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Jim Cox Report: December 2010
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
When you are in the business of working with people -- and most especially self-published authors -- it is inevitable that from time to time you have to engage with disappoint, disaffection, disillusion, and even outrage. The key to success in such dealings is to remain calm, compassionate, realistic, and informational.
I received a letter of complaint, accusation, demand, and threat from a Mr. Ken Jarman, a self-published author ("Barefoot Through The Goathead Patch") whose review copy submissions to the Midwest Book Review did not result in a review.
Professional book reviewers and book review publications all too often turn down self-published authors from consideration simply because every now and then they have to deal with the naivete, emotional involvement, ignorance, unrealistic expectations from a few self-published authors ultimately resulting in threats and hard feelings against the reviewer and/or the editorial staff of the book review organization.
I'm going to share my response to just such a contact with just such a self-published author. The reason why I put up with belligerent authors is that they really are few and far between, plus I've always seen as part of my responsibility as the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review to be that of an educator. So I want to share with other self-published authors information that will prove useful to them should they ever find themselves in Mr. Jarman's position.
Indeed, once the aggrieved self-published author learns the 'rules of the road' with respect to book review guidelines and standards, often their tempers cool and they become more discriminating in their book review submission decisions. In other words, they become more professional and less emotional.
Here's my email:
Dear Mr. Jarman:
Your certified letter of November 9th has been received.
Your books arrived safely and passed my initial screening. Unfortunately they ultimately failed to achieve a review assignment. This is no reflection on the quality of your work because it made a quite favorably impression on me. Simply the unfortunate consequence of having only 76 reviewers to cope with the more than 2,300 titles a month arriving here for review consideration.
With respect to your concerns upon finding a review copy title for sale on the Internet there are some basic publishing industry standards that I would like to bring to your attention because as a self-published author your are apparently not aware of them.
All review copies submitted for review become the property of that reviewer and/or review publication to do with as they please, whether or not a review is generated, and whether or not a generated review is positive or negative with respect to the book in question..
There are several instructional articles with respect to book reviewing, the book review process, what to do with reviews, and avoiding scam artists posing as reviewers.
I would direct your attention to the following articles and strongly suggest you read them:
1. Rules Regarding Review Copies
2. How To Spot A Phony Book Reviewer
3. Amazon Book Review Guidelines
4. Amazon Review Copy Policy
5. A Conversation About Getting Your Book Reviewed
6. Defacing Review Copies
7. Getting Reviews For Self Published Books
8. How The Book Review System Works
9. On Book Reviews & Reviewers
10. On The Use Of Press Releases In Book Reviews
11. Publication & Book Review Timing
12. Publicity Released-Based Reviews
13. Regarding Review Copies
14. Reviewers, Accessibility, And Book Stamping
One more general comment I'd like to make and its with regard to the overall tone of your letter. It's quite combative in nature, demanding that you be paid the full cover price for your review copies or dire consequences will result. I quote from your letter:
"Failing your immediate action, I will feel compelled to alert the authors of the two Self-Publishing manuals of my findings and alert the management of Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA, of which I am a member to warn members of potential unethical actions by some in your company. I will also alert other Publishing/Author organizations of which I am associated with on the Internet, Facebook and Twitter."
This attitude is precisely why most book review operations will not deal with self-published authors.
You might be interested to note that the Midwest Book Review was founded in 1976 and that I personally have become something of an Elder Statesman with respect to the publishing industry -- simply through longevity in the business which includes a well-earned reputation as being an advocate of small press publishing and self-published authors whenever possible.
One of the ways in which I try to assist aspiring authors and novice publishers (this includes the self-published author) is to write a monthly column for the publishing industry called the "Jim Cox Report". This is a column of advice, commentary, "tips, tricks & techniques", and resources for the small press community.
Your will find my columns archived on the Midwest Book Review web site at:
Incidentally, all the information on the Midwest Book Review web site (including the "Jim Cox Report") are free of charge.
This email to you in response to your certified letter of November 9, 2010 and will be included in the December 2010 "Jim Cox Report" to the benefit of other self-published authors who may be in need of educating themselves as to the book review process and publishing industry standards with respect to review copy submissions.
