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Jim Cox Report: November 2010
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
Today (November 6th) is my 68th birthday. I got my annual physical a couple of days ago and was pronounced healthy by my doctor (saying among other things that I've got the blood pressure of a teenager!).
The only time I feel like I'm 68 is when I look into a mirror. Otherwise I feel no different than I've ever done for as long as I can remember.
I think the secret is that I live a mellow life. The foundation for that is a wife who once told me in no uncertain terms to stop working so hard to amass a fortune because she really did not want to end up a wealthy widow. A daughter who decided that she'd take over the daily reins of the Midwest Book Review and has done a splendid job with the 'nuts & bolts' of the operation. And some fairly sage investments providing a comfortable financial safety net for my old age.
Plus the happy fact that I continue to do what I love -- read books, render opinions, answer questions on a daily basis posed to me about writing and publishing by aspiring authors and novice publishers, receiving emails and letters of appreciation, as well as occasionally seeing my name and/or the Midwest Book Review in print and/or online.
But enough gossip and self-satisfaction. Let me offer something of practical value from someone who has been a cyberspace 'pen pal' of mine within our publishing industry. I've also reviewed her excellent 'how to' book for publishers trying to market their titles on shoestring and no-string promotion budgets. I think you'll find this of germane interest.
Subject: Jim Cox Report
Date: 1/14/2010 9:59:02 A.M. Central Standard Time
Top 10 Book Promotion Strategies for 2010 Revealed by Survey
A recent survey reveals that authors and publishers are anxious to leverage the benefits of social media marketing as they promote their books in the coming months.
According to Dana Lynn Smith of The Savvy Book Marketer, nearly all – 94 percent of the respondents – said they plan to promote their books with social networking and other social media this year.
"Online book promotion through social media is clearly a popular strategy," says Smith, a book marketing consultant. "But, it's important that authors and publishers learn to use these new book promotion tools effectively."
According to the survey, here are the top 10 book promotion methods that authors and publishers plan to use this year:
1. Social networking and social media: 94 percent
2. Blogging: 84 percent
3. Seeking book reviews: 75 percent
4. Seeking testimonials and endorsements: 73 percent
5. Press releases: 68 percent
6. Ezines or email marketing: 62 percent
7. Radio and television talk shows: 62 percent
8. Speaking or teleseminars: 60 percent
9. Article marketing: 57 percent
10. Book signings: 56 percent
"Despite the emphasis on online book promotion in 2010, more traditional activities like book reviews and radio interviews are still important," notes Smith. "An effective book promotion plan should use a variety of online and offline tactics for the widest reach."
Of the 136 people responding to the book promotion strategies survey, 42 percent are independently or self-published authors, 25 percent are authors published by a traditional publishing house, 12 percent are aspiring authors, and 21 percent are publishers or others in the industry.
Smith, who develops marketing plans for nonfiction books, is the author of The Savvy Book Marketer's Guide to Successful Social Marketing and several other book promotion guides. For book promotion tips, visit The Savvy Book Marketer blog at www.TheSavvyBookMarketer.com. Subscribers to Smith’s complimentary newsletter, The Savvy Book Marketer, get a copy of the Top Book Marketing Tips e-book when they register for the newsletter at www.BookMarketingNewsletter.com. For more book marketing tips, follow Smith on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BookMarketer.
Dana Lynn Smith
The Savvy Book Marketer Guides
Developing good relations and collegial friendships down through the years with people like Dana Smith are part of what makes it a pleasure to serve as the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review -- with no end in sight.
Now on to reviews of some new titles for authors and publishers:
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
The Coffee Break Screenwriter
Michael Wiese Productions
12400 Ventura Blvd. #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
9781932907803, $24.95, www.mwp.com
The Coffee Break Screenwriter belongs in any performing arts or screenwriting collection and offers keys to finding time to write a screenplay. Hollywood screenwriting instructor Pilar Alessandra shows how to write a screenplay on the side and offers some sixty ten-minute writing tools designed to train budding screenwriters in the art of budgeting time. Learn how to outline, finish pages, and progress through this fine survey.
Mind Your Business
Michael Wiese Productions
3940 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, #1111, Studio City, CA 91604
1932907769, $24.95, www.mwp.com
Mind Your Business: A Hollywood Literary Agent's Guide to Your Writing Career is a 'must'' for any writer wishing to break into the business of writing for Hollywood. It comes from a former agent who knows all the insider's answers to what the industry expects and needs, and it considers the business end of screenwriting over the usual 'how to write' approach. No film or business collection should be without this specific set of insider secrets.
