Posting your writing online can be a scary experience. Whether it’s fiction, personal essays, or even a technical write-up, with every post you make you’re putting a piece of yourself into the public eye.
It’s a vulnerable feeling. People might hate what you’ve written. They might leave mean comments. They might misinterpret your thoughts — and when they do it will sometimes be hard to tell if you’re writing wasn’t clear enough or if they were just reading too fast.
My personal biggest concern is that nobody will read what I’ve written. The shortest time that I take to write a post is about an hour. More often, my writing time stretches over a few hours, or even into days and weeks.
As I’m working away, I can’t shake the worry that when I’m finally finished, almost nobody will actually see it.
It’s not an unreasonable concern: I have several Medium posts with less than ten total views and just one or two people who actually read the whole post. These things sometimes happen.
Unfortunately, when you first start posting on Medium, it’s likely to happen a lot.
How Widely Read Will Your First Few Posts Be?
You may have seen stories about people posting the first thing they’ve ever written online and having it immediately go viral. It’s true that this happens from time to time, but it’s so rare that you might as well play the lottery instead.
More realistically, barely anybody will read your first few posts.
My first post only got one view on the day I posted it. That view came from me, checking the website from another computer to make sure the view counter was working.
It wasn’t until day three that I finally got another two views.
On my second post, I got lucky: the post was distributed by Medium curators, which brought it to a much wider audience. It still didn’t crack a hundred views on the first day, but I was at least starting to get views in the dozens.
My third and fourth posts were right back to just a couple views each.
The Good News
Writing and posting your first few stories is a very strange experience. You know that very few people are likely to read each post, but you also know that the posts have to be good enough that those readers will come back next time.
The good news is that if you keep posting consistently, your readership numbers will steadily rise. As long as you keep trying your best to write high-quality posts with something real to say, you will gradually find new readers.
Even some of those old posts — the ones that didn’t do as well at first — may start to gather more readers down the line. My first two posts have now both passed the 1,000 view mark. (Although, my third and fourth posts still have under a dozen readers each).
The posts that don’t do well will also still end up helping you improve as a writer. Every post I make that seems to disappear into the void is still teaching me more about what the Medium audience is looking for. (Which is apparently not stories about poetry and birding — who could have guessed?)
When you are writing and posting your first few stories, it can help to focus less on how many readers those stories will get, and more on what you’re learning as you write each story. Even though these stories are being posted online, they are also serving as writing practice. Think about what you did right, and what you can improve on next time.
Are There Any Shortcuts?
Yes, there actually are a few ways to get more readers on your first few posts — but don’t expect any miracles.
- Post in publications: If you search around Medium, you can find plenty of Medium publications looking for new writers. By publishing your writing into a publication, you put your post in front of that publication’s audience and can expect at least some boost to your readership numbers. Some publications might only net you another view or two, while the really big publications can have a huge impact.
- Follow the curation guidelines: Medium has a group of “curators” who read through new articles and decide whether to distribute them into Medium’s topic pages. Having your article distributed by Medium’s curators can lead to hundreds of views. Unfortunately, it can be hard to know ahead of time whether an article will get curated. You can maximize your chances by making sure to follow the curation guidelines.
- Post your stories to social media: If you have a following on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social site, posting a link to your story is likely to bring in a few views. Don’t expect everyone who follows you on those sites to be interested in reading what you write on Medium though. Medium posts are very different from Twitter or Facebook posts, and most of your followers probably won’t click on the link.
Even with these strategies, readership will most likely be a slow build. But, if you post regularly and write the best you can, your readership will steadily grow.