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Jim Cox Report: February 2002

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Another month has blitzed by in the blink of an eye -- or so it feels as I continue to age with an unavoidable momentum.

The January 2002 issue of "The Authority" (The Authors' Forum For Writing, Publishing & Marketing) newsletter is running an article I wrote called "7 Kinds Of Web Smarts". It's always nice for the ego to be in print!

I wanted to begin this month's Report with some advice, concerning the cover letter that should accompany every review copy submission -- not only to the Midwest Book Review, but to any reviewer, review organization, or review publication.

The purpose of a cover letter is significantly different from that of the publicity release (which should also accompany every review book).

The publicity release tells the reviewer all about the book itself -- who published it, what the book is about, who wrote it, and all the ways someone can acquire a copy of it.

The function of the cover letter is quite different. The cover letter is you telling the recipient of that review copy why you sent it to them in particular.

Here are some persuasive reasons, presented in no particular order of priority, drawn from really effective cover letters that I've collected and held aside this past month:

  1. The book is thematically appropriate for one of the columns that appears in our book review publications.

  2. The author and/or publisher is from Midwestern U.S.A. or from Wisconsin.

  3. The subject of the book ties in directly to some contemporary social issue or political event or celebrated occasion (holiday).

  4. The sender is a fellow member of one of the online discussion groups and appreciate the contributions of Jim Cox and/or the mission of the Midwest Book Review.

  5. As a small press publisher or self-published author, the sender is responding to an invitation on our website to bring their title to our attention.

  6. A review of one of their previous titles was by me, or appeared in our publications.

  7. They saw a review by us posted on Amazon for another book in the same category or genre.

  8. They were participants at one of the seminars or workshops that I'd given or been a panelist for.

  9. They read one of my articles in a regional or national newsletter. One sender mentioned reading about me in the new (4th) edition of Tom & Marilyn Ross's "How To Self-Publish" book (page 322 if you are curious).

  10. They had contacted me by phone or email for my submission guidelines.

  11. It was a second sending, at my request, because their follow-up to a first sending indicated that the book didn't arrive for some reason or other.

  12. The first sending was that of a galley or uncorrected proof, and in response to my email or letter indicating that we required a finished copy for review -- here it is.

Let me restate:

The principle function of the cover letter is to tell me why the book is being submitted for my attention and consideration.

The publicity release tells me what the book is actually about and why it's worth my time to review.

Now, on to other stuff. Here's some Q&A that might prove of interest to self-published authors and small press publishers.

This little exchange had to do with my perceived need for civility in our online discourse as publishers and fellow publisher folk:

From: (Michael Thompson)

On 8 Oct 01, at 12:01, Jim Cox wrote:

> There is nothing intrinsically wrong with strong, passionate, even colorful language,
> when expressing opinion, declaiming conviction, or debating issues in
> the pursuit of changing the other fellow's thoughts, attitudes, or
> values in order to more closely agree with your own, as long as your
> arguments do not degenerate into name calling.

Thanks Jim, for this timely call to civil discourse. It might be prudent for anyone who is reacting strongly to a message on pub-forum to go to our web site ( and re-read the guidelines there before responding. A lot of this was written by Michael Fraase and it contains some very good advice, such as noting that e-mail cannot adequately express nuances of emotion and is easily misunderstood, and remembering that there are humans on the other end of the wire.

Michael Thompson

Me again -- Flame wars do nothing to advance the collaborative cause of mutual education on publishing, or to enhance the sense of "family" in our little (and not so little) online discussion groups, which are dedicated to helping one another as small press publishers in a largely indifferent and corporate/conglomerate dominated publishing industry.

I find that civility in discourse allows even those who are on opposite sides of an issue to remain accessible to one another for the next issue that comes down the pike -- and might well be one on which they find themselves on the same side!

Civility doesn't mean compromising your hard held principles. It means expressing your position with all the firmness that reason and your vocabulary allow -- without recourse to bullying or apoplexy. It also promotes the possibility that you might be able to genuinely change the other fellow's mind, because they won't be investing so much psychic energy into fending off what they perceive as your hostility. They won't be so busy defending themselves that they can't hear you.

In a message dated 01-11-16 12:16:10 EST, Russ Dollinger writes:

> When a review comes out that misses the point of the book what should the
> publisher do? Should the publisher write angry notes to the publication that
> probably won't be published anyway? Should it just be ignored? It used to be
> that reviews disappeared with time but now they last forever with the
> internet. What do you think?

