Friday, June 11, 2010

Jim Cox Gives Writers the Inside Story on His Review Process

If you receive (and love!) the Midwest Review newsletter that gets delivered directly to your e-mail box as much as I do, you may disregard this post for you will have already read it. To all others, Jim Cox, trusted leader of Midwest Review, always has a valuable perspective on some aspect of publishing, in this case an aspect of our world that he probably knows more about than any other. Here is an excerpt from his letter. Read and take heed! (-:

Dear Publisher Folk, Friends & Family:

When I started my career as a book reviewer more than thirty years ago, I had the basics -- a desk, a bookshelf, a typewriter, a telephone, a rolodex with 60+ publisher's contact information, letterhead stationary, and a roll of stamps.

I worked part-time at what was pretty much the glorified hobby of a dedicated and life-long bookworm. I would get 2 or 3 packages of books a day and took the greatest delight in opening them up to see what was inside. It was pretty much Christmas Morning six days a week.

Now some 32 years later it's more like 30 to 50 packages a day coming into a mail room for one of my guys to open for me. So I thought I give a brief description of what happens to these books being submitted for review that now number about 2300 a month. Here's the process:

Basically when a book arrives in our mail room it is taken out of its packaging or box. The flattened out cardboard boxes and bags of packing material (foam chips and bubblewrap) are taken to a recycling center -- a trip which happens once a week.

The cover letters and publicity releases are placed physically inside the book. They are then piled in a carton with all the other titles to have arrived that day (and the numbers of books arriving on any given day will fill between two and four cartons).

These cartons of books are then taken to my office where their contents are piled on my desk. It's a very big 1950s era L-shaped steel secretarial desk that must weigh half a ton -- and th one enduring component that has been in my office from the beginning. Desktop computer systems and telephone systems have come and gone, but that big old desk is forever!

I then perform my daily literary triage and separate the books into three stacks: Rejection, Immediate Acceptance, and Provisional Acceptance.

The rejections are placed back into cartons to await their ultimate fate ranging from donation, to liquidation, to recycling centers. Those that are Immediately Accepted outright are set aside for their assigned reviewers. Those that are Provisionally Accepted are placed upon our bookshelves to await review assignment sometime within the next 14 to 16 weeks before they lose their eligibility for assignment and must be removed to make room for newly arrived review submissions.

So that's basically the daily process, Monday through Saturday.

A word about cover letters and publicity releases that absolutely must accompany a submitted book if it is to not be automatically rejected from consideration. The cover letter and the publicity release should both be printed out on business letterhead stationary. All too many self-published authors just jot down a note on plain paper, have no publicity release, or simply resort to a newspaper clipping in lieu of a formal PR.

As to what should be in those to essential documents and how they differ from each other, I've written it all down in simple, thoroughly 'user friendly' instructions that you will find on the Midwest Book Review website at:

Writing An Effective Cover Letter:

Writing An Effective Publicity Release:

Jim Cox
Midwest Book Review
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI, 53575

Note: It'd like to add that The Frugal Editor gives even more advice (and samples) on writing great query letters and my The Frugal Book Promoter gives the most complete information on putting together a media kit specifically designed for authors I've ever seen (if I do say so myself!).

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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