Oct 1, 2021 - Economy

Exclusive: Substack launches "Writer in Residence" program

Photo courtesy of Substack, Adrian Tomine

Substack is launching a "Writer in Residence" program that will spotlight one new creator throughout their journey in building a Substack for one month.

Why it matters: The company hopes that the residency program will "enrich the entire Substack community" by providing creators and readers with a person to learn from as they launch a new project from scratch, per Hanne Winarsky, Head of Writer Development at Substack.

Details: The first writer in residence will be Adrian Tomine, an award-winning cartoonist, illustrator and writer.

  • "It was out of blue invite from Substack," Tomine tells Axios. His goal is to use the residency to experiment with new ways to connect with his fans, who are constantly asking for design tips and ideas.
  • "I'm trying to take advantage of how interactive and visual the medium is," he says. He anticipates that the newsletter will include lots of graphics, showcasing everything from the types of tools and materials he uses to illustrations.
  • "Adrian is using it as a way to talk to his readers in a direct way that he hasn't really done before," Winarsky says.

The residency will last one month. In that time, Tomine will set up a newsletter that he'll likely send twice per week, he says.

  • He'll experiment with different formats and techniques while receiving guidance and support from Substack about best practices, including other writers he could team up with or learn from.
  • Substack will pay Tomine to be a part of the residency for the month. After that, Tomine gets to keep his subscriber list and it's up to him whether he wishes to continue publishing.
  • "They left it completely open," he said. "The title will transfer over to a new person, but my newsletter is free to continue if I want it to."

The big picture: As Substack has grown, it's evolved to bring on new types of creators outside of writing, including illustrators, podcasters and more.

  • The residency program is designed to help Substack learn more about the best ways to onboard new types of creators and experiment with their newsletters.
  • "We hope that the program will encourage other writers and creators to think about different ways of creating content," Winarsky said. "The idea is to pull in people who may not have considered this different new ecosystem and tool and to get them to dip their toe in water and to learn from it."

What's next: For now, Substack says it's selecting various writers and creators to be a part of the program ad hoc. It's undecided how long the program will last. It's likely the next writer in residence will begin in December.

Bottom line: "This is not about trying to get somebody a massive (email) list immediately," Winarsky says, but "allowing for experimentation that will benefit the entire community." That benefit, she notes, is why Substack is paying people to be a part of the residency.

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