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Jim Cox Report: March 2002

Dear Publisher Folk, Family & Friends:

Another busy month here at the Midwest Book Review has come and gone with what feels like lightning speed.

I've been recruited to be a presenter for the AOL Writer's Club Chat Room for a workshop on writing/illustrating/marketing Children's Books on Tuesday, March 12th from 9-10 (EST). If you're interested, email Marilyn at for more detailed information about participating.

Another of my little commentaries was published. This time in "Publishers" Focus", the newsletter of the Northwest Association Of Book Publishers. The title of the piece is "Publishing 'Outside The Release Window' To Increase The Chances Of Getting Your books Reviewed". the good folk at Northwest send me a copy of the newsletter for my records. I see I was in very good company. Pat Bell had an excellent little article on "Accessing YOUR Records In The R.R. Bowker Online Database".

A wealth of practical information is to consistently be found in these regional publisher association newsletters. To find a regional publisher association for your part of the world, begin by visiting the "Publisher Associations" section of the Midwest Book Review website at

National organizations like PMA and SPAN have virtues -- and vices :-) -- all their own. But regional groups have services and fellowships that can prove enduringly invaluable for self-published authors and small press publishers. Most of them have newsletters, monthly meeting, co-operative marketing opportunities and the like. Connect with the group nearest you and check it out.

Speaking of our website: We've had another massive infusion of resource links (about 120 or so) to the Midwest Book Review that will have special interest for writers, publishers, librarians, and the general reading public.

Some of the MBR website sections that have been beefed up with new links to invaluable internet accessible resources include (but are not restricted to):

Audiobook Publishers: 19 new ones have been added to the already existing and substantial roster. Every publisher (but most especially those with fiction, poetry, "how to" and self-help titles) should consider an audiobook version of their books. And also think seriously about selling the audiobook rights to an existing audiobook publishing house if you lack the time, expertise or resources to "do-it-yourself".

Book Lover Resources: You'd be surprised at how often one of these resources can be worked into a bit of promotional exposure for the self-published author and small press niche publisher. Here are this month's additions to (if I may be immodest) one of the most impressive, extensive, and diverse sections in the whole MBR website.

A+ Audiobook Rankings
Littera Scripta
Resource Central Books Online
Web Sites For Book Lovers

Book Publicity & Marketing: Easily one of our most popular and visited sections. I've concentrated on adding links to independent publicists that I've worked with over time and can confidently depend upon their expertise and professionalism -- as well as that of some superbly presented "do-it-yourself" book marketing resources and advisories that anyone would be well advised to become acquainted with:

Andrea Reynolds International
Book Marketing (John Kremer)
Book Sense
Children's Educational Cooperative
Phenix & Phenix
Promote Your E-Book
Publishing Directions
Small Press Publications

eBook Publishers/Dealers/Resources: I repeat my advice about audiobooks and adapt it to ebook editions. eBook publishing is as specialized an area of publishing expertise as is the production of audiobook versions of print titles. I've added a number of new ebook publishers, distributors and resources to this particular section that I think will prove one day to become a staple of the general reading public. That day isn't here yet, and may take another decade to truly come into its own. But every small press should be aware of its potential to add a revenue stream to the operation. Here's the newest entries to join the already considerable list of internet resources compiled for the MBR website:

Book Locker
Canadian eAuthors
Double Dragon
Electric eBooks
e-Writer Magazine
LTD Books
Relic Books

Libraries & Universities: In my wanderings about the internet, which I do both in a personal capacity as a confirmed "bookaholic" as well as my professional capacity as the Midwest Book Review editor-in-chief and the Acquisitions Consultant for the Dane County Library Services, I found another little pocket of invaluable research and marketing relatable information for the small presses working out business plans to sell their titles to all manner of library systems.

