So Many Of Your Favorite Writers Are On Substack

From Roxane Gay to Samantha Irby.

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Buttondown. TinyLetter. Mailchimp. A person who wants to start their own email newsletter has never had more options to choose from. If you've been wondering how Substack works for writers and readers, or whether you should subscribe to a newsletter or start your own, you're in luck. We've got everything you need to know about the free email newsletter service right here.

The subject of a recent New Yorker longread, Substack is a relative newcomer to the email newsletter field. Founded in 2017, the service allows writers to compose and send out their own newsletters. Writers can choose whether to offer up all of their posts for free or put some or all of them behind a paywall, with Substack subscriptions costing anywhere from $5 to $50 per month.

So why would you want to write on Substack? Unlike other services, which charge monthly fees depending on the size of your mailing list, Substack does not charge any monthly or yearly fees to maintain a newsletter. Instead, it takes a 10% share of subscription revenue, regardless of how many subscribers the writer has.

But should you start your own Substack newsletter? If you want an easy way to keep in touch with busy friends and relatives during the pandemic, a free Substack may be right for you. On the other hand, if you've got a big social media following and are looking for a way to diversify your income, encouraging your followers to sign up for a paid subscription could be the right choice.

Here are the best Substacks to subscribe to in 2021:


All in Her Head by Jessica Valenti

Free, with paid subscriptions from $5 per month

Sex Object author Jessica Valenti only announced her intention to move her writing from Medium to Substack on Feb. 1, but the feminist thinker and memoirist has been using the newsletter platform since 2019. All in Her Head offers pop culture analyses and live chats with Valenti, and 10% of subscription proceeds "will be donated to a different feminist organization every month."


Amal Content by Amal El-Mohtar

Free, with paid subscriptions from $5 CAD per month

From the co-author of This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal Content is perfect pandemic reading, because "sometimes what you want is to hear a single voice speaking about loving things very earnestly." Amal El-Mohtar's Substack features book reviews, Friday chats, and behind-the-scenes looks at the writer's life.


Ask Molly by Heather Havrilesky

Free, with paid subscriptions from $5 per month

The pricklier sister to Heather Havrilesky's "Ask Polly" column in New York Magazine, Ask Molly is a weekly-ish newsletter full of hot takes and clear-headed criticisms of the world around us.


The Audacity. by Roxane Gay

Free, with paid subscriptions from $6 per month

Do you want a newsletter from Roxane Gay? Of course you do. The Audacity. debuted in January 2021, and the paid subscription tier gets you a lot of bang for your buck. In addition to Gay's mission to "tell one hell of a story about the world we’re living in," The Audacity. will also feature work from emerging writers and monthly book club picks from marginalized authors.


books/snacks/softcore by Samantha Irby

Free, with paid subscriptions from $5 per month

Essayist Samantha Irby's books/snacks/softcore is a pop culture "mini letter" that delivers the Wow, No Thank You author's thoughts on books, food, and life in general. Irby is currently running a daily recap of Judge Mathis with her own signature commentary.

Free, with paid subscriptions from $5 per month

For fans of Dear Sugar and Wild, there's Cheryl Strayed's eponymous Substack, which brings back her Rumpus column for paid subscribers. Free subscriptions still have access to Strayed's blog-post-esque newsletter, so the Cheryl Strayed Substack is still worth signing up for, even if you don't have the extra cash to pay for it.


CRAFT TALK by Jami Attenberg

Free, with paid subscriptions from $5 per month

A writer at any stage of their career can benefit from novelist Jami Attenberg's CRAFT TALK Stubstack, which features stories from Attenberg's own writing experiences and her musings on the world we live in. Personal and utterly engrossing, CRAFT TALK will leave you with so much to think about after reading.


Crème de la Crème by Aminatou Sow

Free, with paid subscriptions from $7 per month

Aminatou Sow's Crème de la Crème contains poetry, music, and reading recommendations, as well as Sow's thoughts on current events. Fresh and eclectic, this may be just the Substack you need to pull you out of your New Year's funk.

Free, with paid subscriptions from $5 per month

Reading Perfect Tunes author Emily Gould's Substack is like reading your best friend's blog, if your best friend knew exactly which items from her day-to-day life to share with a public audience.


The Fairest Writer by Meredith Talusan

Free, with paid subscriptions from $5 per month

From the author of Fairest comes The Fairest Writer, Meredith Talusan's writing-themed Substack, which features frequent guest posts from other creators. Talusan will donate all proceeds from The Fairest Writer to "COVID-19-relief and literary outreach projects."


Women are underrepresented in the tech world, and Black women even more so. V.Baker's For Colored Girls Who Tech is a weekly newsletter highlighting the contributions of women of color to the wider tech world, with a focus on networking opportunities.


The Jasmine Guillory Newsletter by Jasmine Guillory


Romance author Jasmine Guillory's free Substack keeps readers up to date on her career. Subscribe to know Guillory's appearance schedule, get updates on her books, and more!


Lo & Behold by Malinda Lo

Free, with paid subscriptions from $2.50 per month

YA author Malinda Lo's Lo & Behold offers essays on the best writing practices as well as background information on her books, the latest of which, Last Night at the Telegraph Club, arrived in stores on Jan. 19.


The Reading by Yanyi

Free, with paid subscriptions from $5 per month

Essayist, poet, and critic Yanyi's The Reading focuses on the craft of writing. Fielding questions from concerned aspirants looking to hone their work habits and change the way they approach their craft, The Reading is a must-read for anyone who dreams of one day seeing their books on store shelves.


The Shatner Chatner by Daniel M. Lavery

Free, with paid subscriptions from $5 per month

If you were a fan of Daniel M. Lavery's work at The Toast, you're in luck. The Something That May Shock and Discredit You author continues his work on Substack at The Shatner Chatner.


The Spiel by Samantha Leach


Learn all about the bat mitzvahs of your favorite Jewish celebs at this free Substack from Bustle Culture Editor Samantha Leach. Told in all their embarrassing details, The Spiel is bringing the PEN15 treatment to the Jewish experience. Recent participants have included everyone from Sarah Ramos, to Gideon Adlon, and Claire Saffitz.


The Stage Mirror by Grace Lavery

Free, with paid subscriptions from $5 per month

Daniel M. Lavery fans should also check out this Substack from his wife, Grace, an English professor at UC Berkeley, who uses her subscription proceeds to help fund the UK's Birmingham LGBT Center.


From the author of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, True Stories from Katherine May is a monthly newsletter. Each instalment contains "a completely original story from [May's] life" and may also feature updates on her writing career.


What It Is I Think I'm Doing by Kaitlyn Greenidge


Not only does We Love You, Charlie Freeman author Kaitlyn Greenidge have a new book coming out this year, but she also has a Substack, What It Is I Think I'm Doing, where she write about books and the human condition.


Word Suitcase by Felicia Davin


Linguist Felicia Davin's podcast focuses on old words and newer books. If you've ever read a word in a historical novel and wondered if it would have been in use back then, Davin's Word Suitcase is here to help.


Written Out by Kelsey McKinney

Free, with paid subscriptions from $6 per month

For anyone who wants to diversify their reading list and discover underrepresented writers, there's Kelsey McKinney's Written Out, which covers women writers who have been overlooked and undervalued in the literary canon.