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Jim Cox Report: May 2003

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

One of the heartbreaks of reviewing for self-published authors and small press publishers is that a few of them every month will have their books make it all the way through the highly competitive selection process for review and then when sending them their tear sheets and publisher notification letters, have those letters bounced back by the U.S. Post Office for obsolete addresses.

Six of these "bounce backs" came as the result of our April mailings so far. They were reviews for books published by:

WebCartoons LLC (California)
Millennial Mind Publishing (Utah)
Hightrees Books (New York)
Arbor Publishing (Tennessee)
Bob Livingstone (California)
Terra Sancta Press, Inc. (Florida)

What this means is that the addresses we used for the review contact information section (and which were derived from the books themselves and/or their accompanying paperwork) are also obsolete.

The moral of this story is to always insure that you have current publisher addresses prominently available when submitting a book for review -- and if you have changed your address since publishing that book, being absolutely clear in your cover letter alerting the reviewer to use you new address.

The only redeeming aspect is that the posts to of these woefully mis-addressed reviews won't reflect this problem and readers can still have access to the books when their interest is piqued by the reviews we generate.

Several new articles have been added to the "Advice For Publishers" Section of our Midwest Book Review website. They include:

Amazon Marketplace: Myths and Making Money With It. Do's & Don'ts of Cover Design Guerilla Marketing on Registering Websites with Internet Search Engines The Importance Of Book Covers The Written Word Is In Trouble What Every Independent Publisher Must Know

On another subject, my Midwest Book Review webmaster daughter wanted me to include the following announcement in this Jim Cox Report (most of our volunteer reviewers are also subscribers and this is a quick way to get out the word):

Our online newsletters and magazines have to be put in HTML format before they go on the Internet - yet we also have to keep plain text copies on the computer that can be easily sent as ASCII text files. This is why we replace special characters such as the accented e in "cliche" with a regular e, or the umlaut I in "naive" with a regular I, or even curly quotes with straight quotes - so that the letters and characters translate into something that looks legible on the web or in an ASCII text file. There are not enough hours in a day to remake all the fancy diacritical marks in HTML code; we simply let the words speak for themselves.

We recommend that reviewers avoid characters with diacritical marks, curly quotes, or similar characters that are unpalatable to basic ASCII and HTML. But if such characters are included, it is no big deal; we will simply search and replace them with basic characters when preparing the monthly online magazine.

Something new was being tried out in April. A gal in Texas by the name of Rita asked for permission to use some of the reviews we generate here to create local community newspaper inserts to offset the alarming trend of such newspapers to cut back on their book review coverage -- mostly because of economic concerns. The idea is to offer something that can be inserted by these newspapers into their daily or weekly publications in much the same manner as those advertising inserts that we are all familiar with on Thursdays and Sundays. I'm in favor of anything that will give books and book reviews as much outreach into the reading community as possible so I gave her my permission and I guess we will find out by summer's end as to how this little experiment is working out.

Something else that's new around here is the invitation from Lorilyn Bailey to join the faculty of something called the -- I guess I'll be teaching folks in online "teleclasses" what I know about the wonderful world of getting published (for authors) and promoting books (for publishers) from the perspective of a book reviewer. It sounds like a lot of fun. There's a website too:

Also among my recent extracurricular activities has been "beta testing" some really wonderful new materials from The Teaching Company. This all came about because of my reviews for their established lines of audio, video, and DVD university level courses in everything from Egyptology to Religion to Western Civilization. -- And that came about because one of my volunteer reviewers sent in a review of one of their courses and thereby made me aware of this superb publishers existence!

Now for some Q&A on and about publishing:

Dear Mr. Cox

Just a note to let you know that we appreciate the Book Review of Divinely Inspired: Spiritual Awakening of a Soulby Jerry Pollock, Ph.D. on the Midwest Book Review Site. Unestablished authors need people like you to help jumpstart their sales. I was also gratified to learn that the Jennifer Hollowell Review will be sent to Gale's interactive CD-Rom for academic, corporate and public libraries

Mr. Cox, I don't know if you are aware of it, but there is also a second Review on your site for Divinely Inspired. It was from Denise Clark of Denise's Pieces. We really liked Denise's Review and were wondering if you could also send it to the Gale group. It would really help kick off some Library Sales since we were not granted Reviews by Library Journal, ALA Booklist or Kirkus.

Thanks again. -- Jerry

Jim: It is not at all uncommon for more than one review on the same book to appear in the pages of our Midwest Book Review publications. When that happens, my attitude is to run them all on the theory that different reviewers bring different perspectives, life experiences, and skill levels to their reviews and so our readers are provided with what I might call "variations on the theme" of the book -- not to mention variations on the assessment of how good a job the book's author (and publisher!) has done. Each and every one of those reviews are posted and provided to the same outlets, including the interactive CD-ROM "Book Review Index" which is produced by the Gale Research Group for corporate, academic, and public library systems.

Brian Dana Akers writes:

> Where do paid review publications fit in the ecology of book publishing?
> Scam? Borderline scam? Legitimate marketing tool?

