Report: December 2009
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
Publishing can be approached as either a hobby, a public service, or a commercial business. Examples of publishing as a hobby are as old as the mimeograph and the xerox machine. Public service publishing is even older as exemplified by books and pamphlets put out by non-profit organizations and governments for the intention of influencing the pubic in general and their readers in particular. As for commercial, profit-motive based publishing, it's roots go back to the invention of the Gutenberg press and moveable type.
The modern wrinkle on all three categories of publishing is the advent of the desktop computer and the ease and speed with which advances in software have made publishing easier, faster, cheaper, and more accessible to anyone who would like to turn a manuscript into a printed page than at any time in all of publishing history from the clay tablets of Babylon to papyrus scrolls of Egypt, to the vellum productions of Rome, to the bound paper books of today.
What hasn't changed all that much is the mundane process of bringing published books to the attention of a prospective readership. It's on this rock that most newly launched publishing enterprises will flounder and sink into obscurity.
Once relatively plentiful, traditional opportunities for bringing newly published books to the attention of the reading public have been rapidly diminishing these past couple of decades. Newspapers and magazines used to have regular book review columns -- now they are a rarity. The percentage of the public that actually read books on a consistent basis as a form of recreation and/or self-improvement has shrunk ever smaller as the advent of electronic competition for leisure time pursuits (beginning with the radio and the cinema progressed to include television and the internet) have proliferated.
That's why the magazine industry of today is but a shadow of its once prolific self. But that's another story for another time.
Still, publishing is alive (if not well) and the numbers of published titles continues to increase every year -- even as the number of readers for them dwindles.
Bottom line -- if you are going to write the next great American novel, or publish the indispensable instructional reference, or influence the world as you would have it, in order to be successful as an either for profit or non-profit enterprise, you are going to have to pay even more attention to marketing that book than you did in either writing it and/or publishing it.
Interestingly enough, those same electronic media competitors that have contributed to the erosion of the reading public can come to the rescue of fledgling publishers with shoe-string and no-string marketing budgets.
There are a large number of truly excellent 'how to' books on the subject of book marketing with limited publicity budgets. You'll find reviews of them archived on the Midwest Book Review website at www.midwestbookreview.com in the section called "Publishers Bookshelf".
Go down the list and read this succinctly descriptive reviews (I've personally written most of them). When you find one that sounds particularly germane to where you are on the book marketing learning curve, jot down the title, author, publisher and ISBN -- then take it to your local community library and have them get it for you (for free!) through the InterLibrary Loan Service that they all subscribe to and are a part of.
If it turns out to be so valuable that you'd like a particular title as a permanent reference, then you can usually either go to Amazon.com or directly to the publisher and order your own personal copy.
Do that -- and my job, mission goal, and life's work as the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review and the author of the "Jim Cox Report" will have been a success.
Now for reviews of some 'how to' books on writing and publishing that have crossed my desk this past month:
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
Writing For The Internet
Craig Baehr & Bob Schaller
PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
9780313376948, $55.00, www.amazon.com
From the earliest era of writing when the technology was making stylistic marks upon wet clay shards, through the invention of papyri scrolls and quill pens, to typewriters, to computer keyboards, to held-hand blackberries and the most recent mechanical advance in writing -- twittering, technology has impacted in how we communicate through the written word. That evolution, interestingly enough, has gone from the simple to the complex and now back to simple. Each technological development had its own demands imposed upon those who would write -- and the Internet is no exception. That's why "Writing for the Internet: A Guide to Real Communication in Virtual Space", the collaborative work of Craig Baehr and Bob Schaller, is so timely and highly recommended. Spanning a wide range of relevant issues, this thoroughly 'user friendly' introduction and instruction guide ranges from online publishing to blogging and everything in-between. Identifying and addressing the factors that make for good, effective, professional quality writing in a cyberspace medium, "Writing for the Internet" is an ideal classroom textbook, self-instruction manual, and a solid reference work for personal, academic, and community library Writing/Publishing reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
Mentors, Muses, & Monsters
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781439108611, $24.99, www.simonandschuster.com
There are central figures in everyone's lives who are the cornerstones of who they have become. "Mentors, Muses, & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives' is a collection of essays from many writers as they reflect on these individuals who have changed the course of their lives. Thirty different perspectives offer very different stories and shows the impact of positive and negative influences can drastically have. "Mentors, Muses, & Monsters" is an intriguing and top pick for those who want to understand inspiration and the people who provide it.
