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Jim Cox Report: June 2008
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
May has been a fun and busy month! The weather in my part of the world (South Central Wisconsin, just 10 miles south of Madison) has been alternating rainy days with sunshine days -- perfect for all the gardens that surround my duplex (half of which houses the Midwest Book Review, the other half housing me, my wife, and our two aging cats).
I've done another interview about book reviewing and the publishing industry. This time it's with Mayra Calvani for Blogcritics. For those of you who might be interested you can find it at:
One of the nice things about this website is that it allows people to comment on the interview.
Back in April I did an earlier interview for AP Lazar and you can find it on his MurderBy4 website at:
I recommended both of these writing and publishing oriented blog style websites -- and not just because I was interviewed by them! They both offer an amazing amount of usable information and insightful commentary of interest to writers, publishers, publicists, booksellers, librarians, and dedicated bookaholics like myself.
Speaking of websites and blogs of interest to book lovers and bibliophiles, "Hobo's Books" was created by Kevin Coolidge who is a book editor and one of the newest additions to the roster of Midwest Book Review volunteers. You can find his book oriented musings at http://frommyshelf.blogspot.com/
The life of a book review editor isn't all accolades and roses. Occasionally someone will take umbrage at a review that we've published. "Mike" is a self-published author who emailed me a complaint laced with some rather vitriolic and accusatory language. After reading the review I felt that his complaint had justification and deleted the review from our website. Then I notified "Mike" accordingly, taking the opportunity to also talk a bit about the inappropriate language he used in framing his original demand. This was his response to my response -- and my further response:
In a message dated 4/17/2008 11:15:15 A.M. Central Daylight Time, "Mike" writes:
Dear Mr. Cox,
Thank you for complying. You're right, I did get carried away and I'm sorry for that -- call it shell shock, if you will, and perhaps I am still new and learning the ways of publishing and presses. Although looking back at my email, I don't necessarily see anything wrong with it, besides using some curse words. In any event, I'm sorry for making the tone seem offensive; however, I was and am offended. I suggest you screen what people write and what you post on your site in the future; I certainly devote a lot of time at that on my own site. I think the tendency is to regard writing on the Web as unimportant, not equal to print. In any event, I appreciate your patience.
I accept your apology. How could I not? I completely understand how upsetting a flawed review (and reviewer) can be.
You might like to know that my webmaster sent me an email after she'd deleted the review from our Midwest Book Review website to tell me that in her opinion the review seemed exceptionally mean spirited to her as well.
I've been in this business for 32 years now and I've seen my share of incompetent reviewers!
My own attitude is that authors, publishers, and book reviewers basically can be classified into three categories: The Good; The Bad; and The Mediocre.
Good reviewers can pan bad books. Bad reviewers can praise good books. Mediocre reviewers are those that, whether they praise or pan, cannot persuasively articulate why they hold the opinion that they do.
My advice to you when receiving an unconstructive negative review, to realize that you simply have run afoul of a flawed opinion maker. Then ask the editor of the magazine, newspaper, or website where such a review has been published or posted for a second opinion in the form of a review by another reviewer.
If flawed reviews end up on forums like Amazon.com (and believe me, they do) then the best remedy is to drown them out with more and better reviews.
As you might can tell, I'm a rather easy-going kind of fellow. Partly its my age (65), partly its because I am myself a self-published author (back in the days of mimeographs and manual typewriters), and partly because my view of the ultimate purpose and duty of a book reviewer is to help writers to write better, publishers to publish more successfully, booksellers and librarians to stock their shelves more wisely, and readers to read with greater satisfaction.
You might like to visit the Midwest Book Review website at http://www.midwestbookreview.com and click on "Other Reviewers". This is a lengthy roster of freelance book reviewers, book review magazines and publications, book review websites, etc. Not all of them will be thematically appropriate for your book because they specialize in poetry or women's issues or science fiction, etc. But some will be. The trick is to go down the list and when you see one that looks promising, click on it and you'll be zapped to their website. Read through the website and you'll be able to determine if they would be a good fit for your particular book.
At any rate, I wish you well with your efforts to market, publicize and promote you book. I know first hand just how daunting a task that can be.
