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Jim Cox Report: May 2005

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

May is upon us and is as busy a month as ever.

In April we had 4522 visitors to the Midwest Book Review website according to the Free Find Staff month search report. We've been again mentioned quite favorable in still another "how to" book for publishers ("Wham! Bam! Publishing", Janice M. Phelps & Joan E. Phelps, Lucky Press).

I'm also receiving the author names and book titles for this year's Writer's Digest Press contest's first place winners in the 9 different small press categories. A review by the Midwest Book Review is one of the featured prizes for the contest winners. This is as much an honor for us as it is for the contest winners!

In April I also modified our long standing practicing of monthly Midwest Book Review website updating sessions when we would add a whole bunch of links to thematically appropriate, book and/or publishing oriented websites for the benefit of authors, publishers, librarians, and the book reading public.

Now as these websites come to my attention either through my own online browsing or through folks emailing me and asking that we exchange links, I route these website addresses to our webmaster who then creates links in the appropriate sections of our website right away. So in April we got caught up on a huge backlog of link requests and are now quite current. This meant an addition of something on the order of 130+ new links -- and the creation of a new category in our "Bookstores" webpage.

This is the one where all the interesting (at least to me) bookstore and bookseller links are put. A new subcategory debuts for the first time: Bargain Books! This is a section dedicated to book price comparison searches, book swapping sites, and booksellers who specialize in providing significant discounts to their customers, specifically catering to the budget constrained book readers.

Thanks to a couple of emails from our website visitors tipping me off that some of the links among the tens of thousands on our website had gone dead. So our webmaster ran a link-checking program and discovered a dozen or so obsolete links (some having to do with other book review websites that have apparently gone belly up).

We depend on the publishing community in general and our website visitors in particular to alert us when a link goes dormant or there's something out there on the internet that would make a good link to add.

Now let's go to some reviews on books specific to writing and publishing. After which I'll do a little "tips, tricks & techniques" for aspiring writers and publishers.

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

The I Ching for Writers
Sarah Jane Sloane
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato, CA 94949
1577314964 $14.95 1-800-972-6657

Plenty of spiritual guides have been written on the subject of the I Ching; but none with the specialized focus of Sarah Jane Sloane's THE I CHING FOR WRITERS: FINDING THE PAGE INSIDE YOU, which tells how to apply I Ching concepts to writer's block and inspirational paths. Each of the I Ching's sixty-four hexagrams is interpreted by Sloane from years of study of over fifty translations, and synthesized into comments pertaining to writer's struggles with words. THE I CHING FOR WRITERS: FINDING THE PAGE INSIDE YOU evolves into a delightful, inspirational cure for writer's block under Sloane's careful applications and analysis.

Writer's Digest Books/F&W, dist.
4700 East Galbraith Road
Cincinnati, OH 45236

Writers seeking concrete paths for improvement could not go wrong with two new Writer's Digest guides: each provides rules and guidelines for improved writing. Karen S. Wiesner's FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS: A NOVEL WRITER'S SYSTEM FOR BUILDING A COMPLETE AND COHESIVE MANUSCRIPT (1582972966, $19.99) doesn't just admonish that rewrites are necessary: it shows how to avoid rewrites by producing an outline so detailed that it can double as a first draft. Character sketches, plots, scenes: all can be condensed into a draft outline which works, and Wiesner's chapters set the foundation for producing outlines for all aspects of plots, subplots and more. Robert Masello's ROBERT'S RULES OF WRITING: 101 UNCONVENTIONAL LESSONS EVERY WRITER NEEDS TO KNOW (1582973261, $14.99) isn't just another reference: it delivers a set of techniques for encouraging uninhibited writings, from remaining faithful and true to personal style and form to handling dialogue and handling story structure. An excellent, clear set of rules any would-be writer should keep close at hand.

The Blue Book Of Grammar And Punctuation
Jane Straus
Peakview Consulting, Inc.
115450 Archer Terrace, Elbert, CO 80106
0966722175 $12.95

Now in an fully updated eighth edition, Jane Straus' easy to use reference guide and workbook, The Blue Book Of Grammar And Punctuation: The Mysteries Of Grammar And Punctuation Revealed, provides writers with the rules of writer free from jargon while utilizing real-world examples of proper grammar and correct punctuation that are universal in their cultural content. A consumable, The Blue Book Of Grammar And Punctuation begins with the most common rules of grammar and punctuation, then goes on to provide numerous practice exercises followed by answers to provide instant feedback for comprehension and confidence. Of special note is the companion website offering excerpts of the book and updated information. If you are an aspiring writer seeking to be published commercially, or simply someone who wants to enhance their writing ability for personal improvement, then The Blue Book Of Grammar And Punctuation is the ideal do-it-yourself instructional workbook.

