I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there’s been a sudden rise in the number of authors who’ve begun blogging again.
Around ten, and even five, years ago, blogging was a big part of building a platform or profile for many authors, and I count myself among them. It was an integral part of creating a community, and therefore an audience, for your writing and your books.
In those days, people read blogs regularly, to the point of subscribing to them through WordPress so that every new post was emailed directly to their inbox, ensuring they didn’t miss anything.
But an author blog takes consistency and commitment to write – and even to read. Once you’d written a post, you still needed to promote that post across social media and as social media algorithms changed, preferencing longer posts and more engagement, many authors decided to cut the blog and simply share their thoughts directly to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Readers, too, were happy with the idea they could go to the social platform of their choice and find content they liked, be it words or videos, rather than clicking from blog to blog.
The recent upending of Twitter, however, has shown up some of the dangers of this approach (see my previous post about it here), sending authors scurrying for alternatives.
And many of them have landed at substack.com, a platform that combines the newsletter format with the principles of blogging. It offers a model that allows you to easily expand to paid subscriptions if you choose, and a public platform that offers a way for people to discover you.
Why are authors using Substack?
As Natasha Lester explains in her first post: “I’m a writer. Words are what I have to offer. They’re the equivalent of a couturier’s silk, a surgeon’s hands, a mixologist’s signature cocktail recipe. But right now I’m publishing a lot of my words on Instagram and Facebook, apps that make money from eyeballs scrolling their feeds. Every time I post my words on social media, I’m ensuring there is content on Instagram and Facebook, content that feeds their bottom line.”
While Natasha's comments certainly ring true, it's also important to remember that platforms like Facebook and Instagram can be used very effectively as free marketing vehicles. So while you might not be paid for your words, some creators find the “discoverability” aspect priceless.
Other authors, particularly those with an established audience, like the direct connection that a Substack newsletter offers.
In her recent post for the Australian Society of Authors, Bri Lee explains that for her, it was about being strategic and savvy about selling books – and getting income for her writing: “In 2020 I began trying to think of a way that I could maintain a connection with my audience, leave the trolls behind, and be able to create writing and content that honours life’s complexity,” she writes. “…I sent out my first edition in August 2021. Fast-forward to now, just over a year later, and I have almost 5,000 subscribers. In January 2022 I added a paid subscription functionality for ‘special edition’ content, and I now have enough paying subscribers that the newsletter accounts for one out of my five working days per week.”
Substack versus author blog
Like an author blog, the Substack format offers an opportunity to both create an audience and build intimacy with it. It gives an author the ability to write for people who are interested in reading their words. The newsletter aspect means that the relationship is direct.
It’s an interesting model, but, unlike an author blog, housed on the author’s own website, it still requires the creation of content on someone else’s platform.
At this stage, Substack does not charge the creator to host the newsletter, but takes a fee from paid subscriptions (should you have any). But, as we’ve seen, things may change down the track.
It’s also worth noting that Substack is a newsletter service, not an email list. So while you own the email addresses of those who sign up and can export them at any time to another newsletter provider such as Mailchimp, those readers technically signed up for your Substack newsletter, not your Mailchimp newsletter. Just something to consider and investigate further.
I’ve been blogging at allisontait.com for 12 years now. For the first two or three years, I blogged there daily, before realising just how many words I was writing there (300,000 a year) and switching to a more sedate pace, which has drifted from weekly to monthly over the years. There’s no set pattern now, I just blog when I feel like it.
That won’t change.
What I have done, however, is to set up a Substack newsletter for the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast and community – a side hustle that often threatens to take over my life. It’s early days there, but the opportunity to pull the various threads of the Your Kid’s Next Read community into a direct communication line is an attractive one. At the moment, subscriptions are free but the team (Megan Daley, Allison Rushby and I) are creating a content strategy for a paid model as well.
It’s a bit daunting, and feels like the earliest days of my author blog in that I have NO idea what I’m doing, but I think that’s half the fun. but I’m keen to discover how it all works and to share that knowledge with other writers.
What about you?
If you’re starting out on your author journey and looking at ways to build your profile, it’s worth investigating all the options.
No matter whether you choose an author blog on your website, a newsletter on Substack or Mailchimp or similar, or to stick with developing a presence on your social media platforms of choice, it’s important to remember a few things:
1. The most difficult part of starting any aspect of building your author profile is discoverability and finding your audience. Yes, you may well feel as though you are talking to yourself when you begin – keep talking.
2. Consistency, commitment and community are the keys to success on any platform.
3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, in case the basket breaks.
If you need help with navigating how to get online with a professional author website, check out the course Your Author Website, which is for aspiring and established authors who want a professional online presence to nurture fans, generate buzz and increase sales.
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.