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Jim Cox Report: February 2011
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
Amazon continues to be the 800 pound gorilla of on-line book sellers. Amazon can be as problematic as they are critically essential for the small press community -- especially the self-published author -- as part of a national (and even international) marketing plan. Such on-line book selling marketing plans are based heavily on book reviews posted on the Amazon web site.
So I was concerned when I got an email from Irene Watson informing me that Amazon had suddenly engaged in the whole sale removal of posted reviews on their web site.
In a message dated 1/26/2011 9:58:54 A.M. Central Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
This is getting serious...I sent you an email yesterday. Amazon just removed www.BookReview.com's reviews as well. According to their site they have over 15,000 reviews.
Nicole from Pacific Book Review is getting nowhere. Nobody at Amazon wants to talk to her and will not return emails/calls.
I think you must have abut 60,000 posted on Amazon. That's a lot to lose! Any suggestions how we can protect ourselves?
The first thing I did when I received the above email was to see if any Midwest Book Review postings had been affected.
I wrote back to Irene:
The number of Midwest Book Reviews has apparently been cut back to 1,319 as of this moment when I just did an Amazon search for "Midwest Book Review". So it seems we've been cut back as well.
I don't know anything that can be done about it. For the most part, book review postings on Amazon is a computer-to-computer operation with no actual humans involved.
Why there sudden wholesale removal of reviews originating from other review sites and sources I do not know.
I'll post this info in my next "Jim Cox Report" to see if anyone among my 3,000+ subscribers within the publishing industry and the small press community have any information.
Midwest Book Review
Then I got a very surprising response from Irene:
Actually, they didn't take down your reviews. Your page shows:
Midwest Book Rev...'s Profile
Customer Reviews: 59144
Helpful Votes: 190813
Actually, there are humans involved....on a sporadic basis. Every so often one of our reviews doesn't go up immediately but does in a few days. At first when this happened I emailed Amazon and they informed me that they manually look at some reviews.
I'm writing about it in my Monday editorial in the newsletter. There is much more to this. Nicole has hired a lawyer.
Which promoted another response by me:
That's interesting. I got my much lower number by simply typing in "Midwest Book Review" into the Amazon.com search engine.
I think/suspect the Midwest Book Review might have some kind of "automatic" or "special" status because I started posting our reviews on Amazon about 6 months after it first started up. That was a long, long time ago in a galaxy far way! :-)
I also often note www.amazon.com in the "info block" that is a part of all our reviews.
If it would be alright, please send me a copy of your newsletter. I would look forward to considering your extended thoughts on the matter of Amazon's claim for proprietorship over any and all reviews posted to its web site. I've often thought that claim -- and the accompanying policy of trying to offer those reviews for sale -- to be rather silly. Why would authors and/or publishers want to buy a review from Amazon.com that they could get for free from the original source of the review?
If you could send me a link to your forthcoming newsletter I could add it to my February "Jim Cox Report" and encourage my own readers to take a look at it. My little monthly column has a 3,000+ subscribership -- almost all of which are members of the publishing industry in general, and the small press community in particular..
Midwest Book Review
The Irene replied back:
The newsletter is now posted on:
However, I also have it posted on: (This is the link you may want to use)
This is where people leave comments. There are some interesting ones showing up already.
I'd like to ask everyone who reads the "Jim Cox Report" to go to Irene's blogg article and read it. Then if you have any further information or details on this latest going's on at Amazon I would dearly like to hear about it -- and so would Irene!
Now I'd like to make some observations and offer a bit of history with respect to reviewing self-published authors -- reviews that I insure get posted on Amazon as long as the reviewed book is their web site. My observations were originally triggered by an author's complain with respect to a review:
Clearly the core problem with respect to this incident of a disgruntled author with the review he received is a self-published author's lack of information on what standard publishing industry norms are with respect to book reviewing and the book review process.
I commonly encounter this lack of information in novice authors. A great deal of my phone and email contacts have to do with instructing such folk in 'book review basics'. It's also the basis for many of my instructional and informational articles on book reviewing, the book review process, spotting phony book reviewers, what to do with a review once you've got one, etc. in that section of the Midwest Book Review web site called "Advice for Writings & Publishers".
Over the more than three decades I've been Editor-in-Chief of the Midwest Book Review I've encountered hundreds of well-meaning authors confronted with book reviews they felt were substandard, erroneous, or simply wrong. If the author could demonstrate a reviewer's error then I either had the reviewer correct the review or simply deleted it. If the author's objections were on matters of taste or perception, then the review stands as is. But I also provide the author with an opportunity for a second reviewer if the author wants to invest another review copy on the chance of an improved review given by a different reviewer with a different background, set of life experiences, etc.
One difference that makes the Midwest Book Review stand out from other reviews is that my reviewers are instructed to not bother writing a review for book that they feel they cannot positively recommend to the attention of the prospective reader. They are to simply discard that book and pick up another.
The background to this distinctive policy is that, from it's inception some 34+ years ago, the Midwest Book Review was and is dedicated to priority consideration to self-published and small press authors over titles from the major New York publishing houses -- although we routinely review large numbers of their titles every month as well.
Back before the desktop computer revolution in publishing there were 'vanity' presses such as Vantage. The Midwest Book Review was (as far as I could tell at the time) the only book review willing to give Vantage authors a consideration for review. For those who don't remember (or aren't old enough to recall) all an author with a manuscript had to do with vanity presses like Vantage was to write them a check. Just like the POD-published titles of today.
When you accept for review consideration books whose authors have paid to have them published you encounter a very great many defective titles that simply cannot be given a positive recommendation to their intended readership. Not then and not now.
