Substack Writers at Work
Substack Writers at Work Podcast
Publicize Your Substack Dolly-Parton Style: A Conversation with Digital Marketer Miller Coffey

Publicize Your Substack Dolly-Parton Style: A Conversation with Digital Marketer Miller Coffey


I’m absurdly excited to bring you my interview with Miller Coffey. Miller is a digital marketer who helps established authors start a Substack. He’s also incredibly genuine and real and smart and…I could go on. Miller is the president of the marketing firm Bellflower Media, a trans and queer-owned business that’s dedicated to equity and social justice.

We discuss everything from what every Substack should have to what he does for his clients to which social media platform writers should be on to branding and logos.

I wanted to interview him for you, so you could get insights from a professional who knows the marketing side of all this. Few writers love the marketing side of the job, but it’s part of the job. (Stay tuned for my upcoming post on self-promotion.) Most of you are on Substack because you want to write, produce your best work, grow as a writer, establish a readership, and (perhaps) earn an income. But you can write the best Substack and unless it reaches readers, these things will be hard to accomplish. Some of the best writers had the assistance of digital marketers. Now, you do too.

Miller’s bio is so personable and delightful (take note for your own bios and About pages) that I’m just going to quote it here:

Growing up, people always said I was blessed with the “gift of gab.” Communication is one of my biggest strengths, and I’ve used it throughout my career to create marketing strategies that clearly communicate the purpose, utility, and meaning behind my clients’ businesses and brands.

As an Appalachian, I learned early in life that authenticity is one of the greatest virtues a person can have. You can always count on me to tell it like it is! My marketing mantra is simple. 

As Dolly Parton once said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

I help my clients succeed by creating marketing that, at its core, serves to showcase the authenticity and personality of their business or brand. The results? An engaged audience who feels genuinely connected and incentivized to take action!


p.s. When we mention Courtney, we’re referring to the great

, who I interviewed for you all as well. (That goes live on July 11!)

If you aren’t yet a paid subscriber, consider becoming one to get all that Writers at Work has to offer: more amazing interviews like this one, plus live workshops and exclusive posts on mastering the art and business of being a creative writer on Substack.

» For extra guidance and an expert set of eyes on your Substack or serialization, book a 30-minute Zoom meeting with me. You’ll be in good hands. I’m an author at HarperCollins; a former advisory editor at The Paris Review; a creative writing professor at Northwestern University; and the creator of two bestselling, featured Substack publications.

What you get:

  • Insight and clarity into your Substack and writing goals

  • Evaluation of the overall effectiveness of your Substack

  • Content strategy

  • Detailed notes on what we discussed

  • Specific next steps to help you reach your goals

Book a 3-meeting package for $25 off:

Book a discounted 3-meeting package

Or book a single meeting:

Book a meeting with Writers at Work

Schedule a meeting

What other Substack writers say about working with me:

“Within 24 hours of executing Sarah’s suggestions, my subscription base expanded to include countless new readers who not only pressed the “subscribe” button but also took the time to engage with the material and write encouraging and insightful comments on the posts. Sarah helped me see a more holistic, comprehensive vision of my work on Substack. She provided clear, actionable steps to bring this expanded vision into reality.” —

Kimberly Warner - Unfixed

“Sarah is an expert coach, sounding board, and cheerleader all in one! She has a sharp eye, tons of practical advice, real insight from the Substack team and dozens of examples to inspire. She helped me see my newsletter with renewed clarity and gusto!” —

Madeleine Dore, On Things



Thank you so much for being here. I'm totally thrilled to have you.


Oh my gosh. Sarah, thank you so much for having me.


First of all, maybe just tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a digital marketer.


I grew up in Appalachia. Some listeners will notice that I have a pretty thick Southern accent.

It's something that sticks with me and informs kind of who I am as a person. when I was younger, I always wanted to move away from Appalachia, and I was so focused on. These ideas of getting out of the mountain town and leaving and going somewhere. I went to Wake Forest for undergrad and I ended up after graduating, working, in some marketing roles.

After that, I went on and got a marketing role at a small environmental nonprofit and worked there for a few years.

