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Dear Duotrope: It’s Not You, It’s Me

12

June 11, 2013 by Nathaniel Tower

One of the many challenges of being a writer is finding the right places to send completed work. Luckily, there are many resources available. Unfortunately, not all of these resources are free.

At the end of 2012, I posted a three-part series evaluating what I thought were the three main components of Duotrope’s Digest. The purpose was twofold: I wanted to see if a subscription was worth it for me, and I wanted to give other writers as much information as I could regarding the service.

At the time of my initial evaluation, I concluded that two of those components, the response statistics and the depth of market listings, were unbeatable. As a writer, I didn’t think I could live without this information. I also decided I would subscribe on a monthly basis to determine just what the value of the service was to me.

As of June, I am no longer a subscriber.

What went wrong? From my previous reports, I was obviously happy with their services. They provided information that couldn’t be matched in scope by anyone else. Sure, there are many other resources for finding markets, and there are many other ways to track submissions, but Duotrope did it all.

Before I get into a discussion of Duotrope’s worth to me, I must first confess that the cancellation was a bit of a coincidence.

My subscription was set to automatically renew through Paypal. Since my Paypal account didn’t always have adequate funds, I set it up to bill through my credit card. Unfortunately, one of the grocery stores I frequented (on my special Sunday morning trips with my daughter) had a security breach. While my card wasn’t affected directly, my bank thought it best to send me a new card with a new number. When I activated the new card, the old card was cancelled, and thus my autorenewal options on Paypal were no longer valid. Thus, my Duotrope subscription ended, without me actually knowing at first.

When I tried to log in to Duotrope in early June—during a break in the hectic relocation experience—I discovered I was no longer a subscriber. A little research led me to the aforementioned explanation.

Now I was left with the question of whether or not I should re-subscribe. If I did, it would obviously make more sense to opt for the full year subscription and save a little money in the long run. Turns out, this cancellation came at a good time.

Rather than jumping the gun and going with my previous gut feeling, I re-evaluated my usage. Turns out, I haven’t used Duotrope very much this year. I actually used it a lot less since I started paying for it. Sounds weird, I know.

Why was this case?

For starters, I have focused more on writing than submitting during the first half of 2013. With the time constraints of moving, finding a new job, preparing my short story collection, and getting set to publish Flash Novels through Bartleby Snopes, I didn’t have the time to spend browsing market listings on Duotrope. As a participant in the Write 1, Sub 1 challenge, I worried more about completing new work than sending it out to a boatload of markets.

I also recently became a member of two “Calls for Submissions” groups on Facebook. There are more than enough postings from places actively looking for submissions, and often these postings are more appealing or helpful than what’s posted on Duotrope. Plus, I gain more familiarity with these markets. It adds more of a personal touch to it all.

Thirdly, I discovered The Grinder (which I blogged about a few months ago). Sure, it isn’t as big as Duotrope yet, and I haven’t used it that much either, but it offers all of the same services (and it has the added bonus of being free).

With everything that is going on in my life, combined with these newly discovered resources, there just isn’t a need for Duotrope anymore.

I have my own way of tracking submissions that I think is easier and more efficient (you can download it here). I’m not really concerned that much with response statistics anymore. I can determine the quality of the publication by reading previously published work. A lower acceptance rate doesn’t necessarily mean prestige or brilliance. And a high acceptance rate doesn’t necessarily mean a junk publication. One of my favorite publications around right now has a very high acceptance rate. While having my work accepted at a place that only accepts 1% of submissions might seem cool, what matters more is how much I respect and enjoy that publication. Duotrope’s numbers don’t tell me that.

So what about that sacred response time?

Honestly, I don’t care much about that either right now. While it is nice to know how soon a publication will respond, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, especially if I’m sending the same piece out to multiple journals. I’ll hear from them eventually. What’s the rush? Besides, quick acceptance and quick publication isn’t always the best thing. Oftentimes, the journals themselves give a rough idea of response time anyway.

There’s no doubt that Duotrope is a great service, but it simply isn’t a service that I need at this stage in my writing career. I can find all of the information that I want elsewhere without paying for it.

This is not a knock against you, Duotrope. I just don’t need you in my life anymore. We’ve had good times, and you’ve given me plenty. But it’s time we part ways.

