I’m a Women In the Pet Industry (WIPIN Pet Industry Awards) FINALIST for Solopreneur of the Year. I posted about this incredible honor in a previous blog post here. I’m proud to say this would never have happened if I hadn’t gone “indie” with my publishing–creating books via CreateSpace, Amazon Kindle and even “voicing” my own titles on Audible. With 30 nonfiction books, three thrillers in a growing, popular series and another novella series, I’ve just begun!
As part of the competition for Pet Industry Woman of the Year we were asked to produce a 60-second video about what we do and our story. I congratulate my fellow nominees and the winners, and feel incredibly blessed that my work has been recognized in this way.
Here it is–(you’ll agree, that the pets are the stars!). As promised, I’m honored to share it with you. I’ve also included part of my Q & A interview from the competition that the judges reviewed–it actually helped me figure out some things–where I’ve been, how I got here, and the directly I’m going. You helped make this possible – thank you!
WHO IS AMY SHOJAI?
Amy Shojai Consulting (Amy Shojai, CABC) empowers pet parents with expert information and advice, to allow them to make informed decisions for their cats and dogs. This is accomplished with a combination of writer-icity, bling-worthy media appearances, one-on-one pet behavior and writing/publishing consults, and select pet industry consulting.
- CREDENTIALS & MISSION: Vet tech experience inspired a 20+ year journalistic focus on pet health care and behavior, leading to certification (CABC) through IAABC.org and Fear Free Pets. Resolving behavior and health challenges to improve/save relationships is the core mission. Expanding beyond one-on-one consults, however, makes a greater impact in creating a positive difference in pet lives.
- SHORT-FORM WRITING & MEDIA: Fee-based print and online content provides prescriptive help for select clients to share with their own client base. Free content is also available via Amy Shojai’s BLING, BITCHES & BLOOD blog, Pets Peeves newsletters and podcast, Ask Amy YouTube channel, social media outreach, weekly P’ETiQuette newspaper column, and a twice-monthly Pet Talk (KXII.com) television segment.
- BOOKS, SPEAKING & THEATER: A pet care library of award-winning prescriptive pet books (more than 30) published by the FURRY MUSE PUBLISHING imprint provides an A-to-Z catalogue of information covering first aid, behavior, natural healing, puppy/kitten information, senior pet care, and even heartwarming “chicken soup” titles available in print, Ebook and audio versions. September & Shadow Thrillers (with an animal behaviorist main character) and STRAYS, THE MUSICAL also focus on dog and cat issues. Unusual venues reach pet lovers (and others) who otherwise would never seek pet behavior or care advice. A variety of pet- and writing-focused seminars are available for select events. Amy Shojai Consulting continues to seek innovative ways to reach cat and dog lovers and help them help their beloved pets.
HOW DID YOU GET WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
Oh my doG, what a question! Where am I today? is perhaps a better one. I’ve not yet “arrived” and the journey continues. I’m where I am due to a perfect storm of pet-love, frustration, boredom, and lack of funds. *s* Oh, and luck, a whole lot of furry good luck.
When I was a kid, Mom told all her friends, “When Amy grows up, she won’t have babies—she’ll have puppy dogs and kitty cats.” Mom was right.
THE ACCIDENTAL PET WRITER
My career began when my husband and I moved to Eastern Kentucky where I applied for a job as a veterinary assistant. The interview happened during a Chihuahua’s C-section, with the doctor handing me puppies to resuscitate while I answered his questions. I got the job (maybe because I didn’t faint and LOVED the experience!). I fell in love with veterinary medicine…and discovered just how much I had to learn. The hunger grew to share my pet passion with veterinary clients, explaining the doctor’s “medicalese” terms in language pet parents more easily understood. With no TV reception in the mountains, I turned to writing to relieve my boredom, and shared personal experiences as a vet tech. After collecting a boatload of rejections from the pet press, (remember Dog Fancy, Cat Fancy and Dog World magazines?) an editor took pity on me, and explained what I’d done wrong—and done right (er, write?). After that, I sold and published dozens of personal experience stories.
I like to think my editors liked my writing because I always beat deadlines, wrote to the requirements, and touched readers’ emotions. For sure, I often cried remembering some of those early vet tech experiences. My editors began giving me assignments that required interviews with experts from around the world. I learned how to interview, find experts, and (gasp!) make friends with famous pet peeps! Bliss! It was like attending a master class when I could ask questions of the movers-and-shakers creating vaccines and special nutrition, pick the brains of those who could explain the mysteries of cat and dog behavior, innovative training breakthroughs and more. At the time I worked a 9-5:00 “real job,” so telephone-tag interviews (this was before email) took place during lunch hours and after work. I wrote until 11:00 pm every night and all weekend. Little sleep, lots of work, but the JOY of it is still addictive, especially, when the work reaches someone and makes a difference.
A Bantam/Doubleday/Dell editor happened to read my articles, and called to offer me my first two book contracts, wow! Those titles, published in 1992, launched my book publishing career. I quit my day job to write full time, producing 30-50 articles a year, and continued writing books.
