The digital newsletter is back and we are here for it

Want your inbox flooded with George Saunders’ insights? Curious about Salman Rushdie’s take on Dune? Sounds like the digital newsletter is back.

Salman Rushdie emailing out a weekly digital newsletter? You bet. The old is new again, as a primordial era of media is seemingly being reprised in the form of email newsletters. Think OnlyFans, but for literary enthusiasts.

Substack is leading the way with a return to the original digital newsletter. Some of our favourite authors have jumped on board, like Booker Prize winner George Saunders, ND Stevenson, Chuck Palahniuk, and Salman Rushdie. Rushdie who started his newsletter, Salman’s Sea of Stories, only last September, has hundreds of paid subscribers. 

Salman Rushdie
Award-winning author Salman Rushdie. Credit: The Wheeler Centre

Delivered to your inbox weekly, these dispatches address stories they have read, written, or something altogether more spontaneous. In Rushdie’s case, for example, you might get serialised chapters of a new novella, or Reddit-style “ask me anything” posts, to his take on Dune.

George Saunders fans may have a hard time keeping up, as he’s embraced the Substack platform wholeheartedly with a short story writing course delivered to inboxes twice a week. 

“There were a lot of comments early on about how Story Club feels like a safer place than the Internet,” Saunders told Esquire. “It’s made me think quite a bit about contemporary discourse, and about how the unspoken rules of the Internet are not necessarily good rules. We make our own rules, and the way we choose to talk to one another defines our culture. We enter into this place where suddenly I can say anything I want to you if it’s not in person. I don’t know if this has ever been the case in human history. Story Club seems to me like a pretty fun, virtuous experiment to see how big a positive community we can make.”

Substack can also provide a commercial incentive for writers, allowing them to monetise their work by putting it behind a paywall. Its top ten publishers bring in a collective $7 million in revenue annually.

Time will tell how long this trend might endure, but while it’s here, make the most of what some of our biggest and brightest literary talents have to offer (especially when a new ND Stevenson comic hits your inbox — This Place Was Home is a gem.)