When and When Not to Submit Your Work to Medium Publications

Not every publication is meant for you

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Jan 25 · 6 min read
Shots by Priiincesss on Zenfolio

I had a gripe with nude pantyhose. Initially, I didn’t plan to write about it. But as a grumpy, dark-skinned woman standing in the hosiery aisle, I needed an outlet to complain about why I always have to dig through countless bins for cocoa and dark brown pantyhose. That complaint led me to send my thoughts to two publications, a private client and Medium. I knew what kind of money I’d make with the private client, but I didn’t expect to make more than $1 on Medium (mostly because I didn’t pitch the post anywhere). Imagine my surprise when the post worked its way up to 1,000 page views on its own and the claps kept rolling in.

I didn’t know much about Medium publications, minus Zora — the first one I’d heard about through a third-party newsletter. Over the following months, I learned that Medium content is more profitable when it’s been curated and accepted into well-known publications. When one particular publication asked me if I’d be interested in adding the pantyhose post there, I was flattered. This was one of a handful of times when publications came to me instead of the other way around. However, before you market your work to a Medium publication, there are a few things you need to know.

Make Sure Your Work Will Reach Its Target Audience

I was fairly new to Medium when a publication editor contacted me about the pantyhose post. I immediately accepted myself as a writer and thought, “This’ll be great.” But when I looked at the publication that reached out to me, not only did I not see any posts about women’s issues or African-American issues, I didn’t see anything about beauty, fashion, or apparel.

While publishing a piece like mine could work to that publication’s benefit when it comes to clicks, my guess is it would lead to more Views without Reads — making my percentage significantly drop. With Medium’s old way of paying writers, claps meant quite a bit. With their fairer way of paying writers based on full reads (as of October 2019), I depend on people reading the full piece instead of clapping and disappearing halfway through. I removed my pantyhose piece from that publication.

I was better off not publishing in any Medium publication and just letting the piece run its course independently. If people found it on their own, then I already knew from the headline alone that they were interested readers and probably my target audience.

Know That Your Cross-Linking May Be Removed

I’ve spent about eight years in Corporate America working as a Digital News Editor. Cross-linking related posts and page views were a major part of my job and almost all news web editing jobs. If you can find ways to keep people reading your whole post plus related posts, you’ve gained a profitable reader. When I read daily news briefs and emails from well-known news sources, I already know they’re going to load up those newsletters with links.

Because cross-linking was a mandatory part of my job for so many years, I can do it too much on Medium — I’m used to memorizing which words work for which posts. Writers should take into consideration that some Medium publications will wipe out all of your links. In all fairness, sometimes I’m a linking machine who just wants people to read more of my content. And other times it makes sense.

If I’m writing about the state of African-American voters during a Trump presidency, linking “African-American” to the pantyhose post is a shameless plug. It also has nothing to do with the post and should be removed immediately. But if someone is reading my post on “Marketing Lessons from The Jetsons,” chances are they’ll already be interested in the cartoon and my tech-related series on Season 1 of “The Jetsons.” When you add links, especially if you don’t want your links to be removed, make sure related posts match the same tone and subject. You’ll have an easier time talking the publication into leaving the links there.

Be Aware of Opposing Content

Every piece you submit will not be accepted and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes editors are overloaded with their regular writers and won’t accept new submissions. Sometimes your content doesn’t match their audience or needs to be heavily edited. More often than not, it’s obvious that you pitched your work without reading the publication first. The “Writer’s Market” series emphasizes the same rule in every single book release: Always know the Writer’s Guidelines. You’ll save yourself and the editors a lot of time if you’re already familiar with the publication.

I’ve worked for a conservative newspaper that tried to convince itself it was independent or liberal-leaning, and I’ve worked for unapologetically liberal print and online news publications that have published some conservative pieces. Be aware that when you post your work on a Medium publication, you may come across pieces you don’t agree with. In less opinion-based publications, this probably won’t be a problem.

But if you’re publishing work in more of an Op-Ed Medium publication, know that readers who check out your work may check out their work too. I think that’s a perk. Generally speaking, I like to read his side/her side/the truth to come to my own conclusions. But if you’re spending more time debating the editors of the publication and other writers in that particular publication, this is not the place you want to submit your work.

Consider Creating Your Own Medium Publications

I talked with my former attorney at length about creating her own Medium publication. Her viewpoint was she wanted immediate eyes on the page, and it made more sense to submit work to established publications. She’s not wrong. As much as I believe that legal advice and blogs are fascinating, I don’t speak for the entire Medium readership. And there’s no surefire way to know if people will flock to her page on their own. If another publication already has the viewership you want, consider submitting there.

More importantly, if you’re a heavy contributor who writes about a lot of different topics, sometimes your beat topics will get buried on the page. Pitching them to another Medium publication makes sense.

If there are certain topics you want to be known for and others that are one-offs, you might want to consider putting in the work to create your own publications. It’s up to you whether you want to invite fellow writers to write for your publications or keep it all your own.

I can firmly state that I have followers who only comment on certain categories of my posts. I write a large amount of controversial content but will randomly throw in something super light, comedic or lovey-dovey. I can pretty much guess which loyal readers will ignore some pieces and which ones will comment, highlight, and/or clap. And I want to keep all of those loyal readers but still write what I’m passionate about. So if I can make it easier for readers to find the content that I know they enjoy more of — and avoid what they’d rather not read — then it’s a win-win for both of us.

Keep in mind that it’ll take some extra marketing work to create logos and promote your publications as much as your general content. But if creating a Medium publication helps your brand and you believe you can regularly contribute to these categories, there’s no harm in trying. And should you gain an impressive following on these publications, this looks great on a resume.

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Shamontiel L. Vaughn

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15-year vegetarian journalist/editor; Wag! dog walker; Rover dog sitter; Toastmasters member and 4x officer; WERQ dance enthusiast; Visit Shamontiel.com

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