Karina Lafayette – April 25th 2022
Photo by Andres Siimon on Unsplash
At a certain point, when you’ve been an artist of any kind long enough, you start to see your work differently. Whether there would be some incentive or not, I’d continue to write more. But frankly, the way society treats artists in general- this idea that on one hand, it’s all about passion, but on the other, to call us lazy and entitled- those are two ideas I’m no longer accepting.
I’ve been long considering what my next steps are in my career; where I’m heading, what I want the focus to be, the energy I wish to put out into the world, but most importantly, where I share my work overall.
For awhile now, I really felt emotionally overwhelmed, like I’ve been getting pulled in different directions, so to have my work all in one place is just a breath of fresh air.
What really prompted me to do this is when I thought about a few of my articles that were shared and read wide on social media.
When a friend sent me a screenshot of my Capricorn Moon piece that was linked in a group (originally published on Medium), I felt ecstastic. Then I realized the clicks that weren’t accounted for, because 98% were external, meaning most reads are from internet searches and social media. And while I’m grateful, it isn’t a nice feeling to know that when people share your art, the platform you work on essentially profits from it more than you do. For that article, so far it’s been read almost 70,000 times on Medium alone, with 2% being internal readers, resulting in only 35$ from the Partner Program. Something doesn’t add up… the lack of fairness.
If I wanted to, I could easily stop sharing my articles on social media and find ways to attract more Medium readers, but the idea sounds very confining and implies that not everyone deserves to read my work, which I really don’t agree with. Besides, who’s to stop others from sharing the link?
Then there is another one of my articles on the Eighth House that has been read more than 200,000 times. For whatever reason, the income doesn’t show, but it’s likely not much higher than the above mentioned article when you compare it to internal (Medium) reads. And while I understand that the Partner Program began after they were published, the stats make it clear that both are still read regularly.
So without further ado, I started my own website.
Income isn’t everything, but there’s a lot of free labour in our community that continues to go unspoken for, because society has this notion that we’re supposed to be happy living off exposure and passion alone. I’ve come across some articles claiming writers on Medium can make between $500-$5000 a month, but a quick search and you’ll find only a handful of these writers exist there. The ones who do make that much are likely folks who can afford to only write and who already had a following even before Medium existed. Another thing I’ve learned is that articles on writing tend to be viewed the most, and if that’s the case, well there’s not much I can do about it. Because it isn’t my preferred niche. Sorry. Sorry if I rather focus on my interests and the interests of followers I already have than force one out.
As for making exposure the most important thing, it would be nice if that were true, but we’re still living under capitalism, and capitalism makes most people choose between work and passion, unless you’re privileged or somehow don’t need to sleep. There’s also an idea that unless you got paid to do something, it doesn’t actually count as work. People look at writing in general as if it’s just a hobby, and that might be true for some, but it isn’t true for the rest of us. Your results shouldn’t be measured in constant productivity, it should be measured in quality. The reality is, unless you’re already privileged or established, you have to consider your time very carefully, which means you can’t give everything to a platform.
Don’t get me wrong, writing is a passion for me before it’s anything else, but if I’m going to take myself seriously, that includes being realistic. Part of that means admitting that these statistics make me feel not only cheated, they make me feel unappreciated. The fact that it’s 2:22pm while typing means the universe agrees. Of course, I should be grateful, right, and I am, but to a point. I’m grateful for the community there and the people I’ve met, but I’m not grateful for being treated like my work is only worth a few cents, or anyone else’s for that matter. Like it or not, we deserve more. There’s a fine line between arrogance and having self-worth, and I’m definitely not being arrogant right now.
I mean, I wrote my first poems at age twelve, and my thirtieth birthday is coming up. I was also a staff writer for my college newspaper, and beyond that I have two self-published books, and do astrology. That’s almost two decades of writing so far. Not to mention, I joined Medium in 2017. My work isn’t a hobby. That’s worth more than spare change. This is why people in the film industry have a peeve against the idea of working for exposure. And while exposure brings a lot of good things, it isn’t a healthy expectation to want artists to continuously work for free, or almost free. We aren’t exempt from bills and other responsibilities. We see the issue with Spotify, Tiktok, and many, many platforms. In fact, I even left behind Amazon Kindle last year because we writers there only get 40-60% in royalties, despite CEO Jeff Bezos being the richest person on the planet, next to Elon Musk. Unbelievable, right?
And speaking of, did you know an article Jeff Bezos wrote on being blackmailed got more than 200,000 claps on Medium, even though he isn’t one of us? Amazing what a big name can do.
Music, film, and writing are some of the only industries where people are basically putting in free labor, and sometimes happily. Not that they can ever be compared to the horrors of sweatshops, but I digress. This means that while practicing our craft, we’re also expected to make time for a side job, or at worst, abandon our career altogether in favor of good ol’ capitalism. Even with all this being said, I still admire Medium and what it stands for, but when you advertise “get paid for your writing”, that should include for both internal and external readers. However, if Medium somehow isn’t able to sustain that promise as a company, the least they can do is say so. And while it’s a good incentive to get more people to join as a member, for the articles that I write, people mostly look for related topics on a Google search. Very few will translate to new members, that’s just a fact.
The worst part is that I’m a bit uncomfortable even sharing this because there’s bound to be at least one person who will try to tell me how to get more internal reads, and that isn’t the point of my article. I’ve tried writing more, I’ve done click baits and gained over 1000 followers on Medium- I have no desire for tricks. At all. The point is that it shouldn’t matter who reads and how. As long as they do. Also, I’ve seen articles criticizing other writers for sharing how much they get paid, and from my perspective, that just makes it so the rest of us who earn less continue on that way. And that’s not cool. If this article got deleted from Medium tomorrow, it wouldn’t be by me, so let’s hope when their staff see it, they’ll take the opportunity to actually listen to what a lot of us have been saying, since supposedly they read everything.
As kids, we’re told to follow our dreams. Then once you become an adult, people around suddenly decide that, “Oops, we were just lying to you. Don’t follow your dreams.” Well actually, it doesn’t matter if I was lied to or not. I’m still following my path. Besides, sometimes the most loving thing you can decide is to set a boundary. Don’t lower your value for someone who can’t see it.
Will I continue writing on Medium? Of course. It is one of my happy places. But… this is my Saturn Return and well, it’s time to spread my wings and do what’s right for myself. Should the day come where more writers try getting Medium to switch to paying for both internal and external reads, I’ll be right at their side. In the meantime, some of my content won’t be available on Medium anymore, that’s the reality now.
Instead, it’s here.
To check out my books, social media and more, scroll to the menu, where you can also get a reading. If you support my work, please consider buying me a coffee.
Also be sure to watch my new short documentary series on the Saturn Return!