A roadmap of features that would help fiction readers
Love these! I don't know how I missed this when it was posted, but excellent ideas all around. I'll make sure to share them!
I have one to add. Unless I am missing someting stories appear in the order they were posted based on date. I am doing a serial. This means the newest episode is at the top of the list. This is fine for regular postings.
I have a section specifically for my Series and this approach does not work here. I would like the ability to arrange Stories in a specific sequence so readers can easily see episodes in my series in the proper order which is not publish date.
I if am missing someting here, please let me know.
There are some really great ideas compiled into this post and it should be rich territory for the Substack product team to mine. My current frustration with the platform is actually not a new feature, but making a fundamental one work properly: Search! Try doing a search for "the memory of my shadow" and see if a single one of the 20 episodes of my novel that contain that very phrase in the title come up. I get the need to make the algorithm prioritize authors with bigger followings, but when an exact phrase does not show results, it feels wrong. Not sure if they're just not indexing any posts by authors with less than thousands of subscribers or what but search should be more of a level playing field for discovery.
Really great ideas, Simon!
If Substack created a new "books" section type, this would help achieve some of what you're after and would be beneficial to poets, non-fiction writers, illustrators etc.
I really like the multimedia aspects of Substack - adding images, audio and the like. If these were paired with more traditional book layouts, it'd be amazing
It would also be worth it, if the fiction section also had fiction and only fiction in it. I browsed through it the other day and it took me three pages to get get to some fiction to read.
Great suggestions. But I think Substack is just eventually going to come out with its own online publishing service and publishing software suite that's integrated with the larger blogging apparatus that will make these ideas moot.
It's the clear path forward for them.
You've listed out all the things I wish Substack has! I've moved my stories to another site (fictionate.me) because its system suits a fiction writer. Writers can set their book as free for readers, 'pay-per-book' model, or monthly subscription. The 'pay-per-book' is what I was looking for. Readers pay for the book (even if it is in progress) and will have access to all chapters, including ones that the writer will add in the future. You can also have your book available as an audiobook, too. The site uses an AI to read your book. Now, if Substack has something like this, then I'll also definitely move my work here too.
These are all really great suggestions. As I publish more and more fiction to Substack, I agree that these changes would make the experience a lot better for readers. I use Substack as my main way of connecting with readers and making it as frictionless as possible would be tremendous. That said, there are a lot of really great aspects to this platform.
Great post - one thing I would add is that maybe what they have is a particular kind of section that is set up to be a book. There they could include your request list and the one that I would add is the ability to have a cover image specific to the section that is more like a book cover. It might also be nice in this new "book section" idea to have a place for actual chapters and then for additional materials like author notes, polls, extra material (like bonus scenes/novellas)--almost like a home base for the book (not sure how to deal with multiple book series).
Have a great summer!
I personally don't feel the need for horizontal pagination or quick swiping between chapters, but a better index and more obvious next post buttons would definitely be nice, save me a lot of trouble. I also don't think bits like author commentary need such a complex solution, you can just scroll past them.
Edit: Would like to add that I also hope the substack team comes across this post.
Substack has a built-in serial index if you put your serials in Sections (the Section index.) But it is newest to oldest order. I wish readers could toggle between newest to oldest and oldest to newest. That can't be that hard to code. Right now I pin Chapter One to the top of the Section index, but it not ideal. And the section index is not very compact. It require a lot of scrolling if your serial is long.
A Chapter One button at the top of each chapter in case someone opens a newer chapter and wants to start at the beginning would be nice.
For those who don't realize they can click on the section title and get to the section index, the pop-up index idea would work and be a nice compact alternative. If it was obvious to readers how to access it.
I like the "reader" idea.
Love these suggestions!
But keep in mind, the Previous and Next buttons only work if you have published your chapters in chronological order. I fumbled once, and injected a chapter in-between later, and this causes these buttons to move to the next published post, than the next chapter. Technically they are Previous Post and Next Post buttons, so if your serialised novel has non-chapter posts in-between, you’d have to wade through those as well.
And yes, I’ve been harping about how much more writer-friendly Substack is, as opposed to reader-friendly. There’s no way to track what posts and publication I’m currently reading, so I end up having to open them all as tabs. I currently have four Brave windows, each with dozens of tabs open. I’ve love to have a “currently-reading” section, with neat progress indicators or something similar.
In any case, Substack is a fairly nascent platform, and I’m not too worried, these features tend to get added over time. In the meanwhile, we just gotta keep doing our own hacks to navigate Substack’s quirks.
Solid suggestions, Simon 👍
I'm behind these, for sure.
I also made a table of contents post for my novella, to help organise things, but it means also linking it in every post and updating it, etc.
I've seen a few people put hyperlinks (on numbers or numerals) as a horizontal across the very top of a post, which can work well, but also requires a lot of tweaking and ongoing updating as each post is published as you then have to update all back-entries.
What's a CTA?
I do really like the notion of having author commentary-type sections as toggleable on or off. Could be as simple as a paywall threshold setting when writing a post, so that it's only viewable if a reader has that setting on.
I'll add to this if anything comes to mind that I feel you haven't mentioned, but seems like you covered all the bases here.
I'm new here to Substack and new to serializing fiction. There were so some interesting ideas presented, I'm just wondering? This post came out on Jun 5 and it appears the comments also came out on Jun 5, has anyone heard from the people at Substack? Are they taking this seriously or everyone is shouting into the wind?
Pretty much "all of this" is all I have to say. Although I'm starting suspect functionality is somewhat limited in the (Android) app compared to the web version... This is due to my ongoing complete inability to figure out how to rename my base "publication." Substack sure told me I could change it later and I've been through every button and every page of this mobile app ten times. Can't find the option.
Maybe when my computer gets back from the shop this week...
All great suggestions, and the remarks here about how to reorder your published chapters is super helpful to me. The fact that my finished novel’s last chapter is likely to be the first thing a new reader encounters is a huge pet peeve! Thank you Simon and everyone with these constructive remarks.