So, You’re New to Medium…

Welcome to Medium! It’s is a pretty excellent place Ev and the Medium Staff built. This story (that’s what Medium calls everything published on their platform) will help you get started. Medium provides not only great stories but also great ways for readers to interact with authors. All of these, and more, are covered in this guide.

Everything featured in this guide assumes you have a Medium account. If you’re not signed up yet, create your free Medium account and come back.

After creating your Medium account, be sure to personalize your bio and profile page. Think of your bio as your own tagline. This short sentence appears everywhere your profile picture does and gives other Medium users a sense of who you are (and if they should follow you or not). Medium also provides tools to customize the design of your profile. If interested, set the colors, fonts, and graphics just the way you like them.

Ok, now that your account is ready to go, let’s get started with the guide.

I’m New To Medium and want to read great things

Perfect! Medium is a great place to read amazing stories — from relationship advice to tech news, from faith to freelancing advice — everything you’re interested in is found here.

There are two types of stories published on Medium: free and metered. Free stories are available to anyone, even those without a Medium account. Metered stories are those published behind Medium’s paywall, otherwise known as the Medium Partner Program. Metered stories are only available to Medium members who pay a monthly fee and are indicated by a green border on their profile image. Free users can read three metered stories per month without upgrading to a paid membership.

Writers who publish metered stories receive compensation based on the view-time of paying Medium members. So, if you’re a paying Medium member, the more time you spend reading, the more money a writer makes! It’s the easiest way to show your appreciation for excellent writing. And, if you sign up as a paying Medium member using a writer’s affiliate link, they get 50% of your Medium fee! 

For example, if you sign up for Medium using my affiliate link, I earn 50% of your fee for as long as you’re a Medium member. You can directly support my writing and unlock access to the entire Medium catalog at the same time! Ready to join Medium? Sign up today (affiliate link)

On Medium, you find amazing stories to read by following writers, publications, or topics. You can also find new stories by exploring tags.

Writers

Writers are people like me (and maybe even you!) who write and publish stories on Medium. Some writers I enjoy reading are Benjamin Sledge, Devon Henry, Oliver “Shiny” Blakemore, Katie Hyson, M.G. Siegler… the list could go on forever. You should follow any writer that interests you and whose stories you want to read. This ensures their content shows up in your feed, particularly on your Medium homepage.

Publications

Publications are collections of published stories. Each publication is run by one or more editors who publish stories based on the publication theme. For example, The Writing Cooperative is a publication focused on writing and the writing process. On Medium, stories can only appear in a single publication.

Some publications have separate newsletters you can sign up for. These vary by publication, but newsletters are an additional way to keep up with content you’re interested in reading. For example, The Writing Cooperative’s This Week In Writing provides a quick writing tip every Tuesday.

Tags

Tags are collections of stories, regardless of their publication, that all share a similar theme. While similar to topics, and some overlap, tags are not curated. When publishing, writers can choose up to five tags for their stories. For some tags, Medium identifies the top writers. Writers are included on the list based on the number of popular stories they publish using that tag.

Muting writers and publications

Love a particular topic but aren’t fond of the content published by a specific writer or publication? You can mute them, and their content will no longer appear in your feed.

Lists

You can save stories into customized lists for reading later or sharing with friends. For example, I have a few lists, including the best of my Write Now interviews and a collection of submission guides for Medium publications

Lists, indicated by the bookmark icon, provides a great way to save a story for later. The story will remain in your list for as long as you want and, if you’re a paying Medium member, provide offline access to read the content.

I’m New To Medium and want to connect with great writers

Awesome! Writers enjoy hearing from readers, and Medium has easy ways to connect: private notes, highlights, and responses.

Private notes (only available on a desktop browser)

Private notes are direct messages between you and the story’s writer. These are used for quick comments, questions, or editing suggestions. Private notes are only visible to the person who left the note and the author. When a story is published in a publication, the publication’s editors can also see any private notes left on the story. Private notes are intended to be brief. Medium sets a 400 character count on initial private notes and a 200 character count on all replies.

To leave a private note, highlight a word or phrase with your cursor. Select the lock icon to start a private note. Because notes are tied to specific words or phrases, private notes are similar to margin notes between an editor and an author.

If you're new to Medium, consider connecting with a private note. Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

Highlights

Highlights (the first button on the popup pictured above) are a response form without explanation to the author. You can highlight anything you like. I opt to highlight sentences that I absolutely agree with or I find incredibly well written. The top highlight on a story is visible to everyone, and highlights from people you follow are visible to you. The writer and publication owners see everything highlighted.

Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

Responses

Responses are designed to facilitate a public conversation (think of it as a YouTube video comment section). Everything shared in response is publicly available. It’s for this reason I prefer private notes over responses. At one time, responses created a new Medium story. Now, while that is an option when composing a response, it is not the default.

Should you want to respond to a specific passage, highlight it and click the respond button (it’s the speech bubble icon in the middle of the popup). You can also click the respond button at the bottom of each story to leave a general response without quoting a specific phrase.

Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

I’m New To Medium and want to appreciate great writing

Wonderful! When readers appreciate writing, the Medium algorithm takes note and spreads the story throughout the platform. There are three primary ways to show your appreciation and help promote your favorite stories: clapping, sharing, and following.

Clap

When you read something you enjoy, click the ? icon on the story. You can clap for any story up to 50 times. The more claps a story receives, the more likely Medium will feature the story in other readers’ feeds. Clapping helps more people see the story.

If you're new to Medium, consider clapping for stories you enjoy. Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

Share

Another great way to help promote stories you enjoy is by sharing them with your social networks. Medium makes it easy to share to Twitter and Facebook. Highlight a sentence you enjoy and click the Twitter icon in the popup; Medium creates a quote-tweet for you to share. Tweeting a quote also highlights the passage. If you like something, don’t be afraid to share it with your friends.

Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

Follow

When you read something you particularly enjoy, follow the writer both on Medium and off. Medium profiles often contain links to the writer’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, providing easy access to the writer elsewhere. Following the writer both on and off Medium is a signal that you enjoy their work. Retweeting or sharing that writer’s content off Medium is a great way to show appreciation.

I’m New To Medium and want to create something great

Welcome to the club! Medium is a great way to write and publish your thoughts for the world to read. All you have to do on the desktop is click on your profile image and hit the write a story button. On mobile, hit the plus button when viewing your profile.

Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

From well-formatted headlines to SEO tools, Medium’s editor provides several tools to ensure your story looks incredible. Here are a few of my favorite Medium features for writers:

Featured images

Every story needs at least one high-quality featured image. The featured image helps your story stand out in Medium’s feed and is used when the story is shared on social channels. Thankfully, Medium’s desktop editor makes finding a great image easy.

Start a new line, click the + button to the cursor’s left, and select the magnifying glass. This searches the entire Unsplash library to find the perfect image. Plus, Medium adds the image to the story with proper attribution to the photographer. It’s easy and courteous!

Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

If you don’t want to use the built-in Unsplash tool, there are other copyright-free image options. Some popular image options include Pexels, Mixkit, WikiCommons, and searching photos with Creative Commons Licenses on Flickr.

Regardless of what tool you use to find a featured image, it’s important only to include photos you have the right to republish. Not every image found online is available for use in your story. Be sure to understand image usage rights and properly cite all images when publishing on Medium.

Media embeds

Medium makes it easy to embed content into your story. You can embed YouTube videos, Instagram images, links to other stories, and more. Copy the URL of the content you want to embed, paste it into a new line in the editor, and hit enter. Medium does the rest and makes sure everything looks nice. Like this example of an embedded link:

Draft links

One of the great things about Medium is you don’t have to write alone. Medium makes it easy to share unpublished drafts with friends. Click the … button at the top of the writing screen and then select Share to generate a shareable link. Anyone with a Medium account can open this draft link and ready your story before it publishes.

If you're new to Medium, consider sharing stories you enjoy. Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

Sharing a draft link is a great way to solicit feedback from friends. When someone views your unpublished draft and leaves a private note, they are acknowledged at the bottom of your story when you hit publish.

Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

TK

In publishing, TK stands for “to come.” Think of it as a placeholder for information not yet ready for publication. When typing TK anywhere in a Medium draft, a yellow margin note appears to signify the missing information. Additionally, when trying to publish a story with a TK, Medium warns the story may not yet be ready. (Note, when editing an already published story, this warning does not appear… fair warning.)

Tagging people

Medium provides a simple way to tag other Medium accounts in your story. In the editor, type an @ and the user’s name. Medium will provide a list of accounts matching the typed letters. When the story is published, tagged users show in green with a link to their Medium profile. For example, this is what tagging The Writing Cooperative co-founder Jessica Jungton looks like.

While tagging is a powerful tool, use it sparingly. Tagging people who have nothing to do with a story’s content is a way of spamming them. Chances are, they will be less inclined to read what you’ve written. However, tagging someone you mention or whose quote you’re using is an excellent means of linking to their content.

Other formatting tools

Medium provides several additional formatting tools. These include tools for titles, subtitles, section headings, pull quotes, and more. While this guide does not cover each one in-depth, you should familiarize yourself with their usage. Note that many publications have specific rules when it comes to formatting submissions. Understanding the tools and the expectations of the publication is a crucial step towards being considered for publication.

If you're new to Medium, always use Medium's default formatting. Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

Publication submissions

When publishing on Medium, your story is available and promoted to your followers. Suppose the story is found to be of high quality by the Medium curators. In that case, it is also shared with people following that topic. When a publication publishes stories, they are also shared with everyone following the publication.

When choosing a publication to submit to, writers should consider a few things:

First, is your story suited to the publication?

While The Writing Cooperative, for example, has more than 200,000 followers, it has a narrow focus on stories. Submitting a recipe for chocolate cake will not be accepted and waste the editor’s time.

Second, does the publication help promote your story?

