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Jim Cox Report: January 2010
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
It's the start of a new year. This last one was particularly tough on the publishing community. But as national economic reform measures continue to take hold, hopefully it will also be reflected with improvements in the economic performances of publishers large and small in the coming year. As with the publishers, so too with the Midwest Book Review.
As the Midwest Book Review begins this new year I find that our health insurance premiums for our paid staff have risen 11%. The monthly tab for our utility bills is up. So is the cost of everything from office supplies, to gasoline, to the phones, to property taxes on the building. It all culminating with my retiring as a paid employee for the Midwest Book Review and transferring to the status of an unpaid volunteer. It helped immensely in cutting down the payroll overhead and allowed the Midwest Book Review to essentially 'break even' by the conclusion of 2009.
So this time around I want to emphasize the importance of frugality in publishing. The basis for which is sound record keeping. It is vital for tax purposes, for budgeting purposes, and for controlling expenditures and tracking revenue streams.
Failure to plan soundly with respect to investment capital, failure to stick within the parameters of a budget, failure to accurately record both expenses and revenue, is the single largest cause of a publishing enterprise business failure that I know of.
I'm a great believer in jobbing out to subcontractors (be they editors, designers, illustrators, book binders, distributors, publicists, etc.) -- as long as you have the financial capital to afford it.
When you don't have that financing in place, then the proper alternative is to learn how to 'do it yourself'. That means that in addition to a financial capital investment, a publisher is going to have to make a 'sweat equity' investment in terms of time and labor. The good news is that this is exactly the kind of investment upon which tremendous returns can accrue to a publisher's bottom-line. Learning a new publishing skill is an investment that can keep on making returns publishing project after publishing project.
That's where 'how to' books come into play. For every aspect of the publishing project, from setting up and office management, to manuscript solicitation and acquisition, to the various and varied technologies of the publishing process, to book marketing publicity, promotion, distribution and sales, there are a wealth of books written by seasoned professionals to take even the most novice beginners and teach them everything they need to know, step-by-step, to turn out a professionally competitive book in today's fiercely competitive marketplace.
You will find a huge data base of succinctly written reviews of 'how to' books for publishers on the Midwest Book Review web site at:
Our web site is specifically designed as an educational repository where anyone can learn how to be a publisher, how to become a better publisher, how to become a more profitable publisher.
Oh, and for you folk that simply want to successfully write books that other folks will publish for you, the check out another Midwest Book Review web site data base of 'how to' books on virtually all aspects of writing (including how to get a literary agent) which you will find at:
Now for reviews of some 'how to' books on writing and publishing that have crossed my desk this past month:
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
Writing And Publishing
Carol Smallwood, editor
c/o American Library Association
50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611
9780838909966, $65.00, www.amazon.com
Most community libraries have some form of newsletter designed to provide information to their patrons. Often these newsletters are the responsibility of an associated 'Friends of the Library' group. Along with such information as operating hours, book sales, special events like summer reading programs, and introductory bios of library staff members, are lists of books newly arrived. One of the most useful things such newsletters can afford the public is the inclusion of reviews for these new arrivals. That's why "Writing And Publishing: The Librarians' Handbook" by professional author and editor Carol Smallwood will prove to be such an invaluable instructional reference and resource with its succinct and thoroughly 'user friendly' information on how to write book reviews for not only library newsletters, but library websites, librarian and personal blogs, online book review columns, and more. Whether writing formal or informal book reviews, from getting started to writing with others as a joint project, to compiling bibliographies to creating news releases to writing on specific subjects, "Writing And Publishing" is an ideal 224-page compendium of practical information that will prove indispensable for the novice and provide a great deal of value for seasoned professionals as well.
The Making of a Story
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
9780393337082 $18.95 www.wwnorton.com
Alice LaPlante pours her fifteen years of experience as a writer and educator into The Making of a Story, a solid and instructional guide to writing, from inspiration to the process of getting ideas on paper to editing and refining one's work. Presented in a format that lends to being read straight through or used as a reference tool in response to specific issues, The Making of a Story is accessible, user-friendly, packed with examples and an all-around solid pick for aspiring writers everywhere. "One good way to think about openings is to think in terms of balance. Either things are out of kilter, or they will soon be; there's an imbalance, or a missing link, some mystery about what is happening that draws us into the story. It can be subtle... but it has to be there."
Writers And Their Notebooks
Diana M. Raab, editor
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
9781570038662 $24.95 www.sc.edu/uscpress 1-800-768-2500
Writers And Their Notebooks is an anthology of essays by established and professional writers, discussing the value of simple notebooks to collect ideas, play around with words, discover new insights into evoking emotion with language, and much more. From sample journal entries that evolved into published pieces, to valuable advice for aspiring writers, to individual approaches to notebook keeping and much more, Writers And Their Notebooks is filled with tips, tricks, and techniques for getting creative juices flowing. An excellent supplementary reference for any would-be writer's shelf.
