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Jim Cox Report: October 2007

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

I am a passionate observer of the publishing industry. I'm also interested in economics, political science, and history. This past month all three of these interests have collided like a train wreck with reverberations that have only begun to be felt by the industry, the government, and the public.

For the first time in American fiscal history, the American dollar is worth less than the Canadian dollar. At the last news report, the American dollar was pegged at an equivalent worth of 99 Canadian pennies. And it looks like the American dollar has not yet hit bottom.

Look at the last paperback you purchased or published. You'll likely find a two-tier pricing system that has existed for decades and kept pace with the increasing devaluation of the American dollar over the past half-century.

For example, I've just plucked at random a paperback from our review shelves. It's "Crazy in Love" by Lani Diane Rich and published by Grand Central (formerly Warner Books). Printed on the back cover just above the bar graph is: $6.99 US / $8.50 Can.

This book was published and sent to me before the news broke about the plummeting value of U.S. currency in the world's financial markets.

Will the mass market romance paperbacks published in 2008 have pricing structures that will read more like: $8.50 US/ $6.99 Can.?

Mass market paperbacks were the creation of World War II era paper shortages. I'm old enough to remember when Pocket Books debuted this new publishing format and priced their paperbacks at 10 cents. Now just a bit less than six decades later, paperbacks are at $6.99 and $7.99, with a few coming in that are hitting $8.50

I remember when comic books were 10 cents, and to be found on spinner racks and magazine shelves in every drugstore and grocery store in the country.

Then over the last five decades the price of a comic book started the same upward slope that other forms of American publishing were to travel.

Comics went from a dime, to 12 cents, then to 15, to 25, to 35, to 50, to 75, to 99, to 1.25, to 1.35, to 1.50, to 1.75, to 1.99, and on, and on, until today they commonly price out at $2.99 and $3.99

One of the results of this pricing inflation is that comics are no longer to be found on spinner racks in America's drugstores and grocery stores. They are the province of comic book specialty stories -- or direct from the publisher by subscription.

What is behind this price inflation that has so permeated the American publishing industry? The same forces that are behind every aspect of inflation in contemporary American society:

1. Government borrowing to finance government programs (military and non-military, foreign and domestic) rather than taxing to finance them.

2. The increasing power and influence of corporations and conglomerates over the political process in the form of money and what money buys (which is especially unfettered access to policy makers and lucrative election support for those who comply as requested).

3. Population increases coupled with resource depletions (think trees and petroleum) contributing to the cost of production and distribution of goods (like books) and services (like libraries).

One inescapable conclusion drawn from these trends in publishing with respect to the devaluation of American currency is that life is going to get ever so much more difficult for small presses and self-published authors who must price their books higher than the conglomerate publishers because of shorter print runs.

I'm sad to report that I see no end in sight to the deleterious effect on the publishing industry of the continuing drop in the value of an America dollar.

I've depressed myself enough for one day. Now let's talk about authors selling their own books -- regardless of how much they are priced:

Every author is going to have to spend time, money and effort in pitching their books to prospective audiences of potential buyers. That pitch will often be in the form of a radio and/or television interview. Being able to market your book in the course of an interview is a skill that can be learned. Before I launch into a few applicable tips, tricks & techniques, here is a testament that I know a little something about the topic:

Subject: Thank You!
Date: 9/30/2007 9:30:49 P.M. Central Daylight Time
From: Celiaholliday@nyc.rr.com

Thanks for the tips! I'm giving my first TV interview on my self-published book this coming Friday. Your tips have helped me tremendously!

Sincerely,
Celia Holliday Turner
Lose Weight Naturally, www.HWLSeminars.com
Healthy Weight Loss Seminars, www.organicconsumers.org

I spent five years (1976-1980) producing and hosting the weekly radio show "The Madison Review of Books" on WORT-FM. I spent twenty-three years (1978-2001) producing and hosting the weekly television show "Bookwatch" on WYOU-TV. Both stations were non-commercial, public sponsored, and located in Madison, Wisconsin. The core element of both shows were author interviews. I should additionally mention that I also regularly interviewed booksellers, publisher reps, illustrators, editors, literary critics, and book reviewers as well.

