Have questions about publishing, growing, or going paid on Substack?
The Substack team, and your fellow writers, are here to help! Drop your questions in the discussion thread by leaving a comment, and we’ll do our best to share knowledge and tips.
Our team will be answering questions and sharing insights with you in the thread today from 10 a.m.–11 a.m. PST / 1 p.m.–2 p.m. EST.
Some product updates and reminders from the Substack team:
A better internet for writers: In a new essay,
New post stats: We’re introducing new post stats that give you insight into the reach, engagement, and growth performance of each post you publish. These additional stats let you go deep on distinct metrics. Visit a recent post from your post page to see for yourself and visit the Help Center to learn more.
Editorial strategy: In case you missed it, this week we shared a three-part series giving writers tools to build an editorial strategy and a steady publishing drumbeat. We covered:
Why you’re publishing: Setting goals for your publication
What you’re publishing: Formats, style, and templates
When to publish: Setting your schedule and building a habit to do the work
Got questions about Substack or feedback about a feature or tool? You’re in the right place! Leave a comment in this thread.
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🧠 - when sharing strategy or advice for fellow writers
✏️ - when asking questions or seeking feedback from fellow writers
🟧 - when asking a question you hope the Substack team can help answer
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🧠 - Here's something that's such a quick & easy win that it amazes me that so many folk still don't do it:
****BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE, EDIT YOUR WELCOME EMAILS****
>>Settings >>> Basics >> Welcome email to Free (and Paid) subscribers >> Edit.
Honestly, the power of doing this is bonkers. The introductory email is your first personal connection with a new subscriber. It's your welcome mat, your first friendly "would you like a cup of tea and a biscuit?", your first chance at hooking them on all your best work so far - and therefore it's some of your most important real estate in your whole newsletter, up there with your About page in importance.
This is the first email they get from you. Why would you blow it with something so generic and empty and boring that they immediately delete it?
Get in there immediately and make that email / those emails sound like yourself. Write over the top of Substack's boilerplate text and fill it out with everything you want a new subscriber to know about what you're doing. Guide them to a few previous pieces you're proud of. Ask them a question or two. Show your personality. Shake things up and demonstrate the voice you're going to use in your newsletter, so they look forward to the next time you write at them..
And if you've previously edited them, when was that? How out-of-date are they now? What can you add? (I recently realised I've been rubbish at this, so I've made a note to check through mine every week to see if there's anything I can improve.)
There are very few easy wins in this newslettering lark - but this really is one of them. Go wow them from the very start - and see how many replies you get, saying things like "hey, thanks, I actually *read* this for a change!"
🧠 - I just wanted to share my lil breakthrough from the last couple of weeks! I did a collaborative post on Steely Dan which got me thinking of creating a regular schedule for different types of posts... up until then i was writing about my ~ content pillars ~ but just whenever i felt like it. The other day I wrote out a monthly schedule of what I would write about each week and BOOM... the ideas floodgates have opened, and I am feeling so much more "solid" about who I am and what my Substack is all about.
🧠 Hey friends and potential friends. I’ve got just one thing to share today, and it regards post frequency. In other words, how often should you post?
Substack’s own post says to strive for once a week. This has been the consensus ever since I joined Substack ten or so months ago. Well, I’ve never followed it, but that hasn’t stopped my growth.
I’m approaching 350 subscribers and I post twice a week. Maybe that number isn’t impressive, but I came here with 0 readers, and now I’m writing for hundreds of engaged readers, and I’m on my way to reaching my goal of 500 subscribers by the end of 2023.
The thing is, I publish twice a month. That’s as much as I can manage, with work and family and other commitments. But I have never missed a week, and I publish writing of the highest quality I’m able, stuff I’d be excited to read myself.
My advice, if it’s of any value? Don’t sweat the frequency. Once a day, once a week, once a month: they all work, and there are successful examples for each. What matters is what works for you, what is sustainable.
Know your schedule, and how much writing time you have available, and maybe test the waters a little. Then, settle on something that feels right.
I wish you a good week and happy writing! I’m off to plan my essay for next week!
