Fellowship Fact Sheet

What is the fellowship program?

The Substack Fellowship for Independent Writers is a program that includes financial support, access to special resources, and a two-week schedule of coaching, advice sessions, and expert consultation. The Substack team, in collaboration with three external judges – Bill Bishop, Danyel Smith, and Emily Oster – will select the five fellows. One senior fellow will receive a grant for $100,000 and four fellows will receive a $25,000 advance each, along with a $3,000 stipend, coaching from external experts, education resources, and support from Substack.

What does a Substack fellow receive as part of the program?

  • A $25,000 advance 

  • Editorial, community building, personal finance, and newsletter coaching from Substack writers and external experts

  • A custom illustration (a portrait or icon) that can be used to promote and brand the publication

  • Free access to Getty Images library

  • Support from the Substack team

  • A $3,000 stipend, no-strings-attached

What does a Substack senior fellow receive as part of the program?

  • A $100,000 grant

  • Editorial, design, community building, personal finance, and newsletter coaching from Substack writers and external experts

  • A custom illustration (a portrait or icon) that can be used to promote and brand the publication

  • Free access to Getty Images library

  • Support from the Substack team

What are the terms of a fellow’s advance?

The financial package for fellows contains two elements: 

  1. A $3,000 no-strings-attached stipend that the writer can use for tech equipment, resources, peace of mind, or anything the writer may need to help them do their best work.

  2. A $25,000 advance delivered as an upfront payment out of the fellow’s expected future earnings. In addition to the 10% that Substack always charges, Substack will retain an additional 40% of subscription revenue, until the amount recouped from that 40% share pays back the $25,000 advance. (This is on top of the normal 10% fee, so the total fees will be 50% + credit card transaction fees until the advance is recouped, and after that only the usual 10% fee + credit card transaction fees will apply.)

If the fellow’s earnings do not ever meet the threshold where Substack has recouped the $25,000, the writer will not be obligated to repay Substack.

Please note a writer can also forgo the advance and receive only the stipend and coaching/support, if desired.

What are the terms of the senior fellow’s grant?

The $100,000 grant will be paid out in full over six months of publishing on Substack. The senior fellow will receive the first $50,000 in the first week of the fellowship, the next $25,000 after publishing on Substack for three months, and the final $25,000 after six months have passed. The only requirement is that the writer publishes at least one post a week on Substack over the course of those six months. 

Why does the program include some advances and one grant?

Our experience with a pilot program for writer advances has shown that upfront payments can help writers transition from employment or other work into Substack and have the necessary peace of mind to stay focused on their work. We hope the advance payment will encourage a writer to fully explore what’s possible with their Substack publication while they have access to additional resources and coaching so that they can accelerate their journey towards independence. 

We hope that the grant awarded to the senior fellow will inspire a writer to take a big leap and go all-in on building a writing business based on the Substack publishing model, which may entail turning down potentially lucrative projects, including full-time employment. Our aim is that the funding, resources, and coaching helps reduce the feeling of risk from taking a bold step and enables a writer to have the time, space, and support to establish a full-time income stream from their publication that sustains them for years to come.

Who chooses the fellows?

The Substack team, in collaboration with three external judges – Bill Bishop, Danyel Smith, and Emily Oster – will select the five fellows.

I’m interested in applying, but I’m not sure if I should apply to be a fellow or senior fellow. What do you recommend?

The fellow position is a great fit for a writer who is committed to the subscription publishing model and would like to make Substack publication their primary focus, with revenue from Substack quickly becoming their main source of income. The ideal candidate aims to establish a consistent publishing schedule for their publication, posting one to four times per week or building towards a similar cadence, plus (eventually, if not already) charging for monthly/annual subscriptions. The fellowship’s upfront capital in the form of a $25,000 advance, and the coaching/resources from Substack and external experts, is designed to support a writer as they invest in their publication. 

The senior fellow position is designed for the writer who is ready to launch an independent writing career on Substack and is poised for exceptional success. This position may be best suited to the writer who is considering leaving their job to go fully independent but who may otherwise have hesitations because of the financial uncertainty involved. The ideal candidate will be excited to publish on Substack with a weekly cadence, charge for subscriptions, and create a community around their work.

If you’re not certain you want to charge for subscriptions or you’re not yet ready to make Substack more of your primary place for writing, this fellowship may not be the best fit for you. 

Who is eligible to apply?

Any writer on Substack anywhere in the world, including writers who have just signed up with a plan to get started, writers who have been writing free publications on Substack, and writers who have paid publications on Substack.

If you’re not certain you want to charge for subscriptions or you’re not yet ready to make Substack more of your primary place for writing, this fellowship may not be the best fit for you. 

What timespan does the fellowship cover?

The fellowship includes a virtual program that will take place over two weeks in August, beginning Monday, August 3, and ending on Friday, August 14. The sessions will be held on weekdays for up to three hours each day between 9 am - 3 pm Pacific Time. Sessions will be a mixture of group video calls and 1:1 phone and video calls.

How many fellows are there?

Five in total. There will be four fellows and one senior fellow.

What is the deadline for applications?

The final deadline for applying is Tuesday, July 14 at 5 pm Pacific Time.

When will the fellows be announced?

We’ll announce the five fellows on Tuesday, July 28.

What material will you share about each fellow?

If you become a Substack fellow, your name and Substack publication will be published on our website and blog.

I have a question about applying for the fellowship. How can I get in touch?

Please note that if your application has been submitted successfully, we’ve received it. We cannot comment on the status of specific applications. Please expect a follow-up email by Sunday, July 26 letting you know whether you received the fellowship.

For all other inquiries, please reach out to us at fellowship@substackinc.com. Due to volume, we may be slow to respond, but we’ll try to get back to you as soon as we can.