Essential Resources for Schools & Libraries
Library Statistics: Academic Libraries
Library Statistics: Federal Libraries
Library Statistics: Library Cooperatives
Library Statistics: Public Libraries
Library Statistics: School Library Media Centers
Library Statistics: State Library Agencies

Online Bookstores: And then, of course, there is the growing market venues represented by the online bookstores. Here's the latest three added to our MBR online bookstore and book retailing resource list:
Books Online

Other Reviewers: -- Yes, as strange as it might seem at first glance, the Midwest Book Review has a section where I list all the online book reviewers, book review publications, and book review resources that I come across. The reason is simple. I know how tough it is to get the major reviewers (LBJ, PW, New York Times) to pay attention to the small press community. So I started out to create a resource where the small press publisher could at least make a beginning with respect to approach the book reviewing community as part of a promotion/publicity campaign. Here are the latest additions to a steadily expanding resource:

Book Reviews
BookZonePro Co-op Reviewer Database
Hyde Park Review of Books

Publisher Resources: This is also one of the largest and most visited sections of the Midwest Book Review. It is massive. And this month's additions span a wide variety and spectrum of resources that I think will be reflected by their titles:

Baker & Taylor Pub Title Info Online Submission Form
Center For Publishing (New York University)
FedLink Vendor Services Directory
Grace Publishing Group (self-publishing)
How to Create and Publish Your Own Newsletter for Profit
ISBN Users' Manual
National Association for Independent Publishers Reps
Prospectives: Weekly Publishing Industry Views
Schools, Colleges, Libraries Search Engine
Wexford Press (Indexing & Typsetting)
Writing & Editing At Work

Writer Resources: And, of course, every time we update and expand the Midwest Book Review website we can't overlook those aspiring authors seeking to break into print and one day be published pros:

Are You A Writer?
Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators
Writer's Digest Bookstore

Virtually every section of the Midwest Book Review got an infusion of new and fresh resource links. But be warned. The MBR website can prove addictive! Many a poor and unsuspecting soul has gone there expecting to only browse for a few minutes -- only to tear their bleary gaze from the computer screen and discover that somehow time and space has become unstuck and it was an hour or two later!

Now on to some "tips, tricks & techniques" that might prove of practical use in the day-to-day struggle for commercial success in highly competitive markets:

In a message dated 01-12-13 17:47:04 EST, Best wishes, Peter Gimpel, Publisher, Red Heifer Press, writes:

> Dear Jim Cox:

> I just want to say thank you for this excellent and very helpful site.
> Well done and beautifully and clearly written.

Thank you for your very kind words. We spend a lot of time and energy on the MBR website every week so that it is constantly improving, expanding, and a place where small press publishers will want to visit on a regular basis -- if only to see what the newest resources are!

> Two questions though, if I may:

> (1) What, exactly, is this 12 - 16 - week "window of opportunity"?

That's the time between the arrival of a book being submitted for review consideration lands on my desk and the time it is removed from our shelves and taken out of play in order to make room for newer arrivals. It is hoped that somwhere in the 12 to 16 weeks after its arrival that it will achieve a "review assignment".

Review Assignment means being able to recruit a reviewer for the book. Reviewers are encouraged to submit their reviews to me within 4 to 6 weeks after accepting the book.

When a review is turned in and meets my editorial approval/standards, it is then automatically featured in the next month's issue of one or more of our book review publications.

A tear sheet is sent out to the publisher with the first two weeks of the month in which the book review appears.

And that's basically the cycles and their respective time frames -- except that half my reviewers wouldn't recognize a deadline if it were to bite them on the ankle! :-)

> (2) As a one-man operation, I count on good reviews to print as blurbs
> on my back covers. This makes it difficult (if not impossible) to meet
> Booklist's and Kirkus's (et al.) requirement that review copies be sent
> to within a 15-week window before publication. Have you any advice to
> offer on this subject?

This is a chronic condition for the small press publisher. What I advise is that you assemble review commentaries based on galley submissions to pre-publication reviewers on a separate sheet(s) of letter head stationary and submit them with the review copy submissions to a Booklist or a Kirkus.

