A no-brainer: Americans love their pets. Moreover, they put their money where their hearts are.According to a March 2009 article on PetConnection.com, U.S. consumers spent more than $43 billion on food, supplies, medicine, and health care for their pets in 2008, making that business the eighth largest in the country, ahead of the candy and toy industries. Consumers now spend more than $18 billion annually on pet food alone.
Yet publishing in the pets category is not quite the no-brainer it was a few years ago. Even this reliable market is somewhat saturated. St. Martin's editor Daniela Rapp says, "The sheer number of dog books submitted and published has led to a certain level of fatigue about these projects. This attitude seems to be limited to publishers, the sales force, and buyers for individual accounts and so far hasn't expanded to the consumer. By now I am familiar with the groan ‘Not another dog book!' in the sales reports, but in the end these books still find their audience."
Make no mistake; this category comprises largely dog books, even though cats are more common pets in the U.S. (about 82 million cats to 71 million dogs by the American Veterinary Medical Association's 2007 count). "Of the animal books we publish, dogs do seem to be the most popular," says Leslie Stoker, publisher of Stewart, Tabori & Chang/Abrams Image, which will offer photographer Daniel Borris's Yoga Dogs in March 2011.
"If books about pets are successful, Meg Daley Olmert's Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond helps explain why," says Merloyd Lawrence, who heads an eponymous imprint at Da Capo. "It looks at our deep bond with animals from many points of view—biological, evolutionary, and historical. It's not about one dearly beloved pet, but about how and why the whole human race became drawn to animals and how animals became drawn to us." There are more than 11,000 copies of the title in print, about 6,500 in hardcover; the paperback was published in March 2010.
Rapp of St. Martin's agrees: "There's a strong track record for books that combine animal behavior and the natural sciences." In October, St. Martin's Griffin will publish The Wolf in the Parlor: The Eternal Connection Between Humans and Dogs by Jon Franklin, which earned a starred PW review on its 2009 publication by Holt.
Published in August, Spiegel & Grau's Through a Dog's Eyes: Understanding Our Dogs by Understanding How They See the World is up to 47,000 copies in print. Its author, Jennifer Arnold, the founder and executive director of Canine Assistants, a nonprofit that trains and provides service dogs, has appeared on Good Morning America and The Diane Rehm Show. "The book's success is so gratifying, not only because its message is so important but because the publication was in many ways a team effort. PBS, Milk-Bone, and Delta joined forces to promote the book (on TV, in print, online, and even in-flight) and a documentary based on it," says Julie Grau, the book's editor and publisher of Spiegel & Grau. An extremely successful expanded e-book version was one of the house's first adult multimedia e-books.
Two New World Library titles—Kevin Behan's Your Dog Is Your Mirror: The Emotional Capacity of Our Dogs and Ourselves (Jan.) and Allen and Linda Anderson's Dogs and the Women Who Love Them: Extraordinary True Stories of Loyalty, Healing and Inspiration (Nov.)—explore similar territory. According to editorial director Georgia Hughes, "We're not just telling funny pet stories anymore but demonstrating the profound effect an animal has on a person's life and vice versa."
Rupert Sheldrake's Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals was first published in 1999, and the trade paperback edition, published in September 2000, has more than 150,000 copies in print—what publishing manager Heather Lazare terms "a perennial backlist success." Coming in April 2011 from Three Rivers is an updated and revised edition, with added case histories and results of Sheldrake's experimental studies—including the story of a parrot who can say what his owner is thinking.
Another reprint gives fresh life to the title that launched the dog psychology book craze 17 years ago: out this month from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's paperback arm, Mariner Books, is a new edition of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas's The Hidden Life of Dogs, with a new afterword by the author. (See her "Why I Write.")
Marley has a lot to answer for. John Grogan's wildly successful 2005 tale, Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog, spawned a new genre—pooch memoirs. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt executive editor Susan Canavan observes that while such books still sell well, "they've proved they're not recession-proof." She also notes that the audience for these books is very tech savvy, and that authors who are successful—such as Susannah Charleson, whose Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog the house published in hardcover in April and plans to release in paperback in early 2011—are often those who make productive use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media technology. Still, finding a book that stands out in this increasingly crowded category, says Canavan, "is like catching lightning in a bottle." In October, HMH will publish Pukka: The Pup After Merle by Ted Kerasote, a follow-up to his bestselling Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog. Kerasote will embark on a 10-city tour for the book, which includes more than 200 beguiling photos of the titular yellow Lab.