The Elements of Subtitles
Language is a hard thing to show through text alone, especially when you have dialogue and nothing else. The Elements of Subtitles discusses translating and subtitling modern media and explains that subtitles need to be more than literal translations, and need to truly grasp the nature of the subject. The Elements of Subtitles is a must for anyone who wants to get into the world of translation or simply gain an understanding of why things are done the way they are with foreign media. Practical, user friendly, and replete with illustrative examples, The Elements Of Subtitles will prove to be of immense and practical value for anyone engaged in translating written expressions from other languages into English.
Girl in a Library
5101 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110
9781886157668, $16.95, www.umkc.edu/bkmk
Writing is a key way of expressing oneself. "Girl in a Library: On Women Writers & the Writing Life" reflects on the writing life and how women's face unique and special challenges that women writers pursuing writing as a career, and the unique lifestyle that comes with this pursuit. Profound and poignant writing which has much for readers to read into and relate to, "Girl in a Library" is a worthwhile addition to any memoir collection focusing on the trade and life of writing.
Bang The Keys
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, NY, NY 10014-3658
9781592579143, $16.95, www.amazon.com
Writing, whether it's the next 'Great American Novel' or an article for a local magazine or newsletter, begins with an idea that must be arranged into an orderly presentation that will interest, involve, and engage the reader. That's why "Bang The Keys" by writing coach and editor Jill Dearman is such an invaluable instructional resource for the novice writer, with an enduring and practical value for even the more experienced author. Beginning with a four-step writing process; then proceeding with setting writing hours and goals, "Bang The Keys" covers such diverse factors, tools, and aids as the use of a 'writing buddy', meditation, writing journals, the natural structure of a story, utilizing dreams, writing an ending and working through a story backwards to the beginning, meeting deadlines, and so much more. Enhanced with an extensive ten page resource guide and a comprehensive index, "Bang The Keys" is a thoroughly 'user friendly', highly recommended and highly rewarding read.
Now here are some Q&A's on writing and publishing:
In a message dated 12/7/2009 4:50:08 P.M. Central Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
I'm surprised and confused by your policy requiring "Two finished copies of the book (no galleys or uncorrected proofs). "
We have a book with a pub date or 4/1/10 (www.silversandsbooks.com/storiesbookinfo.html ). Since early this month, we've been sending out ARCs to publications that require review copies three to four months in advance of publication, but none of them seem to have a policy like yours prohibiting uncorrected proofs.
Our ARCs are bound with color covers very close to what will be sold next April. Inside text is probably 99% correct, but will need a few corrections in punctuation and typography. My editor and I planned to make the corrections at leisure, and to complete them by next February or March.
If we wait that long to produce final books, we'll miss your 14-16 week window; but it will be difficult to produce final books quickly because of other commitments.
I hope you'll consider accepting our ARC. While I admit that it is not quite ready for prime time, I do know that it is in better condition than some books that have been released to the public.
Thanks very much for your consideration and for providing an important service.
Michael N. Marcus
Silver Sands Books
There are two kinds of book reviews:
Prepublication (e.g. Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal)
Post-publication (e.g. trade magazines, TV shows, Midwest Book Review).
The reason we are a post-publication review is that all of our reviewers are unpaid volunteers whose only compensation is that they get to keep the books they review and dispose of them as they wish. For almost all of them they sell their review copies as a source of revenue in compensation for their time and effort.
That's why they will inevitably pass over a galley, proof or ARC in favor of a published book. It's also why published books that are heavily stamped "Review Copy - Do Not Sell" also have a very hard time obtaining a review assignment. Receiving as we do an average of 2300 titles a month seeking review from one of our 76 reviewers, the competition with pristine, finished copies is just too great for any ARC, galley or proof to compete with successfully.
You might be interested in reading the informational and instructional articles I've written on book reviewing, the book review process, spotting a phony book reviewer, etc. which are all archived on the Midwest Book Review website at:
Yours is a question that is commonly asked, therefore I'm going to include this little Q&A in one of my monthly columns of advice and commentary for the publishing industry called the "Jim Cox Report".
Midwest Book Review
In a message dated 12/31/2008 10:33:14 A.M. Central Standard Time,
I tried doing a search on this site about book reviewers. I got over 2400 hits. I really don't have the time to go through them all. So I am appealing to your good nature and asking a question.
How does one find offline book reviewers? You know, the old-fashion book reviewers like the New York Times, etc.
I have a book that doesn't seem to fit into any particular genre except fiction. So I am at a loss as to how to get this book reviewed. With my non-fiction book I didn't go that route but I need to do it with book.
Any help will be greatly appreciated! Thank you!
Go to the Midwest Book Review website at www.midwestbookreview.com
Click on "Other Reviewers"
This is a huge database of freelance book reviewers, book review magazines and publications, book review websites, etc. Scroll down the list (is a long one!) and when you see one that looks promising, just click on it. You'll be zapped to that particular web site. Read through it and you'll be able to determine if they are thematically appropriate for your particular book -- and if so, what their submission guidelines are.
