Return to home
page Book Reviews, Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
Home / Jim Cox Reports / Jim Cox Report: July 2002
Home | Jim Cox Reports Index

Jim Cox Report: July 2002

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

June was another milestone of events both personal and professional. First the gossip, then some Q&A based "tips, tricks and techniques" applicable to small press publishing, and then I'll conclude with some of those much appreciated "unsolicited testimonials" about what we do here at the Midwest Book Review.


As of two weeks ago I have joined the legions of aging folk who must use "reading glasses".

All my life I had been near-sighted. Having to wear glasses to drive a car or watch television, but able to visually deal with even the tiniest of ISBN numbers or that small print at the bottom of contracts unaided.

Then, around last January, I had to start resorting to a magnifying glass for those teeny tiny ISBN numbers and author bio materials at the bottom of back covers and in publisher catalogs. So, I finally took myself into the optometrist and went through all that testing (which is better, this one or that one). I got fitted with prescription lenses for close work.

When I got my glasses, I put them on and picked up a paperback that I needed to review. It took all of about 30 seconds to realize that not only had I been squinting (magnifying glass in hand) at the backs of book covers, but it had spread to the newspaper and ordinary book reading. The impact of the instant ease with which I could now read only underscored that my vision had been deteriorating so slowly over so many years that I simply hadn't noticed how truly bad it had become.

And that includes typing email messages like this one!

I'm still resisting bifocals. When I succumb to bifocals I will have officially become my grandfather. And it's still four whole months before I turn 60 in November!

My computer science and webmaster daughter Bethany is proof positive that I am officially on the other side of this new electronic generation gap. I have long loathed those computer generated phone calls from telemarketers. Those are the ones that when the phone rings and you pick it up, you are then greeted with 3 or 4 seconds of silence before someone speaks. That's caused by the computer time lag between finding that the number it called got answered and that a human solicitor needed to be notified to start their spiel.

My electronic generation savvy daughter Bethany got me a "telezapper" that she picked up at Radio Shack. It cost about $50 and just plugged right into a phone jack and an electrical wall socket. Prior to plugging in the telezapper, I had been getting 3 and 4 of those computer generated telemarketing calls a day (my wife is on a lot of sucker lists because she's always donating to just about anyone who calls up and gives her a sob story). But the instant that telezapper was plugged in, all those calls (and I mean ALL) instantly stopped. We haven't had a single one come through ever since. That telezapper somehow recognizes that an incoming call is computer generated and then blocks it before it can ring. Then it erases our phone number from the offending computer! -- This is the one of the best $50 I've ever spent. I don't even know what the brand name is. Bethany says she bought it at Radio Shack.

I review DVD's and Videos from several sources ranging from Paramount Studios to PBS Home Video to the video producer equivalent of the self-publisher and the small press. The second thing Bethany did in July was to buy for the Midwest Book Review a DVD/Video combination deck and install it on our big screen TV. Now I can knock off in the afternoon and watch all those DVD and Video review copies from the comfort of my living room my easy chair. A vast improvement from the little 10" inch unit that sits perched upon the corner of my office desk, where I would watch them while doing other desktop stuff like processing emails and snail mails.

It was a very pleasant experience to find Jim Cox and the Midwest Book Review being cited and quoted several times in the new "how to" book on POD publishing from John F. Harnish: "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About POD Publishing But Didn't Know Who To Ask".

And topping off the month was an article of mine (Promoting Books On The Internet) getting the cover of "SPAN Connection", the newsletter of the Small Publishers Association of North America (Marilyn & Tom Ross's organization).

Those of you who don't get the SPAN newsletter can access the article in the "Advice For Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review website at

Now, on to those cogent answers to pressing questions on and about publishing:

In a message dated 02-02-27 22:30:05 EST, Cliff writes:

> I'm new to this. I'm trying to select a name for my publishing
> company. Are there lists of names of existing publishers (trade and
> independent, probably different list) so I can see if my name is
> already taken?

The first thing to do is to run your proposed name in a Google search to see if anything pops up. The URL for Google is

The second thing to do is to go to your local library and ask for the latest edition of either the Bowker or the Gale Research Group's publisher directories. If someone else has used the name you'd like, it will probably be in the directory.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-03-09 20:35:30 EST, Al Canton writes:

> First, one of the best ways to GET the media is to KNOW the media. When you
> read or hear something you like (or dislike) send a SHORT note to the writer or
> editor. They will return a note back to you and after a few times, boom, you
> have a "relationship."

Al's comments on the value of developing "relationships" and contacts in the media is dead on accurate. And I say that speaking as a veteran Media resource for the small press publishing industry.

Many is the book that made it into a review assignment _only_ because the publisher and/or author noted in their cover letters how they had heard me at some seminar, or saw me at some workshop, or appreciated my posts in some online forum.

