Have questions about publishing, growing, or going paid on Substack?
The Substack team, and your fellow writers, are here to help!
Today we’re hosting Office Hours with a special guest, Casey Botticello, author of Blogging Guide, a newsletter focused on helping writers navigate the digital publishing landscape and earn money from their writing. Casey knows a lot about publishing and Substack. We’ll be in the thread to answer writer questions for an hour with Casey and the Substack writer community.
How do you increase paid subscribership?To get started: Casey shares 17 strategies he used to reach 100+ paid subscribers on Substack in two months plus a whole host of learnings from writing on Substack.
Seeking inspiring ways to celebrate with readers?Check out The Persuasion Festival. Writers, contributors, and friends are coming together to celebrate all they have accomplished in defending and reinvigorating the values of a free and fair society in their first year on Substack.
Curious what style of writing works best on Substack?Over 325 unique publications were mentioned in the Shoutout Thread last week. Lyle writes memoir-style with a dash of advice column. Sneaky Art posts drawings from sketchbooks in public places. So Relatable shares delicious snacks with a curated list of reads on creative process and writing. A wide array of different writing styles were on display.
Drop your questions in the thread and we’ll do our best to supercharge each other.
Our team will be in the thread today with Casey from 9 am - 10 am PST / 12 pm - 1 pm EST answering questions with you.
We’ll host this thread again next week with a special guest from Substack’s Product team who is are eager to learn more about the publishing tools writers most want. Save it to your calendar so you don’t miss it.
Looking for more ways to connect with writers? Casey hosts a Substack Writers Facebook group.
Thank you for joining us for this week for Office Hours! And a BIG thank you to Casey Botticello for co-hosting with us.
We are wrapping this week's thread but we’ll host this thread again next week with a special guest from Substack’s Product team who is are eager to learn more about the publishing tools writers most want. Save it to your calendar with the link in the top of today's post so you don't miss it.
Be sure you subscribe to Casey's Substack for ongoing resources for navigating the digital publishing landscape. https://bloggingguide.substack.com/
Until then, happy writing!
Katie + Bailey + Casey
Thanks for the intro!
I'll try to add a few responses to questions, but feel free to ask me any questions here, and I'll do my best to respond.
Here are a few Substack FAQs and Tips:
I also wanted to add a few links that may be useful to Substack writers looking to promote their newsletters.
These are newsletter directories. Newsletter directories give you backlinks to your website, which increases the ranking and searchability of your website. They also help readers find newsletters covering a specific topic of interest. Here are a few of the top ones:
I'm currently approaching 1,000 subscribers. I'm considering going to a combination of paid and free subscriptions when I get to about 2,500. Is it possible to do both? I've found no guidlines for how to do this in the help section. Is it even advisable? Or am I better off going paid only? My plan is to offer loads of free content and the ability to comment to paid subscribers. Haven't found any info on how to set that up either (I know it can be done because others are doing it).
No question from me today. I just came to say thanks for the shout-out!
I'm struggling with whether to add a paid subscriber option. I could use the extra support, but I don't have the capacity to produce anything extra for paid subscribers right now. What do you think about adding a paid option without extra content, purely for optional financial support of the newsletter? Alternatively: what are some creatives ideas for paid subscriber content that can be managed on an already full and tight schedule?
Have you ever thought of adding a feature that would allow readers to pay for just one article? I know a lot of people are hesitant to sign up for a monthly and yearly subscriptions but might gladly pay $1 or $2 for access to an article on a topic that really intrigues them.
I understand that "micropayments" can be a pain in the butt to administer and many people don't think it's worth it. But it still seems to me that this is leaving a lot of money on the table.
In the spirit of sharing, here's a terrific article about how to promote newsletters on Twitter: https://www.newslettercrew.com/blog/how-to-promote-your-newsletter-on-twitter
Hello! Thanks for the shoutout in today's email! I also just joined Casey's Facebook group. :)
I have a question about cross-promotion. I've done mentions in other newsletters, guest posts, and guest editing sections, and I've found each method has diminishing returns over time. Are there any creative cross-promotion techniques you've found interesting or successful?
Ive been contacted by a couple of subscribers that said that they'd found my work in their spam folders. My last article didn't go into any mailboxes. I've read that articles heavy in visual imagery are seen as spam and rerouted from the readers inbox to spam. Any suggestions as to how I can make certain that my work gets to my subscribers inboxes every time? Thank you.
