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The State of Karlstack: Subscription Drive
"Give me money. Money me! Money now! Me a money needing a lot now."
By all accounts, Karlstack is booming.
I am coming off the most successful story of my Substack career, spanning 11 different articles of dogged coverage culminating in me giving a lecture at Stanford University.
Readership is growing strong, with nearly 6,000 free subscribers, and accelerating.
And yet, paid subscriptions have plateaued below 200.
This temporary plateau can be attributed to two primary factors:
In the past few months, I deliberately scaled back my Substack articles to dedicate my full attention to preparing for my Stanford speech. Throughout my entire life, I grappled with a fear of public speaking, and I was determined to conquer this apprehension and crush it on the big stage. I achieved that goal, but it came at the expense of my productivity as a writer.
During the year 2022, as I experienced rapid growth in paid subscribers, I frequently placed articles behind paywalls. However, in 2023, I significantly reduced this practice. Looking ahead to 2024, I intend to reintroduce paywalls for a more substantial portion of my content.
Rarely do I spell it out, but I have a pregnant stay-at-home mom for a wife. We do things this way because we believe it’s best for our kids. That means I’m the only earner. I can’t work for free, although freedom is the goal.
The oldest reference to liberty is the ancient cuneiform symbol “ama-gi.” It appeared on a Sumerian tablet dated to c. 2400 B.C. In its most literal sense, it means freedom from debt or slavery, release from the yoke of another. For a writer, and not to bash editors because we all need them whether we admit it or not, that is the possibility of Substack—freedom. The rare opportunity to make a living by writing what we really think, doing what we love, with total independence.
I’m close enough to that goal with Substack it hurts. If everyone who opened and read this became a paid subscriber, I would be there tomorrow and could stop juggling four things and focus all my attention and efforts on one thing: Contra.
I’m on Substack to make a living as a writer. But I also write because I love to hear from readers about how the things I write affect them.
So please, if you’ve read this far, consider becoming a paid subscriber today. It helps me inch toward my goal of freedom, it helps me support my family, it helps me produce more and better content on Contra, and it would mean a lot to me.
He’s asking you to become a paid subscriber for his family (‘‘Rarely do I spell it out, but I have a pregnant stay-at-home mom for a wife’’), and for freedom (‘‘The rare opportunity to make a living by writing what we really think, doing what we love, with total independence’’).
‘‘I’m close enough to that goal with Substack it hurts.’’
Although I'm not supporting a pregnant spouse, I'm tantalizingly close to absolute freedom. As many of you are aware, I've embarked on a journey across the globe, sustaining myself through writing. My travels have taken me to various places, starting with six months in Mexico, where I learned that Mexico has its downsides:
Next, I spent six weeks in Calgary, where I indulged in hiking the majestic Rocky Mountains:
Then, I went to Montreal for another six weeks, featuring this stunning picture from the peak of Mount Real, the city's namesake:
After summer in Canada, I left for Europe, where I now live indefinitely.
My initial stop was six weeks in a quaint town in Dorset, England.
During my time in Dorset, I had the opportunity to write a feature on the Bibby Stockholm for TAC, which you can read here:
When I finally went to see the barge, I couldn’t get very close. It was surrounded by 15-foot metal fencing and two sets of gates guarded 24/7. So I climbed a nearby hill to get a better view. On my climb up this hill, I spoke to roughly ten passing hikers about the barge. None of them seemed concerned about demographic replacement, but they each found it puzzling and infuriating that there would be 500 young men housed there with no women or children. That was universally their number one concern: they would find the barge much, much more palatable if there were women and children onboard.
Following Dorset, I embarked on a week-long hiking adventure in Tuscany:
I then spent six weeks in Rome, where I am currently situated. After Rome, I'll be spending December in Greece, followed by January in Turkey.
My Travel Secret
Now, you might wonder how I afford to live in places like Dorset, known for its high cost of living, on a Substack and freelancer income. It would cost several thousand Euros to rent a place there for 6 weeks.
The answer lies in getting creative. To be transparent, I confess that this summer and fall, I occasionally pet-sat dogs and cats in exchange for free accommodation. For instance, my stay in Dorset would have cost me thousands of dollars, but instead, I paid nothing, and as a bonus, I got to have a cat.
I am not petsitting anymore—mostly because there aren’t any petsitting opportunities available in the Mediterranean—but the Mediterranean is so affordable that I can live in cheap Airbnbs indefinitely. That's why I'm heading to Turkey and Greece next, where I can rent beautiful seaside condos without straining my budget.
Nevertheless, even with the low cost of living in Greece and Turkey, living solely on a Substack and freelancer salary can be challenging, especially if I plan to reside in a first-world country, or choose an Airbnb that's not the cheapest option available. Therefore, I'll need to reach 200 subscribers at some point. So, please consider becoming a paid subscriber to help fund my quest for freedom and my travel dreams:
Beyond supporting my dreams and the promise of future paywalls, there's a third reason to support my work—I deliver results.
Support Independent Investigative Journalism
Independent media often struggles to be part of the conversations that shape society. Karlstack stands out as an exception, whether it's bitchslapping Yale at Stanford or having my work featured in the New York Times, New Yorker, Huffington Post, Bloomberg, Coindesk, Blockwork & Slatestarcodex.
Many of my articles could only be published on Substack — I still firmly believe that Substack is the future of media and that the platform will continue to grow.
Here are some examples showcasing the impact of my journalism on Substack:
Elevating Helen Grus's fundraising campaign from $13,000 to over $47,000.
I shut down the Ford Foundation Fellowship
Influencing retractions at JF, JFE, and AER
Sending Avraham Eisenberg to jail
My coverage of Lisa Cook was featured on Tucker Carlson and debated in the US Senate
Tomorrow, I am headed on a cruise with my parents. Since they are retired and I'm in Europe, it's a perfect opportunity to spend quality time with them. So for the next 12 days, I'll mostly be away from the keyboard, relaxing on a boat.
I might put out 1-2 articles that are already in the pipeline, but don’t expect much.
Upon my return (or more accurately, when the cruise docks in Greece, where I plan to stay), I'll be going goblin-mode and diving headfirst into writing as many articles as humanly possible in 2024. These articles will be available behind paywalls on my Substack, on other Substacks, in The American Conservative, and in various other freelance outlets. I'm actively seeking more freelance opportunities, so if you're an editor, please reach out to me at email@example.com. I'm eager to write for you on a consistent basis rather than as a one-time endeavor.
If you're reading this, I genuinely appreciate your support as a paid subscriber. I understand that asking for financial support isn't always easy, I hate asking for money, but reaching 200 paid subscribers is crucial for me to continue pursuing my dreams… Especially if I want to support a family one day.
Your support means the world to me.