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Jim Cox Report: November 2005

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Another busy month has come and gone. I was informed that I'm now included in the "Madison Who's Who of Executives and Professionals: 2005-2006 Edition" This alleges itself as the definitive work of the world's leaders in commerce, economics, policy, and trade. I've been in the "Marquis Who's Who" and a couple of other similar compendiums -- a nice little honor, but of no significant consequence other than minor bragging rights shared with tens of thousands of other folk.

Also this past month I had an informative conversation with Melissa Alvarez of eBroadcast Media, Inc. who is launching a new Internet radio show called NewAgeLive.FM. Melissa wanted to recruit me as a contributing reviewer who would have a book review column for this new program. The focus would be on reviews of New Age titles. The designation "New Age" covers a wide variety of subject areas ranging from metaphysics and the occult, to alternative medicine, self-help, spirituality, mysticism, and so much more. I'm such a ham that all Melissa had to do was give me a microphone and an audience!

The program was to launch (with my first review commentary) on November 3rd. I had my script and was all ready to go when Melissa called me up on November 2nd with some news. She and her studio are located in North Palm Beach, Florida. It seems that just two weeks earlier a hurricane named Wilma had come right over the top of her little community. Power had been knocked out ever since and a great deal of work needed to be done before things could get back to normal. So the program debut was postponed until January. Hopefully by then North Palm Beach will be up and running -- as will Melissa's computers and recording equipment!

The third thing to happen last month was my lecturing a classroom full of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who were seeking a degree in Library Science. I was invited to give a talk on the role of the book reviewer, how librarians utilized reviews, sources of reviews for librarians, etc. I held forth for an hour and a half. The kids (everybody under the age of 30 seems like a kid to me nowadays) seemed quite interested in what I had to say -- and at the end asked some pretty good questions. The classroom instructor Sarah Cord (herself an experienced librarian as well as an academician in the Department of Library Science) was also taking a bunch of notes.

I had accepted the engagement pro bono. I don't charge for my services. It's all a part of filling our Midwest Book Review mandate for promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing. So at the end, when I was presented with a nice little thank you card I thought nothing of it. Until I opened the thing to find that the teacher had written me a $20 check out of her own pocket. When I asked why, since my appearance was gratis, she said that even as a library with many years experience, she still learned a great deal she'd never known before on my particular aspect of the publishing process. So, since she was neither an author or a publisher, I said thank you -- and the next day deposited that check into our postage money account.

One little aside on the experience. The very first thing I did was ask the class of these budding librarians to show by raise of hands just how many of them aspired to write a book someday, be it fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose. Almost every hand in the room was raised!

Now let's move on to some "tips, tricks & techniques" on writing and publishing that you might find of interest:

In a message dated 9/19/2005 8:03:12 P.M. Central Standard Time, Elwoodddog writes:

1. As the author of the self-published novel, No Such Thing As A Secret--A Brandy Alexander Mystery by Shelly Fredman, I submitted my book to the Midwest Book Review in the hopes that I could have it reviewed by a reputable organization. I did not hear back from the Midwest Book Review, and as I have been frustrated in my own efforts to promote my book, I decided I needed a publicist. On one of your websites you had recommended Claire Kirch, so I promptly sent off an e-mail and called her and left a message as well. The e-mail has been read, but I have not gotten a response. I did not get a return phone call either. Do you see how desperately I need a publicist? I'm so bad at this, I can't even get a person who earns their living by helping people get publicity to call me back. I want to gain the attention of well-respected Reviews, such as yours. If you have any suggestions for me, I would be most grateful.

Shelly Fredman

Welcome to the wonderful world of marketing -- and the chronic frustrations that arise from it.

The place to start is with reading a lot of the "how to" books about book marketing, getting a literary representative, writing effective cover letters and publicity releases, making succinct phone contacts -- and with whom.

Go to the Midwest Book Review website at and click on "Publisher Bookshelf". There you will find a great many such instructive books. Take down the titles, authors, and ISBN numbers of those that seem to be most appropriate to where you are in the book marketing process.

Then take that list down to your local community library and ask them to get copies for you through the free InterLibrary Loan Service. Read them, taking notes, and map yourself out a marketing campaign. There are other resources on our website. "Book Lover Resources" has a section called "Other Reviewers" which offers an extensive list of freelance reviewers, book review publications, and book review websites. "Publisher Resources" has sections of resources dedicated to marketing, publicity/promotion, etc.

And make certain to read all the "how to" articles in the "Advice for Publishers" section.

Good luck -- you'll need it.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Then there was this little Q&A exchange:

In a message dated 10/27/2005 8:11:35 P.M. Central Standard Time, writes:

Dear MBR:

I don't know whether you field questions from readers, but your site is so chock full of wonderful considered advice, and I'm not quite sure where else to turn for answers.

