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Jim Cox Report: March 2006

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

February zips by faster than any other month -- and this time it's not just because it's a couple of days shorter! We had a flurry of activity here at the Midwest Book Review which has resulted in our launching a sixth online book review magazine called the "California Bookwatch". The debut issue is March 2006 and is now up on the Midwest Book Review website at where it will be archived along with our other five book review magazines.

I'm the Editor-in-Chief of the "California Bookwatch", with Diane C. Donovan being the Editor and Senior Reviewer. It has a hot linked table of contents at the top and follows our usual format of clustering reviews together according to a subject, genre, or topic (e.g. The Poetry Shelf; The Cookbook Shelf", The Fiction Shelf", etc.).

The necessity for another book review magazine was simple. We have more new reviewers, are receiving more books, and consequently are getting more reviews than ever before in our 30 year history. So many more reviews that our "MBR Bookwatch" was becoming truly massive. So very large in fact, that it was becoming less and less "user friendly" with each passing month.

So we took Diane's reviews previously generated for inclusion into the "MBR Bookwatch" and were able to create a whole new publication that we decided to call the "California Bookwatch" because she resides in that state, is responsible for distributing our library newsletters to California libraries and library systems, and has an abiding interest in California oriented books.

While the "California Bookwatch" will give priority consideration to California authors, California publishers, and books with California themes, books from all genres and subjects, both adult and juvenile, will be accepted for review. Just check out the debut issue of "California Bookwatch" and you'll see what I mean.

Anyone wanting to have their book considered for review and inclusion in the "California Bookwatch" can submit their titles (accompanied the usual cover letter and publicity info) to the attention of:

Diane C. Donovan
Editor/Senior Reviewer
California Bookwatch
12424 Mill Street, Petaluma, CA 94952

The West Coast Editor for the Midwest Book Review, many of Diane's reviews will also continue to be a part of our other publications, including "The Bookwatch", "Children's Bookwatch", and "Library Bookwatch".

Now on to some of the "advice, tips, tricks & techniques" that are the primary reason for having a "Jim Cox Report" arrive in your email box every month.

In a message dated 2/18/2006 1:25:29 P.M. Central Standard Time, chronicles @ STARPOWER.NET writes:

"Just a question: if Midwest Book Reviewers (and other such reviewers) expect finished copies, does that not indicate to the 5R's that the book on their desk is already 'finished' and ready for pub. although it is transmitted to them in the form of a galley?"

To which I responded as follows:

Two points to add to this informative discussion thread:

1. Reviewers don't want to read other reviewer's reviews on or about the submitted book. Reviewer's want to feel like they are at the "head of the line" when it comes to critiquing an author's work. Save those reviews for your promotional activities with bookstores, libraries, and the general reading public. They are the ones who would appreciate reading reviews as part of their decision making process as to wether or not to stock and/or buy your book.

It's perfectly alright to list endorsements as part of your cover letter and/or publicity release accompanying the submitted book to reviewers -- just not reviews themselves.

2. Post-publication reviewers want the finished book for two principle reasons:

a. to insure that what they are seeing is the same "book as product" that the general public would be seeing on a bookstore or library shelf. No defacing "Advanced Reading Copy" banners, no "Uncorrected Proof" or "Galley" printed across a cover, or that plain back cover with the "info block" printings announcing release dates, etc.

b. part of a post-publication reviewer's compensation (maybe the total of their compensation such as in the case of Midwest Book Review's volunteer and freelance reviewers) is to be able to own and then sell the book after they have reviewed it as a way of financially supporting themselves or otherwise compensating themselves for the time involved in reading the book and writing the review.

Finished copies have a resale value. Galleys and uncorrected proofs do not. I long ago gave up on trying to persuade reviewers to not pass over a galley or a proof in favor of another book that was a finished, published title, unblemished by stamps or hand scrawled "Not For Resale" defacements.

