What if the people receiving your emails forwarded it to friends? What if they copied the text from it and posted it on social media? What if your words traveled from the inbox into Facebook group chats and meeting rooms?

When was the last time you sent a newsletter that got 10 replies?

If none of those things happened — not even close— maybe getting more subscribers isn’t the answer.

From social media to Substack Notes, people post in the void. No comments, likes, or engagement of any kind.

Hey, sometimes things don’t work!

Your “questions to everyone” or “open invites” have good intentions, but after a dozen or so attempts, it’s time to reassess your strategy.

Stop asking “everyone” and start actually asking people.

➡️ Reply to someone else’s post. Go into the comments section of another post, or another Tweet, and reply there. Be the person that people love seeing in the comments section by being insightful, gracious, and / or funny.

➡️ Email someone directly in your network. If you’re hoping those people even see your original post and take the time to reply is a long shot. Instead, reach out and ask them. Say you’re looking for their insight for an upcoming post.

➡️ Invite someone before inviting everyone. If you’re just getting started in hosting video hangouts, live sessions, or workshops, consider inviting a few people you know directly. See if you can get three people to commit before announcing to “everyone.”

➡️ Go beyond “just sharing” and make it a big deal. Make a whole post about it. Go deeper than typing “THIS,” and explain why this piece resonated. Don’t just “curate your feed,” rolling the dice hoping that 10% of your audience might see it. Take the time to write about something (or make a video or an audio snippet), and share it directly with your audience in an upcoming newsletter (where 99% of your subscribers will see it in their inbox).

Soda section from a grocery store in Palmerton, PA

“Yeah, but Seth, I just want to post my thing and go do other things,” you might say.

Well, you see the results that “just posting” gets you.

Also, how can talking to your fans, audience, and readers be a waste of time?

Setting a timer for 15 minutes and communicating with real people five days a week will probably get you more results than the hour you spend making one Reel for 153 “people” to see (and which will never be seen again after 12 hours).

Does it scale? Fuck scale, do the work.

The strategy of “just posting” ain’t working, and it’s not going to get any easier to reach your fans in that way as we roll into the second half of 2024.

A garage in Fleetwood, PA


Social media rotted our brains on the instant gratification racket.

“I accept defeat,” I repeat after HINDZ from a recent video, “I accept that billion-dollar corporations have invested millions and millions of millions into the psychology and understanding how to keep me on these devices on their platforms, and it works.”

It’s not enough that social media gobbles up our attention – it tricks us into thinking we’re nothing without them.

This is made worse because “the creative status quo has made us lonely content machines.”

We are isolated, working on projects alone in our studios and rooms. We are so in our own heads that when we get together to discuss these things, we can cry.

We’re trying to figure this out on our own, thinking we’ll beat the tech bros with better-crafted hashtags, disguising our “link in bio” text, or churning out vertical videos to appease the social media overlords.

If we just read one more social media strategy guide, or watch more one more YouTube video then we’ll crack the code.

No, thanks.

I’d rather spend my time in deeper connection with good people.

Start reaching out to fellow zine writers, artists, photographers, and designers – get on a phone call, plan a meetup, gather in secret in remote parks, commandeer several tables at the local Denny’s, plan your own hyper-niche flea market, write a short skit.

These are things made outside of isolation.

Spending more time around creative people will do us more good than if we just sit on our hands and wait to be saved by the next tech-bro platform to deliver us a new magical marketing machine.

Are we so powerless to change the current situation that we sit back and hope somebody else fixes everything?

And then what? That person will sell the company to a Nabisco+Tide hedge fund subsidiary, and we’ll be back where we started.

Maybe centralized kingdoms of power and influence aren’t the answer.

The answer is other people, community, and the exchange of ideas away from the supposed champions of our “creator economy,” which was here long before the silicon valley dorks showed up.

You can wait for things to change, but reaching your fans on social media will never get any easier. NEVER. I’ve been saying this since 2021.

Find some other weirdos, form your own band of misfits and start having the conversation about living in a post-social media world, ‘cuz baby it’s coming.


My first few Threads on Substack were duds, but then I flipped them upside down.

  1. Make something that’ll be interesting for my readers
  2. Reach out to smart people and ask them to drop a comment
  3. Share the Thread post and quotes in future posts

Not only is it a fun way to get input from your friends, but it’s great for learning about your readers (and way more fun than surveys).


