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Jim Cox Report: April 2011
Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:
My recent announcement regarding the institution of a new "Reading Fee" policy for reviewing ebooks and pdf files has apparently created a lively discussion among various author groups. I received an interesting email from an ebook author whose request for a review I had brought to the attention of one of my reviewers:
In a message dated 4/1/2011 11:09:39 A.M. Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Mr. Cox--Jim--this doesn't answer my concerns. But thankfully Diane has already been in touch. She said she'll get back to me when she returns from her four day sailing trip.
I hope we can reach an agreement that doesn't smack of my having paid for her review. You may know that your new policy of charging $50 to Indie authors has caused quite a flap on several writers' websites, so I'm not alone in being confused--esp. since you are the very first one to have condemned the practice of charging for either a "reading" or review or whatever you choose to call it.
Everyone is upset that with Midwest's stellar reputation this cloud has appeared on the horizon to dim it. And to find that you've preached one thing and now espouse another is a surprise as well as a large disappointment.
As I told Ms. Donovan, I would hate to think that my desire to work this out will result in your telling me just to get lost. I truly value a review by you.
I want to thank Renee for her communique and thought my response to her would be of interest to others:
What ever arrangement you and Diane mutually agree to is just fine with me.
With respect to our new policy of charging a $50 "Reading Fee" for ebooks, manuscripts, proofs, Arcs, and pdf files --
It's because my roster of reviewers have traditionally and consistently passed them all by and selected traditionally published print editions of finished books instead.
The reason for this is that they are all unpaid volunteers whose only compensation for their time, effort, and expertise is to keep the book(s) they review.
Most of the time the reviewer then sells their review copy for whatever it can fetch at their local used book store as a way to derive a financial revenue from their work.
It should be noted that our volunteer reviewers own all rights to their reviews and that publishers who furnish a gratis copy of a book for review have the right to utilize resulting reviews in their efforts to marketing their book. This is the traditional quid pro quo of the publishing industry.
The nature of the publishing industry is steadily evolving from print to electronic. Time and technology marches on. Whole new generations of readers comfortable with digitally published books and are increasing the digital book market share of publishing, while older generations more comfortable with print published books are dying off -- and the market share of print books is decreasing accordingly.
Meanwhile, volunteer reviewers who review as a hobby, and free lance reviewers who review as a profession, are trying to figure out ways of being financially compensated for their labor. Digital editions of books (as well as manuscripts, proofs, ARCS, and pdf files) simply can't be sold to a local used bookstore like print editions have traditionally been. So the only way for the reviewer to be compensated is the charge a "Reading Fee" up front.
Editors of book review publications and web sites (especially those who do not accept any advertising money from the publisher industry -- or anyone else) must also seek revenue to cover operational overhead expenses. The sale of review copies (that did not end up with an assigned reviewer) to a local used bookstore is usually the source of such revenue. And the same problem of a digital book having no resale value like a print book applies -- to the discrimination against accepting and assigning out ebooks.
There's no such thing as a free lunch. That's what's being asked of a reviewer with respect to ebooks, manuscripts, proofs, ARCs, pdf files -- and heavily marked "Not for Sale" stamping on print editions of books submitted for review.
There's also another issue at play -- the dramatic increases in the numbers of incoming requests for ebook reviews from ebook authors and publishers that necessitates some way of paring down the numbers of such requests to a manageable size. Charging a "Reading Fee" seems to serve that purpose quite well.
So the primary issue for reviewers and the readers of their reviews is: -- Will a "Reading Fee" produce an unfairly biased review.
The primary issue for book review editors continues to be: -- How can I get volunteer reviewers to accept a digital book review assignment when there are so many print titles in competition for their time and attention?
As of now, the only answer I could come up with is a $50 "Reading Fee". So far there have been 3 Kindle books reviewed under those terms and it's gone pretty well. I've just completed editing/reviewing an unpublished manuscript of a novel for $50 -- and after it was done the author felt like adding an unsolicited second check for $150 because he'd liked what I did so much that he wanted to express his gratitude to me.
I should also note that reviews of print editions of books here at the Midwest Book Review are still, and will continue to be, free of charge with the assigned reviewer's only compensation being able to keep the book(s) they review.
I welcome open discussion of these issues and policy decisions. Please feel free to post my response to any of those author discussion groups you mentioned. I write a monthly column of advice and commentary for the publishing industry called the "Jim Cox Report" (you'll find them archived on the Midwest Book Review web site at www.midwestbookreview.com/bookbiz/jimcox.htm) and will be featuring our exchange in the one I'm currently preparing for April 2011 for the benefit of others who have similar concerns and questions about my new "Reader Fee" policy with respect to digital publishing.
Midwest Book Review
Now on to some reviews of 'how to' titles for writers and/or publishers:
The Writing/Publishing Shelf
The Power of Poems
2416 NW 71st Place, Gainesville, FL 32653
9781934448896, $19.95, www.maupinhouse.com
Poetry has very strong purpose, even if it doesn't seem as readily apparent as it once was. "The Power of Poems: Writing Activities that Teach and Inspire" is a guide for educators to blend poetry into their teaching plans and how to use it effectively for many subjects, although English and writing is clearly the primary focus. A passion for poetry and its style can be fostered well by a teacher, and Margriet Ruurs encourages readers how to fully embrace them. "The Power of Poems" is a must for any teacher who feels poetry can make a positive impact on their classroom.
