Ready to unlock the full potential of Substack?
We're here to answer WHAT, WHY and HOW of this platform, where independent publishing meets community building. Discover the features offered, including content creation and promotion, subscription models, monetization, and more. We're going to help you answer a critical question – is Substack the right fit for you? Remember, there's no wrong answer here, only exciting opportunities!
Next, we get into the HOW of building and promoting a successful Substack newsletter. We look at carving out a niche, defining your audience, and delivering consistent, high-quality content. This episode is more than a guide – it's your stepping stone to becoming a Substack superstar!
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Hi everyone. We are back today with a new Marketing Monday episode. Remember, the last Marketing Monday episode we gave you was a laundry list of ideas and we promised to go deeper into them in the future. And the future is now and it's here. Yay us, yay future. So today we are talking about Substack, and the way we've organized this episode is we're going to quickly tell you what Substack is, why you want to use it, and then we're going to go into more detail in how to use it, because I know these new platforms can be confusing. So our goal is to get you either excited about starting something on Substack or deciding. No way, I'm never doing that. There is no wrong choice.Lisa Schmid:
I am one of those people that looked at it and said no, thank you, this makes my head hurt. I joined it like after our last episode. I got all excited because you were, you know, you totally sold me on it, like all the benefits, because the benefits are there and it's amazing, and I tried and then I just realized how much work it was going to be and I can barely get by in my general day to day life, that that is not something that's going to be a part of my marketing system.Beth McMullen:
So you guys, but this is my second chance to try and convince Lisa that she wants to do this. But, as I literally just said, there is no wrong choice here.Lisa Schmid:
I've seen yours and it's amazing Like I subscribed. Thank you, yay. It came over and I was like, oh, that's emailing me. And I was like, oh, look at that, that's so pretty and professional. She's way above my pay grade, so I think I got intimidated it is intimidating.Beth McMullen:
These new things are intimidating. I feel really stressed out. Whenever I have to wrestle with a new platform or a new social media thing, it's always a little nerve-wracking, but we're going to help solve some of those problems and I'm going to ask you at the end if you still are like nope, we'll see. Though it's my personal mission.Lisa Schmid:
You'll know, if I'm glazing over, that I've already left the building and I'm stressing out and thinking about what I'm going to have for dinner tonight.Beth McMullen:
So here we go. Ok, what, let's do this? What the heck is Substack? I know people will hear it kind of in the like guys. Right now it's out there, but what is it? So it's an online platform that enables writers and journalists to create and distribute their own newsletters or email-based publications. So it's kind of like a combination of a blogging platform and a subscription service. Quickly, I'm going to run down some of the things that you need to know about what it is. So content creation obviously You're creating a newsletter or an article or whatever it works off a subscription model, so any of the newsletter distribution channels that you used to use. It's sort of like that. It allows you to have a free content channel, a paid content channel, a combination of the two. So you have lots of flexibility in offering premium or exclusive content to paying customers. Or maybe you're just totally free entirely and then you change later to paid. You have lots of flexibility. You are completely independent. You write what you want. You publish when you want. Nobody is looking over your shoulder. It is entirely up to you how you go about it. The platform is very user-friendly after you get over the learning curve. There is a learning curve. It's not super steep. If you're used to interacting with social media, you'll be fine figuring this out. You do share revenue with Substack. They will typically take about 10 percent of your subscription fees as a platform fee, so just keep that in mind as you go about doing this.Lisa Schmid:
Now we get to the why and this is the part that's going to be convincing me the why it gives you direct connection with readers, which is so important, because at one time when you're out there posting on socials, you don't know who's seeing what. This gives you that direct connection, which I think is so important. Monetization as Besneth mentioned you can get subscriptions and you can generate revenue for other streams that you have. Say, for example, if you're selling merchandise or if you're doing online classes or whatever it is that you may have, or your books. You can use it for monetization. Community building, which is just like it used to be on Twitter, wherein it was actually fun and you had a community. Wait, RIP Twitter. We're both making sad faces because that is no longer there. It's a ghost town. Community building I think that's something we're all longing for right now. I miss that. I feel like we're all scattered to the wind. I'll see little bits of pieces over here and there and all the different threads that we're on. I think this is a way to reconnect and do the community building. Content promotion if you are an author, you can share excerpts from your books, behind the scenes stories, exclusive content for your subscribers. These are all great tools to peak readers' interest and drive them to buying your book. Then, author branding we're all trying to do that. We're all trying to create our brand. I think this is a really good tool for that. Data and analytics this is really interesting because on Twitter or any social media, you really don't know who's seeing what you're posting. It is this big cloud of oblivion that you have no clue as to who's seen it. Oh my God, can we?Beth McMullen:
just forever call Twitter a cloud of oblivion. I love that. That's how I'm thinking about it from now on. A cloud of oblivion, I think, captures the spirit.Lisa Schmid:
