FAQ for publishers

Got questions about how to use Substack as a publisher? Search this document for answers.

GETTING STARTED

How do I set up a Substack account?

Go to Substack.com and click “Start Publishing,” then follow the prompts.

How do I change or edit my publication name?

Find the name field at the top of the settings page in your dashboard, then use the spacebar to put spaces in between each word. Click on “Save” to make sure the changes are saved.

How do I change or edit my email sender name?

Find the “email sender name” field in the settings page. Click on “Save” to make sure the changes are saved.

Why does my logo look bad?

The logo size is pretty small. It’s designed so that your logo will look good even as a favicon in a browser tab. Choose an image that isn’t too detailed and will be clear and eye-catching in a small format. If you’re looking for some nifty icons, the Noun Project is worth checking out.

Can I import my mailing list?

Yes, as long as you have it in a .csv file, which is a spreadsheet. (“CSV” stands for comma-separated values, for what it’s worth.) You can find the list import tool in your publisher dashboard’s settings.

How large a mailing list can I import?

As long as your list is totally legit and everyone who is on it has explicitly opted in to receive emails from you (we will ask for confirmation), you can import as many as you want. If you try to import a really big list, you will be asked to undergo a quick verification review with the Substack team.

How do I get my first signups?

The first and most important thing is to start writing. Nothing more reliably earns you readers than consistently writing good stuff and publishing it regularly. But, you should also announce your newsletter on all your social media channels and post links to each new post there too. Note: When you announce your newsletter on social media, first link people to your homepage: your.substack.com. That way, you’ll get more signups than if you merely link to a story. Consider using your personal email to email people from your address book. Ask readers to share your newsletter with friends. And then... keep writing.

Where do people subscribe to my newsletter?

People can sign up and subscribe for your newsletter via your Substack site: your.substack.com. On first visit, they will be greeted with a welcome page (your.substack.com/welcome), which makes the process obvious.

How do I launch?

If you are not quite sure what your newsletter is going to be, or think that it could benefit from some close attention without the pressure of selling subscriptions, it’s probably smart to keep it free for a while (weeks, months – we’ve seen it all). You should first announce that you have a newsletter by sharing your Substack homepage: your.substack.com. Share the link to that post on social media and tell friends and family via email, text, carrier pigeon, etc. A day or two later, publish an announcement post that says why you are starting the newsletter, what it will be about, and why people should subscribe. Think of it as your statement of purpose. Then If you want to offer paid subscriptions, announce a date on which you will start publishing subscriber-only posts and build momentum towards that day, with frequent reminders to your readers that paid subscriptions will start soon. (Read our handy launch checklist for getting started.)

Can I import my archives?

Yes! We have an importer tool that lets you import archives from MailChimp, TinyLetter, Revue, and Wordpress. Here it is.

Otherwise, you can import posts manually. Just copy-and-paste each post into the Substack editor. Once each post has been published, you can go into that post’s settings and change the publication date so that it matches the date of original publication.

Do you offer custom domains?

No. We have made a few exceptions in the past but have discontinued the practice.

Will you ever offer custom domains?

Maybe.

Do you accept PayPal, crypto, clamshells, etc?

No, we integrate with Stripe, which allows us to accept payments by credit card and, in special circumstances, ACH.

USING THE SUBSTACK EDITOR

What’s the difference between “Publish” and “Publish & Send”?

Yes, you’ve noticed there are two publishing options in the bottom right-hand corner of the editor. If you click “Publish,” the post will be published only to the web. If you click “Publish & Send,” the post will be published to the web and emailed to your mailing list.

If I make changes to a post after I have emailed it to my subscribers, will the updated post be emailed to them again?

It will not be. The changes you make will only be reflected in the web version. If you want to send a corrected or updated post to your mailing list again, you’ll need to create an entirely new post.

What is the meaning of the three options for publishing to different segments of my mailing list?

After you hit “Publish & Send,” you’ll be given three publishing options.

  1. Everyone – your post will be emailed to everyone on your mailing list and published publicly on your site, viewable for everyone.

