Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Amy Shojai. She is the Nationally Known & Award Winning author of the The September Day Series and many non-fiction books related to pets. Amy is defined as a Pet-Centric Author.
Mystery & Thrillers, Nonfiction, Reference
Amy Shojai's Bling, Bitches & Blood
amy @ shojai.com
Check Out Goodreads
Check Out Google+
Check Out Facebook
Check Out Pinterest
Amazon Author Profile
Amy Shojai is a nationally known authority on pet care and behavior, a certified animal behavior consultant, a spokesperson for the pet products industry, and the author of 30 nonfiction pet books. She also writes THRILLERS WITH BITE! Which includes the dog-viewpoint thrillers LOST AND FOUND, HIDE AND SEEK and SHOW AND TELL.
Amy addresses a wide range of fun-to-serious issues in her work, covering dog and cat training, behavior, natural and allopathic health care, nutrition, first aid, aging pets, "the bond" and cutting-edge medical topics. In her nonfiction books, she empowers pet lovers by providing the information they need to make informed decisions for their cats and dogs. She specializes in translating "medicalese" into easily understood jargon-free language, making it accessible to all pet lovers. Oh, and she loves bling-icity!
Her work has been honored with over three dozen writing awards and she is a two-time recipient of the "Friskies Writer of the Year" award. Her articles currently appear in the Herald Democrat newspaper, on puppies.About.com and cats.About.com, PetHealthyStore.com and PetSafe.net and she's published several thousand articles and columns during her career. She presents a twice-monthly "Pet Talk" segment at KXII-CBS, hosted the weekly "Pet Peeves" at PetLifeRadio.com and is an expert on Animal Planet DOGS 101 and CATS 101. Sometimes she has time to sleep.
Amy has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and in USA Weekend, The New York Times, Washington Post, Reader's Digest, Woman's Day, Family Circle, Woman's World, and many other leading newspapers and magazines. She has also been a featured pet care expert on Animal Planet Dogs 101, Cats 101, Petsburgh USA/Disney Channel program, Good Day New York, Fox News: Pet News, NBC Today Show, WGN-Chicago "Pet Central" and "Animal Planet Radio" and many others.
She is an active member of the International Thriller Writers, certified member of International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, founder and Past President of the Cat Writers' Association, member of the Dog Writers Association of America, and Past President and Honorary Lifetime Member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. She frequently speaks to groups on a variety of pet-related and writing issues, lectures at veterinary and writer conferences, and conducts training and behavior demonstrations around the country.
She and her husband live with Seren-Kitty the Siamese wannabe, Magical-Dawg the German Shepherd, and other assorted critters at Rosemont, their thirteen-acre "spread" in north Texas.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Congratulations on your book: Born To Love, Keiki & Lia Thriller Book 1 - Kindle Worlds Novella. What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
I have several projects in the works. For my Kindle Worlds series, I have two more novellas planned, following Keiki the Rottweiler puppy and her trainer Lia. The next one is TRAINED TO SERVE, and delves more deeply into Keiki's police dog training as she grows up into her future role.
Meanwhile, I'm finishing up the audiobook version of my nonfiction pet care book, NEW CHOICES IN NATURAL HEALING FOR DOGS AND CATS. This has always been a favorite of mine, and so I brought it back into print, released it on Kindle and now in audio. I plan to include some of the techniques in my Keiki novella, with her trainer Lia being an advocate of natural healing.
You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? How did you build your following in your niche? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?
I love social networking and have to put myself on a twitter and facebook "diet" to get any real work done! I tell myself that the interaction IS part of my work (and it is...) but it can be very easy to let it take over. My work is more about relationships (with pet lovers, and their relationship with their dogs and cats) rather than just writing books or blog posts or articles or whatever. My calling is to provide good, solid information that empowers and inspires people who love their animal companions. One of the best ways to reach my audience is through social media--and they can also reach me, so that I find out what matters to them. It's a two way street, lots of give and take. I don't want to just throw "stuff" out there but rather, to provide value that matters not only to me but to others.
Oh, but one thing---I hate hate HATE auto-correct! That can get me into real trouble. *s*
You do a lot of book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances. When and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
I'm working on two appearances right now, hopefully one in my local community and another when I visit my parents over the holidays. I grew up in Northern Indiana, and just learned there is interest in my giving a talk at the Bristol Public Library in December. Details are still being worked out but folks can check on my "appearance" page over at my
website. Hope to see you there!
Several of your Mystery novels have been converted into audio books. What has been the impact on your regular sales? Has the audio books gained a new audience for you?
There are many reader/listeners who actually prefer the audio versions. They tell me they spend a lot of time commuting for work, or there are others (artists, for example) who enjoy listening while they create. I love that notion! Audio sales has become a significant portion of my income, but it's not one individual title. I currently have five audio titles available, with more in the works, and it's the combined sales that make the difference. That's just one more audience to reach--and I suspect the "whispersync" part of the Ebooks also encourages those sales. When I ran a BookBub add on my LOST AND FOUND (first in series) thriller, folks who got the free kindle version also bought nearly 1,000 of the audio books--that was a bonus I hadn't considered!