But anyone who has worked in nonprofit. Can tell you that there’s not great money in it. You feel great about what you're doing and you feel driven by the cause and that's awesome, but you know, I ended up just picking up some extra side roles because I wasn't making a ton. I started doing people's social media management and uh, they just referred me out to other people and before I knew it—

I didn't even really mean to start a business, but I had to quit my job because the demand for what I was doing was really overwhelming. and I knew that I wanted to do my own thing. I've kind of always been that person that charted my own path. And so I was like, okay, I'm gonna take this moment and I'm just gonna do it.

Since then I have been doing freelance marketing. I grew from just starting to do people's social media, to moving on to do their email marketing, to build websites you know, to do drip campaigns. All of these different marketing things I've just picked up over time.


So what do you do when you work with a writer who's going over Substack, either starting a Substack for the first time, or maybe moving their platform from, I don't know if people move from medium tock or they just MailChimp, or what do you do?


I actually kind of got started with helping people migrate their Substack when I worked with Courtney Maum. And before that, I didn't really know a ton about it, and she approached me because she knew someone who had worked with me on a different marketing project. and I took a look at it, and I was like, Hey, this is really cool.

I know a lot of people that would be interested in this. And so I just kind of dove in and learned everything that I could to. Learn about it. And, you know what I realized is that there's a lot of resources in Substack for people to move not only from one platform Medium or MailChimp, but to actually bring all of their things from all of the platforms.

And so the very first thing that I do when I work with a client who's wanting to move Tock is to establish what all they're gonna migrate over. Because for some riders that might look like. Bringing their entire universe of writings and maybe even an RSS feed from their Twitter over to Substack. And for others it may look I'm starting a brand new newsletter that I'm gonna put on Substack.

I don't want any of my stuff to come. So that's usually the first thing that I do, is I have a really robust onboarding process where I get to know what my writers. Purpose is in starting their Substack figure out what they actually wanna bring over and then we kind of create a plan for how we're going to make that migration happen.

You know, whether or not they're gonna get paid subscribers off the bat, or if they're gonna wait to have a paid subscription, all of that kinda stuff. we talk about that kinda as the first step.


When you ask writers their purpose on Substack, what's the answer you get most often?


I actually think that a lot of people do have a really defined purpose, and the most common one that I hear is I'm tired of paying MailChimp or whatever other email subscription services they're using to reach my audience when. This service could be paying me. and so that's the most common thing that I hear is these people who are tired of the more they grow their email list, the more they pay to this service that they're using.

Whereas really, they should be getting commission for the value that they're bringing to their audience. So that's the biggest reason that I see.


And then what type of clients or authors do you work with? So just is it writers in general, creative writers?


Yeah, so I would say I would be open to working with most writers. For me, it's really about you know, the person that matters the most to me. I have, uh, an application to work with me and from there based on just a few. Initial qualifiers,

I will get on discovery call with the person, and it really just depends on whether or not we kind of vibe.

I really to work with people who are really positive. But you know, other than that I am pretty open to most things. I mean, I think that there's. Some situations where someone, uh might have needs that are kind of outside of my scope and I may decide it's not a great fit. So it's not always about the vibe, but so far I've worked with creative writers.

I've also worked with nonfiction writers. and so I, I really think there's kind of a wide swath of who makes a good client for me personally.

I'm so curious about the kind of your application what is a requirement? And I ask this because I think it would be really helpful for my subscribers to know. Like what makes what would make a client attractive? Because in some ways they're their own client cause they're doing what you do for authors they're doing for themselves.


What kind of qualifications that you look for or ask about?


Yeah. So for me what makes a good client is someone who is actively working as a writer. so somebody who is already monetizing their work. You know, I think in some situations, for folks who are just starting out, it might not make sense for them to pay someone me to help them with their Substack setup.

You know, some of the questions that I can help writers explore about their marketing and how they can market their Substack you know, they may not be able to get a lot of value from me if they're not already working officially as a writer. and by working officially as a writer, I just.

I don't have that actually on my application right now because I have a very general application that's for all the things that I do. but that would definitely be something that I would ask folks who wanted to work with me. Just because I think that for writers who are already being published in different publications at least, or you know, who have kind of a larger body of work, they're gonna get more out of working with me because when I set up someone's Substack part of it is just the logistics of like, let's make this Substack look great. But a big part of what I provide is a lot of advice about how do you get this content that you're putting on Substack and share it with other people.

And so for me, an ideal client is someone who is looking to partner with someone who can share that advice, and also potentially someone who could be a marketing partner on other things social media in the future.


