Duotrope To Go “Pay to Play”

Duotrope is an excellent online market search engine and submission tracker.  As a free service that operated on user donations, it couldn’t be beat.  It’s been an important tool for me since about 2009. 

Starting on January 1st, Duotrope will move from a free system to a subscription-based one.  There have been rumblings for a while that this was going happen, but it still comes as a bit of a shock, a $50-a-year shock.  My knee-jerk reaction to that price is to walk away, but as fellow a Hopefull Monster pointed out, I spend more than $50 a year on snacks—which I must admit is true.  (I’m not sure this argument is the best one, however, because snacks don’t come out of my writing business budget, but Duotrope would and my writing needs to pay for itself.)

As a market search engine, Duotrope is simple to use and includes thousands of markets.  For tracking submissions, it’s easier than an Excel spreadsheet.  So I have no problems paying for the service, and in a way, I already do because I have donated annually to help keep it running for the last few years.

Where I have a problem is that it’s never been clear to me how much Duotrope cost to run or what will happen to their market data by going to this paid model.  Duotrope is notoriously evasive about its finances (and even who runs it).  They’ve not said how much money they actually need to operate, and they’ve not revealed what other funding approaches they’ve considered or tried (e.g., an annual Kickstarter).  It’s unclear what will happen to their market reporting statistics if/when they lose a large proportion of their users.  They exist on user-generated data, and they stand to lose as much as 90% of their users.  Finally, new markets listed themselves on Duotrope because they could get their fledgling publications in front of a large number of writers.  Will new publishers still do that if Duotrope has 90% fewer writers? 

I guess only time will tell if Duotrope survives this change.  If it does, I wonder what it will look like.  Given all this, I’m not sure yet if I will subscribe come January 1.  I may wait a few months to see if I can survive without it.  That would also give me a chance to see what happens to Duotrope.

About D. Thomas Minton

Writer of speculative fiction
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14 Responses to Duotrope To Go “Pay to Play”

  1. cmsaunders says:

    You raise some very good points, Dr Minton. The cynic in me can’t help thinking that this was the plan all along. Provide an outstanding ‘free’ service, get people hooked, then start introducing fees. i have thought long and hard about it, I have donated a couple of times in the past through sheer guilt (though the total amount of my donations is less then $10, ahem) and personally, I think I will devise a system where i have ‘submission windows’ in my schedule. Then, ideally, I will be able to get by by paying 3 or 4 months a year. The rest of the time, they can go hang.

    • I know several writers who are considering this approach, and I wonder what it will do to Duotropes’ reporting statistics when “come-and-go” subscribers report their submissions sporadically and months apart. It seems to me Duotrope would be better off with a tiered system—free or cheap submission tracking and then a paid searchable market database with the submission statistics. This would at least keep the integrity of their submissions data and maintain the value to the paid database.

      • cmsaunders says:

        Maybe you should send Duotrope an email suggesting that! Personally, I think the price is just a little too high… I have no qualms about paying for a good reputable service, but from 0 to $5 per month is a bit of a leap. Not to worry, methinks it will only be a matter of time before the copycats spring up.

      • I haven’t sent an email, but I know many people who have, and several of those have made a similar suggestion. I suspect Duotrope is getting inundated; everyone I know who has emailed them has gotten a form “thank-you-for-your-comment” email in response.

  2. alicebrook1502 says:

    I’m sure it’s takes a lot of effort and time to run that kind of site and I can understand their decision. 5$ isn’t a lot, in my opinion, for everything they offer. I wouldn’t mind paying, but the country I’m in doesn’t have paypal, which is very annoying.

    • I agree, and personally I’m not adverse to paying for their service. I am concerned that their approach will damage the quality of that service, and that the way they have decided to implement it has turned off a lot of current users who otherwise would be willing to pay. I know many writers who would pay for Duotrope if they would be more transparent about their actual needs to keep the site running and about how they arrived at their decision.

  3. M.E. Garber says:

    There’s a running debate in one of my writing groups about whether to support these changes or abandon Duotrope for the now-cheaper Writers Marketplace at Writers Digest. Sigh. $50 is a lot. $35 would feel *way* better to me. As for the rest, I think better markets may continue to list themselves at Duotrope, since now only dedicated (and perhaps more advanced??) writers will subscribe. This may offer them a higher-quality base. At least, this is one theory.

    • I also wonder how much angst this would cause if they had set their annual price in the $25-35 range. I probably wouldn’t blink at that too much, but $50 catches my eyes. That’s the equivalent of 3-5+ semi-pro/token sales or 1+ pro-rate flash-length sales. I suspect the vast majority of writers using Duotrope do not make that every year.

  4. ericjbaker says:

    50 bucks? Yikes! This can’t be good for anybody. They never heard of Google adsense?

    Prior to Jan 1, I guess I’ll have to go through their entire database, visit every single publication link, bookmark every single site to which I could conceivably submit, and sort them into folders by genre and story length. It seems chaotic, but I don’t see why they would charge 50 dollars a year when virtually every other site on the internet is free.

    • This seems like a common tactic, from what I’m hearing. As an alternative, you can conduct a bunch of general searches and cut-and-paste the list into Excel. With a little work, this could be put it into a pivot table and used for searching. As I understand it, the market pages will still be available, just no search or user statistics.

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  7. Sarah says:

    Duotrope is closing. This latest move is a cynical ploy to rake in some money before it closes down for good. Don’t subscribe, you’ll be wasting your money.

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