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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

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I just read all the posts and want to shout out to Casey, Katie and the Substack team, it was SUPER useful, lots of precious insights. Thanks!

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Thanks for checking it out, Gaía! We're glad it was useful.

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Thanks, Gaía! That is very kind of you to say 🙂

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Thanks for having me! Always happy to help fellow passion economy creators!

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Hey everyone,

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:

https://bloggingguide.substack.com/p/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:

https://inboxreads.co/

https://findnewsletters.com/

https://letterlist.com/

https://www.radletters.com/

https://thanksforsubscribing.app/

https://inboxreads.co/

https://newsletterjunkie.com/

https://mereku.com/

https://inboxstash.com/

https://www.newsletters.co/

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A few more free resources writers may find useful:

⭐ Royalty Free Images for Substack Posts ➡️ https://unsplash.com/

⭐ Create an Online Community (easy to add to Substack) ➡️ https://peerboard.com/

⭐ Emojis to Add Flair to Substack Posts ➡️ https://emojipedia.org

⭐ Force Update Post Previews ➡️ Facebook: https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug/ | Twitter: https://cards-dev.twitter.com/validator | LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/post-inspector/

⭐ Articles on Substack and Subscription Newsletters ➡️ https://bloggingguide.com/guides/newsletter/

⭐ Miscellaneous Tools ➡️ https://bloggingguide.com/tools/

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I'm reading everything you linked here and finding so much valuable information! I really hate the marketing/PR aspect of substack because I'm selling myself now, which is a lot harder than selling the bigger brand (media outlet.) Have you ever heard of someone who does the marketing/branding/PR for substack writers so we can pay for it instead of just procrastinating and avoiding it?

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Haha I've helped a few people myself, but I don't know of anyone who specifically caters to Substack writers (and actually knows what they are talking about). That said, you can always feel free to reach out if you need dedicated help!

Alternatively, you could look for someone who can help you with the specific marketing tasks you don't like, as opposed to an all-in-one Substack specialist. For example, a link building expert to get your posts better backlinks, a content marketer to help you boost content production, or a graphic designer to create custom images, etc.

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Thanks, Casey, for your info. I'm interested in such newsletter directories in spanish. Do you know some of them? Any idea on how to find them? Thanks a lot.

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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).

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Hi Kyle, Yes it is possible to offer a combinator of free and paid posts to your subscriber list. Sorry you had trouble finding information on that.

When you turn on paid and go to publish a post, one of your options will be to send to "send email" to everyone or "send email to paid subscribers."

As a general rule of thumb we encourage writers to have a combination of free an paid content, making their best work free. It's the best possible marketing. Even though every fibre of your being may tell you that your best work should go behind the paywall, it’s smart to make your most thoughtful and accessible content free to everyone. That way, it stands a chance of being shared and widely read.

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Katie - Thanks for the information. As to the other part of my question: How do I set up the ability for paid subscribers to comment?

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You can enable comments in the settings and then for each unique post decide if you want to offer commenting privileges to paid or free subscribers.

Here is our guide: https://support.substack.com/hc/en-us/articles/360037832711-How-do-I-enable-or-disable-comments-on-my-posts-

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Just remembered another question. I like that Substack automatically embeds youtube videos right on my site. However, so far it hasn't with Bitchute. I've not yet tried Oracle. Are there any plans to enable that ability with Bitchute, Oracle and others?

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If not, how do I embed them?

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No question from me today. I just came to say thanks for the shout-out!

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Hi Lyle 👋

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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?

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Would love to hear about creative ideas here. I know one writer offers bi-weekly dance classes on zoom to paid subscribers! (https://raha.substack.com/)

Beyond those creative ideas, one thing to remember is that not every post you publish needs to be at an equal level of depth, especially if you’re publishing more frequently. Here are a few ideas for what to offer readers that reminds them you exist, but doesn’t require as much work from you:

* Paid posts that are rough notes, off-the-cuff ideas, sketches, or other “works in progress” that reveal your writing process

* Audio posts where you narrate something you’ve written, or just say hello to your readers

* Podcast interviews, which you can publish right from your Substack. Interviewing others can be just as much work as writing, depending on your level of polish, but can also help break up your writing schedule.

* Guest posts from other writers. In addition to giving you a break from writing, guest posts are also a great way to cross-promote your newsletter with others.

