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Jim Cox Report: January 2003

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

December was a busy, busy month which was additionally complicated by a printer breakdown that made me one week late in finishing the sending out of tear sheets to those publishers who had books reviewed within our Children's Bookwatch.

I had a little workhorse of an Hewlett Packard DeskJet 500 printer that worked flawlessly day-in and day-out for about the past 15 or 16 years. Then, on the evening of Thursday, December 19th, it began refusing to print envelopes -- and then even sheets of stationery. On Friday the 20th I called my computer repair guy, who came out and opened it up. It was a minute before he was calling me over to take a look. It seems that there are two little rollers that hold the stationery and the envelopes in proper position while the main roller cranks them around to receive their letter content or mailing addresses. The rubbery part of one roller was completely disintegrated. Only a the metal part was left. The rubbery part of the other roller had become ossified to the point that it could no longer "grip" the paper.

It turns out that Hewlett Packard had stopped making those little HP DeskJet 500 printers more than a decade ago -- and there were no longer any parts that could be had.

Then my repair guy said that he wouldn't be able to get me a new printer until he got back from his holiday vacation -- on Friday the 27th!

And wouldn't you know, I had the entire Children's Bookwatch tear-sheets yet to go. So I spent that Xmas week doing non-computer printing related stuff, catching up on my reading, and moping around the office mumbling under my breath such Ebenezer Scrooge likes comments about the inconvenience of holiday vacations when there was work piled up and overdue!

The good news is that when Friday came, he showed up with an HP DeskJet 3820 which, after a bit of getting used to, turned out to be just fine for my purposes. I worked some fairly long hours that Saturday and Sunday, but got all the tear sheets and publisher notification letters sent out -- just in time to turn my attention to getting the January reviews up on our website!

One of the things I did to "kill time" while waiting for a new printer to arrive was to finally finish writing that article on the importance of covers for small press books, for which I was commissioned by Writer's Digest Magazine.

It was to have been a 1,000 word article. My first draft ran 3,300 words! It seems I do have a tendency to be rather encyclopedic when talking about publishing!

I cut and I cut and then I cut some more. I had three truly brilliant quotes from fellow list members who agreed with me (hence their perceived brilliance!) about what I had posted in the past to the publisher discussion groups on the subject of covers and cover art.

But I finally got it trimmed down to 1045 words (not counting title or my writer signature citation). -- And then sent it off.

The other big project completion during this printer hiatus was to finish my judging of this year's Audie Awards in the unabridged non-fiction category, and get those results sent off to the Audiobook Publishers Association.

Today (Thursday, January 2nd) I'm going to take it easy. Just crank out my book review column for the January "KNLS Bookwatch"; send notification letters to the six publishers (Great Potential Press; Afton Historical Press; Wisconsin Historical Press; University of Nebraska Press; The Texas State Historical Association; and The Scarecrow Press) who made this current broadcast (it goes to 134 countries around the world); send email notifications to the reviewers whose reviews are in our January publications; complete 13 partially written book reviews of my own; pay the first-of-the-month bills; and then collapse into a nice, quiet coma.

Now on to why you really like to read these extended monthly monologs of mine. Tips, tricks and techniques for small press publishers in the form of Q's & A's!

> To:
> Hi Jim,
> Thanks as always for the posted newsletter. You always have something
> interesting.

Incidently, The Jim Cox Report can be received directly as can all of our other online publications. There's no charge for any of them. Just send me your email address and I'll add you to the subscription list(s).

> I was poking around the MWB website, and I guess I am a techno-boob (this is
> no surprise), because I was thinking about joining the PublisherL online
> group. I couldn't find it on your Publisher's Resources page--which is not
> to claim it's there, just that I couldn't find it.

The Midwest Book Review website is huge. That's why you should take a moment to explore the home page. Along the left side is a series of interactive links to all of the various sections that comprise the MBW website. Including one called Publisher Associations. It's there that you will find links to the websites of local, regional, national, and online publisher associations and discussion groups.