Book Marketing from A-Z
Francine Silverman
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven St. - Suite 100, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713 877-BUY-BOOK
ISBN 0741424312 $18.95 400+ii pp.

There are other books on devising an effective marketing plan. One goes to this book for its abundance of tips from writers at all levels of accomplishment and in all fields. The advice related a short paragraphs, many containing a vignette, is divided into chapters on the major areas of marketing and book marketing tools--e. g., book signings, book covers, contests, Internet, organizations, media, press kits, speaking engagements. Any writer will surely find any number of helpful tips in this commendable supplement to the related texts of devising a market strategy. As this book verifies, there is always some marketing that can be done for a book no matter what kind it is or when it was published.

This last review on Francine Silverman's "Book Marketing from A-Z" is by Henry Berry, one of our newest reviewers. I did a review on this title when it first came out, and at least four of our reviewers have also critiqued it in the past. But it's such a good book (especially for the novice) that it never hurts to bring it to your attention one more time.

Mayra Calvani is writing a book about book reviewing. She presented a list
of questions which I was quite happy to respond to. You might find my
answers provide a bit of insight into the workings of the Midwest Book
Review and the mind of it's editor-in-chief:

1. What do you look for in a book review?

Firstly that the review includes title, price, ISBN number and publisher contact info. The kind of information (ISBN, price, address, etc.) that a librarian or bookstore retailer or interested reader would need to have in order to make out a purchase order.

Secondly that the review provide a clear idea as to the nature of the book, followed-up by an opinion as to its recommendability to its intended readership. This judgement call should be provided with an accessible rationale.

2. What are the most common mistakes amateur reviewers make?

Leaving out some of those "info bits" that should always be present. What good does it do to fire up the reader of the review and give them no means to acquire the book you've made them interested in by your review commentary.

Another common mistake is to think that a review must be critical and denigrative of the book to be a "real" review. Knocking a book just to show off what a clever fellow (or gal) you are is a real downer -- and an all to common disease among any kind of critic be they book, movie, restaurant, or music reviewers.

3. Do you think there is much value in being unkind but truthful when a book really stinks?

Being unkind - never. Being truthful - always. You can tell your readers or listeners or viewers that a given book is flawed, substandard, not worth the paper its printed on, without resorting to name calling or superfluous vilifying. You can be critical without being a bully.

4. Do you take into consideration the feelings of an author when you review or do you refuse to be swayed by them?

Authors and publishers and publicists have feelings. Incidently, so do reviewers! There is no need to trample roughshod over them in order to inform authors or publishers that their book is simply not up to the competitive standards of the marketplace -- or your personal tastes. As a reviewer, you don't give a false report just to spare feelings either. Someone will always be so sensitive that no matter how diplomatic you are in giving their book a non-recommendable referendum you will not be able to avoid hurting their feelings or bursting their bubble. Just don't go out of your way to be nasty about it.

5. What style of reviews do you think have the most value?

There are different kinds of reviews. Librarians and bookstore retailers who have limited time find that short, succinct reviews have the most practical value for them. Academia and the general reading public prefer to have reviews of greater length and depth -- because they will have both the time and the interest in a more definitive analysis.

6. Do you think many independent reviewers on the web tend to give "facile praise" to books?

Not unless they are "reviews for pay" where an author or publisher is charged a reading fee for the reviewer's service or the review publication parlays advertising for review assignments to their staff. Still another problem with some web-based reviews (occasionally encountered at for example) is that those reviews are ringers, puff pieces generated by authors, their friends, families, and folks who owe them favors -- or their competition, their rivals.

7. Do you look on reviews as a critique or just your opinion of the work?

Reviewers like to think that what they do is a rational, reasoned, intellectual critique. But in the end, it's all a matter of opinion. It's just that some opinions tend to be borne out by subsequent experience, or are better informed by past experienced, or expressed with a superior articulation, than the opinions provided by others.

8. Do you get feedback from readers?

Yes. Quite often. Usually in the form of emails. At least once a month I'll receive quite negative feedback from someone who disagrees with my review or the review of one of our volunteers. Occasionally an email comes in from someone who not only agrees with the review but wants my help in contacting the author to inform him or her what a favorable impact their book had upon that particular reader after learning about it in one of our reviews.

9. Apart from celebrity reviewers who work for major publications like The New York Times, can a reviewer make any real money from writing reviews?

Here is the secret to being financially successful as a book reviewer -- marry rich.

Nobody amasses wealth from reviewing other people's books. Virtually all of our reviewers are unpaid volunteers who do what they do simply for the fun of it -- or because they are compulsory about expressing opinions and making judgements about what they've been reading.

