Way back in 2018, I was a newbie writer and brand-new on Medium with less than five followers when I joined the now-defunct publication called Art + marketing. Within the first 24 hours of publishing my first story there, I gained some 20+ followers. That was when I realized the power of Medium publications.
Five years later, a lot has changed on Medium, but the influence of popular publications is stronger than ever, especially with the many changes taking place on Medium these days.
In other words, if you want to gain followers faster, get more eyeballs on your stories, and eventually make more money, publications are your best bet.
So, today, I’m going to share all about Medium publications: what they are, how to find the right pubs for your stories, how to join these pubs, and much more.[Wait! New to Medium? Start here.]
In this post:
What are Medium Publications?
Medium publications are shared spaces, often managed by one owner and one or multiple editors. Publications can have one or more writers. They’re like online magazines but hosted on Medium. According to Medium’s help documentation, publications are like “containers of stories written by one or more users.”
Like any publication, a Medium publication has an owner, an editor (or more,) and, of course, writers. To join a publication, you have to follow that pub’s specific guidelines—each one has its own set of rules.
Sometimes, however, you may see only one writer (and owner and editor; the same person) on a publication. I, for example, own a couple of publications where only I author the stories. I do this as a way to categorize my writing on Medium. For example, the publication—Blogging FAQs—is where I answer my readers’ blogging-related questions.
Another publication I own—The Content Generation—is more of a traditional pub with multiple writers.
What’s the difference between a Medium profile page and a Medium publication?
A Medium profile page is owned by a Medium account holder. Whenever an account holder or user publishes a story on Medium, it appears under their profile page.
Account holders can create publications—these may be shared spaces, as mentioned above. Only account holders can write and publish on publications; publications cannot write and publish stories.
Who owns a Medium publication?
Any Medium account (user) can create a publication, and the respective account holder or user is the owner.
For example, I’m a Medium user, and I own four Medium publications.
Most Medium publications are owned by users. However, there are a few special publications that are owned by Medium itself, including Zora, Human Parts, Gen, and a few others.
Some useful facts about Medium publications:
- Just like users have followers, Medium publications have followers too. As in, you can follow a publication the same way you can follow another user.
- Because of this, when you publish a story in a publication, not only do your followers see that, but the publication’s followers can see that too, which can potentially increase your overall story views and reads. Which can often translate to higher income (if you’re on the Medium Partner Program.)
- To submit a story to a publication, you have to first be accepted as a writer.
- Each publication has its own set of rules for how to become a writer for it. More on that shortly.
- Once you submit a story and it is accepted and published, you’ll see a notification that the story has been published.
- It can take a few hours to a few weeks for some pubs to publish your story, depending on their schedule and volume of submissions.
- You’re the owner of your story, even after it’s been published in a pub.
- That said, you should leave a story in the pub once it is published. It’s just good etiquette. If you remove or delete stories once they’re published in a pub, you may get into the editor’s shit list… just sayin’…
How to Find Suitable Medium Publications for Your Stories
Ideally, you’d want to write for publications that are in your niche and have a large following; the more followers the better.
The trouble is that it’s not easy to say exactly what constitutes a big following. A business/marketing publication “The Startup” has over 700k followers. It is one of the biggest publications, not only in that niche but on all of Medium. Compared to that, Globetrotters, a popular travel publication only has a little over 4k followers. Basically, the size of the publication depends on the popularity of the niche itself.
Another thing to keep in mind is this: While the popular theory (backed by evidence) is that publishing in bigger pubs will help you gain more followers and earn more money, there are always exceptions: For example, last August, I submitted a story to The Startup (the pub with over 700k followers) and I barely amassed 200 views, fewer reads, and less than $5 in earnings in all the months since then. On the other hand, around the same time I published another story on my little pub—The Content Generation with not even a hundred followers at the time—and that story received around 800 views and earned over $30.
It is possible that the story I published on The Startup simply wasn’t very good, or that the title wasn’t all that compelling, or who knows what else…
In other words, yes, you should aim to write for bigger pubs, but don’t look down on smaller publications either. If you check out a newer publication and you like the stories that are published there, and you think your story would be a good fit for it, don’t be put off by the smaller follower size to apply and write for them.
And now, let’s break down the steps to finding publications in your niche:
1. Find publications by topics
Before we can start vetting, we need to know what publications are out there.
To find potential pubs, start by searching for the topics (and then related topics.)
For example, let’s assume that we want to search for travel pubs. So, search for “Travel” using Medium’s search function (top-left on a desktop browser.)
On this search result page, you should see a bunch of things. But I want you to click on the topics instead. Start with the most relevant topic. For our example, it is “Travel.”
Next, when you click that topic, you should see stories that have been specifically tagged with “Travel.”
On the next page, you should see the “Trending” stories in the “Travel” tag. That’s good. but I also like to sometimes click the “Best” stories to refine my search further. In any case, here I want you to pay attention to where writers are publishing these stories. For each story, you should see a writer’s name right above the story. Oftentimes, it may say something like “Writer Name in XYZ.” The XYZ here is the publication.
Go through this list of stories until you have a good idea of which publications writers prefer for their travel-related stories.
As you can see in the image above, the first story in this list says “Jesse Choi in Going Southeast.”
