What you need to know going into Medium, even if you’re not a new writer.
I know a lot of writers. In fact, it often feels like just about everyone I know is a writer of some kind. And even if they don’t identify themselves as writers, I just see the writer in everyone.
I guess it’s an occupational hazard (of the best kind.)
As a result, I often find myself saying something along the lines of you know, you should be writing on Medium to people who are barely aware of what Medium is (even though they’ve read posts here, without even registering that they’re doing it) and the idea of being a blogger hasn’t ever crossed their minds.
It’s my first, knee-jerk reaction whenever someone I know is a good storyteller and at the very least has the makings of a decent writer (or already is an experienced writer) has some kind of financial need or wants a change in their work-life or is trying to earn a little extra for some goal or the other.
There’s a learning curve. But if you stick with it, I really think you can make some money. How much depends on what you put into it. But even $100 extra a month can make a difference in a lot of ways.
That extra $100 is your power bill. Or gas in your car. Or if you save it up for a year, it’s a vacation.
And if you’re a writer who’s been working and working and working without any real, tangible proof that this thing is ever going to go anywhere, that $100 a month can be the thing that keeps you going.
Also? It’s just a start. If you can get to $100 a month, there’s no reason why your income wouldn’t continue to grow if you continue to do the work. Maybe, eventually, it’s a different kind of life. You never know unless you try.
And then I start talking about that learning curve. I start telling them about what Medium is (for writers and for readers) and how to get started, and almost without fail, it happens.
Their eyes glaze. I’m telling you, I can feel the eye glaze happen, even when I’m talking to someone online and I can’t see them. I can feel their brains backing away and hear their inner voices issuing a stern warning. Back away, back away, this is way too complicated. We are not doing this. Retreat. Retreat.
I’ve decided that what I really need is a primer. Something I can point my friends to when I get to that intrigue point. Or at least something I can use myself so that I don’t overwhelm them with too much information all at once.
This is a starting point. What I think you need to know if someone has just told you that you should be writing on Medium and you’ve never even heard of the place and have no idea at all what they’re talking about.
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For readers, Medium is a place to read a huge variety of blog posts by a wide, wide range of writers.
Medium is a subscription-based platform for readers. They charge $5 per month and insure an ad-free, sales-free experience for readers. They also curate posts, so that when you read here you’re offered up quality, well-written posts on topics that are important to you.
For writers, Medium is a blogging platform similar to WordPress or Blogspot.
It’s hosted, which means that someone else is managing the backend. All you have to do is write and publish. You don’t deal with design or HTML or any of that. Medium is a massive platform with a lot of readers, so there’s some built-in audience that I’ll talk more about in a minute.
Medium is free for writers. You don’t even have to be a paid reader to write here, although it’s highly recommended. It’s just good karma since other writers are paid out of your subscription fee.
Yes. You always own your work when you publish on Medium. You can post elsewhere, sell your work to another publication, put it in an ebook, or use it in any other way you see fit.
Nope. Some people have them and they cross-post their work — posting on their own websites and then also on Medium — but it’s not necessary or required.
If you’re building a business or a platform, you may find a benefit to having a website. If your goal is just to blog and earn some money, only writing on Medium may be sufficient.
For what it’s worth, I have a website, but I don’t post my blog posts there. I only blog on Medium. I use my website to host information about my books, workshops, and other Ninja Writers programs.
Anything you want. Seriously, take a look around Medium. There are a ton of topics and people writing on just about every single topic. The post below has my method for figuring out exactly what you should be writing about.
How to Know What to Write About (Including my Secret Sauce)
A 4-step plan for starting a daily blogging habit.
Yes. Medium does not have any requirement for you to be approved or accepted. You can just sign up and start writing. The key is finding your people. If you’re consistent, the people who are interested in what you’re interested in will find you.
The same way any blogger does. Share your post link on social media. Use keywords in your title so that you’ll get some Google love.
People can also follow your account on Medium. And if you create a publication — consider that a website within Medium’s larger website — they can follow that as well. You can reach out via email to your publication followers to let them know you have a new post.
You can read more about creating a publication here:
A Guide to Starting a Medium Publication
What they are, why they matter, and how to do it.