* Discussion threads, where you ask readers a question. Bonus: they get to meet and interact with other readers, without additional work from you.

* Ask me anythings (AMAs): Use discussion threads to host regular AMAs, either with yourself or with a guest.

* Private community: Offer paid subscribers access to a private discussion forum or community so they can interact with other readers, even on days when you’re not publishing.

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Thanks, Bailey! Hosting two guest posts and an interview in the coming weeks!!

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Thanks for this, Bailey! I’m working on getting ‘guest bakers’ to interview 🍰

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Oooh! Can I put my hand up as a guest baker?

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😂 love it! 🍰 email me!

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thanks for this!

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These are some really good ideas.

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I had to stop writing on substack back in April because I landed a job drawing a graphic novel. I just returned, and I find that my subscribers cant read my work because it now sends them a message saying that my newsletter is for paid subscribers onlu. I hadnt intended to charge anyone until I'd built up a decent amount of subscribers. How do I return my newsletter to being free? I've looked through the settings and there's nothing that I can find that allows me to do this.

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Discussion threads are a quality (and less demanding of your time) way to offer something extra for paying subscribers. I've done them for both all and paid subscribers, and they really help generate a feeling of community among my readers.

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FYI - Terrell is a role model for discussion threads :)

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Thank you, Bailey!!!!! ❤️❤️❤️

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Yeah, I'd really like to do a Friday mailbag-type thread every week, and a monthly thread where paid subscribers can pitch me ideas of what they'd like to see me write about when I got the subscription base to do so!

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I've shared this before (so forgive me if I sound like a broken record) but Cherie Hu, who writes the newsletter Water + Music, wrote this excellent post on how to think about asking for reader support -- as in, what's the value proposition? It's really, really good:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/five-lessons-from-my-first-year-running-patreon-page-cherie-hu/

She also wrote this great follow-up, about the value of building a community among your readers:

https://blog.patreon.com/journalist-patreon-cherie-hu/

Hope these help!

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Yes they do, thank you!

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Andrea, a Substack called Liberty's Highlights has done just that. Payment is completely optional. I believe that he has at least 100 subscribers paying him $12 per month.

https://www.libertyrpf.com/

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I love the way they described what they're doing/asked for reader support here:

https://www.libertyrpf.com/p/like-what-you-see-become-a-supporter

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Reading this now -- wow. I am incredibly impressed, and now have a lot to think about as I approach the date I intended to turn on paid subscriptions (Aug 1).

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Thanks for reading, Sarah! 💚 🥃

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Thank you for reading, Terrell! 💚 🥃

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Hey! That's me!

Indeed, I don't have a paywall, everything is free.

I have about 4,500 free subs and about 188 paid subs right now, so around 4% going paid (but I turned on the paid option only 4 months ago, so I don't know where it'll settle -- so far that % is going up every month, but it won't go up forever..).

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Could I ask, what's your thinking around not paywalling some content for paid subscribers? I've paywalled some of mine, but I'm leaning toward doing what you're doing.

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Hey Terrel. Happy to discuss. Can you email me at my domain name @ substack.com or DM me on Twitter (same twitter username as my website domain name -- DMs are open).

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Sure thing! DM'ing you now...

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My blog has about 5% conversion to paid with no pay-gate on content. If you have significant subscribers, some amount of them are actually waiting to pay and can't.

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That's really interesting. What is your thinking on that, vs. paywalling off some content for paid subscribers only? Love to hear your thoughts (as it's something I wrestle with too).

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I haven't tried pay-gating, so I don't really know. When I initially made the decision to move to paid, it was after one of my articles went crazy (by my standards, 75k hits-ish) and I was going paid a lot earlier than I thought. My thinking being that would let people express goodwill even if my overall catalogue of work wasn't enough to pay for yet.

I've thought about gating some content since then, but I'm a sissy and don't really want to.

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Curious how many of those 75k hits were email subscribers, RC. I've had some articles also take-off (not quite "viral") but ten times the number of email subscribers. I am going on the assumption that building email subscribers is the main metric. But maybe not?

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I am thinking about offering the simple pay option as well. Those who are deeply engaged might be ten times as valuable as those who are just passing through, and many like not just the subjects, but the quality of the writing and might be willing to pay. (I am not looking for this to support myself, but this is a kind of full-time job!)

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Im in the same boat Andrea!

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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.