> I like some of the gang on the self-pub list, but I'd rather not have to
> sift thru 1001 questions of "how do I get an ISBN and why do I have to buy
> 10?" [altho the last person to ask this is an interesting person who I've
>been talking to off-line about how to market her sideline.]
> A lot of my questions have to do with marketing more than 1 book, and I
> sense from the brief mentions by you and others that the folks on PublisherL
> might just be talking about stuff I need to hear more about.

There are three major online publishing groups that I recommend -- and each of them have their own distinctive "personalities".

SPAN is a moderated list and has as its primary focus the needs of the self-published author.

Publish-L is also moderated in the sense that no flaming or name-calling is permitted, and it concerns itself with basic, fundamental, "how to", nuts-and-bolts issues of the various aspects of small press publishing including printing, binding, transporting, marketing, etc.

PubForum is an unmoderated list (there are four list moms and the only rules are no spamming and no crossposting, other than that, any language goes) whose members like to also focus upon what I call the "politics" of publishing including such issues as free speech, copyrights, publishing industry trends, ethics, marketplace fairness (think distributor bankruptcies and freebooter book return policies), as well as the more mundane aspects of how to publish and what to do with what you've published.

I would recommend that those new to publishing join all three groups, "listen in" on the discussion threads, and then decide which one(s) are most suited to your publishing information needs.

> As always, thanks for being an advocate for small and self-pub. Your website
> just gets more impressive by the week! I steered a new publisher to your
> site the other day and he wrote back to say he'd "Done died and gone to
> micro-publisher heaven!" The information he got from the website was
> invaluable to him at the stage he is.

What I often tell novice publishing people who call up or email me with "how to" questions -- the Midwest Book Review website is going to become your new best friend!

> BTW: My hubby is about to go to reading glasses after most of his life
> wearing glasses for other purposes (like walking). He said he didn't want to
> go to Bi-focal hell just yet. Guess you're not the only one.

This refers to my finally gotten old enough to require reading glasses (I'd had driving glasses for decades). Having had them for a few months now, I am beginning to see the benefits of bifocals!

> All the best--and thanks!
> Jacqueline Church Simonds
> Beagle Bay Books

> To: (Jim Cox)
> Hello Jim,
> I saw your article "Promoting Books on the Internet" in the SPAN
> Connection.
> This summer, I'll be teaching a class at UCLA on "Self-Promotion for the
> Author." May I photocopy your article for distribution to class? (I was
> going to discuss the Midwest Book Review anyway, since you've reviewed two
> of my books.)
> If I have your permission, please send an e-mail confirming it.
> Cordially,
> Thomas M. Sipos

Anyone has full and complete permission to utilize anything I write about the publishing industry in these Reports, or in the "Advice For Publishers" section of the MBW website. That includes the articles that you will occasionally find in the SPAN newsletter -- because the originated as "Advice For Publishers" articles and Marilyn Ross asked my permission to reprint them in her newsletter.

Always give the usual and proper credit citation when doing so. And if you can, send me a copy of your newsletter or print-out (if used as a curriculum supplement) -- because it helps me to document our services to the small press community when it comes time for grant renewal applications!

Incidently, some of these articles -- with a little judicial editing -- have also been used by various people writing "how to" books on publishing. They asked my permission -- and I'm always happy to oblige!

In a message dated 02-07-05 13:14:25 EDT, you write:

> To:
> It's obvious that this person has little acquaintance with "our" Cox of
> Midwest Bk. Review. There are people and entities about whom one can
> suspect almost anything, and then there are people like Jim Cox who sets
> the standard for ethics.
> Gloria Wolk /Bialkin Books
> consumer advocate and author

This was a very gratefully received response to a complaint from some person about my policy of not posting negative reviews on -- I've been a content provider for Amazon almost from their beginning. The answer is simple: There are too many good books to waste time on flawed ones.

But I do not censor our volunteer reviewers who feel they must provided a fair and accurate assessment of a flawed book which in their opinion cannot be recommended -- or whose potential readers should be warned off.

