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how Substack breaks the literary rules

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Substack VP of Communications Lulu Cheng Meservey says such advances – Rushdie and Palahniuk were approached by the company – are more of a soft landing to rally writers: “When Substack offers minimal financial collateral one year, in return for which we keep most of the subscription income for that period, ”she says,“ it’s meant to be a bridge to independence that helps a writer feel at home. comfortable taking a risk.

“The vast majority of writers on Substack are [using] the arrangement we recommend most: posting to an unlimited free mailing list or offering paid subscriptions, in which case Substack takes a 10 percent fee. A lot of the feedback we get from writers is that they just have fun and end up doing the job they want to do rather than what traditional publishers expect.

Sam Missingham, a former senior executive at HarperCollins and The Bookseller who now runs literary marketing consultancy The Empowered Author, says the key problem, in a way, isn’t literary at all: the true value of that here is that they are building a mailing list. This is what in the old jargon of the trade, we call “qualified prospects”. It’s not just random folks: If you sign up to receive installments of Chuck Palahniuk’s or Salman Rushdie’s new novel, we know you’re a fan. It is incredibly valuable.

“So next time Chuck can go back to his publishers and tell them, look – here are 75,000 subscribers. This, oddly enough, could pave the way for a suite of sub-stacks to become complementary rather than competitive with traditional publishing. Even if their next book is with an old school publisher like Hachette, they’ll probably still use their Substack newsletter to market it.

Another publishing consultant I spoke to put it this way, “The book content ecosystem is big enough that you can have traditional publishers, traditional newspapers, traditional magazines – then Substack in the middle of. this one, and you know, I’m sure there’s a big enough market for it to be very successful.

And, fortunately, the docks of New York will this time be safe from an invasion.


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