A practical guide to writing on Medium, Part 3

ARCHIVES AND PUBLICATIONS

This is part of an occasional series giving you the inside scoop on getting the most you can from Medium. This one was inspired by a friend who asked me how to create a publication.

[NOTE: Most of this information can be found on the Medium Support Pages, but sometimes it’s hard to find, because you don’t phrase the question in a way Medium understands, or you don’t even know what question you need to ask.

In addition, some readers have pointed out that not all of the actions I’ve described work on mobile touch-screen devices. First, make sure you have downloaded the Medium app to get maximum functionality. Even at that point, you may find that some options are unavailable.]

The more articles your write on Medium, the more difficult it becomes to find them, or to help your readers find them.

To address this issue, Medium designed the profile page to contain everything you have ever done on the site, including stories, responses, and highlights. If you click on “see all,” you can scroll down through everything, just as you would if you wanted to scroll down on every post your ever made on Facebook. But this is a really cumbersome method, especially if you have written a large number of stories and comments, and want to find a specific story. There are two ways to solve this problem: post a catalog of your work at the top of your profile page, or build your own publication. (You may even want to do both.)

Archives

A CUSTOM POST THAT CATALOGS YOUR WORK

Individual writers have developed a work-around to this problem by creating a catalog of links to all of their stories in a single archive article. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a new story.
  2. Open each story you want to include in your archive and copy its URL from your browser bar at the top.
  3. Go back to your new archive story and hit return, so you get the plus sign, which indicates a new, totally empty line:

4. Paste your story URL into this space and then hit return. Your story link will look like this:

[NOTE: Medium apparently has updated their software interface, making this process much easier than before. Good job, coders!]

5. When you have finished building your catalog of stories, hit publish.

6. Use the “feature” option on your Profile page. (For beginners, click on your profile avatar and go down the pull down menu to click on “profile.”) On that page you will see that all of your articles have a downward pointing arrow (a “v”) just next to “responses” and the Bookmark icon. Click on the arrow and you get this option:

When you click on “Feature at the top of your profile,” your archive story will always stay in the same place. Easy peasy, right?

One more idea to get your work seen more easily…

My friend alto came up with a really good idea. He created a publication that contains the archive stories of many Medium writers at

If you’ve got a large enough catalog of stories, you can submit your archive post to be published along side everyone else.

Now, if you want to have even more control of how your organize and display your work, you may be ready to take it to the next level with…

Publications

YOUR CUSTOM WEB PAGE ON MEDIUM

Medium’s response to the thousands of requests to fix the problem with profiles has been to create a completely different organizing platform, the publication. Anyone can create a publication on Medium. It will give you a large set of design and organizational options to store and showcase your work.

Some people start publications where they showcase many different writers, organized along a specific theme or topic. If you’re really new and haven’t explored Medium’s publications, some of my favorites are Slackjaw (humor), Panel & Frame (comics, fantasy, sci-fi), Bill Simmons’ The Ringer (sports and pop culture), and Sobremesa (current events). For great fiction, check out The Coffeelicious, The Grimm Reaper, and The Weekly Knob. If you want to check out and support new writers, go over to 100 Naked Words. (You’re welcome, guys, you know where to send the checks.)

If you want to do be the publisher of a large multi-author publication, you can follow this guide to start your publication, and then you should go to the support page to answer all your specific questions about how to run a publication. There are 42 articles that should answer anything you could possibly ask:

For the scope of this article, I will help you start a publication, customize the look and then feature your own stories on it. The links will take you to the specific articles in Medium’s support section if you need more visual aids and more details.

Step 1: Create a new publication.

Click on your user profile. You will see a pull down menu that includes “Publications.” Click on the link and you fill find the Publications page. To the right of the bold Publications heading is a button “New publication” for you to click on, which takes you here:

Here’s what the New Publication page looks like. Obviously you will not name your publication Planet Earth.

The “New Publication page gives you spaces to name and describe your publication. You can also upload an avatar and logo. Follow the directions on the page to fill in any contact info you wish, and which tags you want to associate with your publication.

Step 2: Customize your layout.

Once you start the publication, they give you some simples choices for color and layout:

The choices above allow you to create a design you like. Just play around with each choice to get something. Click on “Save,” and you will see your publication home page in progress. Click back on Owner>Publication Settings, and then click on “Homepage” to get back to the above interface and keep experimenting until you get it just the way you want.

POWER USER TIP #1: Your color will determine both the publication background color AND the color when someone highlights your text. If you choose a color that is too light, the highlight may not be as easy to see on certain screens, making it hard to select the exact text you or your reader want. I’m not saying to use Medium’s default green highlights, but users build up expectations on what is a highlight, so test this function on your stories to see if the highlight looks good to you.

