New episodes + new website?
New author interviews in the feed, and the Substack of it all
Hi, everyone! I hope your year has started off well.
I want to drop a few quick updates here: on my manuscript, on my podcast, and on the future of this site here on Substack/some creator economy punditry.
The manuscript is complete!
As long-time readers of this will know, I’ve been working on a manuscript over the past two years, and it is finally done and proceeding along to the copyediting phase as it readies for market. The book will be released in the fall, and I will absolutely be writing and talking about it more in the near future.
For more, you can read this post from last September that I’ve linked to below. I spent the last three months of the year completing this, and I’m excited for you to read it.
❌ + 📚The podcast is back!
I also started the new year by releasing two episodes, both of which are author interviews.
I spoke with Kevin Garcia about their new book, What Makes You Bloom: Cultivating a Practice for Connecting with Your Divine Self. It’s all about establishing new spiritual practices after leaving rigid fundamentalism, and I hope you check it out.
I also spoke with lenny duncan about their latest book, Psalms of My People: A Story of Black Liberation as Told through Hip-Hop. It’s a fascinating exploration of hip-hop as scripture. I hope you check out both conversations.
You’ll notice that I am carrying over The Good Books term I’ve been using here for some time as one of PEP’s site sections into the podcast realm. I am soft-launching this as a more-explicit focus on author interviews, and should soon have a new feed for that purpose.
Interviewing writers & authors is one of my favorite things to do, and at the same time, who I am interested in speaking to isn’t always limited to the exvangelical/deconstruction area. I’ll have more to share as this develops.
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On Sticking With or Ditching Substack
Finally, in the months while this newsletter lay fallow as I finished the manuscript, Substack found itself yet again in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Here’s the TL;DR summary of events:
In November, The Atlantic published an article called “Substack Has a Nazi Problem” that drew attention to the fact that Substack allowed paid subscriptions to be collected on explicitly-Nazi/white nationalist publications.
This led to the publication of “Substackers Against Nazis” led by Marisa Kabas, in which hundreds of publication owners signed a letter petitioning Substack leadership to enforce stronger moderation.
In response, Substack leadership basically said “yeah, no” and refused to systematically ban Nazis or other white nationalists from earning money on the platform.
This has led lots of publications, including Marisa Kabas’ The Handbasket and Platformer (founded by Casey Newton) to decamp for services like Beehiiv or Ghost, respectively.
It also presents an annoying problem for smaller publishers like me, hoping to adhere to our own values while also recognizing that additional costs will be incurred with the shift to a new platform.
Each social platform (and Substack is now a social platform—it has a social feed in Notes and promotes things algorithmically) harbors speech everyone will disagree with. What distinguishes Substack from others in the space is that they have repeatedly and explicitly expressed a higher tolerance for extremist speech, which is what white nationalist speech is.
Their reasoning—moderation equals censorship, and censorship is bad, so we will not moderate—lacks any nuance and is willfully ignorant of how information networks work. Moderation is in itself an exercise of one’s rights, and where that conflicts with one’s views on freedom of speech is where one’s values come into play. A simplistic libertarian view does not do well in that scenario.
Moderation requires the resolve to say: “You may be legally free to say that, but you’re not free to say that here without consequence.”
It does not appear at present that Substack as a company wants to have that resolve.
So yes, I am planning my exit from Substack. It is unfortunate, given that the tech platform they created is actually well-suited to an independent writer and podcaster like myself, who has built a reputation in my area of expertise, but which has not yet led to the financial success that would enable me to be a full-time creative. I have benefitted from Substack’s ease of use, its ability to quickly set up paid subscriptions, its focus on offering both web publishing and the ability to build an email list, its recommendation engine, and to a degree the Notes feature.
I have already lost some paid subscribers in the ensuing months since this all began to happen, though I don’t know if that is due to readers leaving Substack or due to my lower content output as I finished my manuscript.
I am looking at Ghost & Beehiiv as alternatives, but this shift may take a bit of time and planning, as my full-time work has increased again. Ghost may be prohibitively expensive for my list size and my revenue, so Beehiiv may be the winner on cost alone. Whatever I choose to do, those who do support me with paid subscriptions should hopefully not experience any interruptions.
I’m glad to be writing online again. It’s just bittersweet that this has to be yet another instance of navigating something that should be rather straightforward—web publishing—because what should have been an easily principled resolve against not lending financial support to white nationalists could not be mustered by a company’s leaders.