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Jim Cox Report: September 2006

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

Another month has come and gone here at the Midwest Book Review, during which there have been changes, accomplishments, and expansions. That includes having a new assistant editor and webmaster-in-training, plus my once again being one of the audiobook judges for the 2006 "Audie Awards" by the Audiobook Publishers Association. More about that next month.

I'm rather proud of the fact that we have among our roster of volunteer and freelance reviewers some of the best analytical talents commenting on what's being published and offered to the reading public today. Here, for example, are what a couple of our reviewers had to say about two "how-to" books of special interest for writers and publishers alike:

1001 Ways to Market Your Books, 6th edition
John Kremer
Open Horizons
P.O. Box 205, Fairfield, Iowa 52556-0205
ISBN: 091241149X, $27.95, 700 pp.,

If you were able to choose only one book on book marketing today, this would be definitely it. This 700-page monster has all the information any author or publisher will ever need to market and promote books, and to create a "state-of-the-art" marketing plan. In spite of the huge amount of information Kremer offers, the book is well organized and the subjects easy to find, either from the table of contents or index. The author also includes articles by experts on various subjects, as well as an amalgam of up-to-date links and resources.

What sets this book part from others in the field, besides the amount of information, are the details. There are many books on promotion out there, but few go as deep as this one. In this sense, this is an invaluable reference work.

Though it is impossible to list all the subjects covered, following are some of them: basic fundamentals of book marketing, planning, distributors and wholesalers, major book reviewers, arranging print/radio/TV interviews, book tours, book signings, advertising (direct mail, finding lists, telemarketing, print ads), offbeat marketing, book fairs and conferences, catalogs, internet promotion, selling to bookstores, libraries, gifts shops and many other retail markets, subsidiary and foreign rights, and much, much more.

Kremer explores each subject in depth and offers clear, pragmatic advice on how to succeed at each level of promotion. Have your highlighter, pencil and Post-its ready, as this is a book you'll want to dissect and examine section by section. A book that should be not on your shelf but on your desk at all times, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books comes highly recommended from this reviewer.

Mayra Calvani

The Street-Smart Writer
Jenna Glatzer and Daniel Steven
Nomad Press
2456 Christian Street, White River Junction, VT 05001
ISBN: 0974934445, $16.95, 296 pp.,

Someone once said, 'There's a sucker born every minute," and from where I sit, many of them seem to be writers falling for one scam, scheme, or dumb idea after another. Jenna Glatzer, creator and queen of "Absolute Write" (the web's most popular magazine for writers) and author of such writerly goodies as "Writer's Block and Other Problems of the Pen" and "Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer: How to Win Top Writing Assignments" has seen the dreams of many good writers dashed. To combat this, she got together with Daniel Steven (a publishing attorney who knows the ropes) and they came up with a book that will benefit both newbies and experienced writers. No more falling for scam publishers. No more being duped by crooked agents. No more poetry "prizes" not worth the paper they're written on. Now, all a smart writer has to do is get hold of a copy of "The Street-Smart Writer: Self-Defense against Sharks and Scams in the Writing World".

The anecdotes, advice, definitions, and templates inside can help cautious writers make sure that they're not cheated and their work's not stolen, cheapened, or unfairly tied up by the crooks and creeps that make up the writing world's underbelly. True, reading "The Street-Smart Writer" won't guarantee publication, nor will it guarantee that you'll never get ripped off. However, you will be armed to avoid many of the pitfalls that the uninformed have fallen into, including the clutches of an unsavory agent or a dishonest publishing house. Way to go, guys. You two are my heroes!

Betty Winslow

Then there are these reviews that are a part of our regular monthly book review column "The Writing/Publishing Shelf"

Author 101
Rick Frishman & Robyn Spizman
Adams Media Corporation
57 Littlefield Street, Avon, MA 02322
1593375247 $12.95 1-800-872-5627

Rick Frishman is president of Planned Television Arts and Robyn Freedman Spizman is an award-wining author. Together they have provided a truly "user friendly" instruction manual for aspiring authors trying to promote themselves and their books in a highly competitive marketplace. Offering a kind of "crash course" in the mechanics, strategies and tactics of book publicity and promotion, Author 101: The Insider's Guide To Promoting Your Book--and Yourself is a compendium of field tested, effective, "tips, tricks & techniques" for reaching the reading public that includes practical advice for writing press releases, arranging book signings, getting on the talk show circuits. Also covered are "insider tips" from authors, agents, and publishers on what to do (and not do) when promoting books. There are even special sections devoted to building grassroots support through book clubs and readers groups. All this and more are carefully, methodically laid out so as to be completely accessible to the novice author -- and has much to offer even the more experienced writers. The appendices providing extensive resource information could prove invaluable in and of itself. No aspiring author who is now faced with the task of promoting and marketing their book can afford to be without their own personal reference copy of Author 101.

