Sheila Wray Gregoire sent in a joke to Reader’s Digest in 1996 and made $200. So she figured, how else can I get published? Since then she’s written eight books, including The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, winner of the Grace Irwin Award for 2013. She keynotes at women’s conferences across North America and writes her blog, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, every day.
Sheila, you are leading a workshop at the Write Canada conference titled “Instead of Wasting Time Just Talking to Your Mom . . .” You will be helping attendees decide which blogging platform is best for them—Wordpress, Blogger, or Tumblr—as well teaching them how to write content people will want to read. Would you give us a sneak peek about what they can expect in this class?
If you like practical, you’ll love this class! I’m not really a “creative” type who loves writing for writing’s sake. I’m more of an entrepreneur, big picture person, who is completely and utterly enthralled with the challenge of creating something out of nothing—in this case, creating an audience for a blog that doesn’t even exist yet.
But to do that you have to think like your audience—not just think like you. Many blogs fail because people don’t start with the reader in mind; they start with the writer in mind. I’ll turn that all upside down and backwards and we’ll be doing some serious gymnastics trying to find the formula for creating and writing a blog that attracts real eyeballs. And not just your Mom’s.
Why do you feel it’s important for authors to also be bloggers?
The publishing world is changing so quickly that you can’t just write something brilliant and get noticed today. You simply have to already be a part of the conversation, and the easiest way to do that is by blogging. Publishers are interested in numbers: how many people do you reach on a weekly basis? Blogging gives you a leg up, and most new nonfiction authors (and increasingly even fiction authors) are bloggers. In fact, I spend way more time blogging than I do writing books (and I make more of an income from blogging, too!).
Even if you want to self-publish, you have to sell that book to somebody, which means you need a way to reach them. You need a way to break through all of the noise and get them to notice you. Blogging takes a lot of work, but it is something that almost anybody can do relatively inexpensively.
But blogging also helps you figure out your real message and your real niche. The internet is crowded with millions of blogs. What will make yours stand out? As you start to figure out the answer to that, you also discover where your voice is and what you should be writing about. My niche changed substantially after blogging, and I think it’s because of blogging that I did end up with the contracts that I have.
You are also teaching a continuing class: “Let’s Talk Money! Career Planning for the Professional Writer.” It’s difficult not to get starry eyed, hoping for that big publishing contract, but that rarely happens. Do you have a few practical money tips you can share? (Please note: This class is available only to those who qualify for the Career Track at the conference.)
I once heard a career planner say, “It’s easier to make $100,000 by making $10,000 off of 10 projects than by making $100,000 off of one.”And I think that’s absolutely true. When I look at my income, it’s divided among all kinds of different endeavours—royalties and paycheques from writing articles, sales of my ebooks, advertising fees, affiliate fees, and more. The internet may make selling a manuscript more challenging, but it also opens up many new opportunities for income streams for writers, and we’ll be talking about how to develop multiple ones so that you can build a decent income, even if you’re only making a little bit off of each little thing.
What do you think is the #1 reason people should attend a writers’ conference and Write Canada in particular?
Networking! You meet so many wonderful people, and you get the chance to brainstorm and realize you’re not alone. I’ve made the best friendships at Write Canada, and met all the main people who have helped jumpstart my career here: editors, agents, speakers, and writers. It’s wonderful to have so many talented people in one space, and everyone should take full advantage of it.
Interview by Steph Beth Nickel