This Goodnewsforpets interview features two speakers that spoke at the February 14, 2016 DWAA Writing Seminar in New York City. Charlene and Larry are the founders and owners of Dogwise.com and Dogwise Publishing. Founded in 1987, the business focused originally on marketing books at dog shows and through a mail-order catalog. Dogwise Publishing was founded in 2001 and is now the primary focus of the business with an emphasis on books of interest to dog trainers and enthusiasts. Larry is the chief editor and Charlene is the acquisitions manager. They live in Wenatchee, Washington.
What are the top 2 tips you would give to becoming an in-demand author?
- Figure out where there is a hole in the literature that needs to be filled.
- Become an expert on the topic including writing articles, lecturing, presenting seminars and blogging so that people identify you with your topic and buy your book.
What do you find hardest about targeting a niche market verses a mass market?
It’s actually easier to identify and work within a niche market as a bookseller and publisher in today’s market because with a niche we have a focus, a built in customer base and we can figure out where to find them. The hardest part for any publisher is finding subjects and authors that command the public’s attention and therefore sell.
How does one get started with having their own audience?
Become an expert on a topic including writing articles, lecturing, presenting seminars, blogging etc. so that people identify you with your topic and respect your work enough to buy your book when published.
What was your initial inspiration behind creating dogwise.com and Dogwise Publishing?
Dogwise as a mail order company started by accident. Charlene was in the special order book business providing books to schools, technical libraries and government agencies when a friend who was a dog breeder suggested she bring a selection of dog books to a show in 1986. “Dog people love books” she said.
Neither Larry I had never been to a dog show, couldn’t identify many of the breeds and didn’t know any of the terminology. What we did know was how to locate hard-to-find books for our customers. We brought just four boxes of books with us to a good-sized show near our home in Seattle and our booth was mobbed. We felt like the most popular kids at the party.
People starting telling us what books they wanted: “Do you have any books on IGs?” To which we replied “What’s an IG?” “Anything on Schutzhund?” “What’s Schutzhund?” We took lots of notes and quickly came to realize that we didn’t need to become experts on dogs because our customers were. We just needed to be good listeners and get them what they were looking for.
Dogwise Publishing came about in the early 2000s when, because of belt-tightening among larger publishers, books that our customers valued were being allowed to go out of print. Books like Therapy Dogs by Kathy Diamond Davis and Canine Massage by Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt were among the early Dogwise books. Today we have 200 titles.
Did you find it more effective to market books at dog shows or through mail-orders?
For the first few years our business was selling books at dog shows in the Northwest with a smaller mail order component. In the 1990s we added an employee who travelled all over the US selling books at the major dog shows so the dog show market was even more important to our business. Simultaneous to growth in dog show sales we added staff and developed our expertise in mail order and book publishing and these are now the largest part of our business.
What are the advantages of working with each other for the past 25 years?
We never lack for something to talk about! There’s always family or the business to keep us connected.
The simplest answer is that we have complimentary skills. Larry has the analytical skills that keep us grounded and fiscally sound and Charlene is the idea person who connects with people and keeps the business growing.
Larry has threatened to write a book with the (questionable) title Sleeping With Your Business Partner to explain how it’s worked for us. Charlene credits Larry saying he’s very smart and easy to get along with. Larry credits Charlene with her boundless energy and interest in people for keeping Dogwise growing.
In all of your books in the business, what book would you recommend for a beginner dog trainer to read first and why?
Such a simple question to ask but so hard to answer. There are many outstanding books on dogs that will help the beginning trainer. Our website lists our top sellers which is a good way to select a book!But, since you insist. You know I have to favor Dogwise Publishing titles don’t you?
If you are talking about someone who simply wants to train her own dog: Positive Perspectives. Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog by Pat Miller because it is a collection of easy to digest information about all the things you need to know about living with and training a good companion.
If you are talking about someone who wants to be a professional dog trainer, then I’d recommend Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson because it is one of books that have revolutionized our approach to working with dogs by explaining how dogs think and how we humans need to understand them because dogs can’t read books to learn about human behavior.
How did you two transition from catering books to school and libraries to dog trainers and enthusiasts?
The rest of the story is that until we found the niche of dog books no other aspect of bookselling engaged us as fully. Dogs are a profession, a hobby, a passion and a love with as many dimensions in terms of subject areas as any other complex topic.
The people we’ve met, our customers, are education oriented and hungry for good information on dogs and it’s been our job and privilege to serve their needs for the past 25 years. Sometimes I think that what we do is easy–publish and sell books–what dog people do is hard–breed sound dogs, train dogs who need it and help the humans who make dogs an important part of their lives.
What did you hope your attendees took away the most from your presentation?
Writing a successful book on a dog-related topic isn’t easy in today’s world of information overload. The best path to publishing success is find something in the world of dogs about which you are passionate and start developing your knowledge and expertise.
Take classes both in the world of dogs to build your canine IQ as well as outside to build your writing, speaking and marketing skills. Connect with others in the world of dogs by writing articles, lecturing, mentoring, volunteering, sharing, networking and engaging in social media. Become the go-to person on your topic and be generous with your time and ideas.
Be realistic. Writing a book won’t make you rich, but it might help. It won’t make you famous, but it might make you semi-famous. What it will do is allow you to share your ideas with the world and help people and dogs live better.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
When someone asks “What makes a good author?” My short and concise answer is: Excellent knowledge of a topic, writes well but doesn’t have to be perfect, can speak in front of an audience and “looks good on camera” by which is meant as a well-groomed, professional appearance that adds to your message as an expert.