What You Need to Know About Medium Publications
They’re like magazines. They set their own course. You may not be a fit.
I’m the owner of a Medium publication with guidelines that are fairly specific. I want my space to be magazine-like, with stories that vary in content but are overall good reads. Light, dark, sublime, funny, compelling — but always indelible.
While I’m open to almost anything if it’s well-written and holds my interest, I may be unique in that I invite writers to submit stories on advocacy and politics — always hot button issues — but I make clear where I stand in my guidelines. It sets the tone so there’s no question about the direction their political submissions should take:
You should know that the owner of this publication is an unabashed FDR/Josiah Bartlet liberal and feminist, a Midwesterner with a strong BS meter, a big fan of humor and satire.
I also ask my writers not to submit work specifically about Medium, since I want a broader range that will draw outside readers, yet here I am, writing what’s essentially an in-house article.
I’m doing it because there is a major brouhaha going on about a certain Medium publication that appears to discriminate against LGBTQ writers. I’ll stay out of making judgements about the owner of that publication, but I can sympathize with the writers who feel it’s not just their work being rejected, but their entire lifestyles. They have every right to be sensitive to those slights so common and so hurtful. But I want to talk here about what publication owners should project and what potential writers should expect.
Publication owners who have specific expectations should have specific guidelines. That seems obvious, but it doesn’t always happen. I’m a relatively new pub owner, yet I’ve revised my own guidelines several times in order to make sure writers can determine whether or not they’re a good fit before they submit a story. I realized as I began receiving submissions that didn’t work for me that I needed to be clearer about what this publication is all about. It’s possible, as time goes on, that I’ll revise them again. Because it’s my publication and I get to make the rules.
My goal is to build a publication that celebrates good writing, but I’m a creature of my own history, my own beliefs, and my publication will always reflect that. It’s no secret that I’m an anti-Trump, pro-choice, pro-immigrant, pro-LGBTQ, liberal feminist. My own writings show it. Anyone who looks at my publication will see it and either like it or hate it. Those who hate it will no doubt pass it by. My hope is that those who like it will want to hang around a while.
There are several publications I know about that are open to anything. All writers are invited to submit and nobody is turned down. I love that they’re doing that. I want publications that do that. But anyone reading my guidelines will know from the first paragraph that I’m not one of them. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of publications that are specific about their needs, and I appreciate that. When I go looking for places to submit I want to know exactly what they want before I waste either their time or mine.
I don’t submit to ZORA, for example, because I don’t fit there, even though I love reading it.
I don’t submit to GAY because I don’t write in the style Roxanne is looking for.
I don’t submit to BETTER MARKETING because they would laugh at me.
There are technical pubs, pubs devoted to music, to poetry, to fiction, to religion, to topics I either don’t know much about or I’m not interested in. But there are thousands of publications out there that are good fits for every Medium writer.
It’s the more general publications that might have grey areas they need to define. If a pub doesn’t make clear what they’re looking for, it’s on them to be better. It’s not discriminating against anyone if they make clear in their guidelines they don’t take LGBTQ stories. (Or pro-choice stories, or pro-life stories, or whatever they find is not a good fit for the direction their publication takes.) It’s their right to set their own agendas.
What’s not right is to reject writers for any other reason than the stories they submit. We can’t have that. It isn’t about who we are, it’s about what we write. On Medium we’re writers, first and foremost. We expect to be judged by our writing. We won’t tolerate anything else.