135 Comments

Honestly, I think writers could use two more options: Bundling subscriptions and a "donate" button.

In bundling, a reader could pre-load their Substack account with $50, for example, and pay either for individual posts or to support/subscribe to up to 10 newsletters of their choosing. This way the writers of the newsletters get some monetary support, and the readers can have access to the full Substack catalog for one low price.

An additional option is the "donate" button on all posts, so that readers can easily just pay per post.

While we're here, a better discovery system, like a "Hacker News" style front page that has text links of all the recent individual posts being published on Substack, plus a tag system per post so that readers can search Substack based on a category or topic, e.g. "humor" "comic strip" "movie recommendations" "life hacks" etc.—would also help.

Expand full comment

This is the kind of posts I really want to continue to see from Substack - good job!

Going to think hard about how I can apply this to my own newsletter.

Expand full comment

Perfect timing - I turned on the paywall less than 24 hours ago and I'm now working through my promotion strategy...

Expand full comment

I'm not sure if this would be the proper place to ask, but given people's current financial circumstances many of my readers wanted to find ways of support that doesn't go all in on the monthly/annual subscriptions.

A few were wondering if Substack may consider an a la carte approach, such that readers can pick and choose articles that they really enjoy and support based on those articles. For example, if a writer makes a post that a reader finds outstanding they can click on a button and throw a dollar or two (or even more) to the writer based on that article alone.

I think given more people are having tighter wallets, and that many people are becoming overwhelmed by the number of writers while also having very little time having the ability to select to pay for what you read may be an interesting feature.

Just something I've noticed some readers have asked and wanted to give some perspective.

Expand full comment

This was a great post, and very informative. If you would like a breakdown from someone in the fiction community that has shared some details on their own adventures in free vs. paid subscriptions, check out https://fictionistas.substack.com/p/how-i-can-make-a-living-from-my-newsletter by Elle Griffin, who writes The Novellist (https://ellegriffin.substack.com/).

Something I would like to point out, which may not be obvious in the article, is one approach that doesn't work for gaining subscriptions, and that's highlighting personal financial hardship. I've never once seen it work long term outside of systems built for it, like GoFundMe. Your paid Substack is primarily about value. What value do you bring into people's lives that is worth paying for, and that may only be the value of supporting someone you want to see succeed. However, in the case where it's presented as, "I can't eat unless you support me," it's not often received well. Instead, I would encourage authors to say, "This is my full-time job, and I'm working hard at it to provide you with X value and would appreciate your support." They both say the same thing, but in two different ways. Subscribers will either see that value or they won't.

Expand full comment

I’m just starting out. Doubtful I’ll ever go to paid. Meanwhile I’m having a blast here.

Expand full comment

Using a “NPR Paid Member Supporter” model featuring an abundance of world class articles about books that fascinate the reader has worked out fabulously well for me. Kudos to Substack for making this all possible. 🎈🙌

Expand full comment

This is perfect timing for me! I just started last month and have been using a combination of free blogs and paid masterclasses. I'm hoping to convert some of my social media following over to substack. If anyone has any tips on working on mindset around asking for money, let me know 😊

Expand full comment
Oct 8, 2022·edited Oct 8, 2022

I appreciate this post but wish authors had more flexibility in setting subscription prices. I’d like to start charging, but a minimum of $5/month is just too high for some of my readers. I hope to move there in a year or two, but I can’t in the beginning. Is there any way Substack could allow writers to set a lower minimum subscription fee, at least for the first year?

My Substack is two years old, and I love the platform. I just wish I had more pricing flexibility.

Expand full comment

It is very important to be extremely clear with what people get from a paid vs. free subscription. Otherwise, you'll have potential dissatisfaction among those who pay. It is also important to realize that when you initially turn on the paywall, you are likely to get a number of people who are your most loyal readers who have been following your work for a long time. That initial batch of paid subscribers might have different expectations than people who pay months later. As a result, your paid subscriber constituency could shift from a "fan" constituency to one that demands more exclusive content over time.

When I first turned on the paywall, my message was not very clear but a number of people who had followed my work for a long time signed up anyway. Soon, it became clear that to get additional subscribers I would have to create a much more clear delineation between free and paid content which I did. Prior to figuring this out, my paid subscriber count had plateaued which was quite frustrating. I am still not where I need to be to make the economics work, but six months into this experiment I see positive trends. My conversion rate from free to paid has increased and my free count has also increased. Much of it driven by an increasing follower count on twitter. Bottom line is that experimentation with the message and value proposition is part of the process.

Expand full comment

This is extremely timely and helpful. After my SUBtember experiment I have been retooling my newsletter and this is EXACTLY the kind of resource I need! Thank you!

Expand full comment

As a new writer I’m really focused on getting my articles as valuable as possible for the reader- without much thought to how or when I’ll start monetizing. I’m not sure what’s resonating just yet as the subscribers grow, but once I believe I’m serving a niche I can confidently move forward with a subscription model. Anyone feel the same?

Expand full comment

We have been debating this for some time. This post is MOST helpful to orientate the discussion. I personally think we have to define one strategy and stick to it. The difficult bit is which strategy to choose.

Thanks, Tom

Expand full comment

Substack should offer a general subscription service for writers to submit/option their work into for the public who aren’t particularly keen on subscribing to individuals. Revenue can simply be a percentage.

Expand full comment

Another thorough and useful post. Many thanks!

Expand full comment

Great post! thank you for sharing.

Expand full comment