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:
Customizable, shareable images. Highlight any text within a post and select “share quote” to generate a shareable image. Customize the background and sizing so that it’s ready to use on the social platform of your choice.
Get to know your subscribers. Your subscriber dashboard enables you to filter and view segments of subscribers based on subscription type, email opens, activity, and now bestseller status. This is a powerful tool when identifying writers for collaboration.
Got questions about Substack or feedback about a feature or tool? You’re in the right place! Leave a comment in this thread.
To help organize the conversation, please use one of the following emojis when you start a new comment.
🧠 - 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
Use your emoji keyboard or simply copy and paste the emoji at the beginning of your comment.
🧠 Hi everyone! This is a tip I shared on a recent Office Hours, but I did it really late so hardly anyone saw it. In the hope it’s useful, here it is again…
If you’re wondering what your social media strategy could be & how it could promote your newsletter, or you’re just looking for a way to write that can REALLY get your readers to lean in & engage, try this:
🤯 ** Share your enthusiastic response to learning about something amazingly interesting for the first time ** 🤯
This was my social media strategy on Twitter before it became....erm, whatever it is now. I did it with excited-sounding threads, promoting a sciencey story I just learned about for the first time. The biggest of these totally blew up, reached 10 million people and sent 6,000 free subscribers to my newsletter. (Substack interviewed me about it here: https://on.substack.com/p/grow-series-7)
Now I'm trying it again on Threads, and - it kinda seems to be working? https://www.threads.net/@mikeachim/post/CyWjG7csfdw
I'm very far from the first to discover the power of this approach (and there’s even some good science on the neurological mechanisms behind it: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364661322001346). For example, it's why "unboxing" videos work on YouTube, or why footage of audience reactions to big moments in films get millions of views. It’s emotionally affecting and it triggers us in a *good* way for a change. So it's incredibly useful for newsletter writers wanting to reach new people, make them feel something, and get them intrigued enough by *your* reaction (and their reaction to your reaction! etc etc.) to want to click through and learn more.
🧠 Writing opens doors. My Substack led to business opportunities, speaking engagements, and even an upcoming case study. So keep writing and have a long term view.
🟧 I'm finding the customizable shareable images to be good only in terms of choosing the text you want to feature, but not in terms of the artwork from the post. It's blurry and difficult to decipher the images. I miss the old shareable images that featured the full title and subhead only—NOT the first paragraph. Can you make those old shareable images an option again?
✏️ I'm approaching 500 subscribers! Any ideas for ways to celebrate this milestone with my readers? I'm wondering if I can also tie this into some kind of holiday gift-giving ask, so ideas welcome there too!
🟧 Just wanted to point out that some weeks ago, I posted a comment in Office Hours to the effect that Substack really needs to implement a tip jar feature, so that readers can make a one-off contribution if they're feeling reluctant to subscribe. This comment is *still* getting Likes from people catching up on old Office Hours. Just saying, it seems to be a pretty popular idea.
🧠 I recently crossed the 1,000 subscriber mark, nearly at the same time and after a similar tenure on Substack as my friend and fellow writer @Michael Mohr. The main suggestion that I think we'd both have in terms of "growth" is just to "Write what you want," as he put it, and to think of big-G Growth as "learning, evolution, expansion, creation, depth, fire, soul, and heart," and not let yourself be sidetracked too much by the pursuit of small-g subscriber growth—while, at the same time, owning the truth that as writers we probably all want everyone who might appreciate our work to discover it.
Here are our posts on big and small "g" growth.
🟧 - Hi, Team Substack - Can we please gain the ability to center text?
✏️ Hi! I just hit the 200 subscriber mark after 2 consistent months, with a few paid subscribers already and really good engagement...I'm mind-blown and grateful.
I'm mostly teaching health and doing courses along with Q&As, mostly on preventative health, integrative medicine, emotional education and burnout prevention. After being on other platforms, I'm loving how easy it feels here on Substack. I haven't seen however as many health substacks (I'm a MD) besides the amazing big, informative ones about medical updates on vaccines, public health policies, news and similar stuff, but none on practical health prevention. So I'm curious about this and here's my 2 questions:
1. Do you offer courses on your Substack? If yes, I'd love to hear your experience regarding engagement and marketing. I love what I'm creating here but I'd love to learn from other's experiences too.
2. Have you seen other prevention health / emotional education / integrative medicine substacks out there? If yes, I'd love to know. I'd be grateful if you can tag them here. Teamwork truly makes the dream work!
That's it! Thank you so much and have a lovely day/evening you all! :D
🧠 I’m sharing this piece of advice that seems to be working with me: to engage outsiders to pop on Substack and read, it works best to use Instagram as advertisement campaign and slap the link (to notes, posts and pages) often. But what really breaks it there is not to just post links to our own things but to diversify and highlight other writers. More visits! More views! The sneaky algorithm of IG loves new things, and probably our regular readers too.
