Interview with Jim Cox, Editor of the Midwest Book Review

With: Anna Faktorovich, PhD

mbr

Midwest Book Review: The Midwest Book Review was founded in 1976 and publishes nine monthly book review publications: The Bookwatch, California Bookwatch, Children’s Bookwatch, Internet Bookwatch, Library Bookwatch, MBR Bookwatch, Reviewer’s Bookwatch, Small Press Bookwatch, and Wisconsin Bookwatch.

These publications are archived on our Midwest Book Review website for five years, and routinely posted to other databases and websites on the Internet. They are also sent to a 30,000+ subscriber list.

We review both fiction and non-fiction in all genres and categories. We review both adult and children’s books. We generate a collective average of between 600 to 700 reviews a month.

The Midwest Book Review is contracted to provide our reviews to Gale Cengage Learning, (www.cengage.com) each month for inclusion in their online databases and their interactive CD-ROM series “Book Review Index” (published four times a year) for corporate, governmental, academic, and public library systems.

Gale Cengage Learning also make our reviews available to library systems nationwide in their other print, magnetic tape, and diskette book review series for the general public.

We also post all our reviews to thematically appropriate Internet forums such as alt.books.reviews. Our reviews can also be posted on Amazon.com by authors and publishers who have automatic permission to utilize our reviews in any manner they deem useful in their own marketing and promotion campaigns.

The Midwest Book Review website also features a compendium of advice and information for aspiring authors and novice publishers, as well thousands of “hot-links” to writing and publishing resources. Our website address is: http://www.midwestbookreview.com and the Midwest Book.

Review e-mail addresses are mbr@execpc.com and mwbookrevw@aol.com.

Jim Cox: I have a B.A. degree in Psychology and Sociology from Brigham Young University. I have a Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I also did graduate work in the field of Hebrew and Semitic Studies there. I worked for 7 years as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Salt Lake City, Utah. For the next 7 years, I was a social worker for the Dane County Department of Social Services out of Madison, Wisconsin. For the next 7 years after that I was the Director of Special Education for the Broadhead School District, Green County, Wisconsin. In 1976, I started doing a weekly radio show called “Bookwatch” with what was to become the Midwest Book Review. In 1980, I concluded my 21-year career as a social worker and became a full-time book reviewer and editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review.

Faktorovich: Midwest Book Review has been reviewing Anaphora’s titles for over five years now, so long that the first few have probably been removed from your site. Recently the first Anaphora book was reviewed by Publishers Weekly, and I am expanding my Pennsylvania Literary Journal’s review section. All this has made me ponder about how review publications make a living and work with authors. How did you snowball the volume of review copies coming in? Did you contact all publishers to solicit the books? How do you profit from running a review publication? Do you make a full-time living of it, and if so what’s the biggest money earner?

Cox: We began in September 1976 and are now in our 40th year of operation. We are extremely well known throughout the publishing industry. The key to success was our policy of letting authors and publishers know when their books were reviewed by automatically furnishing them with copy of the review and a notification letter letting them know the various places we published and posted our review of their book.

Word spread among author groups, publisher associations, publicists, and publishing company marketing departments. That’s pretty much how it developed and continues.

The creation of a policy that we would publish (for free) a review from someone else that we couldn’t ourselves provide books submitted to us for review only because of “too many books, not enough reviewers” here at the Midwest Book Review has served to reinforce our reputation in the industry.

We are supported by two annual foundation grants for the purpose of “promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing”. Beyond that we receive donations from grateful authors and publishers wanting to “support the cause” and help out with our postage and web site costs. All 81 of our reviewers (including me) are unpaid volunteers whose only compensation is that they get to keep the books they review.

Those books that fail to achieve a review assignment in their allotted time are either donated to the Free Little Library program or are sold for whatever they can fetch at a local used bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin.

We review books that are published in a print edition (hardcover or paperback) for free. If the author or a publisher want’s us to do a prepublication review using a PDF file, or a galley, uncorrected proof, or an ARC, there is a $50 Reader Fee that goes directly to the assigned reviewer (not to the Midwest Book Review). Because I put the author/publisher in contact with a qualified and reliable reviewer, I get to publish the review in our monthly book review publications in the author’s behalf and under the reviewer’s byline.

