Have questions about publishing, growing, or going paid on Substack?
The Substack team, and your fellow writers, are here to help!
We’re gathering the writer community and members of the Substack team together in this discussion thread to answer writer questions for an hour. Drop your questions in the thread by leaving a comment, and we’ll do our best to share knowledge and tips.
Our team will be answering questions and sharing insights with you in the thread today from 10 a.m.–11 a.m. PST / 1 p.m.–2 p.m. EST. We encourage writers to stick around after the hour and continue the conversation together.
Some updates and reminders from the Substack team:
Welcome blurbs: We launched a new way to surface and highlight the great recommendations you are receiving: adding blurbs to your welcome page. Set up blurbs in your recommendations settings to let new visitors know how much other readers love your work.
Product updates: In case you missed it, Substack also rolled out polls, a new recommendations email digest, paid podcast art, and more. How are you planning to use these new features?
Poll of the week:
Analytics can help you understand how your Substack is growing and where to focus your efforts. Learn more about the your Substack dashboard metrics.
Our team is curious to learn more about how you are using Substack analytics today and which analytics help you grow a deeper understanding of your audience. Let us know in the comments!
Leave a comment
Have general questions about Substack or feedback on what’s new? You’re in the right place! Leave a comment in this thread.
Next week we are taking a break from Office Hours. But we’ll be back the following week, on August 4, for our monthly Shoutout Thread. You will have the chance to share what you’ve been reading and inspired by recently on Substack plus meet fellow writers. Save it to your calendar so you don’t miss it.
Roll call: Who's added welcome blurbs to their homepage?
Bonus points: What memorable welcome blurbs have you come across on other publications?
Tell us more about the analytics you use more regularly! How do you use them? What other analytics do you wish you had access to and how would they help you?
Lots happening in today's thread. Thanks for weighing in on analytics, we are listening as we think about what tools to build next.
Next week we are taking a break from Office Hours but we will be back the first Thursday in August for our monthly shoutout thread. We hope to see you there: https://lu.ma/shoutout
In the meantime, our resources are here for you.
The Substack Team
Katie, Jasmine, Mills, Amanda, Zoe, Tania, Roberto, Sergey, Helen, and Farrah
For those looking at subscriber counts, just keep writing. Because of my Substack, one of my readers reached out to me for a guest post on a blog that is attached to one of the most prestigious universities on the planet. Thanks Substack!
I wish when Substack users subscribed to my newsletter, they appeared as their username in my analytics so that I could check out their profile and subscribe to theirs.
Just a note to everyone who's too shy to self-promote on social media: you needn't be. It felt awkward the first couple of weeks, but now sharing stuff on LinkedIn/Twitter became pretty organic (and I do share other stuff as well, so it's not an endless stream of self-promotion). People who don't care about your newsletter will just ignore the posts (like we ignore most of our news feeds anyway), but you'll get exposed to new people with every post.
I liked someone's advice to share snippets from the newsletter rather than just the link. You could write up some catchy bullet points. Or ask a question/run a poll.
Good luck to everyone and thanks to everyone sharing their experiences, makes it easier for me to move forward!
My tip for today: anchor links.
In your published post, hover over any header; a link icon appears.
Click it and it'll copy the URL to jump directly to that header on the post page.
Edit your post to add the links.
Feel free to ask me any questions.
Hello all, I launched 8 hrs ago. I plan to initially focus on covering a niche topic (our sense of self) but hope to look at it through art, science, religion and other lenses. Hope to learn from all of you and explore this amazing space. Look forward to collaborations and suggestions from all of you. Thanks Substack.