Midwest Book Review
In a message dated 3/4/2009 5:10:40 P.M. Central Standard Time, email@example.com writes:
Please say the role of a reviewer isn't to take books sent in good faith and then sell them at Amazon! Not that your group does that. But it is just horrendous how many others do.
I don't sell review books on Amazon or on any other on-line venue.
Freelance reviewers often do sell review copies on Amazon and elsewhere simply because that book they received, spent time on, and (hopefully) a modicum of effort and expertise to produce a review, and then provided that review to the publisher for use in the publisher's marketing program, is there only source of revenue they have as a freelance reviewer.
If you are seeking only to provide review copies to freelance reviewers who review for the simply joy of doing so, and who will seek no commercial return for their work by selling off review copies -- you will find such generous souls, but they will be few and far between.
As for reviewers who are hired on for a specific book by an established book review publication (such as Publishers Weekly, the Library Journal, or Foreword magazine) you should know that the fees paid pretty much amount to minimum wage -- and the sale of that review copy after the review is done is pretty much the only way even those folk are able to support their profession. PW and LJ only deal with manuscripts, galleys, and proofs -- but even those have a re-sell market.
The key to economic value for the publisher is to insure that review copies are only sent out to legitimate and thematically appropriate reviewers. The only way to do that is to take the time to vette those reviewers before hand because there are always scam artists out there in the big wide world seeking to rip off any and all they can. It's one of the reasons that among the very first 'how to' articles I ever wrote for the publishing community was "How To Spot A Phony Book Reviewer" -- and why after all these many years it is still one of the most widely read of all the 'how to' articles I've archived on the Midwest Book Review website's "Advice for Writers & Publishers" section.
So while the role of a reviewer isn't to become a book seller, selling review copies is pretty much what professionals need to do simply to make it financially possible for them to engage in the profession of book reviewing.
Unless, of course, they married wealthy or are otherwise financially independent!
Midwest Book Review
In a message dated 3/17/2009 1:41:49 P.M. Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org
next month, i am going to send them a book for review. i remember reading that they appreciate receiving stamps. i planned to send a book of stamps, but i'm wondering how many stamps most people send. i don't want to appear to be cheap. and help would be greatly appreciated.
While postage stamp donations are always welcome and appreciated as gestures of appreciation and support for what we here at the Midwest Book Review try to accomplish in behalf of the small press community, I want to emphasize that they are never required.
I've had as few as a couple of stamps and as many as a couple of hundred come in as donations.
Personally I'm a great fan of the "Widow's Mite" story by Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the New Testament. In my experience, folks tend to donate whatever they can -- and I suspect more than a few of having donated more than they really could afford to at the time. It's all an outgrowth of how grateful some self-published authors and fledgling small presses feel when somebody pays attention to their work and gives them a little bit of a helping hand (publicity and promotion wise) through providing a review of their book(s).
While I'm on the subject, every once in a while someone will send in a check for a postage stamp donation. That's perfectly okay (some folk can't readily get to a post office), but when doing so, please remember to write something like 'Postage Stamp Donation' in that lower left hand corner line of the check so that I'll know what it's for. Otherwise I have to return the check.
You might also like to know that I occasionally receive Canadian postage stamps from Canadian authors and publishers. I can't use those in the U.S. so I donate them to a couple of Canadian non-profit literary organizations.
I even once got a bunch of international postage vouchers from a grateful author in France. I had no idea of how to use them so I donated them to a University of Wisconsin librarian who was going to a convention in London on Medieval Literature. She used them to mail back materials to her library while she was overseas.
Midwest Book Review
As is customary, I'm going to conclude this issue of the "Jim Cox Report" with "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:
Ann Tufariello -- "The Breakthrough"
Sandra Worth -- "The King's Daughter"
Harriett Ruderman -- "The Laceyville Monkeys"
Bernard Ryan Jr. -- "A Boy at the Four Corners"
Rose Path Press
Abaton Book Company
Perfecting Parenting Press
Sydney Jordan -- Community Press
Emily Weiss -- Bascom Hill Publishing
Kylea Taylor -- Hanford Mead Publishers
Judith Palmateer -- Amber Skye Publishing
John Andre Courchesne -- Old Anawan Press
Linda L. Isaacs -- New Spring Press
Dave Smitherman -- Palari Publishing
Martin Watkins -- Windcall Publishing
Larry McCabe -- Red Dog Music Books
John McCarthy -- Boathouse Entertainment
Rebecca Rossi -- Buttery Moon Multimedia
Roger W. Nielsen -- R.W. Nielsen Company
Barrett M. Crawford -- Dillon & Parker Publishing
Isabella Michon -- ImMedia Publicity
Bob Nelson -- Nelson Motivation
Elizabeth Waldman -- Waldmania!
Kim Swanstrom -- Atlas Books Distribution
Edward D. Curry -- Target Marketing Management Consulting
Angel Healing House Publishing
Apker & Foth Marketing Communications
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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