I Created an Account on Substack, Accidentally

Substack is an online platform for subscription-based newsletters. As a writer, I’ve been on forums where people hype it up as a great way to build and maintain a dedicated readership. As a person who does not wish to engage with most forms of social media, I’ve read articles about the recent Twitter fiasco that have listed it as an alternative. I was curious.

I was also tired that day. Lacking the creative energy to write anything of value, lacking the mental energy to continue reading Asimov. I don’t like to start a new book while I’m in the middle of another one, so I was looking for something else to do. Something I could sell to myself as being useful for my development as a writer, even if it wasn’t writing or studying the craft of writing. I decided to learn more about this platform for newsletters.

I went to the website, reading through what it had to say about itself, seeing how much a person can view without being signed in. And that was when I had the bright idea of finding out what it would take to create an account. Surely, I thought, this would be a multi-step process, involving the creation of a username and password. I can back out before completing the final step and be fully prepared when I decide to do this thing for real. I was wrong.

The Create Your Account page on Substack, showing a place to type an email address, a link to an agreement, and a button to continue

Since I didn’t want to “Connect with Twitter” (I don’t have one, as you might have guessed from my statements above), I was greeted with the screen that you see here. I read through the agreement, curious to see if it would have any unusual terms or gotchas that I didn’t care for. I typed in an email and clicked the button, wondering how much more information they would ask for. None. My account was created just like that. An email was sent to that address, and as soon as I clicked the link within that email, I was in.

Well, shoot. Now I have to do something with this, don’t I? I don’t want to be the person who’s had an account sitting open for months or years before doing anything with it. That’ll make it look like I’m not making an effort. That might count against me in the eyes of whatever algorithms on the site might be recommending newsletters for others to consider subscribing to.

So now I have a newsletter.

A screenshot of my newsletter on Substack, showing a recent post and an About section.

I set it up for the purpose I’d had in mind when I was considering it, which is as an easy alternative to following this blog. When I think about the people I know in real life who might want to buy a book of mine someday, I know they don’t have WordPress accounts. I also know they probably don’t care about my book reviews or writing tips or any of the other content that I blog about. They only want to know about that book they can buy, if and when there is one.

Based on the fact that it was ridiculously easy for me to set up an account to write a newsletter, you may have also guessed that it’s easy to subscribe to one. Absolutely. All you need is an email address. In fact, all a person needs to do is tell me that they’d like to be signed up, and I can enter in their email address without having to explain to them how to go to any website or do anything. If you, like myself, have any experience in giving tech help to people who struggle with technology, you may appreciate this as much as I do. Just think of all those older relatives you see at family get-togethers, comfortable with email and not much else. Do they want to buy your book? Of course! Well, you could write down a reminder for yourself to tell them when it comes out. Or you could add them to your email list to make sure you never forget.

That’s the idea, anyway. As of right now, my only subscriber is myself. I wrote one post and sent it out, just to see how it would look and just so that I can have something on the site for anyone who might browse to it from there. I have a link to it on the front page of my site now, for anyone who might be Googling my name. Maybe I went to school with them and they’re wondering what I’m up to these days. I also have it linked on my CritiqueCircle profile, the site I use for giving and receiving feedback on novel drafts. That way anyone who’s read the draft and wants to buy the finished version has an easy way of making sure they can.

If you want to sign up as well, you can absolutely feel free to do so. Although some newsletters on Substacks required paid subscriptions, mine is free. It also won’t just be recycled blog posts. Different audiences with different desires will get a different presentation. If you want an illustration of the difference, check out last week’s post, which gave an update on where I’m at with my current novel, as opposed to my first post for the newsletter. If you’d only read one or the other, you’d know that I’m currently revising, no matter which one you’d read. But the blog post assumes an audience of fellow writers, while the newsletter assumes an audience of people who are interested in me specifically. Therefore there’s going to be some information shared in the newsletter that doesn’t make it to the blog, and vice versa.

If you’re interested in keeping up with me that way, the newsletter can be found right here. Subscribing is incredibly easy. But don’t worry, after reading this post, I’m reasonably certain you won’t subscribe on accident.

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