Top 15 Tips for Starting a Brand New Publication on Substack (2023)

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Are you thinking about starting a new publication on Substack? Substack is a very powerful platform for writers and creators, and starting a publication can be a rewarding (not to mention potentially very lucrative*) experience. But where do you begin?

Starting any new publication can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Below, we’ll provide you with fifteen essential tips to help you get started and succeed with your new publication on Substack. From identifying your target audience to monetizing your content, we’ve got you covered.

Whether you’re a seasoned writer or a complete beginner, these tips will help you create a successful publication on Substack. So if you’re ready to take the first step in your publishing journey, keep reading! We can’t wait to see what you create.

(*here’s a great success story)

Let’s get started…

1. Decide what to write about? Choosing a niche…

Deciding what to write about on Substack when starting a new publication can be a challenging but exciting process. Here are a few steps you can follow to help you decide what to write about:

  1. Consider your expertise and passions: What topics do you have a lot of knowledge or experience in? What topics are you most passionate about? Write about what you know and care about – this will help you create content that is authentic and engaging. This will also help you stay motivated and interested in your writing, which is crucial!!!
  2. Research what’s already out there: Look at what other publications in your niche are writing about and see if there are any gaps in the content available. This can help you identify topics that are underrepresented or areas where you can add your own unique perspective.
  3. Some categories/niches to consider include (with links to each category of publication on Substack): Culture, Politics, Technology, Business, Finance, Food & Drink, Sports, Faith & Spirituality, News, Music, Comics, Crypto, International, Art & Illustration, Climate, Science, Health & Wellness, Literature, Fiction, Parenting, Design, Travel, Education, Philosophy, History, Humor, Fashion & Beauty.
  4. Seek feedback from your target audience: Consider asking your target audience what they would like to see in your publication. You can do this through surveys, focus groups, or by simply asking for feedback in your newsletters or social media.
  5. See what works for others: Substack is a huge platform with many incredible (and very successful) writers. Take a look through as many examples of publications already smashing it on Substack! Here’s a link to various stories of writers who have already made it on Substack and here’s a link to some current ‘Staff Picks’ for publications on Substack.

The goal here is to create content that resonates with your readers and helps you build a loyal following.

Why Choose a Niche? (Click to Expand)

Choosing a niche is an important step in starting a new publication. A niche is a specific topic or area of focus that sets your publication apart from others in the marketplace. By choosing a niche, you can differentiate your publication and attract readers who are interested in your specific area of expertise.

Here are some reasons why choosing a niche is important:

  1. It helps you stand out: In a crowded marketplace, it can be difficult to get noticed. By choosing a niche, you can differentiate your publication and attract readers who are specifically interested in your topic.
  2. It allows you to become an expert: By focusing on a specific topic, you can become an expert in your field and provide valuable insights and information to your readers.
  3. It helps you build a loyal following: By attracting readers who are interested in your specific niche, you can build a loyal following of readers who are engaged with your content.
  4. It can be monetized more easily: If you choose a niche that has a clear potential for monetization, you may have more success in generating revenue for your publication.

Overall, choosing a niche can help you stand out in a crowded marketplace and attract readers who are interested in your specific area of expertise. This can help you build a loyal following and increase the chances of success for your publication.

2. Identify your target audience

Identifying your target audience is an essential step in starting a new publication. It’s important to have a clear understanding of who you want to reach because this will help you create content that resonates with your readers and helps you build a loyal following.

Here are some steps you can take to identify your target audience:

  1. Define your ideal reader: Consider who your ideal reader is and what their interests and needs are. What are their demographics (age, gender, location, etc.)? What are their goals and challenges? Defining your ideal reader can help you create content that resonates with them.
  2. Research your audience: Use online tools, such as social media analytics or surveys, to learn more about your target audience and their needs, wants, and preferences.
  3. Create ‘buyer’ personas: Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal audience/customers. Creating buyer personas can help you understand your target audience on a deeper level and create content that speaks directly to their needs and interests.
  4. Bonus idea: Test your assumptions: Once you have a clear understanding of your target audience, test your assumptions by creating a small sample of content and sharing it with a group of people who fit your target audience profile. This will help you confirm that your content is resonating with your intended audience.
Substack has tools for writing, podcasting and video too!

