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Jim Cox Report: October 2013
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
Every couple of years a scandal breaks out concerning some scam artist pretending to be a legitimate book reviewer. One of the very first articles I ever wrote for the publishing industry was on the subject of how to spot these phonies.
One of the regretful side effects of these periodic scandals is the aspersions they cast upon dedicated reviewers and review publications while sowing confusion in the minds of those new to publishing. So now and then I must do what I can to help people understand how book reviewers in general, and the Midwest Book Review in particular, functions in order to allay concerns from those who don't know us except for what they hear in some chat room some where.
Here's two examples of some email correspondence directly along those lines:
Subject: Midwest Book Review -- highly unprofessional
Spring cleaning in the fall, reviewing files/folders, and came across “Midwest Book Review,” with correspondence (after your request for two copies of my novel) going only one-way (mine).
A search on the internet brought me to Wikipedia (among other sites), wherein I read that MBR promises a reading within 12-14 weeks. That is misinformation of the highest order. It’s more like two years and on to the fifth of Never. To add insult to injury, follow-up queries to learn the stratus of the review were all ignored.
Wikipedia and other sources – especially those aimed at authors – need to know that MBR is very unprofessional. I will let them know.
P.S. By the way, what do you do with those free copies? Give them away as Christmas gifts?
To which I replied:
Subject: Carol Mizrahi - Re: Midwest Book Review -- highly unprofessional
Dear Ms. Mizrahi:
Thank you for your sharing your experience. Incidentally, my last name is spelled Cox, not Cocks.
The difficulty you experienced is that we receive more than two thousand titles a month seeking review and I have 81 reviewers to try to cope with it all. With respect to your particular title it was simply a matter of too many books, not enough reviewers. I try to respond to all email follow-up inquiries as to the status of a book submitted for review. If that did not happen in your case the fault is entirely mine and I do sincerely apologize.
I suggest you avail yourself of our free book review resource database “Other Reviewers” which you will find at:
Here you will find links to freelance book reviewers, book review magazines and publications, book review web sites, and more. While some are specialized, others are more general. Go down the list (it’s a long list because it is a huge database) and when you see one that looks promising, click on it and you will be zapped to that particular reviewer or review resource web site.
Read through their web site and you will be able to determine if they are thematically appropriate to your book, and if so – what their submission guidelines are.
I would also suggest that in order to avoid scam artists masquerading as reviewers, you read my article "How To Spot A Phony Book Reviewer" which you will find archived on the Midwest Book Review web site at:
As for Wikipedia -- I'll have to go look it up. That 12-14 weeks should be 14-16 weeks. And there are no guarantees of reviews for print titles, either paperback or hardcover, based on the enormous numbers of titles submitted and the finite number of available and qualified reviewers.
I hope this proves helpful.
Incidentally, I write a monthly column for the publishing industry called the "Jim Cox Report". You'll find them archived on the Midwest Book Review web site at:
Oh, one last thing. Review copies become the property of the Midwest Book Review. The only compensation reviewers get is to keep the copies they review. They can then do what they wish with them. Most of them sell them for whatever they can get at used bookstores to supplement the income from their day jobs.
Copies that didn't make the final cut to get a review assignment must be taken off the shelves and disposed of when their eligibility time expires. Some are given away to charities like Friends of the Library book sales or Goodwill Industries, others are sold to local used bookstores, still others are turned over to a paper recycling plant.
Again, thank you for your correspondence. It was good of you to take the time and effort. I will use our correspondence in a future column to illustrate what is probably a wide-spread misunderstanding based on a Wikipedia entry. If you were confused that reviews for submitted books are guaranteed, others might also be as well.
Midwest Book Review
By the way, I was shown by my staff on how to make corrections and updates on Wikipedia and have now done so.
Here's another recent email on the theme of book review reliability:
Dear Mr. Cox:
Thank you so much for your interest in Lucky George.
This is my first experience submitting Lucky George for a review by an on-line reviewer. I've researched your site and you are long-established, and I am satisfied about your procedures. However, in my research I've found some disheartening stories about reviewers who don't read books and who exist, it seems, to just sell the books they get to review. I know you can only speak for Midwest Book Rievew, but I'm wondering how you and other reviewers keep in business if you are not paid for reviews. Surely one cannot live on the books they receive and then sell.
