rejection, submissions, Writing

IS DUOTROPE WORTH THE $5/MO SUBSCRIPTION FEE?

There are a lot of services out there for writers, and one of the ones you may have seen floating about (or not!) is Duotrope. Duotrope is a website for writers and editors that facilitates finding markets to send your fiction, and tracking your fiction submissions. It has one of the most comprehensive lists of genre markets I’ve found online, compared to other sites that piecemeal lists of magazines, anthologies, and contests. It provides statistical analysis of your writing submissions, how long certain markets took to respond, whether you received an acceptance or a rejection, and how often you’ve sent submissions to a specific market, among other metrics.

I came across Duotrope years ago, probably in my earliest attempts to start submitting fiction, along with Ralan.com, which was my primary go-to. Ralan.com is a great alternative, because it’s free, and pretty up-to-date, and Ralan does a solid job of curating his list, which means you don’t get a lot of tiny, just-for-exposure markets cluttering up his site. He organizes by pay-scale (Pro, Semi, Pay) and additional market type (antho, books). Having worked with him from the magazine end back in the days of The Zombie Feed, I can say he’s rather cranky, but fair, and he didn’t give me too much trouble when we had to update a listing. Duotrope is more hands-off, submit a form, get it approved type deal. Ralan’s got a personal touch.

The catch with Duotrope is that it requires subscription, if you want to get beyond the week-long free trial. You can subscribe for $5/month or $50/year, the latter thereby saving you a month’s subscription fee for the upfront cost. For years, I would dip into Duotrope for a couple months, pay the $5 on a when-I-need-it basis in order to get access to their search feature (truly one of the exemplary elements of Duotrope is their searchability based on genre, length, pay-rate, and title (if you’re looking for a specific market)), and then dip out again. For years, it really wasn’t worth it to me to pay $50/year just to have a searchable market list. Ralan’s could pretty much serve my searching purposes, provided I didn’t mind scanning the black-background/white text website, and I’ve had plenty of luck finding good markets via his lists.

But then something changed. I actually started submitting. Before, I might submit one or two stories a year and really helicopter-mom them: I’d fret over them and wait, and wait, and wait, and query when necessary, and it was easy enough to track them from market to market and not get into trouble by accidentally resending a story to a market that had already rejected it. But a couple years ago, I started really submitting. In 2019, I had over nine stories out for submission at any given time, and let me tell you, that will mess with your mind. It’s like juggling: sometimes Story 3 that just come back will be perfect for X market, but you’ve already got Story 5 story at X market (for the past 40 days), and you need to query X market to see if Story 5 is still being reviewed, if it got bumped to a shortlist, or if they never received it and/or it got lost, and X market requires you to wait 7-10 days before submitting a new story, so… If you’re at all like me, beyond two stories, the multiple moving parts start getting impossible to keep track of efficiently. Stories come back rejected, but you forget about them because the next market on the list for them is currently occupied, or temporarily closed to submissions, or has a please-wait-after-rejection clause, so it languishes un-submitted, and then seven months later, you’re like OH CRAP, I could have had this out months ago…

I used to track my fiction entirely by hand, which worked for a while. I’d write a list of markets, their expected response times, and pay-grade in one column, and then rank them by priority, often considering which market might be the best fit (if not always the #1 best paying) for a given story. Today, this is what my hand-written tracking notebook looks like (which I still use and update as I submit, but being a hardcopy, it’s not easily searchable, and things get lost in the pages):

Scribbling, chaotic, multi-color notes.

Each story you put out there becomes its own vector for complexity, and if you don’t have a very, very good system for keeping track of what’s submitted/on-hold/rejected/accepted/lost, it’s going to be nearly impossible to be efficient about deciding where Story 9 goes when it’s ready to launch.

THIS is when I recommend spending the $5/mo on Duotrope.

My favorite feature of Duotrope is their submissions tracker. It keeps a record of your submittable stories (title, length, genre, sub-genre), and a record of every market you’ve tried that story at. Each time you submit, you just jump on Duotrope, add a new submission to the tracker, and voila-! It keeps track of a market’s expected response time (how long they say it’ll take), average response time (how long it has actually taken for other submitters), and when to expect a response. It will highlight a submission’s wait-time in red text if you’ve waited longer than the average time and might need to query. It will generate lists of where each submission has gone already, what it’s responses were, and whether it made a market’s shortlist. This, I find, is the most invaluable element of Duotrope, because it makes it easy to see a list of your current submissions and their various statuses all in one glance.

I still utilitze Ralan.com often, because sometimes he gets faster tips from writers about market changes than Duotrope does (for example, if a favorite market is looking to start back up again, he may put a note on that listing), but Duotrope is my second brain for all submissions. I’ve yet to come across a market that was listed on Ralan that wasn’t listed on Duotrope also, but I like to cross-reference, and Ralan’s notes on a market can be helpful in deciding if it’s a worthy market to try for. I also still utilize my paper method of tracking, mostly for a place to compile itineraries, and then jotting down any personal rejection notes. But for juggling more than two submissions, Duotrope is an absolute life-saver and has saved me a lot of confusion and embarrassment.

What’s more, at the end of the year, I can generate a report that shows all my submissions for the year, or all my personal rejections for a year, or all my acceptances, or all my rejections, and that really helps me track my progress from year to year. In fact, last year, I used Duotrope’s tracker to compare my submission rate from 2019 to my all-time best from almost a decade before, and thanks to those reports, got a much better and more realistic view of how I’m doing in my career than I would have had just trying to guesstimate.

SO! TL;DR: If you’re currently submitting more than two or three stories at a time to various markets, and are starting to find it challenging to keep track of them, I would highly recommend Duotrope. If you’re only submitting one or two stories a year, it’s probably not necessary yet. Get yourself a good notebook for tracking and make use of Ralan.com for some top-tier listings. Note: Ralan.com is a genre list, so it won’t have many purely literary markets.

P.S. – A word of warning: If you’re still heavily utilizing the Writer’s Market annual book and you’re writing primarily genre fiction: cross-check. Writer’s Market was great before the internet, but nowadays, it seems to be out-of-date almost the instant its released. Many genre markets (and well-paying ones!) are online-only, and their submissions periods can change without warning. Some markets that exist at the beginning of the year when WM is published aren’t even around by mid-year. I highly, highly recommend–if you do use WM–make sure to check accuracy with Duotrope or Ralan.com (or, better yet, the market itself!) before submitting. You’ll save yourself (and the editors you want to impress) a lot of headache!

2 thoughts on “IS DUOTROPE WORTH THE $5/MO SUBSCRIPTION FEE?”

  1. I never knew about Duotrope but I do now. Fortunately, I tend to lean towards novels, and since my output is pretty meagre, I can still keep track of my submissions by memory. This looks interesting though. Thanks for sharing!

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