The writing world was rocked earlier this month when Duotrope, an aggregator of information about more than 4,581 (as of today) fiction, nonfiction and poetry markets, announced it would no longer be keeping track of such things for free.
The company behind Duotrope is registered in New Mexico as a limited liability company. Its website offers a searchable writers-market database and provides account holders with a widget with which to keep track of their submissions and rejections. Duotrope uses the submission/rejection data to provide a knowledgeable outsider’s view of acceptance and rejection rates per market, market response times, and how much slush might be on the desk at any one time.
The site has been on Writer’s Digest “101 Best Websites” list since 2006, and Preditors & Editors dubbed it a “Truly Useful Site” in 2010. Since the thing launched in 2005, it’s relied on the kindness of strangers, running on donations from the thousands upon thousands of writers who use it. However, according to Duotrope, only ten percent of the writers who use the site ever anted up. Starting in January, site users will have to buy $5 a month, or $50 per year, subscription to search and store. The stuff available to non-subscribers will be fairly useless.
There’s been a lot of talk on Duotrope’s Facebook page that the change will result in the site’s demise and, at the very least, invalidation of its submission statistics. Many writers are saying that they can’t afford $50 a year, that the fee is too high. Some of the talk is getting ugly, with posters accusing Duotrope of trying to make quick money, and a few of the holier-than-thou subscribers are suggesting the go-to-paid move will clear out some of the “mess.” More rational types have suggested that Duotrope go to the markets it lists for money, but, since most of those folks aren’t hurting for submissions – and never have been -- that doesn’t make a lot of sense. The writers are the ones benefiting from the service. Most of the pubs would probably be happy to receive less slush.
I started using the site in June 2010, and it has kept track of every one of my seventy-two submission hits and misses since then. When I sold my first story, I made a donation – then signed up to donate $2 each month. I find the site invaluable for my part-time, low-paying job as a fiction writer. I probably use the site every day in some fashion. I teach creative writing in a public high school, and my students use Duotrope when it comes time to submit their stories. (Here’s one that just got published. Go, Alex!) Unfortunately, Duotrope’s decision to go paid means I’ll have to direct my students elsewhere, and there’s not another service in town that does a better job. I guess you get what you pay for.
And I did pay for it. Pulled out the debit card and signed right up. I believe in paying for “truly useful things” that I need. As Robert Heinlein offered “TANSTAAFL!” (There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch). Somebody somewhere needs to foot the bill.I guess that's us.