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Jim Cox Report: November 2009
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
Yesterday (October 31st) was my 40th wedding anniversary. This coming Friday (November 6th) will be my 67th birthday. Last September 1st was the 33rd anniversary of the founding of the Midwest Book Review which began as a local half-hour Saturday morning radio show in Madison, Wisconsin. Each of these landmark occasions prompt me this morning to some reflection on the changes I've seen and experienced both personally and professionally.
Before my incarnation as a book reviewer I was a special education coordinator for a local school district. Before that I was a social worker and a counselor for a county welfare department. Before that I was hospital social worker assigned to a 'death & dying' caseload. Before that I was a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor specializing in young adults with learning handicaps and physical disabilities. Before that I was a university student and scholarship recipient. Before that I was a hod-carrier, a carpet layer, a janitor, and a day-laborer. And before all of that I was a juvenile delinquent and highschool drop-out.
And through it all, down to this very day, I was a dedicated bookworm and bibliophile. Before stumbling into becoming a book reviewer I would spend an average of 30% of my take-home pay on books and magazines. Every apartment and house I've ever lived in was replete with bookshelves loaded down with my ever expanding collections.
One of my earliest memories as a child living in Los Angeles was of having an old wooden orange crate next to my bed filled to overflowing with comic books.
Now that I'm semi-retired with my daughter running so much of the day-to-day routine tasks of this little book review enterprise called the Midwest Book Review, I can pick and choose my own self-appointed reading lists and give more personal attention to self-published authors, poetry, academic publishers, small presses struggling for recognition, and other such under-served (from a book reviewing perspective) sections of the publishing community.
I'm rather grateful for a wife who has managed to put up with me for the last forty years, a daughter who will be keeping my contribution to the publishing world continuing well into the foreseeable future, and to be able to spend the last couple of decades of my life doing what I've always loved best during the course of my life so far -- read as many books as I want and share my opinions about them with others just as inclined to the joys of literacy as myself.
Now for reviews of some 'how to' books on writing and publishing that have crossed my desk this past month:
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
Lisa Messenger & Mel Carswell
Suite 6, Level 6, 50 Holt St, Surry Hills
PO BOX H241, Australian Square, Sydney, 2000
097755192X, 17.95, www.amazon.com
In "Maverick Marketing: Publishing For Passion And Profit", Lisa Messenger draws upon her years of experience and expertise as the Managing Director of Messenger Marketing and Messenger Publishing, working with aspiring authors and self-publishers with the processes and problems of marketing their books. The result is a truly 'reader friendly' compilation of sound advice on marketing, promoting, funding, distributing, and selling non-fiction books by self-published and small press published authors. From what to do in getting started, to traditional marketing resources like bookstores, to the securing and utilization of publicity and reviews, to employing modern marketing tools from email to websites, to talk shows and author appearances, and so much more, "Maverick Marketing" is informed and informative as it provides thoughtful and thought-provoking commentaries, advice, 'tips, tricks and techniques', that can be readily employed by even the most novice newcomer to publishing. Especially recommended to the attention of those new to publishing, "Maverick Marketing" also has a great deal of value as a 'refresher course' for those with some measure of experience in marketing books today.
How to Swat the Killer Bees Out of Your Writing
Nancy Owens Barnes
PO Box 95, Priest River, ID 83856
9780982390207, $8.95, www.rushriverpress.com
To Be, or not to be. The answer is not to be. "How to Swat the Killer Bes Out of Your Writing: Craft Your Passive Voice into Active Voice and Watch Your Writing Take Flight" is a guide to avoiding the nasty demon of amateur writers that is passive voice writing. Even the best story can be plagued with these mistakes, sabotaging one's work. "How to Swat the Killer Bes Out Your Writing" is a consideration for any aspiring author.
