How-To Kickstart your Pet Photography Book Project

Dreaming of publishing your own pet photography passion project? So was Jesse Freidin, so he crowdfunded it and what happened next was cray cray.

If you started your businesses in the shadow of published pet photographers (one my favorite pet photography books when I started my business over 10 yrs ago was Rachel Hale [she is now publishing under ‘Rachel McKenna’ ] she made me CRAVE a book project) then you probably understand the desire to see your name + photographs on the cover of a big sexy book on the shelf at Barnes + Noble.

Great Dane Puppy with Toy

One of the most common ambitions I hear from the pet photographers I work with, is the dream of publishing a coffee table book full of their photos.

I had this dream too (and let’s be honest, I still do – I have like 127 book projects in mind at all times) but my first book deal in 2006 (which was not a coffee table book, and which I now find TERRIBLY cringe-worthy, but hey you have to start somewhere) and the book projects I’ve worked on since have all been down the traditional publishing route. But what if you don’t want to wait around for an agent or a book deal?

What if you want to self-publish and you don’t want to sell your house to do it?

– Enter, Kickstarter –


– August 11, 2015 –

Professional Photographer Jesse FreidinFine art photographer Jesse Freidin (who you may know from his uber-famous ‘doggy gaga project’) launched a Kickstarter campaign with a goal of raising $12,500 to fund his passion project, ‘Finding Shelter’; a photo essay spotlighting the relationship between animals and shelter volunteers all across the US.

His Kickstarter campaign closed, thirty days later, on September 10th. Basically, it was a ridiculous success, resulting in 203 backers, an astounding $18,819 funded AND a traditional publishing deal. Talk about worth it, eh?

Well, lucky for us, Jesse is here with us today to share his insights and advice for pet photographers hoping to turn their own passion project into a book by crowdfunding…



Nic: Thanks for chatting Jesse – you’re such an inspiration to photographers everywhere and I’m thrilled you’re here.




Jesse: Thanks Nichole – happy to be here! You know you’re the first person I call when I have random questions about commercial rates and stuff – you always seem to have the answers, so I am more than happy to help.

Nic: Thanks Jesse! So the first obvious question how did you choose Kickstarter your project?

Jesse: Well my advice for crowd funding is to go big or go home. I decided to use Kickstarter because they have such a large fan base, are very established and respected, and use their social media to push projects that they like.

I don’t think the other platforms have the same kind of reach as Kickstarter – they is riskier because if you don’t reach your goal you don’t get any money, but I do believe that it works the best out of all the options.
Nic: Sounds simple enough! Your Kickstarter got a TON of attention – how did you accomplish that?
Jesse: I reached out to a handful of influential people who could help amplify the message via personal emails asking to support the project, and also emailed an insane amount of media – print, blogs, etc- multiple times with links to the Kickstarter page and the Finding Shelter project site.
I was lucky enough to catch the eye of one of Kickstarter’s top people who then helped my project get pushed to their front page, as well as social media.

Nic: Wow awesome. So, creating a crowd funding campaign is quite daunting if you’ve never done it before,  how did you know where to start? In addition to the buzz Kickstarter supported, what did you do to achieve such amazing results?


Jesse: Well, I read a lot of info about crowdfunding online. I spent money on making a good video, which is really important and something you can do – even yourself, for free. I also made a schedule of social media posts for the month of the campaign, and spent an insane amount of time and energy pushing the project on social media. This is stuff that takes a LOT of time, but isn’t that complicated. It is, however, really important to hustle the project as hard as you can to ensure you reach your goal.
I think the projects that do well with crowdfunding are usually (though not always) simply great projects that tell great stories. Or they are simply lame projects that get a lot of lame attention and some how do well.
The key is to just go into it with real confidence, get everything prepped and ready before you launch. I honestly had no idea that Finding Shelter would be successful. But I was confident that it was a strong project, and I did my homework. You can do that too.


Nic: Thanks Jesse. What is the ONE bit of advice you would say is most important to pet photographers hoping to kickstart their book project?



Jesse: The month I ran that kickstarter, and the three months after, were one of the most stressful times in my business but it was worth it.

A friend of mine (who had also recently done a crowdfunding campaign) advised me to clear my schedule for the month of the fundraiser, which I did (nearly), and it was one of the most helpful pieces of advice. It will be the only thing you’ll be able to think about or work on or talk about around the clock. So, just be prepared! You can do it.



Nic: Wow Jesse – great stuff. I am a proud ‘Finding Shelter’ backer so I am super excited to receive my copy of the book – when will it be out?




Jesse: Well the book will be out in early 2017. It’s a long time to wait, but I’m very glad to have the time to tell the story properly. It’s an insane amount of work… but it will be so worth it! It sounds like it will be a big title for my publisher so hopefully you will be seeing a lot of publicity when it launches!



Nic: Thats fab. We can’t wait. Thanks again for your time and advice Jesse – we are so thrilled you’re doing such great work on behalf of shelter animals.


Jesse: Thanks for having me Nichole, my pleasure.



Behind the Scenes of  Finding Shelter


About our Guest: Jesse Freidin

Professional Photographer Jesse Freidin


Jesse Freidin is one of America’s leading fine art dog photographers, with work in more than 100 private collections throughout the United States. His portraiture studies the deeply healing power of the human/animal bond and has been exhibited in galleries across the country.

Jesse was awarded ‘Best Dog Photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area’ and ‘Best Dog Photographer in Los Angeles’ for fine art pet portraiture in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. He is also the creator of three viral dog photography series: The Doggie Gaga Project (2010), When Dogs Heal (2015) and Finding Shelter (2015). He works out of his North Adams, Massachusetts studio with private clients in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston. For information on bookings, please visit




About the Author: J.Nichole Smith



Beautiful Beasties owner + Editor-in-Chief, J.Nichole Smith is a commercial pet photographer, marketing consultant and dog expert.

In 2005 she founded dane + dane studios,  a creative studio for pet businesses. In 2007 she co-founded Dog is Good, a lifestyle company for dog lovers, which is now a multi-million dollar business.

In addition to championing her own brands, Nichole has spent the last decade crafting creative strategies and campaigns for the most influential individuals and brands in the pet industry, including the likes of Purina, Petco and Victoria Stilwell.

In 2012, Nichole’s coffee table book ‘Puppyhood’ was released to critical acclaim in 2012. In 2014 Nichole graduated with Distinction from Kingston University’s MA Marketing program. In 2016, Nichole launched Working with Dog, a community based around providing petpreneuers with simple, actionable marketing strategies. Nichole also keeps busy offering marketing courses, one-to-one consulting and keynote speeches (primarily to women) on topics relating to ‘marketing genius’ and entrepreneurship.

She currently works from London traveling often to the U.S. and various locations in France and Italy (traipsing from mountain to seaside with her husband, his cycle travel business and their ‘more-baby-than-dog’, Charleston). 


I would love to hear from you – who your most influential published pet photographers were when you started your business?

Which books inspire you the most? Post a photo or link over on our Facebook Page!

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