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Cox Report: December 2003
Jim Cox Report: December 2003
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
It's often said that nothing succeeds like success. The Midwest Book Review has now embarked
on its 28th year and by every measure I can think of must be considered an on-going success. We
continue to have a strong core of dedicated volunteer reviewers, editors, and contributors. We
continue to have a strong publishing operation of four monthly library newsletters, five online
book review magazines, a popular radio broadcast going out to 124 countries around the world, a
robust working relationship with Amazon.com and with the Gale Research Company's "Book
Review Index" as a monthly "content provider", and with steadily growing subscriber lists to the
book reviews we generate. We continue to have the active (and often enthusiastic) support of
more than 1200 publishers who furnish us with an average of 1500 titles a month for review
consideration. -- And we are debt free thanks to the continuing support of foundation grants,
private sector contributions, review copy liquidations, and very careful budgeting.
But that on-going success has also had some unintended consequences. The demands upon my
time have continued to increase in the form of volunteer reviewer liaisons, publisher and author
inquiry responses, publications editing, and my own volunteering with respect to awards judging,
seminar/workshop teaching, personal commitments in support of small press publishing, and
general office management duties.
The increases upon my time and energy in meeting these challenges and assignments has resulted
in virtually no personal involvement in the topic threads and dialogues for my three favorite
on-line publisher discussion groups. Every morning I spend an average of 60 minutes simply
downloading the daily email, then deleting spams; publisher discussion group threads for which I
have no particular expertise; and responding to specific publisher, author, and reviewer
I haven't had the time to simply join in the publisher list discussions even when the topics were
germane to my expertise as a reviewer and/or an observer of the publishing community.
That's the one thing thrust upon my by the continuing expansive success of the Midwest Book
Review that I miss the most.
As it is, I have been seriously consulting with members of our in-house editorial staff about
cutting things back to more manageable and less frenetic levels. Would that mean cutting one or
more of our publications? Reducing the numbers of our volunteer and free-lance reviewers?
Decreasing the numbers of publishers and/or authors who could submit books? -- All of these
possibilities are simply abhorrent to me.
There is also the possibility of increasing the responsibilities of others by delegating more of what
I do each month to them. I use form letters to notify publishers about having published reviews of
their books. That's one of the biggest demands upon my time. Still another area would be handing
over answering the telephone to my assistant -- but I so dearly love that bit of human contact with
authors and publishers!
Fortunately there is no emergency compelling swift answers to these dilemmas. And the one sure
thing that will continue to have a top priority for me is banging out the Jim Cox Report every
month. -- Speaking of which, I will now move on to some "tips, tricks & techniques" advice for
aspiring writers seeking to break into print, and novice publishers seeking to successfully market
Sage Advice #1: Consider the career of writing and publishing to be embedded with one of the
basic and fundamental concepts of Adult Education -- the one called "Life Long Learning". One
of the biggest mistakes a writer or publisher can make is to think that they now know it all and
that there's nothing left to learn. Every year there are a dozen or more "how to" titles published on
writing and/or publishing. Most of them come from the specialty house "Writer's Digest Press"
which is an imprint of F&W Publications. Virtually all of there titles are available through
Amazon.com, or directly from the Writer's Digest Press website (use the Google search engine to
zap you there).
There are very good titles published by other houses, and a great many "one-shot" titles written
and self-published by experienced authors with successful track records of their own. I see just
about every "how to" title for authors and publishers as they are printed up and become available
to the reading public. It is these volumes which are reviewed in my regular monthly book review
column called "The Writing/Publishing Bookshelf" which is a part of every issue of our online
book review magazine "Internet Bookwatch". The current issue and several years worth of back
issues are archived on the Midwest Book Review website.
One of the nicest features is that most of these reviewed and recommended books for aspiring
writers and publishers can be obtained for free through your local community library's
"InterLibrary Loan Service". My advice is that whenever possible, get a "how to" book from your
local library. Read it. And if it looks like one that you will want to refer back to time and again --
buy your own copy and create your own professional reference bookshelf.
Incidently, you always want a sheet of paper and a pencil handy when reading these writing and
publishing "how to" books so that you can make notes (including page numbers). While most of
the material in these books will be repetitious, they will often cover the same ground with slightly
different language, illustrative anecdotes, and the like, in a way that will enhance your own ability
to fully grasp and later implement the ideas, notions, concepts, and instructions concerned.
The other big reason for reading several different books covering the same instructional ground is
that usually each book will have something new to offer you, be it an idea, a strategy, a
suggestion, an observation, or a warning that will enable you to be save money, anguish, or time,
while improving your performance, product, or bottom line.
Every writer should read three books on how to get good literary representation in their attempt
to become published -- you'll find them in the "Writer's Bookshelf" section of the Midwest Book
Review. Every small press publisher should read three good titles on the role of the professional
publicist -- and you'll find several of those in the "Publisher's Bookshelf" section of the Midwest
With respect to this last point -- you'll also find an informational listing of recommended publicists
and marketing experts in the "Publisher Resources" section of the Midwest Book Review.
My main point in all of the above is that whether you've been writing and publishing for 3 months
or 30 years -- there's still new things to learn about, old skills to improve and additional skills to
acquire, new information about new processes, technologies, marketplace changes and trends to
keep up with.
So being a dedicated writer or a professional publisher means being a "Life Long Learner" if you
hope to succeed against all the odds and obstacles that you face in your chosen profession.
