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Beth Cox Report: January 2013

Dear Loyal Readers, Authors, and Publishers,

Greetings and Happy New Year! I'm Bethany Cox, daughter of the Midwest Book Review's Editor-in-Chief Jim Cox. My father is seventy now, and semi-retired, but he has decided that he can never fully retire - partly for the joy of keeping in touch with the publishing community, and partly because here at the MBR we just never run out of things to do!

As managing editor of the MBR, I'm trying to make sure my elderly father doesn't have too much on his plate. I do everything from reviewing books, music CDs, and DVDs, to printing and mailing publisher notifications, to assembling the monthly newsletters on our website. It's an honor and a pleasure to pursue this career; I consider it my dream job - one that allows me to browse books about every topic imaginable on a daily basis! With the debut of the new year, I've decided that it's time for me to join my father in writing a monthly open letter to everyone out there who has helped the MBR become what it is today.

I'd like to start with a reminder to all authors and publishers that the post-Christmas months are quite possibly the best time of the year to submit books for review. Why? Because submissions tend to drop off for a while during this season. Instead of competing against a peak of 3,000 to 4,000 books per month, your titles will stand out against a significantly smaller pool of applicants, and have a greater chance of being selected for inclusion in our monthly book review newsletters. This is even more true if your book concerns a distinctive subject, such history as any of the sciences; we like to keep the spectrum of recommended reading in our monthly newsletters topically diverse!

Now, here are two features I plan to regularly showcase in the Beth Cox Report: the Link of the Month and the Review of the Month. These will be select links of especial value to authors, publishers, or general public, and a chosen review of a truly standout book.

January's Link of the Month is BigStock Photo, at

It's a link I've recently added to the "Technical Resources" of our "Publisher Resources" links page. They are a vast stockpile of royalty-free images. One of our hardworking employees, who publishers original short stories on Smashwords in his spare time, buys the legal right to use images on BigStock for as little as $5. With just a little basic Photoshop editing (so simple that anyone can learn to do it in fifteen minutes), he turns these pictures into eye-catching digital covers for his ebooks!

Did you know that having an appealing cover is just as important for eBooks is as for print books? Potential readers browsing eBooks for sale will almost always see digital covers for the stories they look at, and eBooks are just as vulnerable to being judged by their cover as print books! This is true for other digital media as well - independent videos or music, or even "indie" video games distributed solely via digital download all feature digital covers, or digital box art. An ugly cover image (or worse, a cover consisting of nothing but the title against a solid color background!) is the kiss of death, while an attractive one is almost certain to bring higher sales.

Our Review of the Month features a title that absolutely impressed me. In the wake of the burst housing bubble and the Great Recession, it's harder than ever for anyone to sell their home - but for those who need to do so regardless, "Up Sell Your Home" is a must-read:

Up Sell Your Home
James A. Harner, CRS
Real Estate Education Foundation
102 2nd Avenue
Royersford, PA 19468
9780615727479 $19.95

Real Estate industry veteran James A. Harner, CRS presents Up Sell Your Home: Why Some People Always Make Money in Any Real Estate Market, a practical guide packed with solid home-selling advice, as well as unconventional insights into how the real estate industry really works. One of Harner's core principles is that "advertising doesn't sell homes - agents do". In other words, since prospective home buyers almost always rely upon real estate agents, appealing to those agents is far more important than placing classified ads in print publications that no one reads anymore. If a home is in excellent condition and not overpriced, Harner encourages prospective sellers to consider raising the price and raising the buying agent's commission above the local average, in order to effectively "bribe" the agent to sell the home! Other valuable tips, tricks, and techniques include an exhaustive laundry list of tasks to "stage" one's home (making it look warm and appealing to prospective buyers) such as sending one's personal clutter to a storage bin or tidying up the front lawn. Up Sell Your Home also has invaluable warnings against pitfalls such as hosting an open house (which has led to sellers being victimized by thieves who seize the opportunity to case a home's valuables, or worse). Simple, easy-to-do arithmetic calculations to objectively gauge the state of one's local real estate market (and determine whether the market is hot enough that one can sell one's own home without an agent) round out this "must-have" resource for anyone who needs to sell their home quickly and profitably! "It is MUCH easier to deal directly with the buyer's agent than with the buyer themselves. Buyers want to get your house for as little as possible; buyer's agents want to get paid."