And what, I know you can't disclose this, your strategies, but a letter Cause then, but I think that a lot of, some of my subscribers are very well established. Some are kind of in the middle and some are just starting out. What would be one of the strategies that you would kind of recommend or use with someone with a writer who's just starting on Substack or struggling on Substack?


Yeah, so what I would say is to make a really clear value distinction between your free subscription and your paid subscription. so I think if you're very early on, you may even start out not doing a paid subscription until you can build that audience up a little bit. maybe you only have paid subscriptions in the regard that you let people kind of donate to you and kind of support you only as kind of a gift. and not really as a, you get this for being a paid subscriber. So I think it can kind of go two ways. I think if you're really, really early, maybe you make it all free and you just say, Hey, you can donate to my Substack if you want to, if you just wanna support me as a writer, it would mean a lot to me. but I think that if you're new in the regard that you have a lot of writing going and you want to monetize. Making a really clear distinction between what paid subscribers get and what free subscribers get, I think is really important.

And also when you make that distinction, thinking about what is the thing that I'm doing that provides the most value to my audience? And making sure that your paid audience gets more of that than your free audience. And giving your free audience a taste of that, but making sure that you really prioritize that value for your paid audience.


What are some of the paid offerings that you've worked on with other authors that you thought were just really great or creative or a little bit different than we might think of? If you can think of any.


Yeah, for sure. So one author that I worked with had, so she had a service called well not a service. She had a kinda category in her Substack um, for plant walks, right? So she was in herbalist and she was offering this plant walk content. And when I talked to her, I said what is the most valuable.

Thing that you offer that people wait for. What is the thing that people are kind of on the edge of their seats to get? And she was like, oh, people really love this plant walk content. And so I shared with her the strategy of, okay, well let's make sure that we have at least a plant walk quarterly that people can't access even if they're a free subscriber.

But man, maybe for Subscribe for paid subscribers. You go to monthly plant wall. so it's kind of that idea of taking something that you already know that people love and then saying if you love it, you can have it for free for quarterly, or if you love it, you can get it every month as part of my paid subscription.


That is brilliant. And then can you talk a little bit when, I know when you talk about a drip, kind of a drip plan, what is it? 


A drip campaign. Yeah.


Do you ever do that on Substack I'm just curious if that ever comes into play and how it might work.


Yeah, so I personally have not implemented a drip campaign on Substack, but I certainly think that you could and I think that it could be really interesting, especially as maybe part of a. Kind of almost membership drive activity where maybe a few months out of the year you decide to set up some sort of drip trying to kinda convert people from free subscribers to paid subscribers, and I think what that would look in Substack would be a little bit different than what it would look in some other email service providers because a lot of the drip campaigns that I do for clients, we're setting them up almost as Evergreen on automation, they just kind of go and Substack doesn't really have that capability.

But I think the spirit of what you get out of a drip campaign, so giving people these little kind of nuggets of inspiration to buy into something, I think that's something that you can do effectively with Substack and you can plan by creating intentional campaigns and just plotting out.

What you wanna communicate and what those steps are gonna be inside of that funnel.


Yeah. Can you explain what a drip campaign is? I'm not sure. Everyone knows


Yeah, for sure, for sure. So a drip campaign is a campaign that you're going to use to convert customers. I'm just gonna use really generic language here cause I think that makes it more easy to understand is to, uh, convert people who are aware of your business or your offerings to consumers of your Business or offering. So the idea is that you get people into the top of the funnel through some sort of free offering. I guess in the case of Substant, this would be your free subscription. and then you message to them over time why they should invest more or read more or become a paid subscriber, whatever it is that your end goal is, you're gonna be casually dripping. What would be the benefit of taking that next step? so you can kind of think of this as like a practice of gradually sharing what the benefits are of what you want someone to do over time without it being like a, an aggressive buy this today and get 20 percent off or something that's super salesy. It's more creating that awareness over time. Because really research shows that with marketing efforts, it takes people about eight times hearing about something to actually buy the thing and that varies from industry to industry.