✏️ How do you spark conversation in your Substack community, besides simply asking a question? https://bethspencer.substack.com/
🧠 - Most of my organic growth and people reaching out to me has been because they've seen me comment on others Substacks. Spend some time reading bigger publication in your niche and leave thoughtful comments. The platform does a great job of showing your publication beside your name and being active on other newsletters is an awesome way to drive views.
🧠 Hi everyone, and happy Office Hours! Need a boost? Here's what's keeping me going, today...
It's never too late.
You can always pick the pen back up, sit down at the computer again, reinvent, reimagine, recreate. You're still here, which means you still care.
So start now. Today. A handful of words, a paragraph, a page. Lock your Inner Critic in a cupboard with a snack for a little while and just begin.
I promise you that you'll find your way, no matter how long the pause has been, no matter how unsure you feel, no matter how loud your insecurities are. But you need to take that first step in order to see the path in front of you.
Keep going. Keep writing. DON'T GIVE UP! 🌿
🧠 I took my newest book on a monthlong virtual tour here on Substack and it went great. A few people have asked me about how to do it. I assumed people already knew from blog hop days but I am realizing I have value to add. So I’ll probably do a full post on this if people are interested?
✏️ I've read that the holiday season is when Substack has some of its highest levels of traffic and activity.
So, I'm wondering if anyone has started thinking through how they will cultivate interesting stories, giveaways, discussions in light of the holidays. I'd love to hear everyone's ideas. ☀️
✏️ Do you continue to maintain a separate blog/website along with your Substack?
🟧 When are you going to create a category for all of us who write very generally/broadly - NOT JUST on politics, sport, cinema etc etc.?? I have been asking for months. My substack is on a different subject every time (I say it runs from Annunciations to orgasms) but loads of other people's substacks do, too. We want to be discovered, too.
🧠 - Take a break BEFORE you need it! I've been on Substack for over three years now, and publishing every week (or multiple times a week) can be tiring, even when it's fun! Usually I take a break from writing/publishing in August, but this year I felt like I didn't need the break so I didn't take it...aaand crashed the first two weeks of September. Now I'm behind on my publishing schedule and feel VERY guilty!
So build in breaks for yourself, and do it BEFORE you need one!
🟧 - Looking at the new post stats. Love it! But how do I have 63 views for a post the day BEFORE I published it?
Edit: And I know it wasn't me, because I was out of town that day and wasn't ever on my writer dashboard.
✏️Long time free readers. Your thoughts?
✏️ – Do you have any best practices when it comes to doing interviews? I have been emailing people full lists of questions, getting their replies, and then sending a few follow-up questions. This is very efficient, but I feel like it comes out a bit stilted.
I'm thinking about doing a "live chat" interview instead, where I just book an hour with the interviewee and talk to them via Slack or another chat program.
Maybe this will work better? How do you usually interview people for text articles? (I.e. not recorded audio/video interviews)
✏️ my question is: is the substack strategy to attract more authors / ‘blog style’ writers and for that to be the future of the platform? My substack is a curation of news about women’s healthtech and I see limited news type substacks and so the benefits to the network effect I worry are going to be more limited! Thanks
🧠 Did you know you can change the phrase “No thanks” on the subscribe home page to something more interesting or positive? I changed mine to “Lets take a look first”. Just seems to offer the possibility of more subscribers.
🟧 I read this in Hamish’s piece today and thought it was interesting: “exceptional writing, considered argument, and robust debate—the key factors, as we have learned in six years here, that drive subscriptions.”
Exceptional writing I totally get as a subscription driver. Do you have data to suggest arguments and debating increase subscriptions? What do those kinds of posts / newsletters look like? Thanks!
Gonna ask, do you promote your paid only content? Or just the free content?
I’ve historically only promoted my free stuff on social media because it’s more likely to get people to sign up for free.
But I am going to have some exclusive content coming up and wondered if I should promote it too?
✏️ For fellow writers publishing creative prompts/ inspiration work: How have you engaged your readers to use the chat or notes features?
While I get many personal emails and DMs from folks sharing their prompt responses with me, most of my audience hasn’t converted to the app & doesn’t use these features but I long for this communal energy.
