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Substack Introduces Three New Growth Features for International Writers

  • 11 min read

Win more paid subscribers from around the world.

I’ve started my Substack newsletter journey 13 months ago.

I also started sharing it publicly via YouTube.

One of my videos called “From 0 to 1,000 Subscribers: How I Grew My Substack Audience” has become a “hero video” on YouTube with 18K views and more than 550 thumbs up.

Since you can hear my German accent when you watch this trending video, I often receive emails from fellow online writers or book authors from Europe.

Two weeks ago, someone asked me a question that I am often asked:

“Do you know a (German-language) Substack-like service for writers and authors from Germany and/or Europe?”

Until this week, my short and sweet answer was:

“No.”

Things change quickly in the list builder game

Sustack is growing and improving.

I can share the exciting news: The newsletter platform Substack shipped an entire suite of new features that level up the Substack newsletter game.

  • Firstly, writers who are not native speakers and write in another language can set a default language for their Substack publication, for example, German.
  • Second, your readers can now pay for a subscription in their local currency (multi-currency pricing).
  • Third, subscribers can use four alternative payment methods (APMs) if they’re located in Europe.

I’d call all of the three above “growth features” since they help newsletter writers attract more free subscribers and convert paid subscribers from around the world.

In their official announcement, Substack states:

“We’re encouraged to see that new readers around the world are discovering writers and supporting them directly. We hope these new features will continue to foster those connections.”

As you can see below, the majority of my subscribers come from the United States.

photo credit: Kristina’s Newsletter; That’s what I see in my audience stats overview in my dashboard.

However, my newsletter, Kristina’s Newsletter, is read in 110 countries.

Especially a multi-currency feature is a big deal.

Here’s what you need to know right now about Substack’s new international “growth features”.

How to pick a default language for your Substack

As a Substack writer, you can now set your local language as default for your publication — depending on your target audience and the language you’re writing your newsletters.

For instance, if you’re from Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, Brazil, or Spain, you can now set up and publish your publication in any of these languages.

When a reader visits your publication “it’s as if the whole publication (besides the content you’ve written in English or a different language) will be in the translated language.”

Here’s an example from Elisa Pequini, a newsletter writer from Italy with “Gluten Free Trips” which has hundreds of paid subscribers:

photo credit: Elisa, a newsletter writer from Italy, with “Gluten Free Trips”: I subscribed to her to see what the experience in Italy looks like. I live gluten-free. I love this.

…at the bottom of her newsletter, you can read this:

photo credit: Elisa Pequini, a newsletter writer from Italy, with “Gluten Free Trips”: I subscribed to her to see what the experience in Italy looks like.

As for the reader experience, here’s what will automatically be translated:

  • subscribe buttons
  • navigation bar
  • subscription tiers and their benefits
  • paywalls in posts for paid subscribers
  • call to action buttons
  • password reset links
  • a pledge thank you email
  • payment confirmation email

Here’s an example of a confirmation email interface:

photo credit: example shared by Substack; Confirmation email in German instead of English.

To be honest, this could be sexier. For instance, I don’t know why there’s a clamp “)” in the call to action button “Bestätige Abonnement” (Confirm subscription).

In addition, as a newsletter writer for the German language, it would be great to decide whether I want to address my audience in a formal “Sie” (you) or an informal “du” (you).

Another writer from Brazil pointed out a bad translation. The word “link” is what they use for links in Brazil. Substack translated it as “ligaÇÃo” which means “call”.

I guess within the next few weeks more and more writers will flag bad translations to improve the user experience.

If you read this post and decide to turn on your native language, you can reach out to Substack via their Help Center. They answer within two business days.

Here’s how to pick a default language for your publication:

  • Go to settings and basics
  • Scroll to “Language”
  • Pick your favorite language
photo credit: Kristina’s newsletter settings page.

Since my audience is primarily English-speaking, I selected “English” from the drop-down menu.

Here’s what will not be translated:

Substack will not translate something you’ve written in your voice.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you’ve changed the default welcome email for free and/or paid subscribers then you’ll have to decide in which language to address your subscribers.

In addition, customized polls, (subscribe) buttons and the text in your post will not be touched.

As for the writer experience, I also like that…

  • your publication’s dashboard will be translated, meaning the publication’s settings page as well as the subscribers dashboard.
photo credit: example Substack stats page in German. The translation is okay. Could be more engaging though.

How to let your readers pay in their local currency

Readers can now pay for a subscription plan using their local currency.

There are 13 different currencies available.

Depending on where your reader is located, Substack automatically suggests paying in the currency of their home country.

If you’ve already enabled the paid button (as I did a few days ago), multi-currency pricing is set by default.

I have three tiers.

One for free subscribers, one for monthly, and one for yearly subscriptions.

My annual subscription plan is set at $70 and my monthly plan at $7.

photo credit: Kristina God subscription plan backend.

When readers from Germany subscribe to my Substack publication and land on my publication’s plan page, they’ll have the option to select a monthly, annual, or free plan.

If someone from Germany wants to become a paid subscriber, instead of dollars, euros is what the user sees:

photo credit: Kristina God’s publication’s plan page

The multi-currency pricing is set by default for paid newsletters.