Then, when your book is published with selected blurbs on the back cover, follow-up the original galley submission with a complimentary copy to Booklist or Kirkus.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 01-12-17 01:45:12 EST, Jewell M. Kutzer writes regarding the sending out of review copies of her book:

> HOW DO I find out IF they reviewed it, and WHAT they said about it. It is
> my understanding that very few reviewers ever send a copy (our own
> wonderful Jim Cox being the exception).

The only reliable way I know of to track what (if anything) happened to all those galleys and finished copies mailed out for review consideration is to follow them each up separately via phone call or email. When following up there are a couple of "tips, tricks & techniques" that will serve you in good stead.

1. Do your first follow-up ten working days after sending your review copy out. This is because ten working days is long enough to insure that the review copy should have arrived and the recipient had sufficient opportunity to make an initial decision regarding it.

2. Use my "3 Questions" formula to insure that you secure the information you are seeking in a way that will not irritate or unduly impose upon the reviewer's ego or time.

Question #1:

This is (your name and publishing house here). I'm calling to confirm that you have safely received (name of your book here) sent for your consideration on (the date you sent it here).

(No reviewer will object to this query because a certain number of review copies get damaged or go missing in the mails).

Question #2:

What is the status of our review copy of (your book title here) with respect to your review process?

(Never, never, never ask "Are you going to review my book?" That is the sure and certain sign of a pushy or insecure amateur. There are many reasons why that question cannot be answered by a reviewer. There are simply too many variables confronting the reviewer -- including the volume of incoming books for review, editor assignments & whims, publishing schedules, etc. What I do is to verify whether or not a book has made my own initial selection cut as the MBR editor-in-chief, and if it has made the initial cut, whether it is pending review assignment or has been assigned out.)

Question #3:

Is there any further assistance or information I can provide?

(Sometimes a PR sheet will go missing or didn't accompany the book. Sometimes the book arrived damaged or is otherwise flawed. Sometimes a bit more author information would be useful. You can never tell unless you ask.)

3. Never use the follow-up contact to pitch your book. That's what your PR is for. Pitching your book burns up time -- which for most reviewers is a very precious and limited commodity -- and a total turn-off.

4. It is the policy of the Midwest Book Review to always send the publisher a tear sheet when their book has made the final cut and gotten reviewed in the pages of our publications, or in the scripts of our television and radio programming. For the past couple of years we have also been sending tear sheets to independent publicists and distributors when we know that they were the source of the review copy.

This policy has made me "stand out in the crowd" as far as reviewers go. Every month I get stacks of "thank you" posts, cards, and letters from the small press community because of the simple act of letting them know via tear sheets and our "publisher notification letters" what we did with their book.

What is really interesting to me, is that I get the same "thank you" responses from publicists and marketing directors of the major New York houses as well! So the chronic lack of feedback from the reviewer community is not limited to the small presses!!

Now if I could only solve the problem of distributor returns I do believe I would have a shot at become the first Patron Saint of Publishing! :-)

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 01-12-18 00:25:59 EST, Irene writes:

> Also, can someone give me the correct form for citing a review? I've
> seen it done several ways, and I don't know which is right.

There is no single "right way". Any way that clearly attributes the proper crediting for the review is okay.

> Is it considered bad form to cite the periodical or company doing the
> reviewing and NOT the individual reviewer? I have some ancient reviews
> (70's) for which I have no individual's name, but I do have the name of the
> periodical it came from. Is it okay to use them that way?

When you do not know the name of the individual reviewer it is permissible to use the name of the periodical, journal, newspaper, or website instead. If the reviewer's name is known, go ahead and use it along with the name of the forum in which that reviewer's book review was featured.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 01-12-19 17:39:51 EST, Irene Brady writes:

> I appreciate your setting me straight on review-citing protocol. Another
> thought occurs to me -- would it be polite to inform the person, periodical
> or company who has reviewed your book about any places you use their review
> (like on a web page, on a blurb, etc.)? Or would it just be something
> that leaves them saying "huh?"

It's always nice to notify a reviewer with a little thank you note that you appreciate their review and will be posting it on your website or other wise utilizing it in your marketing and promotional activities.

