So many self-publishing platforms to choose from. Medium, WordPress, Substack. And Ghost. I choose Ghost and started writing things on the web five years ago.  

Growing up pre-Internet I had a pen pal in Ghana. I found potential pen pals in a comics magazine, wrote them a letter in a thin airmail envelope, three weeks later a letter from Ghana appeared in my mailbox.  Checked the world globe; where is Ghana? What is Africa? How do you get there?

I sent her a photograph of my family. She sent me a photograph of her family. I wrote about my day. What we had for dinner. Her day was very much like my day. School, homework, dinner, weekend. Maybe I could travel to Ghana one day to meet her?

Things have changed.

What was initially an idea of sharing knowledge freely in the academic world (Funded by the DARPA agency, I know, but anyway...) has been commercialized. And if it's free, yes, we're the product.

Ghost has a different business model

The idea of a platform (Substack, Medium, LinkedIn..) providing an initial audience was tempting when starting out. Until I remember the Internet operates according to The Long Tail. It's a steep drop, platforms love to brag about the revenues of the 2%, not the 98%.

The odds of my writing becoming the top 20% is..  not great. Possible yes, but not great. And if you're not top 2% the platform will more or less ignore you. So, I use Ghosts SEO features combined with social media and let my audience find me.

Illustration by Professor Jeffrey A Hart - Indiana University

You want to speak your mind and share your world - why should someone else profit from it? The legal entity behind Ghost is a non-profit foundation in Singapore. The developers are distributed globally, there is no office.

Our legal constitution ensures that the company can never be bought or sold, and one hundred percent of our revenue is reinvested into the product and the community.

Write for love and glory. To show someone a way - the way you wish you had known about. Make your readers stronger, smarter and the world a little bit better. Share your perspective on muffins, Ukraine, greyhounds, async requests or Michelle Pfeiffer.

Sorrows and frustrations, insights, life skills, sleepless nights and page after page in the notebook. A first draft, second draft, re-write, polish and updates.

Instead of handing over your readers desires and dreams to multi-national companies you can share your work freely and ask for an honest transaction of value from your readers, of which you can keep 100%.

Publishing with Ghost is aligned with the foundation of the Internet - a global network of ideas. This is where Ghost is fundamentally different.

Daily use

On top of this Ghost is also a joy to use on a daily basis. I can immerse myself in writing - adding media, links, images, audio, video, headers, tweets & music without getting frustrated or distracted.

Preview for desktop, mobile, Twitter, Facebook, Google and e-mail before publishing. Perfect for checking image, embedded content and headlines.

Memberships and Stripe payments

Ghost integrates with Stripe for payment processing when you have paying subscribers for your writing. Subscriber and member management are on three levels - public, members and paid-member.

Ghost access levels - public, member, paid member. 

Themes

The look-and-feel is managed by themes using the Handlebars templating system. Have a look at some themes on ThemeForest, Bironthemes and the official Ghost Themes

Creating a responsive theme for mobile, desktop and tablet is not for the faint of heart. I've tried and was humbled by the skills of front-end developers. The really nice thing about using Handlebars in Ghost themes the ability to make adjustments and tweaking an existing theme.

Handlebar tags for Ghost Templates

Analytics and integration

Wondering if anyone is reading your posts? Get Plausible.  I wrote a post on this privacy-first analytics platform replacing Google Analytics. No cookies, no GDPR-banner and no surveillance capitalism.

Privacy-first analytics using Plausible
Google Analytics is total overkill for most website owners. More importantly data is processed outside of the European Union. Austria, France, Denmark and Italy has ruled GA illegal - it breaks GDPR - more countries will follow. Plausible in comparison is an open-source privacy-by-design web analy…

You can get up and running by self-hosting Ghost on Digital Ocean, Amazon or Google Cloud - one click, done. If you're more of a humanist use the official hosted version  Ghost Pro  -  everything messy taken care of for a monthly fee and 14 days free trial. Including backups and always the latest release. Compare Ghost to other platforms here.

Today, five years after the launch of Ghost 1.0 there are also hundreds of integrations available for just about anything - mailing lists, automation, podcasts, e-commerce and SEO....

This post contains affiliate links, I get a commission if you sign up for a Ghost Pro account from this post. Thank you, really appreciate it.

Have fun!