Bang the Keys
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9781592579143, $16.95, www.penguin.com
Writing is something that's hard to casually pursue. "Bang the Keys: Four Steps to a Lifelong Writing Practice" is a book of advice for writers who want to more fervently and more reliably pursue their writing. Encouraging readers to take their best ideas and transform them into real things, Jill Dearman has many solid pieces of advice for readers. "Bang the Keys" is a top pick for those who want to hone their craft for the better.
The Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit!
C. Pinherio & Nick Russell
Self-publishing doesn't just have to be vanity publishing. "The Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit!: Start a Home-Based Publishing Company and Publishing Your Nonfiction Book with Create Space and Amazon" is a guide actually making money off one's work when publishing work by yourself. Outlining how to use Amazon's CreateSpace services, C. Pinherio & Nick Russel describe the process intricately and very well. "The Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit" should be strongly considered for anyone who wants to get their work out there.
The Well-Fed Writer
3713 Stonewall Circle, Atlanta, GA 30339
9780967059877, $19.95, www.wellfedsp.com
The starving artist is not a stereotype one needs to live in. "The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less" is a guide to breaking into the lucrative and flexible world of freelancing as a writer in commercial venues. An absolute must consideration to anyone who wants to pave their way in life using their skills with a pen, "The Well-Fed Writer" is quite the guide for getting started when you're at square-one.
One of the major pleasures of my office is helping authors and publishers with their professional questions, problems, and issues. Here's a Q&A sampling specific to the topics of writing, marketing, and reviewing books:
In a message dated 9/27/2009 10:14:06 A.M. Central Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
By way of introduction, my name is Dave Woods. I am in the beginning stages of writing a unique book on productivity, from the “lens” of an educator, a business leader, and a career aspirant. I guess you could say the book would be classified as a hybrid version of a self-help, business management, and higher education book. I have NO experience in this arena, and would like to find a reputable publishing partner who would guide me through the process in exchange for shared ownership of the proceeds. I have begun a manuscript and would like to find a partner in the next 1-2 months.
Any advice and/or leads you may have would be appreciated…Dave
1. Go to the Midwest Book Review website at www.midwestbookreview.com
2. Click on "Advice for Writers & Publishers" and read all the articles archived there.
3. Click on "Writer's Bookshelf" and read the reviews of 'how to' books for aspiring first time authors. Get those that seem particularly germane from your local community library for free through there InterLibrary Loan Program.
4. While on "Writer's Bookshelf" read the reviews on 'how to' books for acquiring a literary agent and those on the self-publishing option.
Midwest Book Review
In a message dated 9/4/2009 5:29:48 P.M. Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
I came across your site, Midwest Book Reviews, while searching for book reviewers.
I'm interested in locating someone who might consider a mutually beneficial relationship to provide book reviews (specifically for books about travel writing, with the occasional travel-lit-as-an- example-of-good-travel-writing thrown in for variety) for my site in exchange for help in promoting himself/herself as a book reviewer, links to their website, and value to a Publisher by giving them an(other) online outlet to publish reviews to.
Although I cannot pay for book reviews, I do have a good amount of traffic to my site, as well as subscribers to my newsletter and twitter followers, so what I can offer in return is help in promoting the reviewer and their website each time a review is posted to my site.
I am hoping that you might know of someone you could recommend, and pass along my contact information.
Many thanks for any assistance you can offer,
Travel Writers Exchange
Because the Midwest Book Review is, at it's core, an educational and informational resource for members of the publishing community, I have developed a rather extensive database of freelance book reviewers, book review publications, and book review web sites that authors, publishers, and publicists seeking potential reviewers. The database is called "Other Reviewers" and you will find it on the Midwest Book Review web site at www.midwestbookreview.com.
I've vetted them all for legitimacy. A few are 'pay for play' like Foreword Magazine, but most offer their services free of charge.
Some are specialized (e.g. poetry or science fiction), while others are more general. The trick is to go down the list and when you come to one that looks promising, click on it. You will be zapped to their particular web site. Read through the web site and you'll be able to determine if that particular book review resource would be thematically appropriate for your particular book -- and if so, what their submission guidelines are.