This weekend, I'll be heading to the local coffee shops to distribute a physical manifestation of my Substack blog. I took three representative articles and printed them in zine form; included is a QR code so people can read more online if they desire. So . . .wish me luck! You can see some pictures of the finished product here: https://twitter.com/william_collen/status/1548286398251159556?s=20&t=1nAO6ffx-EsJnsJQoO0yRg
The blurbs is the feature I adore. One year into writing on this platform and I have started receiving constant engagement with some really encouraging feedback. The Blurbs feature will help me utilise the potential of recommendations and feedback to actively lure new audience. Thank you Substack for both recommendations and blurb features. 🎉🎉
Hi all! How is your week going? This week I asked my followers to share what kind of conditions they require in order to feel renewed. What nourishment and environment they need to be refreshed. So I thought it might be interesting to present that same idea here, Substack Writers Edition: what renews, refreshes, and inspires you as a writer and creator? I'm curious, and I'm sure others are too! 🌿
How many of you use notebooks and journals to plan out your newsletters and content? It's part of my workflow, combining bullet journaling with other types of notebooks. See the link for more info! https://howaboutthis.substack.com/p/the-notebook-expo
Substack I find it odd that my most supportive subscribers (those who tweet, comment, share, and engage) are free while my paid subscribers have never once engaged. Interested to hear thoughts on this.
Added three blurbs to my home page because I loved each of them, but now I'm wondering if it feels cluttered to have all three. It would be cool if there was an option to "pick 3 but display 1 at a time" and they could cycle randomly. Just a thought!
My forthcoming novel is scheduled for before Christmas. I have a list of 223 podcasts and YouTube channels that I've either appeared on before, know me, or cover similar material to my content. I will put together an individual email for all of them - addressed by name (the stats are in on this, personalized emails get way more opens) and talking to them about their show - with details - so they know it's not just a bulk send and they're being cold-called. Link them to some media about you, and your Substack or other material, and simply tell them you're looking to promote it and would love to come on as a guest for a chat. Many podcasters and YouTubers are desperate for interesting guests and if you can sell yourself and your product to them (and you are a salesperson) you'll get some leads. And once you've been on a few, you can make a little show-reel of your best bits to include in the emails you send to more people. If no one knows you exist - guess what - no one's going to find you. Good luck.
I love the idea of using a paywall in my free posts to block off subscriber-only content at the end of the issue. My free readers like to comment and get frustrated when they can't - and when I add a paywall it no longer allows free readers to comment. The interaction is important to me and I want to utilize paywalls in the best way possible. Will there be a functionality in the future for free readers to comment on posts with a paywall?
Can you share a 3-6 month plan to go from a couple hundred readers to >1K? Just a starting point for new, committed writers.
What milestones should we aim for? What practices are best/highest-leverage?
Just a note of encouragement for others. I've been making slow, but steady, progress since I started in February. I've had a few posts do well, others not so much. This week I took a risk and wrote something with more of an edge and promoted it in a few places, and it's been viewed more than 4,500 times in three days and added more than 60 free subscribers. I'm a little wary of this -- I don't want to write something quite this angsty every week -- but we'll see how many readers stick with me. For now, I want to second what others have said. I thought Substack would just be another echo chamber, like the rest of social media. What I've found is that it is actually a genuine source of community. There is room for principled disagreement and real conversation, but more importantly for SUBSTANCE. It is such a delight to know there are readers who want to really dig into ideas with me. Thanks.
I have 2 questions I've been holding on to until Office Hours today:
1. How are we all using the "sections" feature? Is that like our version of creating categories for our main Newsletter? I'd love to look at some publications who use it!
2. Do people who write more "personal essay"-type newsletters, or newsletters that talk about multiple topics, find they get much engagement or paid subscribers?
I'm REALLY trying to break my habit of thinking I need to stick to one thing cause (cause I wanna write about what's on my mind and share food recipes and such!) that's all I've been told in online marketing over the past 7 years... But it feels hard to break that narrative when I SEEM to only see people who can write about many things, be people who may have been writing and editing professionally for a long time, are in New York, etc. (like Maybe Baby, and such).
Re: analytics, I like to check my subscriber chart every week. Seeing a steady growth trajectory from 0-600 in just over half a year reminds me that folks really are enjoying my content, and to keep at it even when the going gets rough.
In other news, I'm thinking of blending my free and paid content into one weekly newsletter, with free content on top and paid content below the fold. Has anyone else tried this? I'm hoping this will make creating all that content more manageable.
I'm also wondering what has worked for others when converting free subscribers to paid ones. Curious to hear your thoughts!