The video above was in response to this wonderful quote I found via Substack notes from Elissa Altman:

If you’re not gonna talk publicly about your work, plenty of other folks will. People can’t fall in love with your work if they don’t know about it.

Tell people about your work in only the way that you can, because if an unpaid intern (or an AI prompt) could write your self-promo copy, you’re toast.

🚫 Hey, new song! [LINK]
🚫 I just posted some new art. [LINK]
🚫 New items added to the store. [LINK]
🚫 New interview – we talked about art stuff! [LINK]

Those can work if you’re Radiohead or Beyonce or Rolling Stone or Best Buy.

Which you are not.

Let’s learn from Austin Kleon, who says to learn to steal like an artist (buy that book right now, dammit).

✅ Look at how Jeff Tweedy explains a new solo acoustic track he posted:

“It’s Super Bowl Sunday, that’s what I’m told. I have tallied the results of all your requests, and opted to do an acoustic version of “King of You” from the album Star Wars. Which was an unlikely favorite. Or at least it got two votes. It’s from an album that’s meant to be full of nonsense, because I think nonsense is good for us.”

No way an AI bot or record label intern could write that. And a lot more interesting than “new song, click here.”

✅ If you interviewed someone, get out of the way and put them front and center, the way Sari Botton of Oldster Magazine does here:

In this instance above, Todd Boss is the focus, the center of attention. Get the heck out of the way and let their words champion the piece.

✅ Artist Marie Enger opens her recent newsletter like this:

“Friends, this week? It fucking sucked.

But my buddy Ray Nadine (who you might know from the 2024 GLAAD nominated comic LIGHT CARRIES ON, Raise Hell (with our good friend and yours too, Jordan Alsaqa), and SOMETHING HAS CHANGED) reminded me yesterday as I was spinning out–

The horrors persist, but so do the little treats.

Then they sent me a slurpee.”

✅ Back to Austin Kleon – he promotes a recent newsletter on Substack notes like this:

“I don’t know what it is about my brain, but as long as I can find the right image to put at the top of the newsletter, the rest just flows out. (I started this letter last week but didn’t finish it — remembering Kate’s image helped everything snap into place)”

Not one of these asks for a click, a signup, or a “buy now.”

They all attempt to draw you in with story, delight, oddities, weirdness – you know, art. Magic!

The newsletter or the song is the vehicle, but the creative spirit behind the work must provide the energy to move it forward.

We need to get away from thinking of our offerings as commodities.

We are not promoting just a new song, a new thing to read, or another piece of content.

You’ve already done the hard part; you’re an artist, photographer, teacher, musician – you know how hard it is to play the piano?! IT’S IMPOSSIBLE, I TRIED, OKAY?

But promoting your work? That’s much easier than trying to sight-read sheet music, which is another impossibility – how does anyone do it?!

Let your creative wisdom inform how you talk about and share your work. Literally spend more than 12 seconds on it, instead of banging out “hey click here” and expecting anyone to give a fuck about it.

✅ BONUS: You can also go in the opposite direction.

Think about how you’d start a comedy show. What’s the expectation?

Even if you’re not a comedian, we’re all so familiar with the process that if we had to, we could at least do the introduction part, right?

“Hey everyone, I’m Seth. So great to be here!”

But it takes an artist to spend the first three minutes wrestling with the mic stand, dropping the microphone, and yelling at the production crew to turn the music off.

But note when the music stops, and Tim Heidecker abruptly says, “Thank you, okay, all right.”

That took some work. That was magic.

Those first three moments are rough. I got a little bit of anxiety from watching it, but it was like a car wreck; I couldn’t look away.

Like – why go through all that?

Because it sets the stage for what’s to come.

Why did I pack up my camera gear and use a wired microphone and go into the woods to make a video about hyping your work?

Because this is my art, my project, my work.

Some people will get that video. Some people will be like, “That guy is weird, and I’m not subscribing.”

Great. This is what I do, this is how I work. thank u, next.

Make people feel something. Stress, tension, release. The hero’s journey.

These are all things you can learn and study and steal ideas from (and a much better use of your time, instead of spending 2+ hours a day scrolling social media).

Time for another walk in the woods.


I see a lot of bad marketing emails from Square, but the marketing emails I get from Bad Luck Burger Club are fucking great.

It’s bold. It’s bright. The logo screams in your face. Love that.

