My Newsletter Has Migrated from MailChimp to Substack! Here’s Why

Author Sara A. Noe holding A Fallen Hero in front of her booth


This announcement was inevitable, but I’ve been putting it off for the last couple of months. Now, it’s finally time.

I admittedly have mixed feelings about relocating my newsletter to a new platform, but I’ve officially outgrown MailChimp and had no choice but to start searching for alternative options. Thanks to the recommendation of another author, I found Substack.

Here’s all you need to know about the change.

Why I’m Leaving MailChimp

I have nothing bad to say about MailChimp’s functionality. The platform was simple and straightforward. It gave me enough free customization options to keep me satisfied while locking some of their premium functions for their paid subscribers, and that was fine. I didn’t feel their free tier was lacking any of the tools I needed to create my newsletter and schedule it to go out on the first Monday of each month.

My first newsletter came out in 2018 before my first novel, A Fallen Hero from the Chronicles of Avilésor series, was even published. At the time, MailChimp came highly recommended to me as the ideal choice for a newsletter. Their free plan allowed up to 2,000 contacts in your audience. I knew that I would eventually have to either upgrade to their paid plan or switch to a different platform eventually, but I figured it would take me a long time to build up an audience that size.

But in March of 2023, MailChimp slashed their free plan from a max of 2,000 subscribers to only 500. Those of us who had been loyal account holders were not grandfathered in.

I wasn’t aware of the change, so I was surprised and alarmed to see an author colleague’s Instagram post explaining that she was scrambling to find a new provider after logging in to MailChimp and discovering that her account was frozen because she had exceeded 500 subscribers.

I came dangerously close to hitting that threshold last month, but I was able to clean some of my oldest nonengaged contacts and send out my newsletter. For the upcoming June newsletter, though, I knew I’d have to make the switch. I’m not in a position to add another business expense just to send out a newsletter once a month. If I were using MailChimp for more advanced ecommerce marketing campaigns, then the cost of upgrading to their paid tier would be more justifiable. But I want to keep my newsletter free for everyone.

Hence, the inevitable switch came sooner than I expected, but here we are.

MailChimp and Substack logos

Pros and Cons of Substack

I reached out to my author friend and asked her how the search was going for a new newsletter platform. Unfortunately, most of the free platforms have the same restrictions as MailChimp. Even those that allow more subscribers in the free tier will eventually start charging once you hit a certain number of contacts in your audience, so that “solution” is really just kicking the can a little farther down the road.

She told me about a couple of options she’d investigated before settling on Substack, which is a popular choice for authors. I’m still early in the process of diving into Substack’s features, but here are the pros and cons I’ve seen so far on the platform:

Substack Pros

  • Easily import your existing audience from MailChimp and other platforms
  • Build your Substack website with an archive of your campaigns, posts, and relevant outbound links such as social media pages, online store, etc.
  • Tools for videos and podcasting
  • A simple, easy-to-use interface
  • Opportunities to generate revenue from paid subscribers
  • No paywalls or locked functions (Substack only makes money if their users enable paid content, which I’ll discuss later)

Substack Cons

  • Extremely limited customization due to Substack’s push for a minimal design that emphasizes the writing, not the layout
  • Not idea for email marketing if you need landing pages, segmented audiences, personal customizations such as addressing the person by name in the email, automated messaging (beyond a simple welcome message), etc.

Ultimately, Substack is ideal for publishing, not email marketing. For my needs, that’s perfectly fine. In fact, that’s exactly what I need.

I’m a little disappointed in just HOW limited some of the customization features are. Substack has some neat new tools such as adding a paywall if you want part of your post to be accessible for free and part of it to be reserved for your paying subscribers. But as for the layout, my newsletters going forward will look a little different. I don’t even have the option to center-align text, which is a tad frustrating. But the trade-off, as of now, does seem to be worth the sacrifice.

My next newsletter will be going out soon, and I was running out of time to find an alternative after MailChimp backed me into a corner. As far as I can tell so far, Substack’s pros outweigh their cons.

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How My Existing Subscribers Are Impacted

The good news is my existing subscribers don’t have to do anything! I already successfully exported my audience list from MailChimp and imported it to Substack.

