(This is a transcript of an audio episode.)
Diana: All right, so today on the Story Artist podcast, we have an interview with Nicole Akers, a Medium strategist, and a community-building guru. Welcome. It’s so great to have you here.
Nicole: Thank you. Thank you for having
Diana: I’m so glad to have you and I really, really look forward to this interview. But before I start to drill you with all kinds of questions, tell us a little bit more about yourself, your background, and your business.
Nicole: Well, I’ve been online in writing communities for a little while now. Uh, started, you know, it’s interesting, our development, how we do so many things and we start in one space and then figure out that we’re intended to be somewhere else. So I actually started in the health space and, uh, found out that it was, really, my, my interests lie in writing and helping other writers. So, after I made that jump, I’ve been there for, uh, probably four or five years, uh, now. And, uh, that’s been the best jump I could have made. When you are in the place that you’re supposed to be, a lot of things just fall into place.
Diana: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true. That’s so true. Uh, and you’re really passionate about communities, right? Uh, so why is this, why do you like communities?
Nicole: Interesting how online communities can be detached, but can also be a wonderful source of connection. Some of my best friends are writers, online, And it’s interesting how when we see each other in person, which isn’t very often, but once in a while at a writer’s conference or something of that nature. But it’s like you run up and hug each other like you’ve known each other your whole life because you know about each other, you know about their writing, you know what they’re interested in.
And the online community is just an enhancement of, uh, a personal interaction.
Diana: Okay, so, but what can communities give us? What, why are they so important?
Nicole: Feedback, networking, ways to grow your skills. Uh, connections. It’s interesting. Once the writer gets to know you or a networking connection, they’re willing to open up their resources, and when they do that to help someone else, it’s not only beneficial for the person that’s an offering of themselves but of course, it’s a growth experience as well.
And when, when you have this commonplace of sharing, sharing techniques, sharing feedback. And sometimes it’s just support. You know, sometimes it’s like, Oh, this went really well. And so you get to celebrate your wins, but also a source of inspiration and connection for the flip side of that too, you know, when things aren’t going so well, uh, really your, your community can be anything that, uh, you want it to be.
And sometimes it’s good to have different communities for the different skills, for the different offerings that they have. You know, maybe you don’t get all of that in one community, but you get a great source of support from one and you get great tools and learning from another one. So sometimes it’s, it’s a little bit of a mix that you find the right communities that offer what you need and the ways that you can give back as well.
Diana: Yeah, that’s so true. And I think, um, we all know that relationships make us happy. Essentially, it’s relationships that are so important. but I think many authors or I suppose that many authors are introverts, which I am at least, and building a community can sound scary or even being part of the community. So how can we overcome this as authors?
Nicole: I think to a certain extent, even introverts just need to put themselves out there once in a while, at least a little bit. It’s scary and it’s intimidating at first, and I’m an introvert too, so I get this and my, my kids are like, mom, you got to get out a little bit, you know, get out behind from behind the computer, live the life. And it’s like, no, I do really. And I do, but not as much as maybe an extrovert who thrives on that. And it’s really interesting because I see the difference because one of my daughters is highly introverted, the other is highly extroverted. And so I see the differences because I live them every day.
And so I’m forced to push myself a little bit. And I think we have to push ourselves a little bit in a community sometimes. And sometimes it’s just the community that opens the door. Now it can also be an online community that helps you be more of an introvert. So it is a balance. But you know, my, my introverted daughter who’s like, let’s go, let’s do this. And she’s not afraid to step out and do anything. Like she could hang out the window and yell hi to anybody, and she loves this. I mean this, this is who she is. It’s not who I am. So she pushes me to step out.
Diana: Yeah, the more you put yourself out there and the more you step out, the less scarier it gets in the end.
Nicole: Definitely. Definitely. It is scary at first. The more you do it, the more you warm up to it.
Diana: Okay. So if I’m like a writer who’s starting out and I’m here with my computer and I just want to be part of a community, start building a community around my passion, how do I start? What do I do?
Nicole: There are a lot of great communities across platforms. ones that I can think of with deep connections that you can, two come to mind, Facebook and LinkedIn. But it depends on where you are and what you’re doing. If you’re in more of a business aspect, it might be LinkedIn. If you’re in more of a communal engagement, it might be Facebook. It’s just interesting in that way, and you have to find it even then where the groups that are of interest to you.
Most of them, you can do a search. fiction writers, you can find fiction on Facebook and on LinkedIn, both. Uh, there are different communities. If you search them, you can. Find whatever, however, you’re fine-tuned for engagement. Maybe you want so many people in those different groups. Maybe they’re geared toward a fiction writing or fiction editing or, um, you know, various things. Maybe nonfiction writers, whatever your interests are, you can search that criteria and find, a group tailored to your needs. So I would say find that group. And you know, an introduction isn’t so scary. But once you’ve introduced yourself, you can stay on the sidelines as long as you want.
You can be a friendly troll. There’s nothing against that, you know, the introvert in you maybe. But you know, once you start to make connections, that’s when you’ll develop the power of the group and the power of community. And I would encourage, I mean, stay on the sidelines as long as you want. But as long as he want to be a wallflower, you can’t bloom.