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We have thought about this, but we want writers to have consistent revenue - a sense of what they are going to make over the year to make the model sustainable for them. So we prioritize annual and monthly subscriptions.

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Thanks for responding. I don't think allowing one-off payments would cannibalize subscriptions. Just the opposite in fact, I think it might boost them. Of course, I'm basing this on my own behaviour so I could be totally wrong. It does seem, however, that this would be something worth testing.

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I can't speak for Substack but one way to think about this "micropayment model" is to essentially dramatically increase the quality/value of a single article.

After all, even $5 per month (with the intention to cancel) is essentially a micropayment (as are all subscriptions, in a way, if you consider that most users will not truly subscribe to your newsletter indefinitely).

That way, maybe, some readers will pay for a single VERY high quality/must read article (at say $5 monthly subscription price) since they view that single article as a reasonable deal for such essential content. They are actually subscribing for a month, so chances are they will at least read a few other articles before cancelling their subscription. And a subset of these readers, might then keep subscribing for additional months.

The beauty of a paid newsletter is not only that you generate a revenue stream for some period of time, but that people are actually paying to read (what could be viewed as) a promotion to subscribe for future content.

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As a writer, I would definitely rather have a monthly or annual subscriber than a one-off reader, but I think it's a far higher hurdle to consent to monthly payments than to make a one-off purchase.

I often find myself in a situation where I would happily pay $1 for a paywalled article, but I won't buy a subscription. I don't understand why publishers leave this money on the table other than that they believe the margins are too thin, which, as someone who closely follows the industry, I don't think is true.

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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

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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?

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I'd love to hear from other writers on this! Elle Griffin shared some ideas with us in our recent Spotlight On: Ficiton. More here: https://on.substack.com/p/spotlight-on-fiction

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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.

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This is a constant problem for me. I hear all the time from subscribers who arent getting anything. One thing I did was send an email to my list (you can download it) from my personal email, which is more likely to get into their inbox, with the subject line "Let me slide into your inbox!" and easy instructions for fixing this problem (add my from email to your contacts list or drag one of my emails into primary). I heard from a few that the email helped, but I'm not sure how much. I find this really really frustrating!

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I worry about this, too. I've had some subscribers contact me to ask why they aren't getting the newsletter. It seems to be Gmail. The problem with putting something in your newsletter about how to fix the Gmail problem is....they aren't getting the newsletter in the first place so they don't see that message!

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Hi, Heather, I had to stop writing on substack back in April because I landed a job drawing a graphic novel. I just returned, and I find that my subscribers can't read my work because it now sends them a message saying that my newsletter is for paid subscribers only. I hadn't intended to charge anyone until I'd built up a decent amount of subscribers. How do I return my newsletter to being free? I've looked through the settings and there's nothing that I can find that allows me to do this. I was wondering if you might have any insight regarding this mystery. Thanks- TK talbert

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How kind of you to take the time. Thank you for your generosity, Heather.

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Of course. We're all helping each other!

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Hi T.K. First, congrats on getting the job drawing for the graphic novel! I don't have a paid newsletter, but I did find this article in Substack support: https://support.substack.com/hc/en-us/articles/360060408872-How-do-I-turn-off-paid-subscriptions-

Maybe that will help you. If not, I would contact support at support@substack.com. Hope that helps!

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I worry about the same thing. Thanks for asking!

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Thanks for the acknowledgment, Andrea, I glory in any certainty that my work is being veiwed by someone on substack. Best of luck to the both of us.

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Hi, Andrea, I had to stop writing on substack back in April because I landed a job drawing a graphic novel. I just returned, and I find that my subscribers can't read my work because it now sends them a message saying that my newsletter is for paid subscribers only. I hadn't intended to charge anyone until I'd built up a decent amount of subscribers. How do I return my newsletter to being free? I've looked through the settings and there's nothing that I can find that allows me to do this. I was wondering if you might have any insight regarding this mystery. Thanks- TK talbert

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Ask each of them to move the mail to the primary inbox. That will help Google's algorithm to learn that your newsletter is not spam.

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That helps if the subscriber lets you know, but otherwise, you have no way of knowing which is frustrating

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I think you can assume that at least some of your subscribers are having that problem. It's endemic. I suggest writing about the Gmail Promotions tab issue in your "welcome e-mail" to subscribers when they sign up.

