Setting up your Substack for the first time
New to Substack? Welcome! If you’ve just signed up, you’ll probably want to polish up a few things before you email your readers. Here’s how to set up your Substack to make it uniquely yours.
Make your newsletter stand out
Pick a title and URL
Choose a subdomain that’s easy to say, spell, and remember. Ideally, your publication title and URL are similar to avoid confusion.
A good test is to imagine that you’re on a podcast and asked to tell people how to find your website. Make it as easy as possible for the listeners to find you (Go to Easy ‘Name Dot Substack Dot Com!’).
A few examples of names:
Nicole Knows, by Nicole Cliffe (https://nicole.substack.com/)
Shero, by Amee Vanderpool (https://shero.substack.com/)
Onejob, by Thomas Guthrie (https://onejob.substack.com/)
If you need to pick a new name, you can change your newsletter’s title and subdomain from your Settings page.
Pick a logo
Your logo should be square, at least 256 x 256 pixels, with a transparent background. It’s small – more like an avatar – so aim for clear, crisp lines and not too much detail.
Choosing the right image depends on what kind of publication you’ve got. If you’re writing a personal newsletter, an image of yourself might make it feel more personal. If you’re creating an independent publication, you might want to create a branded logo.
A few examples of logos:
Evil Witches by Claire Zulkey
Margins by Ranjan Roy and Can Duruk
Write a short description
The one-line description appears on your welcome page (https://your.substack.com/welcome), which is displayed to new visitors. Your description should convey the value of subscribing to your newsletter. Who reads your newsletter, and why?
A few examples:
Sinocism by Bill Bishop: “Get smarter about China.”
Heated by Emily Atkin: “A newsletter for people who are pissed off about the climate crisis.”
The Ankler by Richard Rushfield: “The newsletter that Hollywood loves to hate and hates to love”
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Customize your publication theme
You can customize your publication’s theme from your Settings page. Choose a background color and cover photo for your welcome page, and pick colors for your homepage and post page. You can also select from a few different font styles and layouts.
Do some housekeeping
There are a few pages and emails that you can customize to communicate all the important things about your publication, available on your Settings page.
Each one comes with default text, so you don’t have to change anything if you don’t want to – but it helps to add a personal touch.
You can watch our tutorial on how to set up your publication for the first time:
The About page (https://your.substack.com/about) is where people go to find out more about your publication. Use this space to tell your visitors why they should care about your publication. Tell them who you are, what your newsletter is about, and how often they can expect to receive it. Include testimonials from happy readers, a photo that shows off your personality, and any other images that might help it look good.
If you’re starting a paid newsletter, be sure to tell readers what they’ll get for their money. It’s also a good idea to share your publishing schedule, including any planned breaks. Ask people to subscribe with “Subscribe now” buttons throughout the page.
A few examples of About pages:
Importantville by Adam Wren
The Diff by Byrne Hobart
“Thank you for subscribing” email
When someone signs up for your list, they’ll receive a “thank you" email. Use this space to give them something to do. A few ideas:
Highlight posts from your archive so that new readers can catch up on your writing.
Include information about what you offer your paying subscribers (if you have paid turned on) with a nice call to action to upgrade.
Solicit a direct reply from your new subscriber by asking them how they found you, where they're located, or some other information that is useful for you to know about your subscribers.
An added perk of this approach: by creating an initial two-way conversation with a subscriber, your emails are less likely to land in spam or the promotions tab.
Point readers to the Substack app so they can interact (comment, like, listen to audio, or watch videos) with your posts on the go.
If someone unsubscribes from your list, they’ll see this page. You can edit this from “Email opt-out page” on your Settings page.
Sometimes, readers will unsubscribe from your emails, but they still want to follow your work in other formats, so it doesn’t hurt to thank them for subscribing and link to your website or suggest they follow you on social media instead.
Email banner, header, and footer
If you’d like, you can customize your emails with a banner, and paid newsletters can include a custom header and footer, which will appear at the top of every email you send out. You can edit these on your Settings page. For best results, we recommend using a 1100 x 220 PNG banner image.
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Ready to get started?
Write your first post
Each new publication comes with a boilerplate “Coming soon” post, which is a placeholder post that we hope you’ll want to overwrite at your earliest opportunity!
Delete your “Coming soon” post by going to https://your.substack.com/coming-soon and clicking on the three dots underneath the post title. Choose “Edit post”, then go to “Settings” > “Delete post”.
Next, create a new post. Your first post is a good place to introduce yourself. Tell your readers why you started this publication, how you got here, and what you’ll be writing about. Think of it as a mini-manifesto or mission statement.
If you’re launching a paid newsletter, make sure your first post is public so prospective subscribers can read it.
You can watch our tutorial on how to create your first post:
For inspiration, here are a few examples of first posts from other Substack writers:
“Why I’m launching The Informant” by Nick Martin (The Informant)
“Stream N’ Destroy (READ ME)” by Ryan J. Downey (Stream N’ Destroy)
“Introducing…” by Emily Oster (ParentData)
That’s it! You are now the proud owner of a Substack that’s all yours. Go forth and tell your friends about it, and keep writing.
Read our guide to getting your first 100 signups.
Edit, April, 2022: This post was edited on April 14, 2022, to remove links to a publication by deceased writer
Setting up your Substack for the first time