Now on to some "Unsolicited Testimonials" and my responses to them:
1. Dear Mr. Cox,
You can only imagine my astonishment and delight when I recently looked at information
regarding my book Dear Donna, It's Only 45 Hours from Bien Hoa on Amazon.com. I discovered
that included with the data concerning the book was a review of my modest work written by the
Midwest Book Review. I am indeed fortunate that there are no flying insects in my home, as my
mouth was agape for several seconds. This was not only my first review, but one that was very
favorable as well. I cannot thank you enough, and I intend to use the review in an effort to get
some newspapers and literary magazines to also review the book.
Thank you again!
Doug "Doc" Neralich
Jim Cox: This little "thank you" note embodies two things that delight me most. A positive
response from this POD published author (1st Books Library) and the determination to utilize my
work to help the author get his book noticed in the always overcrowded marketplace which is so
clearly dominated by the major houses. I wish every author we review would "go and do
2. We just read your review for our new title You're in Charge...What Now? and thought it was
great. Our author is especially pleased - he thought I wrote it!
Jim Cox: Reviewers (and their editors!) like feedback as much as any author or publisher. One of
my jobs is to always make certain that "thank you's" like this one from Bryan are routinely
forwarded to the relevant reviewer. Some reviewers want their name in lights. Other reviewers
prefer anonymity. I never give out reviewer contact information, but prefer to simply forward
such messages to the reviewer and leave it up to him or her as to what (if any) response they'd
care to make.
I just found the review for my latest book, Down the Cereal Aisle, online at the Midwest Book
Review. I have let all of the parents who are part of the compilation of the book know of it and
am receiving many happy email notes from them.
Thank you for reviewing this book of memories. When a child or sibling dies, parents and family
fear many things. One of the biggest fears is that the child will no longer be remembered. Having a
book with all of the children's special memories to share with the world is a tribute I wanted to
give to parents. At a recent Compassionate Friends Conference held in Atlanta, 14 of those
parents with recipes and remembrances in my book were present. The book sold many copies and
has brought comfort and hope to many with broken hearts.
Thank you for reviewing Down the Cereal Aisle.
Alice J. Wisler
Daniel's House Publications
Jim Cox: Every reviewer has their own rules and reasons for deciding which book(s) they are
going to devote their time to. My own personal criteria is as follows:
The physical appearance of the book. The presence of proper accompanying paperwork (cover
letter/publicity release). The subject or topic or category of the book. Who published it (priority is
given to small presses over major houses).
What Alice didn't know is that I spent a year as a psychiatric social worker with a "Death &
Dying" caseload in the old Madison General Hospital dealing every day with catastrophic family
loss. Even these several decades later it continues to be a subject dear to my heart. Her book was
a natural when paired up to my own interests and background. It had a decent appearance, was
accompanied by the right paperwork, and was a small press title -- but it was the subject matter
that made it a lock!
4. Dear Mr. Cox,
Thank you so much for your kind review of "Restore Your Magnificence: A Life-Changing Guide
to Reclaiming your Self-Esteem." I appreciate your support and all you do the champion our
Dr. Joe Rubino CEO, The Center For Personal Reinvention
Jim Cox: The only category that has a tougher time getting reviewed than small press fiction are
small press "self-help" books. Please believe me when I say that "how to" books in the area of
self-help, self-improvement are a very hard to get reviewers to accept as an assignment. This is
because of three principal factors: 1. With the advent of desk top and POD publishing, there are
so many of them!! 2. Most of them come from self-published authors with no training or
particular expertise in publishing and therefore no (or limited) experience in marketing. 3. The
authors all to often lack credentialed expertise for the advice they are giving. 4. So many of these
titles are thinly disguised exercises in self-catharsis.
Another of the columns I regularly do (I told you how busy I always seem to be!) is called "The
Self-Help Shelf". The ones that make it through the selection process have to be like Joe Rubino's
title -- exceptionally well presented, well written, with an author offering some basic level of
credentialed or experience-based expertise. In his case he had it all. Good packaging, good
presentation, and thoroughly "reader friendly" for the non-specialist general reader with no
particular background in psychology.
The result was a book that I could recommended with a substantial confidence that it would safely
and competently benefit it's intended readership.
5. Thank you for sending me the "Library Bookwatch" tear sheet that includes the review of my
book, "Drive-about." I'm glad the reviewer liked the book. I will use a quote from the review in
my publicity material.
Jim Cox: It is a basic, fundamental principle and policy of mine that reviewers have an obligation
to provide the publisher with a copy of their review so that the publisher can have the benefit of
the reviewer's critique and know what that particularly reviewer has recommended with respect to
the book in question. It's going to continue being a policy for the Midwest Book Review for as
long as I continue to be the editor-in-chief. Even when it means that I will spend an average of 15
workdays a month doing nothing but sending out tear sheets accompanied by publisher
notification letters. You can get a sense of the enormity of this task when noting that the Midwest
Book Review generates an average of 750 to 800 reviews a month. That's a lot of letters and a lot
Speaking of postage! I am so pleased to announce that once again some very kind folk have
donated postage stamps to the Midwest Book Review as gestures of support and appreciation for
our efforts in behalf of the small press community. This time around they are:
Suzanne H. Schrems - Horse Creek Publications Dia - Platypus Media (and Dia also included a
birthday card for me!) Sid Jackson - j-Press Publishing Paulette Maggiolo - "The Guilty
If you would also like to donate postage stamps (or books for review), just send them to the
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575
If you would like to subscribe (for free) to the Jim Cox Report, just send me an email and ask to
be signed up. Back issues of the Jim Cox Report are also archived on the Midwest Book Review
website at www.midwestbookreview.com
Until next time -- Goodbye, Good Luck, and Good Reading!
Midwest Book Review
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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