Big Publisher Snaps Up Dog’s Book: A To-Be-Continued Update
by Dennis Fried
As many of you already know from my previous articles, I created Eiffel Press in 1999 to publish my dog Genevieve’s first book, Memoirs of a Papillon: The Canine Guide to Living with Humans without Going Mad (dogtellsall.com). It’s done very well since its publication in 2000, having sold 20,000 copies to date. We did a lot of touring, along with radio and TV interviews, which were rather easy to get because the combination of the adorable little dog with a low opinion of humans and a biting wit is like catnip (!) to the media. We also had features and reviews in Time magazine, The Boston Globe, Dog World magazine, and other publications.
Several years ago I queried about 25 agents to see if they’d be interested in trying to sell the book to a big house. I had done pretty much all I could do to promote the book, and I felt it had a lot of untapped potential. I got back the usual “Not for us” replies (when I got a reply back at all), but a couple of agents were kind enough to write personal notes. They said they thought the book was good, but they also thought it had already been too successful for another publisher to want it. This was a new kind of rejection!
After Genevieve barktated a sequel (More Memoirs of a Papillon: Diary of a Mad Dog), I, in a rather futile attempt to prove that I could write a successful book without her help, wrote and published A Tongue in the Sink: The Harrowing Adventures of a Baby Boomer Childhood.
A Tongue in the Sink sold about 1,500 copies. Being completely objective about it, I can tell you that it’s the funniest book ever written by a human and that it should be the only book sold in bookstores the world over (okay, along with Genevieve’s books).
So several months ago, I once again queried about 25 agents to see if they might be interested in Tongue, and I included a copy in the mailing. And once again I got the usual nonreplies and form replies, plus an interesting letter. It said that the book was very funny, but that these days authors needed national platforms, and so I should get famous first and then contact that agent again after I did. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that myself.
An Agent Bites
One agent apparently had more imagination than the others. He replied that Tongue was good, but that I’d have a much better chance if I first tried to sell the most successful book—Genevieve’s original Memoirs. And if I wanted to go that route, he believed he could help.
So I signed with the agent (David Fugate, LaunchBooks), and in less than two months we had a deal with Simon Spotlight Entertainment (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), with a five-figure advance that indicates a good bit of enthusiasm. The book will be revised, repackaged, and retitled Small Dog, Big Life: A Memoir. It is scheduled for publication in spring of 2009.
So this will be a new phase of publishing for me. And my experience with self-publishing lets me be an active participant in S&S’s marketing plans, instead of just an interested bystander.
S&S is allowing me to continue selling Memoirs of a Papillon until the end of the year. I will still be able to sell my other two books on my own after that. Hopefully the first book will do well enough for S&S to want to do the sequel also, and then perhaps Tongue.
I suppose there’s a moral to the story, but I don’t know what it is.
Dennis Fried,president of Eiffel Press, translates Genevieve’s books from Doggerel into English. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.