  2. Only paying subscribers – your post will be emailed only to your paying subscribers. On your site, it will sit behind a paywall.

  3. Only free signups – your post will be emailed only to the people on your free signup list. It will not be published on your site.

Do you support audio?

Yes. You can embed YouTube and Vimeo videos, and SoundCloud and Spotify tracks. We also have a native audio feature, which allows you to publish podcast and audio episodes (in beta). You can enable it via your Settings page in the dashboard (scroll to the bottom). More details here and a how-to guide for podcasting here.

Can I embed stuff in my posts?

Yes. You can embed YouTube and Vimeo videos, Soundcloud and Spotify tracks and playlists, Instagram pics, and tweets, simply by copy-and-pasting the relevant URLs into the editor (using embed code won’t work). You can also drag-and-drop images and gifs, or insert them using the image selector tool.

Do you support markdown?

No.

Can I edit the CSS or HTML?

No.

How do I resize images?

You can’t. Images auto-resize to the column width. We might add sizing options in the future, but we’re trying to keep things simple and foolproof to start.

How do I add captions to images?

There’s no special tool for captioning yet, but you could use one of the small subheader options from the “Style” drop-down list in the editor’s toolbar.

How do I change fonts?

You can’t. We want to make sure that all emails render well in every imaginable email client, so we keep a pretty tight lid on customization options. We might loosen things up in the future, but for now the rule is that you can have any font you want as long as it’s the one we have given you.

Do I have to publish everything behind a paywall?

No. With Substack, you can publish a mix of free and paid content. Each time you publish a post, you decide whether it’s free for everyone or only for your paying subscribers.

Can I preview my post before it is published?

You can send yourself a test email to see what the post will look like when it is published in email form. Just go to the post’s settings, enter the desired email addresses in the field below “Test Email,” then click “Send Test Email”. Then check your inbox.

Can I center text?

No.

Can I link images?

Yes, just select the image and add a link via the linking tool in the editor’s toolbar or using the relevant hot-key combo (command+k on Apple devices).

Can I publish to email only so that posts don’t show up in my archives?

Not directly, but there’s a workaround. After a post has been emailed to your list, you can go back into the post’s settings and select “Unpublish”. That means that post won’t show up on your site or in your archives, but you’ll retain all the stats.

BUSINESS MATTERS

How much does Substack cost?

It’s free to start a newsletter on Substack and if you keep it free then you’ll never have to pay us a cent, no matter how many subscribers you have. We only make money when you make money, by taking a 10% cut of subscription revenue.

Are there other costs?

The only other costs come in the form of credit card fees charged by Stripe, our payments provider. They charge 2.9% plus 30 cents a transaction.

Why do you take a 10% cut of revenue when other payment platforms for creators take less?

Because we believe that you will get more paying subscribers and make more money with us than any other platform. That’s because we’ve designed our system for the explicit purpose of helping publishers make money from subscription publishing. Every tool we build, every feature we make, every design element we tweak, and every test we run is done with the ultimate goal of helping publishers attract more subscribers. You just have to worry about the hard part: the writing itself.

When is the right time to start offering paid subscriptions?

If you see indications that people love your newsletter – like, people tell you they love it, or your open rates have been really high for a good long while (40% and above), or your reader growth rate has been strong recently, or you’ve crossed a number of signups that feels significant to you, or people are telling you, unbidden, that they’d pay for your newsletter – then it’s probably a good time to go paid.

Can I sell institutional subscriptions?

You can sell group subscriptions via https://your.substack.com/subscribe?group=true. An administrator can sign up and pay with a single credit card. On the next page, they can add the email addresses for the subscribers in the group.

How do I give out complimentary subscriptions?

In your dashboard settings, scroll down to section three and you’ll see a field called “Give away paid subscription for free.” Enter the email of the lucky recipient in the field and choose a duration from the drop-down list. (You can also find this option via the dashboard’s Subscribers tab and clicking on the “Add Subscribers” button.)

