Is Curation All It’s Cracked Up to Be?
I’ve been unbelievably blessed to meet so many kindred spirits here in Mediumland, but I’ve always been an outlier.
I’m not a writer.
For me, this translates into my ongoing shock that anyone has any interest in what I have to write and share.
This also means that curation is, perhaps, a different animal to me.
Do I shun it? No way!
Do I seek it? Sure. But certainly not continuously.
Do I know how many of my stories have been curated? No. I would guess it’s somewhere between 20 and 40, but I really have no idea.
Does it define how I approach my writing here? It’s complicated.
With two years of writing consistently (though definitely NOT anywhere near-daily), I suppose I’m approaching the Medium veteran category. I’m certainly not a part of the old guard, but I’m not wet behind the ears either.
I decided to share some feedback, practical pointers, and my generic thoughts on curation, in general, to assist anyone from the newest writers on Medium to some of my esteemed friends and followers.
How can I get curated?
The more experienced writers here will confirm that Medium tends to curate certain topics and types of writing.
Fiction and poetry are unlikely to get curated these days. I don’t write either of those nor do I think I ever would. (Reminder: I’m not a writer. Poetry and fiction? Egads!)
There are topics that are much more likely to get curated — from marketing, technology, certain humor, and lots of personal stories.
I happen to write personal stories about dating, relationships, self, and occasionally life lessons. These are the stories that are likely to be selected by the Medium curators. Additionally, my stories published under the P.S. I Love You banner are the most likely to be curated.
If curation is a goal, publishing under a publication is more likely to yield that reward. Having said that, I’ve had things get picked up for curation that were self-published.
In fact, I have a very interesting and unusual twist to my curation experience.
I’m the only person I know of that has had this happen. I share it to give hope and inspiration.
When I initially started writing on Medium, I wrote about music, travel, fashion, and a few other topics. I never found an audience for my travel or fashion, so I dropped them and began writing about my dating and relationship foibles.
One thing I never stopped doing, though, was writing about music. Month after month I kept sharing music even though my following was minuscule.
I loved sharing music so much that I kept going.
Honestly, it never occurred to me that my music stories would ever get curated.
No one read them. I had a consistent audience of 4. (Even after 2 years, I still only have about 8 people who read them regularly.)
But something magical happened EIGHTEEN MONTHS into my writing about music!
Yep. One of my music stories got curated!
I was flabbergasted. And elated.
For one day, my story about the Stone Roses was right next to a Rolling Stone story on the Medium home page for music.
That was a dream for me!
I’ve made $13 for that curated story.
I’ve had at least half a dozen music stories curated since then. None of them has made over $20. I recently had one make $3. (I actually laughed as I typed that last sentence.)
So, is curation of my music stories going to pay for, well, anything beyond my Cherry Coke addiction?
Did the curation of several music stories lead to legions of new followers and lovers of my random mixtapes?
Meanwhile, I’ve had some decent financial success with a handful of my dating stories.
Which I’m very grateful for.
But it’s not even close. The day my music story got curated was a much bigger emotional victory for me.
How important is curation?
There’s not a right answer to that. I can only share my perspective.
First of all, the curation of certain dating stories has brought me as much as $300 or $400 per story. (Not huge numbers. But considering how small my following is, comparatively speaking, and how infrequently I write, this is a decent accomplishment.)
That is the anomaly, though. It is MUCH more likely that I will only get a very small bump in view, claps, and monetary compensation.
I do have some very specific information about two stories of mine that got curated within two days of each other. I followed them fairly closely because I was curious to track their respective success and I hoped to share my conclusions. (I’m finally doing so!)
Both stories were published under two different publications. One’s curation was a COMPLETE shock to me!
It was just a random story about my (at the time) pending move from Austin to Mississippi. It wasn’t particularly interesting (if I’m honest) and I wrote it as a way to update my Medium group of friends about my life.
I believe it got curated because it was a bit of a turn-your-life-into-something-positive sort of tale. Again, I was in no way thinking this story would get curated. But I’ve had time to ponder why in the world it would have been and that is my best guess.
