Successfully writing and publishing a book takes more than just talent. Persistence, research, having a marketable idea and luck come into play as well. The members of the Cat Writers’ Association (CWA) are experts when it comes to knowing what it takes to get published, especially when it comes to writing about cats. While the Internet has certainly changed the marketing and selling of books, the following article written in 2002 provides some solid tips that still resonate in the art of writing books.
Through the organization’s membership, as well as its newsletters, annual conferences, seminars and contests, the CWA has offers a forum for its members, allowing would-be authors an opportunity to network with other writers to help them achieve their professional goals.
Attending the Cat Writers’ Association annual conference (now during the pandemic via zoom) is just one of the many opportunities available to up and coming cat writers who become members of the CWA.
In 2002 annual CWA conference was held in Houston, Texas, November 22-24, 2002, at the Doubletree Allen Center. The conference featured nationally known speakers on such subjects as finding an agent, the book-selling business, covering alternative health issues, media training, self-editing and goal-setting, as well as book and magazine editor panels. In addition, the CWA held a reception where writers and editors met and mingled, as well as a book-signing event, an awards banquet and a networking breakfast.
The CWA events were held in conjunction with the Cat Fanciers’ Association International Cat Show, the largest cat show held in the Western Hemisphere.
According to Kim Thornton, a former president of the CWA, attending the conference is a great start for writers who want to pursue the dream of becoming a published cat author. “The goal of the CWA conference is to give members an opportunity to grow as writers through attending the writing seminars, meeting editors and agents in person and socializing with other people in their field. Attending the convention is a must for would-be cat writers.” The 10th annual CWA conference was held November 21-23, 2003 in Houston, Texas.
But attending the conference is only one step in becoming a published author. Thornton says up-and-coming writers who wish to focus on cats must also thoroughly research their market in order to understand what subject matter has already been written about and to try and formulate a unique idea.
“Sometimes all it takes to get a cat book published is having the right idea at the same time an editor is searching for authors,”” says Thornton. “”That’s how my first cat book was published. I knew that a certain publisher was looking for ideas, sent a one-page query letter, and the idea was accepted. Usually it’s not that easy, however. To have a good shot at interest from a publisher, you need a solid book idea, a thorough outline and lots of market research information.””
It is critical to know your subject matter as well, said then CWA member Wendy Christensen. “”Spend as much time with your cats as possible – observing, pondering, communicating, listening, interacting. It’s only from them that you’ll learn to communicate your unique take on ‘catness’.”
Fran Shaw, president of the CWA in 2001, said that aspiring writers need to remember to apply the rules of journalism when writing about cats. “”All the basics of good journalism apply to cat writing the same as to writing about any topic – being accurate, fair to all sides, thorough and yet succinct, writing to inform as well as entertain,”she said. “But writers who care about cats (and other animals) also must not be afraid to show that in their writing. This kind of topic has an underlying emotional current I think readers need to feel too — that they and the writer share a ‘mission’ to promote the responsible care, good health and happy homes for pets.”
Then CWA member Susan Easterly said that a gifted writing style and luck also play equally important roles. “What it takes to get cat books published [is]an idea that appeals to a wide range of pet guardians, plenty of networking and research, writing that shimmers and a bit of luck.”
Thornton says most importantly, “”Know your subject and know who’s who in the field. Even if you’re not an expert, you should know who the experts are. Just having a cat is not enough.”
CWA was founded in 1991 and is dedicated to providing news, information and education on all aspects of cat care and welfare, as well as improving the quality of writing about cats. CWA provides members with networking opportunities and encourages professionalism and communication among cat writers, photographers, artists and broadcasters.
Updated from an article originally published January 1, 2002.