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Cox Report: July 2005
Jim Cox Report: July 2005
Dear Publisher Folks, Friends & Family:
Another month is now history and it's time once again for some commentary, opinions, advice,
and observations on the art, craft, science, and business of writing and publishing for a living.
One of the key elements of being a successful writer and/or the successful publisher of writers, is
to never pass up an opportunity to publicize and promote your book and/or authors. I'm one of
those pontificants that actually tries to follow my own advice. Here's a case in point by way of
Subject: Interview request
Date: 6/20/05 5:56:19 PM Central Daylight Time
Dear Mr. Cox:
I have just started a podcast called "The Writing Show" and would love for you to be a guest on
the show. I think my listeners would find an inside look at book reviewing fascinating. Having
followed the excellent Midwest Book Review for some time, I thought immediately of you!
I am the author of seven nonfiction books and a former online bookseller. I am currently
publishing trends columnist for /Searcher/ magazine.
I will be posting my first two shows as soon as I finish the editing (they are both in the can!). You
can see the basic site at www.writingshow.com.
Here's hoping for a "Yes!" and looking forward to hearing from you,
Thousand Oaks, California
I had no idea what a podcast was. But that didn't stop me from emailing Paula back to say that I
would accept her kind invitation to be her guest -- if she would explain to me how we would go
about doing this interview for podcasting -- and incidently, what was a "podcast".
She emailed me back and it turns out that all I would have to do is be interviewed by telephone.
Well I've been interviewed over the phone so many times in the last 30 years that I've long ago
lost count. So sometime in the near future (Paula will let me know the time and date) I will once
again assail the airwaves (do podcasts have airways?) with my take on publishing trends and what
ever Q&A she has for me. She offered to send me pre-interview sample questions, but I declined
because I'm already a kind of walking, talking encyclopedia on publishing and feel confident that I
can either answer the question(s) directly or at least make a sound referral to a resource that
would have an answer.
The point of this illustration is that authors and their publishers should never pass up an
opportunity to speak, to be interviewed, to be featured, to be the center of attention -- regardless
of whether or not they are familiar with the format or know what the questions are
Here's another example -- this time about something I had written and made available to the
publishing community through the "Advice for Publishers" section of our Midwest Book Review
Subject: Your Article in Inkwell Newswatch
Date: 6/16/05 11:01:37 AM Central Daylight Time
Hello, this is Karen Villanueva, independent publicist (included on your website) and loyal fan and
supporter of MBR. It was great to read your article in IN. I have a piece in IN as well (Publicity
Power, Part Two) and mentioned your website in my article---so great to have cross-pollination in
the same issue of IN.
Daryl Jung, the editor is a close friend of mine. I knew him in Toronto when I was in the music
industry. Small world, and always good to see that what goes around comes around.
Mark Horner, is one of my clients and the cover story for this issue of IN. It's been great to see all
the connections and resulting features and articles about or by familiar names (such as yours).
Congrats and best regards,
Karen Villanueva Author Services
Publicity . Photography . Book Tours
Author Hosting . Author Representation
Mail only: P.O. Box 25061, Albuquerque NM 87125-0061
Courier only: 1914 Broadway Blvd. SE, Albuquerque NM 87102
PH: (505) 764-8323 Cell: (505) 328-8323
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.authorcare.com
As a book reviewer and a book review publications editor I've long been known to the freelance
publicist faction of the small press (and not-so-small-press) community. Karen has been sending
me books from her client authors for so long that this is still something else I can no longer
remember when it began.
It turns out that there is a publication called "Inkwell Newswatch". I had never heard of it before
-- but it's not at all uncommon for newsletters, newspapers, journals, periodicals, magazines and
books to include one or more of my articles on writing and publishing. That's because when I
compose those articles and archive them on our website I automatically give anyone who wants to
use them complete permission to do so -- providing the give the usual credit citation when doing
This means that I'm publicizing the Midwest Book Review every time one of those articles sees
print and is exposed to a new audience -- even if I'm not the one doing the printing or exposing --
or are even aware that it has happened.
The moral of this illustration is that every author and all publishers should have articles of
thematic interest with respect to their books and authors on their respective websites -- with
permission that any visitor to their website can reproduce them for their organizational
publications. It's a relatively painless way to do publicity that will substantively raise the public's
consciousness regarding your book or your publishing activities.
