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Why ask people to pay for writing?
Some weeks, the idea for what to write here comes to me early, so by Monday morning it’s already written and ready to go. Other weeks, I have no idea what I want to say. Sometimes I start two or three different essays before deciding on one that works. And by “start,” I mean writing half or more of an essay before discarding it. So sometimes, I’ve written a whole other essay in addition to the one you read.
I could send out those other essays, but I don’t. I could just throw together whatever I’m thinking at the moment, a stream-of-consciousness sort of thing. But writing is my craft. I’m pretty serious about it. There’s no sense in producing something that isn’t as good as I can possibly make it. That means editing. Reading and re-reading.
As I tell my students, writing is thinking. Sometimes I’m not sure what I think about something until I sit down to write about it. That’s part of what I enjoy about writing this newsletter—working my thoughts out on the page and then sharing them with you.
Sometimes I start essays and then I stop, not because they’re not good ideas or worth pursuing. I stop because it occurs of me that this idea is something I could pitch to a magazine or website. This, I think to myself, is something I might get paid for. And magazines and websites don’t want to publish something that’s already appeared in a newsletter. So I tuck it away.
This, my friends, is the problem Substack was invented to solve.
Pitching is a pain in the ass. You write a short summary of your idea with a hook to attract editors. You send it out. Hear nothing. Send it out again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Some pitches go nowhere. Some pitches get killed when your team doesn’t win the Super Bowl (yeah, that happened). But sometimes pitches land and you get paid…eventually. Not life-changing money. But money all the same, which is kind of nice in this world where you need money to do things like, you know, eat and pay a mortgage.
Pitching is not writing. It is the opposite of writing. Just finding an actual e-mail address to send a pitch to often takes half an hour out of my day, time that is not spent writing. But if I want to get paid, that’s what I have to do.
There’s also the potential exposure that comes with being published in a magazine or website. People have gotten book deals from single articles if they get enough hits. Platform, it’s called. It’s why I ask you to share this newsletter and these posts over and over again. Platform makes the world go round, or at least the publishing world.
What if, though, writers could cut out that whole pitching thing and just write what they wanted to write and deliver it to an audience who wanted to read it? And maybe get paid for it? That’s the idea behind Substack.
Is it a good idea? Yeah. Is it a sustainable model? I don’t know. Am I willing to give it a try? Yep.
This morning, I started two essays before saving them to pitch instead. One was about the importance of mixed-income communities and how Madison is one of the last surviving examples. Another was about the creative space I found by spending a month off social media. I probably should have set aside last week’s post about being a daily meditator who hates meditation and pitched it somewhere instead.
If you want to read those sorts of essays—all the essays, instead of just some— this is your chance. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be adding paid subscriptions as an option. And if you’re asking yourself, why? Why ask people to pay? This is the answer.
Thanks as always for reading and liking and sharing and commenting! All of that will still be available to free subscribers. Remember if you’re in the Cincy area, I’m at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Rookwood on Tuesday, August 9 at 7:00, answering all your gender questions. For non-local folks, I’ll be doing an online book event with Malaprop’s Bookstore on Tuesday, August, 23 at 6:00 (ET). It’s free, but you need to register here.
Exposure is its own currency. Not everyone can pay for a newsletter, I get that. If you can’t, sharing and promoting your favorite writers is a great (and cheap) way to show the love. It’s always appreciated.