I’m still in the process of updating my signup links to redirect new subscribers to Substack instead of MailChimp, but if you’re already subscribed to my newsletter, you don’t need to take any actions.

(If you notice my newsletters aren’t coming to your inbox anymore, be sure to check your spam folder just in case.)

FREE Monthly Newsletter + NEW Premium Posts for Creative Solopreneurs

On Substack, I will continue to post my newsletter on the first Monday of each month (unless it’s a holiday, in which case, the newsletter is usually delayed). The newsletter is free for all of my subscribers.

You can still find my newsletter archive here on my website to access ALL of the past newsletters, including the MailChimp ones. On Substack, you’ll be able to see all of those posts in a conveniently accessible archive, although I intend to continue maintaining my own archive on my site.

But Substack also offers a new premium feature that I’m excited to try! In addition to continuing my free monthly newsletter, I’m planning to expand Substack with paid content for subscribers who are creative solopreneurs interested in personal advice about book signings; finding and applying for events; vending at festivals, markets, and conventions; setting reasonable sales goals; understanding profit margins and base costs; and more. This content will be different than what I share with my Patreon subscribers, so I’ll go into more detail about that in the next section.

How My Substack Subscribers Differ from My Patreon Subscribers

Recently, a local artist I know contacted me and suggested that I create a new Patreon tier where I could share advice about how to be successful at festivals, markets, conventions, and other events.

She told me that when she was starting to book events, she tried to research how to be a vendor and found only the most basic information, so she felt that I could offer a lot of personal advice to other authors, artists, and creative solopreneurs trying to succeed at in-person events. Now that I have over 135 events under my belt, I’ve learned a lot that I can share.

I considered this idea, but my initial knee-jerk reaction was to say no. I already face a unique challenge with marketing because my business operates with two distinct facets — I’m both an artist AND an author, and I sell my art prints and fantasy novels at events. Sometimes, there’s crossover between fans who appreciate both of those creative outlets. But in other cases, I have followers who are much more interested in the art than the books, or vice versa.

I built my Patreon community around those fans. My lowest tier at $5 a month is my basic support level that includes updates, discounts, and acknowledgments in future books. It’s like buying me a bubble tea once a month to help me keep going! My middle $10 tier is for fans who want more behind-the-scenes content, including timelapse videos to watch me create new art from start to finish. My highest $15 tier is for my most dedicated CoA fans who want a more interactive experience; they have a place or minor character named after them in one (possibly more) book(s), can submit questions for me or a character to answer, have exclusive voting power in polls, and more.

I network with a lot of other authors, artists, and creative solopreneurs at events, but that’s an entirely different demographic that isn’t necessarily interested in reading worldbuilding details about my fantasy series or watching me draw. The type of content for those potential subscribers would be VERY different from what I publish for my fan base, and while I did see the value of that opportunity, I was hesitant to further complicate my marketing efforts by adding a third distinct type of subscriber into the mix in addition to fans of my book series and my art.

Here is where Substack comes into play. My premium Substack content will be geared toward authors, artists, and other creative solopreneurs who want to network on a professional level, get tips about booth displays, and book in-person events, while Patreon will remain a fan-based community. This allows me to establish a clear divide between the types of consumers and content I produce so everything isn’t muddled together on one platform.

Sara A. Noe's Substact vs. Patreon content

Why My Substack is a Small Monthly Subscription, NOT an Expensive Masterclass

I’ve had a few people pressure me over the past year to create a masterclass-style teaching course and mentorship program that would help guide other artists and authors. Here are my thoughts on that topic:

