Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Jim Cox Reports / Jim Cox Report: February 2001
Home | Jim Cox Reports Index

Jim Cox Report: February 2001

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

The good news is that our February issues for Internet Bookwatch and Children's Bookwatch got posted on our website and sent off to our subscribers just fine.

For you newcomers to this discussion group, subscription to our two online book review magazines is free. Subscribers also have permission to use any of our reviews to enhance the informational content of their own websites, organizational newsletters, or thematically appropriate internet discussion groups. Just give Midwest Book Review the usual credit when doing so. To subscribe, just send me your email address and which one (or both) you want to sign up for.

The bad news is that my wonderfully lovely, full-page-at-a-glance computer monitor died the true death last week. It seems that there's a battery inside the computer that runs the thing, and when that battery died it took some bits of controlling information with it.

The company that made that monitor seems to have gone out of business a couple of years ago. Now, I have to make due with a regular 14-inch Apple monitor, and it drove me nuts having to zip up and down the columns when laying out the February library newsletters and on-line magazines. I'll get used to it. But I yearn for the days when I could see all three columns of a newsletter page top to bottom at a single glance!

There's been some consternation among the small press community due to Amazon's having automated their price updating off of an Ingram data bank. Ingram sometimes inflates prices because of their own internal needs. When Amazon picks these up and places it on their own book pages, the result is a $19.95 being mis-priced at $24.95, etc.

Todis, whose small Vermont press Images of The Past just got caught up in this conundrum, wrote me the following:

> Can you steer me to somebody who can see to it that only Baker &
> Taylor's data base info automatically corrects our prices? Or do I just
> give up and cancel out with Ingram's Titles Unlimited?

For now, I'm advising folks caught up in this trap to opt out of Ingram's Titles Unlimited Program because of the way Amazon has automated itself. All this "updating" of wrong price information goes on without any human intervention. It is the age of the machine run amok!

> Ironic, since we've chosen deliberately not to use Ingram as a regular
> wholesaler, rather than to have them do what they will with us!
> Please, Dr. Cox, can you make it better?

The only thing you can do for now is to post the correct price changes with Amazon through their typos email address:

I wish there were a more permanent solution than the eternal vigilance of checking your own book pages at Amazon on a regular (monthly) basis to ensure correct pricing information -- but for right now, there is not. I know of no Amazon liaison person involved with this snafu of theirs.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Peter Hulpalo inquired about another problem facing the small press community:

> How do other people on the list handle dealing with non-deductible
> complimentary copies? For example, if you give a relative a book.

Giving away your book(s) to a non-tax exempt person or organization is not a deductible expense if it's not for promotional purposes. If it is for promotional purposes, establish the promotional link to the "gift book" and take your deduction accordingly.

> Should authors pay retail to the publishing company? Pay Cost?

I feel that authors should pay only the cost of producing the book for as many copies as they wish -- as long as those copies are not going to be resold by the author for their personal profit. If an author wants copies for resale and profit making, then the publisher and the author should negotiate a fair percentage over the cost of production.

> If the author pays
> less than fair market value to their publishing corp., I imagine, that is
> considered compensation with all the fun-fun taxes.

"Fair Market Value" is what the book is selling for at the time the author is provided with copies, under whatever arrangements the author and publisher negotiated.

It is not necessarily the "cover price" in this age of online discounts, bulk purchase discounts, distributor returns, etc.

> Any thoughts on the best way to deal with this?

The only way to deal with this is by contractual negotiation, written down on paper, and signed by both parties. This is the only way to avoid misunderstandings, miscommunications, and conflicts of interest between an author and a publisher.

> Should authors get a fixed number of copies?

Authors should get a fixed number of copies gratis. My own recommendation is five. One for the author's own library. One for the author's community library. One for the author's family. One for the author's own personally selected reviewer. And one for the author to take to work or play, in order to brag about it to their friends and colleagues.

Beyond five gratis copies, the author should pay an appropriate, negotiated price.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Here's still another little Q&A I did that might be of interest to the small press community.

Charles Ormiston of Victoria, BC, Canada, wrote to ask:

> I was curious about your comment on how many titles you actually do review in
> relation to the cover art.

Cover art makes or breaks a book in the selection process for what gets reviewed and what does not. A mediocre or defective cover will kill interest in my reviewers about accepting the title for review assignment. I've seen it happen again and again and again and again. -- And again some more. Publishers will pay meticulous attention to a manuscript as they ready it for publication, then try to save a buck by getting a friend or family member to draw something for a cover -- almost always a formula for marketplace disaster.