It totally is the spirit of it, because you, really there is nothing. I posted my cover reveal and years ago when I did my cover reveal, I probably got hundreds and hundreds of reposts and this and that there was a smattering. It's just not what it used to be, so it is a cloud of oblivion.Beth McMullen:
Everybody has fled.Lisa Schmid:
They have fled and rightfully so, I feel like. Just wherever you can find that place to build your community is also good Testing and feedback. Authors can use Substack to test new ideas, but concepts or writing styles. I like that. How many times have I started something in when I'm like that's not very good? I wonder if anyone will like that Flexibility. Substack allows authors to use the platform in a way that suits their needs. Then, in summary, substack provides authors with platform to connect directly with their readers, generate income, build a personal brand and market their work effectively. All this sounds fabulous.Beth McMullen:
It's very versatile. Honestly, when I first opened it up, I had a mini panic attack because I was like what is the point of this? But as you start to just move through it and go slowly and get to know it, it does offer you a lot of different angles that you can play as a writer. So I do like that. Now the how, because now we've told you what Substack is, why you're going to want to use it. So how do you do this? It can be intimidating let's acknowledge that up front but we're just going to give you five important tips for someone who's just starting out. So we're assuming you're just starting out. This first one, super important Define your niche and audience. So what are you writing about and who do you hope to have read your words? What is your expertise? What is your passion? Who is your target audience? All of those questions you need to ask yourself and you need to answer them for yourself, so you have a clear focus that will attract the right readers who are interested in what you have to say. So I think that this is probably the hardest part and I think you have to really pick something that you're going to be motivated to keep going on, that you actually have something to share that's valuable. So when I started my sub-stack, I had this Eureka moment and if you subscribe you'll get an intro email that describes this Eureka moment, where I was at this event and there was this author talking from a position of expertise and it was a guy and I'm not going to name who he is, but he was talking about how he, all of his experiences and how this information he was giving to us was super valuable and we could use it and the information was totally fine. But I had this moment where I was like, wait, I actually have way more experience and I know way more than this guy does. Why am I afraid to be sharing that with people? Why am I not helping people who are where I was 20 years ago? So that was sort of my motivation and helped me define what I was going to talk about Talking to people who are aspiring writers, those that are in the trenches, that need a little boost kind of the same stuff we're doing on this podcast, but through a different format. So define your niche and your audience. Answer those questions to yourself before you get started going. Okay, Once you do that, you know what you're writing and you know who you're writing for. You need a consistent posting schedule. It is key to building and retaining your subscriber base. I have seen a lot of newsletters on Substack where the person consistently posts over I don't know a few months and then they add a paid version of their newsletter. So they build their audience. People get to rely on what they're delivering and then they add a paid feature and they start using it to monetize. It's super interesting to watch how that rolls out. But the very first thing you must do is be consistent, and that can be up to you weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, whatever it is, just stick to it. Your subscribers are much more likely to stay engaged if they know when to expect your content to show up.Lisa Schmid:
So this next tip engage with your subscribers and think about when you were building your platform and your audience and your followers on Twitter or wherever you're doing it now. It's the same kind of concept that you have to interact with your followers, subscribers, and build that community around your newsletter, respond to comments and emails and consider hosting Q&A sessions, live chats or exclusive content for your subscribers to make them feel valued. I know that there are people on Twitter that would just post something. You know it was always just posting about their book or you know there was never any interaction. So it's just after a while they would post something and you would interact and they wouldn't respond and I would just unfollow them because I just felt like, well, you don't want to interact with me, you're not interested in what I'm responding to. So I think this is that same kind of concept, like, if you want to build that audience, you need to connect with those people so they feel connected with you. High quality content so invest time and effort into creating high quality content. Your content should be well researched, informative and well written. Include visuals, such as images or videos, to make your newsletter visually appealing. So this is something that I just want to throw out there. When we first started uh, writers with Wrinkles yay, that's doing a little happy dance. You know we wanted a look, we wanted an image, a brand, and that sounds really intimidating when you think about the money that it's going to take to invest into that, especially when you are on a budget. And so we went out to a site called Fiverr and we had all our artwork done, I think, for under like a hundred dollars, and it's gorgeous. And I have a great relationship with our artist. Beth used the same one for her sub stack, and so if you're trying to figure out what your branding is, you know, go out and look at a site like Fiverr and you find something, a style or a look that you like and then reach out to those people. It's not super, super expensive and it's a great way to start.Beth McMullen:
One thing to add to that is that sub stack. Every time you publish a newsletter, it generates all of this I don't know what you call it branding material that you can push out to Instagram or Twitter or wherever. So it helps if you've thought about what it's going to look like, because then you very easily can take this stuff that sub stack generates and use it for your marketing push. So, yeah, I think Fiverr is great for that. Plus, it kind of helps you define in your head what your brand is if you have a look and feel. I know that once I saw the writers with wrinkles art, I was like, yeah, totally catches our kind of casual. This is going to be fun, everybody relax. You know there's animals in the image, so it's perfect.Lisa Schmid:
