Noah Smith recently wrote a great post giving advice for people who want to write on Substack. He’s a lot more successful than me, so my advice is less valuable, but I also might have a few unique insights given that I built up my free email list without any prior online presence. I didn’t have a Twitter account (or, if I did, I think it had only about 50 followers), so my modest achievement of getting over 1000 subscribers did actually take some effort. iIt wasn’t just the result of me tweeting out that I had created a Substack and the subscribers rolling in. So, here’s a quick explanation of how I got the modest number of subscribers that I did get, and how you can (maybe) emulate that.
All great ideas and reaching out to people you admire is always worth the risk!
I've been using my Twitter account as my primary means to draw in readers/subscribers but I've also had success on other platforms.
Excellent advice, and thank you for sharing it! I've tried a few of the strategies you describe (posting to Reddit and HN, using Twitter to funnel people to my blog) with some degree of success. It's hard to determine how much to attribute to each of those methods since I haven't seen any very significant bumps in my subscriber count. Like you, I had a long stagnant period at first - I was under 30 subs for the first four months - and then I seem to have hit a steady ramp-up of about three or four new subs per week. Now I'm at 164. I will certainly try to show my work to people who I admire and ask for feedback; that's something I'm honestly really bad at, though - which is probably why I should do it!
This is all great advice, but it is a bit sad that there are so few forums where you share relevant work with others. Really, only Reddit, HN and the LW/EA forum come to mind.
Another active one is The Motte (now a standalone forum), but really there are so few and I'm always digging for more corners of the internet to find likeminded people. There has to be more!
I discovered you via Erik Hoel's recommendation in a post he made. I'm looking forward to reading more. I have only recently started my own venture here on Substack, and am attempting to discover what is the right method for me to gain exposure and engagement. I opened a twitter account, but find that it's boring and takes too much work for very little gain. So I think it's not really for me. I am leaving FB - I have stopped using it over the past two years, but used to use it to "blog" and share my art and connect, but the algorithms, ads, privacy issues and censors have made it untenable. I also feel like it's become vitriolic. So I have been working on removing my content and will be deleting my account. I have been sending messages to my 1400 "friends" to find me on substack and that seems to be working. Just posting on FB doesn't seem to get as many as a personal message. I have also gone through my emails and sent out a couple of mass emailings letting people I've interacted with over the last decade know what I'm up to, and that seems to have generated some more subscribers.
My style doesn't seem to have a niche, or maybe it does, but I don't know what it is? I'd love for you to head over and tell me what you think (taking your above advice!). So, I have trouble finding the right places to share it. http://Artemisteria.substack.com. Thank you for this post.
Thank you for mentioning Effective Altruism and LessWrong. They seem a perfect fit for the kind of writing that I do, which centers around cataloguing the life lessons found in movies—and is my way of doing good because I believe these life lessons, or guides to life, can be helpful/useful to people.
You mean to tell us after all this time that ethics counts - even on the internet? Imagine that.