But when an author has invested their time, energy, hopes, dreams, expectations, and cold hard cash in the publishing of their book, their response to a negative review is going to be somewhat emotional and all to often hostile toward the reviewer. That is on of the main reasons why so many established book reviews and book reviewers will not accept a self-published title in the first place.
Why do I still do it (and believe me, I've been on the receiving end of many an unhappy and disappointed self-published author)? Because every now and then I find a diamond amidst all the coal. That diamond might be rough and in need of polish, but it's a diamond none the less.
Plus, self-published authors have steeper odds against them than any others, and the Midwest Book Review can make a larger impact in their professional lives and aspirations it can on those 'Best Seller List' authors from those corporate owned and financed New York houses. And when you can furnish a self-published author with a positive review and position that review in a number of various forums making it accessible by large numbers of potential readers, the thanks that come my way are very special indeed.
Just some thoughts and a bit of history with respect to reviewing self-published books by amateur authors.
Now on to some reviews of 'how to' titles for writers and/or publishers:
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing
Marilyn Ross & Sue Collier
Writer's Digest Books
100 Armstrong Avenue, Georgetown, Ontario, Canada, L7G 5S4
9781582977188, $24.95, www.writersdigest.com
Getting your own work out there is more troublesome than one would think. "The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything you need to know to Write, Publish, Promote, and Sell Your Own Book" is a guide to those who want to get their work published through the self-publishing avenue. Publishing a book is not as simple as getting it bound and printed, but promoted and sold in stores. From print on demand services to PR and more, "The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing" is a must for anyone who wants to embrace this endeavor to get their work out there.
[It should be noted that the Midwest Book Review and Jim Cox receive a bit of praise in "The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing". But even so, I promise that it did not bias me in my appraisal of what I consider to be an essential and 'user friendly' instructional reference for anyone considering the option of self-publishing -- Jim Cox]
The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent
Atlantic Publishing Group
1405 SW 6th Ave., Ocala, FL 34471-0640
9781601384034, $24.95, www.atlantic-pub.com
You can have the best book in the world, but it all comes down to the sale. "The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent: Everything You Know to Become Successfully Published" is a guide to the aspect of publishing many writers understand the least, the literary agent. Agents can help authors get their work to the next level and get it picked up and help authors turn their love and work into much more. Everything an author needs to know to find the right person with this work, "The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent" is an excellent resource, and very highly recommended. Also from Atlantic Publishing Group is "How to publish a Kindle Book with Amazon.com" (9781601384041, $24.95) is a guide to using Amazon's Kindle service and how to use it to get your work published cheaply and on the market quickly.
What's the Story?
Rudolph H. Weingartner
University Press of America
4501 Forbes Bouelvard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9780761852766, $16.99, www.univepress.com
Anyone can tell a story, doing it well is the real task at hand. "What's The Story?: Try your Hand and Learn the Art of Writing" is a creativity exercise of sorts, as Rudolph H. Weingartner gives a description of countless characters who he has created simple little profiles for. The exercise comes in creating stories surrounding these characters to help would be authors get a grasp on fiction writing. "What's the Story?" is a fun and exciting way to practice the fiction writing process.
Riding the Alligator
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd. #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781932907841, $24.95, www.mwp.com
Everyone wants to be a screenwriter and that's what makes it so hard. "Riding the Alligator: Strategies for a Career in Screenplay Writing" is a combination memoir and career guide by Pen Densham for how to succeed more effectively at their careers in a cutthroat and highly competitive industry. Densham's experience is over dozen films and many TV series, and he has come to know the rough road to success and how success doesn't get easier because you've succeeded once. "Riding the Alligator: Strategies for a Career in Screenplay Writing" is a choice pick for the screenwriting aspirant.
The Global English Style Guide
John R. Kohl
SAS Campus Drive, Cary, NC 27513
9781599946573, $39.95, www.sas.com
Very few products stay in one country and be successful. "The Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market" is a guide to writing technical manuals that translate easy across language barriers. Calling the style Global English, John R. Kohl states how to create something that avoids questionable words and translates most clearly and easily when a translator sets to work on it, saving time and costs. "The Global English Style Guide" is a must for any business expanding their products abroad.
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:
John F. Macek
Mark T. Hooker
Norma Maret Bolin
Marcia Lucia -- "Liberation: Book One of The Andrusian Chronicle"
Linda Tuck Jenkins -- "The Sirian Redempton"
Kathy Brodsky -- "Purrsnikitty"
Janice Mineer -- "Gingerbread from the Heart"
Dean Klinkenberg -- "The Mississippi Valley Traveler Guide to the Driftless Area"
Becky Cerling Powers -- "Laura's Children: the Hidden Story of a Chinese Orphanage"
Donald James Lawn -- "The Memoirs of John F. Kennedy: A Novel"
Chrysa Smith -- "The Adventures of the Poddle Posse"
Samantha Harper Macy -- "The Two Sisters Cafe"
Kathleen M. Gordon -- "Trattoria Toscana"
Smoke Signal Press
Lightning Strikes Press
Trillium Health Press
Waterfall Publishing House
American Mental Health Foundation
Charles Barrett -- The Barret Company Communications
Ainsley Berry -- Best Sellers Publishing
Sally Walker -- The Fiction Works
Harvey Wilkes -- Erie Harbor Productions
Betty Mackey -- B. B. Mackey Books
Niky Itzhaki -- Toys 'N Tayls Ltd.
Nan Wisherd -- Cable Publishing
Sharyn Pak Withers -- On Air Video
Russell G. Rodrigue -- Rodrigue & Sons Co.
Tom Tolney -- Birch Brook Impression
Katharine T. Carter & Associates
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
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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