Just cracked the 100+ subscriber milestone on my Substack Scaled and Failed (https://scaledandfailed.substack.com/) and curious about what to focus on for growing next.
1. Is going for more one-off well-exposed or viral growth strategies i.e. shoutouts from people in the startup community or are more slow-burn growth methods better?
2. What are some strategies to get reader engagement in the comments and for sharing the newsletter?
Bailey and team thanks for hosting Casey hope to jump back on then. Casey thanks for all the great posts and adming the Substack group on Facebook. I learn so much from the comments from this diverse and helpful community. Keep up the good work.
Started my newsletter, The First Years of Marriage (https://www.thefirstyearsofmarriage.com/welcome), recently and was able to increase my subscribers by 100+ a week. Casey, curious to hear:
1. How do you make your content shareable so that readers are eager to send it to people who would also benefit from it?
2. What are ways you make sure you're writing information of value for your audience?
3. What's another way to monetize the newsletter rather than charge subscription fees?
I was wondering if the Substack team can do more research about the % of readers who convert to paid based on engagement.
I’ve seen the general numbers you guys put out in the past, but I think it would be more helpful if you took reader engagement into account.
For example, right now we can see how active/engaged our readers are based on the star system you guys have in place (5-star, 4-star, 3-star, etc). Should we assume our 5-star readers will convert to paid?
Basically, if you could gather data from all Substack newsletters to see how likely readers convert to paid based on their engagement, that would be super helpful. And then maybe include a section for writers that says something like, “By going paid, you could earn $X dollars based on your readership and engagement.”
Hello!! Not sure if this has been brought up before, but is there a specific way through Substack to submit our newsletter site to Google so it can be crawled/fetched and be searchable? Thank you!
Hi, thanks for doing this!
I have about 4,500 free subs, and I keep hearing relatively frequently from would-be paid subs that they tried to join for a while but couldn't figure it out and were confused.
I realized that they're just logged out of substack on that browser/device and when they click the "subscribe" button they end up on the page when the field to enter your email and nothing else.
I think it should be made much clearer how to login (it's hidden, low-contrast in the corner) and why you have to login to see the paid options.
I'm sure it's happening to everyone else too, even if they don't know, so improving this would help substack as a whole.
(Another request: I wish crypto had its own category, instead of taking over finance, business and tech -- it really is its own thing).
Hi! I started my newsletter (https://ana.substack.com featuring a broad selection of essays about creative influence) about 1.5 years ago and am only up to 40 free subscribers. I actually had a bit of an uptick but realized that I was getting bot subscribes. Granted, I started it to practice writing so I haven't done a lot of promotion beyond social media but I'm wondering if there are any stats on the growth trajectories of successful paid newsletters and their early days.
I spend about 8 hours a week on it and I'm wondering if there's something about how slow it's growing at the moment that indicates it won't ever take off or if the advice is to keep going. (I've tried not to wait for perfection though so am continuously iterating on my about page, for example.) Thanks!
I have 95 paying subscribers; and 740 total readers at whatiscalledthinking.Substack.com —how do I convert non paying to paying readers?
I attended a wonderful substack workshop about a month ago, and the focus of it was on crafting a crystal clear "about" page with a clear value proposition for the reader. I'm curious if you have any tips on someone who has a vast array of topics they want to write on.
I've discovered that I not only want to write about tech and software engineering, but other topics including fatherhood and seasons of change. For example, I wrote a piece called [Leaps of Faith](https://memattchung.substack.com/p/leaps-of-faith) that has had over 5,000 views on LinkedIn with 200+ engagement. Prior to publishing it, I had no idea as to whether or not people would even read it.
In short: how do you go about honing in and narrowing your writing topics?
I want to try podcast, but I need help on how to produce them and can't find it in resources. What software do I use to record it? How do I edit it? How do I get rid of the ambient sounds? How do I make an introduction audio? Any advice to help me get over the hump of the production aspect?
I am trying to improve my About Page. Would you have any feedback on mine?
I am wondering how and if people are using Twitter to promote their newsletter. I am a hesitant tweeter, but I have heard that strategic tweets can bring in a lot of readership. Have you experienced that? ( Is That Legal? Newsletter: amygreer.substack.com)
Hey, everybody. I'm interested in a little more depth about the "what style of writing works best on Substack." Is there a big creative nonfiction presence? How about more literary-minded stuff?
