Substack vs. Laterpress for Going Direct to Readers

Comparing Substack and Laterpress for distributing fiction directly to readers.

T L Murchison
T L Murchison
Person about to start running

Whether you’re writing serialized fiction or traditional books, Substack has gained popularity as a means for authors to share their work directly with readers. 

While it primarily focuses on newsletters and articles, some authors have also use Substack as a method of writing and distributing their books. In this article, we will delve into the advantages and disadvantages of using Substack as a platform for distributing fiction, and how it compares to Laterpress. We’ll explore the how authors can monetize their content, as well as the limitations authors may face in terms of earning potential, writing flexibility, distribution, and finding new readers.


The subscription network for independent writers and creators

Substack is a San Francisco-based startup founded in 2017 by Chris Best, the co-founder of Kik Messenger; Jairaj Sethi, a head of platform and principal developer at Kik Messenger; and Hamish McKenzie, a former PandoDaily tech reporter. Aimed at writers of all kinds, from journalists to thought leaders to creators and new writers, it is an opportunity to find a new audience and monetize a loyal social media following.

Essentially, Substack is an email newsletter platform whose business model revolves around paid subscriptions to articles, blogs, podcasts, thought pieces, chapters of stories, and more. They want to be home to many kinds of great writing, not just fiction. Touted as easy to use, the platform is appealing to serialized fiction writers as Substack’s format lets authors push new posts directly into the inboxes of readers. 

Why it might be right for you

Connect Directly with Readers

Substack newsletters allow authors to establish a direct connection with their readers by sending content directly to their subscriber list. This immediate relationship creates a loyal readership that keeps authors and their stories top of mind as long as the newsletters are consistent and perceived as of value for the subscription price. 

Creates Loyalty

By delivering chapters to readers, they don’t have to go far to read your work. Once readers are hooked on a story, they will come to expect the next chapter, and may seek out other works by an author or even want a physical copy on their shelves. 

Ease of Use

Substack boasts that users can be up and running in a matter of minutes with its user-friendly publishing tools which simplifies the process, making it appealing to first-time authors. It provides tools for formatting, designing, and organizing content, helping writers with limited technical skills get their stories out to readers faster. Additionally, Substack handles the backend logistics, such as payment processing and subscriber management, which can be time-consuming for self-published authors.

Built-In Audience

In a little over five years, Substack has attracted over 1 million paid subscribers, creating an audience of readers who are looking for high-quality content. With this pool of potential readers, and brand name recognition, it might be easier for authors to find new readers and grow their audience. Readers can leave comments and “like” posts as a way of showing they enjoyed your content. The “restack” feature allows users to share posts that they liked with their own followers.

Serialized Fiction-Friendly

Stories released in installments can thrive on Substack due to their episodic nature. Authors can engage readers by publishing regular chapters or episodes, building anticipation and encouraging them to subscribe to access new content.

No Cost to Start

Substack is free to use, and authors can start building their audience without any upfront costs. This makes it an attractive option for writers who are just starting. A majority of readers come to Substack for the free content. However, if you want to start charging for subscriptions, a 10% fee kicks in.


With Substack, there are a few monetization options that aim to allow authors to generate income directly from their readers, cutting out the middleman and potentially earning more per reader compared with traditional publishing models. However, the platform is not free with Substack taking a percentage of profits. 

1. Paid Subscriptions

Authors can offer paid subscriptions to their newsletters or book chapters, providing exclusive content or early access to readers who are willing to pay a recurring fee. This subscription model enables authors to earn a regular income from their work. While an author can charge any amount, the average monthly subscription rate is between $5 and $20.

2. Sell exclusive content

Authors can supplement their revenue by offering additional products and services related to their books. This could include book related merchandise, workshops, consulting, or even creating premium content bundles with bonus material that enhance the reading experience.

Why it might not be right for you

Lost in a Crowd

Although Substack’s reader base is growing, so are their contributors, so it can be difficult for Substack writers to get noticed in the crowd. Substack’s discovery options are very limited. There is a search box on their site, and the ability to explore different categories, but neither seems well designed for finding something specific, or learning much about what the Substack is about before clicking into it, making it challenging for readers to find new writers and content on the platform. Authors may struggle to grow their audience and gain new readers. The platform requires outside marketing with other social networks, such as Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook, to push readers to view and subscribe to the newsletters.

Locked in Content

Due to the nature of sending out content in a newsletter format, once an email has been sent to a subscriber, that content cannot be updated. This lack of flexibility limits authors to only sending out finalized content. Imagine making a spelling mistake or worse, a crucial plot point error that can not be republished. This can affect an author’s reputation and erode confidence with readers. 

The lack of dedicated features for book writing, such as organizing chapters and tracking revisions, has the potential to make the writing process cumbersome and less efficient. Authors may find it challenging to maintain a cohesive structure and ensure a seamless reading experience for their audience.

Mostly Free

Substack is known as a place to read free content. Authors may find it difficult to convert their readers to a subscription service if they are reading other newsletters from the service at no cost. 

Platform Fees

Authors can offer paid subscriptions to their newsletters or book chapters, providing exclusive content or early access to readers who are willing to pay a recurring fee. While there is no cost to start publishing content, Substack takes 10% of the subscription revenue you receive, plus 2.9% + 30 cents per payment charged by Substack's payment provider, Stripe. Lastly, Substack charges a one-time $50 USD fee to use a custom domain for your publication. 

Initially, it can be challenging to gain traction and generate significant income on Substack. While the subscription format can lead to a consistent drip of income, authors need to build a substantial subscriber base which usually requires time, consistent high-quality content, and effective marketing strategies to attract and retain readers. Additionally, readers may not want to commit to a long-term subscription to read one book. With the minimum subscription of $5 a month, a 40 chapter book at one chapter a week could cost readers $50.