I own the building that houses the Midwest Book Review. I’m 74 and on Sociality Security and Medicare. We have two paid employees that work for minimum wage (which in Wisconsin is $7.50 per hour) and work a 35-hour week. One of our annual grants covers their salary. The other takes pretty much all the other routine overhead expenses.

By the way, it is not a conflict of interest for a publisher to submit reviews to use by other reviewers as long as they have that reviewer’s permission for them to do so. I’d say about 1/3 of our reviewers use the Midwest Book Review as a secondary forum as a means of expanding the audience for their reviews—their primary outlet being their own publication column, web site, or blog.

The one thing we can offer such folk is an expanded audience for librarians and booksellers and helps raise the profile of reviewers within the publishing industry. So, if you have a review of a book that we couldn’t—only because of that “too many books, not enough reviewers” situation, and have a review you like from somewhere else—take advantage of my offer because it will help raise the profile of your company with respect to community and academic librarians.

Finally, the reason why I’m still doing this stuff on a daily basis is that I’ve never grown tired of trying to help writers write better, publisher to publish more profitably, and bringing good books to the attention of librarians and the general reading public that they might otherwise never know about.

Faktorovich: Thank you for your detailed response. Very interesting. What is the total amount of these grants? Would you be affected if NEA closed? I’m curious what would’ve happened (best case scenario) if I had applied for non-profit status when I founded Anaphora. If you own the building, is the overhead for utilities? What do the two minimum wage employees do? Are they reviewers? Do they have college degrees and a passion for literature? 40 years is a long time to be doing this—I want to learn from your experience. And I’m sure my readers do too.

Cox: One of the personal joys this job of editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review brings is being able to help folk. Before I founded the Midwest Book Review, I had been a social worker for 21 years—old impulses to be of service never die! 🙂

One my previous interviews turned into me being awarded the 2012 Life Time Achievement Award in Publishing by the late Dan Poynter’s publisher group out in Santa Barbara, California.

I’m afraid that the total amount of the two grants and the foundations that give them is proprietary information—I don’t want competition for them even though they’ve been pretty much automatically renewed for the past thirty some years. Neither of them are government related so I would not be affected by the closing of the NEA.

The Midwest Book Review is not a non-profit company. In giving talks over the years, I’ve often started out by saying: “The only sure fire way to make a good living by reviewing books it to marry rich!”

Faktorovich: And did you “marry rich?”

Cox: I started out with a $1,000.00 loan from my father-in-law, and a good working knowledge of corporate tax loopholes and keeping accounts. Back in 1976 it all started as a local weekly radio show that didn’t cost me a dime. Then, expanded to a local weekly television show that, once again, was free. My support staff in both enterprises were all volunteers and that practice persists down to the present day.

Because I own the building I have to pay an annual property tax. That averages out to about $340.00 a month. The rest of the routine overhead are the utilities, the business stationary, and the telephone. Fortunately, because of donations, I haven’t had to buy a postage stamp for more than three decades now. Donations also cover all the expenses of having a web site and an email account.

One of my employees handles the “grunt work” of operating the mail room, custodial work, producing form letter publisher notifications (so all I have to do is sign them before they go out in the mail), and any odd jobs that crop up.

The other employee is the computer person who takes care of the web site, uploads all the review to it, makes additions to it, deletes obsolete links and otherwise maintains it. Then she takes care of emailing out the reviews to authors and publishers, notifies the volunteers that their reviews are up on the web site, takes care of any computer software problems, etc.

My computer person also review books and is a “book person”. My mail room guy does not and spends his leisure time playing video games.

They are also husband and wife, as well as my son-in-law and my daughter. My daughter has a college degree in computer science. My son-in-law barely made it out of high school. They are both in their 40s now.

