Since Shreve Stockton is a professional photographer who “writes on impulse,” it’s not surprising that her blog, The Daily Coyote, is primarily a photo blog. When her photos and stories of her life with Charlie, an orphaned coyote who she’d raised since he was ten days old, caught the interest and imagination of people world-wide (including Simon & Schuster), it grew into a book.
The Daily Coyote, the book, is Stockton’s memoir of moving to Wyoming from San Francisco and her first year with Charlie. “It’s similar to the blog in that my voice is obviously the same and the book includes color reproductions of many of my photographs, but, as a whole, it is far different than the blog,” she relates. “The book is a narrative covering one year of life in great detail, and is much, much more in depth than the blog.”
Stockton explains it this way: “The blog is to hors d’oeuvres what the book is to a five-course meal. And I think this is essential when one publishes both a blog and a book—at least if one hopes to have a second book—for as readers, we want the books by our favorite bloggers to be something more and something different, not just a re-hashing of previous material.”
Why did you begin blogging?
After I moved to Wyoming from San Francisco, after I fell in love with a cowboy, after that cowboy brought me an orphaned coyote pup one day, I began taking photos of Charlie, the coyote, every day, and sharing these photos and small stories with friends and family via email.
It never dawned on me to blog until one of my best friends urged me to do so. Her words made sense, and the blog was born.
How did you choose your topic?
The topic was thrust in my lap. I found myself in an extraordinary circumstance—raising an orphaned coyote.
I reveled in it, and this unusual experience was something I felt compelled to share.
What, if any, market research did you do before beginning your blog?
None. I didn’t go into blogging with a plan. In fact, I’ve still not put any energy into market research; I pay very little attention to stats or market research and attribute this choice to my background and self-identity as an artist. I never want my actions to be dictated by that info. Not that I recommend this approach to others, but that’s the way I am.
Did you think you were writing a book, did you plan on blogging a book, or were you simply blogging on your topic? (In retrospect, would doing one or the other have made it easier to later write your book?)
Writing a book based on my blog never crossed my mind—until I was approached directly by editors from four publishing houses. I was just happily sharing photos and short bits of writing. I was so invested in my life, and my life with Charlie, and this, actually, was the single best thing that helped me in writing the book. I could recall everything in such great detail because I had been so “present;” this was what supplied the material for the book, even though I didn’t realize it at the time nor plan it.
How long did it take for you to gain blog readers, and can you pinpoint any certain event that created a tipping point when readership increased noticeably?
I started my blog in September 2007. In late September, I nominated myself for a Weblog award and was one of the top three in my category. This was my first big boost in readership. My daily visitors jumped from about 50 to 500. Then, in November 2007, Dooce.com linked to my site and my hits went through the roof.
How did your blog-to-book deal come about?
After the link from Dooce.com, my site was linked all over the place, such as digg.com and metafilter.com. I was getting queries for interviews with People magazine and a slew of national and international newspapers. It was crazy, and it all happened overnight. Within two weeks, four different editors from publishing houses had emailed me with requests for a book. I signed with Simon & Schuster; my editor there had heard about my site at a dinner party.
What one or two things that you did would you attribute to your blogging success (and to the book deal you landed)?
Having a unique story or a unique angle on a universal story is essential. I also think it’s really important that one’s story be easily condensed into one sentence: “City girl moves to Wyoming and lives with a coyote.” One neat sentence makes it easier for people to talk about it or you, makes [your blog or book] seem less intimidating or complicated, makes it easy for others to remember. There is simply so much media today, you have to make it easy for people to remember you. And doing this is just another place to practice creativity.
What advice would you give to writers wanting to blog a book (and build readership/platform while doing so)?
We all know the phrase “Do what you love and the money will follow.” I think it’s in existence because it’s simply too discouraging to do all the work necessary to succeed if you are not doing what you love to do to begin with. Publishing is often a long, hard road, and even when it’s short, it’s hard.
I suggest focusing on what you are getting out of it, besides money or a publishing contract. Focus on what you are giving others as you work towards your goal. Then the journey, as they say, will be as fulfilling as the destination.
What’s the most important thing a blogger can do to get noticed in the blogosphere?
Consistency is incredibly important. It’s always been important to me that my readers know they can count on me, that I will be there with something new for them. This is the way I thank them for showing up, the way I show respect to those who visit my sites. I post every weekday morning on The Daily Coyote, and aim for three posts a week on my newer blog, honeyrockdawn.com. Anyone can get a lucky break or write a flashy post that goes viral and get a lot of immediate traffic, but the only way to keep readers coming back is you. Great material published with consistency.
About the Author
Shreve Stockton lives in a town of 300 people, where it’s a sixty mile trip to the nearest grocery store and not uncommon to swing by the post office or bar on horseback. In 2005, she had plans to move from San Francisco back to New York City – plans that were derailed when she rode through Wyoming and fell in love with it. She went on to New York, but a month later turned around, returned to Wyoming, and moved to the area where she had only spent one day.
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Photo credit: The Daily Coyote. Amazon links contain my affiliate code.