This is where Medium has some advantage over having your own website, though, and where there’s some learning curve. Medium will share your posts with some of their extensive reader base if you meet their curation guidelines and a curator decides it’s worth sharing.
Curators are live people, not an algorithm. That means it’s a subjective system. Sometimes you write a post that fully meets the guidelines and it’s still not curated and you don’t get to know why. Is that frustrating? Oh yes. But it is what it is.
My experience is that curation is possible. You might hear otherwise from people who are not being curated at all or as often as they’d like to be. A few months ago I did a little experiment with opening a second account under an anonymous name to see if I’d be curated there as easily as I am on this account. I wanted to know if I’d just got in early and had some kind of privilege tied to that.
My posts on that anonymous account were curated at about the same rate as my posts here. So, if you learn how to write to Medium’s aesthetics, you shouldn’t have a problem getting them on board with promoting at least some of your work.
Remember that Medium is a platform, but it’s also a publisher. You can publish anything you want, but they won’t promote everything that’s published here.
If you’re not curated, it’s not the end of the world. Medium will make your post available on your profile. They’ll show your work to your followers via their front pages.
The problem comes if you’re a brand new writer on Medium and you’re not curated at some point in the first several posts. At some point, Medium seems to stop sending your posts to curators all together. They assume that you’re not writing at a professional level and because they have limited resources (human curators and their time) your posts aren’t considered anymore.
You don’t want that to happen.
In my experience, when that happens to someone who is a decent writer it’s almost always because someone didn’t read and understand the curation guidelines. They broke the rules because they didn’t know them. The most common violations are writing posts that are part of a series (Medium will never curate these) or not citing every single photo (even those that you don’t think need citation.)
Clickbait titles are also a reason posts will be passed for curation. The content of the post must deliver on the promise of the title. This is the one that I struggle with sometimes. Clickbait isn’t about being sensational. It’s about telling readers you’re going to write one thing and then actually giving them something else.
The $5 that readers pay to subscribe to Medium is paid to writers based on the time they spend reading each writer’s posts.
You create a Stripe account, which allows you to be paid directly into your bank account. It takes about five minutes to get signed up and is very secure. Unfortunately not every country has access to Stripe, so not everyone can write on Medium for pay.
Click the link below to get signed up to write behind the paywall, which you need to do to get paid.
A Place to Publish your Best Work
The internet should reward quality thinking, not clickbait. That's why we've created a better home for writers...
Once you’ve done that, all you need to do is write and publish something. Every evening around 9 p.m. Eastern, Medium lets all of its writers know how much they earned that day.
To find out how much you earned, click your picture in the upper right corner of your screen, then ‘Medium Partner Program.’ You’ll get a screen that shows you all kinds of data, including how much you’ve made during the month, up to and including that day (if the pay has been updated.)
The very best advice I can give you is to spend some time reading. (By the way, this is the same advice I’d give you no matter where you were trying to break in as a writer.)
Just because you can jump in with both feet cannonball-style and just go for it willy nilly, doesn’t mean that’s the best idea. Even if you’re an experienced writer, your chances are higher of accidentally getting yourself in a situation where Medium curators stop looking at your work. And you’re also prohibited from taking old posts down and republishing them, so once you’ve posted, that’s pretty much it for that work.
So the number one best practice is to slow your roll a little bit and read. Take a look at the page for the topic you’re interested in. You can find those pages here. ALL of the posts you see when you look at any of those pages have been curated.
Reading those posts with the eye of a writer is a great idea. It helps you to see what the curators are looking for and get a good feel for the look and feel of the posts that Medium promotes to it’s paying readers.
Other than reading, here are a few more things you might want to do before you get started writing on Medium:
Once you’ve published your first post, the best thing to do is start writing another one.
I know that checking your stats — how many people are reading and clapping for your posts — is tempting. It’s addictive, even. But getting caught up in refreshing and refreshing and refreshing exhausts you time and energy that would be far better used actually writing.
So, post-publishing best practice #1 is this: limit the amount of time you spend looking at your stats. Check them in the morning and at night. Twice a day is enough, I promise.
Here are a few more best practices for after you start publishing:
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Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and two live Twitter chats: #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with TheRuralVA, Emilie Rabitoy) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with C. Streetlights and Judith Staff. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.
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