Have you noticed how many folks are on Substack these days? It feels like everyone is writing there. I recently had an author website client tell me that “Nobody reads blogs any more. It’s Substack or nothing.” And I get it. It’s easy (really really easy) to set up and get going. You can also charge for access to your writing, which is a dream. Cutting out the middle man between your writing and your audience is a killer idea.
Substack also lets you embed a signup on your website so your audience can join your list like any other simple signup experience, and then benefit not only from receiving your content in their inboxes, but also participating in the community features Substack provides for your subscribers.
It all sounds great, right? What’s not to like? While I’m certainly not going to tell someone not to use Substack if they’re excited about it, there are some potential issues you may not have considered:
- Substack is its own universe of content. Like Facebook, where the content you create there lives there, and is difficult (ie: often impossible) to use elsewhere, Substack owns the content that you publish there and what you can do with it. They don’t provide a way to embed your content elsewhere, and you certainly can’t pack it up and take it with you when you’re finished. If Substack were to all-of-a-sudden go away, so does all of your content from the internet. Some folks are building paid services that look like they’ll let you embed your Substack content elsewhere, but they’re still in Beta as of the publication of this article, and it still means that your content belongs to Substack, not you.
- You’re not benefitting from the searchability of the content you’re writing. If you’re writing keyword-rich amazing content over on Substack, that’s great, and will certainly help you build up an audience of subscribers, but all of the effort you put into your author website to show off all of the work that you do and so that existing and potential fans can find you via search isn’t being leveraged by Substack and shared with that audience.
- You’re limited in customization and design. If your author brand leverages a specific look and feel, and you’d like that to be used consistently throughout your presence on the internet, you might be in tough luck. Substack looks a certain way, regardless of who you are or how many subscribers you have.
It could be argued that these are features, not bugs! This is, after all, why Substack is so easy to use — they limit what’s possible so that they can focus on doing a handful of things really well. But for the longer-term usefulness of your writing, I’d recommend that you consider publishing it on your own author website.
It is undeniably more complicated to set up, but you can also have a WordPress-based author website with monetized content that you add to over time, and create an email list to which it gets sent. And all of it belongs to you, and all of it enhances your SEO.
A repository of keyword-rich, relevant content is just what Google is looking for when they serve up search results, and a great way to show up in search results for an existing or potential audience is to publish content they’re going to enjoy to your author website regularly. You can make content available exclusively to subscribers for some amount of time, then all (or some) of it can become public in an archive of your writing available to everyone through your website. Not only that, but you can take both your email list of subscribers and your content with you any time, anywhere. Plus you can design the layout and content so that it reflects your author brand.
Whatever you would write in Substack is the same content you’d write for your own author website — the content is no different — but you are in control of it and there is no middleman between your audience and you. If you’re not technically savvy, you might need to hire an expert to help you get it set up, but in the long run, I think it’s worth the investment. The repository of content you’ll build up over time to bring new fans to you via your own author website will pay rich dividends for the long haul.
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