I write a monthly column of advice, tips, tricks & techniques for author and publishers on book marketing, promotion, publicity, etc. that you might find interesting. They are all archived on the Midwest Book Review web site at:

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/bookbiz/jimcox.htm

My daughter (who carries the title of Managing Editor) has one of her own at:

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/bookbiz/bethcox.htm

Personally, I think she is a better writer than I am.

With respect to submitting other reviewer’s critiques or blurbs of your books be sure that along with that review you add an “info block” that consists of the following:

Title

Author

Publisher

Publisher Address

Publisher Web Site

Publisher Email

ISBN, Price, Page Count, Format (HC, PB, Kindle)

Reviewer’s Name

Faktorovich: In an interview with the Denver Post you have said that you have published reviewers from traditional print review publications that have closed down due to shifts in the market. Can you give examples of the backgrounds/ prior publication affiliations of some of your top reviewers? Did they eventually move on to other paid positions, while continuing to write volunteer reviews for Midwest?

Cox: I don’t know anything about the personal background of any of my volunteer reviewers with just a couple of exceptions. But it’s not uncommon back around the time of the Great Recession that new reviewers would show up and note as a kind of personal resume that they had reviewed for such-and-such a publication which had now been cut back on, or simply cut out altogether, and so now they were turning to me.

My impression is that most of my reviewers are simply book people who appreciate having a forum in which to express their opinions about what they have been reading.

I do know that one of them (Diane C. Donovan) went on to establish her own literary agency called “Donovan’s Literary Services”. I know that because in addition to being a volunteer reviewer with her own book review column, she is (and has been for some 30+ years) the West Coast editor for three of our monthly book review publications: The Bookwatch, California Bookwatch, and Children’s Bookwatch—which she continues to do as an unpaid volunteer.

Another was the late Harriet Klausner who was, for several years, the single most prolific reviewer on the Amazon.com web site.

Faktorovich: How did you manage to convince your daughter, with a computer science degree, to work for you for $7.50 an hour? Did she start before she finished the degree? Hasn’t she been tempted to abandon the boat and seek riches? In a 2008 interview with BlogCritics, you replied: “With her help the Midwest Book Review website was created. Bethany is the Midwest Book Review’s managing editor and webmaster.” The website gives credit to Williams Writing, Editing & Design for its design, rather than to Bethany.

Cox: My daughter decided that being the Managing Editor of the Midwest Book Review was what she wanted to do with her life. Especially since the editor she manages is me! At this point, the Midwest Book Review really would not be able to function without her. When she came home from college she was the one that dragged me out onto the internet. In the past couple of years, she has taken over more and more of the ‘nuts & bolts’ operations of the Midwest Book Review.

I continue to answer the phone, deal with the snail-mail and email, and otherwise putter around the office for 2 to 3 hours a day.

Many years ago, (so many I cannot now remember when it was) Williams Writing, Editing & Design was a young lady who emailed me one day and offered to create a better and more ‘user friendly’ web site for the Midwest Book Review for free. She did such a truly excellent job that the web site has never changed—it just keeps getting bigger over the years as more and more sections were added by my daughter.

Faktorovich: I’m assuming that you sell the books you receive for review at your own Midwest Books shop. I’m reaching this conclusion because of your reply regarding sales in a small bookshop in your town, and this response you gave on this question in the BlogCritics interview: “Reviewers and review publications own the books they are provided with from authors and publishers in the hope of getting them reviewed. They are therefore the property of the reviewer or review publication to dispose of as they deem best—including selling them—whether or not the book in question made the cut and got reviewed, and whether the review was positive or negative. This is a publishing industry standard and applies to ARCs as well.” Every time I move, I giveaway 100 or so review copies to whoever wants the rest of my stuff as a donation. The number of review copies I’ve received this year has been a spike, so I don’t know if at some point folks will start saying they can’t carry them out. Some ARCs specifically say on them: “not for sale.” Otherwise, I guess I’d try selling some of the expensive textbooks, a few priced at $100 or so each. I’d never convince myself to do this though because of a glitch that happens when a title sells no copies via any distributor… (This has happened amidst my 200 Anaphora titles thus far). Used books show up on sale on Amazon, so the only source for them have to be the 5-50 review copies I sent out on behalf of the author. The author pays 25% off the cover price to send these out, so when I report to the author that no books sold on Amazon etc., they object that Amazon is reporting sales. (Occasionally I pay to send these review copies out of my own pocket, but then I only have myself to blame, and can weigh the benefits of a review versus the cost of a lost sale.) So, what should I tell my authors who email me and blame me for hiding sales? I sympathize with your struggling bookstore, and if I owned a bookstore, I might have a different perspective, but I honestly want to know what to tell my writers (who might be reading this piece).