Midwest Book Review
Mr. Jarman then responded to the above email:
In a message dated 11/14/2010 10:46:43 A.M. Central Standard Time:
Dear Mr. Cox,
It is unfortunate that you believe my letter was primarily frustration or anger over my book not receiving a review. As such, you have missed the point. I thought you would want to know what was happening in your company but I'm astonished that you believe you are operating within normal trade procedures and are indeed defending the process as your right. I believe that while it may be legal, it is unethical for any review copy to appear for sale on Amazon within three weeks of being sent, in direct competition with the publishers own books. I appreciate the articles you sent and they explain a lot. It is obvious that some Reviewers feel it is their right to dispose of the review copies "as they see fit" (some seem to have even institutionalize the process) and must rejoice when they receive copies not marked as such, thereby increasing the value of them. You are right this is a good learning experience for me. I will never send out a Review copy again without "Review Copy" stamped on it.
Thank you for your response. Publishers have every right to mark their review copies as they deem fit.
I appreciate the civility of your latest email. In return perhaps I can provide one more service to you. On the Midwest Book Review there is a book review data base called "Other Reviewers". You will find it at:
This is an extensive listing of freelance book reviewers, book review publications, book review web sites, etc. A few (like Forward Magazine) are "pay for play" in that they charge for their reviews, but most are free of charge.
Some are specialized (e.g. children's books, poetry, science fiction, etc) while others are more general in nature.
The trick is to go down the list (and it's a long one), when you see one that sounds promising, click on it and you'll be zapped to their particular web site. Read through the web site and you will be able to determine if they are thematically appropriate for your particular book. And if they are -- what their submission guidelines are.
I wish you well in your endeavors and will include this latest exchange along with the first one in the December 2010 issue of my "Jim Cox Report". It has a subscription list of about 3,000 and I believe our two exchanges will be to the benefit of a great many folk who are also trying to understand the publishing industry standards and issues that involve the book review process.
Midwest Book Review
Something to remember is that whenever confrontation occurs it is often quite possible that offended persons may well be having stress in other parts of their lives -- and you just happen to be standing in the direct line of fire at the time.
But to balance this particular experience -- just in this same past month I also received a letter containing a postage stamp contribution to "support the cause". What's unique is that the letter containing the postage stamp contribution came from a self-published author who asked in that same letter that the review of their title be removed from Amazon and from the Midwest Book Review web site because it was so badly flawed.
I investigated -- and sure enough, a new reviewer for whom this was their first assignment had so badly botched the review that I was compelled to delete it and remove the reviewer from any further considerations for assignments.
The old dictum that you can't please everybody holds true. But you can make disappointing them a teaching moment for themselves and for yourself.
Please remember that reviewers, like authors, come in three basic categories: The Good; The Bad; and The Mediocre. That's why dealing carefully and courteously with reviewers and with authors is always a good idea.
Now on to reviews of some new titles for authors and publishers:
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
Style Guide, ninth edition
Profile Books Ltd
3A Exmouth House, Pine Street, Exmouth Market, London, EC1R OJH, United Kingdom
1861979169, $26.95, www.profilebooks.com
STYLE GUIDE: THE BESTSELLING GUIDE TO ENGLISH USAGE appears in a ninth updated edition and is based on the revised, updated house style manual of The Economist. Any who want to communicate well will find this packed with great advice on writing and errors, offering insights into differences between British and American English and references key to economic and business students alike. No college collection should be without this style guide!
Accidental Genius, second edition
235 Montgomery St. #650, San Francisco CA 94104-2916
9781605095257, $16.95, www.bkconnection.com
Deserving of repeat mention and recommendation for any writer's or literary collection is ACCIDENTAL GENIUS: USING WRITING TO GENERATE YOUR BEST IDEAS, INSIGHT, AND CONTENT, which appears in a revised, expanded second edition promoting the author's innovation of freewriting, a technique which ignores standard rules of grammar and spelling and encourages fast writing about passionate topics. Six freewriting techniques offer keys to tapping into the subconscious of creativity.
The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals, second edition
10 E. 23rd St., New York NY 10010
9781581157437, $19.95, www.allworth.com
The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals appears in its second updated edition to provide a single reference to learning how to make the perfect pitch to magazines, publishers and others. E-mail pitches and international markets are among the new topics of this updated edition, keeping it current for any writer's reference library.
How To Publish Your Nonfiction Book
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
0757000002, $16.95, www.amazon.com
Book publishing is one of the most competitive markets there are. The downturn in the national economy has compounded the difficulty for first time authors getting published. This is especially true when dealing with non-fiction subject matter. In "How To Publish Your Nonfiction Book", veteran publisher Rudy Shur (currently head of the editorial program of Square on Publishers) draws upon his extensive experience and expertise to compile a 233-page compendium covering every aspect of publishing a non-fiction title. Novice authors in particular will appreciate the descriptions of how publishing actual works, how to maximize chances of acceptance when submitting a manuscript for publication, evaluating publisher contracts, dealing with common publication problems and pitfalls, potential resources available to authors seeking publication, and so much more. Enhanced with the inclusion of a glossary, an extensive resource list, and a comprehensive index, "How To Publish Your Nonfiction Book" is thoroughly 'user friendly', informed, informative, and strongly recommended for anyone seeking to turn their ideas and researches into a published non-fiction title that will prove to be successful for library acquisitions, academia, as well as the general reading public.
