"How I Got Published" -- Ken Foster, Author of I'M A GOOD DOG and THE DOGS THAT FOUND ME

This installment of "How I Got Published" is with Ken Foster, author of The Dogs Who Found Me, and Dogs I Have Met. He is the editor of The KGB Bar Reader and Dog Culture. In 2008, Foster started The Sula Foundation, named after his pit bull Sula, who was featured in The Dogs Who Found Me. The Sula Foundation is promotes responsible pit bull ownership throughout New Orleans, by sponsoring events, lectures, low-cost vaccination clinics and free spay/neuter services and, as space and funds allow, rescuing and rehoming abandoned dogs. GIVEAWAY: Ken is excited to give away a free copy of his latest book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: djstephe won.)
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In celebration of my new dog humor book, RED DOG / BLUE DOG: WHEN POOCHES GET POLITICAL (Running Press, August 2012), I will be featuring interviews with other dog book writers at least once a month. It's very exciting to shine light on books from other writers who also share a love for canines.

This week it's Ken Foster, author of The Dogs Who Found Me, and Dogs I Have Met. He is the editor of The KGB Bar Reader and Dog Culture. In 2008, Foster started The Sula Foundation, named after his pit bull Sula, who was featured in The Dogs Who Found Me. The Sula Foundation promotes responsible pit bull ownership throughout New Orleans, by sponsoring events, lectures, low-cost vaccination clinics and free spay/neuter services and, as space and funds allow, rescuing and rehoming abandoned dogs.

His next book, which will be released in October 2012, is titled I’m a Good Dog: Pit Bulls, America’s Most Beautiful (and Misunderstood) Pet.

GIVEAWAY: Ken is excited to give away a free copy of his latest book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: djstephe won.)

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First, the important information: Tell us about the dogs you currently live with -- their names, breeds and one amusing fact per dog.

Brando is 12 years old and has been with me almost that long. He's one of those "pit bulls" who actually isn't a pit bull at all.

Douglas is a blue brindle pit-type dog, though I think he's really bulldog and catahoula. He's a total superstar and loves to mingle with tourists in the French Quarter.

Bananas is a tiny blue female pit, and currently the only girl in the house. She has all of the other dogs wrapped around her dew claw.

Paul is a rottweiler who was found wandering along the banks of the Mississippi; he's enormous and a total clown, but at night he takes his guarding duties very seriously.

And Dominick is a foster dog who has been with me for three years. He's a chow/lab mix and doesn't look further than the nearest ball.

(Are you writing a nonfiction book, as well? Learn about how to build your writer platform and sell more books.)

Okay, now on to the book. In one sentence, what is your book about?

I'm a Good Dog is an illustrated history and celebration of the American Pit Bull -- from its genetic origins to its role as a family dog and working member of the community.

When will it be out?

The book comes out October 25th from Viking Studio, and I'll be doing a number of events around the country, particularly in areas where I can partner with pit bull friendly organizations and help to address the misconceptions some people have regarding the breed. We're just beginning to show the finished book to people but so far we have great quotes from Julie Klam and Amy Hempel.

I'll be in Las Vegas at the No More Homeless Pets conference when the book launches in October, and then head directly to LA for a signing at Book Soup and on to the Bay Area and Portland.

One of the challenges I'm finding is that the book comes out, essentially, on Halloween weekend and then the following week is the national election, so I'm having to find ways of working around those dates as we plan events.

This book is a bit different than your previous works. What inspired you to write this book?

Some of my previous work has touched on the "pit bull problem" and the stereotyping that they face as a breed. I'd always wanted to delve more deeply into their history, and also, as a writer, I've been fascinated by the visceral response some people have to the dogs. But even though The Dogs Who Found Me sold really, really well, no one was willing to do the pit bull project back in 2006-2007. I put the project aside, but then last year a book packager contacted me and asked me to write the text for a book idea they were selling: I'm a Good Dog. So suddenly pit bulls have gone from being polarizing to being packaged and sold.

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This interview conducted by Stephanie Feldstein, animal advocate and writer.
You can find her campaigning at Change.org, tweeting @sfeldstein,
or catering to the whims of her quirky rescued animals. She's
represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

How has writing about dogs, and pit bulls in particular, changed your life off the page?

I think writing about dogs, and about the world we all share, has actually made me more honest about myself, both as a writer and an individual. Also, it has encouraged me to continue learning more about the subject of dogs, pit bulls, their relationships with us and the ways that we can strengthen both of our worlds. During my tour for The Dogs Who Found Me, I was able to meet so many different organizations around the country and learn from them, and then I used that information to form my own organization, The Sula Foundation. We sponsor low cost vaccination clinics, free spay/neuter and affordable training for pit bull owners in New Orleans. We also do some rescue, but mostly we are trying to go out into the community end educate people about the breed and about being responsible owners.

How did you find your agent?

I've had several agents previously who never had anything to do with the publication of my books -- so they seemed to function as one more layer of rejection I had to bypass to get to a publisher. I got rid of them, but recently signed up with Deborah Grosvenor, who I met at the Virginia Festival of the Book. I wasn't really looking for an agent and she wasn't really looking for another client, but we got to know each other over dinner and it seemed a good fit.

What has been the biggest surprise or learning experience you've seen through the process of seeing your books get published?

It never really seems to get easier! Each book, or even each short story, is its own particular problem to solve, from figuring out how to write it to how it will make its way through publication. I must have thought, when I was younger, that there would be a level I might rise to where everything was easy. Ha. But the excitement now is in knowing that there will be surprises at every turn of the process, and perhaps being a little bit prepared for them.

Tell us about a fun moment or proud experience you've had with your books and readers.

I'm fortunate to be somewhat successful but also very much anonymous in my daily life. One of my favorite (though awkward) things is when someone recommends my own book to me. I'll meet them, usually, in a dog park or community meeting, after a few conversations, they might say, "There's a book you might like. It's about a guy who..." And then I have to gently break it to them that I am that guy. I also get lots of fan mail from children who write to tell me how much they love their dogs -- they are always so sweet!

(Want to get a book published? You have to write a good query letter.)

What are you doing to reach out to readers and dog lovers?

I always go on a big book tour, even if I pay for it myself (and I almost always do). A.M. Homes once told me that every book you publish is like running for office -- you have to go out and shake everyone's hand. And, of course, with dogs involved, it is really fun. I try to pair up bookstores and dog rescue organization, so we're all invested primarily in helping the dogs; if the book sells because of it, that is a wonderful residual effect, but not one that I count on.

Back to the dogs. If you could compare your dogs to celebrities, who would they be?

Brando is kind of like Brad Pitt. He can be difficult, but he means well. And he's smart, yet not as smart as he thinks he is.

Doug is ... a professional model of some kind. Maybe Marcus Shenkenberg? He's gorgeous and totally charming, but there's not much going on in there.

Bananas is probably one of the Olsen twins.

And Paul, my recently acquired rottweiler, is Jonathan Safran Foer.

Favorite of these dog movies? -- "Best in Show," "101 Dalmatians," or "The Shaggy Dog."

Probably the original Shaggy Dog, but I haven't seen it since I was a kid. That was Fred MacMurray, right?

Where can people find you online?

I actually had a crazy thing happen recently -- I let my domain registration lapse for a few days and a foreign media company bought it! So my new domain will be at www.kenfosterbooks.com. My Twitter handle is @kenfosterwrites.

GIVEAWAY: Ken is excited to give away a free copy of his latest book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: djstephe won.)

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RED DOG / BLUE DOG is a humorous photo collection of
dogs doing stereotypical liberal and conservative things,
assembled all in good fun. It releases Aug. 1, 2012 from
Running Press. Visit www.reddog-bluedog.com.

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A fan of fiction? The Write Great Fiction Series
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