My advice is to write to the publisher of the magazine and request a notice of correction of any factual errors (not differences of interpretation or opinion, but actual facts likes dates and times and spellings). This is the kind of thing newspapers do if caught in an error of fact in someone's article or column.

If the problem is not one of factual errors but of interpretation -- then I advise that you submit a rebuttal article and ask that it be published, probably in a letter to the editor column if the magazine or journal has one.

If the poor review has been posted on, then the only recourse is to bury it down the "food chain" of reader reviews by submitting all the positive and accurate reviews you can muster from other sources.

And, of course, take note of the flawed reviewer -- cross him or her off your list for publicity mailings and review copies of any future titles.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 01-11-26 17:55:18 EST, Kathy Peterson writes:

> Subj: Jim Cox Question
> Date: 01-11-26 17:55:18 EST
> From: pete1@TTLC.NET (pete1)

> Dear Jim and Listmates,

> I was wondering if you would review a journal? My latest book, Write
> from Your Heart, A Healing Grief Journal has a daily prompt with verses and stories.
> Jim, you reviewed my video, After the Tears, A Gentle Guide to Help
> Children Understand Death. With your review I received orders that I
> otherwise would not have gotten. I also used your review to get through many
> doors that I otherwise would not have had a chance to enter.
> Amazon is listing the video as the #1 grief video. I made this video in
> memory of my Dad. We have not tried to make a profit on this tape. We have
> tried to get it into as many hands as possible and gave out a great deal of them.

> Thank you Jim, Pat and all of you on this list that share your wisdom.

> Kathy Peterson
> Garrison Oaks Publishing

What folks new to the Midwest Book Review might not realize from our name is that we also regularly review audiobooks (both cassette and CD); ebooks; videos and DVDs; software; CD music; consumables (journals & diaries); and non-book related materials (such as book/toy combinations for children).

One of the sage pieces of advice I give small presses is to always consider other formats for your books, in addition to the traditional paperback or hardcover editions.

There is always a possibility for an audiobook edition of a novel, short story anthology, or poetry collection.

Audiobook editions of self-help, biography, and history titles are also very popular, both in abridged and unabridged formats.

If you have a telegenic author, consider a video based on their book.

I've seen some truly excellent book/cd music combination titles -- especially in the field of music history and biographies of musicians/composers.

Then there is the whole field of breaking non-fiction works down into specialty papers, sold separately.

And if your author is both telegenic and articulate, how about taping (audio and/or video) their author readings and speeches, including the Q&A sessions. It is really very simple and straightforward to package and market those alongside the author's books per se.

Think of your print edition as the beginning of a "product line" from which you can develop a number of revenue streams to support your publishing activities overall.

Making money as a publisher of books is hard. Making money as a small press book publisher is harder still. Making money as a self-published author is the hardest of all. You will need to generate all the revenue streams you can.

In a message dated 01-11-27 13:06:55 EST, Kathleen Guler writes:

> If one really good review is posted on several well known
> review websites and has a lot of quotable parts in it, is it
> kosher to take one excerpt and cite one of the web sites,
> then take another excerpt and cite a different web site
> source, and so on?

Yes. It is perfectly permissible.

> I've seen this done, but it seems rather sneaky.

It's not sneaky -- it's creative marketing.

> Is there any etiquette on this?

The etiquette is to always give proper citation credit to the reviewer who did the reviewing, unless it is anonymous. When the review is anonymous, cite the source or publication from which it comes. And, of course, always cite the website where the review appears for the part of the review you are excerpting.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 01-11-27 13:02:26 EST, RC Scott write:

> I'm curious and would be interested in your thinking
> as to why galleys are unacceptable for your review
> process. I'm sure you have substantial and valid
> reasoning backing your decision, but to the casual
> observer it would seem beneficial to have your name,
> or Midwest Review's on the back cover of published
> literature as a means of increasing notoriety and
> credibility. Please comment.

This is a very standard question that I get from time to time -- and quite an appropriate and relevant question too. Let me begin by saying that there are two categories of book reviewers, book review publications, or book review resources:

Pre-Publication and Post-Publication.

