Thursday, 6 December 2012

No More Free Duotrope's

I have very mixed feelings about Duotrope's Digest's recently announced decision to move from a free / donation funded model to a subscriber based model at the beginning of next year.

On the one hand, Duotrope's is a superb product.  For those unfamiliar with it, (and if you are, and you write, you're shooting yourself in the foot by not going to take a look right now), it's basically a regularly updated, searchable database of publishing markets, accompanied by buckets of useful statistical information and an integrated submissions tracker.  But any such simplification does Duotrope's no justice; a huge amount of thought and effort has been put into it over the years, and these days it's an invaluable resource for the writer of any level.  Truthfully, I have no idea how people used to sell short fiction before it came along; I know I would have struggled far more than I have without it.  It's staff are tireless, it's content is phenomenal, it's listings are for the most part reliable, and in its current form I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

But ...  then there's that other hand.  Because as of now, the Duotrope's team are asking for a minimum of $50 a year, and $50 is a lot of money to some people.  And by some people I mean writers - members of one of the lowest paid professions on the planet, whose average earnings are generally more comical than impressive.  Now I'm not suggesting that right now I can't personally afford fifty bucks, but there have been times since I started trying to write for money that it would have been a genuine stretch.  In my first year of trying to sell my short fiction, for example, I earned the princely sum of $10; in my second, a whopping $220.  Take off $50 a year from those amounts and I wouldn't have been left with a whole lot.  In fact, since the vast majority of markets that Duotrope's is helping to publicize are non-paying, pay token sums, or worse, charge authors to submit, the service is unlikely to pay for itself for many of its users.

There's also, as other people have pointed out, a more fundamental problem here.  Once the charges come into effect, it's a safe assumption that a large part of Duotrope's' user base will vanish overnight.  Since one of the main services they're offering is statistical data and since those statistics are likely to be much less representative with such a shrunken pool of contributors, they're effectively asking to be paid for a service that's inferior to what they've been giving away for free.  This isn't really anyone's fault, of course, but I can't help feeling that more thought could have gone in to how this will work.

So ... mixed feelings.  I don't begrudge Duotrope's Digest a reasonable payment for their service, but I'm not one hundred percent convinced that $50 a year is a reasonable payment.  Even if it is, I doubt that it will make them competitive in the current climes, and so their user base - and inevitably the value of their content - will take a steep decline.  In short, while I sympathize with the end, I'm not sure this is the right means to it, and I have an unpleasant feeling that this may be the beginning of the end for one of my all time favourite websites.  Then again, maybe I'm wrong, and that extra cash will see Duotrope's develop into something even more marvelous.  Either way, as one of the people who has routinely donated to help fund the site, I suspect I'll be stumping up my $50 for the first year ... I certainly owe them that much.


  1. A fatal move. The majority who use their service are not professional writers rolling in cash, because they don't need duotrope. Most will look elsewhere for their listings and overnight it will be goodnight duotrope, sadly, but I have a feeling they're prepared for the demise. William

  2. Thanks, William ... yeah, I think that's maybe the crucial point. I don't know that I'd have stumped up that $50 back in the days when I wouldn't have been sure I could even earn it back. Interesting to see the response from the Duotrope's team on their Facebook page, though. At least it seems they're listening to the feedback they're getting.