Cox: I don’t have a bookshop or bookstore. What you refer to is called “Midwest Books” and is in the neighboring city of Stoughton, Wisconsin. It was owned and operated by Gary Brenz, who was a good friend of mine. Gary died last January (2017) and at this time I don’t know if that store still exists. I just tried calling their phone number and no one answered.

The local Madison, Wisconsin bookstore that buys review copies from the Midwest Book Review is called the “Frugal Muse”. Still other review copies are donated to the Free Little Libraries program in Madison. If you are not familiar with this program you can visit their web site at: https://littlefreelibrary.org/

The sale of review copies (for about 10 cents on the dollar) is the source of revenue needed to pay our expenses.

Donating to the Free Little Libraries program is in keeping with our mandate to promote “literacy, libraries, and small press publishing”.

On the general subject of reviewers and review copies: All of our 81 reviewers (including me) are unpaid volunteers. The only compensation for their time and talent is that they get to keep the books they review. After turning in their reviews, most of them then sell the review copies to local used book stores in order to supplement their income from whatever their day job happens to be.

What I advise authors and publishers is that the secondary sale of their book by the reviewer to a bookstore to be sold to that bookstore’s customer (or being donated to a library by the reviewer) does far more than just theoretically preempting a new title sale directly from them—it is part of their promotion/publicity/marketing budget expense and will help raise the general reading public’s awareness that their book exists and is worthwhile when a bookstore customer or a library patron encounters it.

Faktorovich: In a side note, On Bing Maps, it looks like a bookstore with a dinosaur skeleton on display in front of shelves of books. I looked further and found Bing reviews of the bookstore… They’re very negative. I’ve seen this kind of criticism from trolls online. One of them said that you got upset at a guy who was moving books around while browsing, and he thought you were pretty rude about it. When I teach college, my students frequently object about my criticism too, viewing it as “rudeness.” If I was running a bookstore and folks moved my books around, I’d tell them to put them back where they found them too. Do you think this generation of Americans is too lulled by an education system that sees stupidity as a disease, and objects to criticism as something that damages “self-esteem”? Your summary comments about Midwest Book Review serving as a beacon of literacy and book-enjoyment suggest that you’ve noticed the problems with declining literacy rates and reading levels in America too. Also, did you start the Review in part to subsidize the shrinking market share for small bookstores in America (as giant physical monopolies, Barnes & Noble, and online retailers, Amazon) crowd the marketplace?

Cox: I have no idea what a On Bing Maps is or any bookstore with a dinosaur skeleton on display. I don’t own or operate a bookstore so whatever negative comment there might be of such a place has nothing to do with me. I just looked up Gary Brenz’s web site for his “Midwest Books” store in Stoughton and saw some rather negative comments there—so that’s what going on. But it has nothing to do with me.

But to your question of the changing marketplace with respect to bookstores and bookstore customers I have several observational opinions.

  1. The demographics of book readers that formed the majority of a brick & mortar bookstore’s customer base is aging fast. Younger generations are spending less and less of their leisure time and leisure time income on books and magazines in favor of other activities such as video games, smart phone bills, etc.
  2. The advent of digital publishing has significantly decreased brick & mortar bookstore revenues. Online databases have fundamentally eliminated printed editions of encyclopedias and large scale reference books from book store inventories. Library budgets for books are being eroded to pay for increased computer and online services.