Jesse Choi is the writer, and “Goin Southeast” is the name of the publication. Right away, you know that Goin Southeast publishes travel-related stories. Add it to your list.
Speaking of a list, you may want to start a spreadsheet to make a list of these pubs.
2. Search by Top Writers
Another method is to see where the top writers for that tag are publishing their stories.
For example, in the image above, you can see that Josie Timberlake is one of the top writers in “Travel.” (You’ll find the top writers list in the right-most column on a desktop browser.)
When you click on Josie Timberlake’s profile, see where her travel pieces are showing up. In this case, turns out Josie writes a lot for a publication called “Illumination.”
Whereas another top writer, Aure’s Notes, seems to like a publication called “The Expat Chronicles.”
3. Vet the publications
Most of the time, when you search for pubs by trending or best stories, or by top writers, you’ll find quality publications that publish often (at least weekly) and have a decent number of followers.
But I still like to vet the pub, just in case. No reason to waste time pitching to defunct pubs, right?
Vetting a pub is simple:
- Go to the pub and see if it publishes regular content. Some of the biggest pubs usually publish multiple stories daily. Smaller pubs may publish only a few stories a week, and that’s OK. But if a publication hasn’t published anything in a month, then that may be a red flag.
- Check if it has a submission guidelines page. Some publications are closed, as in, they only have one or a few repeat writers and they don’t accept new writers. Typically, when a publication accepts new writers, it usually has a submissions page set up. Look at the pub’s navigation menu. It should be a menu item called Submission, Submit, Write for Us, or something else with similar wording.
- Read a few stories on the pub to get a feel for what they publish and to make sure it will be a good fit for the stories you wish to write.
- You may also want to check out a publication’s follower count. Again, a large following isn’t always a guarantee for your story’s success, but often it can give you a boost. Depending on the design of the publication you may find the follower count in the pub’s “About” page, or… not find it at all. Annoying, I know. However, if you look up a publication from the Medium app (Android or iOS), then you’ll see the follower count right below the publication’s name on their homepage.
That’s pretty much it.
FYI, here’s an awesome list of Medium publications that are accepting new writers.
How to Join a Medium Publication
Different pubs have different rules.
For example, to be a writer for my publication — The Content Generation — you have to fill out a form. An Injustice does the same. The humor publication MuddyUm wants you to email them. The popular travel publication Globetrotters, on the other hand, wants you to leave a comment in their submission guidelines.
The Medium-owned publication Zora is fancy! They want you to write a story, publish it on your profile, and then tag Zora’s editors. If they like it, they’ll reach out to you and add your story to their pub.
All that is to say, there’s no universal “method” to joining a Medium publication. You have to go to each pub you wish to write for, find out what they want from you, then follow their directions.
How to submit a story to a publication
Well, first you have to be added as a writer in a pub following whatever directions they have set forth.
Once you’re a writer, you’ll see that pub under your “Publications” tab. (Click your profile page, and then find “Publications” or “See all publications.”)
As for how to submit, that’s easy.
- Write your story.
- Edit it and make sure the story is well-written. Just because you’re a writer for a publication doesn’t mean all of your stories will be automatically published. An editor will still have to approve it. If they don’t like your story, they may reject it. So write a good story.
- Once you’re satisfied with it, click the three dots at the top of the editor (on a desktop/laptop.)
- From the dropdown, click “Add to publication.”
- Then the options will change and you should see a list of the publications you can write for. Select the pub where you wish to submit your story, and then click “Select and continue.”
- Then click the “Submit” button. It’s right next to the three dots. (Basically, once you’ve selected a pub, the “Publish” button will change to “Submit.”)
- On the next page, add your tags, and then hit the “Submit to publication” button.
- And that’s it. Now it’s up to the publication editors to either accept your story or reject it. If they accept it, they’ll go ahead and schedule it for publication. You don’t have to do anything at all.
Note that you can only submit your story to one publication at a time. You cannot simultaneously submit to multiple pubs. if a story is rejected by an editor, however, you can then go ahead and submit it to a different pub if you so choose.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to write in a publication on Medium?
According to a great many popular writers on Medium, along with Medium CEO Tony Stubblebine, it is definitely recommended that newer writers join some publications to get more views and gain followers quicker. That said, the most important thing is to write regularly and write well, regardless of whether you're writing for a pub or on your own profile. Also, once a writer is somewhat established, where they publish doesn't seem to matter as much.
Do Medium publications pay writers?
In the past, I came across a few publications that paid writers. Back then, some pubs had a partnership with Medium, and they could afford to compensate writers. Things have changed since then, and while I cannot speak for ALL the Medium publications, but a vast majority of them do not pay writers out of their own pockets. However, writers who are part of the Medium Partner Program can always choose to meter their stories and make money that way. This way, writers get paid by Medium dierctly.
How do I get accepted on Medium publications?
Follow the individual publication guidelines to a T. Write good stories that fit the publication standards. And above all, if a publication does not accept you as a writer, do not lose hope, and apply to a different publication in your niche.
And that is all. If you’re new to Medium, please also read this guide for all new Medium writers. And if you have yet to join Medium as a member, you can do so now using my referral link 🙂 Just click the button below!
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