Why I Blog on Medium.com and How You Can Too by Marilyn Flower
Blog, moi? I don’t even have a website, let alone something new to say on a regular basis.
Or do I?
I kept hearing that blogging is a good way to develop an audience prior to publication of a book, in my case, a novel.
But I don’t have a website or an email server. Shouldn’t I wait?
After all, why put up my few great ideas and not have a way to capture readers and lure them to a website via an email newsletter. I’d be… the metaphors that come to mind are sexual… let’s just say…putting the cart before the horse.
Yet lots of writers with books in all stages of pre and post-production are happily blogging away on Medium, creating a following with and without email servers and their own websites.
Using Medium.com to Create A Following
In the spirit of me, too, the more I checked it out, the more tempted I was to try Medium.com. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? I create some followers, make a few pennies, and get lots and lots of writing practice.
In the spirit of every little bit helps, I got started.
At first, I didn’t post my own writing. I joined Medium.com for $5 a month (or $60 a year) so that I could read more than three posts at a time. Then I started reading, clapping, and commenting.
Clapping is like “liking” on other forms of social media. And you can clap up to 50 times for the same piece by holding the key down while the numbers roll up.
When you clap for a post, you become a fan of the writer. They or ahem, we, get paid based on our fans. With some complex algorithms, they divide up the subscription money pot among the writers based on the numbers of fans.
I’ve heard tell that if you clap a lot, the value of each clap goes down. I’ve never “run out” of claps, so I don’t worry about it.
How I Started on Medium.com
I started out by commenting, which turned out to be community building. I even got claps for some of my comments. I started following people and they started following me. This is important as you’ll see.
One of the writers I follow is Shanta Grimes, a middle grade children’s book author who has several publications on Medium and an online writing school, Ninja Writers. Since I follow and adore her stories, I signed up for her “Blogging on Medium” class.
This was a good fit because in addition to workshopping the draft blog posts of us eight students, she walked us through all the steps to posting (headlines, photos, text, subheads and bios), creating our own publications, and how to send letters — Medium.com generated emails to our publication followers — which is why you might want to create your own publication.
Some How-To About Medium.com
If it sounds complicated, bear with me.
And Medium writers have written posts with step-by-step instructions that include screenshots showing us how to do these things.
Some examples here on best formatting and making money on Medium.
Medium writers love to write about writing and posting on Medium.
You could almost say to a fault because those posts don’t qualify to be distributed by Medium — something they call curation — but they get huge amounts of reads and claps so it’s worth it — for them and for us.
On Medium there are lots of posts/articles for every function you can do complete with step by step screenshots.
Plus, Shaunta demonstrated all the functions on her computer in our zoom call class—so much so that we ended up doing more how-to than workshopping. That’s because our writing skills soared above our tech skills, and Shaunta’s great at fitting the class to the student’s needs and questions.
Our class was co-taught by Shaunta and another successful Medium blogger, Shannon Ashley. Together they not only gave us feedback on our articles, but made suggestions about headlines, subheads, formatting and self-promotion.
Medium makes self-promotion to social media easy
Medium makes self-promotion to social media easy. When you publish your work, you get a pop-up page offering to post your link to your Twitter and Facebook accounts. There’s also a friend share link for your articles so that you can manually post on social media without your readers hitting the three article free reads limit known as the pay wall. Nice!
What To Post
You can post anything you like of any length or genre, including poetry, fiction, short and flash. The longest piece I’ve seen is a 40-minute read. Each post tells readers how long it takes to read. My calculations show that 214 words is a minute of reading time.
When you post a piece, you get to tag it. You can have up to five tags and do use all five. These are topics. You can make up your own or use the bar at the top of the home page to scan the broad categories Medium uses to organize curated posts. These include art, fashion, games, spirituality, religion, self, writing, business, a ton of tech categories, sexuality, relationships, music, sports, politics, and lots more.
Within each topic are more tags. When you select a tag, it tells you how many posts are in that tag or topic, so you know how big the competition, or the interest is.
I use both big and small tags. I like being a big fish in a small pond. I’ll be easier to spot. The trade-off is fewer readers.
My Tribute Post to Pat Conroy
I wrote a post that is a tribute to the late writer, Pat Conroy. I call it Damn it Pat Conroy! You Make me Want to be a Better Writer:
Here’s the no-paywall friend link:
Damn it Pat Conroy! You Make me Want to be a Better Writer – https://medium.com/humor-authenticity-magic/damn-it-pat-you-make-me-want-to-be-a-better-writer-efca0723f4b4?source=friends_link&sk=56b52a49fbd04abb9001c79254515e6b
That tag is small, meaning not many posts listed under it.