I don't post those reviews from our volunteer reviewers (or their positive reviews for that matter) because they are each responsible for posting to Amazon themselves. I just do the "in-house" reviews generated by myself, our staff, and some of the reviewers who wish to remain anonymous -- even to the point of not using pseudonyms.

Still, it's very nice to know that my efforts (and the efforts of everyone associated with the Midwest Book Review) are appreciated and trusted by so many within the small press community.

Thanks Gloria!

In a message dated 02-07-06 21:14:55 EDT, you write:

> To:
> Dear Jim,
> Thank you very much for your helpful response to my message. I have
> mentioned the Ivan Hoffman site to my friend, and hope she'll follow up
> on this. I really appreciate your suggestion, because even though it
> pertains to US law, the principles and issues raised there, are probably
> fairly universal.
> She happens to be on the Writers and Editors Network mailing list,
> although, as I mentioned, she is unable to attend meetings. I also
> suggested she look into the possibility of contacting the law school re:
> graduate law students, and perhaps she can arrange something through
> them.
> Once I began reading the material on the Ivan Hoffman site, I realized
> this whole issue is much more complex than I imagined, and less
> cut-and-dried, since I know nothing about the contract she signed with
> her publisher.
> Thanks again, for your help, and for the most impressive content of the
> Midwest Book Review Web site.
> Sincerely,
> Pat Armstrong

After a rather substantial database of book reviews, most of the content comprising the Midwest Book Review website are simply links to other online resources for publishers, booksellers, librarians, and the general reading public. And there are a lot of really terrific websites for aspiring publishers! Ivan Hoffman on legal aspects of publishing, Pat Bell on "how to" resources and advice, the list just goes on and on -- just take a look at the MBR website section called "Publisher Resources" and you'll see what I mean!

> Subj: Re: [Self-Publishing] to print or not to print
> In a message dated 02-07-22 21:39:02 EDT, Kris Drake writes:
> My question is this, I read that a book already in print - even if
> self-published, will not be looked upon favorably by most publishing
> companies. It is said that publishing companies prefer manuscript form
> submissions.
> So, if I were to ever want a larger publishing company to pick up my book,
> it would be harder to do, if not impossible with some publishers since I
> will have already printed it myself.
> Do you all find this to be generally true?

What interests major publishing houses in picking up a previously small press or POD published title is that book's sales record. If you've got a small press title that sells like pancakes at a hungryman breakfast then you've got a good shot at getting a larger house to pick your title up.

But if its just one more marginal seller in a sea of small press efforts, then you can pretty much forget about it -- unless you go on in future years to become a Big Name Author for whom the New York conglomerates would sell their grandmothers into slavery just to have the rights to bring your obscure first effort into print for a locked guarantee of big money sales.

> Subj: [Self-Publishing] A Comment On The POD Publishing Option
> In a message dated 02-07-23 00:54:49 EDT, Steve Carlson writes:
> However, some cautions are needed before you proceed with POD publishers
> such as 1st Books, Booklocker, iUniverse, or Xlibris. Every major review
> publication considers these to be vanity publishers, on a par with the
> old-school rip-off vanity presses such as Vantage and Carlton. Therefore,
> major reviewers--the ones who can help you sell a lot of books (as opposed
> to the nice Web review venues that make you feel good) will not review your
> book.

Steve is straight on accurate with his observation. I've become acutely aware that the Midwest Book Review is almost unique in the attention we give to the POD published titles. It arises out of the same motivation that used to compel me to accept Vantage and Carlton titles when I received them from their pretty much ripped-off authors -- I just couldn't turn my back on self-published authors simply because they had fallen for vantage press hype.

POD publishing should be the very last resort for the aspiring author yearning to break into print and finding no takers with the established houses (major or minor, general or specialty), and who, for what ever reason, just cannot bring themselves to invest the time and money required to learn how to be effective small press publishers.