[For people who are unfamiliar with “6-digit hex value” color, you can choose a color here and then copy and paste the “HEX” number. If you’ve never used a color picker before, here’s a quick visual.]

You can also upload a background image, if you’ve got one. The ideal size is approximately 1000 pixels wide by 500 pixels high.

Step 3: Set up your navigation.

Go back to your publication settings and click on the Navigation tab. Here is where you can add Tab names that will show up on your homepage as links:

POWER USER TIP #2: “Contents” are super important. They are the tags you create for your navigation links and determine where articles will appear within your publication. The “content” description you create for your tab name must match the tags you assign to your individual stories.

In my publication for the The Tao of Blogging collaborative book, all the articles on the progress of the book contained the tag “The Tao of Blogging,” matching the “Contents” tag.

If you click on the homepage button “The Tao of Blogging,” it will display every story that contains this tag in chronological order.

NOTE: If a story does NOT contain a tag that matches your “Content” tag for the navigation links, it will not be visible when someone clicks on a tab.

Step 4: Add articles to your publication.

If you have created an archive post to hold all your stories (see above instructions), search through it to find all the articles you want to include in your publication and add them. The bottom of each includes the heart button, and social media icons to the right. Click on the ellipsis to get the pull down menu.

Next, you will see a pop up list containing your new publication and any publications for which you already write. Click on the radio button and then click “Add Story.”

Repeat these steps until you have added all the stories you want to your new publication.

(NOTE: If you don’t have an archive which links to all of your stories, you will have to manually find each story. To do this, click on your profile, and go down to “Stories” from the pull down menu. Scroll through the list and click on each story you want.)

Step 5: Organize and display your articles.

Go back to Owner/Publication Settings>Homepage. From here you have to chose which stories and how many you will display in each section. It looks like this:

There will be a plus sign at the top and one at the bottom that allows you to add sections.

POWER USER TIP #3: Use multiple sections to organize and display your work. One section could be used to show your latest articles, while another can display your featured stories. If you have different categories of work, you can use separate sections to display each category of work.

The features shown above include the type of story you wish to display (Latest, Featured, Trending, Tagged), the number of stories contained in the section, and various choices for how to display your articles. (In the next section, I’ll show some samples of how this looks on each publication homepage.)

Remember to click on the Save button (don’t jump to another page without saving!), and you will go back to the revised home page. If you like the look, go back to the Owner>Publication Settings>Homepage and add the stories you want until you fill up each section.

CAUTION: If you choose the “featured” stories option, pay attention to how you want to organize your work, because you can’t move the boxes around if they are not in the order you like. You will have to specify the order and placement of each featured story within a section. You can change the story in each box and then feature another story, but why waste time moving things all around if you can plan it in advance. Obviously, for the other options, the stories are automatically populated by Medium’s database.

If you don’t like the look of your page, keep playing with the settings. And voila, you have just created your own publication!


6. Publication Samples

Here are some samples that are designed to store all the articles connected with a certain theme or story arc, and others that store all your work in one place, organized by category.

Story-driven layout (no navigation)

One of my favorite writers, Elliot Nichols, organized his publication as a means of housing Tapestry, a connected, non-linear group of short stories. Notice how he has a “Featured” story section at the top, followed by a “Latest” story section below. This allows him to add new stories easily — as long as he adds the new story to his publication (step 4), he doesn’t have to mess around with tags or publication settings to make the story visible!


Story driven layout (some navigation)

I did something similar by creating a publication for The Grammar Games. I wanted to organize all the chapters in this collaborative project as well as display all the short, tangential events happening before, after, or outside the main story.

At the time I created the publication, I decided to feature the very last chapter at the top to give it the most visibility. Then, I created a second section which displays each chapter in ascending order, so a reader could read them in order, as they would a normal book. (If I had just set up the “Latest” story filter, Chapter One would have been at the bottom.) In a third section, I featured a separate article that explained the origin of the entire project, and in the fourth section, I displayed all the other auxiliary stories contributed by writers that fell outside the parameters of a full chapter:


Author (partial catalog, full navigation)

After making separate publications for the aforementioned collaborative projects, I made another publication to organize the rest of my writing. Other writers do the same thing as it makes it easier to define unique tags and separate one set of stories from another (especially if they are creating publications that feature multiple writers — the editing and submission requirements create additional complications.)


Author (full catalog, full navigation)

Here’s a nice example of a publication with plenty of tabs by dudemesticated that organizes all of his writing by categories:

Depending on the tags of each individual story, a particular story could show up under multiple categories.


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