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Jim Cox Report: July 2008
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
As I write this it is the Fourth of July and I've got the office all to myself. No telephone calls or deadline crises to distract me. Oh the sweet, sweet luxury of it all!
On a personal note, my Social Security application interview went smoothly. I get my first check on the second Sunday of October -- and every month there after until I die or the United States Treasury goes broke. It is now quite clear that, as so many other folk of my generation, I cannot afford to retire. Fortunately, my job as the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review is also my passion, my recreation, and my reason for getting up in the morning.
Last week we upgraded the office computer. The old one (only five years old and my staff tell me that it's drastically out of date!) was replaced with a new one that is faster, has tons more memory, and can carry on doing four different things simultaneous. Apparently the old one could only do two things simultaneously. Which was okay by me because I can only do one thing simultaneously. But the staff prevailed -- as is usual in such matters.
Time and progress march on with remorseless inevitability for both book review editors and their computers!
I also got word last week that some of the email publisher folk were sending us at firstname.lastname@example.org was being bounced back to them with a message that our mailbox was full. I thought at first that it was the new computer screwing up. But my webmaster daughter tracked down the problem. It lay with our Corecom ISP -- it seems that they had just this past couple of weeks had upgraded their computers and they had found a few bugs they needed to work out -- like automatically forwarding emails to me with the result that they were piling up at the ISP and thereby clogging my mailbox without my knowing it!
Hopefully the problem has now been cured. But if anyone has sent me an email@example.com email in the past couple of weeks only to have it bounce back, try sending it again to our other email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
That's the AOL email account which is quite different from the one through Corecom and is functioning just fine.
The current economic situation is continuing to sour. One interesting side effect is the impact of a worsening economy on the publishing industry in general, and public library systems in particular. Book sales are experiencing a recession-era slump (especially in online sales), but community libraries are reporting steady increases in the numbers of people they are servicing and the number of books being checked out.
As traditional publishing houses are cutting back their lists because they are pretty much all owned by their corporate masters who seek a profitable bottom line no matter how desperate the measures they must take to achieve it, aspiring writers and mid-list authors are struggling harder than ever to get published (and stay published) along conventional lines.
That means that self-publishing in all its forms and formats continues to flourish. It's a shame that the sales figures for such titles still are odds on against recouping the investment of their hopeful authors. The problem to being financially successful as an author are the universal obstacles of a weakening economy diminishing the amount of recreational spending devoted to the purchase of reading materials, coupled with increasing costs of production and distribution (even the price of postage has gone up), combined with the perennial difficulties so notoriously associated with self-publishing such as a lack of appropriate editing, non-commercially viable cover art, and having to master the learning curve associated with marketing books in a fiercely competitive and volatile industry.
So what accounts for the continued rise in the numbers of self-publishing authors?
I think it is a complex compound of hope, naivety, compulsion, and wanting to leave a mark upon the literate world.
Because one of the mission statement goals of the Midwest Book Review is to promote small press publishing (which includes self-publishing), I can only aspire to encourage that such hope be leavened with realism, that naivety be remedied with reliable information, that compulsion be channeled effectively into mastering the skills and expertise marketing books requires, and that mark upon the world be as indelible and as enduring as possible.
If I were restricted to just offering one single piece of advice to anyone seeking the self-publication route it would be this:
For any and all services you need to hire done in order to publish and market your book, be sure to get at least three bids for those needed and paid for services. This will help to insure that you get your money's worth and conserve as best you can your limited investment capital.
Now here are my opinions and assessments with respect to the new 'how to' titles for authors and publishers to have crossed my desk this past month.
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
A Writer's Space
57 Littlefield Street, Avon, MA 02322
9781598694604, $12.95, www.adamsmedia.com
Writing is an art form, and all artists need a place to brainstorm and ponder their ideas – both mentally and physically. "A Writer's Space: Make a Room to Dream, to Work, to Write" recognizes this fact and gives advice for writers on how to create this space. Finding one's inner muse, optimizing one's time with the pen or keyboard, and creating both an office and ritual are all topics covered in this fine guide for any artist, whether with literary goals or not. "A Writer's Space: Make a Room to Dream, to Work, to Write" is highly recommended for community library writing and publishing collections.
The Soul of Creative Writing
300 McGaw Drive-Raritan Center, Edison, NJ 08837
1412807468, $34.95, www.transactionpub.com
Language is one concept that unites the entire human species as a whole – and working with it can be one of its greatest art forms. "The Soul of Creative Writing" is an in-depth guide to better understanding language as a whole, created to help aspiring writers use the knowledge they gain to create great and marvelous writing of their own. A first rate handbook for aspiring authors of any type of creative writing, be it short stories, novels, or poetry, "The Soul of Creative Writing" is a must for any community library collections gathering books on writing.
Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing
Wendy Despain, editor
A K Peters, Ltd.
888 Worcester Street, Suite 230, Wellesley, MA 02482
9781568814162, $39.00 www.akpeters.com
Written and edited by members of the International Game Developers Association, Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing is a no-nonsense guide to the professional craft of writing the story, narrative, dialogue, tutorials, manuals, strategy guides, and anything else that needs to be written for modern-day video games. All contributors are themselves seasoned video game writers; they give the down and dirty on how to break into the business, what it means to be part of a writing team, principles of narrative design, and much, much more. Script samples offer illuminating examples that enhance this absolute "must-have" for anyone contemplating or pursuing a career in video game writing or technical writing, even (or especially) if they already have experience in crafting standard prose.
The Author's Guide To Building An Online Platform
Quill Driver Books
1254 Commerce Avenue, Sanger, CA 93657
9781884956829, $14.95, www.quilldriverbooks.com, 1-800-497-4909
Many a novice author often fails to realize that when their book is published the responsibility for publicizing, promoting, marketing, and selling that book is mostly (if not entirely!) going to be on their shoulders. The good news is that the art and science of successfully selling a book in today's volatile and competitive marketplace can be done on as small a budget as $20 for the template of a website or blog. For those who don't know how to accomplish such a feat, book marketing expert Stephanie Chandler has written "The Author's Guide To Building An Onlkine Platform: Leveraging The Internet To Sell More Books", a step-by-step, articulate and practical compendium of instructions and advice. Chapters cover how to go about launching a website or blog; how to determine the target audience for a book; what kind of information will be needed to interest the intended readership of a book; how to optimize a website with search engines; the principles and techniques of publishing a monthly electronic newsletter and building a mailing list; and keeping up the struggle to bring a book to the attention of those most likely to be persuaded to buy it! Simply stated, "The Author's Guide To Building An Online Platform" is an ideal instruction manual that will materially assist any writer seeking to build a long-term career for themselves as published authors.
Compositions: Notes on the Written Word
Naomi Beth Wakan
Wolsak and Wynn Publishers
69 Hughson Street North, Ste. 102, Hamilton, ON Canada L8R 1G5
9781894987257, $19.00, www.wolsakandwynn.ca
Writing can be an adventure within itself. "Compositions: Notes on the Written Word" collects author and poet Naomi Beth Wakan's journeys through the struggles and agony that is the writing process. Offering advice as well as reflections, her stories all have something within that any writers can relate to. An in-depth look into the mind of a poet, "Compositions: Notes on the Written Word" is highly recommended for community library writing and publishing collections.
The Journey from the Center to the Page, Revise and Updated
27 Lamoree Road, Rhinebeck, NY 12572
9780976684381, $16.00, www.monkfishpublishing.com
Writing and Yoga are two concepts alien from one another, or so one would think. "The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writings" is author and Yoga enthusiast Jeff Davis' guide to combining these two loves. Advising readers to channel their spirit to enhance their writing and immerse themselves in their work, his tips and suggestions are as sound as his soul. "The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writings" is highly recommended to any writer looking to unleash the best of themselves and for community library Spirituality and Writing collections.
Now for some Q&A from the Midwest Book Review email box:
I'm always happy to hear from folks who are neither authors or publishers but just plain book folk. Here's an example of what I mean:
In a message dated 1/19/2008 7:42:43 P.M. Central Standard Time, email@example.com writes:
My daughter and I have been given a bunch of books without publication dates in them. They are from my Grandfather ( born in 1896). How would you date them? We are just curious for historic sake rather then monetary value.
They would have publication dates in the early 1900s -- unless they were pirated editions.
You need the professional assistance of an antiquarian book dealer to answer your specific dating questions for specific titles. You will find a list of antiquarian book dealers on the Midwest Book review website at http://www.midwestbookreview.com in the section called "Book Lover Resources".
Midwest Book Review
I spoke earlier about a learning curve with respect to marketing books. Here's an example of that:
In a message dated 1/22/2008 1:28:03 A.M. Central Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Dear Mr. Cox:
A bookstore that has show interest in my self-published book has asked me, "What will be your supplying terms and require discount?"
Are there any articles on your site that could help me with this?
What are "supplying terms?"
What is the standard discount from publishers to bookstores?