Many of the freelance reviewers who utilize our "Reviewer's Bookwatch" as a secondary forum for their reviews are listed there.
You have permission to go up on the Midwest Book Review website and copy into your own website any of the reviews for travel books you will find featured in a monthly book review column "The Travel Shelf".
When you go to our website click on "Internet Bookwatch". Then click on "The Travel Shelf" that you will see in the index at the top of each month's issue. It's quite easy to do a simply 'copy & paste' from there.
Just be sure to give the usual credit citation of Midwest Book Review when doing so. It would also be nice if you could include our URL -- www.midwestbookreview.com -- as well.
I write a monthly column for the publishing industry called the "Jim Cox Report". I'm going to include this exchange for the benefit of others seeking to augment the content of their websites with thematically relevant book reviews.
Midwest Book Review
In a message dated 8/20/2009 10:51:42 A.M. Central Daylight Time from J. C. Simonds (email@example.com) had a succinct line of advice for all aspiring self-published authors trying to compete in today's volatile and highly competitive marketplace:
"Honor it by producing the best book possible."
To which I added by way of a response:
I'm in total agreement with JC Simonds with respect to the above advice for self-publishing authors.
Because the Midwest Book Review has a wide-spread and well-known policy of giving preference in considering self-published, POD-published, and small press titles for review I end up seeing hundreds of them every month. Literally -- hundreds of self-published and POD-published titles each and every month.
About 80% of them make it through the screening process and of that 80% about one-third make the final cut for a review assignment.
What's the chief factor in a failure to make it through the screening process? Substandard and non-market competitive book covers. The next most often encountered factor is type-font too small for its intended readership.
What's the chief factor in failing to achieve a review assignment? Too many books and not enough reviewers.
So I heartily endorse the notion that anyone seeking to publish their own work had better put as much thought into its packaging and competition side-by-side on a bookstore or library shelf as they did in the their writing of the contents.
So if you want something you've written and published your self -- then you simply must make it the best book possible according to your talents and resources to have any chance at all in a fiercely competitive book marketing environment.
Midwest Book review
As is customary, I'm going to conclude this issue of the "Jim Cox Report" with "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:
Florence Chard Dacey
Ariel S. Compton-Cruce
K. Michael Crawford
Jerry Brown Schwartz
Gloria Mallette -- "Sassy"
Bill Voedisch -- "Citizen Mitten"
Lynn Olson -- "War Wanderings"
Leslie Korenko -- "Kelleys Island"
Tim Bramlett -- "Sharkey and the Parallel Universe"
David E. Bloch -- "Psycho Russian Golddigers"
Belden Paulson -- "Odyssey of a Practical Visionary"
Diamond Valley Company
Nan Wisherd -- Cable Publishing
Lindy Gibson -- Grateful Steps
Dee Sernoff -- Limerock Books
Mary Ceska -- Nepperhan Press
Rhonda Y. Johnson -- O Books
Debra J. Slover -- Leader Garden Press
Denise M. Turgeon -- Turren Publishing
Kennedy F. Jones -- IdentiFacts Publications
John Barrow -- Wexford & Barrow, Publishers
John M. Cape -- Singing Bowl Publishing
Jan Brehm -- Sweet Pea Productions
Ted Broomfield -- Night Shade Books
Natalie Wickham -- Sibro Publishing
Wendy Treyner -- Euphoria Press
Linda Muzzarelli -- Consumer Press
Ingrid P. Dean -- Topaz Heart Publishing
Sheila Ann Dane -- Dane & Dane LLC
Brandon M. Haskins -- Clay Bridges Communications & Publishing
Kaity Ocean -- Ocean Communications
Wendy Jane Carrel -- Author Ambassador
Becky Coffield -- Moonlight Mesa Associates
Joe Hilko -- Hilko Library & Media Services
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity
Charles A. Barrett -- The Barrett Company Communications
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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