Customers who used to come into their favorite local bookstore to buy a dozen of their favorite romance or mystery paperbacks now stay home and download them into a Kindle format for a fraction of the price—and in the process effectively remove that buyer from that bookstore’s customer base as both a purchaser of books and a supplier of books (bringing in their used books for a trade).

Today it is a rare brick & mortar bookstore that doesn’t have a significant part of its revenue from on-line sales.

Some 30 years ago, Madison, Wisconsin had more than a dozen bookstores. Now that number can be counted on one hand.

Faktorovich: Midwest Books also looks like a historic building, with a cone-shaped roof. Does it have any historic significance? You don’t happen to live on the top floor: the shut windows look occupied: I’m just curious if when you said you “owned” the building, you meant as a personal property as well as a business office. It would be a dream for me to work from home and have a professional office front for customers.

Cox: Now I know for certain you are talking about the late Gary Brenz and his “Midwest Books” bookstore in Stoughton. That building has three large floors. The basement floor and the main floor were the bookstore part. The third floor was dedicated to being a day care center operated by Gary’s wife. They didn’t live in their store—they had a very nice home in Stoughton.

The Midwest Book Review operates out of one half of a duplex here in the village of Oregon, Wisconsin. I don’t have any photographs of me or my little office or how the ground floor of the duplex apartment is organized into computer work stations, one entire room for the books and bookshelves, or how the garage is also set up as a mail room—and wouldn’t know how to send them if I did.

The Frugal Muse bookstore is a large, one-floor bookstore on the West Side of Madison, Wisconsin: http://www.frugalmuse.com/west.html

Faktorovich: Why do you request 2 copies of books, but typically let me send just 1 copy for your review? Doesn’t it cost you extra to ship a book out to an outside reviewer, or do you hand deliver the second copy to a reviewer that works from your city (perhaps your daughter)? The request for more than one copy always mystifies me when I see it in the guidelines, as for most authors, so I hope you can explain the logic behind it, so writers will understand your point of view. I’ve started receiving dozens of books for review recently, and I can’t imagine wanting to store or dispose of the thousands of copies you receive monthly. I mean, they can’t possibly fit into your bookstore… even with your basement space?

Cox: I request two copies for the reason that one copy is given to the assigned reviewer (who gets to keep their review copy for their own upon completion of the review) and the other copy is retained by me as an editorial control copy. Quite often, a review is turned in lacking some bit of essential information in the review’s “info block” that is necessary for a librarian or a bookseller to have in order to fill out a purchase order for the book, if moved to do so by the review.

On rare occasion, the reviewer disappears along with the book and in such cases I try to fill the gap myself.

Members of the general reading public only need a title and maybe the author to be able to get hold of the book at a bookstore, on Amazon, or from their local library. But librarians and booksellers need to know the publisher, ISBN, price, and sometimes such things as page count and publishing date.

You might be interested to know that out of the average of 2000 titles a month being submitted by the publishing industry we are able to generate an average of some 600 to 700 reviews each month. But that still leaves about 1300 to 1400 books—remembering that a big bunch of them are the secondary editorial control copies.

If a publisher can only provide a single copy that’s perfectly okay. I recognize that (especially with self-published authors), they are operating on what I call a shoe-strong or even no-string budget).

Faktorovich: Why have you continued sending a mailed review copy even in the digital age when an email should satisfy the publishers need for a blurb piece to include in marketing materials? I think you are the only review publication that has ever mailed a review to me… Well, maybe there was also a Hassidic/ Muslim publications that also sent the review page. I would imagine that this costs $.50 and would add up to $2,500 annually for stamps alone… which could go towards a raise for your daughter… You mentioned welcoming stamp donations in the BlogCritics interview: do you still receive donations in stamps?

Cox: While it is true that more and more publishers (now a majority of those that we deal with) want our reviews and publisher notification letters sent by email, there are still a significant number (especially among self-published authors) that want a hard copy of our review snail-mailed to them on our letterhead stationary. There are also a fair amount of major publishing houses (especially academic ones) that want both an emailed review and a snail-mailed review.

As to the expense of stationary and postage—donations and the sale of review copies generates enough revenue to cover it.

