Despite what my profile says, I’ve been publishing on Medium since October 2018. When I started, I had big dreams and even bigger expectations for what my journey to Medium success would be. Jessica Wildfire and John Gorman were the writers I wanted to emulate. Shannon Ashley just started to catch fire. I was learning tips and tricks about the platform from Tom Kuegler.
I had stars in my eyes. I also had blinders on.
After years of writing blog posts and ghostwriting, I thought I was already a very good writer, so all I had to do was follow the formula for success, and in a few months, I would be rolling in money. Shannon was already making thousands a month by this time, and she started a few months before me, so I thought if I worked hard and published a few viral pieces, I could get there too. I didn’t feel I was near the caliber of writer that Shannon was, but there was always room for someone like me, wasn’t there?
I wrote a lot, and following Tom’s advice, I started submitting work to publications. I had a few pieces that I was very proud of that got me in the door with The Ascent, The Startup, and Invisible Illness, and once I got in, I submitted everything I had, good or not. Some of it was rejected, but not a lot, so I thought I was on the right track.
I went all-in with the publications, and things were going great for a while. But Christmas 2018 passed, and I wasn’t impressed with my progress. If I was going to make thousands in the next few months, something dramatic needed to happen.
But nothing did.
I questioned everything. The first thing I figured out was that my writing just wasn’t very good. Granted, I had a few pieces that were dynamite, but most of what I was writing was vanilla and boilerplate. There was no spark, no voice, no magic. Everything was dying on the vine because people weren’t connecting with my writing.
So I set out to improve. It was Jessica who left a comment that put me on the right path going in the right direction. From there, I worked hard every day to improve. I tried to make my voice stronger and add a little of myself in each piece. I absorbed the work of great writers both on Medium and off. I put more effort into improving my second and third drafts.
I set a goal to improve one thing about myself every single day.
But as much as my writing improved, my stats didn’t. I gave up the dream of shooting to Medium stardom overnight and stopped comparing myself to other writers. It wasn’t fair to Shannon or me that I tried to compare my journey with hers, and it was hurting my motivation and self-worth.
The curation process was getting stricter, and most of my pieces weren’t getting curated. My stats were not moving the direction I wanted to go, which was up. Even after I had a great month in July 2019 because my story in Human Parts was featured on the homepage, my numbers returned to the same dismal baseline they had been sitting on before.
Most concerning was that the pieces I was submitting to the publications were tanking worse than my self-published ones. Just about that time I got some very bad advice that I embraced because I trusted the person and I didn’t know what else to do, and the changes I made because of it would be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I stopped publishing in publications. Completely. As in, everything I sent out was self-published.
The next few months should have been steady, slow growth, but all they were was a backslide into oblivion. I still wasn’t getting curated, and now I wasn’t even getting a boost from the pubs because I had forsaken them.
But, I stuck with my plan stubbornly to see if it would turn around. It didn’t.
So I took stock of where I was. No curation. My stats were dead in the water. I had a deflated self-image, and my ego was bruised. Imposter syndrome crippled me, and even though I kept writing, my heart wasn’t in it.
I am not one to stagnate and sulk for long. I picked my pants up from around my ankles and set out to do something. The first thing I did was start pitching to the Medium-owned publications. I’m still trying to figure out what they are looking for because I haven’t scored another feature since my Human Parts masterpiece, but I am confident that I will get there.
The next thing I did was start getting work in the Medium partner pubs. Better Marketing was first. Niklas Göke first took a lot of my past work and published it; then, I have been submitting new work. Not all is accepted, but the ones that are always get curated and do very well in the stats department. I’ve also started publishing in P.S. I Love You and Mind Café. All three of these are great publications and a great place to turn if you are having trouble getting curated like I was.
Now I am working on testing some of my old friends like The Startup and Invisible Illness. If I have a piece that doesn’t fit in the Medium-owned or the partner pubs, I will be putting them with these.
It’s still early to tell, but at least my curation rate went up. I know if I can get a few pieces featured in one of the Medium pubs, I will get a boost, but the real test will come in the long term.
I look forward to seeing my numbers go up even with the new Medium Partner Program payment system. I know not publishing in publications hurt me terribly, and it may take a few months to shake things out, so I have to be patient and put in the work.
If I have any advice to give in terms of success on Medium, it would be:
- Publish in Medium-owned publications
- Publish in partner publications
- Publish in as many publications you can
- Just publish
I cringe at trying to offer more because I haven’t proven myself Medium-successful yet, but I have done things the wrong way and have learned from that.
For some reason, I always have to learn the hard way.
This story was not curated. If you write and publish on Medium, you know what that means — a quick death. If not, it just means that it won’t be promoted to other readers on Medium.
But it doesn’t always have to be like this, and this is where I add value to your life. It works like this:
We all write free content for Medium. They don’t pay for it. The money we pay to be members is more than enough to pay the writers who are making money. In return for us writing millions of words of free content and paying the writers who engage with the readers (us again), Medium forbids us from adding any more than a simple text link to the bottom of posts to promote ourselves.
If you do everything right, you get curated.
I have no problem with that. I’ve been with Medium for over a year-and-a-half, and I absolutely fricking love that they gave me a platform to earn and share my writing. I tell everyone I know to join Medium and start writing.
But, if I don’t get curated, my stories die. I don’t earn. The only traffic I get comes in is from Google, and if the people they are sending are not Medium subscribers, I don’t get paid.
But Medium benefits greatly. Every time we bring eyeballs onto the platform, Medium gains authority and in turn, members. They also get income from writers paying them for exposure by featuring them in publications and other places on Medium, even if they aren’t members. It’s a great business model.
I thank Medium for giving me the platform, and I respect them, especially when they curate me and my stories live on.
So Medium, I love you, and if you curate me, I will follow the rules and only put a small text link to my newsletter at the bottom.
But, if I am not curated, I am going to use my work to promote myself and my brand.
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