The odds against being a financially successful POD published author are significantly and dishearteningly higher than with any other publishing venue or option.

The one good thing about PODs is how most of them have vastly improved their covers over this past year -- and thereby significantly improved their books' marketability.

> Subj: [PUBLISH-L] An observation on self-publishing/POD publishing

I received an excellent and thoughtful post from a fellow with a long history of involvement in publishing and is the author of fourteen titles published by large and established houses. He is planning to POD publish his next work and ending his post with this rather challenging assertion:

> Publishing is one of the most dishonest professions.

I don't think the basic problem for self-published authors (and this includes POD published folk too) is one of pervasive dishonesty within the publishing industry .

Rather I see it as a significant lack of expertise by the aspiring self-published author with respect to the actual processes of publishing and book; and his or her failure to first learn how and what it means to be a publisher before plunging in and publishing their own work freelance (so to speak) or through a POD book packager.

When it comes to successfully publishing a book, there is a certain amount of basic information that must be ascertained and mastered, a certain set of publishing norms that must be learned and adhered to.

Unfortunately, a great many self-published authors have so focused on the skills and expertise required to write their book, that they have failed to address themselves to the publishing of their own work with the same due diligence at learning "publishing skills and expertise".

That's why we reviewers see so many self-published titles (including POD titles) that should have had more editing before being committed to print; such glaring marketing errors as the failure to create a publishing company identity; substandard cover art; absent or poorly prepared publicity releases; accompanying cover letters written on plain typing paper instead of on letterhead stationery, etc.

Then there is the problem of newly self-published authors only starting to learn about book marketing and promotional strategies after their books are back from the printer and sitting in their garages and backrooms.

Thank you for your post to me. I found it well worthwhile. I'm going to share my responses on the difficulties besetting the self-published author with the publisher discussion group because there are so many people faced with similar situations as your friend.

In a message dated 02-08-14 21:30:52 EDT, Trish Shields writes:

> I do have a question, however. Why is it that some recommended/respected
> reviewers simply don't respond to the requests put to them, or do and then
> don't follow through? It is very frustrating, especially considering the
> time and effort an author goes through to even get a book published.

It's the unhappy result of supply and demand. The supply of a reviewer's available time is quite limited. The demand of hundreds, even thousands, of books being submitted is quite overwhelming.

I have 76 reviewers. I also have an average of 1500 titles a month being submitted for review consideration. I have two reviewers willing to handle poetry. I get, on average, around 30 poetry titles every 30 days.

There is simply no way I as an editor, or they as reviewers, can respond to the authors and publishers of rejected, passed over, or otherwise unsuccessful titles. It's all we can do to get tear sheets and publisher notification letters out to those titles that make the final cut and are featured.

I've written several articles on the book reviewing process (including one dedicated to avoiding scam artists masquerading as book reviewers). You will find them all in the "Advice for Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review website at

I think you will find them very informative and helpful in your future efforts to promote and publicize your book in general -- and deal with the problem of getting your book reviewed in particular.

> Subj: Re: Free Review Copy: CAT BOOK
> Jim,
> I just wanted to let you know that my records indicate this is the
> 100th book you're requested as a result of e-mail from me. I'd like
> to thank you for a relationship spanning many years. You not only
> request books, you actually write them up. And you don't discriminate
> against smaller presses or self-publishers. I really admire your
> persistence, and appreciate your support.
> With All Best Wishes,
> Author of "Complete Guide to Internet Publicity"
> Executive Director, Patron Saint Productions, Inc.
> Web Site:

This is why it is important for reviewers to send tear sheets (copies of reviews) to publishers. It is how you build up enduring relationships into a network of support from the publishing community for your book review enterprise whether you are freelance reviewer, a review publication staffer, or the Editor-in-Chief of the Midwest Book Review. It is also how you, as a reviewer, achieve that ultimate status being so well known and respect that anytime you want any book it is quite literally yours for the asking.

