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By now, if you’re at all involved in the short story community, you’ve heard that Duotrope is going paid.

That’s fantastic.  Nothing wrong with someone who provides a service getting paid for said service.  Everyone’s got mouths to feed and bills to pay, and no one should be expected to provide a service at a loss simply because others would prefer it to be free.

That said, anyone who charges for a service really needs to price it practically.  You’ve got to understand what your business is worth to consumers.   No one’s going to pay $35 for a glass of lemonade or $65 for a loaf of bread.

And on that note, I won’t be paying Duotrope’s exorbitant yearly subscription price of $50.  Why?  Because it’s not worth that to me.  And I’d be hard pressed to believe it’s worth that to anyone else, save in entertainment value.  (I also need to point out that you can subscribe on a monthly basis for $5–but who would really use it only a couple of months a year?)

Duotrope is a wonderful convenience to me.  It takes all the things I have at various places (market lists, submission tracker, response times) and puts them all together in one convenient, user-friendly space.

But that’s just it: it doesn’t give me anything I can’t get elsewhere.  Its entire worth to me is based on two-to-ten minutes worth of time saving per submission.  Course, it probably costs me more than that in the time I spend procrastinating using the site to check response times (which does nothing for my own submissions–I’ll hear when I hear).

The convenience of using Duotrope is not worth $50 of my hard earned money.  I would have to sell one flash piece a year just to cover it as an expense, and since it does not make me money (it does no marketing, it does not put me in touch with editors, it does not get a single story of mine in front of anyone who can buy it.  I have to do all that leg work myself), I can’t really justify spending my entire income from one story on the privilege of using it.

It was absolutely worth the $5 they claimed every user needed to pay a year in order to cover their expenses.  I’d hazard it would even be worth $10 or $15 to me.  I know it’s worth $20 to $30 to other people, as that’s what they’ve donated in the past.  I haven’t met anyone who claims to have donated anywhere near $50, so where that price tag comes from, it’s hard saying.  And the anonymous Duotrope staff have been less than transparent about their financial goals.

I think their misguided pricing is based largely on a belief that those who have donated regularly in the past will be more than happy to subscribe now.  Unless they already had a ton of people donating more than $50, they’re going to lose more by charging more. I think they don’t quite understand how differently people perceive a charitable organization vs. a private business.

When it’s on pure charity, people are willing to pay the way of others as well as themselves: “They need $5 per person? Alright, how about I pay for myself and three others who can’t afford it? Spread the love.”

When it becomes a business, the consumer has to go into business mode as well: “How much am I getting out of this service? Is it worth to me what they’re charging?”

Basically, I think they’re over estimating what their product is actually worth. And I think it will be worth even less now, because they’re driving away the source of their worth, which is the large data pool they draw from

I don’t want to see a site like Duotrope disappear. And I’m complaining about the price because I think they’re shooting themselves in the foot. I think they’ll find their business model not only ineffective, but damaging. I can only hope the staff can change directions quickly enough to avoid disaster. I want them to stick around, because I appreciate what they’ve created and the time I’ve spent using their service.

But, at the same time, I can’t justify telling poor writers to spend $5 a month or $50 a year on a service they don’t need.

So, here are a few alternatives to the services provided by Duotrope, should you be unable or unwilling to subscribe come January:

Market lists:

http://ralan.com/

http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~mslee/mag.html

http://www.sfwa.org/join-us/sfwa-membership-requirements/

http://www.speculativeliterature.org/Writing/mktlists.php   (This one is a list of market lists.  I have not explored it yet.)

Submission tracking:

www.writersdb.com

http://writersplanner.com/

ETA: http://www.spacejock.com/Sonar3.html (Suggested by J. Deery Wray)

Submission response times:

http://www.critters.org/blackholes/index.ht

http://ra-log.livejournal.com/

It’s also very easy to create an Excel sheet that tracks your subs and also doubles as a market list.  I also have a separate file that matches editors to their market and the market’s physical or digital address–a service which Duotrope does not provide.

If you are part of a large on line writing community, you could also start tracking your response times as a group.

I’ll be leaving this post up on the front page the whole week–so no Wednesday post.  I feel it’s important.

If you’ve got any other link suggestions, or just want to discuss Duotrope’s decision, feel free to comment!

~Marina

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