Hi there! I'm Kavir. I write https://thediscourse.substack.com which is at the intersection of product, startups, and no-code.
What's the best way to gauge if the free subscribers will be willing to go paid? Do you run a survey in advance to get a sense of expectations?
Best places to crosspost? I regularly do HackerNews but I'd be interested in other feeds, etc. Reddit is much harder since you have to target the subreddit specifically, which may have all sorts of rules, etc.
I'm still pretty new to Substack and I write LETTERS FROM EVERYWHERE https://kalpanamohan.substack.com/. These began as LETTERS FROM SINGAPORE after we moved there for six months. Now that I'm back in the San Francisco Bay Area, I wish to continue them applying the same sort of curiosity I felt in Singapore. On average I get about 800 views but some of my posts have had some 1500 views. This is very paltry compared to those of you out on this thread. BUT HOW DARE I GO PAID? I have quite a following on FB and many enthusiastic readers. But guess what? When both my books came out, all that readership did NOT exactly translate to sales. So I'm very skeptical that I can try to go PAID. I'd love some input from folks here/Casey. Thanks so much.
Hey guys! any plans on promoting the podcast option Substack offers? I have a literary newsletter and the podcast rss feed is a great opportunity to build your base and have the good word spread wide!
Hi Casey! I'm wondering if you think there's a specific number of subscribers you think one should have before converting to a paid subscription model.
Casey, in your information about other ways to monetize a newsletter you mention selling one's own information products -- any thoughts about how best to do this on Substack?
Lots of questions, stock piled for the past 2 weeks. Not sure how to best ask so many, so I'll just create a list here:
1. Any update on the ability to house pdf's on substack?
2. Welcome page - suggest we could add text and photos with links so we could offer 'freebies' for signing up. I've tried to encourage the sign up with my image, but that's the best I could think of so far. (https://kindnessmagnet.substack.com/welcome
3. Would also be nice to be able to add a few testimonials on the welcome page. So, I guess I'm asking if we could have that page be a bit more like a landing page.
4. Add ability to add a link in the message that we can have appear at the top of each post and also a button. Right now I'm having to create my own and copy/paste each week. Example: https://kindnessmagnet.substack.com/p/bested-kindergarteners
5. Could we have the ability to create pages that are 'hidden' so we could use them as a landing page. I see Woodruff.substack.com is using 'draft' pages to accomplish something like this.
6. Is it possible to have YouTube videos reside on substack instead of going to Youtube?
7. Is it possible to make photos/images with clickable links?
8. Any chance of a SCRIPT font option?
9. Would like the ability to underline words.
10. Ability to place images left, right, center.
11. Could the 'share via email' be enhanced? Right now it just copies the link into the body.
12. Ability to house a poll on substack instead of taking the reader off the page. Ex: Typeform bot survey called 'Conversations', used on WonderTools.substack.com
13. Would love to hear from someone using podcasts - how are they enjoying the experience, what tips do they have.
14. Would love to hear from folks who are using twitter to build their lists and specifically how they are doing it.
15. Would also like to hear from folks who are using Instagram to build their lists and how they are doing it.
16. Discussion Thread - what's the best way to publicize the thread so people show up at a specific time?
Sorry for so many questions.....I'm having so much fun with Substack! Thank you.
Have been facing a bunch of issues over the last 1 to 2 weeks:
1. Delivery of emails getting delayed occasionally - in some cases, as much as 15 to 20 mins.
2. Tracking is not working properly - I have my personal email as a subscriber and although I read every day, it is not tracked as read sometimes. I do not have any kind of blockers, btw. Because of this, open rates are staggering a lot.
Please solve these issues.
I've been writing my newsletter robust.substack.com fairly consistently for four years now and I just cannot seem to break through in growing my list. I write personal essays about my midlife Gen X vibes, peppered with pop culture and philosophy references. I'm out of friends and family and extended network at this point. With my teeny-tiny sub-100 subscribers, my open rate is usually close to 75% or more, which is heart-warming. But I want reach a larger audience and I'm just running out of steam and ideas. Twitter is not for me; I've tried, but I just can't. Please help. I need newsletter therapy.
How do you email a part of a newsletter to the free list with a link to subscribe for the rest of the post? I have gotten these emails from other substack writers and don't know how they are doing it because I don't see two posts on their sites. I think it would help a lot to convert free to paid subscribers if I can give them a taste of each one they could get.
