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Jim Cox Report: March 2011
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
I'm a little late in getting out this month's "Jim Cox Report" due to some medical matters in the family that have now been very successfully concluded.
Since it's founding in 1976 I have always had a policy of not charging for reviews. This was in order to avoid any conflict of interest issues -- and frankly, with the annual and continuous support of two foundation grants I never needed to charge for reviews in order to meet our overhead expenses here at the Midwest Book Review.
I also had a policy of requiring published copies for review -- no pre-publication manuscripts, uncorrected proofs, or ARCs. This was because the only compensation our volunteer reviewers ever received was to keep the book(s) they reviewed and to have their reviews appear with the reviewer's own byline. Inevitably, reviewers would pass over proofs and ARCs to choose published copies because the sale of the books they reviewed was a way of supplementing their income.
Then came the age of digital publishing with the ebook phenomena growing larger and larger with each passing year.
So now there will be an amendment to our policy regarding not charging for review. It is as follows:
Print titles in all genres and categories will continue to be reviewed free of charge.
There will be a $50 reading fee charged for reviewing ebooks.
There will be a $50 reading fee charged for reviewing manuscripts, proofs, and ARCs.
Why charge a reading fee for ebooks, manuscripts, proofs, and ARCS?
1. It's the only compensation that assigned reviewers willing to take them on will receive for their time, their labor, and their expertise.
2. It will help to reduce the demand on our limited supply of reviewers willing to accept assignments within these categories of review submissions.
The way it will work with respect to ebooks and books on pdf files is that I will supply the name and emailing address of the assigned reviewer to the interested author and/or publisher.
The way it will work with manuscripts, proofs, and ARCS is that I'll be taking those on myself.
The reason that's possible is that I'm now about 80% retired. My time (about two hours a day) is taken up with being the public "face & voice" of the Midwest Book Review in that I answer the phone, deal with the email, respond to the snail-mail, do the daily literary triage with respect to income book review submissions, and make the reviewer assignments.
My daughter and two assistant editors now do everything else.
Because I've significantly cut back on operating and supervising the daily workings of the Midwest Book Review, I've now got the time to do what I didn't have time to ever do before -- try to provide pre-publication reviews for worthwhile titles.
Why don't I also review ebooks & pdf files of books?
Because I'm 68 years old and I don't like sitting in front of a computer screen in order to read the written word. To those of my daughter's generation and younger, such a thing is as natural as breathing. But to me, it's nothing that holds any appeal what so ever!
Fortunately, we now number among the ranks of our volunteer reviewers younger folks who are as comfortable with a Kindle or a Nook as they are with downloading pdf files onto their computer screens.
I guess what I'm doing as the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review is bowing to the inevitable with respect to continuing and expanding digital publishing trends of the publishing industry.
Sometimes I truly long for the days when there was just me, a self-corrected electric typewriter, and a Rollodex.
Now on to some reviews of 'how to' titles for writers and/or publishers:
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
Breathe, Stretch, Write
c/o Stenhouse Publishers
477 Congress Street, Suite 4B, Portland, ME 04101-3451
9781551382562 $19.00 www.stenhouse.com 1-800-988-9812
Breathe, Stretch, Write: Learning to Write with Everything You've Got is a guide for writers, teachers, and grade school to college students to incorporating simple breathing techniques, yoga-inspired stretches, and exercise to improve creativity and inspiration while writing. Although designed especially to aid young people in the learning and communicating process, the exercises will prove inordinately helpful to anyone with a writing or desk job, and can easily be adapted for office work. Each page focuses on a different three-step recommendation, beginning with a breathing exercise, followed by a stretching exercise, and culminating in a creative endeavor such as writing a song, evoking an emotion such as panic on the page, or engaging in a brief research project. A handful of black-and-white stick figures demonstrate recommended poses, and the step-by-step instructions are easy to follow. Breathe, Stretch, Write lives up to its title and is highly recommended as a physical-emphasis supplement to any writer's or teacher's bookshelf.
The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent
1405 SW 6th Ave, Ocala, FL 34471
9781601384034 $24.95 www.atlantic-pub.com
The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent guides readers through the process of getting an agent to represent a book. From keys to researching a literary agent and what to look for in the right agent to writing query letters to gain attention and lists of top agencies and their genres, this is a 'must' for any writer's reference library.