With respect to the minimum wage paid to Bethany and her husband—they also get to live for free in their half of the duplex along with the Midwest Book Review, including utilities, phone privileges, and driving the company car. We all live rather simply and quite happily doing what we truly all enjoy.

Faktorovich: I read a string on CreateSpace called, “Midwest Book Review removals on Amazon,” from back in 2010-1. This was around the time I sent some of my first Anaphora titles for your review. The complaint on CreateSpace is that the reviews you were posting on Amazon under your name/ Midwest were removed because you added a note on your website that you were adding $50 pre-release galley reviews (money to be paid to your independent reviewers, rather than to you), whereas before all of your reviews were free. The string states that you did not respond to questions regarding this removal. I’ve encountered some similar hostility on these types of review etc. websites. I’m sure that if you posting thousands of annual reviews, you would have been #1 on their Top 10 Amazon reviewers, a list that’s otherwise filled with folks who refuse to review pretty much any book, preferring to review pricy merchandize (TVs, videogames). Did Amazon notify you regarding the reason for the removal? Did you attempt to defend your free review line? I checked and I’m adding your Midwest reviews in the reviews section for my Anaphora titles, but the reviews don’t also appear separately in the Customer Reviews section. Then again, perhaps Amazon is right to say that Midwest is an “Editorial Review” rather than a “customer” one, so did they only properly label you as a publication in 2010?

Cox: This is the most frequently asked question I get here at the Midwest Book Review. So, I long ago created that following response:

Even though our reviews of print titles (hardcover or paperback) are free of charge, because there is a $50 Reader Fee for reviews of digital titles, prepublication manuscripts, uncorrected proofs, and ARCs, Amazon has currently barred us from posting reviews to them directly.

I’ve written about this in detail in the December 2011 and January & February 2012 issues of my “Jim Cox Report” which you will find at:

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/jimcox/dec_11.htm

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/jimcox/jan_12.htm

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/jimcox/feb_12.htm

However, as an author and/or publisher, you can post the review in the editorial section of the book page for your particular title.

You’ll find the instructions on how to do so at “How to Post Editorial Reviews on Amazon”:

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/bookbiz/advice/postingedit.htm

You might also find this a very helpful link:

http://authorcentral.amazon.com

If Amazon proves problematic, you might want to post reviews on the Barnes & Noble web site. You’ll find instructions on how to do so at “Posting Customer Reviews on Barnes & Noble”:

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/bookbiz/advice/howtopostbn.htm

By the way—Amazon gave me no advance warning. That was doubly disappointing because I was one of the first to post reviews on Amazon starting about 6 months after Jeff Bezos first created his online bookstore.

On the other hand, it turned out that my daughter was spending about 4 days a week posting all our reviews on Amazon one at a time so that the Amazon decision actually ended up giving us three more work days a month in which she could do other things—like reviewing more books!

Faktorovich: Have you ever attempted releasing a printed issue of Midwest? If so, how so? If not, why not? Some review publications make a profit by selling ad space in their pages rather than via subscriptions. In theory, some libraries might also want a printed copy of your reviews. Considering that you’ve been editing your review for 40 years, you are probably one of the most established reviews in the country. Why wouldn’t there be a market for a printed version of your reviews? Surely, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal’s review sections don’t offer anything particularly different from the information you provide? So, who do you think is the reason for their dominance of the market, as small reviewers have to struggle to scrape by? You’ve tried radio and television. And I guess you’ve tried library newsletters. But, did you try to sell ad space in the newsletters? Were the newsletters sponsored by one of your grants, or was there any profit in sending those? There’s an article by your daughter, Beth, on your site, where she says that you guys will never accept money for ad space on the website because its intrusive, annoying, etc. I guess you haven’t changed your mind on this point.

Cox: The Midwest Book Review published its first two monthly book review publications (“The Bookwatch” and “Children’s Bookwatch”) as print publications. Over the next couple of years, we gradually added to our monthly print publication to include: “Wisconsin Bookwatch”, “California Bookwatch”, “Library Bookwatch”, “Small Press Bookwatch”, and “Reviewer’s Bookwatch”.

