Serialized storytelling has become increasingly popular with readers, and some authors are eager to take advantage of this trend. One intriguing option is the platform called Substack. Originally created to support subscription newsletters behind a paywall, Substack also offers writers an opportunity to serialize their books and story writing: You send your novel, memoir, or nonfiction book bit by bit to your newsletter subscriber list. The experts at Self-Publishing Relief have been keeping an eye on this trend and can give you the scoop on whether or not you should serialize your book on Substack.
What To Consider Before You Serialize Your Book On Substack
How Much Should You Charge? The monthly fee for newsletters can vary from free to $2 a month to a yearly fee of $200. You must determine whether you’ll charge a yearly fee (and can offer enough content to support a year-long commitment), or if you should charge a monthly fee and hope readers stick with you each month. Substack takes 10% of the subscriber fee. An additional 2.9% of your billing rate plus 30 cents per transaction will be taken out by Stripe, the service Substack uses for billing.
Who Owns Your Mailing List? You’ll have to put in the effort to build your audience of subscribers, but on Substack, you own your subscriber mailing list. Subscribers will pay a fee to you directly, and in turn, they’ll receive your serialized content straight to their inboxes. If for any reason you leave the platform, Substack won’t prevent you from taking those valuable email addresses with you.
Do You Have Enough Content? If you’re going to serialize on Substack, make sure you have enough content to regularly share with your subscribers. You could also consider writing content exclusively for Substack like Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk, who signed a deal with Substack to publish a serialized novel and exclusive content through the platform.
Which URL Should You Use? Substack newsletters have unique URLs. You should choose a URL that matches any other URLs and usernames you have on other platforms so that readers make the connection that this is your brand and your writing. You should also choose an avatar that your fans will recognize.
What Type Of Writing Will You Offer? Will serializing a story on Substack differ from how you usually write a novel? How long will each chapter be? How many months will one serialized story span? Given the serialized nature of Substack, you will need to make sure each installment or chapter leaves readers wanting to know what happens next—which may not be your usual novel-writing style.
One benefit of using Substack is that serialized content is not your only option. You can also offer your subscribers short stories, essays, how-tos, and other types of content. Many writers cite artistic freedom as their reason for using Substack—they can offer readers whatever they please without having to answer to a publisher.
How Will You Boost Interest? If you’re hoping to make a profit, it’s important to build your following and email list and keep your subscribers engaged. These paying subscribers are invested in you and your content. If you deliver quality content to them on a regular schedule, they will stick with you. One way to boost engagement is to interact with your audience: You can ask for feedback and share exclusive content.
Substack does offer a certain amount of searchability by topic to help bring your serialized book to the attention of possible new subscribers. But keep in mind that Substack does not use the same algorithms as Amazon to get books in front of potential readers. If you have an established audience, it’s important to convince your readers to follow you over to Substack.
However, if you’re a new author without a strong readership, it might be a little harder to get the word out that you’re releasing a must-read serialized story on Substack. Fortunately, serialized fiction gives your writing more time to circulate and hopefully widen your audience.
Can You Convince Your Audience? Most readers are familiar with Amazon and ebooks, but not as many will know about or understand Substack. Your audience may require some convincing as to why they should pay to receive an emailed newsletter every month, since they usually don’t purchase books this way.
If your book could benefit from being serialized, you may want to consider using the Substack platform to boost your readership and payments. Once you have the answers to the questions above, it will be easier to determine if Substack is right for you and your book.
Question: Would you pay to read a serialized book on Substack? Why or why not?