Jim: Read the several articles I've written on book reviewing and the book review process which you will find in the "Advice For Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review website at

A lot of your questions are answered there. Including practical advice on how to spot a phony book reviewer.

Paid reviewers can be a legitimate marketing tool employed by quite reputable reviewers. It can also be a scam by rip-off artists seeking to separate fools from their money.

My basic problem with the concept of paid book reviews is that of a self-evident conflict of interest. How much value would the general public and the bookselling community consider a review as having if it became known that the reviewer was "bought and paid for"?

I consider paid reviews in the same class as paid advertising -- when legitimate it is one of the most expensive and least valuable things you can do to promote and publicize your book.

As for the detection and avoidance of scam artists -- read my article "How To Spot A Phony Book Reviewer" in the above mentioned "Advice For Publishers" section of the MBR website.

Mr. Cox,

This is just a note to say thank you! for reviewing the Ludlow Press title, THE LOSERS CLUB by Richard Perez

As a small, independent publisher I can't tell you how much this means to us. With just a month away from release, we really needed this coverage.

I found the review of the book in your April online issue during a random internet search and was very pleasantly surprised.

It's my hope that this will lead to more reviews and help our small, struggling literary press.

Again, a million thanks for your support! and keep up the good work.


Jun Da, Ludlow Press

Jim: Every author and every publisher should visit the internet at least once a week, go to their favorite search engine (mine is, and then type their name into the search engine and look at what pops up; then type their book title into the search engine and see what pops up; and then (in the case of publishers) type in their publishing house name and see what pops up. -- And in the case of authors, type in the first line or two of your book to see what pops up.

It is not at all uncommon for reviews generated here at the Midwest Book Review to take up a cyberspace life of their own and pop-up in places I've never heard of! -- It's also a great technique to make certain that your work isn't being plagiarized or otherwise showing up on websites without your permission.

One of the very common questions we receive is:

>How does one locate the review of a specific book at MBR?

One option is to use the book's ISBN number first. It may be helpful to use the book's ISBN number on before searching our website, since nearly all of our reviews are posted to, and since some of the ISBN numbers on our website have hyphens, which unfortunately interfere with search engines.

>If I type an author name into the search engine I simply get a list of 6 or 7 monthly lists, and going to those monthly lists presents me with an endless column of books.

Some authors have very common names. The next time you try a Freefind search, please click on "search tips" to learn how to modify your search for better results. You can instruct Freefind to only display pages that include every word of your search. Combining key title words as well as the author's name should limit the number of monthly lists that pop up. Also, it is useful to ignore any of the monthly lists that are older than the book itself, since the MBR does not review pre-publication copies.

>Isn't there some way to type in an author or title and just go to those reviews?

Yes there is, and it should be built right into your web browser. AOL, Internet Explorer, Netscape, and any other web browser worth its salt can search the top page of whatever you're browsing for any word or phrase you like. Once you're looking at the issue of our online magazine that contains the author name and title you are looking for, click on "Edit" and then "Find in Top Window" (the exact command may vary depending on the browser you use) to zero in on the name you're looking for.

Claudia Cannino (Times Publishing Group) writes:

> Thanks for your informative article on book reviewing in the latest edition
> of SPAN, it was very helpful. I'm wondering if you have any information
> about attending a publishing convention, or maybe a website that has info.
> Thanks in advance for your help.

There are both regional and national publisher conventions. My advice is to go to the Midwest Book Review website at and click on the "Publisher Associations" link. Look over the publisher associations that you will find there and locate the one that is closest to you. Then contact them for their meeting schedule.

The national one is the Publishers Marketing Association (PMA) which hosts publisher "university" weekend convention workshops that are very much the kind of thing you are seeking.

Additionally, I suggest you join PubForum and/or Publish-L and/or SPAN which are free on-line publisher discussion groups that would prove invaluable sources of "on the job" training, information and answers on all aspects of publishing.

Dear Mr. Cox,

I wish to thank the person who reviewed my picture book, Mingo, for your April 2003 issue. When I read that they thought it was a heartfelt and memorable story... I was elated that it had touched someone so deeply. The reviewer seemed to know what I've said to my editors...I wrote the story from my heart and when I finished, I wept for Olivia and Mingo, and I still look for the dead low tide when I pass Aunt Becky's Ledge. I hope I may use this review to promote my story and have it reach as may people as possible. Please, thank the reviewer for me.

With best wishes,

Lenice Strohmeier

Jim: All authors and publishers have full and complete permission to utilize reviews generated here at the Midwest Book Review in any manner they deem helpful to their efforts at promoting and publicizing their book(s). Just be sure to always include the usual credit citation when doing so.

And now it's time for "Unsolicited Testimonials"!!

Dear Mr. Cox: Thank you for your positive, thought provoking review of my book Piloto, Migrant Worker to Jet Pilot. I appreciate your kind words. If I may speak for all first-time writers, you are a bright light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Sincerely, Hank Cervantes

Jim: And on that note, until next month -- Goodbye, Good Luck, and Good Reading!!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

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

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