✏️🟧 I'm not quite clear on how/when to use Notes vs Chat. I've been using Notes quite a bit, but I can't figure out what Chat does that's different. I'm looking for strategy here.
✏️ - When I become a world-famous celebrity Substack humor writer, how should I let Taylor Swift know that I'm very happily married, so please stop calling and writing songs about me?
🧠 If anyone is on here to become a better writer and wants to measure up to the high bar of writing set on Substack, people found this Writers at Work workshop really helpful: "Write Personal Essays Substack Subscribers Will Pay to Read." Replay available: https://www.writersatwork.net/p/write-personal-essays-for-substack-subscribers
🟧 Hey substack team, I have a question - I’d there any way we can monitor the read times of our emails to know whose reading and who’s just glancing?
🟧 The shareable assets were recently updated with new font and a longer text snippet. I miss the old font and the shorter snippet! Any chance of going back to how it was?
🟧 Is there a way to specify which newsletters we want to show up under the Recommendations heading on our home page? Only 5 newsletters appear, but I have more than 5 that I recommend. I'd like to be able to pick the 5 that I want to appear on my home page while also still recommending the others.
✏️ - I really want to keep my Substack free AND want to have people become paying subscribes. I know I can use paywalls to entice readers, but I rather not do that. I know the feeling of really wanting to read someone's work but the paywall becomes a factor. I really believe people would support if they can. Has anyone experimented with other ways of getting people to become paid subscribers without offering anything different? I really believe my work is worth paying for - interested in what other folks have had success with.
Context: I write letters to my newborn every week to process being a first time dad.
✏️ How do y'all find the balance between posting regularly (daily, weekly, etc) while also feeling like you have enough time to unpack your thoughts and generally maintain high-quality content? If anyone has the added struggle of trying to post regularly whilst they maintain a full-time job, even better :)
🟧 It can sometimes feel like it's up to every writer to figure out the best marketing/growth strategy for them. While that to some degree is inevitable, are there any channels or strategies that you think all Substack writers should follow or invest in, to grow their audience?
Any fresh ideas about how to move subscribers to paid subcribers or sustainers? I've been publishing my newsletter regularly for two years and my blog for four. I've been in publishing and journalism for 30+ years and am baffled as to how to move beyond one paid subscriber (who is a sister). Not looking for story ideas, rather monetization strategies. Danke.
How to people handle the occasional post that is "off topic?" Every now and then I like to write a "one for me" essay.
I just kind of publish it without warning, but maybe that is the wrong strategy?
🧠 Open call for creatives + makers!
I’m putting together a Holiday Gift Guide for Creatives and would love to promote your art, business, newsletter, or service/offering.
My goal is to help indie artists and entrepreneurs (basically everyone here, right?) have a successful holiday season while putting together a gift guide with meaning that supports this community.
All the details are in the post below but let me know if you have a comment or question!
🟧 Hello Substack! First of all, you guys are awesome.
Second, in the last few days, the shareable images no longer have just the title and subtitle with a picture in the background, but have the beginning of the subtitle and the text of the article itself, which often does’t make much sense.
Any way to go back to the old way? Those images are soooo important for posting on other websites and even on WhatsApp.
I'd like to share my approach to writing on Substack in case it resonates with others. These are my basic guidelines.
Ask if you want subscribers or readers? They’re not necessarily the same. For me the answer is readers.
Publish at your own pace. There’s no magic number of posts, but you do want to be consistent. If you don’t publish anything for months, it’s likely that folks are going to figure you gave up. Well, don’t give up, but don’t be pressured to post something just to meet a timetable.
Strive for perfection. You won’t reach it because we’re all imperfect beings, but disregard the popular advice that says just get it out there. Make each article / story / essay the absolute best you can. Read it aloud and pay attention to the flow. Take your time. Think about each word. But don’t take these steps to such an extreme that you never hit the publish button, either. Balance.
Ignore stats. Don’t announce your stats. Turn off all stats that you’re able. Stat motivation is antithetical to artistic motivation.
Results don’t come by repeatedly thinking about them or desiring them fiercely; they come through actions. And the more we let ourselves be carried away by the desired results, the less we tend to act in ways that contribute to achieving them. [these words not mine; they are from a (sort of) Zen YouTube channel I enjoy]
And (related to the previous paragraph) remember (I have to remind myself of this frequently) that I control what I write and when I put it out there, etc., but I have no control over what happens next such as subscribes, likes, comments, whatever. I enjoy the process, and the other stuff follows.
Maybe some of this resonates, I don't know. But that's what I try to keep in mind and it's been doing well.
All the best to everyone.
