Why Write A Book When Substack Pays A Sh*tload More?

Shani Silver
5 min readNov 2, 2023

Beg for permission? To write? Nah.

Photo by Shani Silver

I have written a book. I published it myself because after three years of pitching to the book gods and hearing “you’re a great writer, we just don’t see a market,” I decided to stop waiting for someone else’s permission to be who I am: A writer, an author, someone capable of earning a living doing what she loves. So I paid the now defunct Scribe Media twelve grand to edit, design, produce, and publish my book for me. I made that money back four month’s from my book’s release date, and I will be in the green on it for the rest of my life. Most authors who go through publishing giants will never earn out on their advance. These days, my book pulls in about $500 per month, which is nice, but not nice enough to make me exert the amount of effort it takes to write 70K words at once. Especially not when the two Substacks I write earn me double that. And counting.

The publishing industry has its darlings, we know that. Most of them are very, very famous and guaranteed to sell more copies of a memoir than the bible. Either that, or they’re a Tiktok star with culinary ability or a very cute, even deceased, dog. Literal dead dogs have book deals and I don’t. You don’t have to sit with that thought too long, I’ve done that for you.

While the realities of the publishing industry used to make me feel like I wasn’t good enough, time and technology have shown me that what I am is very, very lucky that I never signed the rights to my work away to a publishing house who’d make money off my words forever while paying me actual pennies per sale. The people who sell blank paper make more money than the authors who put words on them. Instead of feeling less-than for “having to” self publish, I am grateful every day that I own my work and make five dollars per sale instead of fifteen cents.

A second book was very much on my agenda, until I could no longer deny the benefits Substack provides to independent writers. The platform is full of talent who used to work for huge digital publishing sites, but the bubble that used to hold hungry, eager, souls willing to work 14 hours per day for 60 grand a year in New York fucking City burst—and burst hard. Now we’re all out in the wind, and Substack has been very generous in handing out kites. Do you know…