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You’re Not in Medium Jail — It’s Something Different

  • 7 min read

Let’s explore what you can do if you feel trapped in a jail cell.

The other day, I received an email from one of my fellow writing students.

It’s been a year since we’ve worked together.

“I am still actively publishing on Medium and enjoying it but I don’t get much traction. (…) Do you have any theories about why I might not get the traction that other writers have? (…) Stronger headlines? Is there such a thing as Medium Jail?”

Let me first share with you that authors used the term “Curation Jail” in the past.

This term referred to not being considered for curation/distribution on Medium.

“Medium Jail” was new to me, but I suspect it is the same phenomenon.

So feeling trapped and stuck as in a jail cell (*never been there but must be horrifying*) is nothing new. It’s a common phenomenon.

I bet you, new writer, feel the same way sometimes.

That’s why I want to share with you my recommendations to free yourself and break out of the (mental) prison.

What my student is doing

I checked my student’s profile.

  • She’s still a Top Writer in #Parenting.
  • She has grown her following to 1K people.
  • She’s writing about Marriage | Relationships| Mental Health| Humor| Body Image and Disability.
  • She’s publishing consistently — long, mid as well as short form.
  • She’s getting claps and feedback and answers comments.
  • She’s sometimes republishing stories from her blog.
  • She’s sharing personal stories and anecdotes about her life
  • She’s publishing with Fuck Niches, The Motherload, Modern Women, New Writers Welcome, The Shortform.

What I recommend to improve

This is my direct email response to her question:

Top Writer status

  • Top Writer in #Parenting is nice. Make sure to be strategic about the Top Writer tags you use. Based on your writing also tag #Feminism, #Culture, #Society and/or #This happened to Me, #Humor, #Mental Health, #Satire

👉 Click here to get the full list of Top Writer tags for 2023.

By becoming a Top Writer you’ll get more eyeballs on your work and Medium’s algorithm is more likely to recommend your posts.

Followers

  • I think 1K followers within a year is awesome growth. To grow even further ask your readers to follow you or subscribe to your stories at the bottom of your posts. Add a call to action (CTA).

Topics

  • I still love your topics. Medium too. I’d stick to Marriage | Relationships| Mental Health| Humor| Body Image and Disability for now because these are the topics you’re writing about and have real-life experience.

👉 Medium is looking for real-life experts, so it’s smart to continue to share your personal stories and opinion pieces.

Publishing frequency

  • It’s super that you’re publishing consistently — long, mid as well as short form. I saw that you publish one story per week on average. I’d recommend pumping out more than 4 stories per month. Why not share at least 8 stories? The more stories you share, the more traction you get.

Engagement

  • Your emotional stories engage people. They clap and comment. To get more comments and therefore a stronger signal that tells Medium’s algorithm that your story is worth sharing more, add a question at the bottom of your story! For instance, “What do you think about this?”

Repurposing blog posts

  • I think it’s smart to take your old blog posts and republish them on Medium. Make sure to set a canonical link so that Google knows that your blog is the number one source of information. If it’s not. It’s fine to simply link to your blog as a reference.

Personal stories and anecdotes

  • I love your personal stories and anecdotes. They are so funny and on point. Your headlines are great. To increase the reading time and read ratio make sure to feed goldfish. This means, making your texts more scannable and using more subheadlines. Additionally, break your text into small sections of up to 10 sentences. The higher the read ratio, the more likely it is that Medium’s algorithm recommends your stories.

Choice of publications

  • Fuck Niches, The Motherload, Modern Women, New Writers Welcome, The Shortform, are nice to start with. Now spread your wings and fly. Why not try to become a writer for Better Humans, The Haven, or Mental Illness? Whenever you publish with a new publication you introduce yourself to a new audience and tap into their readership.

👉Here’s a list of the Top 10 Medium publications to start with.

What you need to know about Medium

Personal stories rule and get Boosted

As Tony Stubblebine emphasized in his latest YouTube videos, articles, and announcements… Medium is definitely looking for personal stories.

I see a lot of personal stories such as I Have an Eating Disorder by Bryan Dijkhuizen or The One Weird Thing They Don’t Tell You About Working in A Newsroom by Jared Bouchard getting Medium’s new Boost with a big B.

The BOOST, GIPHY

Your story needs to send a signal

In addition, Tony is talking about “signals”. Medium’s algorithm needs to get at least a low signal to distribute your story even further.

No signal, no distribution; Giphy

One signal is the number of people who clapped. If 10 people clap, Medium will show a story to more people.

The next milestone is 50, then 100. So engagement is key.

Related reads:

👉What Are Fans On Medium And Why Are They So Powerful?

👉 Less Than 1% Of Your Followers See Your Articles In Their Feeds

Engagement is golden

Maybe pick 3–5 other writers from your topics and leave comments on their posts. If you’ll do this for a while. they’ll also start clapping and commenting for yours.

Clap, clap, clap! Giphy

A small circle of writers can already make a huge difference.

Offer a freebie

Why not take your best-performing stories and put them into a free eBook on Gumroad? This way you can generate leads and more subscribers.

Free is good! Giphy

In your second year on Medium, it’s also about starting and growing your own email list! You could use Substack for this. #Parenting topics are popular on Substack. Is My Kid The Asshole? is a nice example.

👉If you want to learn more about how I grow my Substack, click here.

Spread your wings

I know that you want to be seen and read. My recommendation is to pitch to publications outside of Medium.

Scary Mommy is a great place to start and pitch a funny parenting story.

Cheers to Scary Mommy!, Giphy

Here’s the pitch form.

Bottom Line

If you’re actively publishing on Medium, enjoying it but feel trapped in jail, check your status quo and challenge it!

“Medium Jail” is not a real thing.

It’s a state of mind.


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