What I’ve learned from one year writing a Substack newsletter
It was one year ago that I finished researching my article No One Reads Books (and other truths about publishing), and determined that my best hope as an author was to create a platform for my writing.
At the time, I had no social media accounts and had just emerged from three years writing a novel when, in a fevered haze, I became like Amadeus in the final scene in his namesake movie — furiously determining that I would not allow my novels to die in Obscurity, but would find a way to put my art out into the world.
Thus began a year-long exploration of the creator economy and whether I might be able to use it to build an audience for my writing, and possibly even earn a living doing it. One year in, I believe my answer to both questions is yes, though I have crossed off several inaccurate hypotheses to get here.
Hypothesis: People value art
Conclusion: People value knowledge more
Having struck out with more than 100 literary agents and determined that mine was a novel better suited to a niche audience of 1,000 than a mass-market audience of 100,000, I turned to the creator economy to see whether I could still earn a living from 1,000 fans.
After interviewing several authors who make a living this way, and testing out the various serial fiction platforms they used to do it, I decided to serialize my novel via this Substack newsletter — releasing one chapter each week for paying subscribers at $10/month and $50/year.
My hypothesis at the time was that I might be able to develop a following for my fiction, and even earn a living from it — but that proved incorrect in the best possible way. In an early survey of the 45 individuals who paid to subscribe to my novel, I found that none subscribed to read my novel, and all subscribed to support my newsletter.
That’s when I realized my original hypothesis had been turned on its head: I am not a novelist writing books for my readers. We are a community of writers writing together. And that is so much more fun to me!!!!!