I've also been the subject of so many interviews over the past 30+ years that I couldn't hope to even count them all.

So here distilled are a few ideas for authors who find themselves in front of a microphone or a camera and being questioned about themselves and their book.

1. Watch C-SPAN 2 on the weekends with their "Book Talk" programing where authors of all sorts are interviewed. While most of these interviews are in the traditional one-to-one format, also pay attention to how authors and moderators handle themselves at seminars, workshops, and convention panels.

Take notes while you watch about how, when the interviewer wants to go off on a tangent, the skilled interviewee will bring the subject back to the book. It's as much an art as it is a science.

2. Practice role-playing being interviewed. Draft family and friends into interviewing you so that you get used to answering questions. If your publisher has a publicist or marketing director, they would be prime recruits for putting you through your paces in an interview setting.

Tape record (and if you have one, video record) your interview. Then play back the tape or the video and get a feeling for how you sound, how you look, what your posture is, how well you were able to respond to questioning, how effective you were at bringing attention back to your book again and again during the course of the questioning.

3. When on television, bring your own copy of the book and make certain that the cameras have a clear line-of-sight to the book's dust jacket during the course of the interview.

4. Don't be shy about promoting yourself and your book. If being extrovert in public is difficult for you, that's where you need to practice, role-play, and practice some more, until you can achieve enough of a comfort level so that you are able to convey your thoughts and book marketing message without choking up or fading out.

5. There are also a number of 'self-help' books out there on public speaking and related topics. Read some. Interviews are a form of public speaking because you are not just addressing the person who is interviewing you, you are also communicating directly to an audience.

Now on to something else;

I'm not the only one here at the Midwest Book Review that critiques 'how to' books on writing and publishing -- just the most prolific. Let's start with two of our reviewers, then go on to our regular writing/publishing review column:

Here's a two particularly appropriate reviews by our regular reviewers as they appeared in last month's "Reviewer's Bookwatch":

Christy's Bookshelf

The Frugal Editor
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Red Engine Press
Branson, MO
9780978515874 $18.95

As the literary market continues to tighten its proverbial belt, today's writer must assume more of the responsibilities surrounding book publishing than ever before. No longer can a writer depend on a publisher or agent to accept a manuscript in need of editing, and submitting a manuscript that isn't as near perfect as possible will, in all probability, result in rejection. To the rescue comes acclaimed author Carolyn Howard-Johnson with The Frugal Editor, the latest in her How to Do It Frugally series. This little gem is a must-have for any writer, published or not, bestselling or unknown. Filled with valuable tips, The Frugal Editor touches on all aspects of self-editing, such as how to spot common grammatical errors, from superfluous adverbs to confusing dangling participles, as well as how to organize the workspace, format the manuscript, and use Word's tools to the fullest. Also included are sample query and cover letters, and pointers on correcting intrusive taglines, when to use an ellipsis, and correct spacing, to name a few. The book takes the reader step-by-step through the editing process, from rough draft to galley. No questions are left unanswered, no topics left uncovered. This generous writer goes so far as to recommend resources through other books and websites, with plenty of advice from agents and editors.

The Frugal Editor is one of those reference books every writer should have by their computer for constant use and study. Highly recommended.

Christy Tillery French
Reviewer

Bob's Bookshelf

Narrative Writing
George Hillocks, Jr.
Heinemann
361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801-3912
9780325008424 $19.50 www.heinemann.com

The emphasis of this guide is on producing content rather than form when it comes to student writing. The author's intent is to boost the students' engagement, making them active learners - not passive recipients of knowledge.

