How to Enjoy this Newsletter

a brief guide

Hey readers old and new, I want to take a moment and let you know about the sections system so that you can manage your email effectively. If you’re unaware, Substack allows for different sections of a newsletter, so that people can tailor their reading preferences. You can see up top on the homepage that there’s the main newsletter and three additional sections:

The Red, the Brown, the Green is a novel that I am serializing here. The book club section is brand new; we’ll read books together, according to a shared schedule, and each week I’ll have a post up where I offer some thoughts and pose some discussion questions. People following along can engage in (spoiler-free) discussions of that week’s reading in the comments. We’ll see how it goes for the first book and evolve things as we see fit. The serialized novel is and will always be free for anyone, while the book clubs will always be subscriber-only. Both of these sections are opt-in; you will only receive emails if you choose to. Otherwise you can follow along simply by checking in on the website. Due to requests from readers, I will be sending out emails to those who enroll in the book club section so that you can be alerted when those posts are up. Our first book is Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden. I hope to have the first post out later today, which will include the first “assignment” for how much to read this week.

The weekly digests are where I wrap up the week. Every(ish) Saturday afternoon(ish) I post a digest that summarizes what happened on the newsletter that week, and I provide song, book, and newsletter recommendations, along with some random thoughts and ephemera. The weekly digests are opt-out, that is, new mailing list members and subscribers are enrolled by default.

Here’s how to manage your subscriptions. If you login to Substack, you should see your account and profile icon in the upper right-hand corner. Click that and you’ll see “Account Settings” in the dropdown. Click there and you’ll see this part of your settings, which lists your subscribed newsletters. (This image is from a dummy account I use to make sure everything is looking the way that it should.)

If you click “Edit” next to my newsletter name, you’ll see this menu:

Here you can decide which emails you’d like to receive.

I write and publish a lot, which many people like but which overwhelms some with emails. The weekly digests are an effort to make things a little easier for those who would prefer fewer emails. Because each weekly digest contains a list of every post with a brief synopsis, some readers choose to disable the main newsletter emails and only receive the digests; they can then browse what I’ve written in the prior week from the summaries and decide which posts they’re interested in. Alternatively, some readers want to receive the regular emails but aren’t interested in the digests and disable those.

I have not failed to have a free post for everyone on Monday morning since starting in March, and usually have one on Tuesdays as well. I’m trying to get in the habit of having book club posts up on Wednesday mornings and novel chapters on Wednesday evenings. (The novel was completed in 2019 so there is no pressure on me to keep up with a schedule, but I will occasionally take a week off so that my amazing illustrator can work at a reasonable pace.) Every Friday I have a subscriber-only post. I’ve been planning to do more subscriber-only posts. I have only sort of achieved this in the past month, but that plan still stands. In general, I tend to make my subscriber-only work more ruminative, reflective, artistic, or evocative compared to the free posts. This is mostly a function of feeling like I am free to stretch out more as a writer for people who are already invested in me. As I said, on Saturday afternoons I post the digests.

Just a quick note about subscriber-only posts. I know that it’s common for many established writers to have newsletters where almost all of the posts subscriber-only. I certainly don’t begrudge them that choice. However, this newsletter will always be dominantly free, with something like three free main posts for every subscriber-only post. This is primarily due to a simple commitment to being accessible, but it is also a market calculation, I guess you would say. It has never been proven to my satisfaction that the increase in subscriptions from people who are already interested and need to get through the paywall outweighs the marketing value of having most work available to whoever wants to read it. I could be wrong about that. But a lot of my readers are upfront about the fact that they primarily subscribe to support the project, rather than to access subscriber-only content as such. There are some who have unsubscribed and told me that it’s because they feel that not enough of the content is paywalled. I understand their perspective, but will continue to mostly post stuff for free. I do think it’s worth saying that just my subscriber-only content outpaces that of many other newsletters in word count. In addition to more subscriber-only posts and the book clubs I’m working on a few ideas for other inducements to subscribe. Commenting privileges are always restricted to subscribers, which also makes the comments a much nicer space that I barely have to moderate.

Anyway - I hope you enjoy. Feel free to share what you like or don’t about how this newsletter works by commenting, if you’re a subscriber, or by replying to this email.