Damn! Why Didn't I Write That?
Marc McCutheon
Quill Driver Books
1254 Commerce Way, Sanger, CA 9357
188495556 $14.95

The newly updated edition of a classic we recommended in its first publication, Damn! Why Didn't I Write That? is here to show how ordinary folk can write profitable nonfiction books. Housewives, blue collar workers and more are producing many of today's bestsellers and the message here is: you can, too. Chapters revise and revamp recommendations on where to locate profitable venues and how to fill niches repeatedly.

A Novel Approach To Writing
Alfie Thompson
Running Press
125 South Twenty-Second Street, Philadelphia, PN 19103-4399
076242401X $12.95

A Novel Approach To Writing: Lights! Camera! Fiction! by movie buff and professional writing instructor Alfie Thompson is a guide to writing great novels especially for movie lovers. Chapters instruct how to watch movies with a writer's eye for what works and what doesn't, blending believable character traits into scenes and plots, using goals to reveal character motivation, judiciously applying foreshadowing and flashback, the power of the suspense of disbelief and how to encourage it, smooth plotting, and much more. A Novel Approach To Writing is a valuable supplement to aspiring and practicing fiction writers, outlining how to absorb the most advanced techniques and inspiration from multimedia experiences and transform it into improved quality within one's own work.

See Jane Write
Sarah Mlynowski & Farrin Jacobs
Quirk Books
215 Church St., Philadelphia, PA 19106
1594741158 $14.95

See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide To Writing Chick Lit is a fabulously entertaining, wickedly practical, 192-page beginner's manual for the chick lit bestselling authors of next year, and the year after that, and maybe the year after that. A first of its kind to focus only on chick lit, See Jane Write is hilariously witty, incredibly compact, and begins with a peppy, condensed definition and history of chick lit. Because of that very important introduction, I now know that a) Chick lit started in Ireland, in the mid 90's, and b) All of Part One, The Big Picture is designed to inform, educate, and motivate the next group of wannabe chick lit authors. I particularly liked chapter four, How Writing Chick Lit Is Like Dating: "Think about it: What do you want to achieve with your novel (besides fame, fortune, and an addiction to checking your sales ranking on (p. 39)." The fantastic intimate stream of idea-framing consciousness continues at a merry pace. Are you getting how much fun See Jane Write is? That, by the way, is one of the reasons why a sense of humor is essential to the successful chick lit author (See Rule #2: Always have your wit about you. p.41). This rule ends with the key statement " was never a chore to read it (p.42)." See Jane Write continues on to Part Two, The Details. In eight sizzling chapters, the authors teach the basics of style, creating primary and secondary characters, structure, pacing, and piecing, grammar and punctuation, and revising and revisiting. Not only that, the last chapter is devoted to extremely savvy pointers on packaging and selling the manuscript, choosing an agent (and why you should), and dealing with rejection. Somehow I have forgotten to mention the very talented and wise coauthors of See Jane Write, you see what insouciance does to the reader? Co-authors Mlynowski and Jacobs added in Appendix 1 (p. 182) a list of "Books That Will Help You, Really." In summary, if you think you are a potential chick lit writer, this is definitely a must read for you. Additionally, if you are bored, lonely, and tired of "stuffed shirt lit", See Jane Write is even more definitively required reading for aspiring "chick lit" authors. When you are all through reading and laughing, you may be surprised how much you have learned about writing.

