Classifying Poetry and Short Fiction for the Best Potential Earnings

Raise Your Hand if You’ve Thought About Quitting Medium

Okay, you can put your hand down. You look silly.

I totally get it. I am a poet and writer of fiction. Even my non-fiction is subject to flowery verb and metaphor. Medium has given me a fantastic platform to share my work and build an author platform for my upcoming literary novels.

The new MPP rolled out in the last quarter of 2019 hit us fiction and poetry writers very hard. The Top Writer page for the Poetry tag has declined since then.

One day I this week I checked and there was only ONE featured story there.

In short, people are posting less poetry. (And some would argue the curators are selecting less of it.) I can’t imagine the current status of fiction writing is any better, but I’d love to hear some feedback on this from fiction writers. It has been some time since I’ve written fiction for Medium.

How much of your journey will you experience if you stay on one road and take no turns, or fail to look out the window?

But this article is not meant to be a whiny conversation about how upset I am about my plunging stats. (In fact, my stats are way up this week due to the sudden popularity of this.) It is meant to be a realistic conversation about the monetizing of our work.

It is also meant to give you a very clear check list of what you can do with your next poem or fiction piece to give it the best shot at earning you a little bit of money.

You’ll want to bookmark or make a quick list of this in your writer notebook.

The following list is one that you can use to plan and execute a directed strategy for the publication of your work. Again, while this list may help you with other forms of writing it is geared toward short fiction, poetry, short stories, flash fiction.

First, let’s consider the life of these works on the Medium platform.

Clearly there are many factors that affect the success of these pieces on Medium.

  • Numbers of active followers
  • Where the piece is published / followership of the selected publication
  • The authors’ self-promotion efforts
  • Social media reach of the author
  • SEO, Google, and help from outside sources to promote the work
  • And most importantly, READS by paying members

To increase your works’ earnings on Medium you can certainly analyze and improve any or all of these factors. Perhaps you’ve been doing this all along but you are struggling more now than ever under the new MPP.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can this piece earn money anywhere else?
  2. Am I publishing this piece in the best place to give it the most readership?
  3. What is the ultimate purpose of this piece? Is it to express yourself and exercise creativity? Or is it meant to build an author platform from which you intend to take your career to greater heights? Or is this potential professional material?

If you’ve answered these questions and feel like there is more to the equation than simply writing, hitting publish, and then sharing the Medium link on Facebook, then you are in the right place. From here I will give a little bit of direction on what you can do to take it to the next level.

I will warn you, the following process will take you longer and will require you to be more organized. (Don’t worry, I can help with that!)

Let me be clear on this — you need to classify your work to choose the best path to earnings for each piece.

I have created a Google sheet to help with this process, which you may download and use, or use it as a guide to create your own method.

How to use the Monetizing Checklist / Poetry & Fiction which you can download for free: Monetizing Worksheet.

Make sure you make a copy of the document under a unique name which is locked to other users or save it as a template which you can use so that you are the only one using the sheet.

Monetizing Checklist / Poetry & Fiction (explained)

  • Choose what path your written piece will take. This is a personal choice that only you can make. Each path will have a different time frame and method of operation. I have divided this into 5 different paths (feel free to define your own) and on the checklist they look like this:
Author’s screenshot using This Carolina Road as an example.

Feel free to fill this out for each poem, or to simply review the checklist, classify your poem, and add the poem / short fiction to the list for each Tier. Get used to this checklist of thinking EACH time you write a poem and think about publishing it.

If this seems complex, it isn’t. It takes 30 seconds of your time to read the checklist, classify your poem, and type the title of your poem into a list.

From then, you are tackling each list of poems differently.

Classifying your poems and choosing a path for them takes the WORRY out of your MPP.

Some poems will be classified for sharing on Medium. They serve a very different purpose on Medium than if you were to choose them for poetry contests or save them for a poetry collection. Whether or not these poems make any money is all gravy. They won’t earn a dime sitting in your computer files or written in your journal.