This is achieved by breaking the learning task into small, doable pieces which allow the young person to master these tasks thus, preparing him or her for more complex learning. By providing clear instructions and objectives while focusing on the procedural knowledge that accompanies academic success, Hillocks creates a scaffolding that will create confident and fully engaged writers. Students on the secondary school level would benefit most from the program set forth here, but it would be appropriate for some middle school youngsters also.

Bob Walch
Reviewer

Now for our regular column of reviews and recommendations for aspiring writers and novice publishers we call:

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

2008 Writer's Market, 87th Edition
Robert Lee Brewer
Writer's Digest Books/F&W Publications
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
9781582974972, $49.99 www.fwpublications.com

Over 5 million copies have been sold of the annually-updated Writer's Market, but one of the key reasons why this reference mainstay requires annual acquisition and updating is that information on the publishing industry changes so rapidly and there are many authors out there who need the latest details on how to sell what they write. Any general interest lending library thus needs the very latest: this lists over 3,500 listings for book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals, literary agents and more. It's been completely revised and updated to include over 600 new listings and is a 'must' for any reference library.

Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language
Seth Lerer
Columbia University Press
9780231137942, $24.95 www.columbia/edu/cu/cup

Why is there such a difference between English spelling and pronunciation, and how did grammar rules develop? INVENTING ENGLISH is an engaging survey considering all the oddities of English: it not only covers these oddities but places them in rare American historical perspective, adding background to a survey where others would focus on linguistics alone. High school, college and public library holdings alike will find it a lively historical survey of how people discovered and developed new forms of expression bundled into the English language we know and use today.

Theses and Dissertations
R. Murray Thomas and Dale L. Brubaker
Corwin Press
2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
9781412951166, $34.95 www.corwinpress.com

The revised classic THESES AND DISSERTATIONS should be on the bookshelves of any basic college-level collection catering to graduate students: it helps this audience understand the thesis writing process and offers references and new details on Internet searching, plagiarism, and Internet publishing options alike. Checklists and numerous examples allow students to understand the entire process, from preparing a topic and collecting information to interpreting results and making a presentation that is original and acceptable for either college credit or publication. A top pick for graduate school holdings, it's sure to be a popular, often-consulted and practical reference.

Writing Matters
Andrea A. Lunsford
University of Georgia Press
330 Research Drive, Athens, GA 30602-4901
0820329312, $24.94 www.ugapress.org

Writing would seem to be changing its forms thanks to Internet and blog requirements but in fact rhetoric hasn't really changed all that much, as professor Andrea Lunsford maintains in WRITING MATTERS: RHETORIC IN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LIVES. Her study is suitable for college-level English class discussions and libraries catering to this audience: it surveys the underlying meanings and practices of writing and rhetoric and follows its translation to the digital world. Excellent for rhetoric courses and their debates.

Writer's Digest Books
c/o F&W Publications
4700 East Galbraith Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236
www.fwpublications.com

Any who would record their life history for future generations whether it be the general public or their descendants will appreciate Steve Zousmer's You Don't Have to Be Famous: How to Write Your Life Story (9781592974355, $16.99). Different writing models, from flashback chronology to something more versatile, are surveyed in chapters which discuss writing techniques, solidifying objectives, and putting everything in writing. An excellent guide most accessible to beginners who may have no professional writing experience or objectives but plenty of desire to chart a life for future generations. General-interest libraries will find it a popular pick, especially with scrapbooking gaining such attention for its visual memories. The 2008 GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS (1582975035, $26.99) tells how to find the right agent to represent work and has been completely updated and revised to pack new details in its 17th Annual Edition. Over six hundred listing of script agents, literary agents, and writer's conferences guide would-be pros to the best paths for promoting and distributing writing. Leigh Michaels' ON WRITING ROMANCE: HOW TO CRAFT A NOVEL THAT SELLS (1582974365, $16.99) comes from a noted romance novelist who guides writers through the process of writing and publishing romance. From avoiding genre stereotypes and cliches to highlighting relationship developments and creating logical trains of thought, using tension and timing to develop sensuality, ON WRITING ROMANCE is packed with insights.