CAT WRITERS ASSOCIATION
Although I wrote equally about dogs and cats, the kitties didn’t seem to get the same respect. I contacted my cat magazine editors and proposed creating the Cat Writers Association (CWA) to give the topic the same level of professionalism and mentorship I enjoyed a member of the Dog Writers Association of America. Four of us met at a cat show in November 1992, and CWA was born. I was named the first president, and served in that role for the first 9 years the first time (I returned for a 10th year some years later). I was able to use established writing connections with pet products companies to enlist their support of new organization, garnering many sponsorships to fund first the annual contest and later conference events. Serving as CWA president kept me in the forefront of the pet world, and that made a positive difference in my career.
The publishers of Cats Magazine and Dog World Magazine created a promotion THE GREAT PET DEBATE during a presidential election year. Because of my credentials with the magazines and CWA, I was tapped to argue the “cat side” whether cats or dogs would be the better White House Pet (Socks Clinton vs Leader Dole). The tongue-in-cheek debate appeared on ESPN and the Today Show, with a call-in vote. Cats won, of course. *s* That experience helped garner other media appearances, including a Disney TV show appearance as a pet expert and more recently Animal Planet expert segments (DOGS 101 and CATS 101). The tables began to turn, and suddenly instead of me interviewing experts, I began to get calls as the expert for interviews. Holy cats & dogs!
My previous publications and contacts with pet products companies proved attractive to a high power literary agent, and my book publishing career leaped forward with the sale of the PURINA ENCYCLOPEDA OF DOG CARE and PURINA ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CAT CARE hardcover titles. Together we sold another dozen or so pet care titles, including a book that I’m very proud to say has saved many pet lives, THE FIRST-AID COMPANION FOR DOGS AND CATS. My grateful my agent helped me get rights back on my backlist books, which helped immeasurably in launching my indie publishing career including audio. The First-Aid audio book book will be published under my own Furry Muse Publishing imprint.
After working with Purina via CWA and the books, I was offered a spokesperson position, touring and speaking at shelters in the Purina Kitten Chow Lifetime of Love promotion. As a music/theater double major, I enjoy public speaking, so for me this was brain candy—talking about my passion and playing with kitties. The next year they built the Cat Chow Way of Life Tour around me. BLISS! I got to teach cat behavior training at shelters across the country over the next 4+ years, appearing on TV and radio in hundreds of markets across the United States, and wrote a weekly online column for Cat Chow for more than a dozen years.
Yes, for a time I stopped writing and publishing. After September 11, everything changed including my career. News became more serious (rightly so), with warm-and-fuzzy pet segments no longer welcome. People searched Google for cat and dog information (much of it bad or dangerous), rather than reading books. A book released a month after 9-11 tanked, and the Purina tour I’d taken for granted was cancelled. My agent explained editors no longer wanted pet books. Several of my titles went out of print, and I got the rights back, but hadn’t a clue what to do next. The one bright spot was my friend Marty Becker brought me on as co-editor for two Chicken Soup books, but once completed, I took a job teaching high school choir. I believed my career was over.
SOLOPRENEUR, FOR REAL!
I loved teaching, but after working for myself, discovered I’m no longer suited to the restrictions of a “real job.” My frustration with the new day-job poured out in writing of the pet-centric novel I’d always wanted to read. I went back to my beginnings, writing in my spare time before class, during lunch, and until midnight.
A weight lifted once I gave notice prior to the end of the school year, although I had no writing prospects. This leap of faith paid off within three weeks, when a book offer came my way (The American Pit Bull Terrier). As soon as I delivered that manuscript, a colleague invited me to write online behavior content for cats.About.com, which led to me creating the entire puppies.about.com site. Poetic justice, eh? The Internet stole my career, and once I stopped lamenting and fighting the injustice, I took back control by creating my own online content. My Bling, Bitches & Blood Blog took off, an E-newsletter was born, and I planned new ways to leverage the out-of-print books I still owned.
FURRY MUSE PUBLISHING
Ebooks revitalized my publishing career. Rather than be ruled by acquisition editors deciding what merited publishing, I listened to my audience and self-published what they wanted and needed. Amazingly, my royalty percentage earned far more than any New York deal ever had. I also partnered with a small independent press for updated print versions of out of print books, and also wrote new nonfiction titles. Together we launched my fiction writing career with the book I wrote during my choir teaching tenure. Finally this past January 2017, I parted ways with the indie-publisher and by May 2017 had updated and reissued all my books under the Furry Muse imprint. That has allowed me to better plan marketing campaigns, schedule updates, and take control of pricing and income factors in my business. My royalty income, especially in print nonfiction titles, has quadrupled during a time when “traditional” publishing continues to say pet books won’t sell. The difference, I truly believe, is I listen to what pet parents want, and provide that infotainment with respect for their needs.
I’m where I am today because I know—truly without reservation—this is what I was put on earth to do. I no longer doubt myself. I write what I want, publish when and how I wish, revise work when breakthroughs emerge, voice my own audio books in my home studio, make up fiction stories infused with facts that instruct as well as entertain, and interact with my audience—awesome pet enthusiasts no different than me, who simply want the best for their cats and dogs.
That’s how I got here—asking the question, how can I help pets? May it always be so.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Note: Upon occasion, affiliate links to books or other products may be included in posts, from which I earn a small amount with each purchase from the blog. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!