  • I do actually have experience with that. I was training to be a coach for Content Hacker before the business merged with Content at Scale and shifted its focus to AI. As part of my training, I went through the full course (which was worth thousands of dollars) to learn how to build an online brand that revolved around producing high-quality content, attracting clients who were willing to pay a lot of money for the program, and teaching those clients how to use that same model to develop their own online brands.
  • Simply put: teaching doesn’t interest me. I have the utmost respect for teachers, but that’s never been a passion of mine. I’m happy to write about my experiences and provide guidance for those who are interested, but not in a teacher-student relationship that comes with guided exercises and regular meetings.
  • I left my office job a few years ago because I wanted to spend most of my time doing what I love — writing, drawing, and developing my own creative business. I’m not keen on diverting my time and attention away from that to start a coaching business, which would be an entirely separate endeavor that would delay publication for Book IV and the other projects I’m currently juggling. As an introvert, engaging with people isn’t one of my strengths. Ultimately, splitting my focus to develop something I don’t overly enjoy would be counterproductive to my goal of pursuing my passions now that I have the freedom to do so.
  • My time is too limited. Not only is it extremely time-consuming to create a full step-by-step course with branded resources and assets, but the accompanying one-on-one mentorship would demand even more of my time. If you’re charging clients thousands of dollars for your program, you need to be accessible to them, and I simply don’t have the capacity to commit to something like that.
  • I maintain the firm belief that there isn’t one single path every artist or author should follow. What worked for me might not work for others depending on their niche, business goals, resources, finances, distribution model, etc. Everyone’s journey is different, and because of that, I prefer to candidly share what I’ve learned without promising guaranteed success to clients who would pay a lot of money for a masterclass intended to guide them every step of the way. I can’t promise that anyone will become a bestseller or successful entrepreneur just by following in my footsteps. (Heck… I still have a long way to go myself! I certainly won’t claim that I’ve unlocked all of the secrets.)
  • I don’t want to restrict my insights and advice by catering only to the people who have enough disposable income to afford it. If I were to spend hundreds of hours building a masterclass course, I’d have to charge appropriately. But I know what it’s like to be an artist on a tight budget. That kind of resource would be out of reach for way too many talented people. I would much rather publish casual, periodic posts on Substack and charge only $5 a month so anyone who is interested can afford to access my content. There’s also an annual option at a discounted rate.

As you can see, I have a long list of reasons why I have no intention of starting any kind of masterclass program. A few decades down the road when my series is complete and I’m tired of setting up a booth at in-person events, then maybe the situation will change. But not anytime soon.

Substack is a step in a new direction as I start branching into a more casual mentorship role. It’s a fitting addition since I’m currently working on a short nonfiction book that will share advice and inspiration for aspiring authors, so I’m already tiptoeing into that territory.

But I very much prefer the blogging format versus a coaching program, not to mention my desire to keep it affordable. $5 a month isn’t much, and Substack does take a small percentage of that in exchange for hosting my premium content. But it will add up over time as I build an audience, and while that cost won’t break the bank for my subscribers, it will help me cover my own business costs and compensate me for the time it takes to write and publish those posts.

Substack also allows creators to comment, network, and recommend other Substack publications, so I’m excited to start connecting with professionals and build a new community around creative entrepreneurship!

Looking Ahead at Substack’s Potential

I’ll still continue to publish free blog posts here on my website that touch on general entrepreneurship, marketing, and business topics for authors and artists, but Substack will allow me to dive much deeper and speak to a more specific audience of professionals who are serious about doing in-person events to market and sell their work.

Substack is setting up to become a unique blend of my blog, newsletter, and Patreon, and I’m excited about moving forward and exploring this new territory! My first premium post is live, and there’s much more to come, although I’m still learning how to navigate the new layout and features since Substack is very different from MailChimp and features a public interface rather than being a strictly behind-the-scenes email service.

If you haven’t already subscribed to my newsletter, you can do so here. Thank you for supporting me and following along on my journey!

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I'm an award-winning fantasy author, artist, and photographer from La Porte, Indiana. My poetry, short fiction, and memoir works have been featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and several of my poems are available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. The first three novels in my Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series have received awards from Literary Titan.

After some time working as a freelance writer, I was shocked by how many website articles are actually written by paid "ghost writers" but published under the byline of a different author. It was a jolt seeing my articles presented as if they were written by a high-profile CEO or an industry expert with decades of experience. I'll be honest; it felt slimy and dishonest. I had none of the credentials readers assumed the author of the article actually had. Ghost writing is a perfectly legal, astonishingly common practice, and now, AI has entered the playing field to further muddy the waters. It's hard to trust who (or what) actually wrote the content you'll read online these days.

That's not the case here at On The Cobblestone Road. I do not and never will pay a ghost writer, then slap my name on their work as if I'd written it. This website is 100% authentic. No outsourcing. No ghost writing. No AI-generated content. It's just me... as it should be.

If you would like to support my work, check out the Support The Creator page for more information. Thank you for finding my website! 🖤