I write a monthly column of advice and commentary for the publishing industry called the "Jim Cox Report" (you'll find it archived on our website). I'm going to add this response to my next one for the benefit of authors who might find themselves in a situation similar to you own and need to know how best to deal with seriously flawed and even mean spirited reviews -- and reviewers.
Midwest Book Review
When all was said and done, Mike was a bit embarrassed over the whole thing and so asked that I delete his identifying info (such as his real name and his email address) when I shared this experience with you for what insights it may provide into the book review mind set and in dealing with unfair critiques of published works.
Now here's some advice on using reviews you find on Amazon to promote your books:
In a message dated 5/22/2008 9:08:43 A.M. Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
I've been looking for info on how to use customer reviews on amazon, but so far I haven't found any info. I'd like to use 2 of the reviews on the cover of the revised edition. Is this the right thing to do:
- Contact the person that wrote the review via the "Invite as Amazon Friend" link and ask for permission.
Great if they say yes, but what if they say no or don't reply? Any help would be greatly appreciated.
It is the right thing to do because you did not furnish that person with a review copy. If they say yes be sure to give them the usual credit citation. If they say no or fail to replay you cannot use their review to promote your book.
If you did furnish them with a review copy and they happen to post their review on Amazon then you have the right to utilize their Amazon posted review in any manner you deem useful even without their permission. This is an automatic quid pro quo in the publishing industry.
Midwest Book Review
Here's my take on some of the new 'how to' titles for authors -- and those who aspire to success with their writing!
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
Save The Cat! Goes to The Movies
Michael Wiese Productions
3940 Laurel Canyon Blvd. #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781932907353, $24.95, www.mwp.com
Everything there is to be done has been done before in some way. "Save The Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter's Guide to Every Story Ever Told" is a guide to this strange claim to cover ten genre that the populace can't seem to get enough of, a through look at fifty of the biggest movies of the past three decades to cover everything about the modern movie script – and why originality isn't really dead when it seems to be – but it's really just taking on a new costume and appearance. Written by a Hollywood veteran with thirteen successful screenplay sales, "Save The Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter's Guide to Every Story Ever Told" is highly recommended to anyone who's trying to break into Hollywood and for community library collections on the subject of film.
How to Write a Screenplay in 10 Weeks
30 Amberwood Parkway, Ashland, OH 44805
9780979908910, $49.95, www.atlasbooks.com
Speed is a rare quality in artists of any sort, especially writers - "How to Write a Screenplay in 10 Weeks: A Fast & Easy Toolbox for All Writers" is a guide to improving ones writing – and being much faster as they do it. A through and complete guide to writing a first draft in less than three months, complete with a formatting manual and a writing log, "How to Write a Screenplay in 10 Weeks: A Fast & Easy Toolbox for All Writers" is a must for any writer who really wants to kick it into high gear in getting their ideas down onto paper, and highly recommended to community library writing and publishing collections.
The Best of Write Now
10407 Bedfordtown Dr., Raleign, NC 27614
9781893905924, $19.95, www.twomorrows.com
Every comic book reader wanted to draw their own comics at some point as a child – but what do you do when that urge doesn't go away as an adult? "The Best of Write Now!: How To Interviews & Art From the Premier Publication About Comics Writing" is a compilation of, as the title says, the very best of a publication dedicated to the writers and artists of comic books and graphic novels with advice from big names such as Stan Lee, J.M. Straczynski, Neil Gaiman, and many more. If one is an aspiring artist or writer of comic books, the advice found in "The Best of Write Now!: How to Interviews & Art from the Premier Publication About Comics Writing" is essential and a great place to start, making it highly recommended for community library comics and graphic novels shelves.
The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier
Writer's Digest Books
c/o F&W Publications
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45236
9781582975610, $9.99, www.writersdigest.com
One can have the best grammar in the world, but if the writing is still horrible, it's going to be very technically sound horrible writing. "The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing" looks at all the causes of bad writing and how to repair them and revise them. Touching on passive voice, abuse of the suffix -ing, run on sentences, and many other common accidents of writers, "The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing" is an essential guide for novice writers with its unique and entertaining approach to improve themselves.
