How ‘Turning FIerce Dogs Friendly’ Got Written

People asked me to write this book for a long time. It took me a while because I’ve been working in animal shelters for the past 12 years. I’ve been busy. The book was published in 2018 by CompanionHouse Publishing, a subsidiary of Fox Chapel Publishing. (It was a great surprise to move to Pittsburgh 8 months after writing the book only to find that Fox Chapel is a city right across the river from where we live.) You can get Turning Fierce Dogs Friendly at a lot of publishers online, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Dogwise. Here’s the link directly to the publisher.

Turning Fierce Dogs Friendly: Using Constructional Aggression Treatment to Rehabilitate Aggressive and Reactive Dogs

by Kellie Snider

There’s a bit of a story behind getting the book published. My cousin’s wife works in publishing and heard about a pitch contest for dog-related books. A pitch is a brief bout of clever begging to get a publisher to buy your book. This was a chance to present a pitch in front of an audience of other writers and media people, and to compete against others who desperately wanted to win the deal. I learned about this with only about a month of lead time, so I slammed together a proposal and sent it in. I didn’t expect to make the cut, but whaddya know? I got in! AND the competition was in Atlanta, where one of my high school friends, Suzanne, lives with her wife, Suzanne. I figured the very worst thing that could happen is that I could see the Suzannes, hear some good presentations, and spend a couple of nights in a pretty good hotel. Done and done.

I have this problem with knowing what to do with my body when I go to things where I have to actually be in decent clothes and show up in front of people. I don’t mean what to do with my body in terms of whether I should do a Second City walk, or snap my fingers when I walk. Basically, I just don’t know how to get dressed when I’m going to someplace out of the ordinary. I used to ROCK that. I was KNOWN for my confident and ridiculous attire as a young woman. No more. At work in the animal shelter I wear jeans and some sort of logo wear… a tee shirt, a logo polo, that sort of a deal. I feel awful in those shirts, but shelters like people to wear that, so there I am. And since when I’m not at work I’m at home, I still wear the jeans, just maybe with some other sort of shirt. So on this occasion, I decided to wear a linen blouse and pants, and a scarf twisted around my head because I know it’s really humid in Atlanta and my straight hair has no fortitude. I don’t know if you need to know that information, but when I think of that weekend, I think about wearing that scarf.

So, I had created this 5 minute pitch. They had been clear that we would be cut off at 5 minutes, so I actually cut mine a little short just in case. I knew how to pitch. I’d been to writers’ conferences. Tell them what your book will be about, who gives a damn, and what you can do to promote it. Oh, and they tend to want to know if you can write.

There were five of us. One wanted to write a book about getting fit with your dog, someone wanted to write about travelling with your dog. Someone else wanted to write something in her dog’s voice. I remember the other person, have remained Facebook friends, and she’s great, but honestly I can’t remember what her pitch was about. And there was me. I pitched. I closed. I sat down. I didn’t expect much.

While I was sitting alone waiting for the judges to judge us, quite a few people complimented my scarf. That was something.

And then my name was called. I won! I won! I won! I couldn’t believe it. My picture was taken, I slipped away to call my husband. The editor found me. How cool is that?

Well.

The conference ended, I went home, I basked in my amazingness, and … nothing. The publisher didn’t call me. I called them. I emailed. I waited. Nothing. I got nothing. I forget how long I waited when finally they called me. I got the call. It wasn’t the editor I had met at the conference. He was that guys’ new boss. The company had been bought. Yeah. That was fun news. Oh, yeah, and my editor was no longer employed there.

“We have decided to close that part of our business.”

“But I have a contract.”

“We’re going to buy you out of your contract and there’s not much you can do about it.”

Well, they didn’t say that exactly, but that’s how it worked. Since that part of the company wouldn’t exist any more, there was nothing I could do. So, I got $1,200, which covered my trip to Atlanta. Well, I probably still got some wine to cry in, but really.

So, I contacted my cousin’s wife who had told me all about this and told her what the what. She said, “What?” Because she worked for that company and she didn’t know any of this. No one had told me they weren’t going to tell anyone and that I wasn’t supposed to either. I also told friends and family, because I was screwed over, right?

The next week I got a letter in the mail that said to cease and desist. I was like, SERIOUSLY? SER. I. OUS. LY??

So I shut up, ground my teeth, and went back to work. The proposal I’d written was ready to be sent somewhere else, so I planned to start shopping it out, but I wasn’t ready to push it just yet.

A little time passed, probably 3 months after the fateful pitch competition, when the original editor that wanted my book called. That was a surprise! He apologized profusely for not responding to me when I tried to find out what the what was going on. He said the company had ordered him not to, and he still worked there. The good news was that he was now employed by another company and he still wanted the book.

He STILL WANTED THE BOOK! He still WANTED the BOOK!!! LA LA LA!!! LA LA LA!!!!

He made an offer. I wanted more, but here’s the deal. I got an advance. A decent advance. It was a good bit higher than the pay off I got from the first company. They wanted the book in 3 months, but I negotiated 6 months, and somehow I managed to get it done. I had an editor that I didn’t have to pay for. She guided me through the process, like it’s supposed to happen, and spell checked stuff. When I said I didn’t like the picture they used because the dog was wearing a prong collar or a child was sticking their face in the dog’s face, the graphics person changed it without the least complaint.

The competition was in November 2016. The deal happened in the first quarter of 2017. The book came out in January 2018. BOOM!

BOOM!

And here’s my sweet little book. You can get one, too!

Turning Fierce Dogs Friendly

Kellie Snider, MS

P.S. There’s other stuff I can tell you about the book. Stay tuned.

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