The Writing Cooperative shares all stories on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, helping writers expand their reach.

Third, will the publication’s audience enhance your own following?

Publishing in a publication helps extend your story’s reach beyond your own following. However, this does not always mean the publication with the larger following is a better fit. Be sure to consider if the publication will provide a boost to your content or if it will mostly go unnoticed.

Ready to publish in a publication?

Once you’ve determined where to submit, remember it is impossible to submit a story to any publication without being added as a writer. Each publication has its own process, and it’s important to follow the directions provided. Once added as a writer, you can submit a story to a publication by clicking the … button in the story editor and choosing add to publication.

Most significant publications have clearly defined submission requirements. For example, the Writing Cooperative’s submission requirements are found on the publication’s front page. Don’t be afraid to submit your story to a publication. You never know what might happen when you do!

Most publications leave private notes on a story to announce it’s been accepted or rejected. Many larger publications will not see any response to these private notes. For example, the Writing Cooperative only sees note responses if a previously rejected submission is once again in the submission queue.

Likewise, when submitting to a publication, it is important to be patient. Some publications can take a week or more to respond to submissions. This is normal and often fully outlined in the publication’s submission guidelines.

Shortform content

Anything less than 150 words is considered shortform on Medium. Medium has special display options to provide the best user experience possible for readers to accommodate these brief stories. Additionally, shortform content is governed by additional rules, such as not being distributed to topics. Writers interested in writing shortform stories should familiarize themselves with the way Medium handles the content.

Stats

Medium provides basic stats for all published stories. These stats include:

  • The number of views.
  • Reads (how many people read the entire piece).
  • Fans (how many people clapped for the story).

Clicking on an individual title within the stats provides a bit more detail on that story. Here, you can see a breakdown of viewers over time, how much the story earned (if it’s metered), where viewers came from, and topics the story’s viewers are interested in (only available once a story reaches around 1,000 views). These additional details can provide insight when marketing your writing.

I’m New To Medium and want to get paid for my writing

Don’t we all! The Medium Partner Program is the easiest way for writers to be compensated for their stories online. After joining the program, you can publish metered stories behind Medium’s paywall.

When a paying Medium member reads a metered story, a portion of their monthly membership is paid to that story’s writer. Earnings are calculated at the end of each day and paid out monthly.

In addition to Medium’s rules that govern what can and cannot be published on the platform, Medium provides Content Guidelines that define what is acceptable for metered stories. Be sure to follow the guidelines before submitting a partner story, or you could forfeit potential earnings.

Ok, the rules are great, but I’m sure you really want to know about profitability. When making the most money possible from your writing, there are a few things to consider.

Write Authentically

Sure, you can try and write for specific topics, but readers will notice and move on if the story is not authentically yours. So, first and foremost, be authentic in the content you publish.

Publish high-quality content

The best stories on Medium are well-written and unique. This doesn’t mean they are perfectly edited and free from errors, but all high-quality stories go through some form of editing. Writers who can knock out 1,000 words on a topic, publish without ever reading through or editing, and fall into the small percentage of profitability on the platform are rare (if they exist at all). Take the time to edit your content so it is the best version possible.

Write for your audience

When writing, have an audience in mind. This is not to say general audience content doesn’t work. But when you’re trying to be all things to all people, sometimes authenticity or quality falls behind. If you’re telling a travel story, write for a travel audience. Coding? Write for coders. Your audience exists on Medium, and with proper tagging and publication exposure, you will find them.

Want to publish metered stories but still let non-paying friends read your work? Medium provides a “Friend Link” for each metered story. After publishing, click the … next to the story’s byline and select the friend link button. Anyone with that link, regardless of being a paying or free Medium user, can read the story. Should someone read your story and become a paying Medium member within 30 days, you are still credited for their view time.

Screenshot by the author.
Screenshot by the author.

Grow on Medium: I want to expand my followers

Assuming you’re publishing metered stories, more followers and views translate to more income. So how do you grow your following? This is the most valuable question!

First, write high-quality content people want to read. Medium’s curators look for unique and well-written stories. If they select your story for curation in a topic, you typically see a boost in publicity and views.

Beyond quality writing, there’s no magic bullet. Building a following takes time and effort.

Selecting the right publication to submit your story to is also extremely important. Some large publications publish dozens of stories a day, while others, like The Writing Cooperative, only publish a selected handful. Stories in these publications will see much more exposure in the publication than getting lost in a crowd.

It’s also imperative to promote stories across your various social networks. Be proud of your work and share it with friends and family who already follow you in other areas. Engage with other writers on and off Medium and join writing communities, like The Writing Cooperative Facebook group. Finally, invest in your own professionalism. In time, your following will grow.

Conclusion

That’s it. Welcome to Medium! I hope you enjoy your stay. Now, go start following writers, clapping, and sharing stories you enjoy. Enter into conversation with writers using private notes. And if you’re ready, dive into writing your own content!


Looking for more writing advice and tips on Medium mastery? Check out the expanded version ebook:

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