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Jim Cox Report: February 2003

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

January was a quiet, busy month here at the Midwest Book Review. We've had an increase in the number of volunteer reviewers that was quite welcome in view of our experienced a quantum jump in the number of self-published and POD-published titles coming in. I'm not certain, but I think that we must have gotten another write-up somewhere -- that's the usual reason for a sudden spike in book submissions.

I also received conformation from the good folks at Writer's Digest Magazine that they liked the article I did for them on the importance of covers for successfully marketing small press and self-published titles. "The check is in the mail" as the saying goes -- and the extra $350 will come in quite handy. Owning the building where the Midwest Book Review has been housed for the last 27 years or so comes with all manner of small expenses (and a few larger ones) that as mere tenants were the province of the former landlord -- but now must be met by us. It seems that water and sewage are services that are billed quite apart from what used to be the rent! Ah -- the bittersweet joys of ownership!!

I get the feeling that I'm going to have to write a few more "how to" articles in the coming year to cover just such mundane expenses that are newly upon us!

We managed to get all four of our library newsletters and all five of our online book review magazines for February completed and sent off on time. Incidently, for those of you new to the Midwest Book Review, you can access all of our online book review publications (Internet Bookwatch: Children's Bookwatch; Reviewer's Bookwatch; MBR Bookwatch; and Small Press Bookwatch) for free on the Midwest Book Review website at http://www.midwestbookreview

Back issues of The Jim Cox Report are also archived and freely accessibly on our website as well.

Or you can subscribe, for free, to any of them. Just send me your email address and note which one(s) you'd like to be signed up for.

Now on to some Q&A-based "tips, tricks & techniques" of interest to writers, publishers, and anyone else with an interest in the field:

In a message dated 02-09-01 03:24:59 EDT, Amber writes:

> I am looking into publishing my own book(s),
> but I'm also looking into the small press thing. But how exactly does
> that work? And what is beneficial about publishing someone else/other
> authors? How do you make money or break even? Sorry if these sound
> like stupid questions, but I'm starting from scratch and was so
> pleased to find out there was a such a forum involving small presses.

Firstly, there are no stupid questions -- but there have been known to be the occasionally stupid answer!

You have a formidable but "doable" learning curve to master. I would recommend you begin by becoming familiar with the Midwest Book Review website at:

Begin with reading through the various articles in the "Advice For Publishers" section. Then go on to browse through the "Publisher Resources" section -- there you will find links to a wealth of invaluable informational and technical resources when considering the options of self-publishing, POD publishing, or traditional small press publishing.

Then browse through the reviews you will find in the "Publisher's Bookshelf" section and take note of which titles address the things you need to know as an aspiring or novice publisher. Jot down their titles and authors, then take that list to your local community library and get them. Your community library's "Interlibrary Loan Service" can access all of them for you.

I would also recommend browsing through about a year's worth of the "Jim Cox Report" that you will also find on the MBR website. This is my own monthly column that blends Midwest Book Review office gossip with my "tips, tricks & techniques" advice and commentary specifically on and about book publishing.

And before you make a single commitment as to which publishing venue is best for you, before you spend a single penny toward publishing your book -- you need to take the next several weeks just reading, thinking, note-taking, and listening in on the discussions you find here on this list which devoted to small press publishing issues, concerns, and resources.

Then (and only then) will you be able to make an informed, realistic, and financially responsible decision as to how best to turn your manuscript into a book, and your book into a profitable enterprise for yourself.

Jim Cox Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-08-20 13:03:29 EDT, Ted Jones writes:

> I've found several newsgroups on subjects that match my 2 books, but I
> have 3 questions before posting to them:

I would recommend that you read the article I wrote on "Promoting Books On The Internet", which you will find in the Advice For Publishers section of the Midwest Book Review website at

Jim Cox Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-08-21 15:49:53 EDT, Natasha Neuroth writes:

> I am an Internet Product Editor for a major Christian retail site
> ( How might I go about getting permission to use
> your reviews on our site? We would, obviously give you the credit for the
> review.

You have our permission to post any of our reviews of titles you market on your Christian retail website. Simple credit Midwest Book Review when doing so. It would also help if you added our website address:

You might want to go over back issues of "Internet Bookwatch" viewing my monthly book review column "The Christian Studies Shelf" for other reviews of titles that you may have on your website.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-08-27 20:03:49 EDT, Michael J. Sullivan writes:

> Please let me know if I'm correct that the author's signature on the title
> page would a: enhance the value to a reviewer, and b: solve the problem of
> becoming a "return" which would cost my publisher.

It is a perfectly acceptable way to note the book was not intended for commercial resale.

> I'd be most grateful for an answer. I intend to send you a copy for review
> tomorrow, or the day after if I don't hear from you on this.

