The Duotrope Dilemma

Writing and placing short stories may be fun and gratifying, but it’s not a way to get rich. Short story writers  write their work and submit to journals without expectation of payment most of the time. That may be unfortunate, but it’s the truth.

And it used to be true that the whole process was free from looking up your market in Duotrope to submitting via Submittable (formerly SubMishMash) as long as you didn’t submit to a place that charged reading fees, or contest fees (something I’ve discussed on the blog previously. In short, I don’t believe in paying reading or contest fees.)

But beginning Jan 2013, the Duotrope database has started requiring payment – either $5 a month or $50 if you sign up for a full year. Here’s what Duotrope says about what you can no longer access:

If I don’t subscribe, what will I miss out on?

  • You will no longer be able to run searches or browse the index of listings.
  • The information shown on individual market listings will be limited.
  • You won’t be able to access our calendar of deadlines, statistical reports*, or RSS feeds.
  • You will lose access to your control panel, including your submissions tracker

I have mixed feelings about it because I think Duo is a fantastic resource and I’ve enjoyed using it over the years, however, I think $50 for a one year subscription is too steep for most writers who are not getting paid for their work. If it had been half that I would have grumbled but signed up. At $50, I’m not signing up on principle, for now.

Also, I don’t see how the statistics on Duotrope will improve if they have a much smaller number of users reporting their submissions. I suspect the veracity of those statistics will plummet in usefulness unless they achieve a critical mass of people willing to pay. For the sake of Duotrope’s long term viability, I’d suggest they report on the number of paying subscribers they have in order to make clear the total population available to report their subs, but that’s my opinion.

And as for tracking my submissions on Duo, I was doing it more as a service to the editors of the journals where I submitted my work. I keep a separate tracking spreadsheet on my computer that has many more notes and information I find relevant. But individual markets — especially new markets — will potentially suffer from being under-reported due to a lack of user base for Duo because I strongly suspect the majority of users will not pay that fee.

Here are some alternatives for people who need to be able to browse listings to find small press markets to target.

Alternative small press literary magazine listings:

I’d like to hear from people on this one. Have you signed up for Duo, and if so, what was your thinking? If you decided not to use it, was it because of the expense or some other reason?

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5 Responses

  1. I I completely agree with you on everything. I don’t pay fees for readings or competitions. I don’t make any money of publications, so I don’t have any to spend. Maybe that’s not the right attitude? I do it for fun and for free at the moment. I don’t see any way to make a living at reading and writing, but I do a lot of it regardless. I also use submittable as a convenience to editors, are they now charging? Thanks for bring up such a great topic once again. Sean

    • Hi Sean, Submittable isn’t changing, just Duotrope. If you use Duotrope regularly to find markets, you’ll either have to start paying to use the search feature to access their database, or you can use the links I’ve provided above as an alternative.

      And yeah, I think it’s rare to get paid for a short stories but there are some paying markets. Still, it’s no way to try and pay bills or make a living. Even people who are published aren’t making a lot with their works.

      One thing I’d love to know is how much does an author make, on average, from the publication of a short story collection? I’d guess it depends on whether or not it is self-pubbed, pubbed by an independent press or a large house and whether or not the author has a name…. But even with all those variables I’m not sure foiks are making much bank.

  2. I have a bit of a different perspective, as a Canadian who submits mainly in Canada–there’s few enough journals here that I can keep track of basically who takes what, and than google to the individual sites for submission details when the time comes. I used to use Duotrope once or twice a year–now I guess I won’t be.

    BUT I believe strongly in paying for my professional development as a writer. I subscribe to journals, buy books, take classes, and have a good ergonomic chair at my desk. Primarily I do these things to get better (and not to be crippled by the time I’m 50 from all those hours at a desk) but also I want to support the community that supports me.

    It’s funny, but if writing were our “hobby” we wouldn’t think twice about spending money on it. Imagine, a skiier, knitter, antique collector, or cake decorator who felt s/he shouldn’t spend any money on her interest–wouldn’t get too far. Writing is a relatively modest investment by comparison.

    This is not to say I think people need to subscribe to Duotrope–it’s not worth $25 per visit for me to use it twice a year, so I won’t bother. But if you used it twice a week, that’d be 50 cents a visit…if Duotrope were helping me a lot, freeing a lot of time I’d otherwise spend researching markets, I’d do it–my writing is worth it to me.

    • Hello Canadian Reader, thanks for dropping by my blog. It’s funny, I was going to include Google in my list of suggestions then didn’t because you’d have to know the name of the market to search for the site, but yes, searching for the individual journals is easy too, especially if you have a list of target markets you follow (I do…)

      As far as paying for professional development goes, I’d say yes, I believe in that too within a context. What I mean to say is if I felt it was advantageous to utilize the skills of an editor, I’d consider that; if I thought going to a class was a good refresher I’d do that too (but I also went to university for English Lit for both my BA and MA…); and if I felt I needed a new laptop or chair I’d make the investment.

      As far as Duotrope, I think I could agree with the idea that if you felt the database was a fantastic resource (I certainly do, I’ve used it many times) and you needed to use it enough to justify either $5 a month or $50 a year, then yes, by all means a writer could sign up.

      The thing is though, all this professional development is leading to what…? If you’re writing as a hobby, then it doesn’t matter because you don’t expect recompense for your efforts, you do it for fun. That’s fine, I don’t have any issues with people who write as a hobby. Just like I have no issue with people who play music or paint paintings or act as a hobby. They probably spend plenty of money on those things too.

      If you see yourself as building a professional resume of publishing credits though, hopefully you’d envision a future where you’d be in a position to earn money from your efforts. And since many artists I know have only a little money, having access to the things they need to accomplish their job is important. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t pay for Duotrope if it’s that helpful, but I’ve given viable alternatives in the post so they at least have a choice.

      Thanks for your comments!

  3. this cloud girl…I have no idea what is about.. Not even what you try to convey…

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