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Information in this article is pulled from Episode 131 of The Book Marketing Action Podcast featuring Sarah Fay, a private Substack consultant. 

Substack is a platform that provides writers with the opportunity to reach a wider audience, build a community, and earn an income. 

While it has gained popularity as a platform for independent writers to practice free speech, it has also faced criticism. Some writers have raised concerns about the platform’s handling of controversial content and its potential to amplify harmful voices. However, Substack has taken steps to address these concerns and ensure that the platform remains a space for free speech while also maintaining a safe and inclusive environment. 

For many writers, Substack is a positive platform that can be instrumental in reaching a wider audience and building a community of readers. It provides a unique opportunity for writers to earn an income and share their work directly with subscribers, as well as connect with readers who are genuinely interested in their writing. 

The Value of Substack: 

– It presents an opportunity to serialize your work. To serialize means to publish a story in multiple installments. If you choose to take this approach, make sure your content is bite-sized and that each installment feels like a complete experience. Not everyone is going to sit down at their computer and read a full-length chapter every week, and they may not have time to read every single installment. This is why it’s important to hold their attention with digestible content that feels complete, despite being part of a larger story. 

– Substack wants everyone to succeed on the platform. Users don’t pay a monthly fee but instead pay a percentage of each paid subscriber they get. This means that Substack wants you to succeed and grow a large audience because it’s how they make their money. People subscribe to you, the writer, not the platform itself.

– Other writers want to see you succeed on the platform. The belief is that there are plenty of subscribers to go around, so why not amplify other people in your field? It is a highly supportive environment.  

– Substack gives you a reason to write. When you publish on Substack, you are creating content for people—for the audience you have established and have developed a relationship with. Writing is not a solitary experience when you have a real, engaged audience cheering you on throughout the journey. 

– It opens up an opportunity to sell your books off of the backlist (a publisher’s list of older books that are still in print). If your book has been out for a while and you want to take another approach to boosting sales, create a Substack. Don’t let your work fade out. Amplify your message by growing a Substack audience. Subscribers are the people who are going to buy your book and champion your work. 

– It’s about quality, not quantity. You do not need to constantly be posting new content on the platform. The main goal is to share work that is valuable for your audience, so be intentional and don’t feel like you need to show up in your subscriber’s inboxes every single day. 

How to Get Started on Substack: 

– While there is a lot of long-form content on Substack, people’s attention spans are short, especially online. Consider presenting your content in multiple formats. Your subscribers have invited you into their lives—into their inbox—so how will you make your work stand out? One idea is to record an audio version of each piece of writing you share so your audience can listen and remain engaged, even when life gets busy. 

– If you’re a writer who wants to earn an income on Substack, use a service model in order to increase your chances of making money. If you already have a Substack for your writing, consider creating another one focused on your specific area of expertise. This is where people will pay to learn from you. You can grow as both a writer and an expert, but sharing your expertise will help you grow faster. 

Set your Substack up with a goal in mind. You need a strategy for each goal you want to achieve, such as promoting an upcoming book, offering workshops to earn money, or establishing a platform to attract an agent. Substack has opened up a more achievable way for writers to earn an income, but you must take a focused approach if you want to experience success. 

Substack is one of the best platforms for writers, but it requires hard work and focused efforts. How will you choose to show up? 

Sarah Fay is a private Substack consultant, an award-winning author at HarperCollins, and a member of the faculty at Northwestern University. She publishes the bestselling newsletter Substack Writers at Work, where she helps people use the personal media platform Substack to sell their books, earn an income, build a loyal community of readers, and have the writing careers they want. Check out her serialized book, Cured, and sign up for her brand new course, “Your Substack Success Blueprint: Create, Design, and Grow Your Substack.”