If you can't get a quality painting or professional photography for your book cover, then get a public domain painting by some old European master and use that.

It's even better to use no artwork at all than have a line drawing that looks like it was a classroom assignment at the local high school.

> Do your reviewers pick titles off the shelf themselves, or does someone select
> titles to assign to reviewers?

Both. Most of my reviewers make their own assignments. Some want me to save out titles in their special area(s) of interest. Some I beg and plead and cajole and con into accepting a worthwhile small press title, because I've come to know the author and/or publisher through our little discussion group here

A large number of our reviewers are bookaholics who simply review what they've picked up on their weekly trips to their favorite bookstores or the "New Arrival" shelf at their local library. It really doesn't matter to me. What I care about is that the reviewer's commentary include a suggestion (positive or negative) regarding the book to its intended readership -- and why the reviewer feels that particular way.

And now, here is something I want each and every one of you to consider as a possible template for bringing your book(s) to the attention of thematically appropriate reviewers, whom you may discover as you wander the internet or visit online bookstores. I'm going to run this post I received in its entirety, and note how the sender incorporated an entire publicity release into a non-spam email, grabbing my attention right from the first paragraph:

James Cox
Midwest Book Review

Dear James,

I saw your review of "Sisters of the Extreme" on Amazon, and thought you'd be interested to hear about my own book TRIPPING: An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic Adventures, just out from Penguin last month. The book has garnered some rave reviews and already gone into a second printing. Perhaps you'd be interested in reviewing it or already have plans to. If so, let me and or the Viking Penguin publicist know, and we'll make sure a copy goes to the right person. I present the press release for TRIPPING below. Cheers!

Charles Hayes

The psychedelic experience has been both demonized and mythologized, but what is it really like to trip?

An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic Adventures Edited and with and introduction and other texts by Charles Hayes

E-mail: Trippingtales@a...

"Balancing seriousness with a great sense of adventure, this terrifically engaging compendium of 50 personal accounts of psychedelic experiences avoids all of the expected cultural and psychological cliches..Hayes has not only assembled a group of highly literate testimonies, but has placed them in a broader historical, social, and religious context. Hayes clearly intends to demystify the use of psychedelics. " -- Publishers Weekly, September 11, 2000

"TRIPPING provides the much needed 'coming out of the closet' that the psychedelic movement has lacked, but that the gay rights movement found so valuable. These stories will captivate, inspire, caution and educate. This courageous book has been long-awaited, and exceeds expectations." -- Rick Doblin, founder, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies "Here's life from the trenches of consciousness, psychedelic style. Charles Hayes' TRIPPING presents a dipperful of dreams as seen and recounted by the users of hallucinogens. It may not be 1968, but you'd never know it after reading this diary-like collection. Things are as psychedelic as ever, and here's why..." -- Thomas Lyttle, author of Psychedelics ReImagined; editor/publisher of Psychedelic Monographs and Essays "...a fascinating journey through the wonders and terrors of psychedelic life." -- Elle, November 2000

"I couldn't stop dipping in and out of this juicy book, flying from New York to Detroit and back. At times it felt like just reading it was keeping the plane up. Wow! What a contact high." -- Spalding Gray "...Hayes' purpose is to delineate the place of psychedelic substances and the urge to ingest them in contemporary cultural history.....citing historical antecedents to back himself up....The concluding conversation with ...Terence entirely fitting. For seriously treating what is often characterized as nihilistic and destructive entertainment, [TRIPPING] deserves its place in the literature of psychoactive substances." -- Mike Tribby, Booklist, November 15, 2000

"TRIPPING is the best collection of psychedelic traveler's tales that I have read in a long, long time. It should be in the knapsack of anyone contemplating passage through what Aldous Huxley called the 'reducing valve' of normal consciousness --and out into the great beyond." -- Jay Stevens, author of Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream

"This richly rewarding book takes the reader into uncharted domains of consciousness and creativity. The stories told, the reflections given reveal the phenomenal landscapes of innerspace." -- Jean Houston

"a magnificent collection of such travels by true explorers. -- Alexander Shulgin, author of PiHKAL


TRIPPING: An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic Adventures (Penguin Compass, November 2000, $18, paperback original), the first major compilation of personal testimonies about psychedelic experiences, contains narratives by 50 people of various nationalities and walks of life about their most unforgettable altered states -- from the heavenly to the horrific. In gripping, often suspenseful tales suffused with a high sense of adventure, TRIPPING liberates the psychedelic experience from the closet of social stigma as well as from the mists of Sixties counter-cultural idealism.

