Friday, October 8, 2021

The First Dollar I Ever Earned

Just a reminder: It’s okay to leave comments!

No, I don't mean that initial greenback I was paid in a previous century. 

Partial image of a United States one-dollar bill. Photo by K. R. Smith.

I'm talking about a monetary milestone for on-line writing, Medium to be precise. While I've sold stories and poems for considerably more, breaking the dollar barrier for web content was a big thing for me.

I've been writing on Medium for a while now, mostly haiku and other poetry with a few flash fiction stories thrown in for good measure. For all my efforts, I had only earned a few pennies through the Medium Partner Program and I had just two followers. I wasn't exactly setting the world on fire. 

Then in August, Medium changed the rules. To stay in the Medium Partner Program, I needed to have 100 followers by the end of 2021. I had been on Medium since July of 2020 and had garnered only two. Doing a quick calculation, I determined it would require a bit over fifty years to reach that goal at my current pace. Although I figured this was the end of my time on Medium, I could understand their reasoning. It probably cost more than a penny to pay me that penny every month. My slow-and-steady plan was not going to cut it. 

Still, I wanted my pennies. I wasn't sure what to do. The chances of reaching 100 followers by year's end seemed slim and none. Then, two events took place, rather serendipitously. 

The first was the Medium Writer's Challenge. I'm sure the folks at Medium sent me an e-mail about it. I'm also sure I ignored it. It wasn't until writer Terri Deno mentioned she was entering that I decided to take a look. There wasn't a lot of time left in the contest, but I wrote articles for three of the four categories. I didn't get any new followers, but I did get a lot more people reading my stories and my earnings soared. By "soared" I mean that instead of pennies, I was up into nickel and dime range. All three of my contest articles had been selected for what Medium calls "further distribution." This means they promote the story to other readers. Without this, you're basically hoping someone stumbles over your writing and reads it. This limited success pushed me to write more articles and stories for Medium.

The second  event was a post by JL Matthews titled Who Needs 100 Followers? He said that if you had less than 100 followers to leave a comment on the article and he would follow back and encourage others to do the same. He was an interesting writer, so I did. 

That's when it all started to snowball. The people in the responses started to look at each other and follow other writers there. Within a few weeks, I had over 60 followers. I reviewed these and followed back almost all of them. There were a good number of interesting articles by these folks and I will need to go back and do a bit of reading!

My next step was to search for and follow writers who had similar interests. I found and followed them. Many of them followed back. And quite a few others followed me on their own. Some of these I followed back, too. I'm not on Medium to get into politics or to promote someone's personal cause du jour, so I didn't follow them all, yet I was soon above the Medium Partner Program cutoff number. I went from 2 to over 130 in a single month (I'm currently at 155). And I've learned a few things from the articles I've been able to read from my new followers (unless you're a paying member, you get three free reads per month). I think this will work out well.

Most amazing of all was that I not only earned my first dollar on Medium, but my second as well.

Chart from Medium showing I had earned $2.15 for September.

Whether or not I can continue (or perhaps increase) this earnings pace remains to be seen. But it is nice to know I have the chance. I'll have to keep writing there to keep up reader interest, but I've never had a case of writer's block in my life. So, I'll keep at it for a while and see how things go.

I don't know if Medium is where I need/want to be long-term, but now I have a reason to give it a try. Maybe in another year I'll have a better idea where to concentrate my efforts. I want to try Kindle Vella. And I continue to work on my flash fiction collection (albeit at a glacial rate). And I need to get back to doing artwork. And my guitar hasn't been picked up in how many months? 

So, yes, there's a lot going on. But it's nice to have options.

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