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Jim Cox Report: July 2010
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
I was listening to the radio as I was getting up this morning and the half-hour Sunday morning program "Media Watch" was on. The subject was the book industry -- past, present, and future. One cited statistical figure caught my attention in particular. The number of books being published annual in this country now exceeds half a million titles.
The Midwest Book Review receives an average of 2,300 titles a month. With 12 months in the year my little calculator show that to be around 27,600 titles a year.
That means that last year there were some 472,400 titles that I never saw.
One more little statistic. Each month the Midwest Book Review averages about 650 reviews. That means around 7,800 reviews a year.
I'd be interested if anyone knows the numbers of submissions vs. the numbers of reviews the other major book reviews receive and produce over the course of an average year.
Interesting statistics -- and relevant for anyone seeking to gauge just what they are up against should they want to write and/or publish books.
With respect to reviews and reviewers:
1. Freelance reviewers own the rights to their reviews, unless they sell those rights along with their reviews to a publication. Reviewers who receive a salary from the publication that publishes their reviews do not own those rights -- the publication does.
2. With respect to reviews generated by and for the Midwest Book Review, authors and publishers are automatically given full permission to utilize the review in any manner they deem useful to promote and market their books.
For a good many years during the 1960s and 1970s, Madison, Wisconsin alternated with Berkeley, California for first place in the nation in numbers of books purchased per capita of the population. Those were the glory days and will not come again in what remains of my life time.
I keep tabs with those book stores that still survive and the news these past 18 months or so is grim indeed. Four bookstores have closed their doors in just this last year. Three more won't still be open by the end of this year.
The handful of independent bookstores left are all dependent on their online business to keep their doors open. Because of the Great Recession, online sales are steadily eroding.
It's just a fact of doing business in the book selling world as it exists today.
Next to community libraries, community bookstores were my personal sanctuary from the stresses of life from early childhood through my young adulthood. Of course, that was an age before the coming of the personal computer and the Internet and the Baby Boom and 250 television channels via cable or satellite.
It was an age that I've come to look back upon fondly -- a kind of 'golden age' for bibliophiles like me who would rather browse for hours amongst dusty shelves of forgotten tomes in local independent bookstores, than sit mesmerized into the idiocy that is the common pap of 'Reality TV' which passes itself off as meaningful reflections of contemporary life and culture today.
"Book Publicity on a Shoestring" has been added to the Advice for Publishers section at:
Now on to reviews of a number of new titles on writing and publishing:
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
John Killick & Myra Schneider
80 Maiden Lane, Suite 704, New York, NY 10038
9781847062529, $21.95, www.continuumbooks.com
A little piece of you is in everything you write, so you may as well relish it. "Writing Yourself: Transforming Personal Material" is a guide and discussion to transforming one's own personal writing into useful subject matter for multiple uses to the more obvious application of memoir to the more creative applications in mediums such as poetry and novels. "Writing Yourself" is filled with creative ideas and thoughts, making for a thoughtful resource for many writers.
The Writer's Portable Mentor
PO Box 95145, Seattle, WA 98145-2145
97809842108, $17.95, www.wallingford.com
Finding that muse and keeping going is the hardest thing about the call of writing. "The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life" is a reference for writers who want to be driven to improve themselves and their work, and most importantly to keep writing. Author Priscilla Long gives readers a list of advice on improving their work to publishable quality and keeping one's spirits up. "The Writer's Portable Mentor" is a choice advisory and very highly recommended.
A Path To Publishing
9781451580587, $15.00, www.amazon.com
In "A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book", author Ed Cyzewski lays out with informative detail his experiences and 'lessons learned' when he published his first book "Coffeehouse Theology". Enhancing and expanding on his own experiences in writing and marketing a self-published book, Ed Cyzewski also draws upon illustrative case studies as he moves the reader through the process of self-publication step-by-step and chapter by chapter. Of special note are the chapters focused on Preparing Your Proposal; Publishing Options; Working with an Editor; and Marketing Your Work. Thoroughly 'user friendly' and superbly presented, "A Path to Publishing: What I Learned by Publishing a Nonfiction Book" is a very strongly recommended read for any and all aspiring writers seeking to turn their manuscripts into profitably published books.
