Here's Why and What I'm Putting Behind a Paywall
I'm new to Substack, so I'm still learning what's possible. Since I'd like to publish fiction here, I've been exploring how other writers are setting up their pages, pubs, and sections, and what they're offering. I share many of the doubts and concerns you mentioned. Thanks for sharing your experience and insights, too. Your article has given me some new things to consider. And most certainly, you are not alone.
I like the idea of this. I always want my stuff to be free, but maybe putting previous stuff as subs only is a good compromise. I have always loved the Patron idea ( as in the good old philanthropic version not the service ) where someone would give me some money because they had some money and liked the idea of helping people do what they loved .... but then I’m an old romantic who doesn’t have a clue about business and doesn’t want to!
I have paid active though nothing is behind the paywall and there's no one paying, at the moment.
There's a few plans I'm toying with:
1 - Monthly (what you're doing). Everything is free for a month and then moves behind the wall. I don't think this will affect new sign-ups too much as I have noticed maybe half, or less, new subs go back and read old work. Some stories seem to continue to gain readers months after posting so those I may keep free as example pieces.
2 - Seasons/Quarterly (what S. E. Reid at Talebones is doing (I think)). Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and have a whole season of stories and serials that move behind the paywall at the end of the season.
3 - Keep short stories free, paywall future serials (from Chapter 2 onwards). Have a Short Story Tuesday and a Chapter Release Thursday. The Tuesday is free, the Thursday is paid. This can be combined with Seasons or whenever a novella/novel finishes.
What I'm most worried about is the paywall stalling growth. I don't sub to new 'Stacks I find that are completely paywalled. Having a wealth of free stories/essays seems important but I don't want to fill the homepage with them either and on mobile I have no idea how to show potential new subs the free stuff first.
I think having weekly free stories, essays, etc., should keep new people clicking subscribe, but I don't have data to query. You're certainly not alone in wrangling with this question :)