Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Reinvented Writer with Guest Amy Shojai

Welcome back, Amy Shojai! I've known Amy and her work for many years - dog & cat writer, mentor & teacher, thriller writer, name it, Amy can do it! But nothing good comes easily, and here's Amy on how she reinvented herself - more than once. Check out Amy's online classes at the end of her post, too. ~ Sheila

The Reinvented Writer
by Amy Shojai
How many of y’all have thought you had it made, your career plans on track and then life gob-smacked you upside the head? Lots of successful writers and authors experienced that in the past few years as publishing pulled the rug out from under our ass-umptions. Newer writers just beginning that climb through the slush got their personal brass rings yanked out of reach as well. Detours suck, big time.
Know what I did? I threw a gi-normous loud-and-cranky pity party for about 3 years. And quit writing. I even took a real job . . .That real job taught me something, drove it home like nothing else had before. Here’s what I learned.
I am a writer. It’s not what I do, it’s who I am. But the “old Amy” no longer worked in the new world. So I reinvented myself.
Are you a writer? How do you define “writer?” Are you suffering head-banging frustration trying to figure out next steps? Have you been tempted to quit? Then, you’re normal. YOU ARE ME!
We’re in this writing world together. Learn from my mistakes—don’t waste three years. Reinvent yourself today…you, too, can jump off the hamster wheel and start fresh. Here’s what I did.
Updated & Re-published
My business has been nonfiction books and translating “medicalese” for pet owners. When pet books stopped selling, many of my titles went out of print—and I got my rights back, updated the information, and turned ‘em loose once more. The first one, COMPLETE KITTEN CARE, continues to be my best seller especially during kitten season (that’s NOW!).
Putting all of your writer-ly eggs in one basket can scramble ‘em into a mess should that one venue go south. Diversify with multiple revenue streams. Make sure your books are available on all Ebook platforms as well as print, and don’t forget audio. Yes, I now record my own books for
When you have a publisher handling this for you—GOOD FOR YOU! But you can still do more. Do you have an affiliate account with the online booksellers? Why not? You can earn referral fees on your own (or others’) books. Set up a “book page” on Facebook or on your own blog. I’m using a very cool new plugin called MyBookTable available for wordpress sites.
A Business Daredevil
With no editor or agent to tell me, “No, that won’t sell!” I took chances and experimented. After bringing back the backlist books, I listened to my readers and published original nonfiction titles. While the first ComPETability (Dogs/Cats) book is an update of a backlist book, two more original books in the series were born. ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems in Your Multi-Cat Household has only been out a year, and runs a close second in sales. Maybe it’s something about cats? J But more than that, it’s HEARING what your readers want and giving it to them! For an author, THAT’S good business.
Stopped “Selling,” Started “Friending”
Let’s face it—unless you’re Hilary Clinton, your publisher won’t fund a book tour and media push for your title. Discoverability for books is completely up to authors. But blanketing the blogosphere and social networks with BUY MY BOOK!!! has the opposite of the intended effect.
Today it’s all about relationships, building author-to-reader connections and yes—creating “tribes” of like-minded folk who help each other. A recommendation from a friend weighs more than $$$-funded publicity push, and reader reviews matter over and above big-name endorsements.
So I snugged tight my big-girl-panties, put on my protective “bling” armor and joined the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, et al. And I discovered if you’re genuine and interested in others, folks will be interested in you. When they like you, they take a chance on even a debut book or unknown project or your cause just because they’ve got a relationship with you—AND they’ll share that with THEIR friends! One review leads to ten more and so on. That’s the multiplier effect of tribes.
Books Give Away
Giving books away is one of the best marketing investments of all. Who knew? I’m not talking specifically about making books free (although that’s one option that may work in specific situations). No, I’m referring to review copies. Big name publishers already do this with NetGalley for front-of-the-catalogue titles but that’s pricy for small presses or Indie/Hybrid authors.
A relatively new program provides a similar service at a fraction of the cost by offering free copies of books to the mail list in exchange for a review. Last fall when my debut dog-viewpoint thriller Lost And Found released, the book garnered more than 50 positive reviews once enrolled in this program. To see how it works, check out listing for my newest title, ComPETability/Dogs FREE on StoryCartel for the next month.
Giving Back
I got to reinvent myself with help of others who mentored me, so turn-about is fair play. Besides, it’s just the right thing to do. J That’s one reason I jumped at the chance to guest here at Sheila’s awesome site. Good karma gets returned so find ways to pay-it-forward. You won’t be sorry.
These days you’ll also find me speaking at writer conferences but that can be pricy for attendees to fund travel/hotel/registration. So I offer writing webinars where you don’t have to wear makeup and can come in your jammies. Upcoming classes June 15 and June 22 include:
Lights! Cameras! Action! Media Training for Writers (and Others). June 15, 2-3:30 Eastern Time. Benefits authors with books, writers promoting causes, volunteers supporting nonprofit charities and anyone who seeks to shine a spotlight on an event or product. Authors especially feel frustrated by the crowded shelves—virtual and literal—and seek ways to get positive notice. Television appearances for many look like the Holy Grail of the writers' "promote or perish" mantra. But how do you get the gig, and once you do—how can you leverage that 2 minutes of air time (without flop-sweat turning you into a gibbering idiot)? This 90-minute Power Point presentation (with SQUEEE! fun animal pix!) gives you an inside look at media, from both sides of the interview desk.
Just The Facts: Create Winning Nonfiction Proposals. June 22, 2-3:30 Eastern Time. Designed to help beginning to experienced writers interested in submitting nonfiction books for publication to agents and/or publishers. This session also includes (SQUEE!) CUTE PET PICTURES and shows you how to choose saleable topics, build an impressive bio, query (or not), and craft the proposal. There are many kinds of nonfiction, from memoir and biography to prescriptive advice and "creative nonfiction" stories. You'll learn what components make up the proposal and how to compose them, how to format the proposal, and create your competition/market survey. You'll also learn tips for finding expert sources, building your 'brand' and leveraging your platform.

Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant and pet care expert. She blogs at BLING, BITCHES & BLOOD and has several Writing Business Webinars scheduled this summer on a variety of writer-icity topics. She’s the author of 26 nonfiction pet care titles and dog-viewpoint Thrillers with Bite!

Want more cats, writers, & books? Check out earlier posts ~ cats all through June for Adopt-a-Cat Month!

Cats and Writers (and my Animals in Focus mysteries!) with Sheila Boneham
Cats in My Life and Writing with Marilyn Levinson
and more to come!


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me again, Sheila. This was fun! Hope it helps some other writers.

  2. Amy, I really appreciate this post! I've never heard of Sheila's blog until I saw your link on FB, but you can bet I'll be back. I have considered myself a writer for a long time, but having a full-time job as a newspaper reporter hasn't left much time for my personal projects. I have been using the past few months to reinvent my writing and perspective. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Hi Mary! So glad you found your way here (thanks for that, Amy). My blog is fairly eclectic, but I am increasing the number of "writerly" entries as I'm doing a bit of reinvention myself. It's always helpful to have friends along this pilgrim path.

  4. This is good practical advice for any writer. The bottom line is defining a real writer from a wannabee. Real writers need to write no matter what and never give up like you, Amy. Love all the links. I'm a big fan of Netgalley and FYI, the StoryCartel link is broken.

    1. Thanks for pointing out the broken link, Layla, it wasn't "live" when I wrote the blog so had to guess. BAD Amy! Here's the right one:

      You're right about the difference between a real writer and a wannabe.