I was intrigued to read this article a couple of weeks ago.
Substack, an online subscription platform for popular writers like Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan, appears to be setting its sights on disrupting the book publishing world.
Former Forbes media and entertainment writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg has revealed to Media Ink that he has received an advance to write a book for Substack titled, “We Are All Musicians Now.”
The book will be released on Substack later this month in a serialized format — with chapters dropping once a week.
. . .
Greenburg … opted to go the Substack route for his next book because it offered him more financial upside, he said.
“All in all, with the advance money being in the same ballpark, I’d rather go to a place where I can be my own boss with a higher upside than try to force it through an old business model that I think is broken,” he said.
Greenburg declined to say how much of an advance he received, but said it was comparable to what he’s received for more traditional book publications. On top of that, he will be charging $5 a month or $50 a year …
. . .
“Zack is among the first of what appears to be a growing number of authors serializing books, both fiction and nonfiction,” a Substack spokeswoman said, without providing specifics.
One lure might be that Substack gives writers total control over their readership, including email addresses. The online platform … makes money by taking a cut of the revenues the writers generate.
There’s more at the link.
I find this an intriguing development. I subscribe to a couple of independent reporters on Substack (Matt Taibbi, Glenn Greenwald) whose journalism I find valuable and whom I’d like to support. However, I never thought of that Web site as a potential avenue to publish a book in serial form.
If the most sincere form of flattery is imitation, Substack may be on to something. Amazon is about to launch its new Kindle Vella subscription service, which appears to offer something similar to what Substack is talking about (albeit in a typically Amazonian interface). I don’t know which came first in terms of planning that approach, but if Amazon thinks it can make it work (and, more important, make money at it) then Substack may be on to a good thing.
I’m not sure I want to write in a serialized format. It imposes different demands on story structure, plot and development, which will require a learning curve to master. However, it might be a viable alternative to traditional publishing – the whole book at once – for those who can adapt to that format. What say you, readers?