Wild West of Medium Publications: Why Is It So Hard To Be Accepted as a Writer?

Different pubs, different rules

Image source: Canva Pro

In 2019, barely anyone was writing on Medium in my niche when I wrote my first article, and I received a private note from a publication saying they loved my story and asked if they could publish it.

I was over the moon!

It felt special. I felt special!

Fast forward to 2023, and you need to beg to be accepted in Medium publications.

A test only for the best

Sometimes, navigating through various hurdles and obstacles feels like playing a game where only the elite can succeed.

Nowadays, you’re lucky if they answer your questions, comments, or emails.

You know the process.

You must apply if you are not already a writer in a publication. Different pubs, different rules.

You’d think getting accepted would be a breeze?

It’s more of trying to crack a secret code.

The great publication adventure — trials, tribulations, and Twitter follows

The road to becoming a writer for some publications is like auditioning for a top-secret spy agency.

Here’s what I had to do (and no, I won’t spill the beans on which publications):

  1. Leave a comment: ‘Hi, it’s me, your future star writer. Here’s my Medium ID. Please love me.’
  2. Fill out a form: Name, age, favourite colour, shoe size, and the name of my first pet. You know, the essentials.
  3. Message the publication owner: ‘Hey, remember me? I’m the one who left that witty comment!’ (witty means snarky, don’t do that!)
  4. Pitch via email: ‘Dear pub owner, I promise I’ll be the best writer ever. Pinky swear!’
  5. Email examples: ‘Here are some articles I wrote. And a draft. And a haiku about cats.’
  6. Read an 18-min long article: And answer questions like I’m back in school. ‘What’s the main idea? Define ‘publication.’’
  7. Follow, Follow, Follow: On Medium, Twitter, Substack, and probably their dog’s Instagram.
  8. Share on Twitter: ‘Check out this awesome publication that might let me write for them if I tweet enough!’
  9. Join all the things: Discord, Facebook, Slack, and a secret handshake club.
  10. Fill out another form, plus send a ‘donation’ via PayPal: ‘Take my money, please let me write for you!’

It’s like climbing a mountain while juggling flaming torches, blindfolded, and on a unicycle. Sometimes, you do all this, and they still say, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ But hey, at least I got to follow a cute dog.

Pulling a Houdini

The dreaded ghosting.

It’s frustrating, confusing, and, let’s be honest, a little hurtful.

Silence is the killer because you don’t know what to do and how to fix things. I don’t like the fact that in 2023 ghosting is acceptable. I’ve been there — too many times.

If it happens to you, remember, ghosting says more about the person (aka publication) than it does about you. It’s not a reflection of your worth.

Keep being your awesome self, and don’t let the ghosters get you down!

How did we get here?

Medium publications have specific niches, themes, and standards. They’re looking for content that fits like a glove, and if your piece is even slightly off-target, it might not make the cut.

Then there’s the competition. It’s fierce!

The bar is set high, with many talented writers (like you and me) vying for a spot.

Publications want unique voices, fresh perspectives, and top-notch writing. If your piece doesn’t sparkle in the right way, it might get lost in the shuffle.

Don’t forget the guidelines. Some publications have rules that would make a lawyer’s head spin. Title case vs sentence case, formatting, length, style, subject matter, tags, linking or not linking, self-promotion — you name it, they’ve got a rule for it.

Missing even a tiny detail can mean an instant rejection. They don’t even leave a private note. They simply just ghost you.

But, to be fair with publications, we need to talk about timing. Medium pubs might have editorial calendars, so your draft might not find a home if it doesn’t fit their current needs. Sometimes you may have missed the sweet spot because another writer has already covered the topic from a similar angle. You never know — because they never tell you.

Large publications have lots of submissions. It’s easy to fall through the cracks, and that’s just an honest mistake. It happened to me many times when I had to message the owner to review my application or draft story.

Top tip: Always check the timestamp on your draft articles. When was the last time your story was edited? It tells the status of your submission.

You can’t control the weather, but you can water the plants

I’m not going to lie; I was pissed off several times. I didn’t think I got fair treatment from a publication owner a few times. Some other time, I read in forums, ‘Getting into so-and-so is easy, and they take everything. Well, it wasn’t my experience.

Sometimes I see bad writing with multiple grammar & spelling mistakes that even I, a non-native English speaker can spot, and the publication I was trying to get into releases the story because the writer has over 50K followers. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Publications are like their own little kingdoms, with rulers who love to pen their laws and command their subjects to dance to their tune. It’s their playground, and they’re holding the rulebook.

It’s a world where fairness takes a backseat, and the ones in charge get to call the shots. But that’s how the game is played in some corners of the writing & publishing world.

Focus on what you can control.

Keep honing your writing. Tailor your stories to the publications you’re targeting, and keep reaching out. They can still say yes the next time. It never happened to me, but I heard it’s true 🫠

Persistence is key!

We got this!