You probably want maximum impact for your Substack newsletter launch—it’s your best opportunity to get early paying subscribers. We’ve seen a few newsletters launch really successfully, so we thought we’d share the things they get consistently get right, in four easy steps.
1. Set up the basics
In the setup phase, you should come up with a good name, a snappy one-liner that generally describes your publication, and a logo that looks good in the small format (and as a favicon). Here are some logos we love:
Then, you should write a detailed About page (you can edit it via your dashboard) that explains why people should pay to become a subscriber to your newsletter, what they can expect, and how frequently you’ll be publishing. Show some examples of your top posts, and include testimonials (preferably in the form of embedded tweets).
You should also publish a Coming Soon post that tells anyone who visits your site that your newsletter is coming soon and will be awesome and they should become a subscriber now at a special price that’s available for a limited time. NB: You deliver this special price to them via a coupon, available via the buttons in your editor’s toolbar.
Here’s how Daniel Mallory Ortberg managed the transition with The Shatner Chatner:
2. Prepare to publish
If you have an existing newsletter on a different service (for example, Tinyletter or MailChimp), you should send a final letter through that service to tell readers that you’re switching to Substack. Tell them that you are going to start charging for subscriptions but they will still receive free updates even if they’re not subscribers. Be clear that you are asking them to pay. What you write is valuable, and it’s okay to ask.
Remember, it’s a good idea to tell those existing subscribers that they can become subscribers for a special price for a limited time via your coupon. Give them a deadline.
Then, you should import your mailing list to Substack via your publisher dashboard. It only takes a few seconds. This list is hugely important, because it will deliver your first subscribers. (Note: there’s a limit of 25k emails per import, so please contact us if you’d like to import more than that.)
3. Start publishing with Substack
When you’re ready to launch, send out your first newsletter and make it free to everyone. You can do that by selecting “Everyone” after hitting Publish. In that letter, you should welcome everyone to Substack and remind them that they can become paying subscribers (for a special price before a certain date). If they’re not paying subscribers, they can sign up to receive occasional free updates via the sign-up box at the top of your site: yournewsletter.substack.com.
Say that you will soon send out a subscribers-only newsletter. Then, no more than a week later, publish that newsletter. That way, you show your paying subscribers that they’re getting special access, and you also show people on the free updates list that they’re missing out on some enticing content.
4. Tell everyone
As soon as you’ve published your first newsletter, tell everyone you know! (Or at least the people who won’t hate you for doing so.)
Send a personal email to people in your contacts list telling them that you’ve just launched a newsletter and you hope they’ll check it out.
Post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat that you’ve started a newsletter that people simply must read.
Spread the word in the communities relevant to your newsletter by posting to Reddit, getting on podcasts, guest-posting on blogs, doing interviews, speaking at events, or whatever else you can do to get attention. Ask your readers to forward the email to friends, family members, pets, and all those pets’ family members. Keep doing this forever.
It’s unusual for a newsletter to immediately find a large audience. If it takes a while to get those first few subscribers, don’t be discouraged. The surest way to attract a large audience is to consistently publish quality content on a regular schedule. It’s hard work, but delivering on those things is what separates the great writers from the rest.
Good luck, go well, and pop into the Slack group for Substack publishers to ask questions, keep track of the latest Substack developments, and talk to your newsletter peers. Thank you for publishing with Substack!
Any further questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org