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Tip: send yourself multiple test emails as you’re writing your work to make sure it’s going into your main inbox

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Hmmm, I do that now, mostly to proof, but I'm thinking I should use my gmail account and test that since Gmail seems to be where most of the problems arise. Thanks Fintwit!

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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?

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Congrats Amil! What was your strategy in getting to 100?

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I'm also looking for more comments - I have hundreds of people read each post and like the same two people comment!

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I had the same question. I try to add a question at the end of the post to invite comments, but they are few and far between. Does it make sense to even bother about it as long as they're reading?

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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.

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You are most welcome, Liz! I appreciate the kind words!

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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?

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Re #2 - do you seek feedback from your readers (especially the most engaged ones) in any way currently?

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What are some good best practices for doing this?

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One tip on the "shareable" question is visuals. If you have visualizations of data or animations, it can help existing readers absorb and comment on/share your articles faster. We've heard from some writers that their posts with visualizations outperform their others on shareability.

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1. Typically you either make article titles very catchy (easy to share and be shared on social media) or through keyword heavy post titles which might rank organically (SEO).

2. The best way to ensure this is to regularly survey your audience. It's important to get feedback from a wide range of your subscribers. While it's good to listen to complaints or super positive feedback, these types of responses may not be indicative of a larger reader consensus about what constitutes "value" to them.

3. https://bloggingguide.com/how-to-monetize-your-newsletter/

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I have googled your titles Casey and they appear at the TOP of many Google searches. Your titles are also "catchy." I am learning, learning, learning.

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wow - great growth - what's the secret! and keep going!

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Writing 3x a week has been the best idea an the most helpful growth strategy.

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Hey Jen! Great newsletter. What strategies did you use to grow 100+ in a week? Was it all organic? Or was it existing audience from other platforms?

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Here are the TWO things that helped me get 100 new subscribers fast.

1. More VALUABLE content:

I decided to put out THREE newsletters a week - all of varying length - but all filled with value. Since it's a brand new newsletter, quality + quantity = gives people a reason to build a relationship with the newsletter, look forward to reading it, and want to share it with other people.

2. A giveaway:

People love giveaways. I did a simple one - $25 gift card + $25 worth of books and used a free app to help setup the giveaway (KingSumo). This helped so much in getting people to enter, subscribe to the newsletter, and share it.

When you start something new, it's important to get people excited, give them free value, and make them eager to share what you started with their network of people.

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Thank you so much for this information! I'd love to get 100 subscribers per week!

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I don't know if this is helpful to you, but I have seen some newsletter writers incorporate relevant paid advertising into their newsletters!

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I want to do this when my subscriber list goes up!

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This is a great idea/topic for a newsletter, btw!

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Fascinating topic. New subscriber here

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I appreciate that, Michael!

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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.”

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Heyo! I can share this feedback absolutely. Certainly a subset of our writers would like more know-how about analytics, and we're aware of that :)

It sounds like you've already heard this but we commonly see conversion rates between 5-10% from free -> paid subscribers. Here's a bit more granularity.

Use this paid conversion rate

Less than 30% -> 3%

30-50% -> 5%

Greater than 50% -> 10%

Disclaimer: your open rates are not perfectly predictive of your conversion rate, in any direction! We’re just using these numbers as a rough proxy for estimating what you could make.

Now you’ll need to identify a price. Again, we’re just doing napkin math this week (we’ll get into newsletter pricing next week), so if you’ve got a personal newsletter, we recommend using between $5-10/month, or $50-100/year, as your estimate. If you’ve got a business newsletter (meaning, something you think at least some of your readers could expense for work), use $10-50/month, or $100-500/year.

Multiply your free email list size by your conversion rate, using the table above. Then multiply that by your price.

Here’s a quick example to demonstrate:

Sally writes about food on her free newsletter, Food For Thought. She has 5,000 free subscribers on her list.

Her open rates are usually in the 55% range, so she uses a 10% conversion rate.

Sally multiplies 5,000 x 10% = 500 paying subscribers. She figures she can charge $5/month or $50/year, so her earning potential is $25,000-30,000/year.

What number did you get? Compare it against your financial goals. Is it what you expected? If so, that’s great! If not, read below to figure out what your next steps should be.

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Thanks!

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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!

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Hi Erin, Casey includes some great tips in his guide in regards to SEO and getting Google to recognize your publication. Here are a few from Casey:

* Don’t underestimate the value of the plain but well-optimized text—Use visual components appropriately and only when they improve content. Random images or GIFs may be entertaining but they can slow down rendering time for a reader (especially in their email).