However, if you want to opt out, you can change it in your settings under “Payments”:

photo credit: Kristina God; I checked localized pricing.

As you can see, localized pricing for my publication is now available for the following locations:

  • AUD (shown in Australia)
  • CAD (shown in Canada)
  • CHF (shown in Switzerland and Liechtenstein)
  • DKK (shown in Denmark, Greenland, and Faroe Islands)
  • EUR (shown in 20 Eurozone countries)
  • GBP (shown in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)
  • MXN (shown in Mexico)
  • NOK (shown in Norway, Bouvet Island, Svalbard, and Jan Mayen)
  • NZD (shown in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, and Pitcairn)
  • PLN (shown in Poland)
  • SEK (shown in Sweden)
  • USD (shown in the United States)

The benefits of multi-currency pricing:

In my opinion, multi-currency pricing is a serious opportunity for growth in the newsletter game.

From my experience, it can increase sales conversion.

Why?

International exchange rates are known for their continuous fluctuations.

Here’s an example for dollars and euros:

photo credit: Google; $ and EUR

At the moment, $1 equals 0.92 EUR. This could change at any second.

Quick example, I pay $5 per month to be part of the Medium Partner Program (MPP). When my credit card is billed, the amount charged varies from month to month.

In addition, there are foreign currency conversion fees to pay.

Here’s another aspect to keep in mind.

Did you know that about 17% of potential customers abandon their shopping cart at the last minute when the total costs are unclear?

Pricing in a foreign currency is part of this.

From a customer perspective, the above-mentioned pain points can feel frustrating.

That’s why it’s great Substack now lets us charge our potential subscribers in their local currency.

How to let your readers pay with alternative payment methods

If a reader who comes from Europe wants to upgrade their subscription and become a paid subscriber he now has four alternative European payment methods to choose from — besides direct debit or the bank’s payment portal:

  • iDEAL
  • Bancontact
  • Sofort
  • SEPA direct

When readers select a tier, they can click either “Card” and enter their credit card details manually or choose from the four alternative payment methods.

photo credit: Kristina God; Subscribers can now choose an alternative payment method.

Depending on the nation in which you registered your Stripe account, there will be Stripe fees (usually $0.30 per transaction fee) associated with these payment options.

If you enable multi-currency pricing, Stripe may apply a 1% to 2% fee if currency conversion is required.

To get a clearer picture, Substack shared the fees for a US Stripe account:

iDEAL: 80¢

Bancontact: 1.4% + 30¢

Sofort: 1.4% + 30¢

SEPA Direct: 0.8% + 30¢ capped at $6.00. Stripe charges $10.00 for failed or disputed SEPA Direct Debit payments.

If you want to enable alternative payment methods…

  • go to your publication’s settings page
  • Scroll to “Local payment methods”
  • check the box

You can also turn them off if you’d prefer to just accept credit or debit card payments for new subscribers:

photo credit: Kristina God; Settings page with local payment methods for Europe.

The benefits of the alternative payments feature:

I love that Substack is writer-centric and always ships features that support us.

Now readers can pay you with their preferred payment method.

Of course, Substack as a company only earns money if we do (10% fee), so they already tested this feature with a small group:

“Early findings from our testing of these local payment options are extremely encouraging, indicating an 85% relative increase in paid conversion rates when made available.”

I think an 85% increase is a big deal in the list builder game.

From my 17+ years of experience as a marketing manager in international companies, I know that providing customers with various payment options is crucial and boosts paid subscriptions.

What Substack could do better

From a marketing perspective, the three new features are a smart addition to the product.

I love that all new features are writer-centric targeting to potentially earn more money by attracting and gaining more paid subscribers from around the world.

In addition, the entire suite will help Substack maintain a competitive edge in the market.

Of course, there are things Substack could do better for instance in regard to translation or adding more alternative payment methods.

Plus, for bilingual articles, it would be great to give the subscribers the possibility to switch the language.

In the newsletter, you have to choose one language, but at the bottom of the article, you could add a link.

I’ll share more in an upcoming article.

Bottom Line

I’ve already seen great results from growth features such as recommendations or Substack Notes.

Through recommendations, I gained 1,000 subscribers.

photo credit: Kristina God; Recommendations overview shows 161 publications are recommending me and I gained 1K subscribers from Substack’s recommendations engine.

Via Substack Notes, fellow Medium and Substack writer David McIlroy grew his publication “How to Write for a Living” to over 1,400 subscribers in under two months.

Moreover, I already know from an interview with a Substack insider that they’ll ship some more brilliant new (growth) features in 2024.

All in all, I think Substack’s new suite of features can be powerful and boost paid subscribers.

To come back to my initial anecdote.

If someone now asks me if there’s a Substack-like service for writers and authors from Germany and/or Europe, I’d say:

“Look no further, Substack now offers you the possibility to customize the reading experience to your local needs!”.

This is a huge opportunity not only for writers with an international audience but also for writers with a national audience who want to monetize their words.


📈 Before you go… Want to start, grow, and monetize your newsletter?

Join Kristina’s newsletter and a vibrant community of 3,800 like-minded people here.

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