Webster's Contemporary School & Office Thesaurus
Editors of Merriam-Webster
Federal Street Press
25-13 Old Kings Highway North, #277, Darien, CT 06820
978159695048, $7.98 www.federalstreetpress.com 1-877-886-2830
The latest trade paperback edition of Webster's Contemporary School & Office Thesaurus combines effectiveness with affordability. Featuring 150,000 synonyms and antonyms, and a brief definition (with usage in a sentence) for each entry along with a list of its synonyms and antonyms, all organized alphabetically, Webster's Contemporary School & Office Thesaurus is as easy and convenient to use as ever. A "must-have" for writer's and student's desks everywhere, particularly those who have to create compositions without immediate access to the internet.
Now for some Q&A from the Midwest Book Review email box:
While I usually deal with authors, publishers and publicists, I occasionally dispense advice to booksellers -- and folks who would like to sell books. Here's an example:
In a message dated 4/28/2008 6:30:59 P.M. Central Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
Hi- I have found your definition of wholesaler/jobber on the internet. I am trying to gather info on starting a bookstore on the internet (first) and want to select the titles myself.
I am having difficulty finding a book on how to run a bookstore so that I can determine how to buy the books and from whom and get them shipped.
Any info that you might know of to get some info to me for a business plan or book or organization would be
very appreciated if you'd care to share a direction on this for me--
Arlene St. Pierre
There's a publishing company specializing in 'how to' books for starting up a great many different kinds of businesses and if I remember correctly, they have one specifically on bookstores. Here's the contact info:
Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc.
1405 S.W. 6th Avenue, Ocala, FL 34471
My suggestion is to visit their website and see if they've got something that you might find helpful.
More generally, you can find a number of links on the subject of running a bookstore by typing the following into the Google search engine at www.google.com
Bookstore + Business
This will give you a number of leads starting with:
"Complete Guide to Book Marketing" ... www.smallbusinessnotes.com/businesses/trade/bookstore.html
Midwest Book Review
Cover letters and publicity releases are key factors in getting attention for a book from a reviewer, bookseller, librarian, distributor, wholesaler, and the general public. Here's a little Q&A on the subject:
In a message dated 4/17/2008 11:24:59 A.M. Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Thank you your help. I looked at the links you directed me to, and the one concerning the publicity release was helpful. However, the one concerning the cover letter was not so. I don't really understand how that information would be applicable to my book, as it is a memoir (not a self-help book), and I also don't see how it is applicable to getting my book reviewed. (Obviously, I am not trying to sell a book to a reviewer. I want a reviewer to review it in order to help me sell it to others.) Could you clarify why MBR needs this cover letter from me and help me to apply it to my book? (I'm sorry for being needy, but the page just doesn't seem applicable to my situation without further clarification.) I sincerely appreciate your time.
The purpose of a cover letter is to explain to the recipient why you are sending a book to him/her for review. For example with respect to the Midwest Book Review you might note the following among your reasons for submission:
1. You've found the Midwest Book Review website to be of help and note that we give priority consideration whenever possible to small presses and self-published authors.
2. You note that one of our regular monthly book review columns is called "The Biography Shelf" and you've published a memoir.
Basically the Publicity Release is a universal document that goes out to everyone. The cover letter is a personalized document that is customized to a particular recipient. The inclusion of both a cover letter and a publicity release indicates that you are not just a rank amateur but have studied the publishing business in general (and book reviewing in particular) and want to be given serious consideration knowing that your book will be in contention with the dozens, even hundreds, of other titles for that reviewer's attention and time.
Midwest Book Review
Finally, here a bit of my advice on trying to publish with limited means:
In a message dated 3/3/2008 9:39:26 P.M. Central Standard Time, email@example.com writes:
Your article about the likelihood (or lack thereof) of a self-pubbed author getting his/her book reviewed shows one more example of why the "have-nots" are discouraged from trying to do anything...If you're a "nobody" or you don't have a PhD (because grad school was financially out of reach for you), mainstream publishers won't give you or your manuscript the time of day, so your only option for getting your message out there is going the self-pub route.
