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Recently I published a full-length novel to the pages of Medium.
That is to say I took this 662-page trade paperback.
And turned it into the following 20-hour reading time online version now available to Medium subscribers.
. . . .
This appears to be a publication strategy neither well recognized nor taken seriously on the platform. But that could change.
In this article, I will explain how you can use Medium to bypass traditional publishing platforms and not only put your book online for the world to discover, but also get paid each time your book is read, either to completion or partially.
. . . .
If you are an author you ought to be able to use the information in this article to take in stride all the obstacles I faced trying to get my book onto Medium. I would say there are enough of these to deter most people from ever getting started, let alone completing the job.
But as you are about to discover, I am rather stubborn and I will figure out a way to get something done even if it means doing it inefficiently.
This was certainly the case 20 years ago after I finished up the writing of what I categorized at the time as a science thriller.
Because I failed to convince the literary agents I pursued that I deserved representation I ended up having to self-publish my book. That meant I had to typeset the entire thing, which I did in Word, before converting those pages into a publishable PDF format. The result was a hefty trade paperback (pictured above) which was made available as a print on demand title from Ingram’s Lightning Source division.
. . . .
On Medium the first part of my book is not metered, it is available to anyone to read. The second part lies behind the paywall.
If someone elects to read those latter pages, I get paid a certain (unknown) amount of their subscription fee for that month. This amount depends on how much time the reader allocates to my book in relation to how much time they allocate to other pages on Medium. The downside to this payment model is that I must assume most of the risk. Unless I have done an extremely good job with the first part of the book I am not going to make a penny on the second part of it (because readers will have disappeared before reaching it).
But this is the gamble I am making.
When publishing the pages of your own book you get to decide whether any particular page is metered or not. So it is entirely up to you to as to how your payment model will work. You could model my approach, or you could do something completely different.
Link to the rest at Medium
PG did a word search on the OP and could not find any reference to Amazon.
12 thoughts on “How to Publish Your Full-Length Novel or Any Other Book on Medium”
Very odd. Medium sounds exactly like Amazon, except with more hassles and with unknown payouts. And probably far less exposure to readers.
The unknown payouts bothered me the most. I haven’t checked their site, but if it’s not spelled out clearly and if the reports don’t show the calculations that lead to the payouts, there is massive room for not paying authors what the authors thought they would be receiving.
I also wonder if Medium has any sort of author dashboard that shows how a book is performing.
Allow me to also point out that, if you’re reading a book on Medium, perhaps it isn’t going to be usefully legible on, say, an ereader, or possibly even a cellphone or tablet.
When’s the last time you sat down to read a book on your laptop or desktop?
(I know there are quite a few people who read a book on a cellphone but, frankly, I think they’re crazy.)
This is definitely odd but interesting. But I’m wondering why he never considered KDP Print (or CreateSpace if it was earlier)? It seems perfectly capable of handling the complex formatting he’s mentioning along with the HUGE ecosystem of Amazon. I might make a comment on his OP on Medium and see how he replies.
The OP just responded on Medium to my similar comment there. He says:
“You know, it is entirely possible that if I spent time with KDP it might turn out that I like it and my reservations about using it to render a digital version are outdated. When the Kindle platform first appeared I did look into it briefly and thought the whole thing was hideously complex. Taking into account concerns about image formatting, the need for multiple font families, and the multitude of digital formats that seemed to need tackling I threw up my hands and said “Not in my lifetime!” But maybe I should make time to have another look. Besides all that, I do like the fact that with Medium your book is easy to edit, you get to decide what portion of it is free to read, and you can interact with your readers if you are up for it. In fact you could do all manner of interactive things if you really wanted to have a go at it. Thanks for commenting and making me create a mental note to check out KDP more carefully when I have time for it.”
That’s what you call, “Missing the boat.”
One also wonders how viable Medium is as a platform when it’s going through its fourth… reinventing? reparadigming? between-major-automobile-revision refreshening? in the last three years, and its ownership has publicly announced that its current revenue model isn’t working.
