How to Organize Your Medium Submissions With Trello
Manage where and when you publish and increase your writing productivity
One of the best ways to get your writing seen on Medium is to publish them in popular publications. The number of my submitted stories that get accepted into a publication vs. the number of those that don’t is about 50/50. Finally, because I figured out how to organize my submissions, at least I never have to guess (or remember) where my story landed.
When I first started submitting stories, I chose a few publications that had a lot of subscribers and covered topics I know well. Since I’m a copywriter of 15 years and a personal essay writer, I chose The Writing Coop and P.S. I Love You. I also found my way to Illuminations because I found myself reading a lot of stories there and I figured my writing would fit in.
Since then I’ve added a few more publications to the list. Now and then, I write a story that might be a good fit for more than one publication. The business side of writing, and the growing complexity of where and when I would submit a story, was taking over and cutting into my writing time. I had to develop a very simple method for keeping track of my submissions so that I can free my creative brain for writing.
The more you write, the more you spread yourself around
At first, when I was only writing one story a week or maybe even a month, it was easy to keep track. I’d finish editing my story, check the submission rules, and then submit. Then I’d sit back and wait to hear back. This worked just fine until I started writing more regularly.
Today, in late 2020, I publish several stories a week on my Medium platform and enjoy interacting with other writers and bloggers. I’m working on finding my niche, and other writers whose stories I adore. I want to be read and found by people who are actually going to spend time reading my stories.
Over the past year, the busier I got writing, the more my regular writing schedule started causing problems with my submission process, or lack of it, I should say.
I would write on my whiteboard when I submitted a story and where. If my story was declined by my first choice, sometimes I’d submit it to another one before simply publishing under my own page and publication. This worked for a while until I started branching out and looking for more publications to write for.
This is where things got complicated.
Because publications have guidelines and their own curation rules, the turnaround time for acceptance is usually between 3 and 5 business days. Some even hold new story ideas for specific days of the week. For example, Entrepreneur's Handbook only accepts stories on Mondays. So I’m waiting…
If we writers could receive an instant yea or nay, life would be easy!
However, editors of popular publications are swamped. Many of the most popular ones get thousands of submissions each week. Editors work hard to find the best stories for their subscribers. They can’t be expected to get back to everyone within a day or two. For the writer, this means we must wait and be patient.
It also means we must have some sort of process for staying organized.
Once you’ve done the work and polished the perfect story, you’re eager to get it out there. I know the feeling! You need to assess the value in waiting for a publication to accept your work, or to move on and try another publication, or to simply publish on your own.
I was keeping cryptic notes and scrawls on my whiteboard to help me remember where and when I sent what.
Here’s my old way. It still works in a pinch. I remind myself of the number of days it takes a publication to get to my story, etc. and, sometimes, a motivation for why I should try getting my story published there. (See the “124 K” notation… that’s the number of followers!)
Then, like an epiphany, I remembered my old friend Trello. I used to use this SaaS (software as a service) to keep track of client projects when I was writing content and copy for others, and often working with a team of other creatives. It’s great for that!
Now that’s my go-to place to organize my most recent stories and submissions on Medium.
Trello is easy to use
If you’ve never used it, you can try a free version to check it out. Basically, it works like a bulletin board, on which you make list-columns that have cards beneath each column. It’s like a colorful spreadsheet. You can easily add information and details, pictures and notes, even dates.
For me, Trello provides structure to my submission process. I can see at a glance when I submitted a story and how long I need to wait before I should consider it declined and move on. I like to add the main image associated with the story, too. The visual helps me quickly remember the content of the story.
Trello‘s elegant, user-friendly design is perfect for this. There’s a flush of satisfaction as you slide your stories from “submitted” to “published.” There’s even a kernel of pride as you publish your stories on your profile or through your own publications. You feel like you’ve completed your job.
These days, my Trello board titled “Medium Articles” looks like this.
The four lists you should start with
After playing around with lists for story ideas and drafts, I landed on four main lists:
- Submitted to publication, date
- Published by publication, date
- Published to my profile, date
- Curated by Medium, date
With these four lists, I simply add a card every time I finish a story. I add the date I submit and the turnaround time of that publication. Once it’s accepted or declined, I note where I’ve already submitted that story and either try another publication or add it to my profile.
Then I slide that card to the appropriate list.
Last, if my story is curated by Medium, the card slides to the far right column — the Shangrila of Medium story cards.
If I have to scroll down too far to see my published or curated stories, I move them to a Google spreadsheet, where I include the link to the story as well as the tags I used for each one. This helps me quickly grab it when I need to link to a story from one currently in progress.
This way, I keep my submissions and rejections clearly documented at a glance. At this point, it’s all I need.
The only hard part of the process is waiting for a response from the publication. But at least I’m not accidentally submitting a story twice to the same publication, or forgetting to publish it altogether.
Don’t forget to work within Medium to save time
First, I should tell you, in my zeal to put everything within Trello, I got a little carried away. Originally I intended to develop stories and headline ideas on my Trello board, but I found I was just duplicating content that was already in my Medium drafts tab. Now I religiously use the Medium drafts folder as my go-to brainstorming area.
Your Medium drafts folder is there for you. Why complicate things? Medium holds your ideas until you are ready to write.
As I come up with story ideas, many times they come from deleted parts of a story already in progress. If it’s an idea I feel deserves its own headline and story, I just start a new story on Medium and add content there. Whenever I think of an addition to the story or find a relevant article on the Internet that would help me write, I simply open that draft and copy the link or jot down the idea right within Medium.
Still, Trello can’t be beat for categorizing and planning what happens to those stories.
More ways to use Trello for writing Medium stories
You may like to brainstorm headlines and keep great images within Trello, too. Don’t let me stop you. You can use Trello any way you want to boost creativity and productivity.
By the way, I’m also thinking of starting a Trello board to keep track of tags I use regularly, and the stories that go with them. The main four popular tags I use are Health, Lifestyle, Grief, and Writing. Sometimes I get so many similar, but different ideas at once. (Does that ever happen to you when you’re on a roll?) With Trello, I could easily plunk them all under a single category and come back to them when I’m ready.
Also, I want to start a board just for the publications I submit to regularly. By distinguishing each of my target publications and keeping them all in view in one place, it would be easy to organize themes and topics I want to write about in the future.
I could also add new publications I want to try submitting my stories. I’m always on the lookout for the perfect spot — and new readers, too.
Finding a home for your story
When submitting to publications on Medium, accept the fact that every publication has its own modus operandi.
Editors of the most popular publications know their readers; their priority is to them. After that, they work hard to help the author get visibility. I’ve found that most editors are actually very helpful and even make suggestions for improving your story. Some don’t of course, but I think it’s because they just don’t have time to give every story individual attention; not because they don’t care.
I regularly get personal notes on my submitted drafts that go something like this. “Thanks for submitting. We appreciate you. Your story is not a fit for us at the time, but please submit again. Keep writing!”
As I parse my stories within Trello and decide where they would ultimately do the best, I include my own (very new) publication in my “Published by publications, date” category in Trello. As a new editor, I try to be objective and publish only those articles that fit, and I accept the fact that sometimes even my own stories don’t fit. I often publish stories under my profile, and not within my own publication!
Meanwhile, I use Trello to help me keep track of all those other submissions I attempt to share with audiences I haven’t met yet.
Use Trello to help you get organized, and you’re sure to find your way into the publications where your work will shine.
P.S. I don’t get any money from Trello for recommending this software. It’s just that I use it daily and find it helpful. I hope it helps you, too.
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