But you know, that's the general sensibility is most people aren't hearing about something once and then being like, okay, let me do this. They're actually gonna do that on like, so. The eighth or ninth time. And so by implementing some sort of drip activity you know, you can make sure that you're boosting that awareness, but there's other ways to do that too through your social media presence and, and all that kinda stuff. You know, the more touch points that you can get reminding people of what kind of value you bring, that's what you wanna do. And a drip campaign is just one method of accomplishing that I is how I see it.


What's cool about what you're saying, and I just thought of this, but you know how Substack I don't know, they have the caption with a subscribe button. It would be…so what I notice is there's an automatic, uh, copy there. There's automatic text and it just feels you go over it with your eyes. After a while, you just don't even read it. But you could use that to drip different benefits.


Oh, definitely. Yeah. Yeah. And that's a great idea. I mean, I think that it is really a great idea to get creative about it and to make sure that you're kind of putting those different things forward. And I think that that area that you mentioned is so important. And I think a really good example of using that to your advantage would be for example for, uh, the situation as a plant walk, let's say I think, Changing your generic language from like, become a free subscriber and get blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You could say, do you love

Like this: Paid subscribers get a new plant walk every month. They should join, so you can even tie it to the specific type of content that you are putting in that area and really make it kind of about like, if you this, Here's what you would really love as a paid subscriber, and I think that would be really smart.


I'm so dismissive of social media, I'm always just like, don't bother. It doesn't sell books. And of course you know way more about it. And so I'm just curious, what do you think, what are the values of social media for a writer? And then what do you see as crossover or the potential to bring people from social media?


Yeah. So I think the value of social media for writers is less about just selling books and more about audience buy-in and getting people to get to know you. I think when we think about kind of the most successful authors, they actually have kind of a, I think, a cult following of people who really dig their personality. And I think a lot of people Really resonate with their favorite authors, not just in the pages, but outside of the pages. and we kind of get this thing about us where we actually really wanna get to know this person, and it makes us excited about what they're doing next. You'll be running into the other room to tell your partner, you won't believe who has a new book coming out.

And I think you know, more often than that, we're sitting around and saying, Oh my gosh, did you see so-and-so's cat? It's so cute. They have this really unique cat. And I mean, you may say, Oh, that's so silly. But in this world where we're talking about if you hit someone with marketing eight times, they're gonna be more likely to convert.

It doesn't really matter if they're talking about your cat. They're talking about you and they're thinking about you. and the more that people think about you as a person, the more they will think about how much they want to read, the books that you're publishing or the articles that you're publishing or the Substack posts that you're publishing.

And I think that you can share a lot about your inspiration as an author on social media. And I think that's what people wonder about it with authors. I think even in an academic context, in English class, you're prompted to think, What was this person thinking when they wrote this?

And I think social media actually gives authors a really unique opportunity to kind of explain, Here are the things that inspire me. Here are the things that make me who I am, and it kinda gives us this opportunity that we used to not even have at all to think, Oh, this is what made my favorite author write about this.

And that is so cool, and I think that a lot of people who are kind of book nerds are just really into that, and I think that it's a really fun experience. So I think that more so than just selling books or selling people on your Substack. It's more of a chance for your audience to feel really close with you and to feel more invested in what you're doing as a writer.

And in terms of getting people over to your Substack. You know, you can leverage social media to let people know that there's a way to access more of your writing. I think that there's people who might follow you on Instagram who might not even know that you're also publishing writings on Substack every single week or every single month, and if they don't know that they can't become a subscriber, right?


I have two questions. One is, Instagram's so hard cause you can't do the link you can't link to. How do you negotiate that or how do you recommend dealing with that?


Yes. So my number one tip for this is stories are your friend. You can put links in stories. So even though you can't do a link in your fee post, you can do it in your story. So that's number one. Number two, use your link in bio. I know it's a pain in the behind. But when you do your link bio, it's better to actually link the thing instead of doing a link tree.

Instagram doesn't love the link tree thing, so if you can update it to be more contemporary and just add the link to whatever you're going to.

I think there's also some research around bounce rates. People like to go directly to what they think they're gonna go to rather than to go to a menu and then select the thing.

It’s crazy that people have so much impulse around this kind of instant gratification, but it is how it works. So I recommend linking directly to your link in bio. You can tell people in the copy like, here's my link in bio.