In a message dated 02-08-16 13:05:54 EDT, Morris Rosenthal writes:

> On your page describing the review process, you write:
> "There is an approximate 12 to 16-week "window of opportunity" for a
> book to be assigned out for review."
> Does this mean you only review pre-publication books, like the library
> journal, or does it refer to an active period for which you try to assign
> an appropriate reviewer?

The 12-16 week "window of opportunity" referred to means the period in which a review assignment is being sought and begins on the day the finished book (we do not consider galleys or uncorrected proofs) arrives in our offices, down to the day that it must be discarded in order to make room for other titles being submitted for our consideration and possible review -- because no review assignment was able to take place within that time frame.

And now we come to my favorite part of the Report -- Unsolicited Testimonials!

Subj: thank you!!!
Date: 02-10-18 18:44:15 EDT
From: (bob livingstone)

Dear Mr. Cox,

I was beyond the point of excitement when I read the Midwest Book Review of my book of Amazon today-WOW!!! I was totally blown away by the praise. I do not know if you remember(I think that is too much to ask), but you took the time to inform me a couple of months ago that you did not think my book would be reviewed on your site. I was pleased you took the time to explain what was happening to me and then you referred me to other possible review sites. I want to let you know that this demonstration of kindness and politeness is almost totally missing from the world wide web and beyond.

Obviously one of your reviewers found the book to be worth reading and I am forever grateful. I am having a difficult time finding the review on your site. Can you please assist me with this?

Take care,

Bob Livingstone LCSW

Subj: Thank You For Review
Date: 02-10-21 21:10:31 EDT
From: Melaniejor


I just wanted to drop you a quick note and let you know how much I appreciated receiving the tear sheet for the highly favorable review of my book "Have Your Cheeseburger And Keep Your Health Too!" and your prompt posting to It is so nice when someone really "gets" the message of this book!

I have also posted the review to my web site ( on the "books" page under "What People Are Saying About My Book" and have provided a link back to your web site.

Melanie Jordan

Subj: Thank you
Date: 02-10-24 21:49:52 EDT
From: AbigMarlin


Just wanted to say thanks (yet again) for a wonderful review of our latest release, "The Teacher Who Would Not Retire." We really appreciate your efficiency and prompt review of this new title. And, as always, we appreciate your dedication to the small press!

Francine Rich
Blue Marlin Publications

Subj: Thank You! :)
Date: 02-12-09 19:12:59 EST
From: (Marcia Schutte)

Dear Mr. Cox:

What an absolute joy to receive your letter and review of "Coming Here: Learning to Live in America"!

The author, Rezzan Erten, phoned me just this afternoon. She was feeling a bit depressed. "Whatever happened with all those review copies you sent out? Doesn't ANYBODY like my book?" Of course, I reassured her that reviews don't happen overnight, and that certainly her book merits glowing reviews.

Then what happened? I picked up the mail and there's your review! You've made December 9 a red-letter day here in Kansas! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Best regards,

Marcia Schutte, Publisher
Nonetheless Press

Subj: Central Ave. Press: Thank you for your review.
Date: 02-12-15 15:31:14 EST

Dear Jim,

Thank you for the kind review of Robert Swearingen's book, Street Milk, that appeared in the December issue of the Midwest Book Review's Small Publisher Bookwatch. We have enjoyed tremendous success with this collection of poetry in the four months since its publication, and owe that success in large part to the excellent resources that were available to us on the Midwest Book Review website. Taken as a whole, the vast amount of quality information available on your website gives an aspiring publisher a virtual college education in the publishing trade. I found myself staying awake far into the night reading articles on marketing, advertising, book reviews, publicity, and cover and interior design to mention just a few. I actually read every single article in your Advice for Publishers section several times. I shudder to think what our first publication would have looked like if we didn't have this information...

Thanks a lot Jim. I'm looking forward to sending you our second publication.


John Oelfke
Central Ave. Press

That's all for now. I hope this new year is off to a great start for you all! Until next time I bid you goodbye, good luck, and good publishing!

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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