Money Flows from the Writer

As of January 1, most of the services on Duotrope, a popular site for tracking submissions and getting information about literary markets, will only be available to paying users. The site is currently donation-supported. According to Duotrope’s announcement, “We haven’t met any of our monthly [fundraising] goals since 2007. Quite simply, we can no longer afford to run Duotrope this way.” The new fee structure is $5 per month or $50 per year for writers.

After this was announced, a predictable wave of “Why Wasn’t I Consulted?” commentary ensued. Access to the site will remain free for editors, leading many writers (and a few publishers) to suggest that Duotrope is looking in the wrong place for funding. “We would ask @Duotrope to put the burden of cost on publishers, not on writers,” tweeted small press @CrossedGenres. “More submissions=more diversity/choice=better titles/publications. That’s the value for us.” Others suggested holding big auctions or crowdfunding pushes as one-time fundraisers.

Even those who think asking authors to pay is reasonable feel $50 is awfully steep. “I don’t see the benefit to Duotrope’s users at $50,” author and editor Michael Nye wrote in a Branch conversation. “Established writers don’t need the info on the site – we know what journals have poor response times – so this is mostly on the back of the uninformed.” Richard Flores IV blogged similar thoughts: “Let’s put this in perspective here. $50 a year means selling 5,000 words a year at one cent per word…. I don’t always get 5,000 words sold in short stories each year.  And considering the bulk of Duotrope’s listings don’t pay anything, there is not much chance of making any money on your $50 investment.”

A few people compared Duotrope to Ralan’s SpecFic and Humor Webstravaganza, a donation-funded site that offers extensive short story market listings completely free of charge, or Writer’s Market, which charges $40/yr for author access. I was surprised not to see comparisons to the Wooden Horse Magazine Database, which charges writers $149 a year. On the other hand, Wooden Horse lists plenty of high-end trade and consumer magazines that might pay $500 or more for a single article. A quick search on Duotrope for science fiction markets in the “pro” pay bracket brought up 39 markets, most of which I could have listed off the top of my head–and most of which can be found on SFWA’s list of qualifying markets, though SFWA’s site doesn’t have all the information that Duotrope does.

Some of Duotrope’s users who already know the markets are planning to switch to other methods of tracking submissions. “As the days go by, I find myself thinking that this is just the excuse I needed to put together my own spreadsheet,” writer Devan Goldstein said in reply to Nye on Branch. Flores agreed: “Duotrope offers little more than you can already track yourself. After all the most valuable feature to the writer, is the submission tracker. To be honest, all you have to do is make an Excel spreadsheet to do that. I admit that the response stats, acceptance rates, and ‘Top Market’ lists are fun.  But you really don’t need any of that information to be an author.”

As of this writing, Duotrope is standing firm. “We have always known this decision meant parting ways with some of our users,” says a post on the company’s Facebook page. “If you will not be joining us, then we thank you for all the support, promotion and participation over the last seven years, and for helping grow Duotrope from an experiment into a mature company and service. If you have already subscribed or are planning on subscribing, we can’t wait to have you along for the ride!”

5 thoughts on “Money Flows from the Writer

  1. T.L. Bodine

    I’m sad to see this happen. I’ve been using Duotrope since the beginning and all of my published stories found their homes thanks to its service. It’s just not worth paying $50 for, though, and the attitude the site’s developers have shown leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I’ll be surprised if they have enough people hanging around to pay their bills now; the site very well may fold.

  2. Andrew Porter

    You mean I could have been charging extra for the US and UK market reports I published every 3 months in SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE? Now you tell me…

  3. Alana Joli Abbott

    This is too bad — duotrope’s sorting function on markets (especially the non SFF ones) was super helpful, but I just didn’t ever use it often enough to shell out $5/month. I’d probably spend $2 on a day pass when getting organized to do a round of submissions, though, so I hope they’ll think of some micropay options for infrequent users like me.

    Or, alternately, I’ll use several of the links above for their very useful listings.

  4. Tina Jens

    With the $5 a month option, it seems like there are some reasonably-priced options. Write stories for 2-3 months, then do a submission push once a quarter, and it costs you only $20. _The Writer’s Guide to Markets_ is $20 in paperback, but they only update any given entry every 5 years or so, so their information is completely untrustworthy. And the vast majority of that book is not relevant to any given user. It takes a lot of time and effort to compile this much info and keep it current. I could wish Duotrope’s annual fee was a tad lower, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable.

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