The Artful Edit
Susan Bell
W.W. Norton
500 5th Avenue, New York NY 10110
9780393057522, $23.95 www.wwnorton.com

THE ARTFUL EDIT: ON THE PRACTICE OF EDITING YOURSELF provides a refreshing, new look at the idea of editing and how writers must step apart from their writing process to develop editing as a separate, distinct tool. From holding back on premature editing and using longhand to avoid mistakes made by computer editing choices to using tips and exercises to streamline the editing process, THE ARTFUL EDIT is packed with insights important for aspiring writers.

A Thinker's Guide To Effective Writing
Bill Bailey
Echo Mountain Press
4010 Echo Mountain Drive, Kingwood, TX 77345
9780979362606, $25.00 http://echomountainpress.com

Being learned in a subject is no guarantee of fluency in writing about it. Having an original story does not automatically mean that it will be written down in paper as engagingly and seamlessly as the author intended. Writing takes a set of skills that include more than the ability to spell or a basic grasp of grammar. "A Thinker's Guide To Effective Writing" presents two sets of rules fundamentally necessary to being able to write effectively. One set focuses upon creating a text that is simple, efficient, and so clearly laid out that even grade-school children can understand what is written. The goal is to write as simply as possible without sacrificing content. The twenty-five rules comprising this set are presented, explained and illustrated with total accessibility. The second set of twelve rules promotes effective writing without consciously seeking efficiency, but efficiency often is a welcome by-product. Profuse with examples by writers ranging from Francis Bacon and Winston Churchill, to Albert Einstein and George Orwell, "A Thinker's Guide To Effective Writing" is a complete course of easily assimilated and practical instruction that is particularly recommended to the attention of students, aspiring authors, educators, editors, editorialists, journalists, attorneys, and anyone else who needs to communicate by writing whether it be on paper or on computer.

The Copyright Handbook
Stephen Fishman
Nolo Press
950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
9781413305333, $39.99 www.nolo.com 1-800-955-4775

Simply stated, "The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs To Know" by copyright attorney Stephen Fishman is the definitive reference on the subject of copyright law. This thoroughly 'user friendly' instruction manual shows aspiring authors how to register their work; how to maximize copyright protection for their work; how to use a copyright notice; how to transfer ownership of a copyright; how to avoid copyright infringements and effectively deal with those who infringe on their copyrighted material; the legal definition of the 'fair use' rule; how to obtain permission to use copyrighted work; how to profit from a copyright. All this and a great deal more (such as copyrighting Internet works such as blogs) are covered in this newly updated and expanded ninth edition of "The Copyright Handbook" which is accompanied by a CD-ROM providing more than 30 legal and copyright forms. "The Copyright Handbook" is very strongly recommended as essential reading and an invaluable reference to authors seeking a professional career and publishers wishing to avoid becoming entangled in copyright issues.

How To Sell Your Screenplay
Lydia Wilen & Joan Wilen
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
0757000029, $17.95 www.squareonepublishers.com 1-877-900-2665

Writing a screenplay for the movies or for television is only the beginning of the process. Once the script is written it must be pitched (sold) to a studio executive or a production company producer. Expertly co-authored by veteran script writers Lydia and Joan Wilen, "How To Sell Your Screenplay: A Realistic Guide To Getting A Television Or Film Deal" provides an informed and informative introduction to how the script writing business works, what the components of a professional-looking screenplay are, and how to format a script to make the best impression. "How To Sell Your Screenplay" then goes on to explain the role and importance of agent and managers, producers, lawyers, directors, and actors. Enhanced with the example of an effective query letter, "How To Sell Your Screenplay" also features the 'Square One System' for submitting scripts with a minimum of time, cost and effort, while achieving a maximum of success. Of special value is the up-to-date listing of resources, the advice for improving pitching skills, and avoiding common mistakes in pitching a script. Simply stated, "How To Sell Your Screenplay" should be considered 'must reading' for all aspiring script writers seeking to establish themselves professionally.