On Books and Writers
Matthew J. Bruccoli
The University of South Carolina Press
1600 Hampton Street, 5th Floor, Columbia, SC 29208
Writing is a passion and calling, and some people turn it into a life. "On Books and Writers" is a love letter to writing from Matthew J. Bruccoli who has made it a half century of devotion to the craft of writing, as he demonstrates with pieces he has composed over the years on the subject, proving a scholarly and educational collection on the subject. With a unique voice and much wisdom and advice for those pursuing the craft themselves, "On Books and Writers" is a fine collection not to be missed for any literary studies or guides on writing collection.
Five Rivers Chapmanry
704 Queen Street, PO Box 293, Neustadt, ON, Canada, N0G 2M0
Professional writer and communications instructor Paul Lima presents two invaluable writing guides, references, and aids, for authors and aspiring authors of all skill and experience levels. "(re)Discover the Joy of Creative Writing" (9780986563003, $14.95) features almost fifty exercises to stimulate ideas, practice one's craft, and (re-)experience the joy of scripting believable characters, literary world, and soul-searching insights. From word associations to tapping the power of childhood memories to 'What if?' speculation and journal exercises, "(re)Discover the Joy of Creative Writing" is a hands-on treasury of tips, tricks, techniques, and tools to motivate and refine one's art. "How to Write a Non-fiction Book in 60 Days" (9780973927849, $14.95) outlines how to apply desire, discipline, and dedication to creating a publishable nonfiction reference. "How to Write a Non-fiction Book in 60 Days" describes what to do during the first ten days of the process in-depth, from brainstorming and clustering to assessing the language skill of one's audience to documenting one's research, creating a logical flow, creating the outline, and much more. The rest of the sixty days is divided into focusing on the writing, and editing/polishing. A handy, practical, and methodical guide, invaluable to anyone seeking to organize, present, and publish their personal expertise. Both guides are worthy of the highest recommendation.
Writing Reviews For Readers' Advisory
c/o American Library Association
50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611
9780838910177, $45.00, www.amazon.com
Book reviews are the primary source of information librarians utilize in their acquisition decision making process. They are also a major marketing tool employed by publishers with respect to both the bookseller and the general reading public. In "Writing Reviews for Readers' Advisory", book reviewer Brad Hooper addresses several relevant issues with respect to the reviewing of books. These issues range from the differences and distinctions between reviews and literary criticism; pre-publication and post-publication reviews; what constitutes a book review; what defines a good reviewer. Of special note is the chapter devoted to reviewing audio books by Joyce Saricks. Enhanced with information on review writing workshops, a bibliography, an index, an appendices of writing annotations and Hooper's favorite reviewers, "Writing Reviews for Readers' Advisory" will prove informatively illuminating to authors with respect to the book reviewing process, as well as being a highly recommended addition to library reference collections and the supplemental reading lists of aspiring and practicing book reviewers.
About The Author
Nicholas A. Basbanes
Fine Books Press
4905 Pine Cone Drive, #2, Durham, NC 27707
9780979949135, $27.95, www.amazon.com
Nicholas Basbanes was literary editor of the Worcester, Massachusetts Telegram & Gazette from 1978-1991, in which capacity he was able to interview hundreds of authors whose publicity tours took them through the city of Boston. In "About the Author: Inside the Creative Process", Basbanes draws upon his conversations with an immense diversity of literary greats ranging from Alfred Kazin, Arthur Miller, John Updike, and Toni Morrison, to Doris Lessing, Kurt Vonnegut, Neil Simon and Alice Walker, to explore the motivations and processes that authors experience and utilize to create their novels, poetry, histories, and other literary works. A fascinating read from beginning to end, this 246-page compendium is as informed and informative as it is insightful and inspiring. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, "About the Author: Inside the Creative Process" is highly recommended reading and a seminal work for both academic and community library Literary Studies reference collections.
