And I bet you are too.
I think it is very hard to have a model which is fair. I also appreciate Substack is pushing for writers to be paid, and it needs the income to run the site. I wrote a lighthearted history site for a while (Motley Talks) and had paid subscribers. I found it difficult to make content for paid subscribers and also for free subscribers. In the end I stopped since I was stressed, and wanted to change direction. I was not making much money and felt guilty that I could not afford to support other writers on Substack.
One of the issues is the minimum payment, which means most of us can only afford to pay for a couple of subscriptions. Some writers keep everything behind the paywall, which is sad. Like museums, I think some writing should be free for the less fortunate. Thank you for raising this and good luck with all your ventures.
A bold move! I support you, bud. I have seen plenty of passion projects on the internet that include a "tip jar" (or the "buy me a coffee" thing), which I think is entirely reasonable.
There's an interesting parallel here between creative arts and religious ministry... for the church, I think the wave of the future will be that more and more ministers find that ministry is not a gig that provides full-time remuneration. This may drive some people out of the field, but may also attract more of those for whom it is truly an essential vocation, who don't mind supporting themselves in other ways while they also preach and minister. Such a model used to be much more common, but as we've "professionalized" ministry (and the arts, for that matter), the weight of expensive credentials has driven so many to hang on to a model wherein they need their full-time income from a field that just can't support it anymore. It makes me think of the authors, poets and artists of past centuries who had "day jobs" that allowed them to pursue their art. Maybe I'm off-base, but I think this is where it's going. Personally, I've been so grateful to have music in my life as something I do for love and passion, and while I do get paid to do it fairly often, I don't depend on it for my daily bread.
I’m sticking with ya to the end my friend and wouldn’t mind your curated ads at all! Also want to plug the joys of The Big Read and what a fun community that is.
I can't afford paid subscriptions for every lovely creator and have had to narrow down to just my "never miss a post" favorite creators. I wish more platforms would take the Nebula model - subscribers pay one monthly subscription that gets shared out between all the creators, whether equally or based on their views.
I'm a Gen Xer. I'm used to ads. It's a fair trade. They get a chance at my brain and I get content. Subs on the other hand, that's a mix. I've cut it to only really every day use sources such as NYT and JSTOR.
Just voicing my support. I get quite a few newsletter who have gone the sponsorship route. Those 1-2 ads are not intrusive at all. Best of luck.
I've been in a quandary about Substack, which has a setup I love from presenting a variety of media to the social ease of notes - to the ability to make publications for different topics. BUT - since Medium switched to one membership fee that pays all members who are writing by how much interaction is happening between readers and writers, all of whom are members - I've been getting paid every week. The amount of pay depends on a writer's ability to attract readers by quality, not quantity of followers or views, etc.. Which is how the work of writing has always thrived. Now, I don't think this will work well on its own over time, any more than the other ways of making funds keep working. That's just how things are now. But I am inclined to think that advertising would work if writers who present publications were given the ability to choose advertisers as their sponsors, instead of being forced to put up with a whole pool of spam sharks, quality of work and ads and quantity of readers might all improve, and all involved would end up happy, except the phony spammers. I, too, want funds from Substack. In fact, I need them. I intend to make short pieces available to all, and do in depth pieces of subscribers who want to support me. But, unfortunately, I don't have that much time on my hands at the moment. Because Medium, right now, is paying me daily. Wake up, Substack...
This is a tricky one Jeremy! I would love to feel confident about making all my writing, especially readalong content free. And perhaps at some point I'll find the nerve to do so! But the income is also important – the writing wouldn't exist without it.
I'm curious to know whether people have had success being "all free" from the start or whether it is something that works better once you are well established. I ran my reading groups on Instagram for free in the first year (this year) and it is on the back of this that people have felt generous and confident enough to pay for a subscription here.
Anyway, still figuring out how to do everything I want to do and still pay the bills. Thank you for your thoughts!
Thank you,Jeremy.As a pensioner really appreciate your approach.
Bravo! My stack has and always will be free. And as much as I appreciate Substack, seeing it as a moneymaker goes against my grain.
More aggravation - certainly.
I am going to stay a paid subscriber because I really like your newsletters so much. I started the Count of Monte Christo and then got behind on my reading and decided I’ll get back to it but I am really excited to start East of Eden I can’t wait!
Thanks for what you do Jeremy it has been so interesting to get recommendations on books I haven’t read and oftentimes books I haven’t even heard of and I thought I was well read but I guess not!
Thank you for staying free! I do understand that people want to be paid for their work and wouldn't blame you or anyone else for doing the paid thing. Still, there's something mildly off-putting about the way many people go about asking for paid subscribers. Am I the only one who thinks so? I hope I don't come off as a freeloader or Connie Complainer or something, it's just that sometimes the asking for money thing can feel a bit whiny or desperate. I think it's hard too put out the message that "hey, I wouldn't mind getting paid" while keeping an energetically clean vibe.
This is a very timely critique of a dialectic that’s hard to get right. On the one hand, writers deserve to be paid. On the other it is very difficult to justify charging when you’re trying to establish yourself, build an audience or even develop your own voice. Then there is the larger philosophical consideration that good quality knowledge, disseminated publicly, should be free. I appreciate you ventilating this topic; and good luck.
The economics of subscriptions don’t really work. In the early days of the model, writers get paid pretty good but as more reader/writers get in the mix, it seems to become more ... I don’t know, I don’t have the language of economists but basically a few people at the top do very well, telling the rest of us at the bottom how to do as well as they do but rest of us paying for subs out of income we’re never gonna get from readers subscribing to us.
It has the same “feel” as the student loan “industry.” The first round or two (Disclaimer: I’m a first rounder) taking out a loan against income you would make in degree-required corporate jobs made sense because the ROI was a few years. Now, it’s a lifetime and loans never get paid back. But certain communities (like writers, publishing) still have expectations of degrees and MFAs and blah, blah, blah... so it’s not like you can’t not get the degree/education/subscription.
Subscriptions and launching on platforms like this have that same feel. Everyone getting rich (not just money, rich in community inclusion, etc) except the people paying the subs and doing the work. It sure do sound good on paper, though... just something about the road and the rubber meeting it sends it off in a different direction.