September is International Pet Blogger Month, a time that, for us, holds special significance. If you’re new to DogTipper, you may not be familiar with our background; before John and I were pet writers, we were travel writers, specializing in guidebook writing.
For years, we worked on international guidebooks (along with some guidebooks to our home state of Texas). Our specialty was the Caribbean, primarily Jamaica, although we’ve worked on a few overseas guidebook assignments (like Cyprus) and some that covered huge regions, like one book we wrote on resort dining across North America.
Our work also took us around the world covering both business travel topics and honeymoon travel for magazines:
In the “old days,” a publisher often came to us because we had a certain expertise. For 13 years, we worked for Fodor’s, covering Jamaica for their annual Gold Guide as well as Ports of Call guides. We wrote in-cabin guidebooks for Carnival Cruises because they needed Caribbean writers. For Prima, Globe Pequot, John Muir, Avalon, Michelin, Hunter, and others, we wrote soft adventure guides, honeymoon guides, and gourmet dining guides, all about regions we knew–and regions that publishers knew we knew.
When we moved from travel writing to pet writing in 2008, we struggled with how to transition our experience from one field to the other. Our writing (blogs and books) provides our family income so we knew that we had to make the switch fairly quickly. While we had residual income from books still in print, we realized that we needed to make this move and continue writing books as we have for 20 years, but about pets rather than international travel. How would we do it?
By creating a platform.
These days, book publishers are looking for writers who can multitask. For our very first book, we had the luxury of a publicist who worked with us to set up TV appearances, live events, and radio shows–but those days are just about gone except in the case of blockbuster books. Today book publishers, their bottom line under constant scrutiny, are looking for writers who can take on a big part of the promotional effort. There’s no better starting point than an active, engaged platform that consists of a blog and supporting social media sites.
How We Caught the Attention of Book Publishers
Our most recent two books–DogTipper’s Texas with Dogs and The Healthy Hound Cookbook–came about in two very different ways. Both, however, relied on the strength of our platform.
DogTipper’s Texas with Dogs began as a pitch to a publisher we’d worked with several times in the past. Open Road Guides, a small New York guidebook publisher distributed by Simon & Schuster, had published our Caribbean with Kids, National Parks with Kids, Best of the Caribbean, and Las Vegas with Kids guidebooks. We put together a pitch detailing our experience, our platform, and our promotional plans. We soon had a contract and began research; the book was released late last year.
Just as Texas with Dogs was hitting the shelves, we received an email from Adams Media, part of F+W (Writer’s Digest), asking about a project for which they were seeking a writer. They had seen DogTipper’s recipe section and wanted to know if we’d be interested in writing a cookbook featuring whole foods. They had the concept in mind, from title–The Healthy Hound Cookbook–to recipe breakdown. We were soon at work on that book, and it was released this spring.
In both cases, DogTipper was a major selling point for the publishers. Not only did the site help one publisher locate us but it assisted both publishers in realizing that we were the writers for the job.
How You Can Attract a Book Publisher
Whether you’d like to pitch a book publisher directly, look for a literary agent, or want to make sure that you can be found by prospective publishers, consider these tips:
- Make sure your name is prominent on your site. You need your name–your full name–on the site. If privacy concerns are stopping you from using your entire name, consider a pen name that you would use for book authorship as well.
- If you write as your pet, be sure you are on the site as well. Many pet writers write in the voice of their pets but it’s important that your name and experience be readily apparent on the site as well. A publisher will not send an email to Fluffy’s Mom, period.
- Have a Contact link on every page of your site. You never know which page of your site a publisher may arrive on; make it easy to contact you with a Contact Me link on every page. And consider including an email address on that contact page as well. I know that junk mail has gotten out of hand these days but contact forms can be daunting. The fewer steps a potential publisher has to go through to reach out to you, the more likely she will.
- Write an About page, and keep it up to date. Think of your About page as a feature article on you and your experience–an article that you get to write! This is your chance to shine. Show your personality and include a photo of yourself. This shows a potential publisher that you’re willing to be the face behind a book.
- Add a Press section. Do you have a Press section on your blog to showcase media mentions? Links to mentions about you and/or your blog add credibility and show a potential publisher that you could use those connections to help publicize a future book.
- Blog about the topic you’d like to cover in book format. If you’d like to write a book on your pet blog niche, say dog agility, be sure you have posts on the topic of dog agility. Also, do everything you can on those posts to rank well on the keywords that a publisher would use to find a writer who specializes in dog agility.
- Write a press release. Do you have some news that you could spin into a press release? A standard press release, with a section about your experience, can be a great way to garner attention. Free press release sites make it possible to send out the release for no cost other than your time. Include links to your press releases in your Press section.
- Build a brand. Along with your blog, build your brand across your social media channels, carrying the same look and name across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and other channels. Tie all those channels together by linking back from social channels to your blog.
- Include contact information on social media channels. What if a potential publisher first stumbles across you on Facebook? Do you have contact information on your Facebook About page?
- Be professional. Make sure you present a professional front. That doesn’t mean your blog has to sound like a term paper but know that consistently poor grammar, spelling errors, profanity, and unedited posts will turn off most publishers. And, while controversy can lead to lively discussions, know that if you don’t handle yourself in a business-like way in those discussions, publishers will keep searching.
Book publishing is a quickly-changing field, thanks to both the Internet and digital books. With anywhere from half a million to a million titles published each year, depending on the statistics you believe, there’s one fact that stands out: books aren’t going anywhere. The format may change but there is still a demand for books–and that means publishers have a demand for writers.
This post is sponsored by BlogPaws. I am being compensated to support International Pet Blogger Month with an educational post, but DogTipper only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. BlogPaws is not responsible for the content of this article.