10. What advice would you give to beginner reviewers who wish to make a career in this field?

Send for the Midwest Book Review "Reviewer Guidelines". Then get books out of your local public library's "New Arrivals" shelf and start reviewing them. Send copies of those reviews to the publishers, and try to get your reviews posted in places like and the Midwest Book Review. In the Midwest Book Review website's "Book Lover Resources" section there is something called "Other Reviewers" which is a lengthy listing of links to freelance reviewers, book review publications, book review websites, and other opportunities for getting reviews posted and/or published.

Another thing to do is to create your own letterhead stationery (complete with business cards) with respect to being a professional book reviewer. Especially if you are starting your career as a freelance book reviewer.

11. Do you consider/publish reviews by independent reviewers?

Always and constantly. All 76 of our current roster of volunteer reviewers are freelance (independent) reviewers. For some of them we are their primary forum. For others we serve as a secondary forum to their own websites, newspaper columns, or magazine publications, helping to expand their audience.

12. Do you read reviews to select your reading material?

I'm in a unique position of always having piles and stacks and shelves of review books clamoring for my attention. I don't have any left over reading time to simply pick a book and read it just for fun based on someone else's review.

I sometimes wish I did.

Let me also give a word of warning to all aspiring book reviewers.

If reading books is your chief leisure time hobby and a primary source of entertaining fun, after you become a serious and dedicated freelance reviewer (or employed with some book review publication), be prepared to go out into the world and get yourself a new leisure time hobby. Reading books will become automatically burdened by compulsory attention to character development techniques, plot development techniques, and all the other criteria of evaluation that is the stock in trade of book reviewing.

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 4/4/05 12:10:32 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

Now, Jim, here's my question, if you'd be so kind as to give me your advice. There is one other self-publisher who has something in print with the same main title, but with a different subtitle. But I can still use this main title, can't I? -- Rose

Book titles cannot be copyrighted -- that's why there are a great many books by different authors (and even on wildly different subjects) that have the same title as one or more others.

That's also one of the principle reasons for the use of subtitles -- to help booksellers and the reading public to distinguish between different, albeit identically titled, books.

So yes, you can use the same title as someone else's book. Just try to minimize the confusion out there in the marketplace by the use of a unique subtitle -- and make sure that it is prominently observable on the book cover.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Mr. Cox:

Over the years, I have found the MBR site very helpful. I have often referred clients to your site for its advice and resources. For a while, I kept it to myself. It was too good to tell others, but I soon coughed up and let others know. I even have linked to a few of your articles from my website.

I would like to reproduce an article written by Paul J. Krupin called "How to Make the Media Fall in Love with You". I would like to use link to this article from my website, but I would also like to reproduce the article in my upcoming book called The Indie Approach to Publishing in Canada: The Self-Publisher's Rites of Passage. It is due to be released in June of this year. I would like to use this article in the section about the media. It would help me make my point.

It would also be helpful if I could use the seven points in the article written by you called "How to Spot a Phony Reviewer". Although I will be paraphrasing the points, I would like your permission to reproduce the information verbatim if necessary.

For giving me permission, full credit will be given to Mr. Krupin and the MBR.

I will be listing the MBR website in my Resources section regardless of the permissions process. I just wanted to let you know. If you have a resource that you would like me to promote in my book, please forward the information within the next week so it can be added to the manuscript.

I am also interested in having a hotlink set up from your site. My site can be found at How would a book get listed on the Publisher's Bookshelf?

I look forward to your contact. Thank you for your time.

Manisha Solomon
Editor & Book Package
Solotext Editorial

I get emails like this from time to time. It's always nice hear that the work and time and resources we put into the Midwest Book Review are so very much appreciated by those who visit there.

Any article written by me can be utilized by anyone to enrich their own website, be included in the book they are writing or the paper they are presenting. Just give the usual credit citation when doing so.

With respect to articles written by others (like Paul Krupin -- an enormously knowledgeable fellow when it comes to book marketing) you will need to make your permission request directly to them. I can always forward such a request if you need help getting in touch with them.

As for having your website linked, just send me an email requesting it and I'll check it out. If it passes muster, then my webmaster will get right on it -- and when accomplished, will send you an email notification to that effect.

And of course, should you wish to reciprocate, the Midwest Book Review website address is:

Hi James Cox and staff:

WOW if just finished hours of viewing your web page and now I feel like a deer in headlights, (along with a very numb bottom) It was certainly worth my time, despite missing the family while I was being educated. This was comparable to a college degree. So much wonderful information, and so cleverly presented. All your links are so well represented and so informative. I also appreciated your sense of humor and genuine interest in promoting the "little guys" . Well enough about you, my turn.

My name is Sue Tryba and I have recently been published by Trafford Publishing. Is it self-published? Is it a POD publisher? as advised, I'll not tell, but you can access their web-page through and find out for yourself.

