Angela’s featured guest in last week’s Book Journeys was TV producer and writer, Tom Cohen who authored the book Dogs with Old Man Faces: Portraits of Crotchety Canines. The book is a photographic treasury of old salty dogs featuring 70 black-and-white photos of expressive dog faces, with each photo accompanied by humorous old-man-related captions. Tom’s idea for the book came while he was living in Manhattan and started noticing the amazing faces of dogs and their shaggy old-soul expressions on the streets of the city on a daily basis. Being a dog lover and animal advocate, Tom thought of creating something that animal lovers or even just people that observe human behavior would find compelling and humorous. Being an amateur photographer, Tom hired a professional photographer to take photos, although he also had his own shots, and there were photos he found as well that were shot by other photographers.
Tom worked with an agent to put together the right pitch and the right material to get the book out to publishers. The creation process took at least a year from the time he got the approval of the publishers to do the book. Since it was a novelty book, the material did not have to be sent out all at once but was trickled out to the publisher and this allowed Tom to pace himself in terms of taking the best photos and writing the captions, making sure that the book turned out the way he and the publisher wanted it to be. Tom relied a lot on the publisher’s design people to put the book together so that once he delivered the actual manuscript, he just had to wait for them to get back to him and show him how the pages and other design elements would look like.
While it was exciting for Tom to get the book published, getting it noticed was quite a different story. The book itself was such a niche type that it was harder to publicize and so he learned to look out for his book, doing lots of publicity and marketing. He also realized that the publisher was not really in the business of publicity, so he hired a publicist to get his book to newspapers. He also came up with creative ways to get his book noticed, like getting celebrities he knew in his business as a TV producer to tweet about it or post it on Facebook.
Tom’s advice to people who want to embark on a creative project like a novelty book is to just do it if it’s something they love or feel excited about. And while it would be great if the book sells, the fact that one could share it with a handful of people who appreciate the work should already be good enough. Getting a book published and feeling proud about it is already an accomplishment in itself. Tom, for his part, is quite happy to have been a small part of such a huge industry as publishing and the pet industry as well, and this for him makes it all worth it.
Watch out for Angela’s interview with another exciting author.