Write That Book Already!
Sam Barry & Kathi Kamen Goldmark
Adams Media Corporation
57 Littlefield Street, 2nd floor, Avon, MA 02322
9781605501475, $14.95, www.amazon.com
Writing is hard. Getting published is harder still. That's why "Write That Book Already! The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now" by Sam Barry (Marketing and Promotions Manager, HarperOne) and author/publicist Kathi Kamen Goldmark is such an invaluable instructional resource for aspiring authors. A 226-page compendium packed from cover to cover with sage advice and practical commentary, "Write That Book Already!" provides an overview with the 'life cycle' of a book from original idea to published book -- and the marketing, publicity, and promotion that comes next. From step-by-step instructions on writing book proposals and pitch letters, to obtaining an agent, to working with editors, "Write That Book Already!" covers every aspect of the publishing process -- including the option of self-publishing. Enhanced with a glossary of publishing terms, effective tactics for dealing with writer's block, and personal stories of writers who went on to eventual success despite earlier rejections, "Write That Book Already!" is a highly recommended addition to academic and community library Writing/Publishing reference collections, and an enduringly useful read for anyone aspiring to become a successfully published author.
Publish Your Nonfiction Book
Sharlene Martin & Anthony Flacco
Writer's Digest Books
c/o F+W Media
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
9781582975788, $17.99, www.amazon.com
Writing a book is only the beginning of the process of getting published. When the manuscript is a work of nonfiction, the author should give a careful reading to "Publish Your Nonfiction Book: Strategies for Learning the Industry, Selling Your Book, and Building a Successful Career", a 296-page compendium of practical commentary, advice, tips, tricks and techniques on getting published. From recruiting an agent, to dealing with editors, to preparing proposals and delivering pitches, to contract negotiations, to the option of self-publishing, "Publish Your Nonfiction Book" is comprehensive, detailed, superbly well organized, and thoroughly 'user friendly'. Enhanced with an appendices of relevant resources, "Publish Your Nonfiction Book" is highly recommended for academic and community library Writing/Publishing reference collections, and critically important reading for anyone non-fiction author with a manuscript in need of publication.
Essentials Of Screenwriting
c/o Penguin Group, USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780452296275, $16.00, www.amazon.com
A screenwriter and novelist in his own right, Richard Walter has been the Screenwriting Chairman of the UCLA Film, Television, and Digital Media writing program for almost thirty years. "Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing" is a 400-page compendium of basic instruction in the art and craft of writing screen plays in which Professor Walter draws upon his near legendary expertise and experience to cover every aspect of the screen writing process. Fully living up to its title, "Essentials of Screenwriting" covers what to do and what not to do when scripting a story for film or television; dealing with sex and violence in a script; narrative choices; writing dialogue; the necessity and techniques of revision; recruiting and utilizing an agent; and the business of getting paid. "Essentials of Screenwriting" is real world practical, thoroughly reader friendly, a strongly recommended addition to film school library reference collections, and should be considered mandatory reading for all aspiring (and practicing!) screenwriters.
Now here are some Q&A's on writing and publishing:
In a message dated 7/7/2009 6:59:10 P.M. Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Dear Mr Cox,
As a new and very small publisher I'm delighted to discover the practical, no-nonsense advice on your website. As you point out, review-houses are undoubtedly most interested in finding reasons to winnow and exclude, and the smallest simple error in presentation can be that reason.