Can I change the price of my subscriptions after launch?

Yes, you can change the prices at any time via your publisher dashboard. The only people who will be affected by the price change will be those who subscribe since the change takes effect. (That is, your earlier subscribers will remain on the plan they originally paid for.)

How do I revoke a subscription and/or kick someone off my mailing list?

Go to the Subscribers page in your dashboard, scroll down to the list of subscribers, search for the relevant subscriber, click on their name, then click “Edit Subscription”.

How do I refund subscribers?

If you need to issue a refund for reasons that have nothing to do with revoking a subscription, contact support@substack.com.

How do I change my subdomain?

There’s an option to change your subdomain in your dashboard’s settings. (Scroll down to “Danger Zone”.)

How do I delete my publication?

There’s an option to delete your publication in your dashboard’s settings. (Scroll down to “Danger Zone”.)

What is the “unfinished subscription email”?

This is the email that gets automatically sent to anyone who signs up for your newsletter but doesn’t pay to subscribe. It is delivered five minutes after signup. You can edit the email to say what you like. Welcome your new readers, and encourage them to pay to get full access.

Do you support gift subscriptions?

Yes. Your readers can find the button to offer gift subscriptions via their account page (your.substack.com/account) or your.substack.com/gift.

People are complaining about being blocked from paying to subscribe. Why?

It may be that Stripe, our payments processor, has flagged your account and blocked it from accepting payments. If that seems to the case, please email support@stripe.com immediately, and let us know via support@substack.com.

How do I get featured on substack.com or on the Substack blog?

It’s an editorial decision made by the Substack team.

How do I avoid my newsletter going into spam folders?

Don’t use words like “viagra” or “peni5” in the subject line. Ask readers to add you as a trusted contact in their email.

People are complaining that they didn’t receive my newsletter. Why?

It might be that the email went into their spam folder (ask them to check). Or that their company’s whitelist system blocked delivery (ask them to ask their company’s IT department). Or it could be something more mysterious. If it seems like a real problem, contact support@substack.com.

Can I use affiliate links in my posts?

We’re 100% focused on subscriptions so we don’t build any tech to support affiliate links (or advertising of any kind), but you’re free to use affiliate links. Do note, however, that Amazon, for one, doesn’t allow affiliate links that are shared by email. With that in mind, we automatically strip affiliate links from the email versions of your posts. They remain in the web versions, though. (Still, if you’re selling subscriptions to your readers, it’s good practice to not do affiliate links – or any ads at all – because it is important that they know that your work is not, and can not be, compromised in any way. Subscribers are buying your independence and intellectual freedom.)

DEALING WITH PEOPLE

If someone replies to my newsletter, will I get their message?

Yes.

Can I use your@substack.com as my email account?

Kind of. You’ll receive emails from anyone who sends an email to that address. When you respond, however, the message will come from your personal email.

What are the community features?

If you enable community features (which you can do via your dashboard’s settings page), your readers will be able to like your posts. If they are paying subscribers, they will also be able to comment on your posts.

Why aren’t there comments for free newsletters?

Because comments are usually difficult to moderate because people are frequently terrible on the internet. However, we believe that if people are paying subscribers, there’s a good chance they’ll behave better and participate in more meaningful discussions. So, paying subscribers get access to the comments.

Someone is reporting that my newsletter looks all messed up in their email client.

Probably because they’re using some version of Outlook from 1997. Please report to support@substack.com.

What if I want to take a holiday or a break? What do I tell my subscribers?

In most cases, your paying subscribers will be very understanding of your need to take time off. They want you to be healthy and able to continue providing a great product. So, just let them know in advance when you plan to take a break and for how long. You might also consider publishing a schedule on your About page to indicate planned rest time. Keep reminding folks in the days leading up to your break that you’re going to be taking time off soon. (If you want to pause your subscribers’ payments for that period, write to us at support@substack.com.)

Why isn’t everything as good as I want it to be already?

Because we are still in the early days of building this thing. It will keep getting better every day. Thanks for your patience and understanding.