You Took My Joy

I want it back.

A lot of thoughtful pieces have been written lately about the unfortunate direction in which Substack has been taking its business model. I pore over every single take, the second each one appears.

I realize I’m looking for something that will help me unsee the company’s shift in mission from “We are helping writers build audiences and make a living!” to “We are betting on ‘free speech’ warriors who already have big audiences, aka ‘men who can’t work in diverse environments without getting calls from HR’, enabling them to harass vulnerable populations without interference from the ‘thought police’! (But please don’t accuse us of taking an editorial stance of any kind.)”

Until recently, writing my newsletter here has been a labor of love—sheer joy. Now, I dread coming here. The whole enterprise has been tainted for me.

It’s been argued that what Substack is doing is no different from how traditional publishing and media operate. But this feels different, especially since Substack is being so cagey about which writers it chooses to offer huge advances, and what the criteria are for choosing.

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I’ve been looking around at other platforms, and there’s no one place that offers me everything Substack has, with the same ease of engagement. No matter which platform I might choose, it would be an enormous pain in the ass to migrate my posts and subscriber list. It’s a huge bummer.

I feel a bit hopeful each time I learn that some writers who’ve received Substack advances are putting pressure on the company to do better. I hope something changes before long, so I can feel good about remaining here.

One consolation: because this newsletter is free, I’m not generating any money for Substack to turn around and support jerks with. So, for the moment, I’m still here.

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PS Re: my last installment, I’ve decided to occasionally produce a paid print edition/zine that I’ll send out by snail mail. (Lol to my idea that I might have the time and wherewithal to do this weekly! Especially with a book deadline) I’m excited to do it—to write you a letter and decorate it with drawings, and put it in the mail to you. I’ll let you know when I’m ready, so you can order it.

Some stuff that’s coming up:

I’ve got two online book events coming up for the reissue of Goodbye to All That.

On Friday, April 9th, Isaac Fitzgerald will host an event with Books are Magic, featuring Leslie Jamison, Emily Raboteau, Lisa Ko, Rosie Schaap, and me. Sign up here.

And on Tuesday, April 13th, Ryan Chapman will host an event with Rough Draft Bar & Books, featuring Ada Limón, Danielle A. Jackson, Carolita Johnson, and me. Sign up here.

I hope you’ll join me for one or both!