But more than that I recommend using stories because I think number one, they're really, really casual. I think a lot of people get on Instagram and because I spend so much time on Instagram for my clients, I don't spend a lot of time on my personal Instagram. And so I think, me personally, I get on Instagram and I only look through the stories of my friends. I don't look at their feed posts. And I think a lot of people kind of, that's the first place they go. It's at the top of their feed. Stories is really, I think, the best way to get that news out there about what you've got going on.


And do you, is there a particular social media platform that you think is better, not better for writers to be on, but that has more traction than the others?


Yeah, so I would say that for writers who want to reach an audience that is not already following them, but who don't want to do video content every day, Instagram is the one. I think for folks who feel really comfortable with video and feel they could commit to doing one or two videos every day then TikTok for sure. I've had so many clients—and not just authors—in all sorts of industries mention TikTok to me because they see how explosive that growth can be. But the truth is, is that it really only works that way for people who are really dedicated to it.

Whereas Instagram, I think you get a little bit more bang for your buck, so to speak. You can have videos going out twice a week and they can reach well beyond your universe of followers, and you don't have to actually be on that platform every day.

I've noticed with a lot of writers, Instagram can be a real challenge because the formatting doesn't serve their unique writing styles very well and they can kind of struggle to feel they're sharing authentic content within the kind of confines that Instagram gives them. And so a lot of them, they wouldn't wanna post on it every day, but that's okay because it's a platform where you can post two or three times a week and get good traction and visibility with your audience.

So that's the one that I would most recommend to the vast majority of people that I talk to.


What makes Substack different from other Medium or LinkedIn or wherever else people would be posting more long, long form pieces?


Yeah, so I think the main differentiator between Substack is that on Substack you are kind of becoming a follower of the person that you are interacting with. So this is someone that you are signing up to constantly. Be notified of their things. And I feel it's a little bit more intentional than just LinkedIn where you connect with someone, right?

Because on Substack it's at the top of mind: I'm subscribing to this person because I want to read their writing. And so the audience of people that you're gonna reach through Substack are people who already have an innate interest in the writing that you're publishing, whereas a lot of the people you connect with on LinkedIn you know, you don't really know that that's why they're there.

Of course on Medium people are there for writing, but it's less audience focused. I think that one thing that's really powerful about Substack, and I actually think that this is what people really about connecting with authors on social media as well, is there's this feeling that the person is speaking directly to you. And that's something that we as consumers of content in the past ten years have grown to really love. If you look at who is popular on social media and what they're doing— I saw a video about this a while ago and I thought this was so interesting. She was pointing out that a lot of the content creators, when you watch their videos on TikTok or on Instagram, they're actually doing really average things while they're talking to you. So they’re driving their car or curling their hair or putting on their makeup in the morning. And you know what's interesting about this is, I thought the analysis was really good, it was that the reason people that is because it makes you feel you're that person's best friend and it makes you feel you really know them.

And you feel really connected with that person. And I think that Substack in the way that you're kind of signing up to be part of this person's audience, it makes you feel more you know that person and you feel you're kind of in a group with that author. And I think that's really an appeal that Substack has that some other platforms don't.


You know what's so interesting about that is in the 19th century novelists always addressed the reader. It was Dear Reader, and that was when the novel was at its height. And I kind of wonder if it’s just a human thing. We just like to feel addressed and included.


Absolutely. Yeah, that's actually so interesting and I think such an important point about how authors can more deeply connect with their audience through any marketing platform is to find ways to make your audience feel listened to and important and find ways to reach your fans and to show them that they matter to you and that you care about the fact that they're investing in what you're doing.

And I think speaking to them personally is a really great way to do that. And actually, I think on Substack, one thing that people can do with their paid subscriptions, you asked a while back about some strategies. So this is one that just came to my mind that I've recommended to clients before, and that is potentially building in some option for your paid subscribers to actually be able to talk to you.

On Substack, there is the option to allow subscribers, just free, just paid subscribers, or everyone to send you emails. I think that a really good option for people is to say, if you're a paid subscriber, you can send me emails and I'll actually respond to them. I think that that's a really smart way to, to add value to your paid subscription.

I think it's a great idea because you said, people really wanna feel they're connected with this person. And I mean, you may never even reach out to this person as a paid subscriber, but just knowing that you could, you could talk to your favorite author. I just feel that adds a little magic to it that people really like. And it's funny, but when people reach out to me, I love it. I actually really love


It’s not an imposition and I think a lot of people think it would be, but it really isn't.


