When it comes to folks who are really good at getting into Medium-owned publications, that certainly isn’t me. There are a number of incredible writers on Medium who are much better than I am at getting into places like Human Parts, Gen, and the like.
At this point, I’ve been in Forge once, and Human Parts twice. Human Parts just took one of my recent stories and requested to backfill a couple of others. But I’ve yet to get published by Heated, OneZero, Gen, or Elemental, etc.
It might be helpful for you to hear an honest account of what it takes to be successful with multiple publications, from what I’ve seen and experienced.
What’s a Medium-owned publication, anyway?
Just in case you’ve missed it, the Medium-owned publications appear at the top of the home page. Medium is particularly aggressive about distributing stories within these pubs, which is why writers want to be published in them.
There are Medium-owned publications like Zora, Gen, Human Parts, Elemental, and Forge. But there are also Medium partner publications and collaborations which seem to vary in terms of how much Medium promotes them.
Pay structure varies. If you submit an unpublished draft or story idea, you’re more likely to get a “guarantee,” often $200 to $250. If they take an already published post, it will usually just earn as usual through the Partner Program.
There are also partner publications which offer a flat rate regardless of story length, and at least one pub that pays $1 per word. Clearly, all of this is subject to change, and you can discuss compensation with each editor.
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You need to pitch a lot.
Let me be the first to say I hate pitching. There’s a really good chance that I hate it even more than you do.
In my idyllic fantasy world, I would write whatever I want to write, and then the publications would come to me. But in reality, I usually need to pitch the editors and let them know I wrote a story that might work for their pub.
Of course, I might like pitching more if I got more wins. As it stands, I usually receive no response or a very kind rejection email. And yes, the rejection hurts. It’s easy to use those rejections as an excuse to quit pitching at all.
You probably don’t pitch enough.
If I’m honest with myself, I know this is the case for me. At minimum, I write one story a day, but usually two, and sometimes three or four. Some of my stories are very well-received and could do better if I was better about pitching.
Like a lot of you, I have mixed feelings about my own writing. I have a lot of self-doubt. It doesn’t take much rejection or criticism to encourage me to stick my head down and simply write to survive.
Honestly, I have no excuse for not pitching my work weekly. I don’t like pitching, so I don’t do much pitching.
It’s really that simple.
You need to understand the publications you want to write for, and you need to understand your writing too.
More successful pitching requires you to see yourself in a certain publication. You have to be able to categorize your work and also have a good understanding of what any given publication wants from its writers.
I am not good at this, at least, not yet. And I’m not going to get any better at it unless I take the time to grow and learn.
Successful pitching isn’t always about throwing anything and everything at the wall. Swamped editors may not appreciate that. But it’s also not about submitting the stories that are most important to you. I am very guilty of this--I submit a story that for whatever reason means a great deal to me, and then when it gets rejected, I feel especially bad.
Truth be told, I made multiple pitches to Forge over a few months, and the story they took that went live yesterday is probably the one I least expected to get accepted. It’s also not one of my favorites, despite it meaning something to me.
This experience made me realize I’ve been approaching pitching all wrong. I need to make more of an effort to pitch the right stories to Medium-owned publications.
Getting your story in a Medium-owned publication may or may not give you a boost.
It’s easy to think that the only thing standing between you and that story going viral is a little help from Medium. Which means it’s tempting to think that publishing in one of these big pubs is going to give you a big boost.
Here’s a reality check for you. In 19 months of writing on Medium, my top earning months have never happened when I’ve had a member feature or story in a Medium-owned pub.
Overall, my top earning posts also weren’t published in Human Parts, etc. My top earners were published independently, or sometimes with another publication on the website that isn’t owned by Medium at all.
That’s not to say that your experience wouldn’t be different. Clearly, some folks have huge enormous hits in the big publications, and sometimes, getting a story into Human Parts, Gen, or Elemental, etc can change their whole trajectory here.
None of this is a one-and-done thing.
Even for the folks who go super viral with a Medium-owned publication, one story is not enough. You have to keep writing and keep submitting stories despite any bouts of rejection.
One friend, Darcy Reeder, is so good at this, and she’s gotten herself into multiple Medium-owned publications. Some of those stories have been huge successes, yet I’m sure Darcy would tell you she’s still not exactly where she wants to be on Medium.
That’s because it’s an ongoing thing. You don’t write once on Medium, get published in one of their own publications, and then “have it made.”
Shaunta Grimes is a writer who’s been successful with getting several stories into Forge. As with Darcy, she’s seen a general boost, but that doesn’t mean she gets to rest on her laurels. She’s still got to keep writing and submitting stories over to Forge. She’s still got to deal with rejection.
What that tells you is that you can’t get too comfortable or let fear get in the way. You’ve got to keep moving instead.
Things won’t always go according to plan.
Months ago, I pitched a story to Elemental. They asked me to interview some experts, and I did that, despite it being way outside of my comfort zone.
In the end, I was really happy with the story. But guess what? Elemental didn’t run it. They felt it was too much of a personal essay and I apparently hadn’t conducted the interviews how they would have preferred. The editor cordially told me they could run the story after a great deal of editing, but it wouldn’t be recognizable to what I’d written.
I opted to withdraw my story, and sometimes, I do wonder if I made the right choice.
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The truth is I’m happy for professional editing, but I still want my stories to sound like me. So, no, things don’t always go according to plan, not even after we pitch an idea and get the go-ahead to write it.
But that’s okay. It’s all a part of the writing experience.
Medium is still one of the most easiest and low-key ways to learn how to write better and get your work published.
And that’s why I continue to focus my efforts here. In reality, I hope to build a better relationship with Medium and its editors. I hope to reach more than 100K followers on Medium one day, and I’m aiming to become more successful each year.
But if I’m not moving as quickly as I’d like, I need to understand that I might not be working hard enough, smart enough, or I might just need to be more patient. Sometimes, it’s a combination of all three things.
The Medium-owned publications usually aren’t a magic bullet to success, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. They can definitely help you get closer to your goals on the platform.
But it pays to be realistic about the whole thing.