To that end, there's one piece of information that I regret your website does not include-- namely, the form of a press release. You delineate its content and its purpose, but there is no indication of what a reviewer expects a press package to look like. I am surprised that I can't seem to find samples of anyone's press packet for any book on line (you'd think it'd be something they'd want to be found!) and I write to you in the hope that a sample or two might be found on your site at some point in the future. I'm currently interested in submitting products for review; I have all the requisite information, but having seen what happens in the entertainment industry when someone's resume is even slightly off-standard I'd prefer to be as thorough as possible.
Thank you (again) for your conscientious support of smaller publishers.
I'm not certain what you mean by 'form' with respect to presentation.
Basically when a book arrives in our mail room it is taken out of its packaging or box which is then bundled with all of the other packaging and flattened out cardboard boxes for taking to the recycling center -- which happens once a week.
The cover letters and publicity releases are placed physically inside the book. They are then piled in a carton with all the other titles to have arrived that day (and the numbers of books arriving on any given day will fill between two and four cartons).
These cartons of books are then taken to my office where their contents are piled on my desk (it's a very big desk -- my one vanity).
I then perform my daily literary triage and separate them into three stacks: Rejection, Acceptance, Provisional Acceptance.
The rejections are placed back into cartons to await their ultimate fate. Those that are Accepted outright are set aside for their assigned reviewers. Those that are Provisionally Accepted are placed upon our bookshelves to await review assignment sometime within the next 14 to 16 weeks before they lose their eligibility for assignment and must be removed to make room for newly arrived review submissions.
So that's basically the 'presentation' process.
If by 'presentation' you mean what do the cover letter and the publicity release look like -- they should both be printed out on business letterhead stationary.
I hope this has addressed your question. If not, please let me know.
Midwest Book Review
In a message dated 7/9/2009 10:07:51 A.M. Central Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
Hello again Mr Cox,
This is more detail than I was asking for-- thank you for taking the time. When I was working in Aaron Spelling's offices I saw much the same thing (just replace "book" with "headshot") and I expected the numbers to be proportionally about the same. The exact answer you've given me is "on company letterhead"; in those same offices, the reject pile was full not merely of those people whose glaringly-incomplete submission betrayed their obvious lack of knowledge of what was required, but also those who dressed up their package in the most expensive, elaborate, and inappropriate ways. These showpieces were very effective at capturing attention, but betrayed an equivalent ignorance; their recipients took their nonstandard presentation as clear indication that their senders were inexperienced outsiders who had no idea what a submission normally looked like.
Thank you for that cogent comment. I'm going to share our little email exchange in one of my "Jim Cox Report" columns for the benefit of other authors and publishers who might benefit from it.
Midwest Book Review
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:
A. M. Hernandez
Tim Battle -- "Mr. Bo"
J. D. Meador -- "Face the Tiger"
Dara Viane -- "No Greater Love"
Henry Hoffman -- "Flaherty's Run"
Eli Rill -- "A Penny for the Violin Man"
Ethan Rappaport -- "Shadow from the Past"
Clarke Straughan -- "Romancing the Impossible"
Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad -- "This Path We Share"
Sunflower University Press
Charyl McComas -- TM Books & Video
Stephen Farnes -- Rauson Group LLC
Debra Starr -- All That Productions, Inc.
Jill Ridenour -- Upper Room Ministries
Sandy Grabman -- BearManor Media
Kaye A. Thomas -- Fairmark Press
Cary A. Friedman -- Compass Books
Marty Schupak -- Youth Sports Club
R. M. Kinder -- Sweetgum Press
Hazel Dawkins -- Lake Street Press
Peter Hays -- Sem Fronteiras Press
A. William Benitez -- Positive Imaging, LLC
James N. Zitzelsberger -- Moki Lane Publishing
Diana M. Mohnson -- Superior Book Publishing Co.
Brian & Marie McClung -- Life Preservers Publishing
Josephine M. Gambini -- J. M. Guisti-Gambini Publishing
Doug & Jackie Christie -- Infinite Love Publishing
Pat Johnson-Harte -- A Healthy Relationship Press
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity
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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