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Medium.com as a Place to Self-Publish (Kinda)


I started writing on Medium.com in late September of 2021, so I've been writing on the platform for eight full months now. Before I started on the site as a writer, I'd seen Medium articles come up in Google searches now and then, or my students had sometimes referred to articles in their papers. And I'd seen a couple YouTube videos about how Medium pays writers for their writing.

Finally I decided to give it a try when I discovered that a lot of people read and share poetry on Medium. I thought it might be a fun way to find a new audience for my work and to meet other writers who are interested in different modes of self-publishing. It's not easy to get paid for your written work as a poet, so I thought it would be interesting to explore the possibilities on Medium.

Medium is sort of a hybrid situation in terms of self-publishing. When you post work there, you still own the copyright. But instead of hosting the work on your own website or sharing it in a book or zine you published yourself, you're letting Medium host the content. 

And people pay Medium $5/month membership fee to read that content (people can read a couple stories per month for free, and you can share out your content for free using a "friend link" for a story that doesn't have the paywall). So you're not self-publishing and keeping all the profits for yourself--but you're benefiting from the built-in audience that already reads work on Medium, kind of like how you only get a percentage of royalties when you self-pub a book on Amazon (or elsewhere) because they sell it on their existing marketplace.

Medium does feel like self-publishing in the sense that you write and edit your own work and have control over content, time of publishing, frequency of publishing, and so on. You can share as much or as little work as you want. It doesn't have that same totally DIY feeling as making a print zine 100% on your own and distributing it by word of mouth, but it has a lot to offer, too. 

Medium returns part of users' membership fees back to the people who write on the platform by paying you for the amount of time that other members spend reading your work each month. For me this has averaged out to around $40 per month so far, which isn't a lot but is well over the $5 membership fee.

Medium is a big company and was started by one of the founders of Twitter. It ranks high in Google search. So it gives you a boost in getting your work into the online world. It's a place of contrasts, though, because as polished and minimalistic as its interface feels, the content can be totally rough-draft stuff. The content can also be wonderfully written, and I've found a lot of unique voices to follow whose work I look forward to each week.

It's been a fun place to explore for me. I'm hoping to share more of my stories about zines and other independent projects there over time. I think it's a good place to self-publish, if you don't mind that the self is participating in a project of a big online media company. 

If you want to try Medium for a month and see what you think, you can join through any writer's membership link, and Medium gives them part of your membership fee as a thank-you for the referral. Here's my link if you're interested.

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