I am an established author with several non-fiction books published by a couple different houses.

I am exploring starting an independent press whose focus will be non-fiction and children's books. The stated purpose of this press will not be to self-publish; the intention is to publish the work of others.

That said, however, economics makes it very tempting to at least write one or more of the first few books published by my press, in conjunction with an illustrator. There's no question the material is publishable (I could place it at another publishing house).

I have considered using a pseudonym for these "in-house" projects, but it begs a few questions, such as:

Dear LK:

I'm happy to respond to your questions about the value, utility, and feasibility of using pseudonyms as an author and publisher. For what it's worth, here are my thoughts on the subject:

1. Will I have too many "doors" closed to me if I DON'T use a pseudonym, e.g., distributors or reviewers that aren't interested in handling a "self-published" book?

Often the use of a pen name (pseudonym) is the only way a self-published author can hope to get any attention from the established community of book reviewers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. In past decades women had to use male pen names just to get published. Occasionally an academician will have to use a pen name in order to avoid any problems in achieving tenure -- or retaining the respect of his professional colleague. Some folk have simply needed to be able to preserve their privacy through the use of a pen name for published work. And more than one small press publisher of books and/or magazines has had to use more than one pen name in order to establish their press or publication in its beginnings. So in my judgement, there is ample and honorable precedence for using pen names to obscure the true identity of an author.

2. Will using a pseudonym make my new press appear untrustworthy to anyone who "figures" out the author is also the publisher? (I'm not sure how that would be accomplished, assuming my photo's not on the book cover, but it's impossible to keep anything a secret forever).

Nothing succeeds like success. If your books penned under an assumed name sell well -- that's all that matters. Especially if you go on to sell secondary rights (such as mass market paperback rights to a book you essentially have self-published in hardcover) for such works. Discovering that Andre Norton (one of my favorite science fiction & fantasy author's) was a woman who wrote for years under a male pseudonym never disqualified her from me continuing to review her later books which she wrote herself or in collaboration with co-authors.

3. Is the dilution of my publishing credentials (I can't promote my past credits if they're published under the very name I'm trying to conceal) worse than the advantages of being able to promote an author without anybody treating a book as a self-published entity?

You're posing a distinct problem. My response is that you can't really promote past pseudonym credits for your "real name" books unless and until you want to reveal to the world that both the pen name and you are the same author. But you can, as a publisher, promote books written under both your pen name and your real name. For example -- "From the publisher who brought you Jim Jones "Mystery of the Missing Pages", comes a new book by Sally Smith, Pages from My Missing Diary".

Again, not certain you folks will answer specific questions, but please, for the sake of young talent finding its way . . . direct me elsewhere for answers if you cannot weigh in yourselves.

Grateful for a response.


As long as I have a few spare moments I'm always happy to help out authors, publishers, and readers who have questions about any aspect of the publishing process I feel I can usefully respond to. I hope the above advice proves helpful.

I'm going to share my responses in a future issue of my monthly monolog on publishing called the "Jim Cox Report". But in deference to the sensitivity of your inquiry, I'll change the name to protect your anonymity.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

Finally, it's time for our monthly "Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall of Fame & Appreciation". The following folk have contributed stamps to the Midwest Book Review as their was of saying "thank you" for what we try to do here in behalf of all members the small press community:

Mary Kent - "Salsa Talks!"
Antonia Sparaono Geiser - "Innocent Heart, Laughter and Tears"
Floyd Paulsen - "Behind The Grand Drape"
Maria Winslow - "The Practical Manager's Guide to Open Source"
Jill Nussinow - "The Veggie Queen"
Garry Cale - High Point Publications
Liz Bell - Hidden Pictures
Yetti Frenkel - Snow Tree Books
Brett Waldman & Heidi Bornhuse - Tristan Publishing
Sherri Erickson - Attainment Company, Inc.
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier - Waldmania! Publicity
Nancy West - Hero Dog Publications
Virginia Murray - Active Parenting Publishers
Learning ZoneXpress, Inc.
Peel Productions Inc.
EE Publishing & Productions, Inc.
Wesoomi Publishing
Laree Harper & Target Hubhatims

Well, that's about all for now. If you have a book you'd like reviewed, or a question you'd like asked, or a problem you'd like advice on, then just let me know -- it's what the Midwest Book Review is here for.

For you who might be new to the "Jim Cox Report", all the back issues are archived on our website at -- and you can subscribe directly (its free) just be sending me an email asking to be signed up.

So until next time. Goodbye, Good Luck, and Good Reading!

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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