Everyone who clicks on it will find my piece.
Not so with topics like writing or sexuality, as even curated pieces recede from view eventually, all being posting in chronological order.
Once you post a piece, it’s up for curation consideration.
We like that. We want that. It means Medium circulates it beyond our personal followers and publications. It gets more views.
This may or may not translate into more reads and claps. A read means a viewer has looked at the piece for the posted reading time, listed in minutes.
Medium keeps all kinds of stats up down and sideways and you can click on them easily. The trick is to not become a stat-checking junky, but to use the metrics to note patterns which help us make good decisions about what and how to write that can maximize our readership.
Some writers have special niches. I have a few topics I return to over and over, including writing, humor, poetry and addiction recovery, and more recently the importance of having a good cry. But I am all over the map, following my heart and using suggested Ninja Prompts as well.
You’ll see both kinds of writers on Medium—nichers and generalists. Not sure if one is more lucrative than the other, but I’m not the kinda gal who settles down into just one grove.
For me, the money comes in slowly, but it comes in.
Curated pieces often make a little more or a lot more than non-curated pieces, but not always. Lots of views and reads does not always mean lots of claps. My first week I made an impressive $5.
I’m sure this is because I was in the class and my mentors helped make my first post excellent, including coming up with the kind of headline that brings in readers on Medium. Hint–it’s more didactic than poetic—darn!
The piece, How I lost $1800 in a Phone Scam was curated in Self (a topic) and invited to appear in a publication called The Start Up. I was thrilled!
Here’s the share a friend link:
How I lost $1800 in a Phone Scam – https://medium.com/swlh/how-i-lost-1800-00-in-a-phone-scam-1d68238ac094?source=friends_link&sk=c31090c852648a1179651935f307febe
My first full month I made $32. Now I’m up to around $50 a month. So, it’s growing geometrically for me, as I still get paid when someone reads and claps on an older post. Kind of like selling one’s backlist.
And income grows exponentially for writers with more experience, effort and skills. My mentors Shaunta and Shannon make very nice full-time incomes on Medium, in part because they treat it like a full-time job, posting multiple times a day. They’ve also been at it for a long time and have built up quite a following.
I won’t say a lot about publications here but suffice it to say Medium has several of its own, which is a good place to be, and there are lots of individual and group run publications. Some just feature the writing of their founder. And some invite submissions.
Here are two links, one on how to create your own publication on Medium, and one on their publications which accept submissions from new writers:
I have been published in Happy Space Cats and A Few Words as well as The Start Up.
Once you’ve placed a piece in a publication you are considered one of their writers and you can submit any time according to their guidelines.
And you can start your own publication, one or many. It’s easy to do and you can create your own categories to organize your pieces.
My publication is called, Humor! Authenticity! Magic! HAMing it up with Marilyn. You can check it out here: https://medium.com/humor-authenticity-magic.
Medium.com: A Training Ground
For a serious writer, there is no getting around having your own website and email server. But for me, Medium is a good training ground. They permit folks to embed links in their bio. Email sign up forms are allowed in the body of texts, but they don’t curate pieces with them. You can embed a link to your website in your bio which goes at the bottom of all your posts.
Most writers do both, have some pieces with and some without the self-promo links.
My one mentor, Shaunta, has built up a huge personal email list from her work on Medium as well as a substantial income.
My other mentor, Shannon, made $13,000 on Medium in June 2019 and there are folks who make a lot more. However, only 7% of bloggers make over $100 a month. I am determined to be one of them by the end of 2019.
My starting fear was running out of ideas about what to write. I’m finding that one thing leads to another — leads to another idea. Several Medium publications post regular writing prompts to engage our imaginations from fresh angles.
And there are some free online tools that help with that, in particular, a site where you can type in a topic and you’ll get a huge list of questions folks have Googled on that topic: https://answerthepublic.com.
There’s more to say but this is an overview to help you decide if this is an avenue to explore. While it’s a great community with a lot to offer, you can get hooked and distracted if this is not your main writing gig. So, proceed with caution, but proceed.
One Final Note
One final note: Medium.com is an ad-free community. There are no commercial sponsors advertising anything. And we writers cannot and do not sell or promote any of our personal books, products, or businesses. Doing so would get one excommunicated on the spot.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marilyn Flower writes fast fun reads with a touch of magical realism to strength the imagination of socially conscious folks. Clowning and improvisation strengthen her during these crazy times. She’s a regular columnist on Medium.com and for the prison newsletter, Freedom Anywhere. Five of her short plays have been produced in San Francisco.