You’ll need to develop a deep understanding of your target audience and create content that speaks directly to their needs and interests.

3. Name your publication

On top of all the more-technical whatknots of actually setting up your first Substack – note: here’s the official resources/guide page on Substack to accomplish exactly those things), choosing a name for a new Substack publication can be a challenging but important task. Here are a few tips to help you choose a name:

  1. Consider your target audience: Think about who you want to reach with your publication. What are their interests and needs? Choose a name that resonates with your target audience and reflects the content you plan to create.
  2. Keep it simple: Choose a name that is easy to spell and pronounce. Avoid using difficult or obscure words or phrases that may be hard for readers to remember.
  3. Make it memorable: Choose a name that is memorable and unique. Avoid using generic or common terms that may be hard to differentiate from other publications.
  4. Search for your ideas on social media platforms: Use the search function on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see if any accounts are already using your name ideas.
  5. Check the availability of your ideas on domain registration websites: Use websites like GoDaddy or Namecheap to see if your name ideas are available as a domain name.
  6. Check for trademark conflicts: If you plan to use your publication name for any commercial purposes, it’s a good idea to check for trademark conflicts. You can do this by searching the US Patent and Trademark Office’s database to see if any similar trademarks are already registered.

Choose a name for your new Substack publication that is memorable, unique, and resonates with your target audience.

Top Tip: here’s some excellent info on defining your brand identity (in the form of a video on Substack’s official YouTube channel).

Still struggling with how to name your publication? (Click to Expand)

4. Create an interesting About Page

An about page is an important part of any website, including a Substack publication. A good about page helps readers understand who you are and what your publication is about. Here are a few tips for writing a really good about page for your Substack publication:

  1. Start with a strong introduction: Use your introduction to introduce yourself and your publication. This should be a brief, engaging summary that tells readers who you are and what your publication is about.
  2. Tell your story: Use your about page to share your story and why you started your publication. This can help readers understand your motivations and create a personal connection with you.
  3. Share your mission: Use your about page to share your mission and goals for your publication. This will help readers understand what you hope to achieve with your content.
  4. Keep it concise: Your about page should be brief and to the point. Avoid using too much jargon or technical language, and focus on the most important information.
  5. Use images or graphics: Use images or graphics to make your about page more visually appealing and help break up the text. Consider using a headshot or an image that represents your publication.
  6. Include a call to action: Encourage readers to take action by including a call to action on your about page. This could be a request to subscribe to your publication or follow you on social media.
  7. Include contact information: Make it easy for readers to contact you by including your email address and social media handles on your about page.

The aim here is to write a really good about page for your Substack publication. This will help readers understand who you are and what your publication is about, and create a personal connection with you.

5. Develop a content strategy

Developing a content strategy is an important step in starting a new publication. A content strategy is a plan for creating and distributing content that aligns with your business goals and resonates with your target audience.

Here are some steps you can take to develop a content strategy for your publication:

  1. Determine your goals: Consider what you want to achieve with your publication. Do you want to build a loyal following, generate revenue, or provide valuable information to your readers? Your goals will help guide your content strategy.
  2. Identify your target audience: As mentioned previously, it’s important to have a clear understanding of who you want to reach with your content. This will help you create content that resonates with your readers and meets their needs and interests.
  3. Determine your publishing frequency: Consider how often you want to publish new content. This will depend on your goals, target audience, and resources.
  4. Choose your content types: Consider what types of content you want to include in your publication. This might include long-form articles, newsletters, podcasts, or video content.
  5. Create a content calendar: A content calendar is a schedule of when you will publish new content. Having a content calendar can help you stay organized and on track with your publishing schedule.
  6. Make use of the official Substack ‘comprehensive support structure for independent writers’ resources. These include: ‘access to a community of peers’, ‘special assistance for independent writers’, and the offer to ‘join the Substack writer community’.