The copy-writing matches their brand so well, too:

✅ The Intergalactic Rolling Church of the Burg (aka our food truck)

✅ Also, when you park at the market, don’t park in the dang bike lane!

✅ Party on, Burger out.

Most marketing emails are just square blocks of things for sale, but Bad Luck gets away with it because the top half was written by people – you can’t get an intern or AI to write that well.

Like, there’s a difference between greeting your customer with a hearty “hello, how ya doing today?!” and “so how many burgers ya want?”

I’ve eaten several of their burgers, all in one week at Furnce Fest in 2023, and they’re fucking amazing.


This is a response to a comment left by Craig Lewis on what of my Substack Notes:

how do you practically make that move to talking to those closer to you/simply putting out quality content if no-one is seeing/interacting with it?

If you never post on socials etc, no-one ever sees what you do. If you have an audience already, it’s cool to get stuff out to them and they will hopefully do you a good turn and shout about it for you.

But if you’re still building an audience… back to shouting into the void?

Craig Lewis

You’ll need to get 100 new followers on social media to reach 10 of them.

Or you can just get 10 people to subscribe to your email list.

New post for Social Media Escape Club coming on Monday or so.


This post started here, but then I sent a new version (below) via Substack. Enjoy.

Lindsey Jordan (Snail Mail) talks to Monster Children about social media in the music world:

“I think that anybody who is encouraging you to make a TikTok hit is probably brain dead. Don’t listen to them. Usually, those tactics don’t work. I’ve never done an actual ‘tactic’ and had it work.”

Experts say not being on TikTok is a missed opportunity, but we miss opportunities every day because we are singular creative beings and must do the dishes or cover a shift at work.

There are people you didn’t reach yesterday because you didn’t display your art in a small gallery in Denver, CO, or play a set in a nightclub in Paris last night.

Sure, “everyone” is on TikTok right now, but “everyone” is also at an art gallery.

Where are you?

Why aren’t you in the same room as the creative people you love? Start a Zoom call if you can’t meet up locally. Imagine the opportunities that could develop from that energy and support!

Why don’t you have a call with that local curator / booking agent / producer this week? You’re probably just two conversations with the right people to get that set up. Opportunity!

Oh, you haven’t talked with anyone about a potential collaboration in the last year?

Here’s a recent example: a client I work with remotely invited me to an album release get-together in Brooklyn, NY, later this month.

I could stay home and create content for LinkedIn… or I could book a hotel room, make travel arrangements, and be around people I already have connections with.

I believe there are opportunities in my already-existing universe, and I don’t need to continuously throw pebbles in the ocean of “social media possibility” to get more.

How many opportunities exist right now in your creative universe? In your own inboxes? In the contacts in your phones? People you bump into at the coffee shop? On Discord?

We’ve all missed opportunities, but maybe it’s time that we intentionally invest our efforts in the opportunities that better align with our own magical journeys.

P.S. thanks Dino Corvino for that Monster Children tip


Peter Kirn at Create Digital Media talks about SoundCloud and Bandcamp, and how they’re devolving into money machines for corporate shareholders.

“It’s a simultaneous reminder that we need to build something new, maybe this time not for the investors, but for the eu-IVs – for each other.”

Let’s stop waiting for the next publication or platform to save us. The fix isn’t waiting for tech bros to share a tenth of a penny more in streaming payouts – the power is with people reading newsletters and creating websites.

“Yeah, but Seth, these things cost money!”

Well, buy a domain name or wait by the phone for the next big platform – I turn 50 soon and I ain’t got time to wait.

The mass scale of social media was a mirage and we all fell for it. Going viral is the draw to get you in the casino, and you pay with hours of your precious life feeding the social monster for your chance at 12 likes.

Let’s start using the internet as a tool to find our freaks and build our communities. Make things and launch projects.

Make the weird shit you want to see in the world, and don’t just do it for likes or shares – reach out to the other weird shit people and start conversations.

It’s like we’re meeting at the mall food court – find your fellow weirdos and then get the hell out. Go to the record store downtown, go to a friend’s house and watch skate videos, hang out at a park – these are all the things social media platforms are afraid of.

Are we replacing Pitchfork tomorrow? No.

Will another site become the new Bandcamp?

Probably not.

But why have we become compliant little pawns in all this?

Are we so powerless to change the current situation that we sit back and hope somebody else fixes everything?