Roger W. Nielsen
R. W. Nielsen Company
1974 Alan Street, Idaho Falls, ID, 83404
9780982035542, $19.95, www.amazon.com
Specially written as a do-it-yourself instruction manual for aspiring writers seeking to create articles and stories for magazine publication, and for anyone wanting to write persuasively and credibly in an online forum or format, Roger W. Nielsen has compiled a thoroughly 'user friendly' series of chapters identifying and teaching the techniques required for writing clear, concise, commercially viable, and reader engaging content. From coming up with an idea, to information gathering, to organizing the material, to the final step of writing it all down, "Writing Content" will prove to be an invaluable informational resource for the novice, and have a great deal of practical value for even the experienced author as a continuing reference and guide. Of special note and value are the chapters dedicated to writing queries, the use of anecdotes, and writer etiquette. Enhanced with a list of 'Works Cited' and a comprehensive index, "Writing Content" is a very highly recommended addition to personal, professional, and community library Writing/Publishing reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Business Books
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9781592578795 $18.95 www.penguin.com 1-800-847-5515
Despite their titles, "The Complete Idiot's Guide" series of how-to books are most assuredly not for 'idiots' - they are for absolutely everyone in search of solid information on a subject. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Business Books continues this worthy tradition with a no-nonsense primer on writing and profitably publishing a compendium of one's business wisdom. From testing whether there's a market for one's book, to tips on whether one should collaborate (and if so, how to find the right person to do it with), to advice for publicizing oneself and one's book, and more, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Business Books walks the reader through every step of the process. An extremely user-friendly resource, highly recommended.
The Fire in Fiction
Writer's Digest Books
c/o F+W Media, Inc.
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45236
9781582975061 $17.99 www.writersdigest.com
Literary agent and author Donald Maass presents The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great, a solid guide to enlivening one's writing. Especially promoting the power of tapping into one's own, most unforgettable life experiences, The Fire in Fiction is reader-friendly and covers everything from crafting characters with hopes and dreams that resonate with the reader, to the secrets of successful satire, to heightening tension in dialogue, action, or even exposition, and much more. A "must-have" resource for fiction writers of all skill and experience levels.
Questions Writers Ask
Robert D. Reed Publishers
PO Box 1992, 1380 Face Rock Drive, Bandon, OR 97411
9781934759325 $16.95 www.rdrpublishers.com
Questions Writers Ask: Wise, Whimsical, and Witty Answers from the Pros presents published professionals' answers to common questions about writing. Organized around twenty different topics (each topic is in the form of a question such as "Where do you get your ideas?", followed by a wealth of different answers to that one question by a diversity of people), Questions Writers Ask is a solid and useful primer, and deserves to be read cover to cover by anyone interested in breaking into the writing business. Nearly 6,000 quotations, many of them classic, pack this excellent resource. "Plot springs from character... I've always sort of believed that these people inside me - these characters - know who they are and what they're about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they can't type." -Anne Lamott.
One of the major pleasures of my office is helping authors and publishers with their professional questions, problems, and issues. Here's a Q&A sampling specific to the topics of writing, marketing, and reviewing books:
In a message dated 12/4/2008 5:55:22 A.M. Central Standard Time, email@example.com writes:
Please let me know how our review would be used by a publisher and thank you again for this opportunity, we are trying to start our new year off with something new and positive and I thought this would be our best way to begin 2009!!
Talk soon and hope all is well and in case you have seen so many books since we last spoke...
here we are, and thank you again for the wonderful Midwest Book Review you gave our Team and Book!!
Publishers use reviews in several ways related to marketing, publicity & promotion. They use extracts from reviews on the jackets of their books. They incorporate the reviews in their media kits sent to libraries, newspaper and magazine editors, as well as wholesale and retail booksellers, etc.. They post them online in such review databases as Amazon.com, Borders.com, etc. They use them to drum up attention from media producers on the radio and tv talk shows that feature interviews with authors. They use them to promote overseas editions. They also use them "in-house" to demonstrate to their authors, editors, illustrators, publicists, etc. that the publisher is fulfilling contractual marketing contracts with these folk.
Midwest Book Review
In a message dated 8/24/2009 2:11:37 P.M. Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Dear Midwest Book Review,
I was referred to your company by a friend who said your organization is a great source of information for the book industry. I am working on behalf of a rare book publisher who is releasing a new book. It is a rare/signed book and I have been trying to find outlets to announce and/or get their book written about in the media. Most of the standard online requirements for reviewers talk about large volume print run books and there is no mention of rare/signed books at all.
Are their book industry publications that would be interested in announcing a rare book?
There are a great many book review publications and websites that will take paid advertisements. Two of the largest are Publisher's Weekly and the Library Journal.
For free publicity I think your best bet are legitimate book reviewers with access to large readerships or viewerships.
On the Midwest Book Review website at http://www.midwestbookreview.com you will find a section called "Other Reviewers". This is a database of freelance book reviewers, book review magazines and publications, book review websites, etc.
Help yourself -- everything on the Midwest Book Review website is free of charge and provided as a public service to the publishing industry, including authors, publishers, librarians, booksellers, and the general reading public.
With respect to utilizing the services of the Midwest Book Review to publicize your client's book (and as with our website, all of our book review services are also free of charge), our submission guidelines are quite simple. Send two copies of the published book for review, accompanied by a cover letter and some form of publicity release, to the attention of:
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575
I would also recommend that while you are on the Midwest Book Review website you also browse through the informative and instructive articles on the book review process, publicizing books, and related issues that you will find archived in the section called "Advice for Writers & Publishers".
