I’m not saying individual publishers deserve it. Nor am I blaming editors or reviewers. I am a reviewer for a journal; I understand the difficulty of reading a flood of submissions, many of which are crap; of facilitating the coordination of other reviewers and editors; of going back-and-forth with writers, who are basically forced to alter their work regardless of whether or not they believe the required revisions are valid; of navigating the multiple channels and levels of approval that must be gotten to bring something to publication, of articulating the proprietary agreements, of performing source verification, etc., etc., etc.
I right now have an article that’s been accepted by a major (and paying) publication, and they’ve been sitting on it for a year. A year. I feel hamstrung, because on the one hand I’m not willing to risk pulling it and losing this particular byline, and plus they’re “SO CLOSE” to publishing it — the editor assures me it’ll be up this month — and starting over with someone else could take weeks or months to even get another acceptance, at which point this incredibly static and one-sided dance will begin again.
What is one to do?
Well, one could post it on Medium.com, for one thing.
Because I write as part of my job — not as my job — in the past I’ve settled for (and celebrated getting) my writing in good-name publications. Good bylines on my resume, while they don’t technically generate cash, have and will translate into professional reward, whether through job offers or promotions. When there has been some token honorarium, that was icing on the cake. In my entire professional writing career, I’d made a total of like $75.00.
My first featured story in the Medium Partner Program made $946.84 (so far) — that’s rent. I started publishing in the Program just under two months ago, and I’ve made $1563.26, with a couple more days to go until this month’s payday. I started with almost zero followers, I’m not a blogger, and I’m not the Queen of Twitter or anything like that that allows me to pull people over for clicks.
What’s awesome about Medium is that it’s read by good readers and curated (behind the scenes) by strong writers and editors, and the whole platform is built upon transparency, equal opportunity, and a clean interface. In the world of clickbait and pop-ups, reading and writing on Medium is dreamy; it’s actually about the words.
And because publication is immediate and offered to the masses (granted, there are a limited number of articles one can read behind the paywall without becoming a member, but membership is not expensive), the writing gets the same fair shake as everyone else’s. Its potential for success is not limited to fitting into the narrow and mysterious preference set of only one editor, who may or may not even have time to properly review it.
If the people like it, the people like it. If they don’t, they don’t.
I’m probably not going to do this well every month. I’ve posted a lot of stuff that almost no one likes, which is completely fair. That’s a lesson — I learn from it and try something else with my next story.
Will Oremus writes in a Slate.com article that, “It’s old news by now that taxis are struggling to compete with ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. What might be less obvious is just how swiftly their demise could come if they don’t adapt.”
I don’t really want to see traditional publications meet their demise, but I do want them to adapt. More than anything, I want them to speed it up. I don’t know exactly how this should manifest or what exactly each individual magazine or journal should do to facilitate a more contemporary and streamlined approach to publication.
What I do know, though, is that it’s getting pretty hard to convince me to engage in complex submission processes and endure run-arounds from editors for little to no pay, when I can click “publish” on Medium and then watch the claps (and dollars) start ticking up immediately.
I can’t be the only writer who feels this way, and I think if I were a mainstream editor I’d be worried about losing out on good writing. Time will tell.