For sure, for sure. And I even think that for some people who are like addressing questions, so for example people Courtney who are helping other authors get published. I think that for folks that it can even be really smart to allow your paid subscribers to submit Questions for a public answer. Allowing them to actually be responded to in a public forum. And I think that benefits the person who's giving the advice as well because it shows your authority to your audience and helps you build that relationship with them and show kind of what type of valuable advice that you can bring as well.


Have you worked with a writer who just wanted to do fiction or creative nonfiction on Substack?


So I'm working with a writer right now on a Substack setup, and I believe that it is her intention to just do creative writing. We are just getting started, and the Substack is to actually promote a collection of short stories that she's gonna be publishing in the fall. And so I actually think that it's a really cool opportunity for her to share some excerpts of the writing and get people really excited to read the whole book. Even though I haven't worked with a lot of people who just wanted to put their creative writing out there, I think that it's a good opportunity for creative writers to share about their writing style, especially for people who are in that short story niche. Because if you are a fan of short stories, then you know that the people who write short stories write a bunch of them in the exact content style that you really love. So if you love someone's short stories, you'll probably love all of them and so you can even make kind of micro short stories on Substack which just makes people even more excited, especially if you're publishing a collection.

I think novel writers could do that as well. I haven't worked with a client who is doing that specifically. But you know, I've also had a client who, even though her work is nonfiction, it is a very narrative style, and almost reads a novel in a way that she writes. And it's a very poetic style, even though her work is nonfiction.

And I think that that works too. I mean, I think that if people are reading your articles and your books, there's something that you can put on Substack that people will also enjoy and there's some way to format it and what that looks like would probably be different for everyone.


What is one common mistake that you see writers make on Substack?


I would say the biggest mistake would be not adding different content buckets and not making your navigation really smooth. I think that the more kind of different buckets of content that you put on your Substack page, the more people are gonna feel excited about it because it just looks like more. It's the difference between going to a store that has three items and going to a store that has 20 items, right? You might be more excited if somebody told you you can only go to the three-item store or you could go to the 20-item store, you're gonna be like, okay, I'm gonna go to the 20-item store because they have more stuff for me.

By breaking it out into those buckets—and this can be a really big challenge for some authors who don't feel their writings actually fall into a lot of different buckets—that that could be a real challenge for people because they're like, well, how am I supposed to fit in these buckets when I only do this style of writing?

And my suggestion to that person would be to find anything that creates a common thread between three or four different kind of subsets of your writing and make that those categories because it's just gonna make your Substack look a lot more established.

The other thing that I would say would be not providing any option for people to pay you for Substack at all. I've seen a couple of people do that and they don't wanna do it because they feel they're so new but even if it's just a couple of people who are paying your Substack a month, it's gonna make you feel more incentivized. Even if it is your sister or your mom who's paying for your Substack, you're gonna feel a lot more excited about growing that part of your work if you feel someone cares enough to pay you for it.

It can be really incentivizing for people, even if it's only a couple of people. So I would say even if you're early, give people some option to pay you for what you're doing. It’ll only make you feel good. There's no scenario where this is gonna make you feel not good.


I love the buckets, and that's something I really recommend for people too, that if you're just giving one thing, people are not going to give you their email just to read what you write. That's just not happen. So I work with writers about that too: What service are you providing? What are you giving them? How is it about the reader, not just about you? Once they establish their different buckets or what they're doing, do you have them put it on the tab up top? You don't want to make that too crowded.


Yeah, so I mean I would not make it too crowded for sure. I would condense it down to 3, 4, 5 at the most buckets. I would not crowd it significantly. I think the goal is to pick enough categories to look it's robust. But not make it overwhelm people.

You know, you want people—and I think Courtney's is a really good example of this—she has four or five different categories, and they tell you exactly what each of the things that you're gonna be reading. I think that if we get too granular, people are gonna be like, oh, I don't know where to go. , and that's never good.  But I think by condensing it into just kind of 3, 4, 5 main categories, you're gonna avoid that overwhelm while also really showing the amount of value that you're gonna be able to offer and the different types of content that people are gonna experience by being a subscriber.


I love what you say about navigation being so key because what I see sometimes is writers have clever little words up top that don't really tell you you're going and what you're gonna get. It has to be very clear.