Fluent Writing
Denise Leograndis
Heinemann Publishing
Box 6826, Portsmouth, NH 03802-6926
0325008264 $22.00 1-800-225-5800

Fluent Writing: How To Teach The Art Of Pacing is a guide especially for elementary and grade school teachers about how to teach the skill and art of smoothly pacing one's writing. Chapters cover basic mechanical tool such as the using patterns of threes and how to use "ands and buts" without overdoing it; basic pacing lessons such as learning how to cut irrelevant material; advanced lessons such as how to properly structure paragraphs; and much more. Lessons are supplemented with examples, recommended reading, tips for evaluating student writing, and a wealth of insights. Fluent Writing is very enthusiastically recommended for writing teachers of both public and private schools, and for aspiring writers seeking to hone their craft.

A Teen's Guide To Getting Published
Jessica Dunn & Danielle Dunn
Prufrock Press
PO Box 8813, Waco, TX 76714-8813
1593631820 $14.95 1-800-998-2208

Now in an updated second edition, A Teen's Guide To Getting Published: Publishing For Profit, Recognition, And Academic Success is a "user-friendly" introduction to the business end of the writing world written especially for young adults. Written by two successful former teen authors, A Teen's Guide To Getting Published covers the writing skill, freelance publishing, rights and copyright information, common mistakes, scams, and risks (of particular note is the warning against distributing one's address, phone numbers, or other sensitive contact information - such things can lead to harassment by stalkers and worse), the basics of writing camps and workshops, and much more. Written in a friendly, down-to-earth tone, A Teen's Guide To Getting Published is recommended to anyone getting started in selling their writing regardless of individual age.

Writing Open The Mind
Andy Couturier
Ulysses Press
P.O. Box 3440, Berkeley, CA 94703
1569754764 $13.95 1-800-377-2542

Writing Open The Mind: Writing Open The Mind: Tapping The Subconscious To Free The Writing And The Writer is a 241 page idea book full of creative approaches to the process of writing. For both the serious professional writer and the creative personal journalist, Writing Open The Mind could be just what the writing workshop doctor ordered. Quirky, humorous, irreverent, yet filled with practical tips and exercises to jog loose the cobwebs and stopping places of the mind, Writing Open The Mind delivers more valuable writing gold for the miner than many a heftier, loftier tome. Perhaps what works best in Writing Open The Mind is in fact its underlying sense of playfulness. For example, who would you respond to the idea of triggering new 'mindstates' with use of hypnotic scents, lights, and sounds? If this intrigues the writer in you, read chapter four, 'Sway'. How about the notion of resequencing the mind, shuffling the nuggets, splicing things differently? Read chapter three, 'Shatter/Scramble. 'Other mind unblocking approaches include dropping into the deep subconscious, pushing against the boundaries of your work, architectures, prismatics, writing from the kinetic body (or 'Shaking Up the Curmudgeon'), and re-visions, a way to work on writing using the improvisational mind. Author Couturier also suggest working with a writing group, and inventing your own experiments. Couturier deftly quotes a gaggle of creative writing bylines in such a way as to highlight the energy unblocking magic implicit in each one. In the last chapter subsection titled 'The Secret Order of Hermeneutics and the Text of the World' he openly advocates his major agenda: "We write to understand. Thus we should write. But we can never fully understand...Thus we should keep writing (p.234)." He goes on to explain the hermeneutic circle, which is what writers do when they write, attempt to understand and interpret the world. He writes: "When we ask questions in our writing in a way that replicates the complexity of the world, the questions are better questions. That's why the writing experiments here try to replicate the complexity of this very world (p. 235)." Writing Open The Mind is a most enjoyable magician's toolbox of techniques to help the writer improve his/her writing. It deserves to be read at least twice, once for entertainment and once for understanding.

Doing It For Money
Daryl G. Nickens, editor
Tallfellow Press
1180 South Beverly Drive, Suite 320, Los Angeles, CA 90035
193129058X $24.95 1-800-851-8923

Doing It For Money: The Agony And Ecstasy Of Writing And Surviving In Hollywood is a no- nonsense, insider's account of what writing for the "Hollywood Machine" is really like. From idiotic executives to volatile stars to rewrites that shred the intentions of the original script, Doing It For Money tell it like it is, and offers a wealth of tips, such as registering one's work with the Writers Guild of America as a hedge against plagiarism (both guild and non-guild members can do this for a small fee). A highly readable account, filled with fascinating anecdotes sure to entertain even non-writers as surely as they educate aspiring writers about what to expect. Deftly edited by Daryl G. Nickens for The Writers Guild Foundation, Doing It For Money is a "must- have" reference for any aspiring or practicing entertainment industry screenwriting professionals.