It's harder to say no to someone you "know" than it is to the stranger at your door.

Simple human nature. -- And human nature is very much a part of what makes the business world (including publishing) operate in the ways it does.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-03-19 09:51:32 EST, writes:

> Thank you for the copy of the recent review of Bermuda Grass in MBR.

My pleasure. It's our standard practice to notify publishers when their books make the final cut and are featured.

> Please pardon my ignorance, but at the end of your letter you request our Spring
> 2002 catalog, publicity releases and "reviewer request form." I don't know
> what a "reviewer request form" is.

Virtually all the major New York houses and a number of University presses and independent publishers have what is called a "reviewer request form".

This is a listing of the publisher's new releases sent to reviewers like me with boxes to check off for those copies we want to see as they are published and become available to the reading public.

Sometimes a "reviewer request form" will also have boxes to check off for the reviewer to note whether they require galleys/uncorrected proofs or need the finished book (as is the case with us).

Very small publishers who put out fewer than ten titles a year really don't need such a form to expedite the reviewing process. But houses that put out ten or more books a month find it very helpful to control and anticipate review copy traffic.

> I will get off a copy of our catalog and
> we will continue to send you books--though I was under the impression that
> MBR preferred receiving finished books post publication.

That is a correct impression! And I look forward to your catalog.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-03-17 22:43:35 EST, you write:

> Good morning. I am an independent bookseller specializing in books about
> antiques, decorative arts, etc. You reviewed a book titled COUNTER
> on 2-5-02 (if my sources are correct).

> I have two customers seeking copies of this title, and although I believe I
> am well-informed, I do not know the publisher.
> Could you please provide that information (publisher) at your convenience?
> The book retails for around $20.00. Thank you very much.

> Nancy Johnson

The publisher is:

Princeton Architectural Press
37 East 7th St., New York NY 10003
Phone: 1-800-722-6657

Here is the review itself:

The small-statured Counter Culture by Steven Heller and Louise Fili (1568983042, $20.00) may too easily be missed on laden shelves, but is packed with a colorful survey of commercial culture examining how mini-mannequins and other counter displays both created art and appealed to consumer interests. Color photos of these mannequins pack the pages.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

{Note: The above is an example of how, every now and then, we get an inquiry from a bookseller based on their customer requests. It's rather nice to know people not only read our reviews, but use them to make requests at their local bookstores and libraries. When ever we get such inquiries I make it a personal point to always respond. Just another "above and beyond" contribution to the small press community in our efforts to promote literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.}

In a message dated 02-03-19 17:45:20 EST, Diana writes:

> I just got in first copies of my finished book "The Future of Fun: Evolving
> Entertainment and the Nature of Play" and was wondering about something. Is
> it considered bad form to go into your local library with a copy of the book
> and see if they'd like to read it and if they like it put it on the shelf? I ask
> this because the local libraries in my area are very friendly and they know
> me well, so going through a selection system for these locals seems like going
> out of my way not to be noticed. But I also don't want to do anything that would
> be considered taboo or bad form. Any advice?

If the acquisitions librarian of your local libraries is known to you -- then by all means make it a personal pitch (with due decorum). Be sure to present not only the book, but also your publicity release for their inspection.

And, of course, if the answer is no -- then accept it with good grace and a "thank you for your consideration" style commentary.

Jim Cox, Midwest Book Review
Acquisitions Consultant, Dane County Library System

In a message dated 02-03-21 13:38:21 EST, Fern Reiss writes:

> I know you don't review galleys, but maybe you'll want
> to take a look at my forthcoming "The Publishing Game:
> Bestseller in 30 Days" anyway--it mentions you as a
> reviewer :*) I can send you one next week if you have
> time to take a peek.

I'm always willing to look at my name in print! Thanks.

This is the second book this month that is coming out with a reference to me and the Midwest Book Review! (The other is "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About POD Publisher But Didn't Know To Ask").

It seems that I'm getting to be a popular fellow in the publishing "how to" field. :-)

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

{Note: All the articles I've written in that "Advice For Publishers" section of the MBR website or these "Jim Cox Reports" are available for reprint in organizational newsletters or "how to" books like Fern's and John's. I would appreciate knowing about it -- and I'm always available to critique any "how to" book in progress with respect to whatever material or citations of mine are being included. And I can always use copies of such newsletters or books to help document (for purposes of our grant renewals) the MBR efforts to fulfill our three-part mandate to promote literacy, libraries, and the small press community.}

In a message dated 02-03-25 11:04:09 EST, Steve Carlson writes:

> Shel, I have a hard time believing that anybody except Martha Stewart
> keeps a "listserver instructions folder" and she's not even on our list.

Pat isn't the only Martha Stewart clone in our little online community when it comes to listserv instruction management. I also created a file folder in my AOL email Personal Cabinet that I named "ListServe Instructions" and it contains the "how-to" emails from the dozen or so listserves, newsgroups, and newsletters I subscribe to.