But going the self-pub route costs a lot of money that is VERY hard to come by when you're disabled and extremely poor. (The debates about the causes of poverty are addressed in my nonfiction book: "Classism For Dimwits"). If it were not for a bank error in my favor, I would not have even been able to buy the computer and software needed to write my book, buy the ISBN numbers and the SAN code, and pay the Print-On-Demand company their title set-up fees in order to get my book printed and hopefully get my message out there. But being a disadvantaged "nobody" without resources, without the right socio-economic ties, I could not get any mainstream publishers to give my work the time of day - regardless of its quality and merit. (Note: the meritocracy myth is also addressed in my book)
In reading your insightful online article about getting reviews when you're self-published, I learned that by going the self pub route which was the ONLY opportunity available to me, I stand as much of a chance of hitting the Powerball jackpot as I do for getting my book "Classism For Dimwits" reviewed. Being unable to afford several hundred dollars to buy 20-50 copies of my own book from the POD company in order to have copies to send out to reviewers means that unaffordable sacrifice is for naught if my book is only going to end up in someone else's wastebasket instead of getting reviewed and judged strictly on the merit of its content.
This just reaffirms that I was right to write my book about classism and how it affects one's life chances and opportunities...if it ever gets a chance to make it to readers, and more importantly, to policymakers in business, academia, and government. However, I do not have hope at this point that it will after reading about reviewers' "self-pub rules."
Jacqueline S. Homan
Author: "Classism For Dimwits"
Thank you for taking the time to share with me your observations. I agree with you on your basic premise that the economically determined class structures comprising American society in this day and age are indeed biased against those who lack sufficient funds to turn their ideas and dreams into practical realities.
Your aspirations to publish a book is a classic example of that.
A lack of capital to invest in a project such as publishing a book is so daunting as to severely diminish the free flow of ideas. It's an updated version of defining "Freedom of the Press" as a freedom applying only to those who own the presses.
Today there is recourse of cash-strapped folks such as yourself and that is publishing on the Internet. Those (and they are legion in this country) who cannot afford to own their own computer can nevertheless become online publishers of their own works through using such resources as the free computer time available at local libraries and (for those 55 and older) at Senior Citizen Centers.
There are a number of Internet providers of free websites -- free meaning while they won't charge you, they will run advertisements on your website.
Once you've become an online publisher, then you can employ what are referred to as "Guerrilla Marketing" strategies and tactics that can be accomplished with little or no money.
I hope these comments of mine will prove useful to you and to anyone else who feels that they have a book in them that the public needs or would desire to have access to -- but simply do not have the funds to publish in a traditional print format, or having published, compete successfully in the traditional arena of the publishing marketplace.
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:
Peter A. Balaskas
Julia A. Hallisy, DDS
J. Michael Swinden
Amanda Young -- "Silent Prisoner"
Paul Mccomas -- "Planet of the Dates"
Edward M. Krauss -- "A Story of Bad"
Suzanne M. Kelly -- "Elan Vital"
Rober Bares -- "Beyond the Sea"
Kurt L. Kamm -- "One Foot in the Black"
Martha Engber -- "Growing Great Characters from the Ground Up"
Rudy Alvarado -- "The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez"
Frontline Press Ltd.
Dark Sky Publishing Inc.
Senneff House Publishers
Morgan James Publishing, LLC
Sand Dreams Press, LLC
Jean Boggio -- Colerith Press
Sally Hansen -- Hope Press
Sam Moffie -- UEL Enterprises
Bob Gebelein -- Omdega Press
Jason Gridley -- Gresham & Doyle
John Brewer -- Peach Tree House, Inc.
Dale Carlson -- Bick Publishing House
Jodi Walpole -- TM Books & Video
Sara hassler -- PugTale Publishing
Martin Watkins -- Windcall Publishing
Liz Ball -- Hidden Picture Publishing
Addison Terry -- Old Solider Publishing
Patrick Higby -- Morgan Bradley Publishing
Patricia Mandez -- Maple Heights Publishing
Lisa Klein -- Blue Waters Publications
Toni Docketer -- FWE Publishing
Nan Wishered -- Cable Publishing
Braun A. Mincher -- Braun Media, LLC
Matthew Gollub -- Tortuga Press
Debbie Glade -- Smart Poodle Publishing
Rich Smith -- Clarence Henry Books
Charan Langton -- Mountcastle Company
Jessica Rutherford -- Dream Time Publishing
Yossi Leverton -- Hachai Publishing
Ted Ringer -- Wonderful World Publishing
Carol Mickelsen -- Affordable Travel Press
Jo A. Wilkins -- Mystic Publishers
Oliver H. Jobson -- Global Publishing Associates
Charles Stahler -- The Vegetarian Resource Group
John White -- Victor, Broadstreet & Johnson Publishing
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
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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