* Improve headlines and text—It takes time to generate catchy content for your newsletters. Use test emails to analyze how motivating they are. Would you personally click on such an email?

* Apply basic on-page SEO techniques—Use keywords in your headlines (H1 tags), subheaders (H2 tags), and the body of your content (text).

*Use the alt attribute for images—Substack lets you customize alt tags for images in your post. The alt tag is used by screen readers, which are browsers used by blind or visually impaired people. These tags can affect SEO. Google’s article about images has a heading “Use descriptive alt text”. This is no coincidence—Google places a relatively high value on alt text. They use it to determine what is on the image but also how it relates to the surrounding text. Ideally each image should have a unique tag, but at a minimum, any custom featured images, should include descriptive alt text). Note: Captions are not a substitute for alt text!

* Fill out all basic newsletter fields—This seems basic, but I notice many Substack writers who have not properly filled out some of the basic fields attached to their newsletter. These include Publication name, One-line description, tags, Subscription benefits (all three lines), etc.

* While it’s true that Substack has a ways to go on improving its features to optimize each post (i.e. meta descriptions, canonical links, etc.), Substack itself, the website actually has pretty high domain authority and it is certainly possible to rank highly in Google.

For example, if you Google the search phrase: Medium vs. Quora you will see that my post on Substack (through my newsletter Blogging Guide) not only ranks on the first page, but it is the featured snippet for the term.

More from Casey here: https://bloggingguide.substack.com/p/substack-faqs-and-tips

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Thank you so much!!

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I just googled Medium vs. Quora and Casey's Substack was at the top---in a FRAME!! Casey obviously follows his own advice!

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Not directly, no. That is not to say Substack doesn't index well in Google.

Section 4 of https://bloggingguide.substack.com/p/substack-faqs-and-tips talks a bit about the few SEO features you can control on Substack.

Note to Substack: Features that would be useful seo-wise: Meta-Description Customization and Canonical Links would be nice!

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Thank you Casey. All of this info is very helpful and appreciated.

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Casey! Tipping my hat to you! Thank you!!

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FYI this is a common question because substack doesn't work well with Google SEO. I do every thing they recommend (I've been writing professionally online for 10 years) and I still get no traction from google searches. Substack is going to have to do more to get us seen.

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thanks for being here, Emily! You are right, we have lots of work to do on SEO. It's part of our product and engineering team's focus as they grow their capacity to help writers do more.

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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).

Thank you

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Hi Liberty, thanks for being here. I'm passing this along to our team as feedback, it seems to be a common confusion as readers move to different devices.

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Thank you Katie! I appreciate that

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I second this - I've clicked the "subscribe" CTA in some substacks I get, and just get directed to a page to enter my email to sign up (which I've already done). Being directed to a page with the subscription rates/options immediately instead I think would help writers tremendously.

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Same question regarding the confusion about joining/subscribing.

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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!

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Hey Ana,

I've written a bit about my newsletter's trajectory, but really every case is unique.

Social media promotion can definitely help but if you don't have a large audience outside of Substack, it will be tough to drive direct traffic.

I'd say keep going but maybe try doing some guest posts on niche sites related to your newsletter, posting actively in various forums/sub-reddits related to your newsletter's topic, and other online spaces.

You may need to increase your post frequency, as well, if you really want to determine the potential for your newsletter.

It looks like you are posting less than once per month, which is totally fine, but may make it harder to establish whether there is demand for your newsletter.

https://bloggingguide.com/how-often-should-you-send-your-subscription-newsletter/

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Thanks Casey! My newsletter is actually weekly (I just went on hiatus a couple of times hah). Now that I'm committing to it though, I am curious how that may affect subscriber growth. I'll have to do some brainstorming on niche sites...I guess the challenge for me is that my topics range from week to week as the whole goal of the newsletter is to showcase breadth and diversity. But perhaps I need to promote each newsletter issue to that relevant community rather than to try to think of promoting it as a whole. Thanks for the food for thought!

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I think publishing weekly for 2-3 months will probably answer your question. Best of luck!

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I have 95 paying subscribers; and 740 total readers at whatiscalledthinking.Substack.com —how do I convert non paying to paying readers?