Incidently, half the time I hear about my work popping up somewhere is when someone who
knows me writes a congratulatory email. My eternal thanks and gratitude to the Karen
Villanueva's of the publishing community for doing so!
Now for another rather important point. If you never get criticized that can only mean that you
are never doing anything worth while. So when you do get criticized, how should you as an
author or publisher respond? Here's an example of how I do it in my role as the editor-in-chief of
the Midwest Book Review when an author of an ebook became upset upon being informed that
her personally printed out a copy of her ebook wasn't good enough to meet our acceptance
standards for review submissions -- and her publicist felt she had to take me to task over the issue.
This is my reply (which includes the publicist's email to me as I respond to her criticisms
Subject: Dear Melinda
Date: 6/6/05 2:50:37 PM Central Daylight Time
Reply To: email@example.com
In a message dated 6/3/05 4:29:57 PM Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org
Melinda: When I emailed you in the beginning you specifically said you review all books. I even
added the isbn number, the publisher and all the information you requested and states that it was
an electronic book. Not only did you disrespect the author by saying you threw it in the recycling
bin but you made her feel low. No reviewer would have done that they would at least have the
decency to look at it."
Jim Cox: I never say "I review all books". I would say something like "I consider all books for a
This consideration applies only to print books. We do not review ebooks. A few of our volunteer
reviewers do review ebooks, but they do not get them from the Midwest Book Review. If you
mentioned in your email book review solicitation that it was an ebook I must have missed that bit.
Otherwise are you certain you remembered to add that it was an ebook?
As for decency with respect to the consideration process -- I do personally examine every book
that arrives in our daily mails. The copy of "Your Cheatin' Hearts" looked to me like a galley or
uncorrected proof -- including (if I remember right) there being nothing on the back of the book
but a blank.
We get galleys, uncorrected proofs, and pre-publication manuscripts almost every day. We have a
policy (which was followed in this specific case) of notifying the publisher when there is an email
address in the attendant paperwork for the title of our requiring a final, published copy for review.
Then the item gets put into the paper recycling box.
Please note that when this notification went to your client that I did not realize her book was a
self-bound printout of an ebook, otherwise my response would have been to inform the your
client about my not accepting ebook submissions -- even in a printed out format that was bound
and made to resemble a print book.
Melinda: This is an author who went beyond and bound the book together and placed it in color.
I'm sad to say that I will take of Midwest Books Reviews of my list. What's hard to imagine that
other authors like Nora Roberts, Sherrilyn Kenyon send you all books. You should feel ashamed
for the way you treated this author. Now I understand you have guidelines but to say that in the
email is beyond unapproachable for any reviewer.
Jim Cox: Your author client informed me of her distress in her email communication and that the
process of printing out and binding her ebook cost her something (if my memory serves) in the
neighborhood of $50 -- to which I can only think it was such a great pity. All that expense arising
from what is apparently a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings -- beginning with
your own original inquiry, my response to that inquiry, the author's subsequent involvement, and
the personal and financial stress inflicted upon the author/publisher.
I want you to know something else -- with respect to your own services as her agent and
representative. Your email to which I am responding is not designed to secure cooperation or
reform but to express umbrage. As a professional publicist you must come to understand that in
the book review field, we are inundated with far more titles for review consideration than our time
and resources could ever hope to allow us to cope with.
The hard truth of this business is that reviewers and review publications are looking for reasons to
reject a submitted title. That's why it is so important for authors, publishers, and their publicists,
to have a clear understanding of book review submission guidelines, a sound understanding of the
book review process from submission to disposition, and a grounding regarding the general odds
being faced by any submission.
In the case of the Midwest Book Review, those odds begin with a ratio of 2,000 monthly
submissions to a resource pool of 76 reviewers. Add to that the complicating factors of
competitive titles within the same genre or category, the variation in the qualities of a book's
appearance, the authors abilities as a writer, the publisher's and/or publicist's abilities in preparing
cover letters and publicity releases/media kits -- and you have something a little more
sophisticated than a crap shoot -- but not by much.
If I was not clear in expressing our submission guidelines then clearly I am at fault and owe both
you and your author client a profound apology for both the waste of your client's financial
investment, and the emotional impact of what must have been a confusing rejection. To the
degree that you share responsibility for our miscommunications, that is a matter between you and
your client. To the extent that the client, being so unfamiliar with publishing industry standards
and book review processes, has had her feelings hurt, then she must bear up as best she can and
persevere in her chosen goal of being read by as wide a readership as she can muster.
