Some Perspective About the Substack Fiction Community
and why maybe we all need to take a chill pill
This might be considered a bit of a “hot take” but (and I’m just as guilty of this as the next person) Substack is not strictly a fiction community. What I mean by that is, it helps sometimes to take a step back and try to realize we are just a small microcosm of the full depth and breath that Substack has to offer to all who visit. I’ve noticed of late (and in the past) many of us (again, myself included) will hem and haw about the lack of fiction representation within the posts that Substack themselves push out there in their weekly and monthly round-ups. Sure, they will mention notables likeand or even , but the little guys look up and think, “they don’t really need any shout outs to grow their audience” and wish we were mentioned instead. As I’ve said (and won’t mention again) I feel the same way and there are some days I echo this sentiment publicly and the rest of the time I hold that envy inside.
But then I decided to exercise a little perspective with Substack as a whole to try and understand if my feelings of abandonment are valid. Here are a few things I discovered:
Substack started in 2017. Just 6 years ago.
In the last 6 years they have grown to have thousands of Substack writers sending out emails regularly.
Many of those users of Substack (myself included) brought with them lists from other platforms that number in the thousands and hundreds of thousands and these emails have zero clue what Substack is, let alone how to navigate it should they choose to find out.
Substack claims there are over 500,000 paid subscribers across all of the writers on Substack and millions of visitors to the site.
So, when I see numbers like that my brain starts to calculate immediately. As some of you may know, I’ve been on a mission to uncover and track every single fiction Substack that exists. This includes poetry, artists, and musicians. It has not been an easy task to undertake but in about 2 months I managed to find 300 (so far)! That might seem like a hell of a lot until you use some perspective to realize that 300 is a small percentage of the whole pie that makes up the different categories of Substack.
Is it safe to say that Substack might look a lot like Medium, in that there is a larger proportion of non-fiction/journalists using the platform than fiction? Maybe. But the level of community that Substack instills and puts into their community as a whole is what makes all the difference in the world.
In fact, I place the blame for why so many of us feel so jilted by Substack squarely on Substack’s shoulders! If not for their amazing algorithm that puts us all together in Notes so that we can connect easily with each other, we probably would realize just how many “other” users there are. We are, by design, living in a bubble and when that happens we can become blind to the obvious.
Sure, fiction is a HUGE presence on Substack but I wouldn’t expect it to be included in every single shout out post that they make or to be a priority because there are far more other categories with bigger audiences.
Could Substack do more to make us feel less left out? Sure. What that solution is, I cannot say at this time. Perhaps they could extend an olive branch to some lesser known fiction writers and provide a bit of a hand up as opposed to a hand out?
We all appreciate the rapid fire updates but what we really need is more visible assistance for the little guy and less coddling of the big fish. We know the big fish pay your bills, keep the lights on, all that good stuff, but think how many more big fish you’d have to draw from if you focused more on us. They don’t need your help or support or guidance. The big fish have done a pretty good job of proving just how well they know how to do their thing.