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Jim Cox Report: August 2009
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
Health care reform, stimulating the economy, dealing with global terrorism, salvaging the environment, responding to pandemic diseases -- the list of issues that affect, distort, endanger, and distract our lives is long, complex, and potentially catastrophic.
The only defense we have is information. Accurate, detailed, comprehensive, applicable, accessible information. The chief source of which is not the evening news (especially those partisan rants that pose as news), rather it is what we find recorded in books -- whether those books are published in print or in pixels.
Magazine and journal articles, academic and advocate essays, newspaper columns, radio talk shows, and televised commentaries all have their place. But it is only in a book that there is time enough and the sheer space to say all that needs to be said to identify the concern, reveal the pertinent information, explain the issue, make the point, document the conclusion, and lay out the plan.
Information requires 'gate keepers' sifting the grain from the chaff if it is to be kept maximally useful and trustworthy. In my not-so-modest opinion, chief among those 'gate keepers' is the book reviewer. The critic who critiques with passionate objectivity and an emotionally-based allegiance to truth and justice, who is consciously aware of self-revealed biases.
That said, this last week what has consumed my near total attention as the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review has not been supervising and evaluating the reviews that have been turned in for our August publications, but in trying to balance our finances because the minimum wage has just been increased, by an act of Congress, from $6.50 to $7.25 an hour.
That extra 75 cents an hour increase doesn't sound like much. All five of our paid employees (which includes myself) are paid minimum wage for a forty hour work week. It turns out that in the aggregate, that increase runs to around $700 extra dollars I've got to come up with to make payroll. This includes not only the paycheck wage increase for five people; it also means more money needed for Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and other corporate financial obligations resulting from that increase.
The good news is that the extra money was found -- helped out by two of us (myself and one of our assistant editors) deciding to cut our weekly work hours back to 35. That proved to make all the difference, and so we are going to be just fine.
I was talking about this with a few friends who were dismayed over the impact of the minimum wage increase on small businesses like mine. But I had to point out to them that the people that I employ aren't in it for the money -- they are a part of the Midwest Book Review for reasons of literary altruism. They also have the personal luxury of having no dependants to support, live modestly, and therefore earn enough on the minimum wage to meet their basic needs.
They are each and every one of them exceptions to the rule that governs almost all minimum wage workers in this country. I suspect 99 out of 100 minimum wage earners are in desperate need of that extra 75 cents an hour just to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Not to mention medical emergencies, the rising cost of transportation, and the unexpected problems that ordinary life is heir to.
So all in all, in a country where corporate executives of Fortune 500 companies make 350 times the wage that their lowest paid (read minimum wage) employees make, and in the face of even the minuscule inflation of the past decade, I see this current minimum wage hike as long over due and absolutely necessary for the overall fiscal health of the country in these economically troubled times. Minimum wage workers spend every dime they can get on the goods and services they and their families need to simply survive. Those Fortune 500 corporate executives clearly do not.
But coming up with that extra 75 cents an hour is a genuine problem for small business enterprises like the Midwest Book Review. Fortunately in our particular situation, it was a solvable and resolvable problem.
There is one new wrinkle. After more than three decades of not charging for any of our services, I may have to make one new exception. Charging a fee for reviewing eBooks. But that matter is still under consideration and discussion. I'll keep you posted.
Now for reviews of some 'how to' books on writing and publishing that have crossed my desk this past month:
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
Break Into Fiction
Mary Buckham & Dianna Love Snell
Adams Media Corporation
57 Littlefield Street, 2nd floor, Avon, MA 02322
9781605500157, $14.95, www.amazon.com
Writing the 'Great American Novel' is the easy part. Getting it published is a great deal more difficult. That's why two award-winning novelists, Mary Buckham and Dianna Love Snell, have collaborative in writing "Break Into Fiction: 11 Steps To Building A Story That Sells". This deftly written instruction manual is based upon the author's own workshops where they have created a novel-writing system that even the most inexperienced novice can follow and apply with relative ease to produce original stories of depth, complexity, emotion, and excitement. There are 'user friendly' templates taking the novel writing process from first draft to finished manuscript. Reference examples are drawn from popular genres ranging from suspense and classics, to children's fiction and romance films. Of special note are the worksheets designed to build strong stories plot point by plot point, and troubleshooting tips on finding and fixing problematic holes that weaken a plot. A complete course of do-it-yourself study in a single volume of practical, step-by-step, explanatory instruction, "Break Into Fiction" is especially recommended to the attention of neophyte authors yearning to break into print and become established novelists in their own right.
