Today, I'm glad to have Jeannine Fox talking about her book, "Holy Paws: How my Dog Helped me Heal from Abuse." Jeannine not only has a lot to say about the publishing industry - she created her own for this book - but also about the healing power of our pets.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, graduated from St. Louis University with a degree in business and later earned an MBA from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. I retired after 19 years as an Internal Revenue Agent, criminal investigator, and auditor for the U.S. Treasury and Department of Energy.
I began my freelance writing career in the 90's. I was a ghostwriter for the executive director of a non-profit organization for three years. My first book, a book of inspirational poetry, was published in 1995. That same year I came out with my line of inspiring bookmarks featuring 24 different poetic sayings.
I’ve spent over 20 years volunteering with various organizations and charities. I was a public building commissioner and a plan commissioner for the City of Leawood, Kansas. In 2003 I became a Court Advocate for Rose Brooks Center, a shelter for victims of domestic violence. For three years I helped victims of abuse through the Kansas City municipal court system. In 2004 I received the Court Advocate Volunteer Award of the Year. In 2005 I received the Golden Mile Award - an award given to the volunteer who has gone the "extra mile" to help victims of domestic violence. I am currently serving my third term as treasurer of the Kansas City Hospice fundraising event.
I have over 25 years of public speaking experience and I won the International Toastmistress Speech Contest in Miami, Florida. My speaking experience and training have been extremely helpful in promoting "Holy Paws."
My hobbies include gardening, walking, giving theme parties, taking care of my dogs and dancing. I am 65 years old and live in Leawood, Kansas with my husband, Marty, and our two canine kids, Baby and Rosie.
Tell us about your book, "Holy Paws, how my dog helped me heal from abuse."
I was 51 when I adopted Baby, a two-year-old dog who had been abused as a puppy. Just months earlier memories of my own abuse had begun to surface. I convinced myself that if I focused on helping Baby overcome her abuse I wouldn’t have to deal with my own. But that was not to be.
On our first day together, I told Baby that I loved her and would protect her, that she was safe and no one would ever hurt her again. As I comforted Baby, I was comforted. As I expressed my love for her, I felt Baby’s love in return. Before I knew it, Baby became my confidant. Whether we were sitting alone in silence, or going for a walk, I shared my fears, feelings, and thoughts with her. She was the first one to know the details of my abuse. I felt safe telling Baby. After all, she wouldn’t tell anyone my secret, wouldn’t say it had been my fault or that if I had been a “perfect little girl” it wouldn’t have happened.
"Holy Paws" is a story of healing, the triumphant account of how Baby’s unconditional love gave me the courage to face the past and the affects it had on my life. Without revealing the details of my childhood abuse I share how Baby’s presence helped me overcome my anger, shame, fears, and feeling of unworthiness.
"Holy Paws" is a tribute to both the human spirit and the healing power of animals. Because of Baby I walked away from my paralyzing past. Because of Baby I found the peace and joy I longed for. Because of Baby I learned to love myself as I am.
Did you have an agent? And how did you find your publisher?
I had intended to use an agent to promote "Holy Paws," but after reviewing the publishing industry, and the average length of time it takes to get a book under contract and actually published, I decided to create my own publishing company, Royal Works Publishing, LLC
Having a Masters in Business Administration enabled me to use my experience in creating Royal Works Publishing. I researched to make sure the name wasn’t already taken, registered on line with the State of Kansas, filed for a Federal Identification Number, applied for an ISBN, and acquired a post office box. I then obtained sales tax numbers from both Kansas and Missouri. To save money I did all of this myself. I then hired an attorney to prepare the legal documents.
I wanted a portion of the book’s proceeds to benefit organizations working with abused children and women, as well as animal shelters. And the best way to make this happen was to self-publish. That way I could maintain my own inventory and maximize my profits.
Why did you choose to create your own company, rather than go with a self publisher or POD company?
This decision was based on several factors:
I wanted to support local professionals - editors, layout and design specialists, website designers, and even the printer and binder.
I interviewed each person or firm that worked on the project beforehand
It was important for me to have a personal relationship with those who would work on "Holy Paws" - to be able to have one on one meetings and exchange ideas
It was vital that those working on Holy Paws respected the project and the purpose for which it was written.
Because of my decision to self-publish I was able control the product quality - the feel of the paper (I chose 70 lb.), font style and size, size of the book, cover design and colors, use of color photos throughout the book, etc.
You've written about a difficult subject. When did you decide it was the right time for a book about it?
It was never my intention to write about my abuse. Instead it was my desire to write about my healing. And that’s why "Holy Paws" is an inspirational story of healing. I had kept secret my abuse for over 50 years. I could not keep secret my healing. I felt compelled to share my story that after all these years I was able to release the past and the impact it had on my life. I didn’t want sympathy for what had happened to me, instead I wanted to give others hope. I wanted to provide encouragement that it’s never to late to heal, no matter what the experience.
From the day Baby came into my life, and as I worked through the process of healing, I kept a journal of how she helped me. When I decided to write "Holy Paws", I used these journals to recall and write my story.