✏️🟧 My current stats:
Substacking since October 3rd
270 subscribers (all free)
$700 in pledges
Average 73% open rate
I'm pleased with how things are going, but frustrated with how little engagement there is, no matter how I ask/beg. I migrated to Substack from over-long over-shares on Facebook for a lot of reasons, but am missing that sweet, sweet hit of dopamine I got from the FB likes and comments.
Any tips for either encouraging engagement or encouraging me to get over it?
✏️ Got two things:
1: I would love to find more aritsts who write about their journey here on substack.
2: I would love feedback to get my own writing to get better: https://jezz.substack.com/ What am I missing?
✏️🟧 Hi community! I’m relatively new to Substack, and looking for ways beyond social media to grow my subscriber list. I saw growth initially when I launched, but I’m starting to plateau and need tips to keep growing.
✏️ Can I publish work on Substack and still have it accepted by a major publishing house for a book deal?
I’m going to write a memoir about my road trip to Alaska as I healed from the grief of infertility (which I’ve been writing about in shorter pieces on my Substack). I’m wondering if it makes sense to serialize it on Substack, or if that would preclude getting a book deal.
I’d appreciate advice from anyone who has experience in the publishing world!
✏️I have almost 100k subscribers to my YouTube channel, but haven't made it to 100 subs on my Substack. Any good tips for turning YouTube subs into Substack readers?
🟧 Really appreciate this community! One of Substack's greatest potential benefits to writers is that the platform itself (Substack says) is able to attract readers to us. And yet, over the eight months since I've ported over my followers, a full 99% of my readers come from my email list, with only 1% coming from Substack. This means that I'm offering Substack 10% of the writing income that my work generates, but getting back far below what SS estimates writers will attract through the platform. Are there just too many writers for readers to differentiate? Something else? Thanks in advance.
🟧 I would like to be able to use 'Sections' on my Substack website and as a way to allow subscribers (currently all free) to segment themselves to the content that I am offering -- fiction, non-fiction, more of blog style, my podcast, etc.
I had understood this was possible but would love to have this confirmed before I unleash all of my content to my free subscribers.
Can they pick and choose what they will receive and unsubscribe from the sections they are not interested in? Thank you.
Elementary question: If you edit a Substack after it's been posted, does it automatically get resent to all subscribers?
🟧 Any updates on jump links? I traded emails with the support team a few weeks ago asking whether it would be possible to enable links in/to section headings. This was a common feature on blogging platforms in the early 2000s, and enables writers to cite not only previous articles, but specific sections where we might have made a particular point.
For instance, I write about bipartisan corruption in Washington, and often link back to previous posts in which I've established discrete points relevant to a theme in a new post. As an example, I wrote this week about the House vote to censure Rashida Tlaib (https://shahidbuttar.substack.com/p/washingtons-chickens-come-home-to), and included a link to a recent post about the exposure of disinformation strategically planted by official sources in Tel Aviv and Washington (https://shahidbuttar.substack.com/p/the-first-casualty-of-war-is-the).
Rather than point readers back to the entire previous post, I'd ideally point them to the specific section that I'm referencing. I understand that's not possible yet but suspect that it would be a trival adjustment from an engineering standpoint since html already offers that functionality.
🟧 I'd like to be able to let free subscribers comment on previews of paywalled posts. I've asked for this before, but asking again because it would make a big difference to my substack. I would like all my subscribers to be able to contribute to discussion on a post, while keeping bonus content behind the paywall. Many thanks!
🟧 i have to raise the same as many here: new shareable images don’t work, truncate the title etc. Would love the old ones back. Thank you!!
I just wanted to shout again to anyone writing about TV and/or streaming, especially outside the U.S. I'm always looking for new Substacks and pieces to highlight. I have a decent percentage of my subscribers who live somewhere globally, and as far as I can tell, there's no way to search for Substacks that specifically over television or streaming.
🟧 Two feature requests/questions...
1 - Currently, you can't allow comments from free subscribers on a post with a paywall. I would love to be able to insert a paywall on a post for a portion of it, but still allow my free readers the ability to comment.
2 - I have a "section" of my substack that contains weekly prompts. I had set those to not display on my main page to reduce clutter. But I noticed just last week that in the APP, the "sections" aren't available. (Am I overlooking them?) I went back and set the section posts to show on main because otherwise, they are totally inaccessible from the app. I prefer being able to use sections to organize content, but it the sections aren't available in the app.....
Thanks for any input!
🟧: Are there certain newsletters where I can comment for FREE instead of having to pay to comment?
Among the people I follow on Substack, I can only comment if I'm a paid subscriber.
✏️ I'm a multipotentialite (aka multipod, Renaissance woman, etc.) and have many different interests, so my Substack covers creative living and the arts as a whole. I'd love to see examples of other Substacks that cover a broad range of topics or feature an array of types of posts. I sometimes wish that I could be more niche and I understand that may be better for ~growth~, but I'd really like to stay true to who I am. So, basically, looking for inspo!