Be sure to include some form of publicity release and a cover letter when doing so.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575

In a message dated 02-09-01 18:08:12 EDT, Jonathan writes:

> Jim, is there a way (perhaps the author could insert a self-addressed
> postcard in the book submitted to MBR for consideration of review) that
> might tell a rejected author "why"?
> It could be just one word or two, ("cover" "plot" "grammar") but such a
> response would at least give the sweating, panting, clueless author a clue.
> I'm concerned because my self-published books have a non-pro as a cover
> designer/producer: Me. I had two of my earlier books judged (Bay Area Assn)
> as to overall quality, and the occasionally dyspeptic reviewers criticized
> mostly the cover, as to the "balance," the "composition," the "quality"(?),
> the binding, the choice of font, the size of type, etc. Apparently the
> readers didn't read the books, for none said anything about the quality of
> the literary contents--in my opinion the most important "criterion," and the
> reason I'm so grateful to you and MBR for your having reviewed thus far
> four of my books. But should you reject a book, you would be doing this
> author another great service by saying why.

Dear Jonathan:

I agree that this kind of feedback could prove invaluable -- especial for the novice new to the field of publishing. The problem is in terms of available time. Just one such response would only take a moment. The trouble is in that we receive an average of 1500 titles a month, can review approximately 500, and must therefore decline about 1000 titles -- and this is every thirty days!

The moments accumulate into work hours, and the work hours (over a month's time) accumulate into several work days. I simply don't have the time or staff available to provide this service -- even when the author/publisher furnishes stamped, self-addressed postcards or mailing envelopes or email addresses.

When I had finished my initial experiment at providing such feedback I found that I was running into yet another time-draining problem. Too many authors/publishers wanted to explain their efforts to me, took umbrage with me and wanted to debate me (presumably in hopes of changing my mind), or otherwise turned very, very defensive, even to the point of hostility.

So I gave the experiment of providing feedback on book refusals because it took far too much time away from the other chores I do around here -- including my own book reviewing quotas.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-09-04 14:50:54 EDT, Tora writes:

> This is my first time posting a question. I am in the process of starting a
> magazine. My dilemma is finding a way to attract subscribers. I'd like to
> build a database of nationwide subscribers. One friend suggested purchasing
> a list of people in my target demographic and soliciting them by postcard.
> Does anyone have any other suggestions! I'm open to all!

Use computer search engines to discover internet discussion groups, listservs, and bulletin boards that are thematically appropriate to the nature of your proposed magazine. Then join those groups, contributing to their discussion topics, and when your magazine is ready to launch, you'll be in an excellent position to announce it and solicit subscribers (perhaps with an offer of one free issue as a "loss leader").

You'll find links to such search engines on the Midwest Book Review website. And there are a couple of "how to" articles in the Advice For Publishers section of the website that would be appropriate. They speak more directly to using the internet to promote books, but the "things to do" instructions and checklists would be quite germane to any periodical or magazine as well.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-09-04 21:13:37 EDT, Payton Lee writes:

> Thank you for your reply. I feel more confident now that there are some
> places a POD author can go if they choose. I appreciate your comprehending
> my email. Indeed, I am happy just to write. If just one reader enjoys my
> work I am a success. I do enjoy writing for the fun of telling stories. I
> will keep it that way.
> However, I may consider becoming a historical romance reviewer for POD
> authors at your Midwest Review. The only problem with that is it takes time
> away from my writing stories for that just one reader.

Book reviewing does indeed take time. Not just the reading of the book, but then the task of composing one's thoughts and writing them down in as coherent a manner as possible.

Roughly half of our 76 volunteer reviewers are self-published authors or aspiring authors hoping to be published one day. The other half are folks like me, bookaholics who enjoy talking about what they've been reading with other folk of a literary mind.

The reasons for a time-pressed author to review other people's work are largely as follows:

  1. Reading other people's work helps to enhance our own repetorie of writing techniques, turns of phrase, character developments, plotting ideas, etc. It also shows us what doesn't work and to avoid those errors in our own writings. It's a kind of on-going, do-it-yourself writing workshop for authors to read and critique the work of other authors.

  2. It sometimes serves as the literary equivalent of a "busman's holiday" and gives us fresh purchase and energy for our own work.

  3. Then there is the additional benefit of occasional feedback from other writers, publishers, and readers that can be intellectually stimulating and/or emotionally fulfilling.
The Midwest Book Review is based upon a three point mission statement: The promotion of literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.

When people take upon themselves the time consuming task of reviewing POD titles, self-published titles, or small press published titles, they providing them with a forum for their reviews here at the Midwest Book Review is one of the major ways in which we carry out our mandate.