Characters & Viewpoint
Orson Scott Card
Writer's Digest Books
4700 East Galbriath Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
1599632128 $14.99 www.writersdigest.com/books
Characters & Viewpoint joins others in the 'Elements of Fiction Writing' series to provide a fine writing reference covering the basics of developing vivid characters. From developing individual character styles and choosing viewpoints to help reveal them to exploring major and minor character interactions and deciding on depth, this is a top pick for any writer's how-to collection offering all the nuts and bolts of character development.
Now for some Q&A commentaries:
Keep in mind that since this Q&A occurred, I've newly instituted a policy of charging a $50 reading fee for ebooks, manuscripts, proofs, and ARCs. Otherwise the information is up to date.
Dear Mr. Cox,
Thank you so much for your response. I'm sorry for not getting back to you sooner; I am only in the office on Wednesdays. My questions are below. If you have any other information you feel would be useful to our audience of authors and publishers, you can feel free to include it. Thank you again, and I look forward to hearing from you.
My answers follow each specific question:
Q. Does Midwest Book Review only review print books? If so, do you believe there will ever be a time when your company reviews eBooks?
A. We predominantly review print books. But we do have one reviewer among the 76 currently on our roster who is willing to review ebooks. That being so, she is literally swamped with requests. I routinely route all ebook review requests or inquiries to her. She has complete discretion over what she selects or rejects for review.
The day will probably come (in another ten to twenty years) when ebooks or books in some other electronic format will dominate the publishing industry. But for now and the foreseeable future, as a practical matter, we will continue to review print editions to the general exclusion of ebooks.
This is because all our reviewers are unpaid volunteers whose only compensation is getting to keep the books they review. A number of them supplement their income by selling off those review copies once they are done. No one has figured out how to be compensated by reviewing an ebook -- unless they charge for their reviews.
Q. Many of the review sites I have come across require a fee, but MidwestBookReview.com does not. Why is this? Are there many other sites like yours?
A. We do not charge authors or publishers for our reviews in order to avoid any conflict of interest issues. We are supported by two annual foundation grants based on our three point mission statement of promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing. We do allow authors, publishers, or anyone else that wishes to make a gesture of appreciation and "support the cause" in terms of what we try to accomplish in behalf of the small press community and the self-published author to donate postage stamps. We use them in mailing out copies of the reviews and notification letters to publishers.
Q. How can an author tell the difference between a legitimate review site like yours and a fraudulent one?
A. I've written a detailed article on this very subject. It's called "How to Spot a Phony Book Reviewer". You have my permission to reprint it if you'd like to do so. You'll find it archived on the Midwest Book Review website at:
Q. Do you believe that online reviews are more going to become more popular than print reviews, now that newspaper subscriptions are down? Do you think that places that have amateur reviewers like Amazon.com are beginning to have more pull over consumerís decisions than print sources like the New York Times?
A. There has been a growing trend in the newspaper and magazine industry to reduce and even discontinue book reviews as one of their features. The slack has clearly been picked up by on-line book reviews such as Amazon.com and the Midwest Book Review.
Several of our reviewers switched to the Midwest Book Review as a forum for their reviews when their previous print review columns were discontinued in local papers and even some
Reader Reviewers have come to dominate customer clientele simply because there are fewer and fewer professional, salaried book reviewers. The freelance reviewer has seen magazine and newspaper markets for their reviews literally disappear under the financial duress that has afflicted the newspaper and magazine markets.
I expect this trend to increase dramatically over the next decade.
Q. Do you have any general advice for authors, specifically self-published authors, trying to get their books reviewed?
A. As a general bit of advice: Be as professional as possible!
I've written extensively on the subject of book reviews and the book review process. My instructional articles are all archived on the Midwest Book Review website at:
Once you've read those articles germane to book reviewing and the book review process, then go to another section of the Midwest Book Review website called "Other Reviewers". You will find it at:
This is a database of freelance book reviewers, book review magazines and publications, book review websites, etc. that I've compiled. It's a huge database. I've vetted them all and they are legitimate. A few of the reviews are "pay for play" and charge for their services such as "Foreword Magazine", but most are free of charge. Some are specialized (e.g., Poetry, Science Fiction, Children's Books), others are more general in nature.
