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Write Your Pets
by Carol Shenold

I have a friend who makes her living writing about pets, mostly, dogs and cats. How can anyone make their living writing about pets? I'll tell you. In the United States, 58 million dogs are kept as pets. 37% of U.S. households own one or more dogs. 63 million cats live as pets in the United States, with 32 million households sharing space with our feline friends.

So do you think there's an audience out there?

HOW TO BREAK IN

First, look around. Is there a pet magazine or newsletter in your area? They may not pay much, but bylines are bylines. Contact your local shelters and animal groups. Look online for e-publications that deal with pets. Check the newsstand for pet magazines that specialize in pets, or cats or dogs or all of the above.

Try all areas of pet writing, depending on your interest. If you aren't a cat or dog person, how about birds (wild or caged). Don't forget reptiles, a current favorite. Or, write about everything.

What kind of writing do you enjoy? Humor, how to, serious service pieces, research based, interview heavy pieces, all have their place? You can find a home. Do you like medical writing? How about animal health writing? Pet publications look for people who can produce accurate writing, research based, on animal health issues. Especially when the writer can write in a clear, concise manner with a conversational tone. If you can write to the reader, not down to the reader, you'll be in demand.

Don't neglect the alternative medicine markets. Massages, color therapy, psychotherapy, herb therapy, acupuncture, are all alternative therapies used for pets. Find out more and write about it. Look for the markets like Whole Cat Journal.

If you can write humor, you have an advantage, however, read the publication for which you'd like to submit. Once you've checked the writers market and sent for current guidelines (since you already know the writer's markets are two years out of date), send for a sample copy, or read it on-line. Most of the time, humor is submitted in a complete manuscript. It's very difficult to sell humor on the basis of a query.

If you're planning to write longer articles, a query with clips will work. Or a query without clips if you have none. When you query, indicate which experts you plan to interview. How do you find experts? Look in the pets section in your local book store. Who has published pet books recently? Have any of them written on the subject that interests you? What experts did they use? You can use the same ones. Look up their addresses and phone numbers. Call and ask for a phone interview. You'll be surprised how easy these experts are to approach.

Do beware of media vets(veterinarians who are paid by a company and therefore may not give impartial advice). Talk to local vets. Ask who they would recommend you talk to. Contact Dog Writers Association and Cat Writers Association for contacts. Attend the national Cat Writer's Association workshop that takes place every November.

Do your homework. When you query a magazine, know its philosophy. Be aware if the publication advocates always neutering pets, or recommends never removing a cat's claws. You don't want to shoot down your idea before it gets started. It helps to have pets of your own or pets in your immediate family, just because they are a constant source of ideas and inspiration. Know which magazines are rivals for the same markets so you don't plan a similar article for both magazines.

If you don't have furry friends around, talk to relatives and friends, visit someone who has pets and ask them about their concerns. Watch children with pets. Think seasonal. How do you keep the dog entertained once the kids go back to school in the fall? How can you protect the cat from poisonous poinsettias or keep it from climbing the Christmas tree? How useful is cat health insurance? Can pets really benefit from psychotherapy? Is there such a thing as color therapy for cats.

Do these subjects interest you? I bet your readers will be fascinated. Don't neglect this wonderful little writing niche. You may not want to make it your career, but variety is the spice of life. Life is a banquet of writing. Taste it all.

© Copyright 2001, Carol Shenold

Carol Shenold is a nurse and freelance writer living in Oklahoma City. Her newest anthology is Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul: 2nd Dose, published in November. Her cozy mystery, Privy to Murder, was released in October of 2007 from www.eternalpress.com.au. Fairy Dust, an urban fantasy, was released this month and the sequel to Privy, Bloody Murder, will be released next spring. Please visit her blog at http://carol-carolsinkspot.blogspot.com and see the new Fairy Dust review from Simply Romance.

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