Another contender for the next big tail wagger is Katie Up and Down the Hall: The True Story of How One Dog Turned Five Neighbors into a Family by Glenn Plaskin. Out this month from Center Street with a 60,000-copy first printing, it's garnered endorsements from everyone from Calvin Klein to Betty White.
The recipient of considerable early buzz—and a starred PW review—is Julie Klam's You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness (Riverhead, Nov.). Says senior editor Megan Lynch, "The pet book market is indeed dog-eat-dog, so you need something extraordinary to stand out." She points to Klam's trademark wit, well-received in her 2008 memoir, Please Excuse My Daughter.
In 2008, Grand Central struck a vein of pet-memoir gold with Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron, a national bestseller that went on to 18 hardcover printings and has nearly one million copies in print. Next month the house switches teams to publish Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin, about a family that adopts a mutt, used as bait for fighting dogs, who's missing an ear and has scar tissue on his face. (That didn't bother Oprah: Oogy's already done her show.) Associate editor Emily Griffin says, "I think readers are looking for multilayered animal books. There was an entirely new dimension to this story—how Oogy's adoption mirrored the adoption of the author's sons 12 years earlier."
Not one, but 18 heartwarming stories of animal love beyond canines are featured in The Dog Who Healed a Family: And Other True Animal Stories That Warm the Heart & Touch the Soul (Harlequin, Aug.) by Jo Coudert. (Among the stories: "How Do You Spank a Duck?" and "The Pig Who Loved People.") Nonfiction executive editor Deborah Brody reports that strong early sales have encouraged her to seek similar pet stories.
More love: coming from Broadway this month is Janet Elder's Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family—and a Whole Town—About Hope and Happy Endings, and in November, Doubleday offers Dana Jennings's What a Difference a Dog Makes: Big Lessons on Life, Love and Healing from a Small Pooch, about a poodle that helped the author through his own battle with cancer and his son's liver disease. Dog expert Stanley Coren ventures into memoir territory for the first time with Born to Bark: My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog (Free Press, Nov.)
NPR host Diane Rehm frequently interviews authors of dog books; now she's got a canine chronicle of her own—her memoir, Life with Maxie, was published earlier this month by Gibbs Smith. In October, Hyperion will publish 100,000 copies of another dog memoir from a big-name father-son team: Walking Wisdom: Three Generations, Two Dogs, and the Search for a Happy Life by Gotham Chopra with Deepak Chopra.
At Lyons Press, editor Holly Rubino says, "Readers continue to hunger for narratives that capture, in some unique way, the often metaphysical connection between humans and their animal companions." In next month's Dog Walks Man: A Six-Legged Odyssey, author John Zeaman describes the meditative pleasure of walking his dog around his New Jersey town.
A biography of the late celebrity dog Gidget, the ubiquitous, vociferous Taco Bell Chihuahua, will be published in paperback by NAL in May 2011. A Famous Dog's Life by Sue Chipperton (a Hollywood animal trainer who has worked with her canines in films from Legally Blonde to Titanic) and Rennie Dyball "takes the dog memoir genre in a more pop culture direction," according to NAL executive editor Danielle Perez.
Canavan at HMH says that dog books of all types have one built-in downside. Generally speaking, owners outlive their pets, and that sad fact is reiterated in many of these stories. "When we were promoting Scent of the Missing, our marketing people said we should put a sticker on it that said, ‘The dog doesn't die,' " she recalls. "That was a unanimous reaction from the bookselling community—finally a book where the dog doesn't die in the end."
Fido to the Rescue
Canines, of course, can be much more than beloved companions who warm our hearts and blankets, and compelling tales of service dogs are becoming increasingly common.
Drinking with Miss Dutchie (St. Martin's/Dunne, Feb.) by Ed Breslin is a memoir of canine redemption, this one about a dog who forced the author to recognize his alcoholism and taught him to enjoy life again. A man rescued by a dog also features in Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Dog Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalvan with Bret Witter (Hyperion, May, 2011). The author was assigned a dog named Tuesday from the Puppies Behind Bars program to help with the physical disabilities, agoraphobia, and PTSD that plagued him after he returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq.
Sometimes it's the humans who save the animals. In 2008, Jim Gorant's Sports Illustrated cover story about the 51 pit bulls rescued from the cruel grip of Michael Vick received more responses than any other piece in the magazine that year. In The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption (Gotham, Sept.), he goes into greater depth and reports on the current status of several dogs. Allie Phillips, v-p of human/animal strategic initiatives at the American Humane Association, discusses the use of animals from pounds in experimentation in How Shelter Pets Are Brokered for Experimentation: Understanding Pound Seizure (Rowman & Littlefield, Sept.)
