Status report: One year in
This Substack is one year old today. Feel free to hum Barry Manilow’s “Looks Like We Made It” to yourself. Quietly.
I went back and checked to see how we’ve grown. My first post went out to everyone who was on my old MailChimp mailing list. Here’s where we started:
The question mark was a link to what a subscriber means—basically, each unique person who opens the newsletter. If you open a given newsletter several times, I love your enthusiasm, but you still get counted as just one subscriber.
Everyone got that first newsletter free. After that one, I gave folks an option to subscribe for free or buy a paid subscription as a show of support. Here’s where we are as of Jan. 31:
More than 1,700 of you—more than 30 a week—have signed up over the past year. And nearly 250 of you have chosen to spend your hard-earned dollars to support the newsletter. Maybe some soft-earned dollars, too. I can’t really tell.
Either way, I’m tremendously grateful.
We have subscribers from 48 states (get with it, North Dakota and Nebraska) and—I had to check this twice—58 countries. We’ve got 16 subscribers in Australia, 15 in India, 10 in Morocco, six in Nigeria, two in Peru. I’m sure there’s a bot or two in there, but I’ve heard from several actual readers in far-flung places. It will never stop to be amazing to me that I can type words into my laptop, here in the cluttered little office in the back corner of our house in North Carolina, and they eventually land in the inbox of somebody in Peru. And they wanted it there! Looked forward to it, maybe!
So what are you getting for your time and/or money? Ten links every week to some of my favorite things, for sure. Essays to go along with the links every week. Plus longer pieces along the way on pretty much anything from the blur of Herschel Walker to a tribute to iPods to a look at middle age. This newsletter is a joy for me to write. It’s become a scrapbook of sorts, a place to write things that matter to me (and I hope to you) but don’t necessarily fit other places.
It’s a real thrill for me to hear from all of you who jump into the comments with recommendations, insights and great stories of your own. One of the things I hoped this newsletter would be is a shelter from some of the worst parts of the Internet. There are so many sites where the comments section feels like a garbage scow. This one feels like a front porch with a bunch of good friends. That’s because of you, and again, I’m so grateful.
Here’s the altar call. If this is your first time reading the newsletter, I’d love for you to subscribe. If you’re a free subscriber, I’d love for you to upgrade to a paid subscription. I have some bonuses in mind for paid subscribers (more on that in a bit), but to be honest, the main perk is that you get to help support a writer you enjoy. I’m a paid subscriber to a bunch of other newsletters—here are some of my recommendations—and it feels good to be able to help other creative people keep creating. I write and say words for a living. That’s how I feed the family and keep the lights on. For those of you who help me do that, it means the world to me.
So here you go. Mash the button to subscribe:
Most of you know that I have two other jobs. I do a podcast and commentaries for WFAE, the NPR station here in Charlotte. I also write books; I’m about done with the manuscript for my second book, tentatively (but not officially) called DOGLAND. Those things, plus normal everyday life, keep me pretty busy. But there’s a lot more I want to do with this newsletter.
I made a couple of promises early on. One is that I would resurrect a series called Heaven Is a Playlist, featuring essays about the songs that move me the most. Those are coming! Really! I’ve got a couple in the hopper right now and will post one as soon as it gets a coat of polish.
The other thing is that I would walk you through the book-writing process along the way. I’ve been less good at that, mostly because I’ve been deep in the weeds on the book and this newsletter is a bit of a relief from that. But it would probably help me untangle some of those weeds to write about it here, and you’ve probably got weeds of your own to get through and it might help to hear how somebody else deals with it. (End of weed metaphor.) So I’m going to write about book stuff here in a more systematic way.
Otherwise, my goal is just to make this a better place for all of you—something that you feel is worth your investment, whatever that is.
For paid subscribers: My manuscript is due at the end of March, and sometime soon after that I want to do another Ask Me Anything like we did a few months ago. I really enjoyed that and I hope y’all did, too.
I also have a couple of merch ideas for the new book, and if they work out, we’ll figure out some bonuses for you along those lines. (A few of you have been kind and generous enough to subscribe at the Golden Ticket level, $250 a year and above. You’ll get whatever merch we come up with, along with a signed and personalized book.)
If any of you have tips or questions or ideas about how to make this newsletter better for you, I’m all ears. I wanted to do this update because I feel like we’re in this thing together. Substack is the platform, but all they do is make it easier to have this conversation between you and me. Thank you for everything so far, and here’s to even better days.