You have written a novella called Born To Love, A Kindle Worlds Novella. Can you tell us if it has had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty’s one of your styles of writing or are they created to give readers a sample of your work? Do you feel short reads are a product of our email and smart phone age?
Yes, I wrote BORN TO LOVE after Toby Neal invited me to contribute to her Lei Crime Kindle World. Her character Lei is a detective with a police dog Keiki, so I decided to write the "backstory" of the Rottweiler, as a puppy. It's received some great reviews and was a lot of fun! Because it's one of many novellas in Toby's world, it's not gained a lot of attention...yet...but is being cross-promoted in my own pet-centric thrillers. My own audience has picked it up and enjoyed the story, and most of the reviewers beg for more Keiki stories, too. This was my first novella -- I tend to write long -- so it was a challenge to limit the number of characters and plot points.
I think short work has always been a part of literature, and popularity runs in cycles. Short story collections were very popular for many years, and are making a bit of a comeback with Ereaders and "bundles." I will say that the two Chicken Soup collections that I helped edit sold enormously well. Based on those, I do have plans to write and release more short work.
Besides the International Thriller Writers, what other writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?
I'm a founder of the Cat Writers' Association, Inc
(www.catwriters.com), a longtime member of Dog Writers of America
, and a past president and Honorary Lifetime Member of Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc. All these organizations have had a "paw" in my development as a writer. I found my then-agent at the Oklahoma conference, sold several books to editors I met at the Cat Writers' conference, and won numerous awards from all these organizations--and awards always help with promotions. *s*
Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do you sort of play it by ear?
I'm usually at the keyboard by 8:30, and take a break to check mail (and run the Magical-Dawg) around noon. Then I'm back at the desk until 6:30-7 or whenever my husband gets home. Some things are on my calendar each week or month (weekly newspaper column due by Friday, twice monthly TV gig on alternate Wednesdays at noon) but otherwise, I play it by ear depending on what project is most pressing. I'm also currently meeting with my collaborator, working on the next musical theater production. Speaking of that...I have a rehearsal this afternoon for the High School production of Cinderella (I'm playing cello in the orchestra) so will come back and finish this tonight. They sort of frown on me playing by ear, though. *s*
Sorry, couldn't resist. Actually, I find that other types of artistic endeavor feed the muse. So writing nonfiction makes me hungry for and inspired to write fiction; playing music exercises more creative muscles and gets the energy flowing. It all comes from the same well, and dipping in and sipping one flavor simply whets the creative appetite for more, and opens new ways to express yourself…..OOOOH, SQUIRREL!
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
I've always given away free books, partly because the nonfiction is designed to be info-tainment to help pet lovers. Pet lovers talk to other pet lovers, so one person who adores a book (advice? or a fiction work?) talks about it to others. In fact, I include a lot of the nonfiction expertise in my fiction, sort of "giving away" free pet care consulting advice along with the thrill rides.
Currently, I'm giving away one chapter at a time (Ebook format) of two big nonfiction books (one dog, one cat) to my email lists. The chapters are offered free for only a day or so, and I consider it advertising. I've discovered that this has increased sales of the physical books, which are massive 600+ page reference works. Apparently, the sample chapters offer enough of a taste, that the serious pet lovers decide they want the whole thing. *shrug*
Similarly, with my fiction, the first book in the thriller series is perma-free. That's incredibly increased both the distribution of that book and number of reviews, and a healthy percentage of folks go on to purchase the next two books in the series.
And with the third book SHOW AND TELL, I've also included a "bonus chapter" that folks who finish the book can request. That bonus fills in some missing information and also introduces the characters Lia and Keiki featured in my Lei Crime Kindle World novella.
Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?
Oh yes indeed! I always have a newsletter sign up list at appearances such as lectures and book signings or readings. I also have newsletter sign up forms on my blog here, and also on my website here:
As you can see, I have several options, since my readership varies between fiction lovers, dog people, cat folks, and all-of-the-above. I have several, shall we say..."enticements" for signing up, including a free Ebook copy of my cutting-edge medicine pet care book. The blog and the website also offer fact sheets on various topics (mostly nonfiction stuff like "how to stop barking" or "why does my cat follow me to the bathroom."
I share the link to sign ups on social media on a regular basis. Also, I've invested in a service that manages my free give-away every 90 days, you can see that here:
That once again promotes my fiction series, as well as branding with my "bling" and pet-centric flair.
You havepublished under fiction, which is our focus here, and informative non-fiction books. Does changing hats create any problems? Any tricks you can share with us? Which do you enjoy writing the most? Does moving from one to the other give you some breathing room
I use different parts of my brain for nonfiction than I do for fiction. Having written nonfiction for so long, that's almost like breathing to me--one year I wrote 4 books, 3 at the same time, juggling the interviews with experts via phone and internet all at the same time. That makes you really pay attention to the details and to stay organized so you know why Dr. XYZ calls you back and don't ask him questions meant of for Dr. ABC! (It can get embarrassing otherwise.) I can multi-task easily while writing nonfiction. Not so with fiction.