The trick is to go down the list (and it's a very lengthy one) and when you see one that looks promising, click on it. You will be zapped to that particular website. Read through it and you will be able to determine if it is thematically appropriate for your particular book. If it is, you will also learn what their submission guidelines are.
Finally, there are two instructional articles that I've written that will powerfully improve the chances for self-published authors to be taken seriously with respect to their book review submissions. The are:
Writing an Effective Cover Letter
Writing an Effective Publicity Release
These two documents should always accompany a book review submission for review. The articles will explain the differences between the two documents -- and following the simple instructions, you can create in just a few minutes professional quality documents that will substantially enhance your chances of being selected for review amongst all the competing titles for a reviewer's attention.
Read these articles. They are practical, succinct, and will help any novice author or publisher master the "learning curve" with respect to getting their books reviewed.
Again, you have carte blanche permission to reprint any of the instructional articles you will find archived on the Midwest Book Review website under "Advice for Writers & Publishers".
Q. Many of our readers are self-published authors, and are the people that Midwest Book Review gives priority to. This is great, but why did you decide to do that?
A. When the Midwest Book Review began back in 1976, book reviewing was largely the province of a literary elite -- mostly located in such big city venues as New York. The (then) novel idea that launched the Midwest Book Review was to have ordinary people review books and provide a forum through which their book reviews could be given an audience.
I found that the self-published author was simply dominated by the major publishing houses in terms of publicity, financing, marketing, and distribution. I basically 'found a niche and filled it'. The Midwest Book Review gave small presses, niche publishers, and self-published authors priority over the big New York publishing houses. This strategy became an immediate success and has continued to be so ever since.
On a personal note -- as a book reviewer and as the Editor-in-Chief of the Midwest Book Review I can make a more significant impact on the publishing industry and the general reading public by providing self-published authors and small presses a forum. The Random Houses, Penguin-Putnams, and HarperCollins of the world have an immense roster of review resources. All to often for the self-published, POD-published author, the Midwest Book Review is the only game in town for them.
As expressions of gratitude from self-published authors and small presses, as measured by their postage stamp donations, I haven't had to buy a postage stamp for going on 30 years now. I don't think any other book review operation can match that level of approval!
Let me know if you have any further questions.
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:
Joanne B. Conrad
Marc Keane -- "Dear Cloud"
Jyl Scislow -- "Moral Hazard"
L. A. Banks --"Shadow Walker"
Stacy Juba -- "The Flag Keeper"
Mik Brogan -- "Madison's Avenue"
Shanna Ahmad -- "Lost in the Sand"
Steve Anderson -- "The Losing Role"
David E. Bloch -- "The Elite Idolaters"
Catherine Craig -- "The Golden Thread"
D. Wilson -- "Because I Think, I Believe"
Carol Gilbert -- "The Day The Sub Came"
Gary Hardwick -- "Dark Town Redemption"
Lisa Espich -- "Soaring Above Co-Addiction"
Craig Vroom -- "The Riddle of Shipwreck Sound"
Millet Harrison Jr. -- "Letters To My Christian Friends, Darryl And Others"
Alan D. Cato -- The Medical Profession Is Dead And The Doctor Is "Critically" Ill!
Blair Mountain Press
Senneff House Publishers
Kitty Werner -- Distinction Press
Joan Marie Verba -- FTL Publications
Timothy Muller -- Black Bishop Press
Susan Shreffler -- Cool Books Press
Rosemarie Printz -- Green Castle Publishing
Brooks Olbrys -- Children's Success Unlimited
Virginia Helsmoortel -- Happy Bird Corporation
Dale Johnson -- Trailwood Films & Media
Sandra Shwayder Sanchez -- The Wessex Collective
Nigel J. Yorwerth -- Yorwerth Associates
Jairus Reddy -- Hobbes End Publishing
Mary Herbranson -- The Vegetarian Resource Group
Sheila Jones -- Discipleship Publications International
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, 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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