Unlock this Playbook
You will gain full access to this playbook - as well as weekly insights to help you learn the material!
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Chapter
6

Write your first Substack post

By now, you have a good idea of what you’ll publish on Substack, who your audience is, and how often you plan to publish. Now it’s time to take the plunge and write and publish your first post.

Make sure what you’re creating aligns with your goals

First, a quick check-in. As you start writing your first newsletter, recall the goal you set in step 1, and keep that in mind as you write to make sure what you’re creating on Substack and how you’re distributing that content aligns with your goals.

For example, here was my goal:

"In the next year, I want to create a community for my readers who currently span disparate, different platforms, using Substack to consolidate them into one place so I have a vehicle for sharing my work and communicating with my audience moving forward. I will create content for them on a monthly cadence. I want to eventually double my following, with the opportunity to monetize my content on Substack if I so choose.”

And here are a few concrete ways I think about achieving that goal:

  • Finding inspiration: To get inspired for my newsletters, I stay curious, ask my friends what they’re reading, subscribe to 25 other newsletters, check the subreddits I follow, look at what people are chatting about on Twitter, and read mainstream news publications. What isn’t being written about elsewhere but is a topic of conversation in two of my group chats that week? For me, that’s a perfect newsletter post.

  • Stay publishing regularly: These days, I stick to a monthly publication schedule. I have reminders in Google Calendar during the second week of each month, urging me to pick a topic if I haven’t already started working on a newsletter yet that month. 

  • I publicize each newsletter on Twitter, Instagram, and in other channels (such as private Slack groups with other writers), and track the referral traffic from each distribution method

  • I ask myself before I sat down to write but after I conceptualized a topic: “Would I open an email about this if it showed up in my inbox?” If the answer was anything other than a firm yes, I would rethink my topic and approach.

  • I offer several sections in my newsletter to break up the content: One main content block at the top, with recommendations below.

Setting up your first post

First, head to your Substack Dashboard and click on New Post. Then, start writing using the Substack editor.

Substack also makes email marketing very simple. After writing a post and selecting Publish, you’re presented with a few options for publishing. You have the option to choose:

  • The intended audience (everyone, paid subscribers, or free subscribers).

  • Who can comment on your post.

  • Add a free preview for a paid post.

  • If you'd like to send the post via email and Substack app inbox.

  • Publish the post now or select a future date and time to publish your post.

You can choose whether you want to only make a post on your Substack website or whether you also want all your subscribers to receive an email. To send all your subscribers an email, you must check the box labeled “Send email to subscribers.”

If you wish to schedule your post for a later date, simply click on the “Schedule for later…” link and select the time you want your email sent:

Saving drafts for later

Posts you write in Substack are automatically saved as drafts. Click on “Version History” to see drafts of your post. If you return to your Dashboard, you can view all of your unpublished posts in the Drafts section on the right panel.

Can I publish a newsletter without sending it out via email?

You can. Your posts are set to publish to the web and be sent via email by default. If you'd like to only publish a post to your publication, uncheck the box next to "Send via email and Substack app inbox" after clicking on Publish.

You can’t resend a newsletter after you edit it

Once a post is emailed, it can't be resent. Any edits you make to a published post will only appear on the web version of the Substack you published. 

Take the Substack CMS for a test drive

Now it’s time for you to write your first Substack newsletter. You don’t have to publish it just now, but use this time to experiment within the Substack CMS and familiarize yourself with the different options for publishing. Substack will automatically save your writing as a draft, which you can return to later.

Build a launch plan

When you’re ready to put up your paywall, building a comprehensive launch plan will give you the structure you need to stay the course. From early-bird discounts to testimonials to personal insights, a launch plan helps you be strategic and thoughtful, and ‌stay the course when doubt creeps in.

Align your plan with your goals from step 1. Are your posts and schedule working towards that goal? When I think of writers on Substack whose posts align with their niches and audiences, one comes to mind. 

Food writer Alicia Kennedy’s newsletter From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy focuses on food culture, politics, and media, with a sharp focus on issues other food writers tend to shy away from, looking critically at politics, labor hospitality, and sourcing in food. Alicia is one of Substack’s top-ranking food writers; she achieves her goals of centering her content around food and publishing with a regular cadence for paid and free subscribers by using a variety of content types. Her Monday Essay is a weekly newsletter about some topic in food—a recent newsletter was an ode to martinis, one of her favorite drinks. She also includes in this newsletter some notes about works she’s published and read the week prior, and what she’s cooked recently. Then, on Friday, she sends out From The Kitchen—a newsletter with kitchen notes and recipes she developed herself. Her photography is also clear and beautiful, and adds so much to a newsletter about food. 

Private network of peers to learn and build with
Education and resources made for independents
The best guidance to move forward
Exclusive data, insights, and deals
Quality programming and events
Seasoned experts to support you
A community of peers building alongisde you
A community of peers building alongisde you
A community of peers building alongisde you
A community of peers building alongisde you
A community of peers building alongisde you
A community of peers building alongisde you
The premier
entrepreneurial
ecosystem
for
independents