16 Comments

You're spot on about writers needing to have control over their channels. Platforms you don't own/control are still useful, but in a different way. A mailing list and a website are real assets that you can invest in with some confidence.

That said, I'm still very optimistic about Substack. They don't seem to be idiots. :) As long as market pressures don't force them down a different route, I think they've got a good road ahead of them. If the app or the web reader ever switch to an algorithmic feed rather than chronological feed, though, it'll be bad news.

Fingers crossed!

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Love this!! Great perspective and tips for helping indie authors remain prepared.

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I definitely agree with being everywhere, for many reasons.

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I think it's a very boring, dull, and unintelligent move, but I don't have a checkmark, so ;) And you're right: whatever a company does is always going to be in its own best interest, not the creators'. Some of that is necessary for survival, but it's a continuum of sorts, I guess. And this is a move away from supporting all creators using the platform toward those golden geese that bring in the most money for the company.

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Some of what Musk is doing is blatantly unethical. I have used Twitter for years and have built a large following (more than 110K engaged followers), so I'm reluctant to give that up. But the way things are going on Twitter, I don't want to be part of it, so I'm looking at alternatives. I'm trying out several options, and am currently considering getting serious with Instagram. Is anyone else switching to Instagram?

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I’m not negative on Substack. I’m not even super negative on the Best Seller Badge thing because it’s not actually something new. Substacks have always shown people who had hundreds or thousands of paid subscribers. The only difference is that before you had to navigate to the specific page to see it whereas now it follows you around on your profile. The only real change is a change in visibility. And, Elizabeth, as you pointed out, Substack still allows you to retain ownership of the relationship with your subscribers.

My criticism of the change in subscriber count visibility is more about a belief that they should create other types of markers to indicate when small or new Substacks have done something that should merit the attention of a would be reader. That was my big point. Let’s try to build the little guy because there are a whole lot more of them than there are the Stephen Kings or Paolo Coelhos that you mention in your article.

Don’t get me wrong. Substack, as a business, needs both types of users. I don’t begrudge them that. And that’s the main reason I believe that there is some merit to highlighting their success. I’m not saying “Don’t do this!” I’m saying “Also do this other thing.”

The time to be worried for Substack is if the leadership changes or as Simon K Jones points out if “market pressures force them down a different route.” At the end of the day, Substack is funded by venture capitalists and those guys will want a return on their investment. The best way to prevent them from forcing Substack to do something that really does hurt authors is for Substack to develop and deploy tools that bring money in right now. If that means promoting already big accounts for right now, then, sure let’s do that; but, at some point let’s also place the focus on the smaller accounts too. Let’s try to create an ecosystem that lifts everyone.

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