The Nighttime Novelist
Writer's Digest Books
c/o F+W Media
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
9781582978468, $22.99, www.amazon.com
Most writers have 'day jobs' unrelated to their literary activities and must do their creative writing during times of leisure -- a very limited commodity in these hectic times. Joseph Bates draws upon his extensive experience and considerable expertise as a published writer of both fiction and nonfiction to write "The Nighttime Novelist: Finish Your Novel in Your Spare Time", a 272-page compendium of practical advice and considerable insight into how any aspiring author can write their novel by utilizing the bits and pieces of available time throughout their day (and night). Superbly organized into quick and easy 'mini lessons', "The Nighttime Novelist" offers techniques for breaking down and dealing with the various elements of the novel; overcome commonly encountered obstacles to writing productively; and consistently enhancing the quality of the novel as the writing process progresses. Of special note are the 'Try It Out' assignments and more than twenty-five interactive worksheets that will prove to be of invaluable assistance for the 'spare time author' for starting to write, keeping on with writing, and completing the writing of a novel. With its 'notebook' style spiral binding allowing "The Nighttime Novelist" to lay out flat on a desk or table, this thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide is especially recommended to anyone and everyone trying to write a novel while holding down a day job and meeting their responsibilities to family and friends.
Memories of the Soul
Nan Merrick Phifer
PO Box 40025, Eugene, OR 97404
Blessingway Author's Services (publicity)
134 East Lupita Road, Santa Fe, NM 87505
9780984206001, $19.95, www.ingotpress.com
Everyone has a story; it's getting the story out that's the challenge. "Memories of the Soul: A Writing Guide" serves a s a guide to help writers get their feelings and experiences out and on paper and make them into a coherent story easily understood by readers. For those who aren't sure of how to put a pen to paper with meaning, "Memories of the Soul" may be the guide that they need.
Make Me a Story
Lisa C. Miller
477 Congress Street, Suite 4B, Portland, ME 04101-3451
9781571107893, $20.00, www.stenhouse.com
Stories have always been excellent educational mediums, and today is no different. "Make Me a Story: Teaching Writing Through Digital Storytelling" is a guide to teaching young writers the importance of good writing by showing that good writing is the key to a visual presentation of a story. The art and music should empower the writing, and Lisa Miller gives good advice on teaching this writing lesson. "Make Me a Story" is an excellent resource for English and Language arts teachers of elementary students, highly recommended.
Writing To Make a Difference
Dalya F. Massachi
Writing for Community Success
PO Box 5607, Berkeley, CA 94705
9780978883607, $29.95, www.dfmassachi.net
The pen is very mighty indeed if applied right. "Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact" is a guide to writing to make a difference, giving readers a thoughtful and concise guide to make the most out of their writing. With advice on keeping your message clear, concise, and powerful, Dalya F. Massachi gives readers a solid and educational read with plenty of real world examples on the power of the writer in making a difference. "Writing to Make a Difference" is an excellent read and a top pick for the concerned person with a way with the pen.
Now here are some Q&A's on writing and publishing:
In a message dated 8/13/2010 7:13:33 A.M. Central Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
I read your articles on www.midwestbookreview.com with great interest. My book has been reviewed and even recommended by Publishers Newswire, and I got a press release out in July. However, I want to create more buzz and wonder if you have a list of book reviewers?
Johnny and the Hurricanes, Inc.
26230 B Glenwood Road, Perrysburg, Ohio 43551
You'll find an extensive list of freelance book reviewers, book review magazines, and book review websites at:
To be considered for review by the Midwest Book Review send two copies of your published book accompanied by a cover letter and a publicity release to my attention.
James A. Cox
Subject: Re: Attn: Mr. James A. Cox.
Date: 6/19/2010 11:13:32 A.M. Central Daylight Time
Dear Mr. Parker:
Thank you for your very kind words with respect to the Midwest Book Review web site. You've asked a great many questions and I'll try my best to respond to each of them because they are focused on commonly encountered issues with respect to self-publication when it comes to getting reviews and dealing with libraries. This will take me a little time but worth it as content for my monthly column called the Jim Cox Report which I write for the small press publishing community.
I'll intersperse my responses in a Q&A fashion below:
In a message dated 6/17/2010 11:50:59 P.M. Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Dear Mr. Cox:
My name is David Parker and I am self-publishing a self-help book that deals with overcoming procrastination as a way of defeating mental depression. My book will be published in October.