The Public Domain
Stephen Fishman
Nolo Press
950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
1413304540 $34.99 1-800-728-3555

The author of "The Copyright Handbook," attorney Stephen Fishman's latest instructive and authoritative text is a "user friendly" guide to public domain usage in literature, music, art, photography, writings, movies, and other creative sources and intellectual properties. The Public Domain: How To Find & Use Copyright-Free Writings, Music, Art & More, is Fishman's exhaustive and definitive 538 page (plus appendices and index) authoritative guide to public domain law and usage is impressive. Now in a newly updated and expanded third edition, "The Copyright Handbook devotes entire chapters to writings, music, art, photography, movies and television, computer software, architecture, maps, choreography, and collections, titles, plus a complete chapter on the internet and the public domain. Additional chapters deal with copyrights restored from the public domain; the public domain outside the United States; copyright protection and its duration; copyright notice requirements, trademarks and publicity rights, and other related areas. Chapters are succinctly and clearly written and carefully organized, with helpful tables, graphs, and illustrations, plus highlighted paragraphs for areas of special interest. The Public Domain covers a vast amount of information compactly and is a useful textbook, but it makes no claim to be a substitute for legal consultation with a qualified attorney. A handy table of icons are used to codify information throughout the book, with the icon key on page 18. An interesting chapter on the use and abuse of copyright is presented early in the book gives some helpful definitions of copyright law and its history and limitations. Stephen Fishman's The Public Domain is a pertinent text for anyone in the business of writing and publishing in the twenty-first century.

As you can see, this has been a prolific month for these "how to" books. Two of the popular sections on the Midwest Book Review website at (where we archive all these specialized reviews plus hundreds more) are "The Writer's Bookshelf" and "The Publisher's Bookshelf". My advice to scroll through these reviews jotting down the titles and ISBNs of the ones that are particularly germane to what ever writing and/or publishing issues you are currently dealing with, take your list to your local library, and have them obtain the book(s) for free through their InterLibrary Loan System.

Last month's "Jim Cox Report" turned out to be so long that it couldn't be posted to a couple of the online discussion groups. So this month I'm trying to reign in my tendency to go on and on and on. Therefore I'll conclude here with our monthly tribute called "The Midwest Book Review Postage Stamp Hall of Fame & Appreciation"!

Samuel M. Moffie - "Swap"
Tom Mast - "Over A Barrel"
Rose Stadler - "Parallel Lives"
Teresa Slack - "The Ultimate To Darcy Carter"
Elisabeth Waugaman - "Follow Your Dreams"
Kathy Mazub - "It's Springtime In My Backyard"
Patricia M. Boone - "My 101 Favorite Marriage Myths"
Hugh Poland - "Steal Away: Devotions For Baseball Fans"
Richard Salva - "Soul Journey From Lincoln To Lindbergh"
Mary Krocus - "Study Abroad: Travel & Vacation In College"
Stonehorse Publishing
Little Lily Enterprises
Susan Davis - Principle Publications, Inc.
J. L. Richardson - Bend Of The River Books
Meredith Rutter - VanderWyk & Burnham
Stacey Kannenberg - Cedar Valley Publishing
Becky Heirendt - McWhitney Foundation Press
David Evans - David Evans Communications
Vivien Lamothe - Macraonic Press
Dennis V. Damp - Bookhaven Press LLC
Russell A. Vassallo - Krazy Duck Productions
Rif K. Haffar - Ameera Publishing
Jeff Alt - Dreams Shared Publications
Bette Dowdell - Confident Faith Institute
Sally Lee - Lee Publishing
Pat Camillo - Allwise Publishing Inc.
Chris Johnson - Attitude Press
Susan Alcom - Shepherd Canyon Books
Norma Tillman - Norma Tillman Enterprises
Raw Family (Ashland, Oregon)
Anonymous (Palantine, Illinois)
The Vegetarian Resource Group

If you'd like to receive the "Jim Cox Report" directly (and for free), just send me an email asking to be signed up. If you have postage stamps to donate or a book you'd like to consider address them to my attention at:

Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575

That's it for this month. Goodbye, Good Luck, & Good Reading!

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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