> Again, thanks for your great advice.

Anytime. That's what I'm here for.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 01-12-21 14:46:45 EST, William Gehrke writes:

> My local newspaper mentions that my book is available, this information is
> also posted on the web. Is this good enough?

Reviewers will rarely have the time or inclination to go out onto the web to secure information about a book being submitted to their attention for review. It's is far better to have that information printed out and physically accompanying the book.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 01-12-21 15:09:32 EST, Jeff Potter writes:

> It's been interesting that I've had very little luck at the big local
> bookstore, where I'm pals with management and wave to the clerks. In
> general I think that I'm despised by the clerks and THAT's a kiss o' death
> for sure. I always get along fine with owners or with clerks with gumption,
> but our disparate local minimall suburbs get a lot of a different kind of
> clerk. A skulking kind.

It's been a while since I addressed this perennial topic. I have a few thoughts that might be found germane to the subject and based on my many years of observation and conversation with the retail book community in Madison, Wisconsin.

Madison has a huge number of bookstores (for the size of its population) and runs the gamut from used bookstores, to speciality/niche bookstores, to the big bookstore chains.

I'm on familiar terms with all of the bookstore owners, managers, and "head clerks".

Remember that clerks are human (weird thought they can sometimes get!) and as such that they will fall into three general classifications: good, bad, and mediocre.

Most of them in the chains are just minimum wage flunkies who are not particularly book knowledgeable (or even dedicated readers) and would be just as much at home flipping burgers or bagging groceries; not a lot can be expected from them at even the best of times.

Nor do the chains offer much by way of any in-service training for these "off the street" clerks that come and go with a huge rapidity. It's not at all uncommon for the turnover to be 30 to 40 percent per year. And among the part-time college kids the turn over rates are even higher.

Very few small press publishers "hand-selling" their books to the chains will ever get anywhere dealing with the clerks. Even the store managers hardly ever get anywhere dealing with the clerks.

So, if you are going to have any success at placing your books with the national chain stores, you must deal with the store managers or the corporate headquarter based acquisitions department personnel.

And never expect any of the chain store clerks to do any kind of selling in your behalf. It's just not going to happen, or happen so rarely as to qualify for a Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" column.

The independent bookstores offer a somewhat more hopeful venue. There the owners are often the managers as well -- or the managers have a personal and vested interest in building up a repeat clientele of bookstore patrons in the owner's behalf.

Especially the niche stores (feminist, scifi, mystery, etc.) in competition with the chains.

There is usually a better quality of clerk, because the owner/manager is desperate to have as many sales as possible from the folks who walk through their doors. There is a certain amount of training in what books are stocked, where they are located, and becoming familiar with repeat patrons as to their likes and preferences when something new comes in.

But handselling to independent bookstores is so labor intensive as to not be worthwhile for most small press publishers or self-published authors. But those stores that are local and easily reachable should be always be approached -- if only for the inservice training such handselling will provide you in preparation for approaching the chains.

But always remember. You can be successful in placing a book in a particular bookstore -- or chain of bookstores -- but you can never depend on the store (read clerks) to sell your book for you. That task is all yours. You must develop a demand outside of the bookstore among potential readers, who will then have your book title on their lips when they push through the door and enter their favorite bookstore.

That is where the principal bulk of your marketing/promotional investments of time and money and energy should be devoted. Especially if the title you are pushing is a readily identifiable POD.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Subj: Re: What Works For You?
Sender: PUBLISH-L@SHRSYS.HSLC.ORG (Publishers Forum)

Dear Publisher Folk:

I am by nature a rather pleasant, easy-going, jovial kind of fellow. But I have been known to encounter infrequent (thankfully) bouts of lethargy and boredom. What works for me in keeping on track and on task are the rhythms and cycles built into what I do. The recurring weekly and monthly deadlines involved with producing four library newsletters, three online book review magazines, and the radio/television work.

