Discover more from Write More with Simon K Jones
How much is my writing worth?
Figuring out when to charge and when to give away
I switched to Substack in 2021 as something of an experiment, not sure of where I was headed with my writing. I’d been publishing on Wattpad since 2015, which had been a very positive experience and brought me more readers than I could ever have imagined. It never felt like I was in much control, and the opportunities for making money from my work were non-existent.
Substack felt like a good option, with its built-in subscription system that enabled me to do a mix of free and paid material. It was and still is a hands-off platform, in which I’m in charge of my own successes and failures, rather than obscure, behind-closed-doors algorithms.
I reached 1000 subscribers in about a year, which was ahead of schedule. Hooray! Here’s one of those graphs that annoying Substack writers like to share:
Very happy with that. I’ve noticed an increasing portion of new subscribers are coming via the Substack network, with recommendations and other features boosting the signal without me even needing to do anything (up from 17% of subscribers to 58%).
Paid subscribers are a much rarer beast. I’m massively grateful for those of you who have taken the plunge, as your support really does help: in a practical sense it pays for some of the promotion and costs associated with the newsletter (Canva, MidJourney, BookFunnel) and in a less tangible but more important way it’s a powerful vote of confidence.
I’ve dabbled with various models so far. Initially Tales from the Triverse was paid-only, then it was early access. For most of 2022 everything has been free, with paid subscribers getting extra Author Notes on each chapter.
Writer Elle Griffin got me into this mess, way back when I interviewed her for the Writing Life podcast. Recently, she wrote this:
As is Elle’s tendency, it’s a provocative post that got my brain whirring. I’ve been considering the ‘value’ of my writing for a while, considering whether I should attach financial value to more of it. The problem is that I really like sharing knowledge for free, especially when it comes to thoughts on writing. I dislike the idea of young and new writers missing out on useful information due to financial limitations. Similarly, it still doesn’t make much sense to lock Triverse away behind a paywall, because I’m simply not high enough profile yet for people to pay for my fiction.
At the same time, I strongly believe that artists should get paid for their work.
My thinking is that I’m going to slightly rejig the newsletter, making it more structured and opening up some new opportunities. The vast majority of content will remain 100% free, with one article per month being for paying subscribers. Hopefully that’ll be a good balance, and a nice reward for paying subscribers.
I also want to boost up the community aspects, so will be aiming for a monthly discussion thread as well. So in a 4-week month, that’d be 1 discussion thread, two free articles and 1 paid article. Plus the usual 4 fiction chapters, which will remain free to read.
That’s the plan. All of this is a big experiment, still, with so many writers poking at the edges of Substack and publishing models to see what works. I’ll be sure to share what happens as I tweak what I’m doing, in case it’s of interest and use to others. Its about finding out how much value can be attached to independent, online writing.
I’d also love to hear from other writers about what they’ve found works (or doesn’t). Let me know down in the comments.