I am 75 autistic and addicted to writing it keeps me high along with cannabis from the government catalogue delivered to my front door. I type on a keyboard designed for four year olds with autism and I am rich beyond my wildest dreams. The last thing I want is fame and fortune. All I want is a white wall to scribble graffiti and tell myself jokes. The Most important book I ever read was Orwell's Why I Write. I taught myself to read in infancy and I learned how to write because my wife is PhD in education and I had a whole faculty of PhDs to teach me how to write. I don't think in straight lines I make logical assumptions and humans can't normally understand logic. They inhabit either Wonderland or the other side of the Looking glass as Professor Dodgson surmised.
It is Snark Hunting Season in America and I am the beaver.
I still can't program a toaster but I can pilot Star Ships and trip over my shoelaces.🤣
I am an absolute novice and need some guidance about starting to write for a wider audience. My experience in writing has been limited to academia (master's thesis and doctoral dissertation) and professional communication...40+ years as a neuropsychologist at a Level II trauma center.
🟧✏️ Help! I’m trying to make some of my posts permanently free, but there’s a bug that causes them to reset to paid every day. I have an automatic paywall at one month, but follow the instructions here (support.substack.com/hc/en-us/articles/…) to remove it for specific posts. It seems to be a bug in the system. Does anyone have experience with this?
Does anyone have advice about how to start a blog? I really want to get my thoughts out there and get better as writer + I would love to build an audience. But i'm gun shy about putting something bad out into the world of the internet. Anybody have words of wisdom?
🟧 - Is it just me, or is it confusing to have two home pages? One called 'home' and one called 'Substack Home'? I would like to see their name a bit more different so when I see them in my tabs I know which one it is.
🟧 - When Substack provides me with shareable media now, it has the first paragraph of my story written across the image and I really do not like that. Is there some way to get the old shareable images with just the headline and subheadline?
I'm NEW here with Heart, Soul & Monkeys, sharing playful practices to deal with Monkey Mind crap that stops us from creating and living fully. Would anyone want to exchange feedback on our SubStack presence and effectiveness? I moved my subscribers from Mailchimp, mostly folks who know me. I'm a former Big Media creative director, but I often can't see the forest through the trees of my own work. Could use a fresh perspective. So grateful for learning Substack!
🟧 - are there specific substacks which talk about growing an audience? thanks
✏️ gosh so many of you have so may subscribers, I am still stuck in trying to get noticed (harder I know as I am not on the social media circuit).
🧠 I have two suggestions to share with other writers.
First, I recently signed up for a paid subscription with a prolific author on Substack whose work has long inspired me. (For the record, that's Chris Hedges, a dissident former bureau chief from the NY Times whose poignant post this week moved me & many others to tears: https://chrishedges.substack.com/p/letter-to-the-children-of-gaza?r=97w99) Getting a paid subscription gave me the opportunity to share a comment on his post reflecting on his writing, as well as shared themes that emerge in my own. I can't tell exactly how many subscriptions it drove to my newsletter, but the comment got some attention and seemed to draw at least some new readers to my work.
Second, I enjoyed a brilliant recap from a fellow writer tracking last night's GOP presidential debate for second place, and took a moment to both reply to her post and also share it on Notes. (Here it is, for others' reference: https://laurajedeed.substack.com/p/the-third-republican-debate-doesnt?) That led to a thoughtful exchange illuminating some points of constructive tension between our respective perspectives, as well as mutual subscriptions to each other's Substack newsletters.
Something about sharing a discourse based on reason, free of ad hominem barbs, felt inspiring. I'm not sure whether that's because I've been trained by social media to expect mendacity, or instead because the character assassination I survived after winning a congressional primary in 2020 forced me to confront bias & Islamophobia that I had previously chosen to ignore—but either way, it's nice to build community with people who share an inclination to write and sincerely debate ideas in good faith.
🧠 I'd encourage everyone to experiment more often, discover what you and your readers like (equally important), and not be afraid to pivot and change.
I initially started my Substack to share book reviews, with occasional posts about sharing personal stories about leaving home and finding another one. I then discovered that my subscribers are way more interested in reading personal essays, than my book reviews. So I've decided to flip my strategy to share personal essays, which I enjoy writing more anyways, as the main focus with occasional book reviews. I think my Subtack journey is equal-part sharing stories with others and equal-part self-discovery.
✏️ I recently topped 500 subscribers (finally!) and it's been a long haul. I think it's mainly due to the nature of my work. The humor and comics are personal and sometimes off-kilter. I tend to use Substack as a sandbox to experiment and build up content for book publishing. Anyhow, as for gaining subscribers via social media outlets, I've noticed that Twitter is basically dead. Same with Instragram. But Reddit brings in some traffic. Any other artists had any luck with other social media to bring in subscribers?