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There are a lot of tactics here, but one simple tip that we recommend to every writer - ensuring the formatting of your post is on point. That basic hygiene is important. Anytime someone reads your work, whether through a forwarded email or public link, they are set up to subscribe or upgrade.

- Email headers and footers: You can edit your “Email banner, header, and footer settings” in your Settings page to customize the top and bottom of emails. This space can be used to prompt free readers to subscribe, request feedback, or insert some visual branding.

- Buttons: Include at least 2x subscribe buttons each post.

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@bailey This thread has the question a lot of us have about how Taibbi is sending out part of the subscriber posts to the free people. He somehow has a link to a post to read it but doesn’t have two posts showing on his home page. Check out his system because it seems I’m not the only one who wants to copy it !

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Ok, I don't have nearly as many paid subs as you, but so far most of my conversions have come from writing a long post for subscribers, creating an excerpt that I send to the free list, and explain that the excerpt is from a subscriber post. I make sure to include a good hook right before the break that gets readers interested. (I write a local news substack.) I haven't done one yet that hasn't led to new paid subs.

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How do you do this technically? I see Taibbi doing it but then I look at his page and don't see two posts so I can't figure out what he's doing on the back end. Thanks!

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Matt Taibbi is very good at doing this. I also do a similar tactic on Instagram to get people to click on my Linktree, which links to my Substack.

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That's exactly who I got it from! It seems to work pretty well. So my formula is get new readers hooked through my weekly local news summary and convert a percentage of them through long form content available only to subscribers (with the occasional free post as well). I might have to try that Insta formula too, so thanks for that!

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I recommend checking out NYT or WaPo or Vice on Instagram. That's how I emulated it. Usually what I do is lead with the announcement with a CTA, then a summary.

Here's an example of mine, if it helps: https://www.instagram.com/p/CQqmQ0bMonB/

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nice work

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Nice, thanks for that. I like the way WaPo did theirs - good style. BTW, looks like I don't live too far away from you - just five hours north in Wisco!

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How do you post on IG? I hate posting tons of text in stories because I know it's hard to read but I can't figure out any other way to show bits of the post to them. I also direct them to linktree with screen shots but I don't think it is making anyone click?

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Agree this is a great technique!

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Zohar, that's wonderful. I would love to have 95 paid subscribers. How long did it take you to get that number of subscribers?

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You conversion rate is already above 10%, which is pretty good — you might also focus on finding new free readers

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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?

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In this interview our co-founder Hamish talks with Tony Mecia who started a Local News publication about how he honed his focus topic: https://on.substack.com/p/spotlight-on-local-news-with-tony. The summary is that Tony focused his topic on something that was under-covered, and also that he had a unique know-how about.

Transcript -

Why did you decide to cover business news rather than just local news in Charlotte?

I'm not opposed to doing local news, and we do a fair amount of general news, but our theory has always been that we want to do writing that's better than what's already in Charlotte, and we want to do writing that's different than what's already in Charlotte.

The number of business reporters here in Charlotte had declined, and I saw an opening content-wise. My background was in business news. It’s something that I knew and felt comfortable covering. There's a pretty big market for it in Charlotte. We’re a business town with banks and tech companies. It's a pretty big city. Business writing also has the advantage that if the newsletter is useful to an employee, they can charge the subscription cost to their company as a business expense.

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I talked to someone a few days ago who was particularly knowledgeable who said you don't hone your writing topics, you hone your concept of your audience. So think of, like, McDonalds; it has burgers, fries, chicken sandwiches - different products, but all aimed at hungry people in a hurry. Bed Bath and Beyond sells a lot of different stuff, but it's all basically aimed at "people who want to redecorate at least a bit from somewhere a little nicer than Target".

In your case, I'd say it's not a bad idea to write what you want, and then see what connects - then write things that work for the people you connected with. That's mainly what I've done, and it's working out pretty OK.

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That's really interesting. Jasmine of our team encourages writers to do the following when drafting their About pages & one-liners, which seems aligned:

Your one-liner should signal who the target audience is and why they might subscribe. The goal should be for a reader to read your one-liner and say, “that’s me!”

Start by asking yourself:

Who wants to read your publication? You may have multiple reader types, and consider both demographic characteristics and personality types.

Why do readers want to read your publication? E.g. motivation, humor, breaking news, professional development.

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I just read something similar yesterday. The gist was, write for the reader's experience. So, for example, if you are writing a newsletter about news, you might want to position it as 'news for people who are frustrated with getting so much biased news.' It's really helping me think through learning what my audience wants and what resonates with them.