I am presently reading your web site's helpful articles on how independent publishers like myself can get the most value out of each and every copy sent out for review. While I haven't yet finished reading all of the articles, not yet anyway, there's one topic that doesn't seem to have been covered and I would like to ask your advice.
A few weeks ago I attended Book Expo America for the first time. I spoke with representatives from Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal, and other prestigious reviewers. The representatives I spoke with were all quite honest and were down to earth with me in saying that they tend not to review books that are self-published. In fact, I asked one of the representatives: "Let's say someone at your publication took a liking to my book, thought that it was well written, and had the potential to help suffers of habitual procrastination, and then my book was reviewed. You would let me know that it had been reviewed, right?" The answer I received was: "No. That's not our policy."
I then asked: "So, if my book were rejected, you would at least send out a courtesy e-mail or a form letter, since I went to all the trouble of sending you a copy. You would do that, right?" The answer I received again was: "No. That's not our policy either."
So I then asked: "Then supposing you did review my book. How would I know?" "You could take a subscription. Otherwise, you'd have to wait a few weeks and call us." was the reply I got back.
Mr. Cox, I'm not putting anyone down. These reviewers have loads and loads of books that come in on a daily basis and they obviously need rules and guidelines and they have to draw the line somewhere. The thing is, these reviewers are not like MBR. Whereas MBR takes on books in final form, these reviewers want galleys. Now I can have my manuscript printed and professionally bound at Staples, but these galleys cost me a bit over $20 each, plus the time to draw up a good cover letter, and the cost of a mailing envelope and postage.
Again, as I haven't yet seen these questions raised on your web site, would you kindly help me out with your knowledge on with regard to these questions:
1. As my book deals with successfully overcoming procrastination, I believe it has the potential to appeal to the mass market, and thus would be the perfect addition for libraries. Yet I spoke with many purchasing librarians at Book Expo and some said that no matter how much they might personally like a book, some of them were barred by their employers from buying books that had not been reviewed in Kirkus or in Library Journal. If that's the case and the odds are stacked against me, should I just avoid the cost of having the $20 galleys printed up and not deal with the frustration of what seems like a losing proposition, or am I rushing to conclusions?
There are two classes of book reviews: Pre-publication and Post-publication. Publishers Weekly and the Library Journal are prime examples of the first. The Midwest Book Review and CNN's Book Notes are good examples of the second.
Pre-publication reviews will only accept galleys, uncorrected proofs, or ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) and will automatically reject published books. Post-publication reviews will only except published books (the way they would be encountered in a bookstore or a library) and will automatically reject galleys, uncorrected proofs, and ARCs
Sending a galley to a post-publication review is as much a waste of your capital as sending a finished copy to a pre-publication review.
Additionally, pre-publication reviews usually will have a time line (usually about 3 months) prior to a book's publication date. Post-publication reviews usually ignore publication dates but require that when a book is submitted for review that it be in print and available to the reading public.
I worked for many years as an acquisitions consultant for 18 library systems in south central Wisconsin so I'm quite familiar with library guidelines and policies with respect to acquisition requirements.
Most libraries will only acquire a book if it has received a positive review in a major book review source such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, the New York Times Book Review, the Midwest Book Review, etc.
The only other route to library acquisition is that if library patrons request it (surprisingly, it would only take 3 or 4 such requests).
Unfortunately the major pre-publication sources are prejudiced against self-published authors -- and not to fond of small or independent presses either!
2. Is there any way of finding out which reviewers at Kirkus, etc. are "into" self-help books? I'd imagine they probably dislike those kinds of inquiries, however, if they took finished copies, I'd send them as many as they liked or wanted. But $20 a galley plus mailing costs is great deal of money for me to risk. It’s not that I’m unwilling to risk it. I'm happy to take the risk, if only I knew what the odds were.
The odds against Kirkus accepting a self-published title for review are truly formidable. The only ways I know of to identify editors and reviewers with a particular interest in a particular subject or genre are:
1. Ask the editor-in-chief.
2. Ask around on the on-line author/publisher discussion groups and associations. You'll find a roster of these on the Midwest Book Review website at: www.midwestbookreview.com/bookbiz/pubassoc.htm
For a majority of self-published, specially printed galleys are simply a waste of money.
3. I've heard of an organization, possibly affiliated with a college in Florida that will distribute a flyer on my book to libraries nationwide. However, a self-published author I know who used that service said that he had "zero" in the way of results. Of course, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for me—it might. Are you familiar with this particular flyer delivery service, or another -- one that might work?
