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Cox Report: September 2003
Jim Cox Report: September 2003
Dear Publishers, Family & Friends:
Another month has gone by, filled with books, email, snail-mail, review scripts, and publication
The September issue of Writer's Digest Magazine is running a piece by me titled "How Do You
Stack Up?" and is about how people judge books by their covers every day and how to get a
small press or self-published title past the first hurdle in the promotion/publicity/sales campaign --
the book reviewer.
I'm donating my little writer's fee to the Midwest Book Review postage fund. And speaking of
postage, the following wonderful people donating stamps as a gesture of support for what we try
to accomplish here in behalf of the small press community:
Sherri Erickson - Attainment Company, Inc.
Steve Karris - Orchard Publications
Jean Colis - Emba House, LLC
Carol Fenster - Savory Palate, Inc.
David J. Marcom
I know it might not sound like such a big deal -- but every time one of these stamp donation
letters come in it just fills me with a profound sense of appreciation at this tangible
acknowledgment of our efforts to support authors and publishers in a business that so very highly
dominated by the conglomerates and multinationals.
Just to reiterate for newcomers, the Midwest Book Review cannot accept money from authors or
publishers in order to avoid any conflict of interest issues. But we do most gratefully accept
donations of stamps as gestures of support and appreciation.
In other news, I got one of those Social Security Statements in the mail. The ones that tell you
how much (or in my case, how little) I can expect to get if I retire at ages 62, 65, and 70. --
Financially speaking, it looks like I'll be manning the helm here at the Midwest Book Review until
Ah well -- at least I so thoroughly enjoy my job that I really don't mind -- as long as I can start to
slow down when I'm 80!
The reviews we generate here at the Midwest Book Review are also going to be popping up
elsewhere on the internet in regular monthly fashion.
Subj: Re: Book Review Forum Invitation
Thanks for the subscription offer, sign me up for Children's Bookwatch, Internet Bookwatch, and
Small Press Bookwatch...I am going to make a special category at the Book Review Forum for
YOUR book reviews.
The Book Review Forum website is at http://www.BookReviewForum.com This latest outlet
joins a roster of others ranging from Amazon.com, to the School Page, to the University of
Wisconsin's "Cooperative Children's Book Center", to alt.books.reviews
Now let's go on to talk about questions and issues relevant to publishing.
1. Thanks for the review..
Thanks very much for the recent good words about my book, "How to Become a Fulltime
Freelance Writer." This is a book I had been wanting to write for 15 years.
Years ago, I used to send books to you, when I handled Baen Books' publicity, freelance. Now, I
want to submit a couple of sample book reviews to you. I'll send them in separate messages.
Michael A. Banks
I actually remembered Michael from his Baen Books days (Baen is a science fiction & fantasy
specialty publisher out of New York). It's kind of strange to most folks but I rarely remember
authors, but for some reason I rarely forget publicists! But more to the point, we are always
interested in serving as a forum for as wide a variety of literary opinion and book reviews as
possible. I've even developed a "Reviewer Guidelines" that I automatically send to anyone who
inquires. All of our review correspondence with our volunteer reviewers (including their book
review submissions) is done by email.
Some of our reviews (like Michael) are quite experienced in the publishing industry and published
authors in their own right. Others are simply bookaholics like me who enjoy being able to express
their opinions and need only a forum from which to do so.
A quick online perusal of our "Reviewer's Bookwatch" and "MBR Bookwatch" will quickly
demonstrate the wide and diverse range of reviewing styles by our 76 volunteer reviewers.
Writers need to be readers as well. But it's publishers who also need to spend healthy amounts of
time reading for both pleasure and profit. That's because it is by the practice of regularly reading
the writings of others that we improve and sharpen our own skills and awareness of what works
(and what doesn't) when it comes to putting our thoughts and imaginations down on paper (or a
computer screen in this day and age).
Reading will expand vocabulary, provide examples of effective expression to emulate, introduce
alternative word usage, and reinforce communication traditions of grammar, punctuation, spelling,
paragraphing, and layout.
Reading helps the writer to write. What's not so obvious is that in my experience and observation,
reading also helps publishers in their publishing of what others (and they themselves) write -- if
only in the editorial evaluation part of the publishing process.
And I'm not just referring to reading your way through all those "how to" books you will find
listed in the "Writer's Bookshelf" and "Publisher's Bookshelf" sections of the Midwest Book
Review website -- or even these monthly extended monologs called The Jim Cox Report.
Read for pleasure. Read for sport. Read for mindless fun. We all have "guilty pleasures". One of
mine is Japanese anime graphic novels and comics. Every now and then, after finishing something
that was as interesting as it was entertaining, take a moment to reflect upon just what was it about
the author's writing or the publisher's efforts (ranging from cover art to font selection) that made
your reading experience so memorable and/or pleasurable. What you come up with by way of
explanations or observations might just serve you in good stead in your own writing/publishing
And you can always available yourself of the Midwest Book Review as a forum for your more
articulated commentaries about what you've been reading!
2. Permission to use review quotes
We're currently working on several promotional items here at VIZ, and we'd love to use quotes
from some editorial reviews. At this time, we are specifically interested in securing permission to
use the following from your reviews of this manga:
THE BIG O
"Deftly written and superbly drawn by Hitoshi Ariga The Big O series is very highly
recommended for fans of Japanese science fiction manga with film noir feel."
Midwest Book Review
If possible, we'd like permission to use these quotes in advertising, promotions, and on product
(i.e. graphic novel/DVD covers) for these titles. Any use of the quote would be accompanied by
credit to the publication. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly. In the
meantime, if there is an official procedure in securing permission rights, please let me know.
Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you soon!
The above permission was granted. In fact, I can't remember ever having denied anyone
permission to use any of my reviews in their publicity/promotional efforts.
I just wanted to cite the above request as documentation that I follow my own advice -- and write
reviews on my "guilty pleasure" reading (Big O is one of those Japanese anime graphic novels I
was referring to earlier).
The other reason for adding Brad's email to this Report was to illustrate how simple it is to ask
permission whenever you want to use a reviewer's commentary in your own promotional efforts.
And that includes those Amazon.com "Reader Review" commentaries -- at lest where the
reviewer provides contact information as part of their personal profile for Amazon.
3. THANKS for Socrates' Way review
Dear James Cox:
May I thank you most warmly for your fine review of my Socrates' Way. I greatly appreciate your
coverage -- and I am delighted to learn of MBR and your diverse activities which obviously do so
much for promoting reading and books throughout the world. Congratulations on this important
It's always nice when folks send along little "thank you" notes, cards, letters, and emails. Book
reviewer's like feedback as well as any author or publisher! It also serves a very practical function
for the Midwest Book Review. I collect them and then utilize them to demonstrate and document
our work in the small press community when it comes grant renewal time.
It's also in line with how I was raised by my grandmother -- a lady school teacher who taught me
to always say please when you wanted something -- and thank you when you got it.
4. The MBR Website
I just wanted to introduce myself and thank you for your valuable Web site.
I started ghostwriting a business book a few months ago, and I think I finally found my writing
passion -- after 10 years of writing advertising and marketing copy. My client has decided to help
me set up a small press to publish his book, and hopefully other business, health, and self-help
books in the future.
I'm using much of the info on your site to start this exciting new venture, and I want you to know
how much I appreciate the resources that you provide.
Edward Sweet & Associates
I get communiques like this a couple of times a month. When folks first stumble upon the
Midwest Book Review they do tend to be rather impressed by both the massive size of the thing
and by the utility of the information it provides for writers, publishers, librarians, the general
reading public, -- and now book publicists!
I was delighted that Ed Sweet is availing himself of the MBR website as he carries along with his
fledgling book publicity company.
I've often been asked why everything on our website is free? What don't I charge admission or
levy a user fee or something.
The answer is quite simple. The site itself is sponsored and paid for by a grant -- and that includes
the time and effort of our webmaster in maintaining, updating, and expanding it. The information
contained in the articles I write and then post in the "Advice For Publishers" section of the
website is stuff that I've created elsewhere for other audiences.
Besides, the mission statement of the Midwest Book Review is quite clear: To promote literacy,
library usage, and small press publishing. Very few things we do accomplish so much for so many
as the Midwest Book Review website.
A lot of people find out about our website from friends, fellow members of regional author and
publisher associations, and from online publisher discussion groups. Some find it referenced and
recommended in something like 15 different "how to" books written for aspiring writers and
publishers over the past couple of decades. But a goodly number find it by simply typing in "book
review" into their online search engines.
Then I get fan mail like the one from Ed Sweet -- and it makes all our hard work and long hours
feel totally worth while!
Incidently, the Midwest Book Review website address is
5. Permission request for Curriculum Articles
Hi, Jim. I have a request for you. A while back, you let me put some comments from one of your
monthly reports about POD aggregators up at my web site. Thanks again. Now, I am putting
together curriculum and a resource binder for a series of author/publishing workshops I am
giving. I'd like to include this one among some other articles there, as well as one other: "How the
Book Review System Works." It's at the BookZone site, but this may also be the article that ran
in the SPAN newsletter some time back.
I'd be most grateful for your help again...
Best to you,
Cedar House Publishers
Debbie is a cyberspace "pen pal" of mine. We've been colleagues in publisher discussion groups.
She does good work -- as a writer, as an educator, and as a publisher.
She also demonstrates in the above email request still another aspect of the Midwest Book
Review. We have a huge educational component to what we do. Any teacher that wants to utilize
anything on our website for their classroom or online instruction efforts is free to do so -- giving
the Midwest Book Review the usual credit citation when doing so.
This not only means the various "how to" articles that are to be found there, but the reviews and
reader/writer/publisher web resource links as well.
Every now and then I do a Google search for my name and the Midwest Book Review. I'm all
over the place! I find my stuff on websites that I've never heard of! So our policy of free
dissemination of information and advice for the publishing community has won us friends all over
the country and (quite literally) all around the world.
I wouldn't have it any other way!
As writers and publishers having websites of your own, you should give serious consideration to
developing articles or texts of usefulness and utility in a "public domain" kind of way that visitors
to your website could acquire and use in enhancing the informational content of their own
websites. When proper citation credit is given, this is one very successful and effective way of
increasing traffic to your own website -- and enhancing the possibilities of selling your non-public
domain writings and publications.
All I can say is that every time something I write shows up in the Writer's Digest Magazine, or
one of the regional and/or national publisher association newsletters, or in somebody's newly
published "how to" book, there is a sudden and massive spike in the numbers of visitors to the
Midwest Book Review.
It should be the same phenomena for your own website. Think of it as priming one of those old
fashioned water pumps or 19th century forebears used to pump by hand.
Again for the newcomers amongst us, you can receive the Jim Cox Report directly and for free.
Just send me your email address and ask to be signed up.
Well that's all for now. I'm going to break for lunch and then prepare for the monthly mailing out
of tear sheets and publisher notification letters (and once again bless all those wonderful folks
who send us stamps!)
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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