“What are you reading on Substack?”
If I had $1 for every time someone has asked me this question over the past few weeks, I’d be able to buy myself a nice long lunch somewhere fancy. Even Valerie Khoo and I were trading recommendations just a day or two ago.
All of which tells me that it’s time to have a chat about Substack – and the Australian authors who are using it.
What is Substack?
In case you’ve missed it, Substack is an email newsletter and blogging platform that allows creators to build a portfolio and a following. Creators can offer their email newsletter for free to readers or they can monetise by charging subscribers for exclusive content.
The interface is simple, the design is straightforward and the appeal of Substack is growing.
When I was choosing a platform to create the Your Kid’s Next Read newsletter recently, for instance, Substack made perfect sense because it allows me to publish content on a blogging-style platform that anyone can read or stumble upon. But it also has the capability where I can email that content to people who have chosen to sign up.
To be honest, it reminds me of old-school blogging.
When I started my first author blog 13 years ago, readers could choose to visit the site to read it or they could subscribe via WordPress to receive every post direct to their inbox.
Which is pretty much what Substack offers now, although it has a tidy app and is adding features all the time.
Why are authors using Substack?
Building an author platform requires connection with your audience. You only have to listen to any episode of So You Want To Be A Writer podcast to hear Valerie and I banging on about the importance of keeping in touch with readers – beyond your books.
An email newsletter has always been a part of my author platform, but it requires work – an extra ‘thing’ to do each month – and, I think for that reason, many authors have focused on social media instead. Then, recent events at Twitter showed us how quickly things can change on social media.
In our book ‘So You Want To Be A Writer’, Valerie and I warn about the pitfalls of building your author platform on ‘someone else’s real estate’.
Yes, use social media to stay in touch, but keep your author website up to date and humming along (see Your Author Website here) and build an email list.
Recent rises in the number of authors starting up Substacks suggests to me that others have heeded the warning bells of Twitter’s demise and are looking for new ways to connect with readers.
Plus, when you write for a living and you’re sharing your expertise on the internet, there comes a time when you start to wonder if it might be time to be paid for those words.
Hence, authors are often combining a free newsletter that offers their community updates and information with other content where they share their insights and knowledge, chats and podcasts with paid subscribers.
And the popularity of established Substacks by international authors such as Jeanette Winterson, Salman Rushdie, Austin Kleon, and George Saunders suggests that more will follow.
Australian authors on Substack
So, is Substack for you? As with any step into new waters, I always recommend reading and following first.
With that in mind, here are 10 Australian authors – who write everything from non-fiction to children’s fiction – who are using Substack to grow their communities and their profiles.
Some are more established than others, which I think can be helpful when you’re starting out. I’ve listed the newsletter name and description – click the author name to visit their Substack.
Have a look, subscribe to the free newsletters, and take notes before deciding if Substack might work for you.
Pip Lincolne: 1000 Ways to Feel Okay (Chatty missives from Pip Lincolne); Hungry Hungry Pippo (Cooking, culture, creativity & community)
Bri Lee: News & Reviews by Bri Lee (A weekly dispatch for stylish nerds from the desk of Sydney-based writer Bri Lee)
Rick Morton: Nervous Laughter (Life, writing and other tragedies)
Sarah Wilson: This is Precious (Bold words for living in an uncertain world … from author Sarah Wilson)
John Birmingham: Cheeseburger Gothic (John Birmingham’s dive bar on the internet)
Natasha Lester: Bijoux Little gems from the (occasionally) sparkling mind of a writer.)
Monique Mulligan: La Muse (A writer’s journey – rediscovering the muse through creative play.)
Emily Gale: Voracious (Writing children’s books, reading everything. Author, editor, bibliophile, troublemaker.)
Katrina Germein: 32-Pages (Picture books insights. Author opinions, reflections and industry observations. Australian focus.)
Ellie Marney: The Black Hand (Serial killers, sleuths, and other thrilling things with Ellie Marney)
And sign up for the Your Kid’s Next Read newsletter for updates and insights on books and reading for kids of all ages – and to see how my Substack develops over the next few months as I learn on the go!
Allison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al is currently editing her latest middle-grade novel The First Summer of Callie McGee. Find out more about her at allisontait.com.