But first, I thought you’d like to know how her thinking has shifted as someone who has blogged about food for 11 years. We’ll start with her launch of a recipe subscription service called feeding our people, and move on to how she limits social media, how she and her husband Daniel produce an income, and how they are evolving their work.
For anyone who’s never read her recipe blog, Shauna has been a food blogger since 2005 and is the author of four books, including Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, which won a James Beard award. Now, on to the interview:
Q. Let’s begin with why you started a recipe subscription newsletter recently.
A. Danny and I spend a lot of time talking about what we enjoy. What if we slowly built a list that, over time, became our full-time income? We’ve been thinking about a subscription model for about three years.
It was about the recipes. We want to give our food to people more directly. The other is that we want the community. Also the way people cook day to day, at least those who have families, is that they pick up the phone or iPad and search Google or look at YouTube videos. So we started a service for that.
Q. So now you have two newsletters?
A. The newsletter for Gluten-free Girl is free, with a new post every Wednesday. We have 15,000 subscribers. The paid newsletter for Feeding our People comes out every Friday morning.
Q. Push recipe services aren’t new, but your idea is different.
A. Now there are two or three generations of people who didn’t learn to cook from their families, and we want to guide people into cooking batch recipes and cooking from the batch.
We created a closed Facebook group for the subscribers. I’m on three days a week, and we’re doing live video and answering cooking questions. I love it because I don’t get that kind of interaction with a cookbook. When someone doesn’t have a cast iron skillet, I tell them to use whatever you have. Someone else jumps in about how to buy and season a skillet. I love the interaction.
Q. You’ve been amazing at creating community. Your Twitter feed has almost 200,000 followers. There’s another 118,00+ on Facebook and around 24,000 on Instagram. What is your secret?
A. I don’t ever pay attention to any those numbers. For me it’s about the community — how well I’m answering people’s questions, or if I’m of use.
Q. You also post things that interest you.
A. I’m obsessed with Hamilton the Musical because it’s so smart and it’s also infectious music and a giant paradigm shift. It makes me think: Before there was one way to create a musical, one way to talk about the revolutionary war… one way to be a food blogger! I like people who are willing to question themselves.
Q. You seem like you’re online all the time.
A. I need clear boundaries for myself, otherwise I can do it all the time and there’s no balance between work and life. I actually wrote an agreement about the hours I would keep. It’s pinned on the refrigerator. My phone doesn’t come into our bedroom, it’s turned off after 8 p.m., and when we’re driving somewhere I put my phone in the trunk. Danny and I work from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. when Lucy goes to school.
Q. I’m going to switch gears now and ask about other things you’re doing. How are sales going with your all-purpose flour blend?
A. They’re steady and we’re building up a following. We’re working to get the product on Amazon with free shipping. Companies are approaching us to use our flour in products too.
Q. What are your other sources of income?
A. We have income from book sales. the sponsored posts on our blog, Amazon affiliates, baking classes I teach locally, and a video series on gluten-free baking for Craftsy. We’re switching over to an ad network on our blog, so there will be revenue from that.
Our goal is that four or five years from now, we will have enough subscribers to stop doing ads and sponsors. We want to just make money from what we love.
Q. It says on your blog that you have contracted with a talent agent. How does that help you?
A. We just started that. Eventually they will build partnerships for us and actively seeking out companies to work with and appearances. They also have a licensing department.
Q. How has your thinking about food blogging changed over the years? You’re on year 11, right?
A. Yes. I’ve noticed that blogs don’t really matter any more. Very few people are starting blogs these days. There’s Tumblr, Instagram, Periscope – people can do social media without a blog. A lot of people have stopped writing. Even the notion of a website is antiquated now, because you can make an entire living from Instagram. People get a ton of followers and then get paid to include products in photos.
The world is changing so fast, and the only way to keep up is to pursue what’s of interest to you. It’s sad for people who are trying to follow rules about what’s successful, versus ‘What am I curious about?’ and ‘What do I love?’
I read a Google study that in four to five years 75 percent of the Internet is going to be video, not text. It’s very easy to be fussy in a written recipe but in 10 seconds, you can show them how to do it on video. People like to see you cook and make a connection. I like how tech is changing because you can get Periscope on your phone and start shooting.
Q. As a word-based person, this terrifies me.
A. Well, words will matter more and people are still buying books and want to read. For me it’s always about telling a story.
Q. Okay, I feel better now. How has Gluten-Free Girl changed over the years?
A. When I started in 2005, it was just a place to write. It started from long emails to friends. It’s been a surprise. I met Danny, married, I got a literary agent.
It was all fun until 2010 until the business of blogging began. I went through a few years where I felt awkward because our blog is based on our family. Then I fell in love with drag queens and how they completely embody a character. Danny and I talked about it a lot. We decided Gluten-Free Girl is our drag name, and now it’s been a blast for the past few years.
My blog voice is reassuring, contented, and distilled into a peaceful place. People want to come back for that.