I have a question about the stats on readers; does Substack have plans to offer more data on readers outside of the current ratings? As the network starts to get stronger, I would love to see more data about reading habits, open times, etc. Optimizing timing around publishing is an obvious win for most writers, and substack has this data available in theory...
Has Substack considered adding links to follow people on social media on home pages or next to authors' bylines? That might be a good way to get people finding each other outside of Substack!
For those who are just starting out and not seeing any growth, just keep at it.
I was in the same position as you a few months ago. My newsletter is still small, but I’m seeing spikes in growth after months of little to no change.
To put it in perspective, I gained around 50 subscribers over an 8 month period.
In the 1.5 months since then, I’ve gained around 40.
Keep up with the consistency!
Regarding Analytics: The fact that this is a poll question on "Writer's Hours" is a step in another way to get your newsletter discovered.
I look forward to Substack and Google working together in harmony. That would truly set Substack way ahead of any competition, as the SEO part of Substack was missing and an afterthought. I have hooked up Google Search Console to my Substack, and to delve deeper I use all the Substack tools available on the platform (as listed in the poll).
I appreciate Substack and the connections it has helped me to make. Thanks Katie and all!
Has anyone used a graphic designer recently to create a Substack logo whom they can recommend? Many Thanks, Luke
Just want to toss an offer of creative support out there... I love creating collage-style images (see example at my site). If you would like an image created for one of your posts for free, please reach out. Maybe I can create something for you that makes a splash.
First person to say yes gets the offer.
Hi all - I write about self-love, spirituality, personal growth - it's a newsletter for creatives looking inward. Also some writing stuff. I'd love to connect with a few folks to do cross promotion shoutouts, recommendations, etc. If you write something similar, please feel free to get in touch. There have to be a ton of us out there.
Hi Team! Last week someone expressed frustration with the interruptions in life that has been preventing them from writing.
Someone replied, “Welcome to the club,” and I thought “Amen!”
At the time, my own busy life was interfering with my writing life, but that plaintive cry nagged at me all week, so I thought I might recycle that and ask “the Club” for input on how they handle that issue in their own busy lives.
I have run across some ideas, some of which I have never been able to implement and others that have not worked for me.
One idea that I *could* implement, if I had the discipline of my Little Big Sister, I would get up an hour earlier than I usually do and dedicate that to writing.
Years ago, I read that when the “thriller” writer John Grisham worked as an attorney, he sat in his car with a legal tablet and wrote for an hour, before going into work.
Regarding interruptions I have made it clear to my family “Do not call me on Thursday mornings unless it involves smoke or blood or ‘suicidal ideation.’” Today is the third Thursday in a row that life stressors (today, *three* of them just discovered that their boss went bankrupt, owing them money) have intervened. Since they *all* owe me money, the suicidal ideation is running rampant.
Dismissing that idea as impractical (I don’t own a gun or possess any lethal medications. I don’t have a gas stove. Death by defenestration requires more elevation than any of my windows provide).
So, the solution is that everyone takes advantage of the tight job market and gets another job. Any job. One of them is going to take a large cut in pay, but the other two will find something in the same pay range. For the one, any wage is a big step up from zero and will be useful to easing the pressure. For me, I have been hanging onto the dregs of a once useful IRA (paying *me* interest) because I didn’t know *what* was going to go wrong, just that *something* will. Looks like our lucky day has arrived.
More “grist for the writer’s mill.”
One thing I do for stress relief is write. I just did. Now, on to finishing three pieces I have started for three Writer’s Hour teammates…
Does Substack have a handy dandy way of downloading one's archive?
Hi Office Hours,
What I would like to see someone do a YouTube on is creating a very basic paid newsletter from start to first paid post. Maybe this has been done, but I haven't seen it. Correct me if I'm wrong.
A lot of the "help" pages and videos I've seen I think implicitly assume a certain basic level of knowledge about blog and newsletter sites (aimed, I guess, at professional writers).
My proposed Substack is "This is Make It Stop!, a newsletter about Technical Solutions for Complete Idiots (Like Me :)".
That might actually be a good subject for a first post.