Pre-Publication reviewers are those like Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, School Library Journal, New York Times Book Review, etc. who require a galley or uncorrected proof 3 to 4 months in advance of the publishing date for the title. The reason they require galleys (and will pretty much automatically throw out any finished books submitted to their attention for possible review) lay within the arcane history of publishing and their need for a lengthy time frame in which to recruit and/or assign a reviewer, get the book reviewed, and then be able to publish the review as concurrently with the book's release date as possible.

Post-Publication reviews are those like the Midwest Book Review, trade magazines, radio and television media, local and regional newspapers, etc. They require the finished book (accompanied by a publicity release and cover letter) and will summarily discard a galley or uncorrected proof. Such resources also tend to disregard publishing dates as arbitrary publishing fiction -- requiring only that the book be readily available to their readers or audiences.

Here's why the Midwest Book Review is Post-Publication review:

We rely on 60 volunteer reviewers whose only compensation is that they get to keep the book they review and own all rights to their review. When accepting titles for review assignment our volunteers will pass over galleys and uncorrected proofs in favor of finished books just about every time. The only exceptions are big names such as a Stephen King. And I tend to discriminate against those high profile authors in favor of midlist and novice authors, on the theory that those are the ones most in need of the exposure we can provide their book. That, in turn, is a reflection of our three-point mission statement: to promote literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.

So, in a nutshell, that's why we restrict review submissions to finished copies, and exclude galleys and uncorrected proofs. Incidently, Midwest Book Review still ends up being cited on a lot of back cover review blurbs -- in second editions, paperback editions of hardcover originals, as well as in publisher catalogs and publicity releases.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 01-12-01 09:38:04 EST, Paul Tulenko writes:

> So what advice can you sages of the publishing world provide?

Read the articles you will find in the "Advice For Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review website at

Then browse through the reviews of the "how to" titles you will find in the "Publisher's Bookshelf" section -- looking especially for those references on the distribution, wholesaling, and retail selling books both online and offline.

Then familiarize yourself with the "Publisher Resources" section of the MBR website.

Finally, devote at least 15 minutes a day to reading and another 15 minutes a day surfing the internet, to become acquainted with what these books and resources have to offer you by way of instruction, advice, counsel, ideas, "tips, tricks & techniques".

To be a successful small press publisher is to embark on what amounts to a methodical course of adult education and lifelong learning.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 01-12-07 16:30:24 EST, Rochelle Hollander Schwab writes on the subject of whether or not to admit to being a small press publisher when submitting books for review:

> I'm not asking this as a moral question, just as a practical
> question of which approach is more likely to get my book reviewed.

What I advise self-published authors to do is to present themselves as professionally as they can, using all the "cues and clues" of professionalism:

  1. letterhead stationary

  2. publicity release to accompany the review copy

  3. cover letter

There is a regrettable but quite real bias against the self-published author (especially the author who uses POD publishers like iUniverse, Xlibris, or 1st Books) that must be offset. You can give the appearance of not being a self-published author to the extent that you can through the use of pseudonyms.

You cannot disguise the fact that you are a small press. What you need to do is to present yourself as a professional press.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

This next post is one from my webmaster daughter that she asked me to pass along to you:

Subj: from Beth - for the next Jim Cox Report

Hi, Dad!

In the next Jim Cox report, you may as well mention the following folks since we use them on our new website:

These are the folks who registered our new domain name for a standard fee. Better yet, they give free website hosting for up to 20 MB, which is why I chose them. So far, everything is working great.

Our old ExecPC counter doesn't work away from our old site, so I had to find a new counter. I searched for hours. Almost all the counters on the web either cost money, or are these huge, ugly things as subtle as a bulletin board. Finally I found, who offered a style of free counter that is reasonably unobtrusive.

When Williams Writing, Editing and Design redesigned our website, they introduced us to this free search engine. Right now, it's adjusted to give search results on the web site. So far, has worked great for us and we're not currently planning to change our search engine.


This is our FTP program, which I use to upload files to both our ExecPC website and to our new site. We recently had to get a new FTP program because our old WS FTP program wasn't working with ExecPC anymore. We purchased CuteFTP for about $40 at, and since then it's been trouble-free.

B. Cox
MBR Webmaster

And now for some Unsolicited Testimonials!!