We now routinely get more than 2,000 titles a month submitted to the Midwest Book Review. These include all the large corporate publishes from Random House, to Simon & Schuster, to HarperCollins; these also include the university presses, long established specialty presses and experienced independent presses; as well as books from more than forty freelance publicists in behalf of their author or publisher clients. None of these submitted books is a galley, an uncorrected proof, a pre-publication manuscript, or a defaced finished copy announcing that the book in question is a "Review Copy Only - Not For Resale".

About two-thirds of POD titles come in unblemished. About one-third do -- and almost always its because the sender wasn't the POD company, but their author client. As for self-published author submissions, its about fifty-fifty between virgin copies and marked up titles.

The reason why small timers and novice publishers stamp and deface their review titles is that they are so paranoid about those review copies ending up in bookstores to compete for customer sales with their non-review copy books. There's also a concern that some bookstores might try returning review copies to distributors who in turn pass them along to the publishers for credit against sales.

The way to prevent all of this is to vette and screen your list of reviewers to whom you will be furnishing review copies. You can begin with researching the "Other Reviewers" list of freelance reviewers, book review publications and magazines, book review websites, etc. you will find on Midwest Book Review website (in the Book Lover Resources section) at . They have all been vetted by me and are legitimate.

Many will not be thematically appropriate for your particular title because they focus on a speciality or niche area (for example, some specialize in poetry, others in science fiction), while others are more generalized. Go down the list and when you see one that looks promising, click on it and you will be taken to their website. Read their website information and you can then determine if that particular reviewer or review resource is a good fit for your book.

You should also go to the "Advice for Readers" section on the Midwest Book Review website and read the articles I've written on book reviewing and the book review process. Begin with the article on "How to Spot a Phony Book Reviewer".

Then armed with all this information and having access to this reviewer database, create a publicity/promotion marketing plan that will include a budget to help guide your submissions with respect to the numbers of review copies you'll be offering, to reviewers you'll be sending them, and making follow-ups contacts in regard to those submissions.

As for the reviewer copies that will end up being sold to the used bookstores, or be sold on Amazon, or donated to local charities to eventually wend their way into the used book markets, do not begrudge them. Presumably you have received just compensation by the fact that your book was seriously considered for review, got reviewed, or at the very least, got some marketplace exposure and "word of mouth" attention in those used bookstore venues to help raise the awareness of the reading public that you and your book exist in the first place.

I can't tell you how often in the screening process I must discard a book because it has been so ham-handedly defaced by a hand-scribbled message that this is a review copy only and not to be sold. I just know my reviewers, and such a book hasn't a hope against all the competing, unmarked, unblemished titles so continuously available to them. The books that are discretely stamped I'll approve in my screening process, but even then, when they are still on the shelves awaiting a review assignment three months later, I just know that the reason they didn't make the final cut and get reviewed was that the unstamped (discretely or otherwise) titles competing on those same shelves were the ones preferred by the reviewers for their assignments.

I've gone on way longer than I had intended. It's just that it fairly breaks my literary heart to see how novice self-publishers and neophyte small press publishers so consistently shoot themselves in their marketing foot by being "penny wise and pound foolish" when it comes to their promotion and marketing plans with respect to review copy submissions.

By the way, for those new to (and therefor unfamiliar with) the Midwest Book Review, we have a three point mission statement: the promotion of literacy, library usage, and small press publishing.

One of our monthly online book review magazines (which you will find archived on the Midwest Book Review website with the other five book review magazines) is even called the "Small Press Bookwatch".

A third to a half of all the books we review are self-published, POD published, or small press published -- including speciality presses, academic presses, and presses publishing fewer than twelve books a year.

Having been reviewing books myself (as well as editing the reviews of other reviewers) for the past thirty years, I think anyone just entering the field and trying to master the "learning curve" of how to publish successfully and profitably, should give careful consideration to what I've said on the subject of book reviews -- including how to get them and what to do after you gotten them.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Now here are reviews of some "how to" books of special interest to authors and publishers:

Writing Children's Books for Dummies
Lisa Rojany Buccieri and Peter Economy
Wiley Publishing, Inc.
111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774
ISBN: 0764537288, $19.99, 355 pp.,

Writing Children's Books for Dummies is one of those complete, easy-to-use guides that should be on the shelf of any writer who is serious about writing and publishing children's books. Having read most of the reference books on this subject on the market today, I can say this is right there among the best and well worth its price.

