For a long time, success as a magazine writer meant getting your name on the masthead. It signaled you had arrived. Readers followed you; your name sold copies—often to people you weren’t related to. The position usually came with a stipend that gave you a certain amount of financial security. And you could pursue the ideas and stories you wanted.

Yet over the past year a number of prominent writers have chosen to abandon such positions to self-publish on Substack, a newsletter-publishing platform. For some, Substack offers financial stability that’s been lost in publishing’s great contraction, as authors receive a sizable cut of the subscriber revenue they bring in.