Now for some Q&A from the Midwest Book Review email box:

Subject: press release
Date: 7/18/2007 9:14:00 P.M. Central Daylight Time
From: KenOOlson
To: MWBOOKREVW

If you were looking to find some good advice on how to do a good press release for a novel, where would you look?

Ken

Dear Ken:

Being able to write a good press release (and a good cover letter) is a vitally important skill for any author, publisher, or publicist seeking to successfully procure reviews and/or sell books. I've written a 'how to' article that can be read in just a couple of minutes and will result in a professional quality press release (also called a publicity release) every time.

Do the following:

1. Go to the Midwest Book Review website at http://www.midwestbookreview.com
2. Click on "Advice for Writers & Publishers"
3. Scroll down to "Create An Effective Publicity Release
4. Follow the step-by-step instructions

I would also suggest that while you are there you also read the accompanying 'how to' articles "Create An Effective Cover Letter" -- another indispensable skill required when marketing books.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

In a message dated 9/28/2007 3:29:48 P.M. Central Daylight Time, ltwyman77@yahoo.com writes:

Hello. I have a book on Amazon.com. How can I get that book in bookstores nationwide? Thanks

Larry

Dear Larry:

Go to the Midwest Book Review website at http://www.midwestbookreview.com

Click on "Publisher's Bookshelf"

Scroll down and read the reviews on all those 'how to' titles written specifically on book marketing, publicity and promotion.

Select and list those that seem to be the most relevant to marketing in bookstores nationwide.

Go down to your local community library and ask for them through their free InterLibrary Loan Service.

Read them.

Apply the information to your own marketing program according the limitations of your available time and budget.

Or:

Hire a professional to do it for you.

You'll find a list of those folk in the Publisher Resources section of our website in the "Publicity/Marketing" subsection.

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

I'm now 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 generous folk decided to say thank you and 'support the cause' that is the Midwest Book Review by donating postage stamps this past month:

Pasquale Varallo
Sunny Franson
Lilly Wang -- "Baby Haiku"
Steve Stillwell -- "Plight of the Toothless Vampire"
James E. Fischer -- "Malignance"
Chuck Williams -- "Palawan"
Thora Gabriel -- "Chessie Bligh"
Vivian Bolland Schroeder -- "This, Too, Is Love"
Mary Seger -- "Invite Joy Into Your Life"
Christopher Martin -- "Having Nasal Surgery? Don't Become an Empty Nose Victim!
Julie Aydlott -- "The Quick Guide to Small Business Budgeting: 2nd Edition"
Laura Regan -- "Winning the Battle Against Unwanted Hair Growth"
Next Friend Press
Ceres Press
The Resume Place, Inc.
Senneff House Publishers
Victor M. Depta -- Blair Mountain Press
Kathy Doore -- "Markawasi: Peru's Inexplicable Stone Forest"
W. Ivan Wright -- Able Journey Press
Linda Houle -- L&L Dreamspell
Sharon Baldwin -- Chartley Publishing
Ellen K. Rudolph -- EKR Publications
Jean Rita Linder -- Alma Publications
Atina Hartunian -- Red Hen Press
Donna Gallers -- Sproutman Publications
George H. Schofield -- The Clarity Group
Elizabeth Waldman Fraizer -- Waldmania! PR
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity
Nigel J. Yorwerth -- Yorwerth Associates Publishing Consultants

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 or uncorrected proofs), 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.

So until next time!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI, 53575
http://www.midwestbookreview.com


James A. Cox
Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937
e-mail: mbr@execpc.com
e-mail: mwbookrevw@aol.com
http://www.midwestbookreview.com


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