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Chapter
9

Submit to the Medium publication that fits your article to target your dream client

In the previous step, we optimized Medium’s tags. In this step, we’re looking at another Medium mechanic: the publication.

What is a publication, and why do I care?

A Medium publication is a collection of themed stories. Anyone can run a Medium publication — I run one called Zulie Writes, which just has stories about my life. Medium publications can be run in several ways. The two most typical systems are:

  1. Owner-only publications. Like Zulie Writes, these publications only publish stories by the owner of the publication. These are of little interest to you right now.

  2. Open publications. These publications publish high-quality stories from any writer who meets the criteria. Most publications on Medium fall under this umbrella, which is great news for you.

On Medium you can self-publish your stories. With the work you did in Steps 6 and 8, you can be sure it’ll end up in front of some interested eyes no matter what. But publications are a very important step to maximize the number of potential readers.

Tags are great, but they have one major flaw: not all readers select all the tags they care about. For example, I love cheese. But I don’t follow the “cheese” tag. If you write a story and tag it “cheese,” there’s a chance I might not see it even if I am super interested in cheese.

Publications offer you more control.

Let’s talk about how to pick the right publication for your story.

How to select the best publication

Remember those tag pages we looked at in Step 8? We’re paying them another visit.

1. Make a shortlist of tag-specific publications

Take your tag with the biggest number of followers. This broad tag will certainly include a reader who's your dream client.

Select the option to look at the “best” stories in the past month that were tagged with that tag.

Definition: Medium defines “Best” in this case as the highest number of reads. 

For example, I’m going to look at the “design” tag

Now, scroll down the list of ‌publications that are showing up. This is going to give you two pieces of important information.

  1. Which publications are still active? Medium is an old social media platform full of inactive publications. Avoid wasting your time with these. By looking at stories published in the past month, you know these publications are active.

  2. Which publications are popular? If a story is appearing in the “best of” for the past month on a popular topic, that probably means the publication has an active and engaged audience.

In the “design” tag, I’m seeing that it’s dominated by UX Collective and UX Planet. I also see Muzli - Design Inspiration. 

Note at least three publications. If you can’t find three, go to the next broad tag on your search and repeat Step One until you have at least three publications.

2. Make sure these publications are open to submissions so you can easily get accepted. 

Right now, you have at least three decent, active, and popular publications. Next, you’re making sure they’re submission-friendly.

Does the publication have a tab on its navigation bar saying something like “How to write for us”, “Publish a story”, or “Submissions”? 

Here’s a great example: 

The North West UX publication has no submission guidelines. Sure enough, if I go to a reverse chronological feed of the stories published in that publication, they’re almost all by the same guy. This publication may or may not accept new writers, but they haven’t made it easy for new writers to submit.

Not all publications are open to submissions, and you don’t want to waste time with ones that aren’t set up to receive articles from new writers easily. 

I checked all three on the design list. Right now, they’re all open to new authors. Great news!

3. Make sure the publication has an engaged following

The final step is to make sure the publication has an engaged following. I’m about to ask you to do a bit of math!

This is a little-known Medium secret: you can easily see how well-received articles are on a publication’s Latest page. Hardly any publications link to it, but you can access this page simply by going to [pub url]/latest.

For example, https://uxplanet.org/ becomes https://uxplanet.org/latest.

There, I can see three important benchmarks.

  1. How many articles is the publication publishing per day?

  2. How popular are the articles generally?

  3. How many followers does the publication have?

In order of importance, you’re looking for:

  • A high amount of engagement — at least some claps and one comment on most articles.

  • A low number of daily articles, so you don’t have to compete with other writers.

  • A high number of publication followers.

This will vary from topic to topic, so I recommend comparing publications to identify the top performers rather than using a universal benchmark.

You’re looking for signs of life. If a publication often publishes stories with no claps or comments, that’s bad news.

The follower count matters the least. It doesn’t matter if your article gets seen by 1,000 readers or 10, as long as at least one of them wants to hire you. You may find in your research that there are publications that have a very low level of engagement — those are important to avoid, even if they have hundreds of thousands of followers.

For example, by scrolling down, I can see UX Planet publishes between 8-10 articles per day. I can also see that each story typically gets some claps and comments. Finally, I can see it has 318k followers. 

That’s okay — I’d prefer fewer stories, like 3-5 per day, but it’s not completely out of the question. The engagement levels are promising. And, of course, 318k followers are tempting. 

Let’s compare that to Muzli - Design Inspiration. It publishes less than one article per day. The articles usually get some claps and some responses. It has 208k followers. 

Those are two great options, but I'd be tempted to angle for Muzli - Design Inspiration because it has less competition. 

Make an ordered shortlist of three publications based on the criteria you researched.

Submit to your ideal publication to land in front of your dream client

This is an exciting step. Your dream client is lurking in those three shortlisted publications. You’re about to blast your article right in front of their eyes, giving them no choice but to hire you because they love your work so much. 

Now it’s time to submit to a publication. Take the article that you wrote and make sure it has the five tags you selected. Read the publication’s submission guidelines, and ensure your story fits the criteria. 

How to easily submit articles to publications

Most publications ask you to submit a draft to them via a Google doc link when you apply to join them as a writer. 

Screenshot from the Muzli submission guidelines.

Once the editor reviews your draft, they decide whether to accept you or not. When you’ve been added as a writer, go back into your draft on Medium. On the top right, you’ll see three dots. Click on them and select “Submit to Publication.”

There you’ll see a list of all the publications that have added you as a writer. Select the publication, hit submit, and you’re done!

If you get rejected, don’t worry. It happens to everyone. If the editor provided feedback, take it and try again. If not, move on to option two on your publication shortlist. 

Recap

Congratulations! In this step, you submitted your draft to the publication where your dream client is hanging out. At some point over the next few days or even hours, the editor will officially publish your article. It’ll be sent out to a selection of your followers, tag followers, and publication followers. 

What happens to your story now? Medium’s distribution is algorithmic. Basically, Medium sends out the story to a small group of people it thinks might be interested in your story. The story will appear in the Medium Daily Digest emails, on Medium’s home page, and on the sidebar of related articles.

If that initial pool of readers reacts well — they click on it, they read it, they leave a comment or clap for it — Medium notices you’ve written a quality article and widens the pool of potential readers it shows the story to. 

Among those readers, one will be a potential client. That client will read your impressive article, notice what a great grasp you have of the industry, and see that you are available for hire.

The rest is history.

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