The reason I did this is very simple -- I'm a computer-impaired guy with a swiss cheese memory. I've never gone no-mail but if I ever had to I'd be hopeless at searching out the instructions for doing same for the many and varied on-line discussion groups and email subscription lists that I'm on.

As it is, all those key instructional "how-to" emails are safely tucked away where I can actually remember where they are at in the event I should ever want to unsubscribe, change to digest, go no-mail for vacations, etc.

This is what I advise everyone who is a computer neophyte like me (just because I've been using the things since 1980 is _no_ guarantee that I ever know what I'm doing when it comes to computers!) so that if and when you have a problem with some online group you are (or would like to be) connected or disconnected with, your "how to" information will be at your easily accessed and virtual fingertips.

As for those superior life forms like Michael and Al and my computer science graduate daughter Bethany, who are demonstrated masters of the computer medium, I have only respect -- bordering on total green-eyed envy!!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-03-26 12:30:53 EST, Frank S. Joseph writes:

> I have written a novel. I don't intend or wish to publish it myself. (We are
> business-to-business publishers strictly.) This e-mail is to ask your kind
> indulgence for advice.
> You see the output of hundreds of small presses. Which one(s) do you think
> might be interested in a literary/mainstream novel whose "high concept" is:

The only advice I can give you is to try to secure a literary agent to shop it around the major publishers and the more established mid-sized independent houses. If that's not in the cards, then go to a really good independent bookstore and look at their fiction shelves trying to find books like yours and then note who published them.

The only other option I know of is to visit the "Trade Publishers" section of the "Book Lover Resources" page of the Midwest Book Review website. Then click on the links and examine their websites with an eye to finding ones that publish the sort of thing you've written.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 02-03-26 19:29:07 EST, Rochelle writes:

> Can anyone knowledgeable on copyright issues (Jim Cox, Ivan Hoffman?) tell
> me if it actually violates copyright laws to post more than 20 words or even to
> post the whole review? Of course, owns their site and has the
> last say on what is posted on it, but if this were truly part of the law then why
> would they leave much longer reviews predating the year 2000? I would like
> to write back politely protesting this limit -- it will be very hard to excerpt
> the current review I have from Booklist in 20 words, though I can get the
> essence into 36 words. I suspect this is simply a policy aimed at
> Advantage publishers, and it is certainly no advantage.

This is the first time I'd heard about the Amazon 20-word limit policy for posting third party reviews on a publisher's book page.

Ivan Hoffman is the copyright expert, but it's my clear understanding that "fair use" has nothing whatever to do with word count. You can have fair use with 20 or 200 words -- and you can have fair use violation with 20 or 200 words. The "fair use" is determined by other considerations, most especially the one being the context in which the quotation or citation is given.

The Midwest Book Review might be in something of a special position regarding Amazon in that I established a "content provider" relationship with them back in their very early days when Jeff Bezos was struggling to establish his innovative concepts about creating an online bookstore that would go on to alter the face of book selling forever.

Even so, I'm held to the same word count restrictions as any of the "Reader Reviews" that are posted. These are a "letter count limit" in the review title line/box and a word length limit in the actual review commentary message box.

I therefore learned long ago how to distill the occasional "essay length" review that some of my reviewers produce. And for that matter, how to "beef up" some of the really short and perhaps too succinct reviews that other reviewers would turn in.

One other thing: By Midwest Book Review policy, all rights for the reviews generated by our volunteer reviewers belong to the reviewers themselves. Not to the Midwest Book Review. We simply act as a non-exclusive forum in which the reviews are made available to the public.

Indeed, several of our most prolific reviewers have book review newsletters and websites of their own and simply utilize the Midwest Book Review as an extension or supplement or augmentation tool to expand their audiences.

Still other of our reviewers opt to do their own postings on Amazon and don't require me to do it for them in my capacity as editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review.

I suspect that outfits like Booklist do indeed claim ownership (and copyright) of the reviews that appear in their pages -- especially if their reviews are purchased from the reviewer or the reviewer is a paid staff member of their publication.

So now that Amazon is imposing a 20 word limit on a publisher posting third party reviews on their book's Amazon webpage, you have no choice but to comply.

And here's the trick to how to accomplish this task to your advantage.

Read the review in its entirety. And then excerpt from it as if you were composing a dust jacket blurb for the back of the next edition of the book.

Distill from that 150 word epic of a review the line or two that offers a promotionable quote and still make it under that artificially imposed 20 word, third party review limit.

