I’m an old-new writer on Medium. I started on the platform waaaaaay back in 2016 when it was free… and didn’t seem to have so many benefits for a writer like me who just wanted to get their writing in front of an audience, compared with say, WordPress. WordPress was the place to be back then and, while you couldn’t monetise as such (unless you had a self-hosted site), there was a huge community of readers and bloggers.
You can see from the infographic why writers wouldn’t necessarily have bothered with Medium as a platform in 2016. I certainly didn’t. I tinkered, sure, and set up an RSS feed from Medium to my blog, then disabled it and let my Medium profile gather dust for three years.
So. I blogged on my own website, got a few eyeballs on my work, bundled up posts and self-published them as collections on Amazon to crickets and tumbleweeds. Expecting that people would be wowed by my writing and make me a gazillionaire, I was disappointed to discover I’d missed the KDP goldrush by a couple of years — but that’s another story.
I’m 99.9% sure the same thing has happened on Medium. I’ve missed an opportunity. I’m back, baby, but this ain’t Kansas anymore. The game has changed and it’s really hard to figure out what the rules are. I can’t get a foothold because I was an early adopter, and then I wasn’t. Now I’m part of the late majority, and I’ve missed the boat. Again.
I came back to Medium because I wanted to bypass the whole pitching process to online magazines and literary journals. It’s tiring, time-consuming and takes oh, so long to get an answer. I wanted an audience, but I also wanted to get around the gatekeepers, who are often subjective and elitist and mostly non-responsive (but online magazines and literary journals have criteria, so you know where the goalposts are, more or less).
Medium seems egalitarian, but this whole curation thing blows and is essentially a crap shoot. It’s like waiting to get picked for a high school sports team: you get picked because you are known to the curators (i.e. have been on the platform for long period of time) and/or they apply their subjective measuring stick of attractiveness and value (to suit the algorithm). It’s subjective and elitist in its own way — exactly what I wanted to avoid.
Your story might not be curated even if it has not been disqualified by any of these criteria. Reasons for this include curators’ individual quality judgment and a writer’s past curation acceptance. (There is no “best time to publish.” Posts are not eliminated from review because of publish time.) Quality is inherently subjective, and we’re constantly working to improve our consistency. We conduct regular quality assessments of our curators’ work for this reason.
I thought a story about my expat anxiety would be curated. Nope. A story about disliking visitors who come to see me in Vietnam didn’t make the cut either. Ditto a story about nearly dying on a press trip in Vietnam. Nothing, although that last one was in the queue for almost a week and I hoped and prayed and made all the offerings to the Medium gods that it would be curated, but nope. Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Really, Medium? What does is take for a girl to get curated around here?
Given that it’s highly unlikely I will ever be curated, the questions I have now are these:
- When I publish, do I even bother ticking the box and making my stories curatable given that I don’t seem to be on an inherently subjective curator’s radar?
- If I can’t seem to get my stories curated, do I keep submitting them, knowing that if I don’t, I could miss out on something going viral?
- I’ve heard that curation is no guarantee of story success, so am I better off just doing my own thing and not go down the curation path at all?
- Do I take myself out of the curation game entirely?
- Should I give Medium a big miss, and take my words somewhere less inherently subjective?
- Should I just try and SEO and AdSense the crap out of my blog instead? Or resurrect my self-publishing empire?
I do know that I’m not alone in my questions and observations about Medium. So why am I still here? It’s because of a whole bunch of maybes:
- Maybe something I write will go viral
- Maybe a big, fat publication will notice what I write and publish it
- Maybe I’ll make decent coin
- Maybe it’s better to be here as a writer than anywhere else at the moment
- Maybe Medium will change its approach to how it rewards writers
- Maybe curators will become inherently objective
- Maybe there’ll be a zombie apocalypse and publishing on Medium will be the least of my worries.
But it’s still gambling, pure and simple.
(And you’re right. I probably do have a case of sour grapes because I’ve not been curated yet. And I know this story won’t get curated because it’s about Medium. But that’s ok. I needed to vent.)