I love the magic that happens in the collective creative setting of a workshop, for example, but see slow adoption of community tools here.
🟧 ✏️ - Posting this for any who might have a clue, but maybe it's a systems thing.
Is there any way to direct subscribers to a page where they can write a testimonial? I know readers will get this prompt from Substack at some point, but I've been scouring the settings and pages and cannot find a way to link to it for people who want to write something about my publication.
✏️ when is a good time/milestone to go paid? Should you build up some # of readers first?
🧠 One suggestion for promoting your Substack I haven't seen anyone else mention is to share it on Post (post.news) a social media site that allows longform posts, includes a tip option under all posts automatically (and also allows you to paywall content). My Substack now automatically gets shared on Post via the RSS feed. Post reached out to me to encourage that and explain how to do it; I'm not tech-savvy enough to explain it to anyone else.
Also, if you do have your own website in addition to writing here, or a digital product you sell on Gumroad or another platform, or anything else related to your Substack content, you can add tabs to the top of your Substack page that redirect to those other sites! See mine (wendigordon.substack.com) for examples.
🟧 If we'd like to send out "re-runs" of old posts, is there a way to do that without duplicating them and publishing as new posts (and creating two of the same post in our feed)?
🟧 — Is there a button or some sort of link to get writers to leave a little blurb about my substack? I'd like to include this in my substack pieces as a way to encourage others to leave reviews of my work for my welcome page.
Couple of questions:
🟧 - What's the difference between followers and subscribers?
🟧 - Is there a way to delete inbox (other than archiving it?)
🟧 ✏️- I think it's important to have a distinction in notifications: some of my subscriptions aren't 'so important' that I want to receive an app notification for them on my app every time, but other writers I want to. Is there a way to remain subscribed without being notified? I just want to see them on my inbox.. that's enough.. anyone agrees/anyone hacked this?
Also: ✏️ - What's the song playing in your ears now?
The editorial strategy series was fire! Thank you for creating these awesome resources to support writers!
🟧 How can my Substack, Field of View, which is about photography, appear in Search when searching “photography”?
I like to think of myself as tech- and social media-saavy, and have been lurking for two years since I set up my account, reading email pointers and testimonials along the way. Well, I finally retired a few days ago, and was excited to fire up my Substack account from dormancy.
However, the only way I could find to put any text into a post was via a counter-intuitive "writers dashboard", where it took me 10 minutes to determine the only way I could upload text was via "poetry notes", and that the only images one could upload weren't jpegs. I have no clue what the difference between "Notes" and "Posts" is, and I have to say it's really been a baffling ordeal so far.
Perhaps some sort of beginner's flowchart would help?
🟧 Hi! So, there seems to be either a strange "bug" in the new subscriber system or perhaps something particular to me: Frequently when someone subscribes, they send a note as to why. But it's not clickable for me; there's nowhere I can go to respond and thank them. (Or at least, I've looked everywhere.) Is this something Substack can do? It'd be great to acknowledge the note, but I can't figure out how to do so without going and getting their email under "subscribers," and that seems not quite helpful. Thanks in advance!
🧠—Just a friendly reminder for all my fellow northerners, because winter is coming, don't forget not to eat yellow snow.
🟧 I am seeing if its possible to see the average demographics of your readers, specifically if its 40 and over given the proliferation of video and audio among the younger generation. This is just for my own peace of mind as I am trying to understand who the readers are these days.
🧠 Be active on Notes. I have had such a boost in the rate of subscriptions since I started getting on Notes. I get great engagement (and higher subscriptions) from asking open-ended questions. I think the best response I got was from asking "What's your favorite type or brand of tea?"
🟧 Will you please host another thread where writers "meet & greet" to promote each other?
I saw this several weeks ago. I had just launched and felt too nervous to jump in. I'm ready now.
✏️🟧 - Aside from these weekly chats, are there any other communities where Substack writers gather to ask these kinds of questions, give advice, etc.? A Slack or Discord community to discuss things—without responses getting lost in a sea of 100s of unsearchable responses—could be valuable.