And by all means -- if you have a positive quote from any third party originated review use it on your Amazon webpage!!!! (have I put in enough exclamation points to emphasize the importance of this? just in case I need to underscore the point a bit more I'll throw in a couple more) !!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

And now for some ego-boosting and kindly words of appreciation that have been echoing my way:

> Subj: Publishing with Students
> Date: 02-04-09 10:53:08 EDT
> From: (chris weber)
> Dear Mr. Cox,
> So good to talk with you just now. I greatly appreciate your kindness and patience in discussing with me your assigning "Publishing with Students" out for review. It was such good news to hear.
> Like I said, your website is a wellspring of valuable, practical information. I have read and reread almost all of its pages several times at lunch and in every spare moment. When my website (, I would like to set up a link to your website.
> I will write you more later, but I need to go to school now. Again, thank you so much for the wonderful chat, your valuable time, and assigning "Publishing with Students" out to review.
> Sincerely,
> Chris Weber

Note: The review for Chris Weber's book appears in our July "The Writing/Publishing Shelf" column for "Internet Bookwatch". Note that it was February when Chris first contacted me.

> Subj: How to Quit Church review
> Date: 02-04-10 21:51:56 EDT
> From: (Starke & Hartmann, Inc.)
> Dear Mr. Cox:
> Thank so much for the wonderful review of How to Quit Church Without Quitting God.
> May I have your permission to post the review in its entirety on our website? Of course, I will include Michael J. Carson's name and a link to Midwest Book Review's site. Additionally, I would like to include a blurb in the book on our next print run.
> Your advocacy of the small press is appreciated and your Web site is a wealth of information. Your posts (Pub-Forum and Self-Publishing) have helped me a great deal during the first year of our company.
> Sincerely,
> Kelly A. Stokoe
> Starke & Hartmann, Inc.

Note: All authors and publishers have full and automatic permission to utilize any MBR review on their websites or in their advertising in any manner they deem appropriate and useful in their efforts to promote and market the reviewed book. Just give Midwest Book Review the usual credit citation when doing so.

> Date: 02-02-02 14:49:16 EST
> From: (Judy Yero)
> Jim--
> Once more, a treasure of a report. I rarely read newsletters this long from beginning to end (mainly because most of what I find is advertising) but your letters are filled with so much useful information that I don't want to miss a word. I just hope that when I sent my book for possible review, I wrote my cover letter correctly!
> Fifteen minutes a day surfing the Internet?? Please tell me how one can acquire the discipline to limit it to fifteen minutes. Generally, I'll sit down thinking that I'll just check on a few sites and three hours later, my dog rather forcefully reminds me that I haven't been sufficiently attentive to her needs. In fact, I just spent two hours clicking on the Publisher Resource links on MBR.
> Thanks again for the service you provide to us "little guys." It's much appreciated.
> Judy Yero
> Teaching In Mind: How Teacher Thinking Shapes Education

Note: Everybody needs a hobby. Monitoring and promoting the small press community is mine. I don't smoke, I don't drink, and my wife won't let me chase the ladies, so aside from watching the old time comedies and dramas on the TV Land channel, my only vice is running the Midwest Book Review.

A fellow has to have some way of being useful to the world while passing what time we have to live on Planet Earth. Promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing simply happens to form the core what I can do at this stage of my life in order to be the most help to the most people. But's it's also very nice to know that my efforts are welcomed and appreciated by those I attempt to benefit.

> Subj: Judy Collier thanks you!
> Date: 02-05-11 12:45:33 EDT
> From: JKC 42
> To James Cox/Editor of The Midwest Book Review:
> Words cannot express how much I appreciate your reviewing my book, Quit Kissing My Ashes. When I opened your envelope and read your kind words, I felt as if I had won the lottery!!
> Because Quit Kissing My Ashes is my first writing endeavor, the book industry is an entirely new world to me. I recently returned from BookExpo in New York and many opportunities were presented to me and my attendance was a very positive experience.
> Also, I want you to share with you the timing of your review. While attending BookExpo I spoke with Quality Books Inc. Yesterday I completed filling out their form to mail to them along with a copy of Quit Kissing My Ashes for their consideration for the library market. Before I mailed the material to them, I checked my mailbox and your complimentary review was in my box! I was able to list your review.
> I do realize the importance of reviews, and The Midwest Book Review's consideration and time is greatly appreciated. Your encouraging words concerning the message Quit Kissing My Ashes portrays, I will forever be grateful for.
> Thank you again for reviewing Quit Kissing My Ashes.
> Sincerely,
> Judy Collier
> author, Quit Kissing My Ashes

Note: I think I'd better stop here with the "unsolicited testimonials" before I can't fit my head in my hat anymore!

If you'd like to submit your book for review, then send the finished title (no galleys or uncorrected proofs), accompanied by a press release and a cover letter to my attention.

If you'd like to get the "Jim Cox Report", just send me your email address and ask to be signed up -- it's free (and worth every penny I charge!) :-)

So until next time - good bye, good luck, and good reading!

Jim 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

Copyright ©2001

Site design by Williams Writing, Editing & Design