It took me over seven years to complete "Holy Paws." There were times I stopped writing, telling myself there was no need to continue. And at other times I chastised myself for not having finished it sooner. Over time I came to understand that I could not complete "Holy Paws" until I had completed my healing.
When writing about difficult personal topics, how do you decide what to leave in, and what to leave out - does it involve discussions with other family members?
I knew from the beginning that I was not going to reveal the details of my abuse or the names of my abusers. In my heart I felt telling the specifics of what happened to me as a child would benefit no one. I came to believe that what helps others is them knowing that healing is possible, no matter how old the injury. So it was easy not to include the particulars.
Deciding what to include was more difficult. At first I wanted only to write in general terms about how Baby helped me heal. I didn’t want to share how my behavior had been influenced by the abuse, what I didn’t like about myself, or the specific lessons I was forced to learn. I didn’t want to expose myself to family, friends, and strangers. But, as I continued to write I knew I had to be honest with the reader and myself. I had to include how my fears, my need to control, my feelings of unworthiness, my need to always keep busy, and my relationship with God were an integral part of my past and my healing. If I was to give hope to others I couldn’t sugarcoat my story or my personality. I had to lay it all on the line. And I believe that is why so many people have related to my story; they have been able to see themselves in my story and apply some of the lessons to their own life.
During the course of my healing I told my family. I was fortunate that they believed me and supported my healing. But, when it was all said and done only I could do the healing. I had to be the one to choose to move on, to move beyond what had happened to me.
How have you approached marketing your book? What has worked the best for you?
I developed lists of my friends, family, neighbors, church members, and people from other organizations. I went through my old address books, listing everyone I knew from years past. I then hired someone to create a pre-publication postcard and letter. A month before "Holy Paws" was published I sent out over 850 letters offering free shipping and that I would pay sales tax on their purchases. I gave them 30 days to pay in advance. This was extremely successful - it not only brought in money but it also created and interest for the book
Because I wish to donate proceeds to children, women and animal shelters, I offer these organizations an opportunity to have a fundraising event. This too has been very successful. I was fortunate that Rose Brooks Center, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, contacted various media. The Kansas City Star, in the FYI section, did a feature story of about Baby and myself. The story was picked up by 15 other newspapers around the country and this helped sales. Baby and I also were on the television program, Kansas City Live.
I cold call bookstores, shops, churches, organizations, etc. and personally set up my signings, talks, and appearances. No group is too small. At all my signings I tell people I am available to come speak to their organizations.
My business cards have book’s cover on it - in color. Wherever I go I hand out my cards - even the grocery store and post office. In addition, I put a card in every bill I pay. I hired a professional website design team and sell the book on line. I also signed up for Amazon.
I obtained endorsements for the back cover from a child psychiatrist, a veterinarian, a minister, and the staff of a domestic violence shelter. Their credentials have also helped with sales.
Holy Paws has received both local and national attention, with newspaper stories appearing in 15 papers around the country. Since its publication six months ago, Holy Paws has been shipped to 32 States, 4 foreign countries and is now available worldwide in Braille and digital audio for the visually impaired.
Over 1500 copies have been sold.
You published your first book in 1995, is there anything that's changed in the process since that time - were there any surprises this time around?
My first book was a small book of inspirational poetry - no more than 20 pages. Although I sold 2000 copies my purpose in writing it was different than that of Holy Paws.
I am dedicated to spreading the uplifting message of Holy Paws and to donating money to helping others. Therefore, I had to do things differently. I set up a publishing company and create everything I needed to sell to retailers. I made a personal commitment to promoting the book, with no restrictions and no preconceived ideas.
The procedure for getting into major bookstores has changed. In 1995 the stores would buy direct from a local author. Today it’s more difficult. Some major retailers will only go through a distributor, which means less is paid to the author, payment is received only upon sales, and payment takes 60 -90 days. But, since I am determined to get "Holy Paws" before the public I accept these terms.
What's next for you? Where can people learn more about you and buy your book?
I have been touched by over 100 emails and letters from readers sharing their stories of healing, talking about their pets, and thanking me for writing Holy Paws. The greatest compliment is when they tell me they’ve given the book to someone else to read.
I have been doing book signings, giving talks and presentations to a wide variety of organizations in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Arkansas, and later this month in Utah. I’ve spoken at Rotary Clubs, churches, bookstores, PEO’s, women’s groups, retreat centers and more.
As a result of reader comments I designed, and have been conducting, a two-hour workshop on healing. Participants are given four simple, yet profound steps to release the hurt from any life experience. This is the basis for my next book.
Holy Paws is available at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Rainy Day Books, Land of Paws, http://www.amazon.com/ or http://www.holypaws.com/. People can learn about me by visiting http://www.holypaws.com/
I welcome opportunities to speak to any organization, business, church, or other group about Holy Paws, the healing power of animals, writing and self-publishing, or how to heal from a life experience. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 913.491.6207.