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. PDT / 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. EDT. We encourage writers to stick around after the hour and continue the conversation together.
Some updates and reminders from the Substack team:
New chart on the Stats page: The Paid Subscribers Growth chart helps you identify patterns in new paid subscribers, upgrades from free to paid, downgrades from paid, and expirations.
Product updates: Across mediums on Substack, you now can share a free preview and tease paid posts, podcasts and videos to free subscribers and new readers. This is a powerful tool to give curious readers a taste of what’s behind the paywall.
In case you missed it: This week we published a guide for Instagrammers getting started on Substack and a new Grow interview with Jørgen Veisdal about how he’s making the post of evergreen posts as part of his paid strategy.
Poll of the week:
In our Grow interview series, we often ask writers what was going on in their life when they started a Substack. These stories often feel serendipitous: a writer was going through a career transition and read an article that introduced them to Substack or a friend nudged them when they had a big idea on their mind but they weren’t sure where to share it. Tell us:
In the comments, we’d love to hear the full story!
Got questions about Substack or feedback about what’s new? You’re in the right place! Leave a comment in this thread.Next Thursday, we’ll take a break from Office Hours to hold our monthly Shoutout Thread. Come ready to share what you’ve been reading and inspired by recently on Substack. Save it to your calendar so you don’t miss it.
What was going on in your life when you got started on Substack? We'd love to hear the story.
Thank you all for joining today and sharing your stories! Today is our 50th (!!) Office Hours. I just went back to the first thread (https://on.substack.com/p/office-hours-1/comments) and it's so cool to see some of the writers who joined us that first time over a year ago here in the thread today, Jolene, Annette, Geoffery, and Sarah to name a few.
I appreciate you generously showing up to Office Hours, it has become a highlight of my week.
See you next week for more celebration at Shoutout Thread!
Katie, Bailey, Chris, Reid, John, Quinn, Tian, Michelle, Andew, and Sam
What have you learned about using the free preview paywalls? Anyone give the new audio paywall a spin yet?
Hello writers! Once again, here is a little bit of encouragement from one small newsletter to all of you: I believe that there's room for every single writer at the table, and that the best thing that writers can do is lift one another up. So tell us: how are you feeling about your journey as a writer this week? Share with us! See someone struggling? Reach out with some love! Let's show each other that we're not alone in this up-and-down writing adventure. And thanks to each of YOU for encouraging me every week simply by the way you engage here! I appreciate you all more than I could ever express. 🌿
I’d like to see stats that exclude visits by myself.
Not going to be able to make it to Office Hours today, but want to shoutout all the amazing people here -- keep doing what you're doing. The world needs your creativity (and your newsletter)!
Thanks to the Substack team for the awesome Download: Conversion event yesterday, for the new tools, and for all the hard work you all do in cultivating this community -- it's one of my favorite parts of being a Substacker 😉
Hi folks! I'm not the first to suggest this in these threads, but...
*Disable your "reader just unsubscribed" notifications.*
I know this is super-hard. I mean, it took me a good six months of running my newsletter before I built up the courage to do it. It's just HARD.
But every time an unsubscribe comes in, it's like a paper-cut on your soul. It hurts, and that hurt can happen at any time, including when you're really happy and in a good mood and feeling right in the zone and your writing is flowing - and suddenly there it is in your Inbox: a tiny reminder that someone read your stuff, and thought "Nah, I'm out." It's crushing. It never, ever gets easier.
And since it never gets easier, why allow it to strike at any time, with the ability to completely derail any point of your day? Why not *manage* that pain?
Do it by disabling those emails. Take away their power over you.
(Also, if you get to the point where your audience is big enough that you get a tiny flood of unsubscribes *every time you publish something*, which is absolutely normal for everyone beyond a certain list size, and you still haven't disabled unsubscribe emails? You'd have to be an absolute stone not to feel All The Bad Things - and that'll make it even harder to keep writing!)
Waiting for the Android app !!!! :)
Greetings friends! I hope we're all doing well today!