Ascend Beyond Publishing
1639 Bradley Park Drive, Columbus, GA 31904
There is now a brand new two-volume series by Matthew S. Chan designed specifically to help individuals and niche groups profitable publish books as a source of revenue for themselves and/or their projects. "TurnKey Publishing" (9781933723013, $21.95) is a complete course of step-by-step instruction on creating a commercially successful book. Chan debunks such common myths as it being too difficult to write a book, too expensive to publish a book, it being necessary to sell through bookstores to be successful, needing an agent to become reputably published. Readers will learn how to retain total creative control over their own work; use accelerated publishing to turn out three or more titles a year; produce and build a book -- instead of simply writing one; sell books outside a traditional bookstore, publish outside of a traditional publisher, create a business that provides a revenue stream, convert and package personal knowledge, experience and stories into an income-producing book, and market oneself successfully even when beginning as a totally unknown author. "The TurnKey Publisher's Audio Publishing Handbook" (9781933723150, $20.95) has as its specific focus the creation and self-publication of an audio book and/or audio program -- without going through a traditional audio book publisher or using a professional recording studio. Of special note is the cogent and practical information provided with respect to finding the right vendors to design and manufacture an audio CD package and adapting a print book to an audio book format. Every novice author aspiring to publish their manuscript and every group seeking to fund raise through publishing a book should give "TurnKey Publishing" a very careful (and profitable!) reading. Every published author and every niche publisher should carefully read "The TurnKey Publisher's Audio Publishing Handbook" with an eye towards considering turning their print publications into an audio book format to augment their revenue stream.
The Restructuring Of Scholarly Publishing In The United States 1980-2001
Barbara G. Haney Jones
The Edwin Mellen Press
415 Ridge Street, Lewiston, NY 14092
9780773447271, $129.95, www.mellenpress.com
One of the primary missions of university supported publishing is to provide academia with a venue to publish works that would not be able to find a commercial publishing outlet because the subject matter of the texts would not have a broad public appeal. Another purpose of university subsidized publishing is to provide academics with an opportunity to publish their works as part of the 'publish or perish' aspect of obtaining academic promotion and tenure. But for the past 30 years universities and their presses have experienced dramatic changes in their funding sources, substantial decreases in their monograph sales, increasing competition from specialty trade publishers, as well as the challenges and changes represented by a rapid evolution in computer, telecommunications, and publishing technologies. That is the subject of "The Restructuring Of Scholarly Publishing In The United States 1980-2001: A Resource-Based Analysis Of University Presses" by academician Barbara G. Haney Jones (University of Wales). Professor Jones provides an informed and informative exploration of how university presses met these various challenges over a two decade span from 1980 through 2001. Her impressively rigorous and rigorous research has produced a seminal study which incorporates a wide variety of factors and issues ranging form financial support, to physical facilities and equipment, to back title management, to academic reputations, to staff and director expertise. "The Restructuring Of Scholarly Publishing In The United States 1980-2001" is a highly recommended work of impeccable scholarship and of especial interest to the academic publishing community as well as authors and academicians seeking university press publication of their own works in these currently stressful economic times.