Don't ever let reviewing erode upon your own writing because that's the heart and core of what it means to be a writer. But should the muse ever move you to critique someone else's book, please always consider the Midwest Book Review as a non-exclusive forum through which to express your opinions and commentaries.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-09-04 20:17:54 EDT, LB writes:

> I'm looking for an organization that offers, yearly seminars on
> inventive and new publishing/marketing technics.

The two major national publisher organizations are PMA (Publishers Marketing Association) and SPAN (Small Press Association of North America). You will find links to these and all of the regional publisher associations in the section "Publisher Organizations" on the Midwest Book Review website at:

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-09-06 21:39:06 EDT, Russ Nichols writes:

> I have a book called Plutarch's Lives translated from the original Greek
> version by Harper & Brothers in 1836 book was written by John
> Langhorne,D.D. and William Langhorne A.M.. Can you please help put me
> in the right direction to find out what I have.
> Thank You

There is a section on The Midwest Book Review website at called "Bookstores". One of the sections is devoted to links for Antiquarian bookstores and dealers. You might find your answers with one of them.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

> In a message dated 02-09-16 12:29:59 EDT, Maria (Gingerbread House) writes:
> Now, here's the question: is it
> all right to "bind" all these on the OPENING end of the pages,
> with a colored metal squeeze-type clip? As far as we know,
> full-color picture books do not come as "bound galleys." When the
> clip is removed, however, the poor reviewer is back to working
> with loose folded and gathered pages. Is that OK?

I'm afraid not. When it comes to children's books, most reviewers that I've talked to down through the years want to see the finished book because one of the judgement issues is how well they are bound in terms of shelf-life for school and community library considerations.

When they are published I look forward to considering them for our Children's Bookwatch. It's always lovely to know that I'm on a publisher's "automatic" list! :-)

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-09-18 18:23:36 EDT, David Chananie writes:

> Subj: Wonderful Review of Not Yet At Ease
> Date: 02-09-18 18:23:36 EDT
> From: D Chananie
> CC: D Chananie
> Dear Jim,
> Thank you so much for the wonderful review of Not Yet At Ease which appeared
> in the September edition of your library newsletter Wisconsin Bookwatch. I
> was surprised to find it in the mailbox so soon and gratified with the review.
> You and the organization you've built are indeed the champions of the
> independent publisher. When I got into this business about a year ago, I
> heard that about you, but I didn't fully appreciate how much it means.
> After months of knocking at barred doors, beating my head against walls of
> indifference, leaving tons of unanswered messages, and enduring relentless
> bureaucratic screw-ups, stupidities, and discrimination, finding someone who
> answers the mail, is responsive, and talks straight engendered in me such a
> feeling of relief that I can only compare it to what Hagar must have felt in
> the desert, after being cast out by Abraham, when she found shade and water.
> You can get tennis elbow from casting your bread upon the waters. I am now
> as one who saw through a glass darkly and found Windex.

Thank you for your _very_ kind words. They've made my day clean into the middle of next week!

> Now, a few questions:
> 1. How do I properly credit the review when I quote from it? Is the
> appropriate citation to the Wisconsin Bookwatch or to the Midwest Book Review
> or may I use either?

My advice to publishers is to use "Midwest Book Review" as the review quote citation. This is because Midwest Book Review has pretty much evolved into a "brand name recognition" status with librarians, bookstores, and the reading public. Plus, reviews that run in any of the four of our library newsletters (of which, "Wisconsin Bookwatch" is one) will also automatically appear in our online book review magazine "Internet Bookwatch". In addition, of course, to being posted on and elsewhere.

> 2. I know you allow quoting from your reviews with proper citation. May I
> quote the entire review? May I put the entire review on my web site?

Publishers have full and automatic permission to utilize all or any part of our reviews in any manner they deem useful in their efforts to publicize, promote and market their titles. This includes using our reviews in their publicity mailings, catalogs, websites, etc.

> 3. Does a review in the Wisconsin Bookwatch get you into
> automatically, and, if not, what can I do to get into

If the publisher's book has a page on the website (and that Amazon page is equipped with the "Reader Review" feature, my webmaster daughter will automatically post the review. No further effort is required on the part of the publisher. It's all part of the Midwest Book Review "package" of services.

If the publisher's book page on Amazon does not yet include the "Reader Review" feature (our reviews are sometimes generated before official publication dates and Amazon often will wait until after that date to include the feature on a book's Amazon webpage), then we hold the review in a special file and re-check the book's webpage the next month to see if it has yet been added. If no such feature is added after two or three months of checking, we give up on it.

