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The Boring Topics That Got My Substack Newsletter to 74,000 Subscribers

by | Feb 20, 2023 | Writing

Email subscribers equal a full-time income.

Traditional email software is fine, but you’ve got to do the hard work to find the audience. Substack was the first newsletter platform where I found I could bring my audience and also tap into their audience.

Many writers think I used some sexy strategy to grow my Substack to 74,000 subscribers. But I’m an ugly duckling. I don’t have any tricks.

All I did was focus on these boring topics.

Overly niche newsletters are hard

The boring topics I used to grow my Substack were self-improvement and personal finance. Nothing new.

The challenge is a lot of writers want to reinvent the wheel. They want to be super weird or different. On the surface there’s nothing wrong with this, but you’ve got to read the room.

If you have no data on your Substack strategy then you’re just pissing in the wind and hoping it doesn’t blow back into your face (yuck!).

I can tell you what the data says about topics: zoom out.

How to take a niche topic and make it useful

A writer student of mine writes about carbon-neutral soil.

Not my cup of tea, personally. As you can imagine he’s finding it damn hard to attract fellow carbon-neutral-soil enthusiasts.

The problem is he’s too niche.

If he zoomed out and spoke about the environment, renewable energy or climate change, he’d have a better shot.

Yet he refuses. He wants to stay micro-niche and only has 10 subscribers as a result. It’s been like that for a year.

Some topics have no traction. Some topics are the wrong topics.

And sometimes it’s the case that your topic doesn’t belong on a platform like Substack. It might be better in an environmental publication.

Broaden your topic to increase readership. You don’t need to have everyone in your audience be a buyer of your product/service.

Make the topic easy to consume

Many Substacks give me a migraine

They’re long, boring, and full of giant paragraphs I can’t read on my piss-ant little iPhone screen. Writers seriously need to unlearn what college taught us about writing essays. Most of it doesn’t apply to the internet.

The internet is a goldfish world, not a human world.

Attention spans are short so you’ve got to get to the point and have dopamine rewards all through your Substack content. Otherwise people think you’re speaking an alien language and unsubscribe.

Write unfiltered content

A lot of writers wear a kinky muzzle over their faces.

They don’t want to speak out of turn. They’re worried they could offend a global internet audience that has spent the last decade becoming experts at getting offended and then using cancel culture as a form of public writer execution.

Boring topics on Substack, though, perform better when the stories and advice are unfiltered. The reason is there’s no algorithm or shadowban system. You’re free to say whatever you want.

So the boring strategy is to simply speak your mind and enjoy the freedom.

People love it because many other social platforms are so polished and cringe, it’s hard to recognize these supposed “personal brand” humans anymore.

The best way to amplify a boring topic

Tweet threads are great.

The challenge is they have character limits. Same with LinkedIn posts. Boring topics on Substack work better because you can flesh out longer stories and cover all the vivid detail you might typically get in a traditional novel.

Readers have been craving these types of stories online.

The TikTok revolution dumbed everything down and turned too many stories into 30-second Insta-glam reels.

Humans will never get tired of stories attached to boring topics.

Let me leave you on this absolute bombshell

Recently I got a book deal.

I found out later that an entire team (at a book publisher you all know) scour Substack for newsletter content they can turn into best-selling books.

These high-profile lurkers have been reading my Substack for over a year. And if you write a Substack about boring topics and stick at it, you too will likely get a book deal.

This is the holy grail for many writers.

I get emails from nice folks every day who want to publish a book. The trouble is they’ve got it back the front. First you publish boring topics on a blog or in a newsletter, build an audience … then you get the book deal.

Not the other way around.

So go launch your newsletter and write about big boring topics many writers are too proud to write about, because they’re busy being clever, instead of being successful.

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