Relating the harrowing straits and exhilarating peaks of the psychedelic inner odyssey are many accomplished writers, including former Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow, war photographer Tim Page, Beat poet Anne Waldman, science fiction writer Robert Charles Wilson, thriller writer Steven Martin Cohen, Ecstasy expert Bruce Eisner, and phenomenologist Paul Devereux.

Most of the narratives, however, come from "ordinary" people from Sydney to Belfast to San Francisco, for whom their anonymity brings out an intensely personal, confessional dimension. The stories, edited mostly from taped interviews by journalist Charles Hayes, enable readers to either "trip" vicariously or compare notes on their own experiences.

Specially featured is a lengthy conversation with the late Terence McKenna, the man who many think was the leading spokesman for psychedelics from the late Seventies until his death in April 2000. A veteran of myriad "heroic doses," McKenna discusses some of his own trips for the first time, as well as a range of issues, including his own provocative brand of eschatology, politics, and anthropology, at the center of which is an abiding faith in the power of psychedelic drugs.

TRIPPING's balanced, objective perspective portrays both positive and negative impacts of psychedelic experiences, depicting both the tolls and the rewards of such chemically-induced excursions from reality. Types of episodes run the gamut from encounters with godhead and alien or discarnate entities; out-of-body experiences, freak-outs, flashbacks, psychosis (momentary and otherwise), and acts or events of apparent magic or miracle. The trips described were catalyzed not just by classic psychedelics such as LSD, but by a wide array of psychotropics, from the sacred plants of indigenous peoples to the latest synthetic "smart drugs."

Sample plotlines At a summer festival, a man believes he's attending the final celebration of the gods and that his mission is to mate with his chosen one before the entire tribe moves on to a higher sphere at the climax of the "orgasm death dance."

A young man eats some peyote buttons on a hike in the Grand Canyon, and stumbles upon a near-death experience. The ministrations of the "shining ones," astral beings accessed during an LSD trip, lure a college student to higher realms of consciousness. After a deja vu of enlightenment during which he begins speaking in tongues, a tripper plummets into the flipside of that experience in an episode of horrific eternal recurrence that revisits him in flashbacks.

A wooden carving of Christ speaks out loud to a seminary student during a church service, reshaping her theology and the depth of her faith.

The narratives in TRIPPING are placed in larger contexts by Hayes's essays, which include a synopsis of the history and culture of psychedelics from the ancient Greek mystery rites to today's Ecstasy-fueled rave events; an exposition on the kinetics of tripping (what can go right and wrong on a trip), including basic medical and psychological background; and a concise index of psychedelic substances.

The illustrations in TRIPPING are provided by renowned visionary artist Alex Grey ( and four computer graphics masters.

Visit the TRIPPING Website,, to see contents and excerpts, a list of contributors, ordering information, the latest reviews and other news, and to read and post new stories.

The author:

Charles Hayes (b. 1955) worked for fifteen years in publishing. Since 1990 he has been a journalist whose work has appeared in The Earth Times and E Magazine, a writer/editor for a variety of businesses and organizations, a Website designer, and a communications manager for a marketing firm. This is his first book.


To arrange an interview with the author, contact Paul Slovak at Viking Penguin: 212.366.2219 or pslovak@p...

Order the book from your local bookstore or from:

Mind Books: or call toll free 800.829.8127
FS Book Company: call toll free 800.635.8883
Barnes & Noble: http:/
Retailers, contact Penguin Putnam: or call
Reseller Sales office toll free 800.526.0275

TRIPPING: An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic Adventures
ISBN 0-14-019574-2; 6 x 9, 492 pages; 12 black-and-white illustrations; index; $18 list price, paperback original

Now it's me again. -- I know that the above was a lot of info. What I'm suggesting is that you print it out, and compare it with what you are doing by way of publicity releases. And please note his opening "hook" where he cites me in reference to my work at, and goes on to pitch me his book for possible review.

All I can say is that anytime you see someone post a good review on a thematically similar book to your own, this is the perfect way for you to propose that he or she consider your own title as well.

That's all for now. See you online!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design