My question is for my fellow Substackers: how many of you publish interviews in your newsletters? Do you find them to be a good way to attract readers and subscribers? Or are they distracting from your other articles, essays, etc?
I'm writing this from the perspective as a relatively new Substacker (almost four months under my belt) and I publish a lot of interviews (2 - 4 week, depending on the week). I get a lot of good feedback on them but I'd like to also build up the profile of my own writing because I think that's what I want to be known for long term.
So... what say you? Any thoughts?
Keep on powering on!
My newsletter grew out of my facebook account. For years, I'd write slice of life humor stories and share them on facebook. That platforming was always unsatisfying because my stories are much more likely to make you laugh than spark outrage, so there really wasn't much growth there. But even worse, I'd constantly hear from friends that they missed certain stories because the facebook algo didn't surface them.
About three years ago, I made the switch to email. I think I went with Tiny Letter first. It was a good product, but it wasn't being supported by its parent company, so things would break, and there wasn't really a community of writers to lean on and share information with. Then I went with Mailchimp for a hot minute, but I found that tool really hard to set up, and a lot of the features just weren't designed with editorial needs in mind (better for marketers, I think). Basically, it was overkill.
Eventually, my research led me to Substack. What hooked me right away was how easy it was to set up and start writing. I'm a big believer in a rolling start, meaning that I want to get stories up and out to the world while I figure out and tweak the newsletter as I go. Basically, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good is the philosophy there. Anyway, Substack was great on that front, but it also offered something I couldn't find with other newsletter tools -- growth! I started on here with about 100 subscribers (mostly friends and a few fans I had picked up along the way). As of this writing, I'm closing on 1,000 subscribers! That growth has been HUGE for me, and it's a big reason why I prefer Substack over the alternatives.
Honest question. I’m exploding on TikTok right now. A recent music video has 20M views and the sound has become a trend with 20k videos created using the sound. I have 1.8M followers on that app and an urgent desire to harness the energy toward my Substack… But they’re such different worlds. (20 second videos vs. 1500 words) I know letting go of the urgency is first, but besides that, What would you do?
I ❤️Substack. :) Hal
Was there something that almost prevented you from starting a Substack? What was it?
For those of you who answered "I was subscribed to a Substack" -- which one? I'd love to hear the story of your decision.
So, I learned about Substack from my wife, whose best friend is Virginia Sole-Smith, author of a very successful Substack newsletter, Burnt Toast. I had recently resigned a tenured faculty position and was trying to redefine myself as an independent writer, and I was flailing in the void of literary magazines, which typically take 6 months or more to respond to submissions, pay nothing, and almost never involve any sense of community.
My wife pointed out that Substack is a place to build community, that people do turn it into a paying gig, and that engagement is part of what readers expect from the writers they follow. Initially I worried that Substack would be too much like social media: an echo chamber that turns into a popularity contest. I'm not very good at social media, don't really know how to draw followers, and hate the crass strategies that people use on Twitter, like writer's lifts and following someone only so they'll follow you back. So I ran through all of these reasons and kept suffering in my isolation. While reading Bruce Feiler's Life Is in the Transitions, where he shows that people who develop new rituals directly tied to a major life transition navigate those lifequakes more successfully, I finally realized that a Substack could be just such a ritual for me. Hence, "The Recovering Academic" was born.
I'm not sure that I want to spend years writing about academe or my transition away from it, but I'm close to 700 followers now after launching in late March. I can see that writing honestly about my struggle has been useful to others, and I've recently started gathering some feedback from readers via a Google Form about the kinds of additional features they might find useful. It seems that most of my subscribers would enjoy a podcast featuring others who have left academe or found ways to stay and a discussion thread where they might interact with other recovering academics. Those are two things that I could see justifying a paid subscription, and I believe that if I hit 1,000 followers, I can reasonably expect to convert 80-100 folks to paid.
This is a long post, but I suppose if I have a question now, it is mainly about how to make the paid launch most successful. I've read a little bit about it, but any tips from those of you who have already done that (either mistakes you made that I can avoid, or things that really worked well for you) would be much appreciated!
