Intelligence Report: Duotrope Revisited

The idea may look pretty on the surface…

Just in case you only subscribe to my site as a writer resource and have been so engrossed in your current story that you haven’t heard… Duotrope is going away.  Not out of business, at least not yet, but the Duotrope I swore by is changing.  Come January 1st the site is going to charge $50 bucks a year or $5 a month for virtually all its services.

I’m fairly new as a semi-pro writer, but I have never seen the writer community as ablaze as it is now.  Go to any writing site with forums and watch the fireworks.

I got wind of The Ferrett’s Journal (big shot to Keffy Kehrli for hooking me up!) which I think covers the proposition of the business model and some of the user reaction eloquently.  It’s a very divisive thing, this new Duotrope, and I’ve seen a lot of writer angst about it for a couple reasons.  One for what most folks feel is an exorbitant price for use, the other because of Duotrope’s abysmal PR about it.

I work in government.  And in IT.  And in Afghanistan.  I think it’s pretty safe to say I’ve seen bad customer service/public relations.  That doesn’t bother me so much.  They’re new at this; for their seven years on the web they haven’t had “customers” so much as “users”, most of them lecherous as The Ferrett points out.  Maybe they’ll learn how to be more Kitty Softpaws with customers once everybody’s shilling out for services.  I know I’m not inherently mad about their going to pay initiative; it’s their right, just like everyone else, to be about their paper.

My post is more for the current users of Duotrope, who are kind of on the fence about whether or not to pay up come the first.  This really depends on what you use it for.

If you were using it solely for market response time statistics, then a giant NO.  Duotrope expects as many as 90% of their current users to go away come January.  With only a fraction of writers reporting stats to their database (many of them assumed to be newish writers), the statistical “average” report time may not realistically reflect the reality.  Besides, generally most markets clearly state their “query by” time on their websites, so knowing if they’re traditionally below or above this stated query time is really just a gee whiz anyway.  There’s no point in paying to get a warm fuzzy on when a market’s going to get back to you, especially when the math makes the number less warm and less fuzzy than it could be.  Just wait out the market’s query by time and if you haven’t heard from them, send them a reminder.

If you’re like me, then you may want to consider forking over some dough.  I use Duotrope for the market search database, which is hands down the  most robust and useful one out there for writers.  Not only would their engine sort by genre, pay scale, and electronic vs. postal subs, but it would eliminate ineligible markets by word count and also markets that had previously rejected the story, so a search would only yield pertinent markets.  No other web service has this level of functionality.  An added bonus for me was the centralized repository, as I don’t exactly jet-set but chopper-hop, so where ever I go in Afghanistan my market tracking follows, independent of potential hardware failures that a local hard drive could suffer.

I chose my words carefully; when I say consider forking over “some” dough that’s what I mean.  5 bucks for January, 5 for March, maybe May, accessing it at times when you’ve got new stories and a few old stories back from market that you’re looking to shop around.  I’m wholly opposed to dropping the 50 because my spidey-business sense is tingling like crazy.  They expect to lose 90% of their market.  Most writers have day jobs.  Some of those jobs include database and software development.  There’s a lot of people out there not getting services met, and where there’s a need for services, new competition arises.

Imagine what happens if someone stands up a database that takes the same publicly available information Duotrope takes and packages it into a clean searchable database.  It’s not like any of Duotrope’s services are proprietary or unreplicable.  Say new website charges 25 bucks for the year.  Not only do they stand to appeal to those 90% out there with nothing but Excel spreadsheets and moxy to guide them, but also to those 10% who are on Duotrope and want to pay less for the same service.  Again, everyone’s about their paper.

If anyone out there thinks Duotrope’s going to last to 2014, I’d love to hear from you.

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7 Comments

Filed under Intelligence Reports

7 responses to “Intelligence Report: Duotrope Revisited

  1. I’ve only been using Duotrope for a few months, and fully intended to donate when I made my next fiction sale. But to donate all or most of my next sale just to keep accessing the site really doesn’t seem justified. I can’t see the monthly model working for me either, as it’s not like there’s a set month when all the rejections come in and you need to start searching markets again. And I can’t have a rejected story sitting in limbo on my hard drive until April (or whenever) when I’ll pay to access market lists.

    I was using Ralan before – looks like I’ll be heading over there again. It’s nowhere near as useful in terms of tracking and stats, and their search categories are pretty limited, but it’s still a handy resource. And it’ll be very interesting to see what else pops up in the wake of all this. Like you said, where there’s demand, there’s supply.

    • Yeah, I remember using Ralan before I found Duotrope… I hated that so much I’m willing to have a story or two sitting in limbo for a month.

      Let’s hope someone gets that new site up and running soon!

  2. Phil MacKim

    Well, if I was investing in duotrope and expecting a return I’d totally agree with your conservative approach. But since I think they provide a great service and I’ve been feeling even worse about not contributing to them than I do about stiffing my local public radio station, I will happily shell out the fifty bucks and hope it helps them survive at least until 2014. This is particularly true since I use their service in the hope that one day somebody will pay me for something similar to what a lot of other people are offering for free.

    • My contributions had been steadily increasing the more I got on. I donated 20 bucks back in September, which was 4x the amount they asked for per user to keep the site going. I know I wanted to see them succeed because I found them invaluable.

      My unwillingness to invest the full 50 is just a matter of practicality. Bankrupted businesses don’t give refunds.

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  4. Pingback: Intelligence Report: Submitomancy | fictigristle

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