Interview with Erica Drayton (The Storyteller)

Today’s Sub Pub interview is with Erica Drayton, creator of the Substack newsletter Erica Drayton, The Storyteller.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a storyteller. It is something I easily inherited and learned from my mother who instilled in me from the moment she taught me how to spell and read that storytelling was limitless. I have taken all that she has taught me and now I only hope I am able to pay it forward by sharing my own journey through writing and storytelling with as many people as I am able.

How would you describe your newsletter?

My newsletter is a perfect representation of myself. It is both a mess and yet strangely poetically organized. It allows me to stretch my imagination to the limits while also reining me in so I don’t do too much. I can think of nothing in my life creatively that better allows me the freedom to express myself.

I am able to teach through using my own experiences as the example that others can choose to either follow or learn from. And then whenever I feel the desire I can write a spontaneous 100-word story or expand by writing a Friday Fiction short story. And soon I’ll share my novels through serialization. My newsletter allows this kind of flexibility and adaptability which a storyteller like myself has been desperately seeking.

Why did you decide to publish on Substack?

I came from using MailChimp for a really long time. After leaving I was in need of a new home and I knew it needed to be the total opposite of MailChimp in order for me to not only use it but want to as well. That is key for anyone who has a newsletter. Everyone says you must have one and gives all the reasons why having an email list is vital to any entrepreneur. But no one talks about how time-consuming it can feel and grueling especially if the vessel you are using to deliver emails to your list isn’t one you particularly enjoy using. Either it’s costly or cumbersome and therefore the joy we should all have with communicating to our list becomes more of a chore. When I was using MailChimp it was very much a chore.

I stumbled across the name “Substack” while in an online convention where Elle Griffin happened to be a guest speaker to talk about Medium and Patreon and MailChimp and none other than Substack. It was then I let my fingers do the walking and I quickly investigated. It was like fate that the name happened to reach my ears as I had just made the decision to officially “break away” from MailChimp not a week earlier.

After looking into how it worked (it’s not perfect) I saw its potential and how it basically got out of my way and let me do what I love, just write.

What has your experience with your newsletter been like?

Using Substack has been such a shift for me. I think I’ve produced more content now than I ever have before. It’s because of the key difference between a service that Substack provides versus what MailChimp provides. With MailChimp I shared just my monthly newsletter where I mostly talked about myself and my projects (many of which I never completed or felt worthy of sharing at the time). With Substack I can go beyond and deeper than my monthly newsletter and incorporate literally anything I want to and just push the content out whenever I want. And that, for me, has been a breath of fresh air. 

What have you liked most about your experience on Substack?

I think it’s a combination of things for me. But let’s start with the minimalistic simplicity of it all. I’m really trying to lean in with all aspects of my life to be more simple and minimal and Substack aligns with that perfectly. No bells and whistles with email design. The options are limited and as I’ve said, this leads to just plain writing to take place. Something else I like is their “sections” options. I think of it as segments or tags within MailChimp (or any similar service). It puts the choice with the subscriber as to what content they want to receive from you. All I have to do is explain my various nonfiction and fiction sections and let my subscribers pick and choose whether they want it all or just one. This allows me to combine my writing that was once split into three different places into one place. I don’t have to worry if the content I’m pushing out is worth my subscribers' time and try to figure out how I can reach one group over another. Everyone is together. I am writing. Life is good!

What have you liked least about your Substack experience?

For a site that has been around for nearly five years I am surprised at the amount of glitches and little things that seem like easy fixes that are still occurring. But I realize these kinds of issues are to be expected and at the end of the day the positives far outweigh something minor that is usually fixed/corrected within 24hrs. The most recent example I can point to is when I imported a CSV file and it took till the next day for the additional subscribers to appear.

What tactics have you implemented to grow your newsletter? Are they working?

So far I have implemented the following ways (keeping in mind I have only had Substack going for a short time so my list is small and new):

First, I joined the Substack Writers Unite Discord server so I could meet others who were also using Substack. We followed each other.

Second, I informed my MailChimp list. One, that I would no longer be communicating to them via MailChimp. And two, that soon the frequency of emails would increase when they were imported over to Substack. I chose to do this because they had been used to my once a month delivery and I did not want to jar them with the fact that I am churning out emails three times a week and by next summer that will increase to four days a week.

Third would have to be my current plan of using BookFunnel and StoryOriginApp. Many years ago I used them both simultaneously and grew my newsletter from zero to ~1600 in less than three months! Now my tactic is different. I’m using a Reader Magnet that is a collection of my favorite short stories (ie Friday Fiction that I wrote from 2016 - 2020) with the understanding that anyone who accepts this free gift and signs-up for my newsletter will be getting a new short story every Friday. Two things for newsletter publishers to remember are: first, each service will cost $10/mo; and second, you’ll have to download the CSV file and import it into Substack as neither service syncs to Substack. Without paying this monthly fee you will not have access to the emails and none of this will be worth it.

Is there a post in your newsletter that you consider most memorable, and if so, why?

Oh, that is easy, it would have to be my first Substack for Fiction Writers Series post. So far it has gotten close to 150 views. The more that post is viewed the more the surrounding posts before it and after it increase in views as well. Creating this series to document my journey with using Substack as a fiction writer was one of the best things I could’ve done. It allows me to do what I love, which is to help people. And it also gives me reach and growth. I am unique in that I am looking for writers to help and readers to share my stories with. Substack gives me one place to invite them all to.

What do you hope for your newsletter in the foreseeable future?

I hope that it grows in size and turns into a community where I get to do what I love and eventually earn some kind of a living from it. I’m not looking to earn six figures like most. I get by just fine taking care of a house, two dogs, and my wife with my current 9 - 5 income. So, if I can earn that much with just a bit more on a monthly and yearly basis from helping writers and delighting readers with my stories that would be amazing. And the idea that I might be able to do all of that from one place makes it all the more of an exciting journey for me to undertake.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Lately I’ve been writing some pretty cool 100-word stories that are just appearing on my newsletter but I’m intentionally not sending them via email. And who knows what other ideas I’ll come up with next? My Friday Fiction 2.0 stories are honestly getting better and better each week! I’m even impressing myself! And soon-ish Born from Blood, a trilogy featuring skinwalkers, wendigos, jackalopes, and other amazing creatures will be released every Sunday in serialized form. This story is unlike any I’ve ever written and I promise it will be more than worth the wait as well as the read. Mark your calendars for Sunday June 5th when the nightmare begins!

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