Next, I'd like to tell you about a query I received from an author, who asked how he could arrange for to publish the MBR's review of his book in the Editorial Review section. As you may already know, Amazon currently refuses to post reviews from any professional reviewers in their "Customer Reviews" section, so if publishers wish to display our book reviews on Amazon, they have to be added the Editorial Review section.

Since the MBR cannot do this (only the book's publisher has the prerogative), I had no idea what the process was... but a quick search on Google revealed how it's done, as graciously explained by TriCyclic on Yahoo! Answers:

"Usually reviews have to be submitted by the publisher. Amazon will tell you something like: 'Please note that for our members protection, we can only provide information or make adjustments to the titles of the publisher accounts if the request comes from an e-mail address associated with the account. We believe that this is the best way to ensure that any changes are authorized by the account holder...'

So contact the publisher and ask them to contact Amazon.

If you are the publisher as well as the author, go to the Amazon home page, click on the Help link at the upper right-hand corner, and click a button labeled Contact Us. You'll be prompted to login if you're not already logged in. On the page that loads next, there's a box with buttons on the right hand side under the heading of Customer Service. One is labeled E-mail and the other is labeled Phone. Click phone so you can talk and explain the circumstances with Amazon customer service rep immediately. Once you're in touch w/ customer service, tell them you're the publisher/author of a book (have the Amazon ASIN or the ISBN ready, so they can look it up on their end) and would like to have some editorial reviews added to the book's product page."

as posted on Yahoo! Answers

I was so impressed by the TriCyclic's helpfulness that I've turned his (or her?) answer into an Advice for Publishers article on our website, "How to Post Editorial Reviews on Amazon". Indeed, this is how just about every article in the Advice for Publishers section came to be - because a kindly and knowledgeable individual chose to freely share their tips, tricks, and techniques of the publishing trade, for all to learn from! We are always accepting new submissions for the Advice for Publishers section, as long as they don't retread a topic that is already fully covered.

While I'm on the subject of our website... as the MBR's official Webmistress, I've been asked more than once about carrying paid advertisements on our site, and my answer is always a polite but firm "no". I have many reasons for this resolute stance - here's just a few of them:

1) Every so often, advertisements have been known to carry viruses or malware. It's a serious problem that has affected some of the most polished and reputable websites out there. There is simply no way to be 100% sure a "bad ad" won't slip through, and I refuse to take this risk.

2) Advertisements are intrusive, cumbersome, and annoying. Calling a pop-up ad an "interstitial" doesn't make it any less irritating when it's literally covering up half the computer screen until you can find a tiny "X" to click and shrink it. This is not even touching upon video and audio ads, ugh...

3) Advertisements slow down the loading of website pages... sometimes tremendously. Not everyone in the publishing community has a top-of-the-line high-speed internet connection! We want our website be as quickly and easily accessible as possible to publishers, authors, libraries, and the reading public.

I will never reverse my decision; the MBR's website will remain not only free to the public, but also completely advertisement-free for as long as the MBR exists. However, with the start of the new year, I was reviewing our annual website hosting costs, as well as the cost of our website's search engine; I decided that the MBR should be, at the very least, willing and able to accept voluntary offerings of support.

This is why I've rewritten our home page, to tell the MBR's browsers how they can "support the cause" through gifts of postage stamps, or by sending contributions (any dollar amount) to our PayPal email address of

SupportMBR [at]

(The @ is replaced by "[at]" in the above email address, in an attempt to fool email-harvesting spambots). Of course PayPal gifts, like postage stamps, are always appreciated but never required! We set up this PayPal account especially to accommodate people who wanted to "support the cause" without the inconvenience of buying and mailing stamps.

That's all for this month's Beth Cox report. My best wishes to everyone for the year of 2013!

Bethany Cox
Managing Editor
The Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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