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The US author George Saunders, who won the Man Booker Prize in 2017 with Lincoln in the Bardo, has joined Substack, the online subscription service writing platform. He follows other leading authors using the platform, including Salman Rushdie, Jeanette Winterson, and Chuck Palahunik.
Saunders is using the platform as an extension of the creative writing programme he teaches at Syracuse University in the US. Entitled Story Club, Saunders newsletter offers a ‘masterclass in storytelling and the craft of short fiction.
He says on the site: “The main thing we’re going to be doing here in Story Club: I’ll provide a story (or part of one) and we’ll read it together and try to figure how it works.” Explaining his decision to join the platform, Saunders told the Bookseller that he had not heard of Substact until Dan Stone, who works in the platform’s writer partnerships division, reached out to him. “I knew Dan from the writing world and have a lot of fondness and respect for him, and when he explained it to me, it seemed very appealing, this idea of a writing community that was less agitated and fraught than social media, allowed ample time for rewriting and might help me connect more authentically with my readers.
“This coincided with my having finished A Swim in a Pond in the Rain [his book about the great Russia short story writers] and really missing it. I loved working closely with those stories and found it brought me some much-needed peace of mind in a turbulent time and also, perhaps surprisingly, it seemed to have had a beneficial effect on my fiction writing. So this seemed like a perfect storm, this idea of continuing the work I’d started with the Russian book and expanding it to other stories.”
Substack was founded in 2017 by Chris Best, the co-founder of the mobile messaging app Kik Messenger, Jairaj Sethi, a developer; and Hamish McKenzie, a former Pando Daily tech reporter. It believes it is ‘building a better future for writing’ and says: ‘We started Substack because we believe that what you read matters and that good writing is valuable. We believe that writers, bloggers, thinkers, and creatives of every background should be able to pursue their curiosity, generating income directly from their own audiences and on their own terms.
‘When readers pay writers directly, writers can focus on doing the work they care about most. A few hundred paid subscribers can support a livelihood. A few thousand makes it lucrative.’
It continues: ‘Readers win, too. By opting into direct relationships with writers, we can be more selective with how we consume information, homing in on the ideas, people, and places we find most meaningful.’