Video: Substack writers talk about the current climate

We brought four Substack writers — Polina, Henry, Judy, and Clara — together for a conversation about writing and making money in the current climate.

About the writers

  • Polina Marinova (The Profile), who recently left her job in the midst of a pandemic to go full-time on her publication

  • Henry Abbott and Judy Goodwin (TrueHoop), who switched up their editorial and pricing after the NBA suspended basketball season

  • Clara Parkes (The Daily Respite)who recently started a paid newsletter to provide "a brief interval of relief" to our inboxes every day

Topics covered

  • 9:58: Introductions, backstory of each writer, and why their perspective is valuable in the current climate

  • 19:24: How to adapt — or not adapt — what you’re writing about

  • 29:50: What to do with your old ideas; experimenting with new publishing formats

  • 39:33: How to think about pricing; pausing subscriptions; asking readers to support you

  • 51:10: Managing reader relationships in uncertain economic times

  • 56:37: The value of subscription revenue models

  • 1:03:29: Advice for other Substack writers

Highlights from our conversation

Polina on why it’s okay to lean into the times (20:00):

Last week I interviewed seven different small business owners on [the shutdown]. Those resonated with a lot of people, because you got to hear from the people who are dealing with this in the current moment. Yes, it’s about what’s going on right now, but it’s a snapshot in time.

My instinct is: do journalism. This is a monumental time that we’re probably never going to experience again in our lifetimes. Documenting history is what I do.

Henry on experimenting with new formats (33:38):

This feels like gardening: let’s see what grows! We’re planting a bunch of stuff, it won’t all come up, but some of it will. We’re just quickly pivoting to whatever has green shoots.

Judy on the importance of connecting with your readers (1:03:38):

The newsletter format is an opportunity to be intimate with your readers. We use [our data] to be in touch with our readers, knowing what to encourage and communicating with them. Making them feel a personal connection is a really big deal.

Clara on adding paid subscriptions (18:28):

The first week was…just working out the kinks. People started writing in pretty quickly, saying, “How can we support you?” I was going to give it a month, but I did paid the next week, presenting it from the standpoint of, “You asked how you could help.” People want to express their gratitude.