The Author's Toolkit
10 East 23rd Street, Suite 510, NY, NY 10010
9781581157475, $19.95, www.amazon.com
Even in a difficult economy compelling the major New York publishing houses to substantially cut back on their new book titles lists there has been no significant reduction of the numbers of titles being published. This is because more and more aspiring authors are turning to small presses, niche publishers, or are self-publishing. That's why this newly updated and expanded third edition of Mary Embree's "The Author's Toolkit: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Book" continues to be a timely and invaluable instructional reference work for aspiring authors regardless of the genre or categories they are working in. Detailed, practical, sensible, 'hands on' information on every aspect of the writing and publishing process is superbly laid out and completely accessible ranging from developing and researching both fiction and non-fiction ideas, organizing plots and developing characters, writing and editing, avoiding common pitfalls and problems, recruiting a literary agent, attracting publisher attention, dealing with publishing contracts, promotion/publicity, and more. Of special interest in this new edition is the attention paid to new developments in electronic publishing, print-on-demand options, and utilizing social media as a marketing tool. Informed, informative, and thoroughly 'user friendly', "The Author's Toolkit" is an invaluable reference and an essential read for anyone seeking to launch or sustain a professional writing career.
Merchants Of Culture
John B. Thompson
c/o Blackwell Publishing
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148
9780745647869, $25.00, www.amazon.com
From cuneiform tablets to papyrus reeds to the early centuries of movable type, publishing was a power in the world and aimed at the needs and necessities of the cultural elite. But then in the 19th century literacy began to spread down to the growing middle classes and address the interests of ordinary people. But it was up until the invention of desktop publishing in the later decades of the 20th century that ordinary people had access to publishing. The rapid technological advances of the 21st century thus far have continued to compel the publishing industry into new modes of production, distribution, and fiscal survival with the coming of such innovations and electronic publishing and Kindle readers. "Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business In The Twenty-First Century" by John B. Thompson provides an informed and informative history and description of how trade publishing operates, as well as the contributions and responsibilities of key components of the publishing industry including agents and booksellers, as well as the publishers themselves. Of particular interest is Thompson's analysis of how digital publishing is beginning to dramatically affect and alter trade publishing. Superbly researched and presented, "Merchants of Culture " is a seminal addition for academic library collections and essential reading for members of the publishing industry (including authors and book reviewers!) seeking to adapt to the constantly changing influences of modern technologies upon the art and economics of trade publishing.
Finally we have "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:
Julie Bigg Veazey -- "Jadine"
Ben Rudnick -- "It's Santa Claus!"
Lynn Hoover -- "Dog Quirks"
Brian Kittrell -- "The Dying Times"
Byron Anderson -- "Quest for Light"
Victoria J. Waks -- "Hammerspace"
Rich Hill -- "Hitchhiking After Dark"
Karen Ranzi -- "Creating Health Children"
Jackie Fox -- "From Zero to Mastectomy"
Catherine Treadgold -- Coffeetown Press
Elizabeth Woodman -- Eno Publishers
Dawn Jamieson -- Shady Tree Press
Annette Payne -- Me+Math=Magic, LLC
Bradford G. Wheler -- Book Collaborative
Charles Hooper -- Watauga Press
Terry Kelly -- Anderly Publishing
Steve Feuer -- Gihon River Press
Parkhurst Brothers Inc., Publishers
Craig Sullender -- Bite Press
Charles McComas -- TM Books & Video
Greg Geracie -- Actuation Press
Penny Koehler -- Anselm Academic
Craig Davis -- St. Celibart Press
Barbara Kolberg -- Fingernail Moon Studios
Joseph D. Rocchio -- Rocklin Publications
Thomas H. Slone -- Masalai Press
Steven Brooks -- Winterlake Press
T. J. Marshall -- Hummingbird Books
Janice Phelps Williams -- Lucky Press
Tim O'Brien -- ISMPI, Inc.
Rao Aluri -- Parkway Publishers Inc.
Lynne Rock -- James A. Rock & Company, Publishers
Nelson M. Russell -- Educational Navigating Learning Services
Maryglenn McCombs -- MM Book Publicity
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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