And then what? That person will sell the company to a Nabisco+Tide hedge fund subsidiary, and we’ll be back where we started.

Maybe centralized kingdoms of power and influence aren’t the answer.

Local music scenes seem to get along without local press, huh?

Gallery openings keep happening with zero coverage from local media.

I’ve seen individuals host creative Zoom sessions with 45+ people spanning several time zones.

I see artists speaking directly with their fans with reliable email lists, selling tickets and albums in the process.

Now imagine if all these pockets of culture and art and magic started organizing and working together.


Today, I want to talk about feelings. Specifically, the feeling that you want your people to have when they get an email from you or see something you wrote online.

When I got the idea to start posting metal trivia on Twitter in 2011, I knew I wanted people to feel stoked when answering metal trivia questions on Twitter.

See, I could ask a question like, “in what year did Metallica’s ‘… And Justice For All” come out?” and the answer would be 1988.

But I thought about it, and no one gets excited yelling “1988” in line at the grocery store or hitting reply while at a show.

Could you imagine a heavy metal trivia show on TV in the mid 90s and contestants yelling out 1988? No way.

So I asked, “This ‘bass-less’ Metallica album came out in 1988.”

And I could imagine people excitedly tapping their phones and replying, “AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!” This led to people talking about the production of that album, discussing their favorite song, or talking about Cliff Burton (sorry, non-metalheads, if I lost you here haha).

Now, reverse engineer all this for whatever creative project you’re producing.

How do you describe what you’re doing in a way that would make someone feel something?

Say you’ve got a book tour coming up.

  • Instead of “BOOK TOUR ANNOUCEMENT,” your subject line could be “Will I see you in Boston? New Haven? What about Providence?”
    Wait, what? My favorite author is coming to Boston? The New England area?! That’s where I am – I better click!
  • Instead of “I have a new course,” say, “If you want to learn how to write a month’s worth of newsletters in one sitting, sign up for my new course.”
    People want to save time and make money and make an impact – make them FEEL that.
  • Instead of “join my sci-fi community,” say “we’re debating the best / worst sci-fi movies in our Discord and you should join us.”
    People have thoughts about sci-fi movies. I have a sci-fi tattoo. People don’t get tattoos that say COMMUNITY (unless they’re big fans of Dan Harmon, I guess).
  • Instead of “come see me at the market next week,” maybe say “my favorite things about setting up at the local market.”
    Sure, you’ll be selling at the market. But talk about all the things people love about markets – the food, the smells, the people, the dogs!

You don’t have to outrun a bear; you just have to outrun your friends.

You need to outrun people writing bland subject lines and boring social media posts. You just need to get people to feel something when they get your emails or visit your website.

Stop being precious and “trust the wildness in your heart.” Get a little wild, or loud, or weird. It’s how you’ve built a following, an audience, an email list.

”Your readers have signed up to go on the ride you decide for them. Be bold and lead the way,” said Nishant Jain of The SneakyArt Post.

Be bold and lead the way, indeed.


Since we’re on social media less, we need to share the work of other artists and creative individuals in spaces like this. Enjoy.

“Creators talk about Instagram as a game, a conversation forever circling “gaming the algorithm.” But the game is less like monopoly and more like poker. The house always wins.”

From ‘Algorithm is Gonna’ Get You: How Instagram Failed the Creative Class’ by Danielle Evans.

“Every night after the house is quiet and our work is done for the day, we’ve been checking in to see the daily videos that photographer Noah Kalina has been creating since the start of January – have you seen any of them?”

From ‘Clearing the Snow and the Mind’ by PappasBland.

“Recently I was asked to do an interesting illustration job. I spend many hours cooking up a proper job proposal, as it was quite a project. I asked a really fair price for my work too. A week later I got an email saying they went with another illustrator, as my social media audience wasn’t big or fitting enough.”

From ‘Is Instagram holding me back?’ by Marloes De Vries.

On my USB, I have a folder for mail. Friends leave files in the mailbox. And then I go through the front door. There’s the TV. I have videos in the TV folder. I can go out and continue to the table where some PDFs are lying around. I go to the closet. There’s a suitcase that’s a zip file. It goes on and on”

From ‘Yatú Espinosa: USB Club’ by Naive Weekly.

“What does it tell us about progress if the most influential technological innovation of the century is clearly destroying lives on a massive scale?”

From ‘I Ask Seven Heretical Questions About Progress’ by Ted Gioia.