IN THIS ISSUE
- From the Editor’s Desk: Making pitching fun
- On The Wordling: What are morning pages?
- News & Views: Is it time to leave Substack?
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
Sometimes when students first arrive in my 30 Days, 30 Queries course, they have some level of skepticism.
Then I give them an easy assignment. They do it and feel a rush. The high of having sent a pitch that, now that they’ve done it, wasn’t actually too difficult. They send another, and another, and the momentum builds. I share tips, I give them strategies, I show them how to make it easy and effortless, and they begin to realize that pitching, even when done consistently, doesn’t require days and hours of unenjoyable work.
By this point, most of them have sent more pitches in a week than they did in the six months prior. And then, around Day 10 or so, a breakthrough happens.
An editor responds. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a rejection. After radio silence for months, the fact that someone sent an encouraging email back makes a world of difference. (Generally speaking, if your pitches are good, you’ll hear back, even if it’s with a no.)
Suddenly, we’re not talking to the void, we’re building relationships. And sending pitches consistently starts to look like an achievable goal that will lead to results.
With each pitch you send, you get closer to understanding what works and what doesn’t. So that when, like me, you’ve been pitching and writing for almost two decades, reading and writing them as part of your monthly routine, you know instinctively how to not just write a story—but sell it.
As a result, when you need work, you’re able to send out four or five pitches a day without even thinking about it because this is what you do, it’s what you’re good at.
But you can’t get to that point without having understood the basics first.
In 30 Days, 30 Queries, we make that understanding simple. We make it fun. And we make sure that you have the knowledge, the support, and the resources you need to not only get started, but keep going. You won’t believe how many emails I have that say some version of “I used to hate pitching, now I love it. Sometimes even more than the actual writing!”
Aren’t you more likely to pitch—and keep on pitching—when it’s enjoyable?
30 Days, 30 Queries is one of my signature courses, and what’s even more exciting is that it’s now a part of Wordling Plus. Which means you can get access to the 30 days of tutorials, the 50+ sample pitches, the bonus Idea Generation Workshop, and much more, for a fraction of what it has traditionally cost to purchase the course.
If you want to write for top publications this year, get in now.
I’ll see you there.
Enjoy the issue!
Natasha Khullar Relph
Editor, The Wordling
NEW ON THE WORDLING
NEWS & VIEWS:
How Substack’s Nazi problem affects your newsletter
“Substack Has a Nazi Problem” — That’s the headline with which The Atlantic ran a piece on Substack in November, pointing out that the popular newsletter platform had become “a home and propagator of white supremacy and anti-Semitism.” The story noted that at least 16 newsletters on the platform had “overt Nazi symbols, including the swastika and the sonnenrad, in their logos or in prominent graphics.”
Substack’s response, predictably, cited free speech. “Substack is a platform that is built on freedom of expression, and helping writers publish what they want to write,” the company’s co-founders wrote in a statement when asked for a comment. “Some of that writing is going to be objectionable or offensive.”
The controversy was swift to erupt.
On the one hand, hundreds of newsletter writers threatened to quit the platform, taking their readers (and their subscriptions) with them. On the other, several Substackers signed a letter stating they agreed with Substack’s stance, and preferred that writers and readers should moderate, not platforms.
Eventually, three days ago, Substack said it was “removing some publications that express support for Nazis.”
So, where does that leave you? If you’re someone with a newsletter on Substack or planning to start one, should you leave? Should you stay? How do you make the decision?
Here are some aspects to consider:
1. Your personal values
The sad reality is that no platform is clean. None. Amazon has been criticized for its anti-competitive policies. Apple’s been linked to sweatshop labor. Meta handles user data appallingly. And TikTok is facing allegations and potential bans after being accused of spying on journalists.
Where do you stand in all of this? Given that you’re unlikely to quit all platforms, where do you personally draw the line? What decisions feel unambiguous to you? What are your non-negotiables? And does it matter if platforms make good faith efforts to clean up their act, even if they do so belatedly and under pressure?
2. Your readers’ values
There are millions of people who have never heard of Substack. There are hundreds of thousands who receive a Substack newsletter but have no interest in how media platforms work or what their policies are. And there are others who will cancel subscriptions based on those policies, as Casey Newton found when dozens of subscribers wrote to tell him why they were doing so.
Which readers are yours?
Or, put another way—how much is your business likely to be impacted by a platform’s policies?
If your livelihood is coming from the newsletter, either through direct sales or promotional content, and your readers are leaving, can you afford to stay?
3. Platform dependence
I’ve said this repeatedly, but I see Substack writers making the same mistake writers have made on other platforms. When you’re dependent on a single platform for growth and community, your business loses its independence (and yes, if you’re making money from independent writing, you’re running a business).
Substack is a fantastic way to grow a newsletter, especially right now, with all the recommendation tools and support it offers. Growing a newsletter on Substack is easy in today’s world. But first, it won’t always be. And second, any platform changes or upsets can have an outsized impact on your livelihood. How comfortable are you with that?
Is Substack a way to grow your business? Or is Substack your business?
That’s a key question to answer, and one that will determine how free you are (or aren’t) to take a moral stance with this or any other platform. And how easy your transition out of it will be should you decide to.
James Bennet, the former editorial page editor at the New York Times, has written a personal essay about his high-profile firing from the paper. “The reality is that the Times is becoming the publication through which America’s progressive elite talks to itself about an America that does not really exist.”
Ever wonder why paperback covers of books end up looking completely different from the hardbacks? Here are some case studies of paperback redesigns.
You’re worried your books are training AI. But what about your social media posts?
INDIA: “8 million people will spend $10 million on books at India’s incredible book fairs from January to March.”
SOUTH KOREA: “The most distinctive trend in the Korean publishing market in 2023 is the unprecedented rise of self-help books (as) younger readers looking for a compass for life, wealth, success, and wisdom have turned their attention to books about “how to live well” by self-made experts and famous YouTubers.”
HONG KONG: Hong Kong is no longer the bastion of press freedom in the Asia Pacific it once was. Since Beijing imposed the National Security Law (NSL) in July 2020, newsrooms have been raided, journalists arrested, and news outlets shut down. Under this uncertain scenario, Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) is the only independent English-language media outlet remaining. Founded by journalist Tom Grundy in the wake of the Umbrella Movement in 2014, the newsroom team of nine journalists continue their mission to inform, although cautiously.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
– Stephen King
LIKE WHAT YOU’RE READING?
Time taken to assemble this newsletter: 4 hr 20 min
Help us spread the word by sharing this newsletter with a friend!