We had a really great thread going last week about putting together a community of travel/culture/personal essay-type writers—I am working on getting us dedicated channels within the Substack Writers Unite Discord, so watch this space! Link to the Discord server: https://discord.com/invite/q9S4feaDVz
Even if it doesn’t end being the ideal long-term solution, this will at least give us a place to organize while we figure out what works for us. Looking forward to seeing you there when the channels are up and running!
When I started on Substack I’d moved to a 1927 kitchen and now I’ve moved again to a 1969 kitchen, my ‘Time Travel Kitchens’. Writing over the past 18 months has been a very bright spot during my Mother’s illness, passing and now my grieving process. So grateful to have this place to write about food and life.
I started my Substack back in Mar 2022 as a way to publish chapters of my half-written book from last year on "How To Start". I thought rather than let them collect virtual dust in my Google Drive I'd hit publish to get back into the habit of writing 1,000 words a week.
Now, some 5 months later I'm thinking about how I can take the words I write on a weekly basis and reverse engineer them back into a book down the line. On 383 free and 5 paid subs now. Been quite the journey, but have been blown away by the Substack team's support and the community love.
Onwards, one post at a time.
After a good chat with a couple of writers here last week - who's familiar with the 1000 true fans model?
I learned about Substack in the pandemic from a news story and since then, it has changed my life. It can change your life too, if you stick with it!
Substack, we need a better way to track readers activity and opens. I have 5 star readers who are free and paid subscribers with few opens and no stars. I know it depends on a variety of factors but this could really help.
It’s two weeks until my Substack 1-Year Anniversary, how would you celebrate this and why?
Substack has enabled me to start my own publishing company. It’s been a blast!! Glad to be here.
I liked Jørgen Veisdal's idea for making the newsletter free but charging for archives. Is there a feature to automatically change a post from free to subscribe?
I'm changing careers and I needed to produce some content to demonstrate my knowledge to prospective employers. I had used another platform back when blogging was new and really enjoyed it. My 23 y.o. son told me that substack was the new hip-cool platform.
Hi Substack team! I know this is off topic, but I have what I hope is a simple (and fun!) feature request. Is it possible for Substack to support GIFs in the comments? I use GIFs in all my posts and that's encouraged some of my readers to leave GIFs in the comments. Unfortunately, in the comments all you see is a link to the GIFs, as opposed to the actual GIF. I'd really to see this because I think it helps drive conversation and community since some readers prefer to communicate with GIFs and emojis, as opposed to leaving written comments. Any way we can make this happen, Substack?
Funnily enough, I was actually trying to convince my husband to start a Substack. He's a virologist and, with the pandemic still raging, I thought people would benefit from his informed take on recent trends, research, etc. I kept bothering him about it until he finally said, "I'm not interested, but why don't YOU start a Substack since it seems so important to you!" So I did! ☺️
I'm a public librarian who writes in my spare time. I wanted to use a platform that has more of a community, one that isn't as random as Twitter or traditional blogging. I've only been doing it for about a month so my numbers aren't great, but I'm still posting once a week and hoping something eventually sticks.
I started hearing about Substack on Medium towards the end of last year. At the time I was looking for a way to monetize my Gentle Creative blog. After a bit of research I took the plunge in January. I brought over my aweber list of 380 subscribers and now have 668 subscribers and a handful of paid subscribers. I'm so proud that I have written an article every week that encourages people to overcome the external barriers and inner peril of being a writer.
I've also made some amazing new writer friends through Substack. I love this community
I am brand new on substack and still learning about it. I had a WordPress blog for about 9 years that had a many as 6000 followers. I walked away from it about 4 years ago. Just didn't have anything to say I thought
My substack site is "Being poor and old in the United States.". It is about me but lots lots more
I have only been going and week but have 15 subscribers
I have never done anything for pay
That is one of the attractions of Substack to me
I would like to learn how to be successful at that
For anyone interested in SEO, looks like Google is changing their algorithm: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2022/08/helpful-content-update
The highlight: write stuff people want to read.