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Great advice — thank you. Up until recently, I've largely ignored the reader metrics but probably should redirect my attention that way since they are helpful (not the sole driving) for steering the content that I write. From the previous workshop, it appeared that onboarding to substack was a fairly linear process: write your one-liner, your about page, etc. But perhaps it's an ever-evolving, non-linear process in which you write -> get feedback (on what sticks and doesn't stick) -> refine one-liner and about pager ... over and over again.

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I think you nailed it with the last part of this -- I've found that nearly constant iteration is truly valuable to both my process of creating a newsletter that people want to read, and my readers.

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Thanks for articulating this question! I had presented a similar concern in one of these threads a couple of weeks ago. I write personal essays that cover a diverse range of psychosocial subjects (https://richa.substack.com/), and perhaps the most distinctive thing about my publication is my voice as a writer. One of the things I therefore struggle with is the one-line description.

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Perhaps you already attended this workshop or read the materials, but we put together some tips & inspiration on one-liners here - https://on.substack.com/p/how-to-polish-your-publications-about

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Thank you for putting together so many incredibly useful resources!

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Yes, the resources are awesome...and I make it a point never to use that word...

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Hi Matt. Just gave you a plug on LinkedIn with a link to your substack in the comments on your post, "Leaps of Faith". Love the photo of you and your little one!

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Thanks so much Heather appreciate sharing it.

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I would love to get 5,000 views. I write strategies/secrets for non-fiction publishing but when I post a personal story I get a higher open rate mostly because my initial list was my personal contacts of which only about 20% actually write or want to publish a non-fiction book. I need to start reaching outside my network. I have posted to directories and substack's activities like this (i believe have brought me 25-30 organic free subscribers) and I have started to post one or two of my articles on LinkedIn each week. I will be interested in seeing if I get any additional subscribers. I also am posting to Pinterest as I know it has a much longer viewing shelf life. Just started so don't have any real stats, but I will post any results in the Substack Writers Facebook feed when I get enough to discuss.

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Elle Griffin has done an awesome job of this. She shares a lot about how in our recent interview (apologies if you already read it) - https://on.substack.com/p/spotlight-on-fiction

"What was most helpful for growth was writing two articles that took me a really long time to produce. One took me all of 2020 to research. The other one took me another six months to research. Those two articles were about the publishing industry at large. It turned out that they resonated with people because publishing is a black box, and there are a lot of writers also trying to understand how it works.

I shared those two articles a bunch of different ways, including on Hacker News. You can share your link on there, and sometimes they go viral and sometimes they don't, but one of mine did. That article had something like 60,000 views in one day, and a lot of subscribers came from that one piece of writing that really resonated."

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> I need to start reaching outside my network

Fascinating — I actually struggle with the opposite problem. I'm fairly comfortable publishing across different networks but what I struggle with the most is learning how to habitually participate and engage within a given community (e.g. reddit, forums). Put differently, I'm learning how to be part of and involved in {writing|tech} community, as someone who deliberate disconnected from social media for 5 years.

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Good question! I was also curious about getting ideas on this too since I plan to write on various life topics.

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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?

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Emily I can help you I am tech phobic at times and have found a nice simple approach - i'll breakdown what i know and the equipment i bought (under one hundred bucks) equipment - i bought a dynamic mic (it doesn't pick up the room sound just the voice) good for keeping outside noises out / an audio interface, this helps control sound volume via 'gain' and you plug in your mic and connect it to your laptop - then i download Audacity, a free editing tool. I also bought foam cover for the mic to soften my pitch, p's etc - then it is a case of trial and error - audacity is simple, and once i record a segment i always leave a few seconds of dead air for the editing room. my editing process once i have cut and pasted together my podcast is super simple, noise reduction, this removes muffle sound, normalise, and finally compress the sound to make the rise and fall stable (so listeners don't have to keep adjusting volume. the first podcast took countless sessions, but now i can turn one around in maybe 6 to 8 hours (one hour ish podcast) and i am only on my third

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Thanks so much for this as I have been pondering the same questions!

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David, you are a saint and poet! I'm going to try now to do exactly what you said and not use any more excuses. I'll check back when I have finished one. Thank you so much!

