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Why Heading Off Into The Sunset Feels Right

I am coming to the end of the journey with nowhere else to go.

By Jason Ray MortonPublished 9 days ago 6 min read
Why Heading Off Into The Sunset Feels Right
Photo by Xin on Unsplash

The longer I self-publish online, the more depressingly discouraged I feel. There isn't an audience to be had on Vocal, and there is no longer one on Medium. In fact, I don't think that audiences exist for self-published writers or bloggers. After three years, I'm convinced that I've maxed out what I am able to get for followers, and 99% of those don't actually read anything that's written.

Hate is a strong word, but I hate how things in reality work out for most people on platforms such as these.

You might spend hours, even a couple of days, preparing a piece to self-publish online. These platforms make it easy to do. Unlike Vocal, Medium used to distribute works and you could get readers that way. It would keep it fun. Now, however, Medium doesn't distribute works so it's entirely up to you. If you don't have a name like Tim Denning, or one of the top 1%, you're facing the same battle on Medium as you have on Vocal since day one.

This is because of the newer CEO, Tony Stubblone coming along and making changes. The effects of those changes are easily watchable in the platform's writer's stats. With other changes and the change in the community, now you have two platforms where the stats don't make sense unless you take into account the number of writers looking to get reads who game the system without reading/reciprocating.

What was nearly a four-figure amount per month is now barely scraping past the $50.00 mark and this month will barely scrape past $40.00. Yet, due to the algorithms, the lack of a genuine audience, and those that aren't willing to engage with their fellow writers, there's nothing the writers can do to change the situation.

Sure, there are exceptions. Mostly due to niche writers and AI. There are thousands of articles about Chatgpt and the other AI chatbots out there, saying relatively the exact same thing. Self-help doesn't fail if you're knowledgeable in the subject. After those two it's all downhill.

Why do writers try? Because they like to write. Writers don't begin to suffer for their passion until they've made the mistake of publishing. That's when they find out that what they have to say only appeals to fifteen to twenty people.

Much like Vocal went from being a place a writer could write a good article or story and get three, four, even 5,000 reads to one of those places you're going to have pages upon pages of poetry, fiction, short stories, and articles that nobody reads, Medium has done the same thing over the past six to eight months. Comparatively, this time last year, I was pulling down seven to 10 thousand reads per month. Of course, that was when there was still distribution for everybody, not just the one percenters.

So what does do well, other than AI articles or self-help articles? Nothing that I've put together in months. Maybe if a person has 3500 to 20,000 followers it makes a difference. But, they'd have to be genuine followers, and most of the people I've run across with those numbers are from outside of the US or in major metropolitan areas.

Even succumbing to the standards of what sells in human behavior doesn't work. When an article about the hottest women in sci-fi movies and television fails to gain traction then the guys aren't paying attention. That should have attracted both the normally curious fellows and the "nerds," and no that's not offensive if you're a nerd. Nerds are tending to rule the world.

So, can a person working a full-time job with family obligations break out to be a writer? In my honest opinion, the answer is no. Not through online publishing and not through standard publishing. After years of trying, then finding the self-publishing platforms like Vocal, Medium, and Kindle's Vella, and seeing Vocal and Medium turn from promising to an exercise in futility, I look at the reasons I tried and question if any of them are still valid.

I honestly was going to drop Vocal but decided to give it one more try. I took my best shot, gave it my homerun swing, and neither of the two best things I've ever written could get even an honorable mention out of the Vocal staff or judges. It's clear that after this long without a challenge win, winning a challenge is not possible to do without luck.

Even with the most shameless self-promoting in the world, self-publishing on Vocal is nearly impossible to find an audience. Yes, there'll be 20 or so faces you'll see periodically, but if you're working and can't be glued to a computer constantly, your work goes unread. You'll get hearts, but that's just people dropping a heart at the bottom and telling you, "good story." They don't stay on the page long enough for you to get credit for the read and don't tend to leave comments on Vocal, but occasionally will on social media.

I considered giving Medium the old college try, but after the past several months, I've noticed the steady downward progression of readers and the downward earnings progression has continued to the point I can accurately predict that by mid-summer, no matter how engaged I am with the community, or how great a piece I write, my reads will have hit zero and my earnings will hit zero.

Kindle Vella was an idea from fellow writers and I gave it a shot. After nine months without a single read, that was definitely a bust.


If the last three years have pointed me toward anything when it comes to my time writing it's the following.

1. Vocal only rewards writers that fit with their personal perspective on the world, forgetting the rest of the talented writers and occasionally well-done stories along the way. The completely discretionary judging of the challenges that they laud themselves for presents a degree of control over the outcome that will never be equitable to everyone. More people have dropped the membership to Vocal for this than for any other reason I've heard.

2. Medium is going to be there for the top one percent, those that have authored books, written for magazines, and have specialties or expertise about things they can talk about in public. Anyone else is going to struggle, continue to write, and feel unappreciated and unrewarded by the experience. Or, they'll do like the people on Vocal were doing a year or so ago, and Medium will eventually see a massive exodus of members.

3. Fiction, at least in an online, self-published capacity, won't get you far and no matter how great the five or six people that read it tell you it is, that's as far as it will really go.

4. Amazon's Kindle Vella-won't work for everybody.

5. Writing on my computer and keeping it to myself was a far safer bet than self-publishing. At least then there was nothing to be disappointed about.

Closer and closer to pushing away from the keyboard and walking off into the sunset.

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About the Creator

Jason Ray Morton

I have always enjoyed writing and exploring new ideas, new beliefs, and the dreams that rattle around inside my head. I have enjoyed the current state of science, human progress, fantasy and existence and write about them when I can.

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  • Chloe Gilholy9 days ago

    I wanted to try Vella but it’s not available in the UK. I tried a Chinese equivalent which is simular to Wattpad but didn’t get anywhere with that - in order to be the top percent warning writing on webnovel you have to be scouted and write 80k a month as well as publish chapters daily. The work life balance didn’t seem to justify the returns.

  • Donna Renee9 days ago

    Sorry to read this… I haven’t been writing here long enough to gain traction and I sure haven’t been writing here long enough to lose it again but I can imagine that is is extremely frustrating! I’m also just writing to write at this point and enjoying it for the most part. We’ll see how long that lasts 😬🤷🏼‍♀️

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