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Beth Cox Report: June 2014

Dear Loyal Readers, Authors, and Publishers,

In previous Jim Cox Reports, my father has discussed Amazon's rejection and deletion of professional reviews submitted to its "Customer Reviews" section. Like all or nearly all professional reviewers, we at the MBR can no longer submit customer reviews to Amazon. (Amazon is still happy to take our money if we need to buy office supplies, though).

What concerns me is that independent volunteer reviewers also seem to run increasingly afoul of Amazon's policy. Here's an email I received from one such person, Howard G. Wilshire, and my response, made public with his express permission:

"My review of Too Hot to Touch was for Amazon, which I now know owns Goodreads, and I presume Reviewer's Bookwatch.

Today I checked into Amazon and found that my review, listed separately from the 11 current reviews of Too Hot to Touch, has been removed. I wanted my review to affect those who intended to buy Too Hot to Touch from Amazon.

I have to conclude that acquisition of Goodreads/Bookwatch by Amazon is intended to filter negative reviews from Amazon sales. I don't think I will be visiting or contributing to either site in the future."


To which I replied,

"Amazon does not own the Reviewer's Bookwatch, or any part of the MBR. We are an independent book review organization; all our reviews are either written 'in-house' by our staff, or contributed for nonexclusive publication by volunteers, who retain all copyright and ownership rights to the reviews they provide us.

When Amazon decides to take down a customer review for any reason, there is nothing we at the MBR can do.

However, Amazon seems less likely to remove editorial reviews. If you offer your review to the book's publisher, he or she may choose to put it in the editorial review section of its listing on Amazon. This is what the MBR currently does with all its in-house reviews."

By the way, Howard's review of Too Hot To Touch is on our website at

as part of the May 2014 Reviewer's Bookwatch. Like all reviews on our website, it will remain archived there for a long time; at least five years, possibly up to ten or more. That's the beauty of cyber-storage, and online magazines!

Now for June's Link of the Month. You have almost certainly heard of Heartbleed, the security flaw that has potentially endangered an inconceivable amount of private data, and prompted the necessity of password changes for just about every password-protected service on the Internet.

But merely changing one's password isn't enough - it needs to be a reasonably secure password. Countless sitcom or comic strip jokes have been made about internet newbies who use their own name, their own birthday, or the word "password" as a password and suffered for it. What might not be so obvious is that any dictionary word, or any short password, is insecure - computer "cracking" programs will literally throw every combination of letters and numbers at password protection, trying over and over to get in!

So, I'd like to recommend a useful internet article about creating a strong password:

And the web security-themed website that hosts this article, Help Net Security, is June's Link of the Month!

I'll conclude with June's Review of the Month. This is a title for aspiring writers that I read cover to cover in sheer fascination - it contains "tricks of the trade" that anyone looking to break into the business absolutely must learn!

Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing
Slim Randles
Foreword by Max Evans
Introduction by George Cornell
Rio Grande Books
925 Salamanca NW, Los Ranchos, NM 87107
9781936744312 $15.95

Journalist, outdoorsman, novelist, and award-winning author Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing, a thoroughly accessible, no-nonsense guide for professional authors. The primary emphasis is upon getting one's work published for money, whether it's an article for a magazine (Randles emphasizes that many specialty-interest magazines are still alive and well, even though general-interest magazines have mostly gone out of business) or a fiction or nonfiction book for a publishing house. Tips, tricks, and techniques for the creative process are also included, but the topic of self-publishing is (more or less) left for other guides to cover. One of the most valuable lessons the reader will learn is the importance of sending a well-crafted query letter to publication editors, before pouring hours of time into creating an article or a book. "You should never 'shotgun' query letters... By that I mean changing only the editor's name and address on the query and sending it to every magazine that might be interested in the piece. This is a real temptation for beginning writers... It's actually something close to journalistic suicide." Saddle Up is an absolute "must-read" for aspiring professional writers; even those who pursue self-publishing as their primary path will find Randles' life-tested writing advice indispensable.

That's all for the June 2014 Beth Cox Report. May all your passwords be uncrackable!

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

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