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.