Bloomsbury executive editor Kathy Belden says, "When I acquired A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life by Steven Kotler [Oct.], I had never worked on a dog book before—and never had a particular interest in them. What ultimately appeals is the great storytelling about working rescue with highly damaged and fragile dogs and the deep things that says about how we treat other species and the relationship between animals and humans."
And beyond dogs: In Animal Camp: Lessons in Love and Hope from Rescued Farm Animals (Skyhorse, Sept.), Kathy Stevens describes her work as founder of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, where close to 2,000 animals have lived over the past eight years. Associate publisher Bill Wolfsthal, noting the book's 20,000-copy first printing, says, "We published Kathy's book because we know there's a huge audience—animal lovers, vegans, activists, and others—who will be moved by the book just as we were."
Good Dog: Guides to Health, Breeds, and Obedience
Now that veterinary medicine advances have made it possible for pets to live so much longer, the health of "senior" animals is an area ripe for exploration. Good Old Dog: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Happy, Healthy and Comfortable (HMH, Nov.) was written by the faculty of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, which treats more than 8,000 older dogs annually.
Another November title with a slightly different approach is The 50+ Dog Owner: Complete Dog Parenting for Baby Boomers and Beyond by Mary Jane Cecchi. TFH publisher Christopher T. Reggio reports, "As with all reference categories, the business environment is challenging. However, dog books are still far and away the leading part of our business." This month TFH launched its DogLife series with DogLife: Lifelong Care for Your Dog. Advance sales were so strong that the book went into a second printing before its pub date.
Barron's editor Angela Tartaro says no matter what the pets' ages, "There's an increased interest among pet owners regarding health and nutrition and eco-friendly pet products and services." Sections on raw foods are included in the February 2011 additions to the house's Dog Bibles series on the German shepherd and Australian shepherd breeds. Don Hamilton's Homeopathic Care for Cats & Dogs, which has sold some 30,000 copies since its 1999 publication by North Atlantic Books, gets a revised edition this month, and Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals by Lew Olson was out in June. A venerable title in mainstream pet health marks a milestone: coming in October from Merck & Co. is the 10th edition of The Merck Veterinary Manual.
"Breed books are not a trend like the celebrity dog trainers' guides or the furry, fuzzy memoirs—they're the mainstay of the dog-book publishing world and have been for the past half century," says Andrew DePrisco, editorial director of Kennel Club Books/BowTie Press. Next month the publisher's Smart Owner's Guides series will add a guide to Siberian huskies in both hardcover and—a first for the series—paperback.
In October Quarry Books will publish Kyra Sundance's 101 Ways to Do More with Your Dog: Make Your Dog a Superdog with Sports, Games, Exercises, Tricks, Mental Challenges, Crafts and Bonding, a follow-up to her 101 Dog Tricks. In April 2011, Trafalgar Square will publish a new edition of Getting in Touch with Your Dog: A Gentle Approach to Influencing Behavior, Health and Performance by Linda Tellington-Jones. The original, first published in 2001, has been reprinted six times and has sold more then 32,000 copies. Veterinarian Bruce Fogle gets right to the nitty-gritty with Dog: The Definitive Guide for Dog Owners (Firefly, Oct.).
The trend toward high-profile trainers writing books may be waning, or rather, one high-profile trainer continues to sell books with little competition: "Apart from Cesar Millan, no new next thing has emerged in several years," says Canavan. "That's the toughest part of the market because it's so saturated." Millan's latest, Cesar's Rules: Your Way to Train a Well-Behaved Dog, is due next month from Crown.
And though it would be tough to topple Millan from his perch, a handful of trainers are aiming to be the next dog whisperer. 30 Days to a Well-Mannered Dog: The Love Dog Method (Gallery Books, Oct.) is by a trainer to celebrities' pooches, Tamar Geller, who counts the canines of Oprah Winfrey and Owen Wilson among her pupils, while Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz, author of Love That Dog! Using Positive Reinforcement to Train the Perfect Family Dog (Workman, Nov.), was the trainer for no less than Bo Obama. Says editor-in-chief Susan Bolotin, "We know there are a huge number of dog books being published, which makes it all the more imperative to deliver something that, if you'll excuse the expression, stands out from the pack." That seems to be the consensus on this crowded yet resilient category—it's got a cold, damp nose and a shiny coat, but it needs to be carefully tended.