Then if you have time, read a few of the "Jim Cox Report" columns that you will also find archived on our website. These are monthly columns of tips, tricks & techniques, advices and commentaries that I write for the benefit of the publishing community.
Midwest Book Review
In a message dated 8/15/2009 7:20:46 P.M. Central Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
I had a question about something on your website. You say that you can try to pass off a self-published book to a reviewer, but I did not understand what you meant about how to respond if they straight-out ask you if it is self-published.
Can you please tell me what you meant? I see it is very hard to have a self-published book reviewed. In your opinion, is it still worth it to have galleys bound and sent out in order to solicit blurbs?
Reviewers clearly know and understand and can identify a self-published book. Our reviewers also have a clear understanding that it is the policy of the Midwest Book Review to give priority (whenever possible) to a self-published or small press book over that of a major New York publishing house title.
For a self-published title to compete in the highly competitive book selling marketplace it needs all the help it can get -- including pre-publication reviews if possible. It's something that is extremely difficult to accomplish beyond getting friends and family into the act.
For most self-published books, bound galleys should only be provided for such pre-publication book reviews as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, or Library Journal. The difficulty commonly encountered is that such well established journals as these are decidedly prejudiced against self-published titles. The lone exception out there is Foreword magazine. And they charge for their services.
Galleys, uncorrected proofs, and ARCs are not appropriate for post-publication reviews such as the Midwest Book Review, trade magazines, radio and television interviews.
I hope that this response is adequate to your inquiry. If not, please let me know. I'll also be including this little Q&A in my "Jim Cox Report" for the benefit of others who may share your question and concerns as a self-published author.
Midwest Book Review
In a message dated 7/20/2009 12:29:57 P.M. Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
First of all, I wish to thank you for the review of Powerful Prayers for Everyday Living. It is a huge help!
Secondly, I have searched your webpages on this but not sure of the answer regarding copyright of reviews.
I was wondering if I could have permission to submit the review to Indigo.ca, the Canadian bookstore chain for inclusion in the product info on their website. The book is in the process of being listed and they wanted to confirm permission to include the review.
Could you please let me know if this is ok. If not, no problem.
Thanking you in advance for your reply,
Review is as follows:
5.0 out of 5 stars A strong choice for any religious reader, July 7, 2009
By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA) - See all my reviews
Life is a constantly changing thing, and prayer is what some use to stay sane. "Powerful Prayers for Everyday Living: A Diverse Collection of Prayers Offering Hope, Happiness, and Wisdom" is a collection of daily prayers and proverbs to be spread out to when readers need them the most to deal with the harshness and cruelty of life. The words within are moving, giving readers much to appreciate and hold dear, making "Powerful Prayers for Everyday Living" a strong choice for any religious reader.
Mark Linden O'Meara
Soul Care Publishing
The standard publishing industry norm is that when a publisher furnishes a complimentary copy of a book to a reviewer, that reviewer's review can be utilized by the publisher in any manner deemed useful to publicize, promote and market that book -- as long as the usual citation credit for the review is also provided.
Therefore with respect to reviews generated by the Midwest Book Review, publishers have complete and automatic permission to do so. And that includes marketing efforts in other countries as well. In fact, two medical journals in India regularly draw upon reviews we do for our monthly "The Health/Medicine Shelf" for their English language readers.
Midwest Book Review
As is customary, I'm 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:
Brian & Beth Crivett
Jim & Pat Bubash
Tina J. Pennington
Robert S. Swiatek
Kevin P. Murphy -- "Out of Order"
Kathy Balland -- "Lose the Diet"
Roger A. Naylor -- "The Cobra Conspiracy"
Isabel Bearman Bucher -- "Nonno's Monkey"
Barbara Brooks Wallace -- "Have Dragon, Will Travel"
Georgia Jones -- "Memorable Seasons"
Dianne Ebertt Beeaff -- "Power's Garden"
Roger D. Grubbs -- "Treasures of the Nile"
Robert Alan -- "This Way Madness Comes"
Lee Scott Lewis -- "Que Ell One: A War Satire"
Moving Pen Publishers
Argus Enterprises Inc.
Imagine Publishing Group
Cary Counseling Center
Blue Marlin Publications
Hanford Mead Publishers
Water The Bamboo Center for Leadership
Ray Hoy -- The Fiction Works
David Evans -- Teddy Traveler Co.
Linda A. Lavid -- Full Court Press
Nancy Rekow -- NW Trillium Press
Sharon Hetizman -- YES International Publishers
Kirk Smith -- Schimmelsmith Publishing
Richard de Montebello -- Saber Cat Comics
Dana Lehman -- Lehman Publishing
Rudi Unterthiner -- Chronicler Publishing
Art Ayris -- Kingstone Media Group
Steve Rohr -- Lexicon Public Relations
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Ella M. Coney -- Coney Management & Realty
Edward D. Curry -- Target Marketing Management Consulting
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!
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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