In conclusion -- I refer you and your client to the "Advice for Publishers" section of the Midwest
Book Review at http://www.midwestbookreview.com There you will find a number of
informative and quite practical articles on the book review process. I would urge you to begin
with the one titled "How To Spot A Phony Book Reviewer". If nothing else, you will gain an
appreciation of what is truly "disrespectful" behavior on the part of unscrupulous
I think you will find these articles to be of substantial and immediate value to your future efforts at
representation. In the website section called "Book Lover Resources" you will find "Other
Reviewers" -- a lengthy list of links to freelance reviewers, book review publications, book review
websites, etc., a number of which would entertain ebooks for review.
I will be sharing this email in my monthly "Jim Cox Report" which goes out to the publishing
community as a source of advice, suggestions, "tips, tricks & techniques" of interest to authors
and publishers -- and publicists. This is in hopes of helping other folk avoid the confusion that has
so understandably upset your client -- and yourself.
Midwest Book Review
So there you have it. A classic example of being criticized and responding to that criticism in ways
that (hopefully) will be more educative than retaliatory, more constructive than destructive, more
helpful than harmful. Just be aware than in your efforts to promote, to publicize, to market, and to
sell -- there will always be someone, somewhere, who will misunderstand, mislike, or mistake
what you are doing. When you inevitably encounter such folk, remember that old biblical truism --
a soft answer turneth away wrath.
Fortunately for my ego's sake, the following is the kinds of emails which are far and away more
Subject: Re: [Pub-forum] Is POD redefining books?
Date: 1/3/05 1:04:20 PM Central Standard Time
Back in the '80s when we were publishing our first titles, the guidelines of a number of review
publications, including PW and LJ, had definitions of "book" that included a requirement that it be
at least 100 pages. This was, of course, pre-POD, and pre-Web (so we needed to get the
guidelines in written documents), with only the crude beginnings of desktop publishing. At that
time in history, which now seems distant, the review publications were trying to exclude short
booklets that were typically mimeographed and saddle-stitched.
The distinctions are harder to make in a clear way now, although many of us still consider a
publication of less than 100 pages to be a pamphlet or booklet (with certain exceptions, such as
children's picture books). That said, one of my titles--one that consists mainly of jokes and
cartoons--is only 96 pages, and I've never hesitated to call it a "book."
I haven't seen a 100-page minimum specified for some time by a major review publication. But
neither have I seen many reviews of books shorter than that. The review publications are spending
more effort trying to distinguish between commercially viable books that need to be reviewed and
books that aren't commercially viable (even when they are, without question, "books").
Of course, Jim Cox and MBR have always been the exception, always judging books by their
merits rather than any arbitrary standards or definitions. The world would be a much better
place--at least from the standpoint of small publishers--if other review publishers would follow
Upper Access, Inc. (www.upperaccess.com )
Now it's time for my favorite part of these Reports -- the Midwest Book Review Hall of Fame &
My deepest appreciation for the following folk who donated stamps to express their support for
what I try to do around her in behalf of the small press community every working day of every
month of every year for the past 30 years:
Rita Salter - "The Wishing Star"
Bud Rudesill - "Expatriate"
Kam Ruble - "Black Lilly"
Pam Newman - "Out Of The Red"
Natasha Alex - "Smile All The While"
Gary L. Gallegos - "The Wandering Schoolgirl"
Anton Haardt Gallery
Miryam S. Roddy - Brody Communications Ltd.
Jodi Lundell - Buttonweed Press
Shelley Parris - Infinite Possibilities Publishing Group
Mary-Kathryne Steele - World Wisdom
Ray Friesen - Don't Eat Any Bugs Productions
Linda Salisbury - Tabby House
Stephanie Pope - Mythic Artist Press (Stephanie also included a $25
Starbucks coffee card!)
Rebecca Johnson - The Rebecca Review
P. Sims - Barhardt & Ashe Publishing
Marline L. Houser - Marhouse Inc.
Well, that's a wrap for this Report. All my Jim Cox Reports are archived on the Midwest Book
Review website. You can also subscribe to get them directly (for free) just send me an email and
ask to be signed up.
If you have postage stamps to donate for the good of "the cause", or if you have a book you'd like
considered for review, please feel free to send them to:
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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