The Most Important Aspect of Curation Nobody’s Talking About
Are you the only person editing your work?
When curation came into effect in 2018, like most people, my stats tanked. I won’t bore you with the exact numbers, but they dropped by over seventy percent. During the remainder of the year I was lucky if editors chose one article of mine a month for curation.
In 2019, however, I am experiencing the exact opposite. Out of the 30 articles I’ve written this year all but two have been curated.
So what changed? How did I, and a group of people in a similar situation, go from a couple hundred views on each post to thousands and experience over ninety percent curation percentages?
Like any business, the future of Medium is uncertain. What is clear, however, is the team of editors are looking for quality articles.
So a small group of friends and I decided to join forces in an attempt to give Medium what they wanted. We started by taking advantage of the most important tool Medium offers us to improve our writing — the option to have other people edit our work.
You want to get curated? Slow down:
When I started writing on Medium I immediately gained traction. I decided to work on just one post a week to get it as tight as I could. But I didn’t stop there.
For the posts I thought had real potential to move, I paid an editor to sit down with me to show me where I went wrong. After all, I was new to writing and I had no idea what clean writing looked like. So I made the decision to sacrifice speed in the short-run to get faster over the long-run.
Other writers encouraged me to post more frequently. But I stuck to my strategy and it paid off. After the first 12 months, I gained roughly 5,000 followers and had a handful of articles get picked up by mainstream business publications.
When I began my second year, the same time curation came into effect, I made the mistake of ignoring the very steps that allowed me to thrive in the first place. And you guessed it — my growth suffered.
Towards the end of 2018, in a last-ditch effort, I decided to slow down again and focus on raising the quality of my work. However, this time I didn’t have to pay an editor. Instead, a few of my fellow writer friends and I decided to not only share each other’s work but help each other improve. We began by becoming each other's editors.
The first post my friends edited received close to 6K in views and earned over 500 fans. My second post had 3K in views and over 200 fans.
As I went into 2019 I was sold. Since then 24 out of the 26 articles I have submitted have been curated, 8 posts have over 10K in views (prior to 2019 I had 0) and a handful have over 1,000 fans.
Medium curators aren’t the only ones noticing the difference in my posts. Prior to 2019, I thought I was writing good stuff. But rarely did other people get behind it. If I was lucky, maybe I got a tweet or two, but not one of my posts took off outside of Medium.
Today, that isn’t the case. A few of my posts, with zero to little marketing, have gained serious traction on social media and most weeks I receive a handful of messages over email and Linkedin about how my articles positively affected someone.
In addition to going big—go small:
If you’ve read any of my posts in the past, you’ll know I’m big on relationships. I completely agree with the findings of the good people over at Harvard — the key to happiness is found in community involvement and strong relationships.
I’m also a big fan of large writing communities and I am a member of a few. When it comes to getting people involved these groups do an amazing job. The support they give is unreal and they open the door for new connections to be made.
But I am convinced if you want to have success going forward on Medium, you have to embrace the other part of Harvard’s findings, and build not just relationships — but strong ones.
Odds are high if you’re in these writing groups there are 4 or 5 people you are drawn to, both professionally and personally. My advice is to reach out to these people and simply ask them if they want to become editing buddies — with the idea that you help each other improve the quality of your work.
Quick but important aside: The group of writers I have teamed up with aren’t professional editors. In fact, one just began writing this past year and three of them aren’t native English speakers. But one thing we did to get started that worked well was we simply asked each other to highlight any sentence that read funny. Over time our edits have gone into more detail as our skills have improved, but this quick action helped us to make our posts easier for the reader.
My submission process:
To give you an idea of what my submission process looks like, below is how I approached this article. Please keep in mind if I think a post has real potential to fly (this one I am on the fence about as Medium doesn’t favor posts about Medium) this timeline can easily double, if not triple.
I wrote the first draft of this article on Tuesday, May 14th.
Wednesday and Thursday I took a few minutes to look it over with fresh eyes to see if I could spot any mistakes.
Then on Friday I shared it with my group of friends and gave them 48 hours to offer critiques.
Then Monday afternoon I gave it one last look over before submitting it today — Tuesday, May 21st.
This means from start to finish this post took me a week. This extra time invested (15 minutes a day spread out over a week) has resulted in not only professional growth, but also financial — moving from a few hundred a month in payouts from the partner program in 2018 to a few thousand in 2019.
One way to get started today:
Like I said above, I love the communities that have been set up in order to make writing online more human. But if you want to get your posts curated, I can’t recommend enough getting together with a few of the writers you connect with to see if they want to be editing buddies.
But at the very least take advantage of these communities and ask for feedback on your working titles. Better yet suggest a “Title Day” where everyone shares with the group their working titles with the hopes someone throws out a better option.
For my most read post I had a working title I thought would do well. However, one of my friends, Nick Wignall, offered a better one. I’m convinced Nick’s suggestion took a good post and turned it into one that paid my mortgage for 6 months (I live in Spain and it’s cheap). This has happened a handful of other times thanks to my tribe.
Once you see how beneficial this quick action is, you can then make the suggestion to take it one step further and review each other's articles in order to get them tighter. Then you are off to the races and it is only a matter of time before curators notice the work you are putting in.
Pulling it all together:
If I had a dollar every time my dad said to me when I was growing up, “The brutal facts are the only facts,” I would be a millionaire. I used to hate hearing these words as a kid. But as an adult, not a day goes by when I do not think of them.
Medium’s decision to prioritize curated articles is a fact. They have said over and over again the future of the platform is quality articles. The best way to combat this is by doing everything you can to give them what they want. Creating a small tribe and making a pact to help each other as you climb together is a good place to start.
No matter how good we think our writing is — we miss things.
So if you want to get your post curated, control the one thing you can control and ask other people for help in order to improve the quality of your work.
This may mean you move slower today, but by taking the time to get your writing tight, you may be surprised how fast you move tomorrow.
“Prior to 2019, I averaged 6,000 views per month. Today I am averaging 60,000. I am convinced the reason for this change is because I not only had my work edited, but I took the time to edit other people’s work. Learning how to review other people’s work has made me a better writer.” — Brian Pennie
Despite having my friends look over this article the odds are high there are still plenty of holes.
Some people hate when other people correct their grammar in posts — I don’t.
I did horribly in English class as a kid so if you see something that could read better please don’t hesitate to let me know.
If you enjoyed this article and are interested in starting your own tribe visit here and receive a free guide to help you do just that.