Let me start with the (miraculous, to me) facts: Medium is a platform that pays its writers based on how much the readers engage. For some of us, around ~10%, our readers engage enough to provide us with over $100 per month, or even more.
Naturally this kind of money starts inspiring all kinds of questions as eager writers flock to Medium, eager to earn money for practicing their craft. I can’t blame them – I love being paid to write about what I love, and I don’t think anyone would disagree.
However, the issue arises when it comes to what kind of article Medium – and by extension, its audience – prefers. A quick look at the Medium homepage shows that a lot of its stories are sort of techy. They’re the kind of article that would interest a twenty-something techbro from Silicon Valley. At first glance, Medium does not look like a haven for dreamy, whimsical, silly ole fiction writers.
And for the vast majority, that’s true. I don’t believe there are any high earners on Medium who write exclusively fiction. But I do believe there are several high earners who write some fiction.
There are a few important things to note.
Satire is very popular.
I think most people, when they talk about fiction, are talking about story-telling, world-building, character-crafting. However, it’s important to note that one type of fictional article on Medium is well-beloved by editors and readers, and that is satire. Folks love poking fun at institutions or traditions, and that is alive and well on the Medium platform. From a personal perspective, some of my best pieces have been satirical, and I found some of my favorite authors on Medium through their satirical works.
On a more professional perspective, Medium readers seem to like satire. A lot of the homepage is devoted to satire, and humor is one of the more popular topics on the site. So in those respects, fiction is doing just fine on Medium.
The audience may change.
Right now, Medium’s audience is folks who read articles on their commute, with their breakfast, while they procrastinate getting started on their emails. Medium readers are, by and large, not fiction readers. They like non-fiction, self-help, confessional style stuff. All easy to read and requiring not much stage-setting or leaps of narrative.
But all that could change. Though this is the case now, Medium are always looking to expand their platform, bring in new readers, and try new things. Fiction may not be at the forefront now, but you never know how things can change.
Don’t underrate connections.
Full disclosure – I don’t write much fiction on Medium bar satire. But I’ve found that just writing articles has generated several connections for future payments in other articles and publications. So while my few “pure” fictional pieces haven’t done amazingly well in terms of payment or views, it’s always possible that Medium helps the right eyes see my fiction work.
I think a lot of people measure success on Medium solely in terms of views or money and that’s a big mistake. Medium can push your work – whether fictional or not – to the people who are going to be most interested in it. Even though fiction may not make a huge amount of cash, it can still help for future endeavours.
Fiction *can* make money on Medium.
Finally, I think too many people, myself included, forget: fiction can make and has made money on Medium. Not everyone, not always, but there is a precedent.
There are a few standout, long-form pieces that have done very well on Medium, proving the audience is there and ready for it. Kristen Roupenian, author of Cat Person, wrote and published The Good Guy to wide acclaim on Medium. It was sixty-two minutes. Jessica Powell wrote The Big Disruption, clocking in at 353 minutes. Both of these pieces of long form fiction did incredibly well by Medium’s standards, earning several thousand claps. I believe both of those pieces were featured by Medium’s staff, but it still proves the platform is primed for fiction. I believe that as Medium evolves, fiction may take a greater role than previously, as a proven success with at least two big fictional stories that I know about.