How well does the platform perform for fiction writers?

I started publishing stories on Medium back in February of this year. So far, I’m pleased with my time as a Medium writer. I thought it was time to reflect on some of my experiences. If you’re considering publishing your work on Medium, you may find these observations useful.

I see myself primarily as a writer of prose fiction, with occasional memoirs and essays thrown into the mix. I’m a minority writer on Medium, therefore, and inevitably limiting my readership.

Readership is heavily genre-dependent

Factual pieces seem to get the most traffic. If you write how-to articles about starting a business or making money, opinion pieces about feminism or sexuality, commentary on current affairs, you’ll be tapping into Medium’s core readership and, with persistently good writing, could build a steady readership.

On the imaginative writing side, there is a lot of poetry. Poetry up to three minutes reading time (according to Medium’s algorithm) seems to be really popular.

Short stories can do quite well. However, the longer your story, the fewer reads you will get. This is understandable: readers like to dip into Medium for a few minutes’ reading at a time, I suspect. This means they are unlikely to commit to a 25-minute story, no matter how compelling your writing may be.

Serial fiction (the sort I’m mostly interested in writing) is a slow burn.

My typical month on Medium

Here’s a snapshot of the interest my stories generated in August:

The stories listed below the chart are just my latest ones, not my entire August output, which is 1–2 stories a week on average.

‘Views’ vs ‘Reads’ requires some explanation. If a reader clicks on your story then leaves the page, this is counted as a ‘view’; if they stay on the page, scrolling as necessary to read the whole story, it counts as a ‘read’. However, the algorithm isn’t foolproof and seems to give images too much weight, leading to overcalculations of the time needed to read a story.

Reads from external links seem to be treated as ‘Views’ rather than ‘Reads’, further muddying the waters.

The Medium Partner Program

In April (I think) I joined the Medium Partner Program, whereby I’m paid for member activity on my stories, using a complex algorithm which takes reading time (from paid-up members only) into account. Here’s how one of my recent stories is shaping up so far:

Not exactly a good return on a couple of hours’ work, but then I’m not in it for the money.

With no additional effort on my part, and no attempt to ‘commercialise’ my writing in any way, I’ve easily recouped the Medium US$50 annual subscription fee in the seven months I’ve been writing. This despite choosing one of the least popular genres on the platform.

Non-monetary rewards

There is another benefit more important than this meagre monetary gain. I’ve built a following of about 190, of whom about 20 regularly read and comment on my pieces, and a few of whom have elected to get email updates every time I publish.

Of course, there are no doubt ‘followers’ who have no interest in my work but want a reciprocal follow. That’s inevitable and just fine. I don’t play that game myself: if I follow you, you can assume that I’m genuinely interested in your writing and will have read, applauded and probably commented on at least one piece – and want more!

Most regular Medium users are there to write and be read, I think, so if you never engage with another writer’s work, your following will be slow to build. ‘Write it and they will come’ doesn’t work very well.

Over the last seven months, I’ve been introduced to a lot of interesting writing, have received kind support in my own writing, and, most importantly, have found myself part of a circle of 20 or so writers who regularly read and appreciate each other’s writing.

Time and effort well spent, and I think it can only get better.

You can find my writing on Medium at this URL: https://steve-on-corio-bay.medium.com

Featured image: Cookie the Pom on Unsplash

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