Can you tell me anything to assuage this nervous feeling I have about sending Lucky George out for review? I so appreciate your input.
Joan Kufrin (for George Kufrin)
Here is my response:
Subject: Re: When was the last time you reviewed a book by someone who peered into May...
Dear Ms. Kufrin:
The Midwest Book Review is funded by two annual foundation grants for the purpose of "Promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing".
All of our reviewers are unpaid volunteers whose only compensation for their time and expertise is that they get to keep the books they review and do with them whatever they wish.
As for those books that fail to achieve a review assignment, when their eligibility time expires they are removed from the shelves. Some are donated to charities like Friends of the Library for their fund raising book sales or Goodwill stores, others are sold off to local used bookstores, still others are sent to a paper recycling plant.
Additionally, I own the building housing the Midwest Book Review. There are two paid staff members who work 35 hours a week for minimum wage. All the rest of us (myself included) are unpaid volunteers who basically operate the Midwest Book Review for the sheer love of doing so in behalf of the small press community.
Remember that no matter what you do, you will never satisfy everyone. In this day and age of the Internet you will inevitable encounter folk who don't like what your do or fail to do for them.
I've been doing this for going on 40 years now and I'm simply too old (70) to pay them any mind. Life is too short.
I write a monthly column for the publishing industry called the "Jim Cox Report". I will use our correspondence in a future column because I'm certain that there are other folk out there who might share your concerns.
Midwest Book Review
One final word. I don't really get upset about negative criticism from anonymous sources on the internet these days. In the past I've made mistakes. My saving grace is to readily acknowledge when I've screwed up, try to fix the error, and sincerely apologize for whatever the lapse in judgement might have been. In business, as in life, a little humility goes a long way to softening the wrath of another -- especially if that wrath is justified!
You as a writer, as a publisher, as a reviewer, will inevitably encounter anger and insults from others who are motivated by jealousy, disappointment, honest misunderstanding, or some obscurely hidden agenda. Especially in this age of the internet. The only way I've ever found to counter such toxic occurrences is to concentrate on the good folk such as those who send me thank you emails, cards, and letters, -- and especially those postage stamp donation gestures of appreciation and support.
That's proven quite enough for me to keep on keeping on!
Now just a mention of something else. If you haven't done so, read the September 2013 column "Bethany Cox Report" written by my daughter (and MBR managing editor). She talks about an internet resource called "Kickstarter" that authors and publishers might be able to use to acquire funding for their books. You'll find it archived on the Midwest Book Review web site at:
Here are reviews of some new books of special interest to writers and publishers:
Improve Your Writing With NLP
Judith E. Pearson
Crown House Publishing
6 Trowbridge Drive Suite 5, Bethel, CT 06801
9781845908614, $29.95, www.amazon.com
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California, USA in the 1970s. Its creators claim a connection between the neurological processes ("neuro"), language ("linguistic") and behavioral patterns learned through experience ("programming") and that these can be changed to achieve specific goals in life. Bandler and Grinder claim that the skills of exceptional people can be "modeled" using NLP methodology, then those skills can be acquired by anyone. Bandler and Grinder also claim that NLP can treat problems such as phobias, depression, habit disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, myopia, allergy, common cold and learning disorders, often in a single session. NLP has been adopted by some hypnotherapists and in seminars marketed to business and government. It has also now been adopted and adapted to the process of writing with "Improve Your Writing With NLP" by Judith E. Pearson. This 216 page compendium is essential a complete and analytical course in teaching aspiring authors cognitive strategies to improve their writing, as well as learning the writing process in all of its facets, how NLP models for creativity best apply, and perhaps most usefully of all, how to overcome the inevitable 'writer's block'. Thoroughly 'reader friendly', "Improve Your Writing With NLP" is a unique and highly recommended addition to any aspiring or professional writer's instructional reference collection.
