Starting a Substacks Newsletter

Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Are you ready to step off the cliff
 and start a newsletter?

Well, I’ve done it. After Cathy extolled the virtues of Substack, I started seeing it mentioned here and there.  Some of the newsletters I've been reading for years had even migrated, unbeknown to me, to Substack.  

This week I decided to step off the cliff. I know that sounds impetuous, but I’d been noodling this over since I saw Cathy's May post. If I was going to do a newsletter, what would I do? What do I know enough about to compile a monthly or bi-weekly newsletter? Writing. Books. And creativity. 

As I contemplated this for several weeks, the content didn’t change much. I've also been reading a variety of Substacks newsletters to familiarize myself with things. I really like: 
  • Sarai Mitnick’s Making Time. Her newsletter is about creativity but she approaches it from the perspective of making time to make what you want. She sews but she also cooks and obviously, because she has a newsletter, writes. I always take something valuable away from this newsletter.
  • The Practicing Writer by Erika Dreifus. I’ve been reading this one since long before it migrated to Substack. She shares a lot of writing and publishing news as well as markets. 
  • Never Not Nervous by Brooke Barker  In this newsletter Brooke shares her comics and her thoughts.  I absolutely love her comics. 
There are more, but I’d been reading these for a while and saving the ones that I especially liked as inspiration. Why did I decide to step off the cliff and create my own newsletter right this moment? For one thing, it seemed like a great topic for a post. “I decided to do this, and it went great!” 

I’m also under contract for three separate books with two deadlines this week. What better time to start a newsletter. No, really. I get a lot done like this. 

I’ve been reading about design lately, so I sat down yesterday evening and quickly pulled together my text. I found fonts for the body of the newsletter, for the banner, and for the subheadings. I am capable of spending way too much time looking at fonts. 

This morning, I got up and changed the fonts around. I needed something bolder for the subheadings. Then I changed the font for the body of the newsletter.  Twice.  Finally, I was ready to put it all together in Substacks. Naturally, I googled what to do. 

Step 1. Sign up for Substacks. Um, yeah. That one seems a little obvious. 

Step 2. Create a publication. Hmm. Someone has clearly never written a how-to for money, but I clicked through.  Where was the button for publication? I waffled for a bit and realized that what I needed to do was create a post. (Click!) 

When I realized what I was seeing, I had to take a deep breath. My design?  Irrelevant.  You upload everything into a template. That said, what is moderately frustrating for me means it will, in the long run, be easier to do. They have created a format that is clear and easy to read on a phone and on a desktop.

Sure, I have a few things that I want to adjust but I've made a start. My plan is to post twice a month (midmonth and the end of the month). For those of you who are curious, you can find my first issue here.  And I’d appreciate it if you subscribe.

If you are trying to create content on Substack and can't figure something out, feel free to comment below. I'll gladly help where I can. Just remember, I've only just recently stepped off this particular cliff.


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of 40 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.  Click here to find her newsletter.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on  August 7, 2023).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins August 7, 2023) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins August 7, 2023).


Cathy C. Hall said...

Yay, you! Creating a newsletter is on my To Do well as figuring out if it's something I can do with my Wordpress site. As much as I wish you could just tell me how to do it, Sue, I suspect I'll have to watch another tutorial.


Cathy C. Hall said...

I just read your Substack, Sue! It's wonderful! And I'm exhausted reading about all that you accomplish...I spend my day making sure I can fit a nap into my To Do List. :-)

So it's free now but will you have to make it paid at some point? I was asked to that standard? I subscribed and I'm wondering if there's a connection with # of subscribers?

Um...that's a lot of questions but you did say ask! :-)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Hi Cathy-

Thank you! I've been really nervous about doing this. That little voice in my head is a total pain.

I did say ask questions! Let's see if I can do this.
1. You don't have to make it paid, but you can. Will I? I doubt it. This is just my way of handling a mailing list to inform people about my work.
2. The pledge button is (I think) just an indicator whether people would be willing to pay in the future. That said, I think I'm going to remove that in the next issue. Esp if people aren't sure why it is there. Hmm. You are a person, yes? I don't see an "I am not a robot" check mark.
3. I'm not sure what you mean by a "connection with # of subscribers"? Are you asking if Substack remains free if I exceed 500 or 1000 or some other number of subscribers? It is always free.

Angela Mackintosh said...

This is exciting! It sounds fairly painless to start. :) As I mentioned in Cathy's post, I considered moving WOW's newsletter to Substack just to save almost $500 a month on our email newsletter service. We wouldn't charge for the newsletter, so it would be free like it is now, and I know you can import your contact list. But the major problem I see is losing 16 years worth of archives, newsletters, etc. that live online via Constant Contact. I also don't see a lot of marketing newsletters on Substack like what we send for our classes and workshops, and wonder if that would be weird on the platform or if they would flag the content. Because I heard Substack has content moderation, which I don't like. I think it's also weird for subscribers who have been used to receiving our emails for years to suddenly realize they've been exported to Substack and have automatically joined their platform. Then there's the whole thing with Twitter blocking links to your Substack newsletters, but Twitter is going downhill fast. I feel like all platforms are dying and mine your data, so it's best to roll your own if you can afford it. I also like having the ability to send partner eblasts, segment lists, and have detailed analytics. Does Substack have good analytics? Track clicks, opens, etc.?

Angela Mackintosh said...

PS. I just subscribed! :)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Hi Ang,
Thank you! I know you can import archives to Substack, esp if you can download an RSS feed or a JSON file of the archive. Not that I've DONE it. But it says you can. Maybe approach Erika Dreifus and see if she'd discuss her experience? She's already had to work with moving subscribers from one platform to another and the like. Her newsletter, The Practicing Writer has a strong market section. So does Science Writing News Roundup although I think it is only in the paid version. It doesn't matter what answers you get, it is a huge undertaking.

Nicole Pyles said...

I love that you started one! It's been on my mind for a while to do it, especially for my weekly blog feature, 3 Things on a Saturday Night. I feel like something like that would do well for a Substack. There are a ton I read on Substack. I have signed up for a lot of job ones, ones for people in PR to pitch journalists, and writing-based ones. I also follow a random one about aging called Oldster. I really like that one.

And now yours!

Erika D. said...

Thanks for the kind words, and congrats on launching your own Substack. I really am happy there. (By the way, I'm unfortunately not at all the best person to ask about migrating archives--I'm pretty sure it was more my fault than Substack's, but I utterly failed to do that when I switched the newsletter from YahooGroups to Substack a few years back, when YahooGroups was going kaput. I'm just lucky so many people stuck with me.)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Hi Nicole,
I'll have to look up Oldster. I love random enjoyable newsletters. Of course, that means I sometimes goof. Mr. Anti-Science just has got to go.

Hi Erika D.,
Ouch! Tech is wonderful when it works but when it doesn't (no matter who is at fault), what a bother. I wonder if any of your readers has maintained an archive?

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