Substack offers $100K in grants for independent writers

Substack is taking several steps to support the writers and publications using its newsletter platform.

After all, just as writers and newsrooms are starting to build real businesses on Substack, the COVID-19 pandemic is dealing a huge financial blow to the media industry.

In response, the startup says it will donate $100,000 in grants — which will range from $500 to $5,000 in cash, “no strings attached” — to independent writers who are experiencing financial hardship. Applications open today and will close next week, on April 7.

The startup also says it will waive its 10 percent fee for publications if they donate their earnings to the effort against COVID-19 (that could mean donating to nonprofits, or to businesses that are threatened by the pandemic). The initial waiver is for one month, but it could be extended for up to three months.

Lastly, Substack publications will soon be able to customize their subscription pages, so that readers do more to support their favorite writers. For example, a publication could add a “super supporters” option that allows subscribers to pay even more than an annual subscription price.

In a blog post, CEO Chris Best said:

Unfortunately, we … know that writers and creatives are among the hardest hit by the economic downturn and are experiencing decreasing job opportunities, canceled projects, and pay cuts. Yet while advertising budgets get slashed, readers are more eager than ever to directly support the creators they care about because they believe, like we do, that journalism and the arts are more necessary than ever in times of crisis.