From advice I've been given in these Office Hours, and from listening to my wife reminding me that my first newsletter took AGES to gather subscribers, I have now resigned myself to slow but steady growth. For me, the most comfortable thing to do is write, because I love writing, and promote my writing while trying not to be obnoxious about it. If I don't worry too much about the numbers, I feel alright about the whole thing. I hope this comment is helpful to others in some way.
After reading this week's grow interview, I have a question for those who have gone paid. I went paid several months ago and I'm trying to figure out best practices. I currently have about 150 free subscribers and two paid. Clearly I would love to significantly grow both. I currently have two paid posts a month. The interview suggested making the paid pieces free for seven days and then making them paid after seven days. I know I need to change something to improve all of my numbers. What have you all done? Do you think this is a good strategy? We will also be going paid in January for litthinkpodcast.substack.com and we are looking for best strategies there as well.
I started thinking about writing on Substack in 2020. A professor of mine told me to keep a journal of some kind. I eventually found a quote by George Orwell that gave the same advice:
"To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. One thing that helps toward it is to keep a diary, or, at any rate, to keep some kind of record of one’s opinions about important events."
That's how my Substack started out. It's since evolved into something that doesn't try to keep up with the news cycle. I'm experimenting now with writing "living" essays that evolve over time. Which isn't really new in terms of writing. Writers like Montaigne are known for having edited their essays over time as well.
I'm also adding a science fiction section, as a result of my research-focused newsletter. That's another thing I knew I wanted to do as a writer. I think now's the right time.
I had an idea. I wondered whether there would be interest in coming together in some kind of informal, promotional cooperative--maybe loosely organized by subject. I was thinking that we all have promotional resources (Twitter, IG, TikTok, FB) and I think my folks get kind of tired of me just flogging my stuff tirelessly. I thought they might actually enjoy it if I was flogging someone's else's content tirelessly.
I was wondering if anyone here had advice on how to acquire a logo. Where did you get yours or how did you make it? I’m no graphic artist and am looking for ideas.
Hi all! I had been reading newsletters on Substack for a long time before beginning my own in March (I write about music/pop culture/nostalgia and create weekly playlists), and I'm always surprised by how many of my own family and friends didn't know about Substack before subscribing to mine! So much room to grow.
I had heard about Substack but joined after reading Jeff Tweedy's Substack, "Starship Casual".
I had a 1000 member mailchimp newsletter of music fans/listeners. Nothing wrong with mailchimp - in fact, it is a superior email newsletter for marketing campaigns. However, I wanted a more conversational/casual tone and place to post information. I wanted a place that lived on the web beyond the "view this newsletter in your browser" link. While I could use my wordpress website, I didn't want to be in the email system setup and monitoring business.
Substack gave me an excuse to port my users over and introduce broader topics on creativity, life, music, and other interests and pursuits. I am a formally published author - a couple books (Published through Pearson), dozens of articles, corporate pieces, poetry and essays - all paid gigs.
Substack provides a more "blog-like" permanence and feels more liberating than a traditional newsletter. I also tend to find the lack of formatting options and templates to be similarly liberating.
A couple months ago a few writer's recommended my substack and my list has grown by 400+ since then. I can't really take credit for this as I've been sporadic at best. New job writing software for META (Facebook), a bout of Covid, and preparing our condo for a move out of Los Angeles are the excuse(s) I've concocted so far. ;-)
The reality is we are shooting a music video and I am recording remotely with a few musicians. I wanted to have some of those projects behind me but I have a new post ready to publish this weekend, so there is that.
I answered "other" in the poll. My path to Substack was varied but, again, ultimately prompted by Starship Casual.
Thank you especially for the new audio tools. I am certain my incessant nagging finally caused you to capitulate and create those tools for me. ;-)
Hi I'm new here.. I've published a couple of poems.. I'm not getting the line breaks I want in my formatting. How to create spaces between verses as it were...? Thanks ! Jenniti
I started my Substack last week. I write an online legal guide for lifestyle entrepreneurs and content creators looking to add some peace to their businesses. Since I cant give my law degree away, I thought I’d give away 12 years of experience as an intellectual property and small business attorney (and 3ish years of failing blissfully at mindfulness) in a series or chapter formula. Basically I didn't want to die with 100's of google docs of information that I never shared.