You are now in the area of freelance or independent book publicists. You'll find a roster of the ones that I regularly receive books from at: www.midwestbookreview.com/bookbiz/pub_mkt.htm#pub
Visit their websites and become familiar with the services they offer, the prices they charge, and then ask for references. In other words, vette them the same way you would any other service provider.
Specifically focusing on library marketing, one of the best national firms is:
Quality Books: www.tlcdelivers.com/tlc/who-we-are/partners/qualitybooks.asp
4. In a sense, if I sell one copy to a library and let's say that 40 patrons borrow and read it, we could say that that's 40 copies I might otherwise have sold -- and instead, I sold just that one copy to the library. So while this question might unintentionally sound funny, is getting into libraries and all the effort that that takes, quite possibly counter-effective? After all, I'm going to have bills to pay.
My advice is to take any sale you can. Even if a library will (hopefully) generate multiple readers of that book, self-published authors depend on word-of-mouth as a marketing tool and (hopefully once again) those multiple readers will be so impressed by the book that they'll tell friends and family, who will pop onto Amazon.com or down to their favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore to order copies for themselves.
Getting a library sale is always worthwhile -- but can be very labor intensive. There are 'tricks of the trade' when dealing with libraries. One of which is a mailing campaign using selective library mailing lists. There are several mailing label companies with those. Another is an author tour of 'Friends of the Library' groups. Still another is writing promotional articles and offering them to library association newsletters.
With respect to having 'bills to pay', understand the reality for most self-published authors is that they will never recoup their capital investment. If you are in to self-publishing to make a profit, be aware that you will have to invest long and hard with respect to your time, your energy, and mastering a marketing learning curve that would daunt Donald Trump.
But with the help of folks like Dan Poynter and myself and the authors of all those 'how to' books on writing and publishing that I review in my Jim Cox Reports -- it is possible and has been done.
You'll find the current and back issues of the Jim Cox Report archived at:
5. Other than Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, and School Library Journal, are there any other reviewers that I should consider -- that is, ones that only accept galleys.
There are a lot of them. You'll find a database of freelance book reviewers, book review magazines and publications, book review websites, etc. that I've created at:
Other Reviewers: www.midwestbookreview.com/links/othr_rev.htm
Some are specialized (e.g. poetry, children's books, science fiction), while others are more general. A few are pay-for-play (e.g. Foreword Magazine) but most are not. Some are Pre-publication, others are Post-publication.
The trick is to go down the list (and it's a very long list) and when you see one that looks promising, click on it. You'll be zapped to that particular website. Read through it and you'll be able to determine if:
1. It's thematically appropriate for your particular book.
2. If it is, what their particular submission guidelines are.
I didn't intend for this e-mail to run on so long but it's taken me six and one-half years of research, writing, editing, learning, and sacrifice to reach this point and I'd like to give this my very best shot. For what it's worth, I am attaching a page of advance praise for my book from medical and mental health professionals who read galleys.
I would sincerely appreciate any advice and help that you could impart to me.
Very truly yours,
Always remember that my advice is free -- and often worth exactly what I charge! But I have been in the book review business for some 34 years and have stood witness to all the tremendous changes that have taken place within the publishing industry -- and the general reading public.
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:
Earl E. Van Gilder
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Ruby Cavanaugh Koerper
Helen Rivas-Rose '' "Brave"
William G. Bowen -- "The Target"
Maureen Sherbondy -- "Weary Blues"
Joel Herskowitz -- "Swallow Safely"
David A. Weiss -- "Links & Chains"
Lauren Carr -- "It's Murder, My Son!"
William G. Byrnes -- "Unfinished Business"
Craig Vroom -- "The Secretous Sign"
Janet Goodfriend -- "For The Love Of Art"
Peggy Krause -- "The Scruffy Little Crumb-Grabbers"
Marie Simas -- "Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?"
Judith Bader Jones -- "Moon Flowers on the Fence"
Joshua Carl Davis -- "Metaphysics and the Meaning of Life"
Nelson & Jones
Bold Type Press
Rubin & Meer Publishing
Jody Banks -- Axios Press
Susan Gainer -- Deadora Press
Liam McCurry -- Thriller Publications
Jason Gridley -- Gresham & Doyle
Ben Mukkala -- Still Waters Publishing
Karl Rubinstein -- Duckboat Books LLC
Becky Coffield -- Moonlight Mesa Associations
Judith Anne Desjardins -- Spirit Home Publishing
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
Karen Villanueva -- Karen Villanueva Author Services
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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