With fiction, I must shut off outside distractions, turn off the phone, and enter "that world" and become part of it. Fiction is both liberating (I get to make stuff up!), exhilarating, and also scary because I have no safety net. I must rely on myself, not outside experts I've interviewed. But at the same time, I must make the "science" and the story seem real. Love love love it! There's nothing better than having the characters and story come to life, and in my fiction, the service dog Shadow has his own viewpoint sections. I can't do that in nonfiction, of course.
For those who write both--it's a gift that also increases your audience. I encourage all fiction authors to try and bring some of their own personal passions and expertise into the story. That gives you something to talk about on social media, too, that isn't a "buy my book!" trumpet. The key to success with social media is being SOCIAL and making connections. Once people "meet" you and like you, and discover you share a love of knitting...and hey, you wrote a book with a knitting crime sleuth...who knows how many books you'll sell? Plus maybe that knitting pattern book you've been meaning to publish will take off.
Don't ask me to choose a favorite, I love 'em both but in different ways. Like cats and dogs, each brings a unique perspective and special joy to my life and they enhance each other as well. The more I write both, the greater the cross-over, too. As I said before, switching hats feeds my muse--the furry ones, too. And I wouldn't have it any other way!
Author's Book List
Born To Love
- Keiki & Lia Thriller Book 1 - Kindle Worlds Novella
Can the past unlock the future and love preserve a life?
A puppy's job is to learn. Keiki relishes the sights, sounds and smells of her world, but people frustrate and confuse her. Why do humans control all the good stuff?
Lia Corazon channels her energy and emotions into the dogs she trains in her North Texas kennel. She especially enjoys four-month-old Keiki's enthusiasm, but the pup's owner makes her uneasy. There's something very...wrong about him.
When a vicious storm, violent flood, and scary creatures menace Keiki, her Rottweiler bravery comes through. But what can a good-dog do when a human enemy threatens? Keiki must use all she's learned if she's to save Lia from a killer.
Order the Book From:
Show and Tell
- The September Day Series Book 3
The 3rd installment of Shojai's dark, female-driven domestic thriller series featuring pet-centric plots:
An animal behaviorist and her service dog race a deadly storm to expose a treacherous secret others will kill to protect.
A BLACKMAILER returns to sell a deadly cure.
A MOTHER'S DENIAL dooms millions of children.
AND A DOG shows true loyalty...when he runs away.
With her stalker finally caught, animal behaviorist September Day's PTSD has abated and she's begun to trust again. She dares to hope Detective Jeff Combs might become more than a friend, until his investigation into a dogfighting ring leaves her reeling.
Shadow wrestles his own demons. A German Shepherd autism service dog before losing his-boy to a health crises, Shadow found love and his true purpose working with September. Now his-boy is back--but changed--and Shadow fears he'll be forced to choose.
When a desperate mom demands help, and Combs's son disappears with his dog, September and Shadow must find the children before a devastating storm hits. But the children have a secret plan of their own. Only when September shows true courage, and a good-dog tells the truth, can they find their way home again.
Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
Hide and Seek
- The September Day Series Book 2
A mysterious contagion will shatter countless lives unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing cat . . . in 24 hours.
A STALKER hides in plain sight.
A VICTIM faces her worst fear.
AND A DOG seeks the missing—and finds hope.
Eight years ago, animal behaviorist September Day escaped a sadistic captor who left her ashamed, terrified, and struggling with PTSD. She trusts no one—except her cat Macy and service dog Shadow.
Shadow also struggles with trust. A German Shepherd autism service dog who rescued his child partner only to lose his-boy forever, Shadow’s crippling fear of abandonment shakes his faith in humans.
They are each others’ only chance to survive the stalker’s vicious payback, but have only 24 hours to uncover the truth about Macy’s mysterious illness or pay the deadly consequences. When September learns to trust again, and a good-dog takes a chance on love, together they find hope in the midst of despair–and discover what family really means.
Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
Lost and Found
- The September Day Series Book 1
A young woman races a Texas blizzard to save her autistic nephew from a deadly secret others will kill to protect...
AN AUNT searches for her lost nephew--and dooms her sister.
A MOM gambles a miracle will cure--and not kill--her child.
A DOG finds his true purpose--when he disobeys.
Animal behaviorist September Day has lost everything--husband murdered, career in ruins, confidence shot--and returns home with her trained Maine Coon cat Macy to Texas to recover. She's forced out of hibernation when her nephew Steven and his autism service dog Shadow disappear in a freak blizzard.
When her sister trusts a maverick researcher's promise to help Steven, September has 24 hours to rescue them from a devastating medical experiment impacting millions of children, a deadly secret others will kill to protect. As September races the clock, the body count swells. Shadow does his good-dog duty but can't protect his boy.
Finally September and Shadow forge a stormy partnership to rescue the missing and stop the nightmare cure. But can they also find the lost parts of themselves?
Order the Book From:
Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by:
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
HBS Author's Spotlight
eBook Author’s Corner
Top Shelf Author Advice
Mystery Reader’s Circle
Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.