My publication focuses heavily on photography. Is there a chance of developing more freedom for placing pictures within a post? Perhaps with text to the left or right of a photo? Also, the photo grids contstrain pictures to a square aspect ratio. Could there be a way to allow multiple photos of different sizes to be included together? Thanks for all that you do!
✏️ If you're determined (and inspired by the Editorial strategy series) to create a structure and a process that supports consistency in your publishing and your writing...what's stopping you? If a genie could magically give you the perfect system, what would it allow you to do?
I'm creating a Notion system for myself (scattered ideas and decision overwhelm are my current roadblocks). I'd like to turn it into a template specifically designed for Substackers and I want it to feel like that- supportive magic!
✏️ Hi! Curious how collaboration with fellow Substack writers has worked for you. Do you guest post something original on each other's Substack? Or agree to cross-post? Co-author a piece?
If you've tried multiple collaboration strategies, which has worked best? TIA
🟧 I’d love to be able to support more authors through micro-subscriptions (10 cents to $1 per month). I wrote up one way this could work on my Substack, and I’m wondering if an option like this has been considered or is under consideration by the Substack team.
Penny Subscriptions: https://krissyferris.substack.com/p/penny-subscriptions-for-substack
🧠 If you'd like to see an example of how Substack Recommendations helped to boost my subscribers list (tremendously!), please check out this week's newsletter: https://howaboutthis.substack.com/p/dunbars-numbers-substack-recommendations
✏️ What are some ways to reach out to writers that you enjoy reading and would like to interview?
🟧 If possible, I'd like a bit more info on where subscribers are coming from and I wonder if there is a list somewhere that defines some of the locations such as "other Substack Network" or "/Com"
🟧 I would like to launch my paid subscription but holding back until I can confirm my question. I don't want any gotch's which I have had in the past. 1) The paid subscription I am creating is mainly done with the podcast. When I create a podcast post will it only be seen in any way by a paid subscriber. I dont want the free subscriber seeing a bunch of content not targeted for them. the forem say they will not see it but I want to be sure. thanks so much.
🟧 - I've noticed on my dashboard that my number of new subscribers in the past 30 days is always 2-3 lower than what I have in my subscriber list. Why is this?
🟧 I'd like to send out my first podcast issue with a free preview. When I send myself test emails, the button that shows up for free subscribers says "This episode is for paid subscribers." But in the support docs, the screenshot you've got there suggests the button will say "Listen to Preview".
Was wondering which it is? Thanks.
🧠 sometimes you might not want to email a post out for fear of inundating your subscribers and yet you would still like to share it on Notes or Social Media.
In this situation you can opt not to send the email and just post to your Substack.
I did this recently with my Substack Posting Checklist:
🧠 For those of you with websites, and where the website has a contact form, I recommend modifying the form so that after a visitor submits a message through it, have it display a confirmation page with a suggestion that they subscribe to your stack. You can display the Substack embed code below the suggestion. Visitors who contact you are more likely to subscribe than those who don't contact you.
🧠 this week I took the leap and migrated my podcast to Substack from Podbean! I was nervous about what would happen exactly 😅 but very good results. Already love drafting post-with-podcast and the transcript feature. So much easier when you schedule way ahead like I do. If you are playing with this, I’d love to connect :)
🟧 also I’m curious if Substack plans to allow formatting in the transcript editing? It’s working amazingly, so impressive. It would just be nice to bold a few things or do paragraphs. But maybe this is coming after Beta anyway? Thanks a lot for doing that. Really didn’t want to not for yet another online tool!
🟧 I have no idea how to deal with these Thursday events. Hundreds of posts. I get depressed being on these things. What is a strategy?
Hey everyone! Happy writing. I just wanted to share that I had some success publishing a new fiction series via the Substack podcast feature. This is actually the first time I've published fiction at all on my Substack. I liked that I could include the podcast audio file but also the transcript below it.
Had a lot of fun making it. I'm calling the series "Untold New York," and my first episode, "Night-Spike: The Mystery Masked Hero of 1930s New York," is pinned to the top of my 'stack.