Substacks, Newsletters, and Patreon

Avenues to monetize your writing and find readers

One of the things we write about here at Miss Demeanors is how the heck can an author sustain themselves in the modern world of publishing. Keenan Powell and Sharon Ward write often about the ins and outs of self publishing. Last week, Susan Breen wrote about authors getting on TikTok.

But recently there’s been new paths for both traditionally and self-published authors to monetize their output. I read an astonishing fact last week–over 70% of all books are sold directly to the consumer from online retailers (Amazon). In other words, whether a bookstore carries your book, or not, no longer controls your publishing journey or has (too) much bearing on your success. You can sell directly to the consumer in any number of ways, often alongside your traditionally, indie, or self published route.


This platform has been around for a few years, but recently fiction authors have discovered it and are using it for everything from serializing their novels to dispensing hard earned wisdom to offering critiques.

How it works:
  • Signing up is free for both writers and readers
  • Writers create weekly content. I’ve seen serialized novels (although you can go old skool and get Edgar Allan Poe in your mailbox every other week!), re-prints of old articles previously published in print media (my favorite is Cintra Wilson’s Cintra Wilson Feels Your Pain), industry advice (my favorite is Kathleen Schmidt’s Publishing Confidential), helpful writing tips (my favorite is Free2Write with Dawn Barclay), and random musings.
  • Writers offer different levels of content for different rates. Free might get you an article a week. A basic $6/month might get you an article a week, plus access to new content and old content. A higher tier might include interactions with the author and other members.
  • Readers choose which flavor of participation they want, and subscribe.
  • Substack makes money by skimming a percentage off the payments, and the content providers get to keep the rest. Even a few hundred paid subscribers can give an author a decent boost.
Why I like it:

I believe artists should get paid for their time! For years we’ve been told to give short stories away for someone’s email address. Give books away for a review. And although I’ve certainly seen this result in robust email lists and healthy review numbers, it fosters the idea that art is free. In a world where piracy is considered no worse than taking pens and notebooks home from your company’s supply closet, I’m happy to see creators get compensated for their time by the people who consume their work.


Also around for a while, writers are beginning to lean into this platform more than ever. Whereas Substack content is delivered to your email, Patreon is a platform to visit. Creators host vlogs, podcasts, and other content ranging from music to novels.

How it works:
  • Creators sign up for free. There are two plans, and each comes with a different set of tools.
  • Creators create content that appeals to their specific audience and charge based on tiers of access.
  • Patreon makes money by skimming a percentage of what the creator got paid, and the creator gets the rest.
  • Recently Bret Easton Ellis serialized his entire novel to his Patreon community, and only after it was complete and consumed by them, did it come out as a novel for the rest of the world.
  • As with everything else, your content needs to be good and consistent. Also, consistent. Did I mention consistent? You can’t take a month off. Your community will get cranky and leave you.
Why I like it:

Pretty much the same reasons as Substack.

Paid Newsletters

This is the traditional way of doing things, and the most successful of these comprise advice and industry information.

How it works:
  • You sign up and pay up front for the benefit of getting highly useful wisdom delivered to your email on a regular basis.
  • The two that are priceless:

How about you? What’s your favorite Substack/Patreon/Newsletter?

Emilya Naymark

Emilya Naymark is the author of the novels Hide in Place and Behind the Lie.
Her short stories appear in the Bouchercon 2023 Anthology, A Stranger Comes to Town: edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.

When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.


  1. This is so useful, Emilya. Although I’ve heard people talk about substack for years, I’ve never been sure what it is. I will tackle that, just as soon as I figure out TikTok.

  2. Thanks so much for the shoutout! I am curious about the serialization of novels…how publishers feel about all that. I suppose Ellis can do whatever he wants, he’s a major player. And if you’re self-publishing, you can do what you want (which is a big plus for self-pub.) But if you’re hoping for a contract with a smaller press, are they even going to consider your book if you’ve already published in subscription format?

    1. No, they wouldn’t consider that for publication, more than likely, unless you have a mouth watering number of followers. But it’s an extra revenue stream for content you want full control over. And it’s better than giving away short stories for free just to get an email address!

      1. Agreed. On Substack, you have access via a newsletter but you don’t have their email addresses unless you ask (and probably give something away). It would be interesting to release a novel via one of these services and see how many followers you get. On Medium, users pay $5 a month to belong and then can read whatever they want and you get a piece of that if they read yours–but you need 100 followers minimum. You can also get published by larger Medium publications to get some exposure from their readers. Ream allows you to publish on their site (they take 10%) BUT there’s no facility for exposure so you have to alert your own followers–not as interesting for me.

        1. I think what Cintra Wilson does is interesting. She’s sending out content she wrote for print publications years ago, that’s now hers again. She’s such a good writer that it doesn’t matter how old the stuff is. So, it’s a way to repurpose previous work as well.

  3. Thanks, Emilya! I’d heard about serializing. It worked for James Joyce. I didn’t know what Substack was. It’s worth investigating.

    As for Patreon, I have memberships with a painter, an embroiderer, and an Irish language teacher. I like getting the exclusive content for a minimum charge not that I’ve used it much lately. But I keep the memberships because the content is always there for me to access when I get curious again.

  4. I’m not involved with any of these. I have limited time (I’m pretty old) and limited energy and I choose to focus on writing as many of the stories floating in my head, as I can. I find it hard to even think about putting out a newsletter because I’d rather write books and short stories.

    On another level, other than my books, I’m not sure that I have anything to share, or that I want to share, that is interesting enough for people to pay for. I admire the authors I know who have Patreon or another monetizing platform but frankly I find the idea overwhelming.

    1. I kind of feel this way too, but somehow these substacks that I follow give me information that I find very interesting, so it doesn’t feel onerous to read them. The publishing one is really useful and Cintra Wilson’s one is like a master class in writing.

  5. Grand post, Emilya, and thanks for sharing such good information. I’m on Jane Friedman’s link and love reading what she shares. Food for thought on the others~

  6. Great info, Emilya. I’d heard of Substack. The name always reminded me of the mission plans developed by Jodi Taylor’s time-travellers in the Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. Now I know! But will I join up and produce content? That’s going to take some thought.

  7. Thanks, Emilya. Good info, and i appreciate the shout out. The authors guild recently did an author earnings survey, and the results are pretty depressing. But interesting to note that the average self- published author now out earns the average traditionally published author.

  8. Emilya–thanks for the info. I had no idea about any of this. I’m not quite ready yet, but in a month or two, I will definitely check this out.

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