> Once again, thanks very much for being there for the community of
> independent publishers. And, BTW, thanks to your daughter too for all her
> efforts on your site.
> David Chananie
> Capturelife Press
> Not Yet At Ease: Photographs of America's Continuing Engagement With
> the Vietnam War

I'll be sure to pass along your appreciation to Bethany for her work in behalf of the small press community. Indeed, if it were not for her technical support as our webmaster and her work as the Managing Editor (even though I'm pretty much the editor she manages!), the Midwest Book Review simply could not service nearly as many publishers each month as we do.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Now it's time for those "Unsolicited Testimonials" that I like to conclude every issue of The Jim Cox Report with:

> Date: 03-01-07 16:55:13 EST
> From: (Bill Meehan)
> To: ('')
> Dear Mr. Cox,
> Thank you for the very complimentary review of my book, William F. Buckley
> Jr: A Bibliography, which I just saw at Amazon. com.
> William F. Meehan III
> Director of Media Relations
> Hillsdale College is the 800-pound gorilla of online book marketing. It's the first place you need to go and the first thing you need to do when you publish. The Midwest Book Review is a content provider for Amazon -- in fact, if there are no toll-free numbers or websites for the publisher and the book is already on, I will use as acquisition information in my review of that title.

> Subj: More gratitude
> Date: 03-01-08 14:17:36 EST
> From: (Joe Shaw)
> Dear James:
> Thank you for telling us about the review of "Sheaves of Silence" in the
> January issue of "Small Press Bookwatch." I'm very pleased to be able to
> send a photocopy of your letter to ADAMS, the author, who'll be delighted.
> I hope the new year is treating you well so far. Thanks again.
> Joe Shaw, for
> Lost Coast Press

It is the policy of the Midwest Book Review to always send the publisher a tear sheet (copy of the review) and a notification letter when we've run a review of their title(s). Occasionally we will get those publisher notification letters bounced back to us as undeliverable -- no forwarding address. That's why it is vitally important to always note clearly in your accompanying cover letter and your publicity release materials when the address printed on your book becomes obsolete. Otherwise you won't have the pleasure of one of our notification letters appearing in your mailbox and we won't have the pleasure of getting your "thank you" note in ours!

And it is clearly the responsibility of you as a publisher to notify authors, editors, illustrators, publicists, and anyone else you deem appropriate when a book achieves a review. We all like feedback!!

> Date: 03-01-07 13:39:52 EST
> From: (Larry Ferstenou)
> Dear Mr. Cox,
> I just read MBR's review of my book on Amazon and couldn't be more pleased.
> Thank you for assigning it to a reviewer and for listing it on Amazon and
> with so many other sources. I would like to personally thank the reviewer if
> that is possible. I didn't see a name on your Web site listed with the
> review. If you could provide an e-mail address, or at least forward this to
> the reviewer, I would be grateful.
> Larry Ferstenou, Author
> You CAN Retire Young!

By policy, we do not give out the mailing addresses of our volunteer reviewers. But I faithfully pass along all correspondences and thank you notes to them. It is then up to our reviewers as to how (or if) they respond. But I can tell you from decades of experience that reviewers appreciate being thanked for their labors in behalf of the publishing community!

In a message dated 03-01-08 16:11:07 EST, you write:

> Date: 03-01-08 16:11:07 EST
> From: (Rod Johnson)
> Good Day Jim:
> As I write this note, it's 50 degrees in Minnesota in the middle of January.
> Yes a strange and out of the ordinary event indeed. Churchill once stated
> that there are five stages to writing a book. During the first stage it's
> kind of a toy, warm and fuzzy and all those wonderful things. By stage
> five, it becomes a dragon that literally rules and dominates your life. At
> some point, you just have to slay the dragon and so be it. Let the fruits
> of your labor fall where they fall.
> As a novice writer, one is never quite sure when and where to slay that
> dragon. If you kill it too soon, your book will be viewed as immature and
> needs more substance. If you wait too long, your script grows tired and
> gray. To find that sweet spot can only be spotted and interpreted by the
> independent review process.
> So it was with humble surprise and excitement that MBR provided high praise
> for the book I co-authored, Inside Out, Using Classic Children's Stories for
> Personal and Professional Growth in the January edition. Now I can feel
> good that the dragon was slain at the right time and not a moment too soon.
> Now I can move out into the marketplace with the confidence of a new father,
> ready to show the world. Thank YOU!!!
> Regards,
> Rod Johnson

And that folks, is why I review books; why I sit at my desk day after day and ramrod the Midwest Book Review; and why (as long as my health and stamina permit) I will continue doing so for another 27 years.

I probably will never be rich as measured by bank accounts or stock portfolios. But I count my self as being truly and enduringly wealthy because I'm doing what I deeply enjoy -- doing my bit to nurture literary talents and enhance the options of the general reading public.

See you next month!!

James A. 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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