Yes. Yes. And that's a really good point. And I think that as a marketer, I often will have to tell authors to fight the instinct to be clever sometimes because I think that a lot of authors that's part of who they are, but if your title isn't telling people that you have a writing workshop coming up, and is saying, I love leaves, it’s… What I'm saying is I think that it's really important for you to make sure that you're giving people the information that they need to engage with you. And so if you have noticed that people aren't aware of your events, put up some posts where you literally make the subject line. The event is happening on this day.

I know it won't feel as poetic as the beautiful title that you came up with. and I don't mean to say I love leaves is poetic. I know that all of my clients would come up with more poetic things than that. But just to say I think that the more you can fight the impulse to always be poetic. I know that that's on brand for a lot of authors. And maybe not even poetic. Maybe it's kitchy, or maybe it's snappy, whatever your brand personality is, I get it. But also don't let that get in the way of telling people the essential information that they need to know. Ff you have an event coming up, don't title it some poetic or cute little title and then say, I don't know why no one read to the middle of my Substack to find out that I have this workshop going on.

Actually tell them in the title that you have the workshop going on. I promise those of us who are reading it are not gonna think that's so not on brand that they put it that way. We're just gonna be thinking, oh my gosh, that person's having a writing workshop and we're gonna feel excited about it.


All right. Last question. What's one thing you think every Substack should have?


I think that every writer's Substack should have a strong brand identity. I think that making sure that all of the images and the colors on your Substack are cohesive is really important. And I also think that if you have a website or you have a book cover to link it with that, that is a really important piece as well.

So making sure that all of your marketing and branding is linear and coming all in at the same place I think is really important. I think that visual look is really essential and making sure that it matches up with all the rest of your marketing materials, I would say is definitely a must.


Wow. And so if there was someone who's really just new to all this but is excited to kind of get into this idea of branding, where would you direct them to learn more about it or just get their feet wet?


I would say at minimum, make yourself a word mark. Go on Creative Market or somewhere where you can get a font that is not just available in Canva. No hate to Canva fonts, but you know, if you can get something that you actually, I mean, they cost $15, right? So it's not like you're gonna spend a fortune on it.

Just get a font that's more unique to you and feels really your personality. Make yourself a little word mark logo. It doesn't have to have an illustration or anything crazy. Just make yourself a logo that says your name on it and just use the font you have. You do not have to have a creative bone in your body.

All you have to know is how to pick a font that feels it represents you. Upload your font to Canva. Download it as a pdf print. Change it to a to a png and then upload it to Substack. Don't skip that step or else it'll be really, really fuzzy.

And if you want it to be nicer and be more applicable, you know, you can of course pay someone to create a word mark for you in Adobe, and it'll be a nicer file type and all of that. But for somebody who has really limited resources, you can literally just get a font and put in Canva and have something that you use across all of your different marketing mediums. And just that alone is gonna give you more of a brand presence than not using any type of anything at all.


And then what about color branding? How does someone start doing that?


Yeah, so that one is a little bit harder. I would say the thing about picking colors is that it seems really easy to pick colors, but then you start putting them together and you're like, Oh, my gosh. None of these colors go together.

So if you're at a place where you feel you cannot come up with colors and none of the colors that you are putting together work you can always keep it simple and use two neutrals. Like do a brown and cream or a black and white.

If you wanna be more adventurous and you still feel you're just not getting it, you can always hire someone to do that for you.

I work with a branding strategist who does do more comprehensive brand design and strategy for our clients, but I also have had a lot of clients come in and say I don’t have a business that is generating hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. I don't wanna spend thousands on my branding. and that's totally understandable. And for those people we have done a lot of word mark logos where we do the word mark and come up with a mood board and a color palette for you. And it is so much more affordable than brand packages because it doesn't involve a lot of intricate art work. So we're able to offer that as a service to our clients at a rerelatively cost-effective rate.


This is so helpful. I cannot even tell you. This is information you can't get anywhere else. Thank you so, so much, Miller. 


Thank you so much for having me, Sarah. I really enjoy talking to you.

Substack Writers at Work
Substack Writers at Work Podcast
The Expert Guide to Substack—get subscribers, earn an income, build the career you want, and produce your best work. ✦ A bestselling, Featured Substack community of 13,000+ members ✦ ✨Top 10 Substacks in literature