Nia M Wardani | A Logbook of Life Discoveries

Is Substack Worth It for Bloggers?

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I started Substack in April 2023. I aimed it as a newsletter for my blog. It looked much simpler than other e-mail newsletter services.

The future seems promising. As new features came out, it opened the possibility of building a complete readers community platform within Substack. You have got posts, chats, and notes. I hope I can reach more audiences from Substack.

I tried posting regularly, once every month. I thought it was the right interval for my readers since I don’t post often on my blog. I also shared the links to my substack on my Instagram. Several of my followers read them, but none of them subscribe to it. Those who visited didn’t even click the backlinks to my original blog posts.

Six months had passed. Traffic plummeted to nearly zero. I expected that any of my posts in Substack would reach someone within the Substack community, but I guess it didn’t. I also don’t get viewers from Google, I believe. The stats given cannot explain to me how many my actual visitors are because each time I visit it, it is counted as one visit. I was frustrated.

I began to doubt that this thing was going to work. I stopped posting after the sixth issue.

I began to question, what’s gone wrong? I started reading from other bloggers out there who already tried Substack. There seem to be so many pros and cons regarding this platform.

Readers' Tendency Toward Newsletters

Let’s talk about newsletters in general. You know, it’s not for everyone. Many people will keep themselves from hitting the subscribe button unless they are expecting something they need from the newsletter. Other people would just click subscribe, but bulk delete them right away. Maybe they don’t even bother to check their email. While the others, don’t subscribe to anything.

Writer Anne R. Allen created a substack to promote her book. She already had her blog running for the same reason. She compared these two channels. As an author, she prefers blogs to substack. She argues that she would “barely skim an emailed newsletter before deleting it”. The same applies to substack newsletters. While blogs are free to be read by anyone, subscribers or not.

To be honest, I do the same thing with most of my newsletter subscriptions. I would skim the most important ones. And delete it. And don’t forget to unsubscribe from the one I am no longer interested in. Especially the ones that keep offering the same product I don’t need.

Reach

Substack is famous among authors, publishers, and journalists. But outside these communities, finding readers originating from substack is harder than social media.

Writer Anne R. Allen suggested that Substack is great for building community among publishers, not readers. Maybe if you target a pitch, you might find an agent or publisher who would like to work with you. But she emphasizes you will not get new readers from substack.

From my perspective, looking at how crowd substack is with publishers, substack can be seen more as social media. Authors connect with other authors and share ideas via notes. It works similarly to Twitter or X, plus the comments are mostly deep and thoughtful.

Substack is good for creating a fan-based platform. But I want to emphasize the word “FAN-BASED”.

If I am a fan of Susan Cain’s books (I am!), I would love to follow what her thought is. I would want to know when her upcoming book will be released (so that maybe I could save some of my pocket money to buy it). I would love to join a conversation about the book with other fans.

But, I won’t bother to subscribe and fill my email inbox with posts from a person I don’t know.

There are a few tricks I read from the internet, though, for your substack to be up in the search engines. This way, you can reach more readers from outside SubStack. I haven’t tried these tricks yet. I don't think it will serve my purpose of making Substack as my newsletter. But maybe I will save it for the next experiment Substack and share the result with you later on. So, be updated!

Affordability

In this aspect, Substack is the winner. You can create your email newsletter for free using Substack. Substack will only apply fees if you earn from your paid subscription. As long as you make the subscription free, Substack is completely free.

Jane Friedman emphasizes the importance of email marketing for keeping your existing readers back for your latest work. And using free Substack for this purpose might be a game-changing for your finance because, yes, it's free.

I am a newbie blogger and I hardly have any capital to begin with (just a few dollars for registering the domains). I hardly earn anything from the blogs yet. But I already have several readers from the people I personally know and the ones who follow my social media. I want them to regularly visit back to my blogs. That’s why I want to create a subscription service.

I have checked some other options such as Mailchimp and ConvertKit. Both provide free plans for email marketing, apart from their paid plans. See the comparison below.



Comparing these three services, I can't deny that I am attracted to what ConvertKit offers. Other than what I mentioned here, ConvertKit gives so many features for free up to 10,000 contacts. Convertkit, however, requires you to provide an email with a domain that can be verified and authenticated. Yes, you can use your free Gmail, but it cannot be authenticated. The same is also true for Mailchimp.

On the other hand, Substack provides the email for you. For example, my newsletter email address would be nmwardani@substack.com. So, I don’t need to expose my personal email address nor create another business email, which usually is a paid service from a domain provider (yeah, another cost).

Earning Share

What makes Substack different than other email marketing services is that authors can earn money from their paid newsletter on Substack. While other services set rates for their services, Substack will only deduct the money from paid newsletters. This is compelling for writers who would like to get side-earning.

However, this has become the downside for Substack, too. The paywall would hinder most readers to read and subscribe. Who would want to pay for reading a stranger's opinion, anyway?

So, you are a new blogger with very few fans, never think about activating the paid subscription in Substack. Save it for later when you are as big as K-pop stars.
 

Conclusion

Whether Substack is worth it for bloggers, or not, depends on your purpose in creating one. If your purpose is to reach new readers, you will not get many from Substack. But if you are a new blogger, you are tight on budget, but you want your existing readers to come back to your work, you want to build an ecosystem where your readers can engage to each other, using Substack might be a good option.


So, what do you think? If I offer you an email newsletter via Substack, would you be willing to subscribe? Why or why not?




Reference

https://annerallen.com/2024/04/substack-vs-blogging/
https://janefriedman.com/substack-is-both-great-and-terrible-for-authors/
https://convertkit.com/pricing
Nia M Wardani
Hi! Call me Nia. I am a former teacher with ten years of teaching experience. I left formal teaching and found my peace through private tutoring, blogging, and gardening. My mission is to help other teachers improve their lives. Let's get in touch through my Instagram @nmwardani

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