Yes! You Can
Nancy I. Sanders
E & E Publishing
1001 Bridgeway, #227, Sausalito, CA 94965
9780979160660, $19.95, www.amazon.com
It is every writer's dream to have their book sold to a publisher before it is even written. But that's no pipe dream! Not with "Yes! You Can: Learn How To Write Children's Books, Get Them Published, And Build A Successful Writing Career". This is a 366-page compendium of insider information, tips, tricks, techniques, tactics and strategies that can be readily adopted by anyone seeking to establish themselves as professional authors and earn their living by writing books for young readers. "Yes! You Can" is more than just a 'how to' instruction manual for beginning children's books authors, it is a combination workshop, seminar, tutorial, professional reference, career guide, and inspiring motivational. Replete with practical, real-world, insights into how publishing works and how writer's can best advantage themselves within the industry, "Yes! You Can" also delves into writing as a business, including such aspects as publicity and marketing. Of special note is the bibliography of recommended professional books for children's writers and a glossary of specialized terms. "Yes! You Can" is especially recommended for anyone aspiring to successfully write and have published books for young readers, and has a great deal of background value for writers in other fields seeking successful publication for their work.
The Writer's Essential Tackle Box
22365 El Toro Road, #135, Lake Forest, CA 92630
9781933016344, $19.95, www.amazon.com
A 'truth in advertising' moment: the Midwest Book Review and an extensive interview with me form an entire chapter of "The Writer's Essential Tackle Box", a 368-page compendium of information and insight into the publishing industry in all of its elements and aspects by Lynn Price (Editorial Director of Behler Publications). But I can say with absolute sincerity that the Midwest Book Review is in excellent company and just one of the informative interviews along side those with publishing industry professionals such as Wilda Williams from 'Library Journal', professional literary agents such as Rita Rosenkranze, Andrea Brown, Laurie McLean, and Peter Cox, ABA President and Changing Hands bookstore owner Gayle Shanks, and so many others. "The Writer's Essential Tackle Box" addresses writers' boards, writer conferences, writer and publisher blogs, and a myriad of 'how to' books for writers. Of special note is 'The Writer's Survival Style Guide" delineating the most common mistakes made by aspiring authors seeking publication. Informed and informative, "The Writer's Essential Tackle Box" is very strongly recommended reading for anyone seeking to become a published and professional author in today's highly competitive, complex, and evolving publishing industry.
As is customary, I'm 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 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:
Scott W. Matheson
Gary C. Beck
T. Katz -- "Miss L'eau"
Jane Nord -- "Paranoia: A Cat's Tale"
Milton Crum -- "Evil, Anger, and God"
Natalie Wexler -- "A More Obedient Wife"
Ronald C. Thompson -- "Astronaut Training"
Bernard Ryan Jr. -- "The Poodle at The Poodle"
John De Kleine -- "Lots of Fat and Taste Recipes"
Arthur C. Rathburn -- "No More Tears Left Behind"
K. Michael Crawford -- "The Mystery of Journeys Crowne"
K. J. Fraser -- "A Journey, a Reckoning, and a Miracle."
Cary Friedman -- "Spiritual Survival for law Enforcement"
Northern Star Press
Best Fairy Books
Fisher King Press
Anchor Brewing Co.
Book Heaven/Wisdom Creek Press
Carl R. Sams II Photography
Marjorie Jobe -- The Jobe Law Firm
Weston Blelock -- WoodstockArts
Dennis Fyalkowsh -- Energy Bright
Victor Tome -- Silverton Press
Sue Ann Bacon -- Adams-Hall Publishing
Drew Nederpelt -- Cambridge House Press
Jo A. Wilkins -- Mystic Publishers
Don Arends -- Mission Manuscripts Inc.
Clarence Duncan -- Two Canoes Press
Len Stauffenger -- McKenzie Publishing
Mike & Renee Mosiman -- Brighter Insights
Naana Kyereboah -- Nabina Publications
Rosemary Yokiv -- Paragon House
Kathy Liddiard -- Sohnen Moe Associates
Patrika Vaughn -- A Cappela Publishing
Herb Cohen -- A Spiritual Evolution Press
Anthony R. Michalski -- Kallisti Publishing
Myron Bernstein -- Kambs Publishing
Cory Blake -- Writers of the Round Table
A. J. Cushner -- Parker Book Company
Mandy Ziegler -- Enspiriting Press
Janice Phelps Williams -- Lucky Press
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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