Yes, and I said, one of my favorite parts is when she first created it. I'm like gosh, we don't look very cool and I just thought, oh, can you throw on some sunglasses? I don't know why. I thought that would be so cool.Beth McMullen:
But it did it like, made it kind of brought it all together. I really I totally love it.Lisa Schmid:
Well, that is just sitting here. I'm like how do you make two middle aged women look kind of cool and hip? And I'm like throw on some sunglasses.Beth McMullen:
It'll take a miracle to make us look cool, but I think you did it.Lisa Schmid:
Well, I think she originally had like little glasses and they look like little granny glasses and I'm like that's got to go. Yeah, I know.Beth McMullen:
No, we can't. We're trying to. We're trying not to slide down that slippery slope quite yet. Okay, one more, one more. Promote your newsletter so you can use the built in features that I just talked about. That Substack automatically generates for you every time you publish. But promote your newsletter through other channels too, like your social media, your website. You can put it in your email signature. You can collaborate with other writers or creators to cross promote and all of those things. So don't just stop at the Substack features that are provided to you. Just keep going and tap out your whole network and make sure that you are pushing that newsletter and the subscribe button out to everybody that you know in all of the various channels. So this takes time. It takes time and effort and you have to stay patient and the people who do it well are consistent and show up and they take time and they're offering you something of value. I think that's the most important thing that you are consistently offering something of value and don't get freaked out by the learning curve. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but everybody can get over it. Okay, lisa, how are you feeling? Are you gonna do it? I, you know what I think. At there's a time she's like there's no way I can tell. From her face she's like are you kidding me? I'm not doing this. This sounds terrible.Lisa Schmid:
So I will say this because I can see all the benefits of it. I definitely can. Right now I'm like in the middle of all my edits and everything just feels really crazy. I haven't looked at my current manuscript in like six weeks. So I just feel like one more thing on my plate right now, and that's something also you have to acknowledge to yourself. If you are not in the right mind frame to start something like this, don't Like wait until your plate is a little bit cleared off, that you have, you know, some room for something like this, because I think once I have room in my little brain for such a big project, then I will take it on. But like now is not that time. But I know that I can see the value in it and I think it's something I am going to want to do and I also have to kind of let it percolate Like I don't know what I'd want to talk about on a consistent basis.Beth McMullen:
I thought about it for a long time. I thought about it for a few months before I did anything, and then it took me like at least two months to get the art sort of organized and get my head around. Okay, this is how I'm going to position it, but I think it's, it's valuable if you feel like that commitment, just like Lisa said, fits into your life. Because if it doesn't fit into your life and you're just going to do a half-assed job, don't, don't bother, wait until you have the bandwidth.Lisa Schmid:
And that's the thing. It's like you can. You can say to yourself oh, I have time right now, but the big question is will you have time every month or every week or whatever it is that you're just deciding to continually do it? You have to look at your own lifestyle and your own life and say do I really have room for something that this is a big commitment, Do I have the space for? So those are all things to think about as we talk about each one of these marketing platforms, Like is this a good fit for me? Is the next thing a good fit for me?Beth McMullen:
So yeah, and it has to be something that you're like enjoying, because a lot of times people start off and marketing stuff and they're like I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this, and then they realize they hate it and they don't want to do it anymore. So what did you call it? The something of oblivion Twitter Cloud of oblivion. Cloud of oblivion. That is the one that I no longer do, because I felt like the I couldn't. I couldn't do it anymore, so I left that one.Lisa Schmid:
It's not a good space anymore. I mean, I go on it and I'm almost afraid to scroll because I'm afraid of what I do. It Like you know what I do. It's like get the visual of me, like with my hands, like you know my peeking through fingers, like like a horror movie like a horror movie, like if something scary going to pop up on my screen and scare the crap out of me, and so I just really try to get it. I get on there and I try to, like, you know, support people and yeah, yeah, this is beautiful, come reveal, you got this, you got that.Beth McMullen:
And then it's like hurry, get out, get out.Lisa Schmid:
Like it's like you're running out of a burning building. Each time you're on there and you feel like your brain's on fire, yeah. So find your space, find your comfort zone and and then you'll be happy wherever that is. And if it's sub stack, yay. And if it's not, you'll find something else in one of our next podcasts.Beth McMullen:
These are very true words and that is how we will wrap up. This was a lot, but I hope you it gave you some clarity and whether you want to do sub stack or not, and we will be back next week with authors Pat Seatlow Miller and EE Charlton Trujillo to talk about collaboration and how to make it work and other fun stuff. So be sure to join us for that. One Side note our recording of that podcast was a total disaster, so it remains to be seen if I can make it into something that is as awesome as we hope it will be. So just a little intrigue for you to tune in and hear how we made out with that episode and until then, happy reading, writing and listening by Lisa. Bye-bye, guys.