Recently, Gretchen Voth of CLT DOG met up with Jim Mitchem to talk about Gone Dogs.

We recently got together to celebrate the launch of our book. Gone Dogs – It’s about love ❤️

Share your Gone Dog with the world in a tribute that will live forever. Gone Dogs. It’s about love. ❤️

Our official Gone Dogs book trailer video is live! Gone Dogs – It’s about love ❤️

We’ve been promoting our book for a couple of months now, and if you’re following along you no doubt know about the heartwarming stories and poems, and the remarkable photography of  each dog. 

But there’s another element of the book that I want to bring into the light—the design. 

When I had the idea for Gone Dogs in 2014, the first person I talked to was my wife. The next was someone I respect in the publishing industry. The next was Laurie Smithwick, a friend since the mid-2000s, who is also one of the most talented designers I’ve ever known. And, being in advertising, I’ve known plenty. If this book was going to become a thing, Laurie was the person I wanted marching this long road with me. Because I knew she was the one who would make it beautiful. 

Boy did she. 

From a design standpoint, I only had one suggestion—that my dog Sydney be on the cover. That was it. Everything else was Laurie. 

From the moment you hold the book in your hands, you feel its quality. When you open the cover,  you’re hit with a green full-bleed liner that she custom created. (The one in the back of the book might look the same, but it’s actually different.) The weight of the pages, Laurie. The composition of the stories, Laurie. And the photography, as beautiful as it is, was sent from people all over the world in multiple formats and resolutions, and all required intense Photoshop work. Laurie. 

But there’s something else that to me is the most important design element in the book. 

Every story and poem begins on a left page. Clearly not all of the stories/poems are the same length, so some of the them also ended on a left page. Which meant we had to decide what to do with the empty right page. It was something we thought a lot about. Then one day Laurie said, “I have an idea.” 

The result of her idea is the brightly colored pages that complete stories that end on a left page, with an outline of a dog in white on the right page. Simple. Elegant. Beautiful. Right? 

But there’s more. 

They’re not just outlines of dogs. They’re not even just outlines of the kinds of dogs in the story they bookend. 

They’re holes. 

Every dog lover knows, when a dog dies it leaves a hole in your heart. A hole in your life. 

This seemingly innocuous design element is actually a stroke of genius, and precisely why I wanted Laurie on this project back in 2014. 

When I asked her about these “holes,” she told me that the idea is from a line in the book, “The God of Small Things,” by Arundhati Roy, which reads, “Joe was dead now. Killed in a car crash. Dead as a doorknob. A Joe-shaped hole in the Universe.” 

“I read the ‘The God of Small Things’ in 1998. That line has stayed with me ever since. And seemed like a perfect fit for our book.”  – Laurie Smithwick

Design is important, kids. And this book is as much a tribute to great design as it is the dogs who grace its pages. Thanks to Laurie.

Gone Dogs. It’s about love. ❤️


Jim

It’s taken more than five years, and a ton of learning on the fly, but folks––we have a book.

Thank you for your patience all these years

Rather than bore you with details on the challenges associated with launching a crowd-sourced, self-published, hardcover coffee table book with no prior experience, just know that Laurie and I were pretty demanding about every detail. Our goal was to set something loose in the world that reflected the love that each author poured into the stories of their gone dogs.

We’re very happy with how it turned out.

Buy the book today and judge for yourself. We’re gonna bet that you agree.

Because, if you love dogs you’ll love this book.

Because it’s about love. ❤️

Jim

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