Develop a content strategy that aligns with your business goals and resonates with your target audience.

6. Use engaging headlines

Using engaging headlines is an important factor in attracting readers to your content. A headline is the first thing a reader sees and can be a powerful tool for grabbing their attention and encouraging them to click through to your publication.

Here are some tips for creating engaging headlines:

  1. Make it interesting: Your headline should be interesting enough to make the reader want to click through to your content. Consider using strong action verbs or making a bold claim to grab the reader’s attention.
  2. Keep it short: Headlines should be concise and to the point. Aim for around 60 characters or fewer so that the entire headline is visible in search results.
  3. Use keywords: Including relevant keywords in your headline can help improve your SEO and make your content more visible to potential readers.
  4. Use numbers: Lists and numbered articles tend to perform well because they give readers a clear idea of what to expect and make it easy for them to understand the content.

Create engaging headlines that grab readers’ attention and encourage them to click through to your content.

7. Utilize visuals

Utilizing visuals is an important factor in engaging readers and making your content more appealing on Substack. Visuals, such as images, videos, and infographics, can help break up text and make your content more visually appealing, which can help keep readers engaged.

Here are some tips for utilizing visuals in your publication:

  1. Use high-quality images: Make sure to use high-quality images that are relevant to your content and add value for your readers. Avoid using low-quality or unrelated images, as they can distract from your content.
  2. Choose visuals that support your message: The visuals you choose should support the message of your content and add value for your readers. Avoid using visuals just for the sake of including them – they should serve a purpose in your content.
  3. Use Alt tags for images: Alt tags are descriptions of images that are used by screen readers for people with visual impairments. By including Alt tags for your images, you can ensure that your content is accessible to all readers.
  4. Use videos: Videos can be a powerful tool for engaging readers and making your content more interactive. Consider including short videos in your content to add variety and interest.
  5. Use infographics: Infographics can be a great way to present complex information in a visually appealing way. Consider using infographics to help readers understand complex topics or to illustrate data or statistics.

By utilizing visuals in your publication, you can make your content more engaging and visually appealing, which can help attract and retain readers.

8. Optimize for SEO

Optimizing your publication for SEO is an important factor in improving its ranking in search engine results pages and attracting potential readers. SEO is the practice of optimizing your website and content to make it more visible and attractive to search engines.

Here are some tips for optimizing your publication for SEO:

  1. Use relevant keywords: Including relevant keywords in your content can help improve your ranking in search engine results pages. Research keywords that are relevant to your content and incorporate them naturally into your text.
  2. Use header tags: Header tags (H1, H2, etc.) help search engines understand the hierarchy and structure of your content. Use header tags to break up your content and make it more user-friendly.
  3. Use alt tags for images: Alt tags are descriptions of images that are used by screen readers for people with visual impairments. By including Alt tags for your images, you can improve the accessibility of your content and help it rank better in search results.
  4. Use descriptive titles and URLs: Use descriptive titles and URLs for your content to help search engines understand what your content is about. Avoid using vague or generic titles and URLs.
  5. Use internal linking: Internal linking refers to the practice of linking to other pages on your website from within your content. This helps search engines understand the structure of your website and can improve the ranking of your pages.

Optimize your publication for SEO and improve its ranking in search engine results pages, thereby further increasing the chances that your publication will be found by potential readers.

9. Engage with your readers

Building a relationship with your readers is important for the success of your publication. Make an effort to engage with your readers through comments, social media, or email newsletters.

Engaging with your readers is an important step in building a successful publication. By building a relationship with your readers, you can create a loyal following of engaged readers who are interested in your content.

Here are some ways you can engage with your readers:

  1. Respond to comments: Encourage your readers to leave comments on your content and make an effort to respond to as many comments as possible. This helps build a sense of community and shows your readers that you value their feedback.
  2. Use social media: Social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, are great ways to engage with your readers. Share links to your content and respond to comments and messages to build a relationship with your followers.
  3. Use email newsletters: Consider sending email newsletters to your subscribers to keep them up to date on new content and promotions. You can also include a section for reader feedback or questions to encourage engagement.
  4. Create a community: Consider creating a private community, such as a Facebook group or Slack channel, for your readers to engage with each other and with you. This can help build a sense of community and encourage readers to become more invested in your publication.