The structure of the book is clear and easy to handle, the language straight forward and to the point. No matter which aspect of children's writing or publishing you're interested in, you only have to look in the table of contents to find it. The authors use interviews and illustrations to present their ideas in a more engaging manner. They also utilize icons to stress important ideas or points. For example, special icons are used for "Tips" (expert advice), "Remember" (important information to store in your brain for later recall), "Warning" (avoiding mistakes), and "Ahead of the Pack" (new and innovative topic). At the end of the book there are five lined pages for note taking, quite practical for those readers who like to take notes as they read.

Everything from formats and genres, understanding the market, setting up your workspace, coming up with ideas, researching, creating compelling characters, the mechanics of writing (conflict, climax, dialogue, setting, point of view, tone, theme, etc.) to editing and formatting, illustrating, finding agents and publishers, the publishing process and much, much more. You'll even find more than ten great sources for compelling storylines, as well as helpful tips on promoting your work. In short, all the information you'll need to succeed as a children's book author.

Whether you choose to read from cover to cover or jump straight to the topic of your choice, Writing Children's Books for Dummies will prove to be an indispensable reference and amalgam of helpful information for your writing career, as well as a fecund source of ideas for articles. Highly recommended for both fiction and non-fiction writers, students of children's literature, and writing teachers.

Mayra Calvani

How to Promote, Advertise & Market Your Published Book
Mary Cox-Bilz and Arline Chase
Cambridge Books
2934 Old Route 50, Cambridge, MD 21613
ISBN: 0970615213, $9.95, 71 pp.

Jacque Stonehocker

This little book really packs a punch! Inside you'll find page after page of well defined, easy-to-accomplish tasks that are sure to propel the marketing of your book forward. Written by an accomplished marketing guru and a talented writing instructor and publisher, they quickly get to the nitty-gritty of getting your book sold. This step-by-step guide gives you numerous techniques that you can easily incorporate into your marketing plan to give it the boost that you desire. This may well be the best money you'll ever spend on a marketing book. Its pocket size is just right to carry in your briefcase or have on your desk. Keep it handy; you'll refer to it often.

Now it's time for the "Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall of Fame & Appreciation". We don't charge for our services. We also do not allow authors, publishers, or publicists to contribute financially. The reason for these policies is to avoid conflict of interest issues. But we do allow people to make a concrete expression of gratitude and support for what we try to accomplish in behalf of the small press community -- they can donate postage stamps. We use them in our publisher correspondences such as sending out tear sheets and notification letters every month.

In February the following good folk chose to donate postage stamps along with notes of appreciation. They made everything we do here feel worthwhile!

Therese Luce - "Moving Toward Stillpoint"
Steven M. Ulmen - "Toby Ryker"
Nadine Laman - "Kathryn's Beach"
Susanne Lewis - Plum Bell Publishing
Gail Willis - Vital Health Publishing
Richard J. Maturi - 21st Century Publishers
Nancy Hammerslough - Brown Barn Books
P. Tierney - Tanglewood Press
Christine Davis - Lighthearted Press
Lisa Parsons - Double Diamonds Publishing
Annmarie Kelly - Skillbuilder Systems
Anna Kealoha - Bookwave
Dennis Fried - Eiffel Press
Joseph S. Spence - Triology Poetry
Jeff Alt - Dreams Shared Publications
Jill Lamere - Minikin Press
Jim M. Hansen - Dark Sky Publishing
Sela They - Dahlin & Associates Publisher
Patricia L. Fry - Matilija Press
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier - Waldmania! Public Relations
Anonymous - Milwaukee, Wisconsin (a badly damaged letter arrived with the stamps, but no card or note)

Well that's a wrap for this month. If you like to have your book considered for review or have some postage stamps to donate, send them to:

James A. 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

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