Uncovering the Logic of English
10800 Lyndale Avenue South, Suite. 181, Minneapolis, MN 55420-5687
Literacy is what led the common people out of serfdom and into enlightenment. "Uncovering the Logic of English: A Common-Sense Solution to America's Literacy Crisis" is a guide to understanding the complex language of English which often seems quite overwhelming to early learners and can lead to reductions in literacy. Hoping to serve as a rulebook for English and explain the anomalies that are rife within the language, "Uncovering the Logic of English" is a thoughtful guide for anyone who wants to understand language better or is looking for advice to help them teach it.
Now for some Q&A commentaries:
Here's an email with a link that I think authors and publishers will find of interest. It underscores for me that the Midwest Book Review is something of an icon within the publishing industry.
Sent: 7/17/2010 5:58:00 P.M. Central Daylight Time
Subj: A quote from you
Since I quoted what you said, I thought you should see the post.
Maralyn Dennis Hill
President, International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA)
623 252 1939, 6322 S Sky Ct, Gilbert, AZ 85298, E-Mail: MDHill@noralyn.com
WhereAndWhatInTheWorld.com, Books By Hills, SuccessWithWriting.com, Big Blend Magazine, Global Writes NoraLyn LTD
Member: Society of Professional Journalists
Anyone and everyone has full and automatic permission to publish anything I write in these "Jim Cox Report" columns -- or that you will find in the "Advice for Writers & Publishers" section of the Midwest Book Review web site at:
Just remember to give the usual credit citations when doing so.
In a message dated 8/15/2010 8:41:58 P.M. Central Daylight Time, email@example.com writes:
Dear Mr. Cox,
This is Dr. Laurence Brown, author of The Eighth Scroll, for which you recently posted a five-star review on Amazon.com, as follows:
Truth is something that is battled for everyday. "The Eighth Scroll" tells the story of archeologist Frank Tones and his pursuit of the lost scroll of the famed Dead Sea Scrolls. But when bodies begin to turn up and people are silenced, the good of history seems to be no match for corruption and lust for power. "The Eighth Scroll" is a fascinating and fun read for those who love religious thrillers.
My question is this: I have received a slew of positive reviews and feedback. Why, then, am I not able to attract the interest of a literary agent or trade publisher? One agent (in a remarkably candid confession) praised the premise of my novel and the strength of my writing, but declined representation because of the temper of the marketplace. If I understand this correctly, I have killed my chances for publication by making Israel's Mossad one of the main antagonists. You may not agree with this assessment, and perhaps I am reading too much between the lines, but would you have any suggestions on how I can get The Eighth Scroll published by a major trade publisher?
To which I composed the following response:
What you are up against is a combination of factors among which are:
1. The recession compelling the major publishing houses to decrease their lists and making it harder than ever for first time authors to get published by them.
2. Trying to sell to the major houses yourself. They prefer working with literary agents rather than authors.
3. Although you mention positive reviews you made no mention of your sales record for this title. For self-published authors trying to interest a major publishing house in their book one of the fundamental conditions is the ability to document strong sales figures.
The one thing that would not be an impediment is using the Mossad as a 'bad guy' element in a suspense thriller.
Midwest Book Review
Not all the emails I receive are laudatory in nature. But they are all significant and worthy of whatever useful response I can provide. Here's a case in point:
In a message dated 8/30/2010 1:48:46 P.M. Central Daylight Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
I submitted Brave, a Memoir of Overcoming Shyness for review and you said it would be. Will you please tell me when I should be expecting it and if it comes by email or regular post, so I can be on the lookout for it.
I never promise reviews. What I most probably said (because I say it all the time to inquiries by authors and publishers) is that we give priority consideration for reviews to small press and self-published titles. But that's no guarantee that a given title will be able to receive a review assignment. The reason for this is that each month we receive an average of 2300 titles and I've got 76 reviewers to try and cope with it all. We also do not charge for our services in order that we may avoid any conflict of interest issues.
With respect to your specific book -- it arrived safely, passed our initial screening, and is currently awaiting review assignment. Consulting my records I find that it has about another six weeks of such eligibility before having to be removed to make physical space on our shelves to accommodate the influx of new submissions.
If/when it makes the final cut and is reviewed in one or more of our monthly book review publications, a copy of that review and a notification letter are automatically sent to the publisher.
Midwest Book Review
I've always considered my function as the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review to be as much an educational one as a literary one.
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:
Helga Tucque -- "The Crooked Cross"
Wade H. Nichols -- "The Glamis Curse"
Karisha Kal-ee'ay -- "Waiting To Know You"
Tracy Foote -- "How You Can Maximize Student Aid"
Susan Barbara Apollon -- "Touched by the Extraordinary"
Gerald Steen -- "The Modern Confessions of Saint August Stine"
Dean Badillo -- Mollywally
Chug Roberts -- TheCapitol.Net
Thomas H. Slone -- Masalai Press
Hinrich Muller -- Coho Publishing
Art Ayris -- Kingstone Media Group
Sharon Gurwitz -- "Greenpoint Press
Teresa Anne Power -- Stafford House
Howard Schrager -- Lemon Tree Press
Lloyd Lofthouse -- Three Clover Press
Marie Grosshueseh -- Nova Maris Press
Claudia Cerulli -- Long Bridge Publishing
Don Muchow -- Wellness Business Forum
Dale J. Moore -- Northern Amusements Inc.
Anita Holmes -- Ozark Mountain Publishing
Brooks Olbrys -- Children's Success Unlimted
Steven M. Ulmen -- Eagle Entertainment USA
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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