Substack is a new and improved way to write and distribute a book, communicate, and build a community while doing so.
first the audio: before going into publishing the first half in podcast form, please have a look ad podcasting 2.0 (example: download the podverse app and look for the "podcasting 2.0" podcast by Adam Curry.
I say this because it adds transcripts, links, chapter and many other features not present in "podcasting 1.0" (so to say) and that are useful for a multimedia-rich publication as yours
Yet I'd love also a ebook version of Hardcore software. Why ? Mainly to have it on the kindle, without need to be online and in a way "in my library" and be able to read it - for example - on the beach.
Congratulations! This has been a fun remembrance of my time at Microsoft.
I signed up to hardcore software from the first or second post and really enjoyed the early ones. They brought back so many memories. I learned to program first on a mainframe as a kid (the father of a primary school friend headed a computer dept and let a couple of nerdy kids run punch cards on his ICL brute) and later when I got bored as a young journalist in the late 70s I did a grad dip in computing, programing in Motorola 6800 assembler, Pascal, etc. But much as I enjoy your stories I have struggled to keep up. Like this post, they are fantastic but they are damn too long. My training as a journo and later an academic eco historian compels me to write succinctly. Short sentences and short words. Maybe the 110 posts should have been 200!! Don’t get me wrong, your writing is vivid and I like it; my attention span, though, is often these days far less than it use to be. Age, may be. Since publishing my last book I have toyed with the idea of the next one being on Substack for many of the reasons you so well describe. Still to take that first step with Substack.
This is amazing. What a gift to share with us. I am so thrilled with Substack myself. One thing you didn’t touch on is chat. You used this once I think but never again. What were your thoughts on that?
Thanks for sharing that Jane Friedman chart. It’s super interesting to learn how the economics work in other industries, especially creative ones.
As for using Substack for this, as a reader I was apprehensive about it. At the beginning my gut reaction was, “Why doesn’t he just self-publish this on Amazon?” I think using Substack worked out well though, for the reasons you mentioned. It was also something to look forward to every Sunday when a new chapter would be posted.
Finally for anyone looking for something to read, Showstopper is indeed excellent. Speaking of which, what’s the elusive Dave Cutler up to? Is he still at Microsoft or has he retired?
I'm not going to articulate this perfectly, but here goes:
An underrated perq with reading via substack was that at times I would have lost momentum reading if it was on the kindle. With substack and email delivery (and podcast feed too), the headlines would catch my attention or maybe I would click the email and read the first paragraph. That would re-engage me and I would read a couple episodes at a sitting. I got a ton of applicable advice for our business out of all the stories. Without this "re-engagement" feature of substack & email, it would have been harder for me to make it through the whole book - not because the subject matter wasn't interesting - but because of attention habits and what part of the day I engage with the kindle app.
Serializing outside the kindle app via substack is a way better reader experience for me. Especially because I tend to read 2 or 3 books at a time on a kindle. As I write this, the concept of "locking a book into the kindle app" seems really old fashioned. Just thought I would share how serializing via substack helps a certain kind of reader like me. :)
That's a great look inside the process and how Substack worked for you. This is probably one of the best product endorsements I've ever encountered. It is interesting to me what Substack has done to be reliable and trustworthy and, in your experience, careful of its clientele.
Re : Footnotes.
I'm surprised you say that footnotes copy/paste from Word works.
I'm writing a book myself, rich in footnotes, from which I'm publishing extracts in the form of articles, and when I copy/paste from Word to Substack, the footnotes are always badly done, to the point where I have to redo them all by hand, which takes a considerable amount of time.
Is there a way to copy and paste the footnotes so they appear "natively" in Substack I haven't understood? :)
Thank you for writing this. I am new to Substack and hearing about your experience with publishing on and off the platform was insightful.
Great to read, both for the history as a kid who grew up with computers and reading Byte msg, and also as a fellow memoirist here on Substack. Thanks for this, and I look forward to reading more!
I’m serializing as well with my memoir, starting here:
Steven, interesting writing. I’ve been writing for a few years and illustrate also. I’ve just decided to take seriously and publish a novel I have. I have a definite message that I feel needs to be heard. What amount of pages do you find works best for reader engagement? Right now I write prose from scripture and have mostly 1-3 minute reads. Also , Is it a waste of time in to publish these books too. And there are so many publishers. Where do you start. I have a couple other pieces too.
You did an excellent job avoiding the "salacious" imperative. Relitigating your more contentious points of view that I experienced in my short tenure in Redmond was not zero, but minimal, which built trust in what you wrote, for me.
2 Qs: 1) This chapter was a nice bonus. Out of curiosity, which made more money: "One Strategy" or this? 2) There was something about "founder" subscribers getting a PDF. Is that coming?
I wish you more success and good things in the future, Steven
I’ve done this on Medium. I got multiple thousands of followers but only a few actual readers.
On Substack there are subscribers and view counts, but no “followers.” So far I’ve been writing mainly about the culture wars.
Comments, any one?