Then along came the internet and we converted all of them to being online publications and added “MBR Bookwatch” and “Internet Bookwatch”—the content of this last one being the reviews comprising “The Bookwatch”, “California Bookwatch”, “Wisconsin Bookwatch”, and “Library Bookwatch.”

The conversion was a cost-savings decision and I was amazed to note that we never received a single complaint from any publisher about our move from print to online publication.

I long ago decided against having ads in our publications or on our web site because I view that as a conflict of interest situation—and I never needed that revenue source.

Incidentally, even back when our monthly book review publications were print editions, they were distributed to libraries and bookstores for free. They made the Midwest Book Review attractive to publishers, who were more inclined to send books, which ultimately helped provide all the revenues needed to support our book review publications.

Faktorovich: In the BlogCritics interview in 2008, you described your staff thus: “We have nine staff members. They include a managing editor (who doubles as our webmaster), a West Coast editor, a literary editor, four assistant editors, and the mail room worker.” What happened that brought your staff down from nine to the three of you with your daughter and son-in-law? The number of books you review has only gone up. So, I can’t guess what might have changed that made you downsize. Or do you make a distinction here between paid and unpaid staff, so that the other staff are volunteers?

Cox: Our staff members declined from 9 to 2 because the Great Recession hit the publishing industry like a two-ton truck falling off a 100-foot cliff. I took up the chores of the four assistant editors and we simply stopped having a literary editor altogether. We also stream lined several of our office functions and just got better organized and systemized.

Thankfully we survived the dramatic decreases in title publication numbers from the major publishers because of the advent of “desktop publishing” and the rise of the Publish On Demand companies generating replacement numbers for book review submissions.

Faktorovich: Here’s a technical question for you. Does Gale pay you for reposting/ cataloging your reviews? They pay me for essay reprints, but I have not been able to figure out how to get a contract for paid reviews with them. Maybe I’m inquiring with the wrong department over there. Who do you work with (if you receive any funding from them—or perhaps they do it as a free service)?

Cox: I signed an exclusive contract with them some 30+ years ago. They approached me. All we do is once a month send them all the reviews we generate in our book review publications for their “Book Review Index” database. They take care of everything else at their end. They send me a royalty check twice a year (April & October). We send our reviews to: Cengage Learning, Inc. (www.cengageptr.com)

Faktorovich: Thank you for discuss these matters with me. I hope I’ll learn from your advice and will improve my own review section. I hope you don’t mind the competition. I also hope these details will help my Anaphora writers understand the book review process better.

Cox: There are two reasons why I am (and will continue to be) so generous with my time and advice:

  1. Remember those two annual foundation grants given to the Midwest Book Review for the purpose of “promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing”? Doing interviews like this—and generally helping other writing, publishing, reviewing operations like yours, helps me demonstrate and document our continuing eligibility for those two grants.
  2. Maybe it’s the ex-social worker in me, but I still get immense personal satisfaction from helping folks in the publishing industry in general, and helping out folks like you in particular.
  3. At the age of 74, I look back upon my now 40-year career as the editor-in-chief of the Midwest Book Review and find that what started out as a part-time hobby in 1976, then blossomed into a full-time job in 1980, and eventually evolved back into a being part-time hobby in 2007 when I went on Social Security and Medicare.

I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and will continue for as long as my health and my wife & daughter will allow it.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Interview with Jim Cox, Editor of the Midwest Book Review”

  1. Barney April 20, 2017 at 10:52 am #

    Kudos. I like this! http://www.Advertisingdar.com/author/jaspercoggi/

    Like

  2. bobvanlaerhoven April 4, 2017 at 2:55 am #

    Mr. Cox is definitely right in ascertaining that the generation that loves “brick and mortar” bookstores is slowly disappearing and that reading suffers from social media, games, and smart phone use. Therefore, it is very refreshing – and encouraging – to read with how much passion he still runs the “Midwest Book Review” after all those years. Congratulations, and greetings from Flanders….

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: