As we head to the finish line publishing our book, we find ourselves with an exciting opportunity to create a podcast featuring the stories from the book, as well as new ones. The podcast will be sponsored by NPR and WFAE.

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Here we are, nearly five years after having the idea for the book Gone Dogs, in our 11th hour.

Actually, it’s more like 11:59. 

So I should be elated, right? To finally see all the hard work come to an end. Come to fruition. 

Well, in one sense, I am. But in another, I’m frustrated. 

Back in 2014 one of the first people I spoke with about the idea for Gone Dogs was my longtime friend Laurie Smithwick, a designer who I trust and admire. After talking about the concept, we decided to jump in and take it on as a part time project that we’d somehow squeeze into our regular work and busy lives.

We established a brand. We procured and built a website. We told all of our friends—who were highly supportive. Then we built a strategy to glean content, and began to employ that strategy via social media. We established social media accounts for the brand. We created a legal entity (a publishing company) and opened a bank account. We asked friends to tell their friends about the idea. We built a submission engine in WordPress. We opened a PayPal account. We hired a lawyer to ensure that we were protected from copyright and other issues. We launched the website. We spread the word. We used Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to promote the brand. We used Google and SEO to ensure we were being properly indexed for the search engines. We set a deadline—but didn’t have enough content—so we extended the deadline. We advertised the call for entries on Facebook. We reviewed content. We asked established writers to help us evaluate submissions. We made tough decisions about what content would be part of the book. We edited, proofread, and edited some more. We routinely and effectively communicated with 50 authors to ensure their stories and photographs were correct. We researched how to self-publish a coffee table book. We worked in Word, and Google, and Photoshop (a lot of Photoshop), and Illustrator, and Indesign, and WordPress. We used Slack, text, email, and DMs in every platform to communicate. We had countless in-person meetings. We researched print-on-demand publishing, distribution models, and wholesale markdowns. We did a lot of math. We researched and chose a fulfillment vendor. We researched and found print vendor then established a relationship with them. We decoded their templates, redesigned the book to fit, and sent them files. We ordered a sample book, but it wasn’t up to par on quality—so we hit the brakes, reset, and rebuilt files for other printers. And we waited. 

We continue to wait. 

I can’t tell you how hard this is. 

After all this time. 

After all this effort. 

When you simply want to be finished with a project, but aren’t willing to sacrifice quality. 

And the reason we won’t isn’t for us. It’s also not for our fans. Or even our authors. It’s for the dogs. The dogs and their stories that make up our maiden volume of Gone Dogs will always have a special place in my heart. 

Trust me when I say that as excited as you are to have this book, we’re even more excited. 

Getting it right takes time. As it turns out. Five years ago I had a 4-year-old dog under my desk. Today he’s getting gray around the eyes. 

What started out as a good idea that seemed to have some traction within our networks five years ago has become a remarkable work that I can’t wait to let loose into the world. 

It’s coming. And it can’t come soon enough.

Love, Jim

After six weeks and five judges reading nearly 100 entries submitted for our maiden volume of Gone Dogs, we’ve selected 50 stories to be part of our book. And boy, what stories. 

I can now say that what started out as a dream in 2014 is about to become a reality later this year and I couldn’t be prouder. This book is going to be great. Everyone you know who loves dogs is going to want it. 

I was speaking with someone recently who mentioned how much he a loved certain novel about a dog. I said, “Yes, it is a great book. About one dog. This book is about 50.”

So what happens next? Well, now we get busy doing … everything. From copy editing and photo editing, to book layout, proofreading, and more, we will be pretty busy for the next few months. After that, it’s on to publishing. As you wait (patiently) please keep in mind there are just two of us managing this project, and it’s not our full-time gig. That said, we are committed to having our book in everyone’s hands by Christmas. (We’ll give plenty of notice about preorders once we figure out that engine.) 

We’ve also had a lot of people ask about Volume 2 and when they can submit their Gone Dogs story. We are intentionally holding off on opening up for submissions again until we get this first book down the road a little farther. The submission engine we used the first time was a little glitchy and we need to reassess. Please be patient, and know there will be a Volume 2. 

We wanted to give a special thanks to our judges, Judy Goldman, Ken Wheaton, and Stephanie Whetstone – outstanding writers who volunteered their time, and no doubt went through a lot of tissues to read each entry and help make Gone Dogs the best book possible. Both me and Laurie also read each story, and were overwhelmed with such beautiful tributes. 

Finally, a huge thanks to everyone who participated in our first ever call-for-entries. You are the heroes here. And while we couldn’t take every story submitted, every story submitted was a gift. We all know dogs love their people, but now I know just how much people love their dogs. Thank you for sharing yours with us. 

Here we go. 

Jim