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I am trying to improve my About Page. Would you have any feedback on mine?

https://playingfordoubles.substack.com/about

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If you haven't already read through this resource, it's a great one! https://on.substack.com/p/how-to-polish-your-publications-about

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The performance scorecard is a nice touch! I'd say adding social proof (in terms of subscribers) would be most compelling to attracting news subscribers (testimonials, citations, media, etc.)

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thank you - why didnt i think of that?

One of my readers said they made $500K because of one of my posts, and then sent me a $250 giftcard as a thank you...funny how the internet works

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That's a great idea. Do I have to ask the subscriber to use their quote and a name? Or can I just put it on the page?

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Because I am a journalist by profession, my answer is always ask permission when using a quote. Sometimes I will be having a private conversation with someone on Facebook about something for my Substack, and I'll always ask if I can quote them and how they wish to be identfied, or not. It's ethical and the right thing to do.

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That is my instinct, thank you. I just don't want to expose my email to too many people I don't know but good idea to use social media to ask. Thanks!

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Generally, I would suggest getting explicit permission.

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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)

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I'm quite active on Twitter, so thought I would chime in. The best way is to take few snippets from your article and post it as a thread with the last tweet of your thread containing the link to the Substack post for people who are curious to read more.

Posting links in the first tweet won't get you much traction as the Twitter algorithm prefers users to stay on Twitter as long as possible.

It's a hit and miss and doesn’t always work unless you've got a large following already.

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If you don't mind me asking, do you use 'click to tweet'? I've looked at it, but it seems confusing and I have no idea if it's worthwhile.

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Substack has their own Share button which gives users options of where to share so I haven't added my own Click to Tweet button even though I considered it at a point.

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This is so helpful, Kavir. Thank you! I'm very new to Twitter and am trying to find ways to gain followers. It's been difficult! I appreciate your advice.

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I haven't used Twitter much but have been more lately to promote my newsletter. I was just posting one tweet with the link to my post and a little bit of text. Then I saw the recommendation to post several tweets as a thread with the last one containing the link (maybe a recommendation from you elsewhere?). But here's a question from a relatively inexperienced Twitter user: How do you make something a thread? Just post separate tweets about the same thing? Or is there something you have to do to actually link them as a thread? For example, if someone sees my first or second tweet that doesn't have the link, how are they going to find the link if it doesn't naturally come up on their feed?

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Hi Karen. Not sure if you'll see this since the thread is over. I had the same problem. When you start a tweet, look at the bottom right corner (Next to Tweet) and you'll see a plus sign. When you click on the + it brings up another tweet, which is threaded (attached) to your first one. You can click the + sign each time you want to add another piece to the thread. When you're done, click Tweet to share the whole thing. Hope that helps.

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I did see it. Thanks! That's very helpful.

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If you don't mind me asking, do you use 'click to tweet'? I've looked at it, but it seems confusing and I have no idea if it's worthwhile.

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Thanks for this, Kavir. I'm trying to get smarter on Twitter, hoping to increase sign ups on my substack. I posted my first 'thread' this morning with a link at the end. Since my following is small, I don't expect much, but it's good practice. Any advice on how many tweets to include in the thread?

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Three tweets are shown expanded to your followers, so either 2-3 tweets. Or 6-9 tweets to make expanding the thread worthwhile for them. Just some raw, untested observations :)

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This is super helpful, Kavir! I don't have a big following myself, but I have some good amplifiers who do. I just need to put up content for them to amplify!

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Kavir, I notice you do not mention your Substack in your Twitter Bio!!

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I have a large twitter following but get very little traffic from it. Traffic from social media is almost entirely from Facebook.

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Oh, I just saw the article. Any other suggestions?

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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?

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Lots of "literary-minded stuff" - especially folks recommending books to read, and academics!

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Good to know. Thanks!

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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?

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Heyo! Perhaps you've already heard this but we commonly see conversion rates between 5-10% from free -> paid subscribers. Here's a bit more granularity.

Use this paid conversion rate

Open rate is less than 30% -> 3%

Open rate is 30-50% -> 5%

Open rate is greater than 50% -> 10%

Disclaimer: your open rates are not perfectly predictive of your conversion rate, in any direction! We’re just using these numbers as a rough proxy for estimating what you could make.

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Yello Bailey! Yes, I did read this. Fair enough, these benchmarks make more sense. I knew the 10% benchmark, but the granularity on open rate makes it easier to predict the number of subscribers if I went paid.

Thanks!

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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.

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