> Subj: [Self-Publishing] Thanks to Jim Cox and Midwest Book Review
> Date: 01-11-25 16:49:12 EST
> From:

> This is an open letter for the whole SPAN group in praise of our very own
> Jim Cox. Of course I am delighted that he chose to review my book, but even
> more pleased that his review was so thorough. I promptly received a tear
> sheet and was pleasantly surprised to find that the review also appeared on

> I had been impressed with the quality of advice and depth of information
> Jim has shared with the group as well as others. The advice has been
> invaluable to me in speeding up the learning curve in this multi-faceted
> industry. Although a publisher, I still consider myself a facilitator,
> teacher and writer first. If I had to do it alone, I shudder to think where I would be.

> I share my happiness with fellow publishers and writers--"a very highly
> recommended reading for women of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances"
> made me feel proud. Thanks Jim and thanks to my fellow SPAN members. The
> book is also being reviewed by ForeWord Magazine in the January issue. Your
> advice has been well taken.

> Debbie Gawrych
> Common Boundaries, publisher of The Seven Aspects of
> Sisterhood: Empowering Women Through Self-Discovery.
> Find out how to use your inner wisdom to transform the outer world.
> P.O. Box 39445, Greensboro, NC 27438
> 336-288-8554

Next, there is:

> Subj: [pub-forum] Thanks to Jim Cox and Midwest Book Review (cross post)
> Date: 01-12-18 12:10:21 EST
> From: (Leland F. Raymond)

> Hello, list members,

> I wanted to thank publicly Jim Cox and the Midwest Book Review for the very
> speedy inclusion of the review our publication, "Orion the Skateboard Kid"
> in the December 2001 issue of "Children's Bookwatch" available here:


> I'm pleased to say (at the risk of self-promotion) that it is an excellent review!
> One of the biggest problems with self-publishing is that, though we believe
> in our hearts and minds that our creative work is good enough to compete on
> a par with the "big publishers," there's always that doubt: "I could be wrong!"
> It's SO uplifting to receive validation from objective third parties.
> Thank you, Jim Cox and Midwest Book Review.

> Leland F. Raymond
> CyPress Publications
> (850) 576-8820 (Voice)
> (850) 576-9968 (Fax)

And then there is:

> Subj: Your web site is the BEST tool ever!
> Date: 01-12-23 09:46:32 EST
> From:

> Jim:

> Was doing a little "surfing" this AM prior to getting cleaned up and
> presentable for a signing at the local BORDERS and found your site. What a
> breath of fresh air and knowledge packed into one location!
> Having been a trade magazine (CHARTER INDUSTRY) publisher for ten years
> (1985 to 1995) I experienced many frustrations and lost a lot of hair. Many
> of the topics on your site ring "true."

> Amazingly, after attempting to market a mystery/thriller set here in
> semi-rural south Florida (similar to Door County in nature) to the NYers and
> reaching the maximum level of frustration I dropped the idea, formed another
> publishing company (Treasure Coast Mysteries, Inc.) and printed the book
> (3,000 copies on first run) and am doing the promotion and marketing. I am
> pleased to date with 5-star ratings on AMAZON, B&N and BORDERS web sites.
> Locally the book flies off the shelves and it is hard for retailers to keep in stock.

> Why am I writing to you? I guess because I appreciate the frustrations that
> others go through and the help that you provide over your site. As I fight
> the battle of "self-published" I feel like Don Quixote at times but push on
> towards the summit of the next hill and the next battle.
> Please excuse the ramblings but I was enthused over your site. Now it is
> time to get cleaned up and off to BORDERS.

> Sincerely,
> Paul McElroy

I also get cards and letters just about every day -- like this one:

January 25, 2002

Dear Mr. Cox:

Thank you so much for the positive review of Climate Of Deceit. I can't express what a boost it was to both Randy and me. We truly appreciate you allowing POD published authors to compete with others for reviews and for putting those reviews in the "Book Review Index".

Best Wishes,

Carol Kluz
456 North Pine Street Laramie, WY 82072

So in conclusion:

If you have a book you'd like considered, send it (a finished copy only, no galleys or uncorrected proofs), accompanied by a PR and a cover letter, to the attention of:

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129

And visit our website at where I've added 70 new resource links this past month -- and I'm planning to add another 65 new resource links as soon as this month's tear sheets all get sent out to their respective publishers.

If you would like to receive any of our online magazines (Childen's Bookwatch; Internet Bookwatch; Reviewer's Bookwatch) or The Jim Cox Report directly, then send me your email address and note which one(s) you'd like to be signed up for. They are all free and a service of the Midwest Book Review.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

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

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