Build a relationship with your readers and create a loyal following of engaged readers.

10. Collaborate with other Substack writers

There are several ways you can engage with and collaborate with other writers on Substack:

  1. Join Substack communities: Substack has a number of communities for writers and creators. Consider joining one of these communities to connect with other writers and collaborate on projects.
  2. Participate in writing challenges: Many writers and creators on Substack participate in writing challenges, which are events where writers are given a prompt or topic to write about. Participating in these challenges can be a great way to connect with other writers and collaborate on projects.
  3. Collaborate on a project: Consider reaching out to other writers on Substack and collaborating on a project. This could be a joint blog post, podcast, or video series. Collaborating with other writers can help you build your audience and create new content.
  4. Share and promote each other’s work: Engage with and promote other writers’ work on Substack. Share their content on social media, leave comments on their posts, and consider featuring them on your own publication.

Engage with and collaborate with other writers on Substack.

11. Build an email list

Building an email list is an important step in starting a new publication. An email list is a collection of email addresses from people who have expressed an interest in receiving updates from your publication.

Here are some ways you can build an email list for your Substack publication:

  1. Offer an email newsletter: Consider offering an email newsletter to your readers in exchange for their email address. You can use the newsletter to keep your readers up to date on new content and promotions.
  2. Use opt-in forms: Place opt-in forms on your website or social media pages to collect email addresses from interested readers.
  3. Offer incentives: Consider offering incentives, such as exclusive content or discounts, to encourage readers to sign up for your email list.
  4. Engage with your readers: Engaging with your readers and responding to their comments and questions can help build a loyal following and encourage them to sign up for your email list.

To build an email list, you can offer an email newsletter or updates to your readers in exchange for their email address. You can also use opt-in forms on your website or social media pages to collect email addresses.

Top Tip: Here’s how one writer, Scott Hines, got his first 1,000 subscribers!

Overall, building an email list (a primary goal of pretty much all writers on Substack) allows you to reach out to your readers directly and build a loyal following.

12. Monetize your publication

Monetizing your Substack publication is an important step in building a successful business. There are several ways you can monetize your publication (plus Substack have an excellent guide on the matter that you’ll want to read in detail):

  1. Offer paid subscriptions: Consider offering paid subscriptions to your publication. This can be a good option if you have a loyal following and are creating high-quality content that is worth paying for.
  2. Run ads: You can monetize your publication by running ads. There are several options for running ads on Substack, such as sponsored posts or display ads.
  3. Sell merchandise: Consider selling merchandise, such as t-shirts or mugs, to your readers. This can be a good option if you have a strong brand and a loyal following.
  4. Offer services: If you have expertise in a particular area, consider offering services, such as consulting or coaching, to your readers.

It’s important to experiment with different monetization strategies to find what works best for your publication. Consider testing different options and collecting data to see which strategies are most effective for generating revenue.

Overall, monetizing your Substack publication is an important step in building a sustainable and successful business. By experimenting with different strategies, you can find what works best for your publication and generate the most revenue.

Top Tip: Here’s an informative and interesting read on someone left his full time job going paid on Substack.

Should I Monetize My Substack?

Whether or not to monetize your Substack publication is a personal decision that depends on your goals and resources. Here are some benefits of monetizing your publication:

  1. It can provide a source of income: Monetizing your publication can provide a source of income to support your business and help you achieve your financial goals.
  2. It can help you build a more sustainable business: Monetizing your publication can help you build a more sustainable business by generating revenue to support your efforts.
  3. It can help you create better content: Monetizing your publication can give you the resources to invest in creating high-quality content and improving your publication.

On the other hand, here are some benefits of not monetizing your publication:

  1. It allows you to focus on creating content: If you’re not focused on monetizing your publication, you can focus on creating content that resonates with your readers and building a loyal following.
  2. It allows you to reach a wider audience: If you’re not focused on monetization, you may be able to reach a wider audience by offering your content for free.