The other story was a dating story, so it was less surprising that it got curated.
Both stories tracked similarly initially. I did notice, however, one big difference.
The moving to Mississippi story was liked primarily by my Medium pals who clapped generously. The dating story had about the same number of claps, but by a lot more people.
The dating story far outearned the move story and it still gets the occasional like even now.
I realize this is an isolated tale, but it does appear that having more people like your story even if they clap less is more financially beneficial than having fewer people like your story while clapping more generously.
Claps matter. But the number of people who clap really, really matters.
If readers want to support writers for their writing, don’t just comment and/or highlight, you must also clap.
I’ve read these conclusions elsewhere by bigger names on Medium and can confirm that my limited experience supports their theories. (Lon Shapiro is a great resource for those looking for humor and Medium savvy. Feel free to start here.)
Should curation matter?
On the one hand, it’s validating to have someone curate something I’ve written. I think it’s considered tacky or unwriterly to admit that. But it is validating to me. At least somewhat.
On the other hand, I rarely go into a piece thinking that it will get curated. Not to say that I NEVER think about curation opportunities.
I had a feeling that the particular dating story I mentioned above would get curated. I knew I had nailed the title, the sentiment, and even the photo. Sure enough, it did. And, in fact, it has been one of my most successful stories.
I’ve also had lots of stories fail spectacularly. At least in terms of curation.
But that’s only one measure of success here in Mediumland.
And I think many of us would argue it’s only a tiny sliver.
Resonating with readers — offering clarity or perspective or just understanding.
Connecting with other writers.
Creating something unique or insightful or entertaining.
These are the true rewards for the bulk of us, I think.
Is curation fair?
No. Looking for fairness from curation is ill-advised.
Jeremy Roberts is a far, far better writer about music than almost anyone on Medium. To my knowledge, he has never been curated. It’s embarrassing that I’ve been curated while his work goes unrecognized.
I just learned that my pal, the uber-talented P.G. Barnett, has been excluded from the curation gods thus far. He is the perfect example of being an excellent writer not equating to being curated.
I hung in there and wrote about my greatest passion, music, and eventually did get curated. I put in enormous time and effort. I never gave up. And miraculously I was rewarded with the elusive curation.
But others write tirelessly, too, about their loves and passions. They put in their all. Why me? Why not others?
Talented writers are overlooked by the curators. And questionable topics and writing are rewarded every day.
Curation is irrelevant to your worth as a writer and contributor to Medium.
I debated whether to write this story.
Oh. Another random person on Medium writing about Medium. How tiresome.
In the end, I decided that I had enough thoughts and insight to be beneficial to folks out there in Mediumland. In particular, I remember being new and eager to learn more about the inner workings of Medium.
I suppose most importantly I wanted to remind the longer-term writers that it’s okay to seek curation. I’m not here to judge you!
But it’s equally important to me that I encourage each of you on Medium to do it your way.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve read, watched, observed, and written.
I’ve done it my way 100%. Slow and steady. What I’ve wanted to write. When I’ve wanted to write. Unapologetically.
I’ve made less money than a lot of people. But I’ve made far more than I ever thought I would.
I’m not sure what my future holds. My dating foibles may trickle out yet if folks still want to hear them. (And if I actually have any. My dating well is rather shallow these days.)
I can say with certainty that I will keep sharing music on Medium even if my audience remains 6.
Maybe curation is your end goal. Maybe it’s something completely irrelevant to you. Maybe you’ve got a love-hate relationship with it.
If you’re still conflicted, it’s okay. You aren’t alone.
I’ll leave you with this:
On the days when you feel discouraged that your story didn’t get curated, feel free to remember that several of my curated stories earned less than $4 and 5 people liked them.
Doesn’t that make you feel better?
Thank you for reading this story
I know you are busy and have lots of ways you could be spending your time. You using your time to read my work means the world to me — my sincerest thanks!