So once in a while you have to get in there and dance. Yeah.
Diana: And I think also the perk of a community are lasting relationships in the end, and we can only build them if we engage with the community. Now, let’s talk about your latest book. It’s about Medium. It’s called “Making Money on Medium – build your audience and grow your income with medium.com”. My first question is: why Medium?
Nicole: Medium is the place I didn’t want to be. I never wanted to be on Medium. I drug my feet for so long, and my writer friends said: you’ve gotta be there, you’ve gotta be there. You’re connected in these other ways that you just need to be there.
And I said: but I don’t want another platform. And I would say, if you’re an introvert, this is probably a good platform for you, honestly, because you’re not going to get dinged. And you know, every time there’s a new engagement, you can check your notifications as you will. But you’re not going to get the real-time interaction.
So if you want to be an introvert, that can be a good thing. You can engage as you will and at your own free will. And that’s part of why I like Medium, honestly. I also like that there is the ability to earn an income there. you know, you can put articles behind the paywall and actually writers can earn a revenue, and a lot of writers do, they earn anywhere from a hobby to a full-time income on the platform.
So it really is anything you want to make it and as much or as little engagement as you want.
Diana: Okay. So what are the basics if I want to get started on Medium? What is the basis for success on that platform?
Nicole: Well, I would say, first of all, you do need a community. And that probably doesn’t have to be your first step.
Your first step has to be jumping in. You need a profile. And, hopefully you’ve been writing for at least a little bit. A medium is a little bit of a different platform and the way that it is a longer form, piece of writing. And that can be. Some publications on medium accept very short pieces.
I would say some are less than a hundred words. Some are two minutes. and others are more developed, thought-provoking pieces. So whatever you’re kind of writing is, there’s a place for it. there’s also a place for any kind of writing, whether that be fiction or a nonfiction or, really whatever you have.
If you’re not strongly networked, I would say seek out publications. Publications have more eyes. And as you’re building your following, and even after you have your following, publications introduce you to new and different eyes. And that’s always a good thing, you know, to, to have different eyes and, and new interactions with your work, that you wouldn’t otherwise ordinarily get.
Diana: And you do have you own amazing publication on medium, tell us a little bit more about it.
Nicole: Publishious started it in late 17, it’s growing and continuing to grow. It’s nearing 30,000 followers as, as we’re talking now, and that’s really and just over two years, and we’re expecting a lot of good growth this year. we are, , pushing the writers to be better than they’ve been before. We’re upping the caliber of editorial submissions and writers are seeing the results of that, in positive, positive ways. We have a pretty decent curation rate and we’re proud of that.
Diana: And what’s the idea behind Publishious? Like content-wise, what is the content about?
Nicole: Three broad categories basically a faith or Christianity. A better living. So that would be productivity, self-improvement, psychology, life lessons, as well as the third category being writing, so how to be a better writer.
Diana: That’s so cool. And, I think being successful in the medium, it all depends also on how many followers you have, right? So our goal is to be better writers, but also to gain more followers. How do I do that? How do I gain followers so medium?
Nicole: I think the basics are still strong and true. The first goal still I think is your, your first hundred writers, and I think people want to get to the first thousand is as quickly as possible.
Communities help you do that. Beyond that I would say consistent writing. Find the mentors, get a mentor, follow the mentors, study how they write and format. And share their work and publish good quality content as often as possible.
Diana: So what’s your advice on how often to publish on medium?
Nicole: Everyone has a different theory on this.
I do not publish every day. of course there are some people that do, and there are some people that got their following doing that. Great. I think that’s wonderful. I do write every day. I don’t publish everything that I write. For me, those are two different things. For others, they say, you know what, I failed everything I wrote for three years really was awful. And I just took that egg in the face so I could get to where I am today. So there are so many people that have written their own recipe for success here. My personal preference for myself is that I like to publish three to four good quality pieces each week.
Diana: Well, I feel like three to four times a week is still a lot for me at least. Would you recommend, like when I’m an author and I want to build a community, I want to write focusing my efforts on Medium, like having it as my main platform, or how do you view medium? Like is it a way to drive traffic to my website, to build community, find readers?
Nicole: Medium is all of that, and it depends on what you want your goals to be. There is some people that use Medium really as their blog, and that is how the platform was developed. It was developed so that writers don’t have to have the hassle of their own blog and they don’t have to worry about maintaining their blog.
There are some very successful writers that have pretty much given up updating their blogs and they just write on Medium and they’re happy with the income they make there. That’s one theory. The other theory is that you can’t be dependent on a social media platform because they can always change and that has its own valid thought too.
I definitely like to maintain my own list. I can talk to different people on Medium than I can through my own independent list. I think having an independent list is still valid and it depends on what you want and where you’re going. If you want to have your own list, you have, you will always own that.
You know, no social media platform can take that away from you ever. Um, but you know, social media platforms changed. We know that medium is a great platform. I love being there and I would recommend it to any writer. It also changes often, and that can be both good and bad. You know, you never know when the change is coming.
Just that change is the constant. And we have to adaptable.