Subscription Fatigue

Subscription fatigue is a phenomenon that has been growing in recent years. With the rise of subscription-based services, such as streaming platforms, meal delivery services, and even clothing rental services, consumers have been inundated with offers to subscribe to various products and services. Committing to a monthly or annual fee might turn readers away, especially if they are not already loyal fans and don’t know what they are committing to for that fee.

Inbox Overwhelm

When a user receives many emails each day, it becomes challenging to open and read every one. This situation can lead to the user ignoring or even deleting some emails without opening them, due to time constraints, an inability to prioritize content against irrelevant emails, or general email fatigue. If readers miss or ignore a weekly newsletter email from Substack, they may miss a chapter. If they miss a few chapters, they may lose interest and if that happens, they may end up canceling the subscription, meaning authors have lost a reader.

Where is the Story?

Traditionally, stories are contained either within a book or ebook, or in one easy to access location. With the story parceled out into individual newsletters scattered throughout a person’s inbox, readers have to do the work in organizing and storing the story if they want to reread at a later date. Without the story in one consistent place or a location that requires internet services to get to their content, readers might become frustrated and unsubscribe.


The new way to publish books.

Established in 2022, Laterpress gives authors the freedom to publish ebooks and serialized fiction directly from their own website. No app, invitation, or contracts required; this platform caters to every genre.

Laterpress offers a new and unique way to get your stories in front of readers with a string of advantages built with authors in mind. The process is streamlined to ensure you get to focus on what you do best - writing. 

Why it might be right for you

Built For Book Reading

Laterpress is designed to be a web-native reader experience, making it easy to read from your PC, tablet, or mobile device without needing to download an app. See the Reader Experience Overview for a visual walkthrough of what books look like on the platform. It’s a simple experience free of distractions like advertisements.

Greater Flexibility With Monetization

Laterpress offers much more freedom than Substack to authors on how they price their content. Authors can set up a Stripe account to receive payments, and have full control over how they monetize their work. Authors can make their work free, or set their price. Books can be sold as a single payment, or in pieces as chapter bundles. It’s also possible to create an annual subscription that covers everything.  You can mix and match paid and free content, and have multiple stories up and running on Laterpress at the same time. Laterpress takes 0% on direct payments, leaving more money in your pocket. (Like Substack, Laterpress uses Stripe for payment processing, and Stripe charges a 2.9% + 30 cents fee on each payment.)

Reader Engagement

Send email notifications directly to readers when new chapters or stories are updated, and build your email list along the way. With story recommendations, reviews and ratings, your book can be front and center and not get lost in the crowd as it might on Substack.

No Fee For A Custom Domain

Unlike Substack, which charges a $50 fee to set up a custom domain, Laterpress does not charge for the ability to publish your books and serials to your own branded sub-domain off your own site’s homepage (like With your branding front and center, you can build a direct relationship with readers and they don’t even have to know Laterpress exists.

Publish What You Want

No approval process is required for your stories on Laterpress. Books of all genres, fiction and nonfiction alike, are welcome. Science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, romance, memoirs, erotica, paranormal thrillers, and any other genre or genre mash-up can be published through Laterpress.

In addition, authors can update content at any time, ensuring readers get the latest and the greatest content possible. Substack’s frozen in time newsletter platform locks authors' content in place. 

Ease of Use

There's no need to worry about complicated formatting or coding. Write online or upload instantly. With an ePub conversion tool and upload options, your story can be up and earning on Laterpress in no time. 

The clear and clean interface makes reading easy with screen options built for binge readers, including dark mode.


Easy-to-read and up-to-the-minute reporting on both readers and payments keeps you informed.  See who has been reading your stories, and how much they read, to help you see if there is a point in the work where readers are losing interest and falling off.

Why it might not be right for you

Direct Sales

Laterpress is built as a way to start directly selling to your audience. Because the proceeds of any sales go directly to the author, authors are responsible for handling any taxes that may be owed on such sales. Look here for more information on each state’s laws about when tax is owed. For most states, the bar is at least 200 sales in that state over a 12-month period. When in doubt, talk to an accountant for the best advice for your situation.

You Are Responsible For Your Traffic

As Laterpress is designed as a conduit for direct sales, you should expect anyone finding your story on Laterpress is a reader YOU brought there, either via a newsletter, social media, or other direct interaction. That’s a big part of why Laterpress takes 0% of direct sales revenue. You worked to make that sale, you should keep the money! While not currently an ideal location for growing an audience, Laterpress helps you earn better revenue from the fans you have.

Community Features are Currently Limited

Author community features are how Laterpress intends to make the bulk of their revenue, and these only kick in when these features help readers find new authors. Thus, you can count on Laterpress adding to and improving upon these over time, as it’s in their financial best interest to do so.

Readers can find recommendations through their bookshelf, as shown in this reader experience overview. Readers and authors can also generate affiliate links. However, anyone looking for a retailer-like browsing experience where a reader visits a site and immediately sees a lot of stories to choose from will be disappointed.


For authors looking specifically for a means to distribute fiction, Laterpress offers several advantages over Substack. Laterpress offers a web-native reading experience better suited to reading serialized fiction or complete books. Authors can sell downloadable epub files of their books, which is not possible on Substack. Substack charges $50 to use a custom subdomain, whereas Laterpress users can make one for free. Authors looking for a direct conversation with their readers may lean towards Substack, which allows users to comment on posts, which isn’t possible in Laterpress. Both platforms require authors to do the heavy lifting of bringing in their own readership. If you’re going to do the most of the work of building your audience, would you rather have 10% of your sales taken by the platform you’re using, or 0%?

Want to read more about indie publishing?