Aspects of Contemporary Book Design
Richard Hendel, Editor
University of Iowa Press
119 West Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000
9781609381752, $29.95, www.uiowapress.org
Aspects of Contemporary Book Design considers the craft of book design and tells designers who work with modern technology how to manage specific book design challenges. Images from the books they have produced provide an example-driven, indexed guide to how professional British and American designers think about book design. Any involved in the art of publisher and design will find this gathers the latest thinking on book design, offering first-person step-by-step insights on the progression from manuscript to finished product. Numerous black and white examples throughout make for a 'must' for any book designer or publisher who would understand the process of choosing an effective book design.
Top 100 Power Verbs
Michael Lawrence Faulkner
c/o Pearson Technology Group
801 East 96th Street, #300, Indianapolis, IN 46240-3759
9780133158854, $27.99, www.amazon.com
One of the major tools of business is effective communication. That's where "Top 100 Power Verbs: The Most Powerful Verbs and Phrases You Can Use to Win in Any Situation" can be extraordinarily useful. Author Michael Lawrence Faulkner (with the assistance of Michelle Faulkner-Lunsford) has compiled a 336 page compendium that begins with identifying the connection between communication and success in general, and how to best utilize this assembled collection in particular, then goes on to provide the top 100 'action verbs' for business, bargaining, getting in the last word, presentations, sagacity, socializing, networking, and so much more. Superbly organized and presented, "Top 100 Power Verbs: The Most Powerful Verbs and Phrases You Can Use to Win in Any Situation" is very strongly recommended as a personal and professional linguistic resource and reference. It should also be noted that "Top 100 Power Verbs: The Most Powerful Verbs and Phrases You Can Use to Win in Any Situation" is also available in a Kindle edition ($17.39).
And don't miss this one reviewed by Mary Crocco who is one of my volunteers here at the Midwest Book Review
Want to be a Writer? Then Do It Properly
Albert Jack Publishing
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
B00AM16DXK, $3.00, www.amazon.com
Better Late Than Never
Discovering Albert Jack's book of advice for new writers came too late for my own first book, but perfectly timed for my second.
Packed with information and guidance, I took copious amounts of notes before concluding I needed the book in print, so I ordered a paperback.
I found the most appreciated recommendation about writing narrative: to get the plot and ideas down first, and then add dialogue. This relieves my current struggle of interrupting the flow of ideas while trying to write dialogue, the simple fact to write first and add dialogue later, works. I'll try a chapter at a time, but the way my mind works, I'm confident in success.
Unaware all submissions should be presented with 1.5 line spacing surprised me, I thought 2.0, double spacing.
Consider reading, "Want to be a Writer? Then Do It Properly by Albert Jack", because it includes easy and significant approaches for writers to develop their skill.
Mary Crocco, Reviewer
Here is "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:
Marv Gold -- "Whirlwind"
Paul D. Marks -- "White Heat"
John J. Fox, III -- "Stuart's Finest Hour"
Edward Curry -- "The Pink Bra Archaeologist"
Kevin Gerard Kilpatrick -- "Dragons of the Dark Rift"
Jed Donovan -- "Army Funkies And Colorado Junkies"
Granny's Books Publishing
Amy Alspach -- Little Devil Books
Kara Lynn Dunn -- Seaway Trail Inc.
Michele Orwin -- Bacon Press Books
Debbie McFarland -- Synergetic Press
Carol Szuminsky -- Peanut Butter Press
Rachel Semlyen -- Royal Fireworks Press
Don Bracken -- History Publishing Company
Howard Binkow -- We Do Listen Foundation
Barbara C. Wall -- The Barret Company
Elizabeth Waldman Frazier -- Waldmania!
In lieu of (or in addition to!) postage stamp donations, we also accept PayPal gifts of support to our postage stamp fund for what we try to accomplish in behalf of the small press community. Simply log onto your PayPal account and direct your kindness (in any amount and at your discretion) to the Midwest Book Review at:
SupportMBR [at] aol.com
(The @ is replaced by "[at]" in the above email address, in an attempt to avoid email-harvesting spambots.)
If you have postage stamps to donate, or if you have a book you'd like considered for review, then send those postage stamps (always appreciated, never required), or a published copy of that book (no galleys, uncorrected proofs, or Advance 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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