Bag of Tricks (Tools of the Trade)

Substack: The Other (Monetary) Writers’ Platform

Substack allows you to write what you want AND offer paid subscriptions

Hands up everyone who started writing for the sake of creating! Yeah, that’s what I thought. While all of us do enjoy the writing process (exempting edits, revisions, and various other steps that keep us up at night), there isn’t a single person out there who’s cool with producing work for NOTHING the rest of their lives. Everyone hopes to scrape out a few cents here and there (if you’re hoping to retire to a private island in the next five years, do I have news for you) with an official publication. But editors aren’t always biting when we submit. So what do we do? That’s right: Wallow in self-pity. NO! We find other avenues, like Substack, to get our words out there and maybe – just maybe – bring in a little cash.

(Okay, maybe a little wallowing, just for good measure)


Once upon a time, if you wanted to see your name in print, you had one option: Convince an editor your words were the best ones out there. The process was laborious and time-consuming:

  1. Write your fantastic story, essay, poem, novel, play, etc.
  2. Revise said work of genius.
  3. Find like-minded individuals to review your writing.
  4. Edit your work again based on their critique.
  5. Research appropriate markets for the piece.
  6. Submit your tender, fragile ego and a SASE (that’s a self-addressed, stamped envelope for you youngsters) along with your best version to a triple-checked address and quadruple-checked editor.
  7. Wait months (or years) to hear a response while working on a new fantastic story.
  8. Receive a two-line typed rejection, devoid of feedback or personality.
  9. Question your existence, your purpose in life, the nature of the publishing industry, and the sanity of said editor (who probably never saw your writing because a First Reader killed it).
  10. Start the entire process over again at Step 2.

Now you do the same thing, except very few markets rely on snail mail anymore. (I’d like to say wait times have improved, but I still clock responses at six months and over)

OR you can say to hell with all of this and publish your brilliance yourself.

Self-publishing arose from people who decided they didn’t want to wait on approval from someone else. They felt satisfied with their work, and they received encouragement from others who believed in their message.

And with the advent of Kindle and other platforms, you don’t need a publisher or editor to get your work in front of eyeballs anymore. It eliminates wait time and some frustration.

Probably why it’s become so popular.

“I Did it My Way”

There are uncountable ways of getting your writing out there sans Editor. But not every option comes with a chance to put money in your pocket. Unless your blog or newsletter draws enough attention to warrant advertising space (which your readers may or may not appreciate), odds are you won’t see much return from your subscribers. (They’re great for establishing your voice when you’re starting as a freelancer, though!)

If you think your writing is worthy of compensation, you need to find another option.

But – the internet being what it is – you don’t have to look far. Medium allows you to sign up for the chance to earn cash. That sounds great, but there’s a small caveat: Your ability to get paid depends on your ability to get people to click on your posts AND read them through IN ENTIRETY.

This translates to needing a hefty following, not using clickbait, having something worthwhile to say (that hasn’t been said 5,000 times already), and producing that useful content consistently enough to justify people coming to you for entertainment or information.

Oh, and your luck of the draw that Medium decides to select and feature you on their app feed to get you better exposure.

(I admit, I don’t post on my feed any longer, but the most I ever received was $25)

I’m not saying it’s impossible – plenty of people have mastered the system – but it’s a gamble. And not something you should rely on if you’re trying to make rent.

Luckily, Medium has competition.


If you want complete freedom over the pay structure involved with your writing, you can opt for something like Substack. It’s set up as a newsletter-type publication, but once you set up your account, you can do whatever you want with it. Substack simply handles sending out the posts to your subscribers – and funneling the money to your bank account.

Whatever you choose to write (poetry, news, essays, blog posts, etc.), you can set up tiers for your subscription and decide how much you want to charge for each level. Then you choose what to publish at each tier. It allows you to encourage people to open their wallets (assuming they like your writing) and splurge on that next higher level.

And it also lets you interact with your readers, offering them special opportunities.

It’s a great way for a writer to build a platform – especially if they aren’t graphics-savvy or twelve years old and enamored with TikTok. (Substack will actually generate images for you to use on social media to promote yourself and your posts)

Invisible Inks: A Free Substack

I don’t have paid subscriptions enabled on my Substack, Invisible Inks. Not because I don’t like money (I’m human, and the Minions are expensive), but because I chose not to. It’s my little corner to play and experiment with hermit crab essays. And I didn’t feel like I needed to demand money from people to read them.

However, I did set up Substack’s other option: The Pledge.

If people want to pledge (donate) to II, they can. I feel it’s a better system for my dabbling than deciding every word I write demands compensation.

Everyone’s different, though. And I’ve encountered plenty of people who don’t have a free option. It’s your choice.

But if you’re feeling depressed with rejection letters and wondering if you’ll ever see your words in print, consider giving it a try. You never know who might start reading.

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