  • Next, after deciding which path your work will take, add the name of your work and appropriate information on the Tier list.
Author’s screenshot

Note: Tier One and Tier Two works are long games. There will be months or more between changes to the status of these works. Despite this drawback, they have the potential of earning more money for your work. You can begin with Tier Two, submit and hear back multiple times to multiple magazines and publications before deciding to change the work over to a different Tier. Because the poem / story is in your mind a Tier Two work, you will know to keep searching for the next place to submit the work and following up. Patience is key. Keeping records of the process, also key.

  • Finally, while your Tier One and Tier two works are submitted, reserved, and waiting, you can use other works to build a fan base, excite your readers about your work, and build a reputation for yourself. Why not make some dollars or cents for these pieces? If you have already determined you are not going to seek a professional path for them, why not blog them or add them to Medium, or both?

It literally makes no sense not to. Whatever funds they bring in are more than zero.

Now that we’ve been through the classification checklist, determined the path for our poem or short story, we can tackle the lists with the appropriate plan.

  • Tier One ( for a book / collection)
    Save your works to a file folder that you know is untouchable, meaning “do not publish these” or “on reserve.” You may want files for each book or collection you are planning. Save these works until you have what you need for the book and then prepare for publishing. Publishing a book is a great way to earn money for your work and gives you something to sell throughout the year. Here is a guide for self-publishing: The Complete Guide to Uploading a Marketable Book on Amazon KDP
  • Tier Two ( for professional publication)
    This Tier requires a lot of patience and follow up. Submittable is a great resource for finding publication outlets. Keeping good records and being diligent to follow submission guidelines are crucial. You may decide to enter each work twice, or 5 times, or 10 times. It is your choice and depends largely on your budget and determination.
  • Tier Three ( for Blog publication)
    Consider these works to be “advertising.” Like Tier Four works they are used to generate interest in your work, but may represent themselves well on a blog page. If these works help build your base of readers on your blog you may be able to monetize your blog and potentially make some money there. Select these based on quality and how well they represent you as a writer. You have a bit more influence over your audience and know better what they enjoy reading. Keep them reading with regular posts of this material and you will earn loyal fans. I choose more personal works for this purpose.
  • Tier Four ( for newsletter and personal sharing with fans)
    Sometimes a poem is more suitable for sharing with your family, friends, and close fans. Create graphics with quotes, send in an email, or share to your Facebook wall. Keep the excitement going for your work and build rapport with your readers. The purpose of these works isn’t to earn you money but to feed your readers with great, personal content.
  • Tier Five ( for Medium Publication)
    Finally, here we are — Medium! (Tier Three and Tier Four works are welcome here too!) For works shared to blogs and Newsletters and Medium you can link back and forth between them, further growing your reading base and building a platform for yourself while you wait for professional publishing on other pieces. Your works shared to Medium can be classified into publications based on readers’ interests. Be diligent about choosing the right publication paths on Medium. Build your base of readers and collect some income for it. (Use this income to pay for the Tier Two poetry entries?)

So what is the “take-away” here?

Don’t loose faith in one path of your writing journey because you aren’t defining that path as a part of the journey.

How much of your journey will you experience if you stay on one road and take no turns, or fail to look out the window?

Each work that you put out there can help to build your portfolio of work. And each platform, each entry, has it’s place in the bigger picture, whether they are currently earning pennies or dollars, or waiting for potential bigger payouts.

Thank you for reading. If you find this article helpful and want to stay in touch, receive news, and read about other poets and creative writers on their journeys you can do that here: Author Newsletter.

If Productivity and Writing are your thing, here are a few curated articles in those topics:

𝘐 𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘺 𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘢 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭-𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘳. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘳𝘰𝘢𝘥 𝘭𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘴 𝘮𝘺 𝘫𝘢𝘮.