This illuminates the fundamental disconnect between “brick and mortar stores” and “all-electronic stores”: Any failure of the former has minimal to no effect on past purchases/licenses (tried moving anything you bought from Borders’ e-store to a new device lately?), and in any event purchases at brick-and-mortar stores tend to indubitably be “sales” and not purported “licenses” that can be yanked for any reason at any time. Conversely, the selection at all-electronic stores will almost always be wider than that at physical locations, and when there’s a real error in the product it can get fixed a lot faster (for example, covers that are themselves copyright infringements are easy to replace; Thomas Friedman and his publisher would have benefited from that!). In short, there’s a place for both; it’s the size of the pie and relative size of each piece that’s at issue.
There is a reason why Medium keeps reinventing: lack of (revenue) scale.
And the reason for that is they aren’t selling a product (even a license) but rather a service: online reading. They expect people to pay to read (much like WSJ,NYT, or WP) but they have no focus or identity. Look at their home page and you’ll find a hodge podge of fiction, opinion, and “reporting”.
They’re currently trying to be an old school magazine like the SATURDAY EVENING POST but that concept died 50 years ago. For good reason; specialization and market segmentation took over.
Going by the SimilarWeb analysis site, they rank in the 247 range for global volume of traffic with an average of 200M visits a month but the average visit is 1:43 minutes to 1.6 pages and 27% are from the US.
Whether that may or not be an enduring business model is between them and the deity of their choice but I don’t see much market for novels there, which leads me to wonder just how much revenue the OP might be deriving from the chopped up story. Combined with the comment about KDP I don’t think they did much homework on potential markets for their work.
I would take any recommendation with a ton of salt.
(The permanence of ebook licenses is a different topic. A subject for a different comment.)
“…They expect people to pay to read (much like WSJ,NYT, or WP) but they have no focus or identity. …”
Exactly. Early on, I tried to brainstorm ways of using Medium, “published” a couple of photo stories, but quickly left it behind. And although they don’t play in the same space, I’m much more involved with Quora.com. I answer questions there (sometimes including short extracts from my novels) and also get some good research leads. But that’s mostly about promotion, not sales or revenue from writing.
Felix, in this instance “specialization” (and you’re absolutely correct here) is code for “editorial competence.” We saw it with the SEP, we saw it with The New Yorker (really: when is the last time you read a nonfiction piece there? how about read it with confidence in its editorial integrity? how about read it with confidence in its decades-out-of-date reputation for fact-checking? almost entirely the fault of she-who-shall-not-be-named-and-has-returned-to-Blighty): When a magazine makes too many mistakes that result in lawsuits and retractions in its nonfiction offerings, that spills over to its poetry, its lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-shameless full-color spreads, its travel advisories, its fiction…
…gee, I wonder what Medium’s docket looks like? (Runs off to PACER and SCROLL to see; oh MY!) The lesson here is that short-term profitability (which is different from sustainability) of general-purpose publications lays the groundwork for long-term problems. Like lemming behavior. One wonders if that applies to book publishing, with media conglomerates pretending to cover at least a majority of the thirteen publishing industries; we’re in the midst of an uncontrolled experiment, and early returns say “scale doesn’t matter here — just look at the proposed HC-HMH transaction!”
There is scale and then there is SCALE!!!!
The BPHs have yet to internalize that distinction. Even in the media world they are headed for marginalization; there are true giants emerging.
There are businesses emerging all over where the yardstick for success isn’t millions or even billions. The top earners today are tens of billions of *net* big and evolving to the next order of magnitude, starting to take on projects with an ante in the hundreds of billions and payoffs reaching to the trillion dollar range.
(At a time of essentially zero inflation.)
Some of the suspects are well known, others less so.
Things are going to get very interresting in the 30’s if war doesn’t reset the landscape.
The modern world is too big, too complex, and too decentralized for anybody to be all things to all people. Or even pretend to be so.
Nobody can be competent at enough things to be able to even fake it.
The flip side is nobody is interested in everything and no longer aspire to it.
Which is why legacy operations trying to fake it are withering and those misguided enough to try to transplant the dead models to a new (ahem) medium flounder.
We are evolving into a world of linked silos, which leaves two roads forward: you either build a silo or build an aggregator/distributor. And not everybody is big enough to build a sustainable silo; in the age of giants survival will depend on embracing a niche and being really, really good at it.
Pearson and HMH seem to get it.
Medium? Doesn’t look like it.
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