Is it better to ask just one question? I posted a list an hour ago because I thought it would be easier, but I can understand that it might harder for Bailer and Casey to get to.
What is a best practice for communicating updates with subscribers outside of regular newsletter issues, e.g., to update them on changes? Just include them as issues? Notes at the beginning or end of issues? Or separate mailing list?
Hi all. I am currently simply looking to grow my subscriber base, keeping everything free for the time being. My content is history-based that also touches on current events and social commentary. Essentially, my work seeks to show how history connects with our daily lives and the world around us. If anyone has any advice, particularly regarding growing nonfiction content that is academic in nature but written to be accessible and interesting to a general readership, I would be most appreciative. Thanks.
I'm a new writer to Substack, and would like to know, do you have a support group to answer questions as they come up? Under what conditions does a reader need to enter a password to Comment or Like a post? (I have only free subscribers, so I don't think a password would be necessary.) Lastly, is there a reason my reader would try to Comment and the Twitter symbol would come up?
I would love to be able to highlight comments in these weekly threads so I could go back later and review those. Is there a way to do that, or other suggestions on how to capture what is most relevant to each of us? The threads become so long.
Is having a large social following super helpful for growing your newsletter?
I have been writing consistently for over a year and have written some great pieces, but I still have a sub 50 subscriber base. Is there anything you'd recommend?
Wonder if there was a time zone issue today. The announcement said 12 pm to 1 pm EST (it's actually EDT on the east Coast USA), but the discussion seems to have started an hour ago.
Hi! I write "This Is a Newsletter!" My staple is a post every Friday that's a round-up of the news, memes, videos of the week and kind of takes a Daily Show approach to the internet. I also aim for two essays a month about culture, personal humor, or millennial urban life.
I'm also in the midst of releasing a six-part essay series about how America's work culture has influenced our pandemic response. It has really boosted engagement with my followers (email open rates are now 40-50%), but it hasn't boosted my subscribers like I was hoping it would.
I started this 2 months ago, and I'm at 100 subs with 4 paying. I promote my content through Instagram, Reddit, LinkedIn, and Discord, but I was wondering if people have any other ways of expanding my network? Maybe other humor/pop culture communities? I appreciate any help. Thanks!
I have a reputable longstanding niche news site that I launched back in 2007 in the olden times, when monetization was but a dream. It's called The Comic's Comic, about comedians and the comedy business (https://thecomicscomic.com/). Of course now I feel like I should make the leap to Substack. Any advice on how to convert my readers from blog to subscription? (I do have a pre-existing Substack called Piffany (https://piffany.substack.com/) but have held off moving forward because I want to do it right. Ack! Advice please?
I recently had a serious family emergency. I stopped publishing for two months. I let all my subscribers know what was going on. No one unsubscribed. Was this the best way to handle my situation. I back now BTW.
I'm brand new, don't follow other thread sites, how do I best read this thread?
do you also have a link to recommend newsletters for the five a week thread thingy - read a couple goodies recently
I am interested in this!
I write a newsletter called 10+1 Things where I write about 11 things that I thought were worth sharing. It is a curated list covering various topics( For eg. Last week I talked about 'The Deadliest Predator, Tiny Forests, Oldest Living Things and Cyclists of Burundi'
My questions are as follows:
1. How does Substack help you in driving traffic to your blog and other resources? I'm confused whether to include my blog posts in my newsletter.
2. What criteria do you follow for headings and urls of new posts? Do you use any headline analysers for added SEO advantage?
My newsletter (https://www.asiancenturystocks.com) grew nicely in the first three months, with about 100 subscribers each paying $30 per month.
But over the past week, I've had zero growth. I'm trying to figure out why. Is there a seasonality pattern in paid subscription sign-ups (summer months)? Or is this a reflection of people spending more time outside the home now that many have been vaccinated?
Has anyone played around with paid promotion of a blog? Subscription services, targeted ads, etc?
Hi everyone, I'm still trying to figure out why "Writes A Satuday Letter" doesn't appear in my name next to these comments. Bailey or anyone, do you have ideas?
Good day, I have two questions.
1. How do I personalize my Substack newsletters by adding the subscribers name? Is there a function for that.
2. Is it possible for me to integrate a native payment solution when I want to start charging, credit cards won’t really work for my audience.