Ultimately, the decision to monetize your Substack publication or not depends on your goals and resources. Consider your priorities and what is most important to you when deciding whether or not to monetize your publication.

And sometimes: free blog posts pay!

13. Experiment with different formats

Experimenting with different formats (here’s a quick YouTube video of some the options and ideas suggested by Substack) is an important step in finding what works best for your publication and your audience on Substack. There are many different formats you can use for your publication, such as:

  1. Long-form articles: Long-form articles are in-depth pieces of content that typically range from 1,500 to 5,000 words. These can be a good option if you have a lot of information to share or want to cover a complex topic in detail.
  2. Newsletters: Newsletters are a great way to keep your readers up to date on new content and promotions. You can send newsletters regularly or on an as-needed basis.
  3. Podcasts: Podcasts are audio recordings that can be listened to on the go. Consider creating a podcast if you have a strong voice or are comfortable speaking on the microphone.
  4. Video content: Video content can be a powerful way to engage your audience and make your content more interactive. Consider creating video content, such as interviews or tutorials, to add variety to your publication.

By experimenting with different formats, you can find what works best for your publication and your audience.

14. Stay consistent

Staying consistent is an important factor in building a successful publication. By publishing new content regularly and maintaining a consistent tone and style, you can create a strong brand and build a loyal following.

Here are some tips for staying consistent with your publication:

  1. Publish new content regularly: It’s important to publish new content on a consistent schedule to keep your readers engaged and build a loyal following. Determine how often you want to publish new content and stick to a schedule.
  2. Maintain a consistent tone: Your tone should be consistent throughout your publication. This helps create a strong brand and make your content more recognizable to your readers.
  3. Use a consistent style: Using a consistent style, such as a specific font or layout, can help create a cohesive look for your publication and make it more recognizable to your readers.
  4. Keep your branding consistent: Your branding, including your logo and color scheme, should be consistent across all of your content and marketing materials.

Create a strong brand and build a loyal following for your publication. Consistency is key to creating a successful publication.

15. Ensure the highest quality!

There are several ways you can ensure that your writing on Substack is interesting, engaging, and high quality:

  1. Use strong, active verbs: Using strong, active verbs can help make your writing more engaging and interesting. Avoid using weak or passive verbs, as they can make your writing feel less compelling.
  2. Use descriptive language: Use descriptive language to help your readers visualize and engage with your content. Avoid using generic or vague language, as it can make your writing less interesting and less effective.
  3. Edit and revise your writing: Make sure to take the time to edit and revise your writing. This will help you catch any errors or typos and ensure that your writing is high quality.

Ensure that your writing on Substack is interesting, engaging, and high quality – create content that resonates with your readers!

Bonus: Promote your publication!

Promoting your new Substack publication could be an important step in attracting readers and building a loyal following. There are several ways you can promote your publication online:

  1. Use social media: Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are a great way to promote your publication and attract new readers. Share links to your content and engage with your followers to build a loyal following.
  2. Collaborate with other influencers: Collaborating with other folk who already have a following in your niche can help spread the word about your publication and attract new readers. Consider reaching out to other websites or influencers in your field to see if they would be interested in collaborating or promoting your publication. Make it worth their while somehow!
  3. Use paid advertising: Consider using paid advertising platforms, such as Google AdWords or Facebook Ads, to promote your publication to a targeted audience.

Essentially promote your business in whatever ethical and moral ways you can – especially when just getting started!

Finally:

Congratulations on making it to the end of our blog post on the top 15 tips for starting a brand new publication on Substack! We hope that these tips have given you the information and inspiration you need to get started on your publishing journey.

Starting a new publication can be a daunting task, but with hard work, dedication, and a little bit of luck, you CAN create a successful publication on Substack.

We wish you the best of luck with your new publication on Substack.

Happy publishing!

Oh, and for another other questions, check out the official Substack Help and FAQs – and/or leave a comment below!

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