I've not written any articles specific to publisher terms and discounts for independent bookstores. But with respect to your particular questions:
1. "Supply Terms" usually refers to whether or not there are minimum number of titles for an order from a bookstore; how the books will be shipped (UPS, USPS, FedEX, etc.); the time it will take for an order to be processed and sent out (e.g. 24 hours, 48 hours, etc); the discount schedule available (usually the more titles the bigger the discount up to a maximum), book returns policy, who pays the shipping costs, the payment terms (such as whether or not payment is in advance, or credit is available, the use of credit cards, checks, cash or money orders).
2. The discount can be anywhere from none to 50%. It depends on your production unit costs, whatever your sliding scale of discounts will be based on the numbers of copies in a given purchase order.
If I was to pick an average for a publisher to bookstore wholesale discount it would be 30% for a single copy order, 40% for 2 - 5 copies, and 45% for orders of 6 - 10; and 50% for more than 10. But you have to remember to calculate your production costs.
Midwest Book Review
I also get questions from time to time about audio book publishing. Here's an example of that:
In a message dated 1/23/2008 6:52:34 A.M. Central Standard Time, email@example.com writes:
Does anyone have information about submitting for prepublication audio
1. What would an audio galley look like? A CD copy with jacket proofs?
2. Does anyone have a list of prepublication audio reviewers - I didn't
find much online with the big five - ALA Booklist is the only one that
calls out audio reviews specifically.
3. Any other suggestions?
The resource you want is the Audio Publishers Association website at
My advice is to send audiobook reviewers and review publications finished
copies of your audiobook for review (accompanied by a cover letter and some
form of publicity release or media kit) because most of them (us) prefer to
review the packaged audiobook in the same form that it would be encountered by a
librarian, audiobook seller, and the general public.
By the way, I'm one of the judges for the Audio Publishers Association annual
"Audie Awards" contest and I do a regular monthly review column called
"The Audiobook Shelf".
Midwest Book Review
Every author and all publishers must have a marketing budget with that eternal question as to how much to allocate for paid advertising and how much for alternative means of marketing outreach. Here's a case in point:
In a message dated 1/23/2008 11:40:24 A.M. Central Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Where do you recommend that I inexpensively advertise fiction books? $100 - $200
An ad in the New York Review of Books netted only one sale.
I thank you in advance for your answer.
Paid advertising is almost always a losing proposition when it comes to marketing books. As you have discovered with your ad in the "New York Review of Books" you basically threw money down a rabbit hole.
Put your financial investment into obtaining good reviews from legitimate reviewers with forums and formats that will put the word out about your book. Good reviews on Amazon.com will sell more copies than paid advertisements in Publisher's Weekly.
Put your time into writing articles for thematically appropriate online discussion groups that incidentally promote your book.
Learn how to 'hand sell' your books by giving talks at bookstores, friends of the library groups, and other forums.
Make the rounds of regional library conventions hawking your books for library collections.
Built a dynamite website that is more than just the cyberspace equivalent of a broadsheet so as to induce visitors to return again and again and again.
Midwest Book Review
I'm now going to conclude this rather extensive 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:
Robert S. Swiatek
Darlien C. Breeze
V. J. Waks -- "Tau 4"
Linda Athis -- "Forgiving Mom"
Bob Sonstroem -- "Diamond Rewards"
Henry Hoffman -- "Drums Along The Jacks Fork"
Nick Dao -- "Home Away From Home"
John Orozco -- "Eddie and the Inmates"
Gary Craig -- "The EFT Manual"
Sam Moffie -- "The Organ Grinder and the Monkey"
Robert Blumenstein -- "Snapping The String"
Stokely Gittens -- "Peter Paul: The Chase Begins"
Front Porch Press
The Learning Station
Pilgrim's Tales Inc.
Dreams Shared Publications
Palmyra Publishing Company
Milton Kahn Associates Inc.
Grassroots Publishing Group Inc.
Ram Ganeshan -- Ram Publications
Jo A. Wilkins -- Mystic Publishers
Jessica Rutherford -- Dream Time
Charyl Nccomas -- TM Books & Video
Linda Aschbrenner -- Marsh River Editions
David A. Lawrence -- Glacier Dog Publishing
Eddrick Dejuan -- Atonement Publishing LLC
Charles L. Convis -- Pioneer Press
Robert L. Giron -- Gival Press LLC
Diana Go -- Simplex Publications
Bert Atwood -- AAAA Publishing
Portia M. Little -- Panntree Press
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 or uncorrected proofs), 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!
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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