My first, in a series, is titled "Mom, How Do I Know If... I'm Normal?" is a quick read. I call it my elevator series,-you can complete the book on your ride up to the first floor. Mom always said "Less is Best" so I learned to shoot from the hip. My message is presented in 16 pages, but it does open up hours of discussion (according to one book reviewer in MD) My presentation opens up a dialogue between a single mom and her son regarding his interpretation of normalcy. With a lighthearted conversation and a comical infusion, everyday occurrences are personalized. My illustrator, and friend, Steve LaVergne, also of Sturbridge, MA demonstrates his colorful illustrations with unique style and creativity. I've had several book signings and despite the fact the book has only been released for 3 weeks, over 75 copies have been sold. Either the book is good, or I have many relatives!

OK, what do I do now to get Midwest Book Review interested in reviewing my publication. You tell me. I learned it is a lengthy process and it could be the luck of the draw, but I'm willing to chance it. Time is on my side. Despite the fact that I'm a grandmother, I still have many years ahead. Magnifying glasses help, and qualifying for Senior Citizens Discount does have advantages. I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to E-Mail me back. Despite my highlighting some of your key points on my computer screen, and whiting out some of my errors, I think I'll still get your drift. Thank you for reading me and I look forward to your comments and instructions.

Sue Tryba (E-Mail Phone: (508) 347-9837

1. Trafford Publishing is a POD publisher
2. An email review solicitation with humor! This is a nicely compact descriptive summary with human interest.
3. Our review copy submission process is very simple:

a. The book must be in print and available to the reading public
b. It must be the published book -- no galleys or uncorrected proofs
c. The book must be accompanied by a cover letter and a publicity release
d. Book submissions may be made by authors, publishers, or publicists.

The "Advice for Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review website has "how to" articles on writing an effective cover letter and on creating an effective publicity release.

Now for some Unsolicited Testimonials!!

Jim, Dan Snow here. Hope you rec'd Dan Poynter's thanks for your generous review of our latest book, and would like to add mine. You've done yeoman service and worked tirelessly for the self-small-independent publisher for years, and I'll continue to recommend MBR to our community without reservation. Gratefully, DOS

I did get a very nice "thank you" email from Dan Poynter. Dan is a cyberspace pen pal of mine who was very generous with his help when I first started up as a book reviewer and was giving my very first seminar to a group of aspiring writers seeking to break into print. That was almost 30 years ago! Incidently, visit their website at I think you'll find it of interest even if you've .

Truth to tell -- I'd review Dan Poynter's laundry list if he were to publish it! :-)

Here's another email:

A belated THANK YOU for your generous reviews on all my three books. No words can express my gratitude for your honest appraisal of my work and insights into how to express it in a language that will convey the value of what I do those who need that insight.

As a token of my appreciation I am sending my Mail a sheet of 100 stamps of 37 Cent denomination, which I hope that you would accept.

Once again, thank you!

Best wishes,

Dilip G. Saraf (
Career and Personal Coach
Career Transitions Unlimited

And here's a third:

Hi Jim, wow, what a nice thing you did for me. Your review of Sixty Seconds To Success was fantastic. You have been a terrific help to me. I can't thank you enough for what you have done. Please let me know if there is any way I can help you.

Thanks again for your help, you have given me a real boost.

Edward W. Smith

For those who would like to be of help to the Midwest Book Review you can do any or all of the following:

1. Send a "thank you" note -- they go a long way to build up morale around this place!
2. Tell folks about what the Midwest Book Review website has to offer the writing & publishing community.
3. Subscribe to the "Jim Cox Report" -- it's free!
4. Donate postage stamps "for the cause"!

Speaking of folks who wanted to express their appreciation for what we try to do in behalf of the small press community, here's the latest additions to the Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall of Fame and Appreciation:

Dilip G. Saraf
Julene Barn
B. Cory Kilvert, Jr.
Phobe A. - Chestnut Hill, Maryland
Mike Brogan - "Dead Air"
Steve Mancini - "Weeping Willow"
Dave Shelson - "How To Make Up To $38 Per Hour Delivering Pizza"
Nicole Wheldon - "The 1, 2, 3 Bees"
Carla Danziger - "Hidden Falls"
Robert Sandlin - "War Island"
Beaver's Bond Press
Rein Designs, Inc.
Bright Moment
Anne Miller - Chrion Associates, Inc.
Robert W. Kurkela - Kidzpoetz Publishing
Sondra Duffy - Double Crust Publishing
Toni Leland - New Concord Press
Scott K. Smith - Ontology Press
Anthony LeTourneau - Creative Marketing Concepts, Inc.
Linda VanDenBoom - Personnel Decisions International

That's about it for this time around. For anyone new to the "Jim Cox Report", you can get it (for free) directly by simply sending me an email and asking to be signed up.

And if you have a book you'd like considered for review, or postage stamps to donate, or simply want to ask a question, you can contact me anytime:

Jim 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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