How many hours a week do you spend on promoting your newsletter? Asking for a friend 😆
Hello, my name is Eddie; I am seventeen. Alaskan-born and raised I heard about Substack from one of my new neighbors who told me about your (Substack Team's) platform, and I was intrigued. So, I created a Substack, and am currently picking my brain for some good things to post on here. I hope to eventually go paid on Substack if my writing is enjoyed by Substack readers.
Hello All! Three days ago I began serializing a novel here on Substack. I put three chapters up for free, posted two adjacent sort of essays in front of the paywall, and announced it on my FB and Twitter feeds. So far I have 19 subscribers. What else should I do? Are these numbers a success or a bust? Not that it much matters. I'm having fun.
My web designer suggested a newsletter on Substack to replace the email list on my travel website, which was no longer supported by WordPress. It was a game changer! So easy to set up and write my first post. I was able to transfer my email list and have gained subscribers for my travel journalism. Looking forward to growing even more.
I was introduced to the platform by a friend as I wanted to go paid with my blog and really happy I am where I am already within six months. Massive plans to keep growing the paid subscribers, have been concentrating on the free guys for a few weeks which has come up nicely, and am hoping to launch a free site on here alongside my paid site in the next few weeks. If you like soccer or football, you can find me at www.footballwriting.co.uk
I found Substack by seeing a reporter on tv. They kept saying he wrote on Substack. I thought, "Hmm...I don't know what that is." So then I looked him up and found out all about it. I did more research on it before starting my own Substack. I wanted to get my writing out for everyone to see instead of my writing sitting in my notebook and it being "lonely" with no one to look at it.. Ha Ha.
Hence, why I started "Writer's Notebook".
Hello fellow writers,
I rarely plug myself here, but I'm hitting 6 months writing What's Curation? and I'm having a discounted sale ending tomorrow. I invite you to come check me out and join our growing community. Also, managed to crack into the top 100 music newsletters on the leaderboard and so elated!
On topic: I've started two sections called "Guests" and "Interviews". Guests will be fellow substackers who will "take over" What's Curation? for a day and recommend music to my readers. Interviews will be email conversations with music artists, as well as fans and readers of What's Curation?--their lives, jobs and why they enjoy receiving my newsletter. I've also ordered BEAUTIFUL business cards with the brand colors and logo; should be coming in today!
I've become less focused on subscriber counts--I'm looking at putting content that people like to read and share. But I'm eyeing that 200 mark and I hope I hit it soon! Hope to see you in your inbox!
Hello everyone :)
I’m seeing a ~50% subscription rate from visitors who find me in the Substack app. That’s exciting as it's a substantially higher rate than I see with Substack.com visitors. The conversion rate difference makes sense to me because of the nature of Shift content so I expect it to continue.
Does anyone have ideas on I how might increase traffic specifically to the Substack app?
I had been subscribed to Mary Trump's "The Good in Us" ( https://marytrump.substack.com/ ) for a couple of months before I started my Newsletter in January. Before subscribing to her Newsletter, I had never heard of Substack.
I think the first I heard of Substack was from Austin Kleon's newsletter. Have been following him for a good few years and have always loved his insights. My latest newsletter actually talks a bit about how him and Lynda Barry have inspired me as an artist and notebook-keeper.
I think the other person I learned about Substack from was Marlee Grace, a writer, dancer, quilt-maker and everything-er. Her substack is always a joy when it arrives in my inbox.
I found a YouTube video regarding starting a newsletter. I found it appealing, therefore started my newsletter the very moment.
Reasons I started a Newsletter:
1. Lesser barrier of entry compared to YouTube etc.
2. Introvert friendly
3. Love writing
To all my fellow introverts: “Congratulations on taking the first step! I wish you all the success in life!”