Seriously you all, explain Substack like you're talking to a five year old. Promise my feelings won't get hurt 😄
Fellow writers, for those of you who have overcome the plateau of subscription growth, how do you do it as a beginner (<1 yr writing on Substack)? Any tips on expanding subscribers beyond your immediate circle?
I am paddling the Mississippi River, the largest river in North America, in a canoe. Solo. It's 2,340 miles long from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. You can follow along with my day-to-day adventures and discoveries, hardships and victories right here: canoerambler.substack.com
Any thoughts on how to spread the word on a travel log style newsletter? Thanks!
I'm loving the new features. Am wondering if these 2 features are anywhere on the pipeline: in line images as in a magazine. And cropping images within the substack editor. Thanks!
Product question for the Substack team: If I send a post to paying subs first, but set a date for it to be unlocked for free subs, will the free subs receive an email? Or is it just "unlocked" if they visit my SS homepage?
Also looking for anyone involved in parenting/education who is willing to be interviewed for my series "Education Explored". Especially interested in keeping it in the substack sphere, if you or anyone you know would be up for a chat about kids+learning. Thank you!
Maybe there is already a way to see which subscribers write their own Substacks, but I can't figure it out now! This would be a really nice tool.
The special tool for blurbs sounds like a great idea, and I'll add at least one today!
I'm just starting. How many use photos with each post? Does it help attract readers? What sources do you use for photos? Thanks.
I updated my About Page today to bring clarity to my offering and hopefully show a bit of my personality. I also wanted to clearly state what I offer, who my newsletter is for, what others say about my work and offer a bit more about me and my qualifications.
I am concerned it might be too much but I'm going with it...
I definitely appreciate any and all comments or suggestions if you have a chance to take a peak. https://myfreshattitude.substack.com/about
I use Individual Post Stats and Subscriber Growth Stats equally.
I like to keep an eye on how well each of my posts are doing to understand if there are any large up- or down-ticks in everything I publish. Subscriber growth remains a very important metric for me (I'm definitely in growth mode)!
I'm really excited about the possibilities with the recommendation blurbs but I have to get people to recommend me first ;-) We're pretty excited about the progress we've made at liththinkpodcast.substack.com this week with subscribers. I got brave and made a request in a teacher group on FB. Other than that, just trying to balance life and writing!
I think my writing is progressing. I could do with a holiday.
Not using any - need to understand potential of Substack as I am new here and need help growing audience.
Any suggestions on how to get more subscribers/readers? Started on Substack a bit more than a year ago, have about 100 subscribers, but how can I take it to the next level (here is the link to my page: https://kidscanbepoets.substack.com. Thanks! 😁
I am only in my third week of Substack writing, and I have a list of facebook friends to whom I am sending emails about my page to. But getting free subscribers is going a bit slow, or maybe I am just impatient lol! Anyway, I am looking for any ideas that might improve my progress that will lead to paid subscribers when the time comes! Thanks guys!!
Question: Can someone offer me assistance in how to set up the feature within a post that says "Read more?" For example, I received a newsletter I subscribed to and when reading on a phone or tablet it gives the first two paragraphs, then says "Read more." When clicking "Read more" it then takes the reader to the website with the full article.
I am sure I am losing readers engagement when sending my weekly newsletter as it posts the full article in the email. I am sure people are bailing out after the first paragraph or two as it usually about 1,000 words.
If this makes sense, thank you in advance for your help.
I know I'm late but I want to toss out something for the @ substack crew. In yesterday's On Substack about product news somebody mentioned the subscribe "pop up" that's being experimented with. Please, please, please do away with this. The thing I love most about Substack (as a reader) is the clean, ad-free, pop-up free interface. In my opinion, preserving that is a key differentiator for the platform.
Just a general shout out of appreciation to everyone! I really look forward to this time of week to connect with you all, I always learn a ton of new things! Please drop by and say hi if you're so inclined https://howaboutthis.substack.com
I'd really love to see a way to create links to headers from the editor. My newsletter is quite long, so I'd appreciate a better way to structure and navigate posts.
Substack, I have seen a steady drop in opens in the past two weeks (after some record setting issues) even though subscriber count is going up, any reasoning for this?