Diana: I find it so difficult to be just dependent on one platform, you know? Because you never know what’s going to happen. Even like if we’re talking about Amazon and publishing only on Amazon, even that scares me because I think you never know if they’re changing their algorithm or rules or just disappear. Like you said, anything can happen, and if I’m dependent on that one platform, my whole income goes away, so it’s quite scary. So what do you think about publishing simultaneously on my blog and the medium, the same piece of content, because I know many writers do that.
Nicole: A lot of artists do that. With the import tool on medium.
You can certainly do that. Big thing, across the internet is that you don’t want the exact same content out there. With the import tool, you can import from your blog, and there’s that little piece of code that comes at the bottom of your piece. So that is one way. You could also publish either to your blog first or to medium first, and changed the piece for the respect of publishing.
So whatever, subsequent publishing after that. A lot of times I write to Medium and then later, I will take that piece and add to it or make it completely different or go a different direction and put that piece on my blog.
Diana: Yeah. I know that some people advocate for not doing it, like publishing stuff on Medium that’s only on Medium. So I was just wondering about your thoughts on that, if that makes any difference at all, or if that’s fine to publish in both ways.
Nicole: It depends on the writer. I like to test my content kind of on medium and see how it’s received before I put it on my blog.
And if it goes really well, great. And if it doesn’t, I can change and refine it before I take it over to my blog. And you know, it can work the other way too. So. It’s personality and preference, and honestly, Medium is such a forgiving platform that almost anything goes.
Diana: Hmm. Okay, great. Yeah, I like that strategy of testing. It’s really good. So how about fiction writers? Can they use the platform as well to find new readers? And if so, in which way?
Nicole: I think there is a place for every kind of writing on medium, and if there isn’t, you should probably start a new publication, but there are some really strong fiction clubs on the platform. And if you’re a fiction writer, I think you can. Find your fiction writers and your fiction publications without any problem. The fiction writers, I hear a lot of them saying, I want to get noticed more. Everybody wants to get noticed more. But, I think if, if there isn’t a place on medium for the people you want to reach, it’s probably a good thing for you to consider starting your own publication.
Diana: Okay. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I’m really, I’m intrigued. What do you think about starting your own publication? Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Why should or shouldn’t we do that?
Nicole: I think starting out publication is a good thing. Even if you don’t want to run a publication that accepts writing from other writers, a lot of writers do this.
They use their, their publication to, categorize and put their writings into topics. So even if it’s just your personal publication, there’s still value in that. And on the platform, it looks like your having started a publication and that you write to one already, so there’s some benefit for that alone.
There’s always some writing and promotion going and there’s always room for more eyes and more growth. And that’s a good thing, too.
Diana: Okay. So what if I have to decide, like do I publish on another publication or do I publish for my own publication? How do I decide what’s the right thing to do?
Nicole: I think there’s a lot of personal preference there. A lot of people do both and it’s, it’s just different eyes. And so someone that’s publishing to a lot of different places probably writes often, probably five times a day, if not, or five times a week, if not.
So if they’re spreading their content around to that degree, they’re going to get a lot of different eyes, potentially grow, both in their writing and in their followers faster. that’s, that’s one strategy. sometimes I’m envious of those writers who publish every day, how they do it. I cannot keep up that kind of stamina all the time.
Diana: Yeah, I understand that. I’m not that kind of writer either. I like to publish like every week because I love my articles to be well-researched. They’re pretty long, like one thousand two thousand words.
I like to go in-depth. That’s the same with my books. You know, there are writers who like to write and they publish a book like every month, every two months, and it’s crazy because I need like a year or something to write my book. I just can’t do that. I really think medium is a great platform to grow your audience, whatever you’re writing about. I really loved your advice and I think everybody should get started writing on Medium because it’s, I think it’s a no brainer. Even if you publish on your blog and Medium as well. The same piece of content, you still get gain followers and people and eyes on your platform.
And I just want to ask you one last question that I ask every guest on my show, which is what’s your favorite story and why?
Nicole: I’ve read two books recently that have really been speaking to me. One is “Stop apologizing for being your awesome self” by Rachel Hollis. She is fun and sassy and I really related to her because. I feel like she and I could be soul sisters if we met. Another book that I’ve read recently, and poor guy, I’m going to show you his name because I’m going to slaughter it if I say it. He is one of our columnists for Publishious. He puts it straight out there to you and leaves you no excuses. He is, he’ll hold your feet to the fire and make you show up or don’t complain because you didn’t. Straight talk, straight talk. Yeah. So those would be my two recommendations. Um, yeah, I would say Rachel Hollis, she’s gonna touch about every, every female out there. Probably not a book my husband would pick up, so I had to back it up with a book that anybody would touch.
Diana: Yeah. So before we wrap it up, just tell us where people can find you, your work and everything you do.
Nicole: I’m on most social media platforms, of course. I’m Nicole Akers on Medium. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. Facebook has my maiden name, so it’s a little tougher to find me. They’re not too difficult though if you go looking. And also on Amazon.
Diana: Yeah. Thank you so much for this. It was great. Thank you for your time.
Nicole: Thank you, Diana. I appreciate it.