I’ve been looking at the statistics for my Substack and thinking about the best way to connect with new readers. I’ve noticed a pattern. The more frequently I post and comment on Substack the more people subscribe to my newsletter. In some ways this is really exciting because if visibility and discoverability are able to be influenced by how active I am on the platform then it gives writers a lever. There’s direct action they can take to help new people to find and consider their work.
One of the things I learned during the Substack fellowship is that it’s better to post weekly at 1,000 words per essay, than it is to write a 2,000 word essay every two weeks, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. The more people hear from you, the more they have an opportunity to share or pay for your work, and that makes other people discover it. Because of this I changed my format from writing really long essays, to dicing them up into smaller parts! It’s the same research, but instead of one article I have three!
Hi John, great food for thought. I currently publish 4x per week, sometimes more for special events:
Mondays: interview with someone from my part of Canada (Atlantic Canada); occasionally I will write something about one aspect of the region
Tuesdays: interview with another Substack writer or other creative person; in a pinch I will link to someone else's interview that I've enjoyed and want to share
Wednesdays: this is always reserved for my original writing, no set length but pieces often exceed 1000 words
Fridays: I repost links of what I've published during the week, plus links to other posts that I found interesting
Four days/week is a lot but I only have to focus on one original essay or piece of writing per week this way (of course there's plenty of background work for the other publication days...)
And yes, I do try to read other newsletters and blogs (a few dozen) and comment where it makes sense to do so, including some paid subscriptions where I am able to interact with some folks that I might not otherwise be able to. So, yes, it can lead to a lot of time spent elsewhere but it has helped me win over a number of subscribers.
But the priority is the publication schedule, which I post in my About section. Which means that I'm trying to work at least 1 - 2 weeks ahead to stay on schedule.
I don't know if it's all sustainable long term or if I'll have to cut back a bit in the future but for now it seems to be working. My subscriber numbers are significantly higher than I expected to have at this point and I've certainly put the work into it.
I don't necessarily recommend following my publishing strategy but I do enjoy it.
Hope this is helpful!
Interesting! I'm only just learning how to use Substack, and didn't realize that we had the option of NOT sending out the newsletter by email.
That's basically the roadmap I've imagined in my head too, although you've put it in very clear, succinct terms. Interesting to think about!
PS: I don't really feel like I should post more than a week either, because I wonder if people will get overwhelmed!
Great timing to see your essay and Mike Elgan’s today, both mentioning using Substack for RSS! Am going to share both your essays with friends who will be highly interested. I read from a Substack emailed tip this week about cross- posting and links to subscriptions and now I have my first idea for a good essay on my own Substack! Btw I totally agree with your suggestions.
I unsubscribed to a newsletter recently because they started posting more frequently and increasing the call to actions. It got to be too much. Also, I tried the “more, more, more” strategy with my newsletter and burned out. I scaled back to once per week and my subscriber numbers have grown faster than ever before. I think people are getting newsletter overload. Better to send fewer quality newsletters than many mediocre ones. I think once per week is the sweet spot. At least, for me. You can always use the new chat feature to post more if you think it is necessary. And commenting on other’s newsletters is a great way to get new followers without posting more often.
Of course, it all depends on what you write and your audience.
I ... didn't even know you can send out posts that don't go out via email. How do you even do that? (Not that I want to lol).
"They grow familiar with the established schedule. If that schedule suddenly changes from this known cadence, the author runs the risk of having people decide that it’s too much." Oof that's me lol. I'm not the most consistent soul as sometimes I just burn out and have to take a rest. I don't have as much mental bandwidth as the most productive writers.
I think keeping to a weekly-ish cadence is the best I can do.
This was a really helpful post, I've been writing on Substack for just a couple months (always to email) and still trying to get a sense of how everything works. When people say they post "once a month," or "once ever two weeks" or "multiple times a week" - does that include things like threads or polls? Or just the posts?
Very interesting and much food for thought. I was publishing quite frequently, like every day almost, but cut down on case people for fed up with my appearing in their inbox. I've toyed with the idea of not having all my posts emailed out, and then publishing a sort of round-up post with links to all the others. But that seems a bit clunky. I write about different things, so maybe the frequency isn't a big deal. Dunno: am still finding my way here!