12 thoughts on “Dear Duotrope: It’s Not You, It’s Me

  1. Thank you for all your research. Really helpful, tho’ I’ll continue my annual subscription. Much of it has to do with the submissions log and estimated return times.

  2. elizabethweaver says:

    Thank you for your four Duotrope posts. I appreciate the time that went into them and the research you saved me. I used Duotrope for years, loved it, recommended it to many writers, and each year sent Duotrope about half their current requirement. But did not subscribe in January because I wanted to wait until I was ready to begin submitting again (dictated by life challenges as your use was) and wanted to be sure this was a wise investment. I’ve been on the fence and your posts have helped me clarify that I am still on the fence. At some point I will at least subscribe for a month so I can reclaim my submission history, but may pay for a year though the price is steep for me…we’ll see…just wish I’d brought a cushion when I climbed this fence and I appreciate reading your posts like texts across that full empty moon.

    • Elizabeth, thank you for commenting. I have found a lot of success with Duotrope. It just sort of ran its course for me. I think it’s worth it to occasionally subscribe for a month here and there just to see what you may have been missing. And of course you want to get that submission history back. It’s nice that you can download it all. I’ve always kept my submission history in an Excel spreadsheet. I only reported about 10-15% of my submissions to Duotrope. I found it more time consuming to do it that way.

  3. Joe says:

    Sorry to come to this a bit late, Nate, but I wanted to add an additional thought: I loved Duotrope when it was free not just because it was free but because, it allowed lots of people to use it. Ironically, now that it costs a subscription fee, it’s less valuable. I do appreciate all the statistics — I think I probably put more stock than you do in acceptance percentages (they’re the best shorthand I know for giving me a sense of a journal’s quality, though they do tell only a small part of the story) — but those statistics mean less when fewer people use the service.

    I see from your interview with the Grinder people that they have the same concern. I’m just hearing about that resource today from you, and I think I’ll check it out.

    Many thanks and good luck,

    Joe

    • Thanks for the insightful comment, Joe. It is interesting that they started charging because they felt their service was valuable, but in the process of charging, they might have made it less valuable. It’s still an important service, and I hope people will continue to subscribe and report their stats.

  4. Fred says:

    Interesting post. I too recently cancelled by Duotrope subscription, and like you I found myself using it less since I started paying for it. Odd that. You mention ‘Call for submissions’ groups on Facebook. Could you possibly give me a hint about how one can search for such a group on Facebook? Thanking you kindly.

  5. Joe says:

    By coincidence, I renewed my Duotrope account yesterday to reclaim my submission history with them (I do keep it personally) and to update some acceptance statistics for a promotion application. I haven’t had much time to study them, but my early impression is that the stats are less nuanced than before. The absolute numbers of submissions seem much lower than I remember for most journals — implying fewer people are using the service — and I simply don’t trust them as much. Some numbers were higher than I remembered because, I imagine, fewer of the casual or occasional submitters are still on. In one case, I find a 0.0% acceptance rate for a place I’d hit. That’s flattering, of course, but it tells me they just aren’t getting the reports they need to be what they were. And Grinder isn’t there yet either.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. There is definitely value to their service, but the change in the user base seems to have decreased that overall value.

      Big congrats on your prestigious acceptance. Do you mind sharing the publication? I would love to read it.

      • Joe says:

        Thank you, Nathaniel. You clearly got this conversation started, and I think there’s a hunger for it. I hope Grinder can become what it needs to be, but there just isn’t enough buy-in yet.

        My big publication was winning the Moment Magazine/Karma Foundation Short Story Contest. I was certainly psyched — and it’s still pretty much my high-water mark — but they publish three stories a year out of 120-150 entries. The should mean a 2-2.5% acceptance rate, but I wanted to be able to point to the kind of numbers that a promotion committee would trust more fully than what might simply be rumor.

        Anyway, if you’re at all curious (and I appreciate even the thought) it’s archived at http://www.thefreelibrary.com/How+beautiful+are+your+tents%2c+O+Jacob.-a0204986859

        Continued good luck with your own work, and thanks for asking.

  6. Sarah says:

    I started this submission tracker: http://www.submittrs.com/ It’s cheaper than Duotrope and a very different product overall.

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