At the beginning of my workday I make a list of all the tasks, errands, and work orders I must attend to that day. As they are accomplished I cross them off that list. I've been at this for so many decades that I pretty much automatically know how much time each item on my daily work list will consume. I'm thereby prevented from overloading my day with more work that can be fitted into a reasonable work schedule.

I also make certain to reward myself when achieving a deadline or finishing a task series. It used to be food -- but with an expanding waistline and a wife (in collusion with my daughter and the family doctor) I've had to replace consuming calories and junk food with watching old movies and tv sitcoms.

I think one of the keys to "keeping on keeping on" is to celebrate the accomplishment of a task with some kind of pleasant pastime or celebration. Even if it's only to sip a cup of coffee on the back porch while watching one's cat do her best to stalk the neighborhood squirrels.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

And now some unsolicited testimonials from what seems to be developing as a kind of "Jim Cox Fan Club"!

Dear James,

I received your review for our latest story from the Camp Of Champs series entitled, "How Louie Became A Safety Swimmer." I can't thank you enough for the wonderful review. Because of your prompt and favorable write up, I can now include it with my pre-publication packages to other reviewers.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the time and attention you gave to the important subject of water safety. Have a wonderful 2002.


Jeana Thomas
Charm Publications

Dear James Cox,

Thank you so much for your review of our Vegan Meals for One or Two by Nancy Berkoff from The Vegetarian Resource Group. Whenever you mention our items, we start receiving numerous orders from Baker and Taylor. Your impact is greatly appreciated.

I also wanted to thank you for the information you share on Publish- L and other places. It's always helpful and insightful. Obviously you exist to help people. As a nonprofit, this is Vegetarian Resource Group's role also. It's sometimes frustrating knowing the obstacles, how many people you do help, and then receiving the nasty notes. I give you credit in answering these in a nice way, and proceeding with enthusiasm. It is not easy....

Thanks for all your good work. May you have a happy and healthy 2002.


Charles Stahler
The Vegetarian Resource Group
(410) 366-8343

Dearest Jim,

Thanks so much for sending us the tearsheets of the beautiful reviews of our three books. We had written Cindy to thank her, and are so pleased that they are running in the MBR. You know that we know how much time, care and effort it takes not only to review the books so thoughtfully and intelligently, but to go the extra step and send our tearsheets. Our deepest appreciation to you and all your hard-working staff.

As ever,

Joi and Maria Josephine "Joi" (pronounced "Joey") Nobisso, Publisher
Maria Nicotra, Operations Manager Gingerbread House


Was doing a little "surfing" this AM prior to getting cleaned up and presentable for a signing at the local BORDERS and found your site. What a breath of fresh air and knowledge packed into one location!

Having been a trade magazine (CHARTER INDUSTRY) publisher for ten years (1985 to 1995) I experienced many frustrations and lost a lot of hair. Many of the topics on your site ring "true."

Amazingly, after attempting to market a mystery/thriller set here in semi-rural south Florida (similar to Door County in nature) to the NYers and reaching the maximum level of frustration I dropped the idea, formed another publishing company (Treasure Coast Mysteries, Inc.) and printed the book (3,000 copies on first run) and am doing the promotion and marketing. I am pleased to date with 5-star ratings on AMAZON, B&N and BORDERS web sites. Locally the book flies off the shelves and it is hard for retailers to keep in stock.

Why am I writing to you? I guess because I appreciate the frustrations that others go through and the help that you provide over your site. As I fight the battle of "self-published" I feel like Don Quixote at times but push on towards the summit of the next hill and the next battle.

Please excuse the ramblings but I was enthused over your site. Now it is time to get cleaned up and off to BORDERS.


Paul McElroy

Well, that's pretty much a wrap for this issue of "The Jim Cox Report". If you'd like to recieve it directly, just send me your email address and ask to be signed up.

And if you'd like to have your book(s) considered for review, send a finished copy (no galleys or uncorrected proofs), accompanied by a publicity release and a cover letter to my attention.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive Oregon, WI 53575-1129

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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